The new look

If you’d told me almost a quarter-century ago (say, anytime from March 1994 on) that Ebbets Field Flannels, the legendary Seattle manufacture of period-accurate museum-grade reproductions of vintage baseball wear, was making a throwback Vanderbilt baseball cap? I would have lost my mind. As it is, a couple of weeks ago, when this news was conveyed to me at Anchor of Gold…I lost my mind. And rushed to take advantage of a 20% off code on the last day. And came into work on a Saturday to collect the package.

A vintage-look wool flannel Vanderbilt hat, American made and low-crowned, has been pretty much the Holy Grail of my headgear aspirations ever since I started wearing hats on a regular basis again around 2006. While you couldn’t prize the hats off my head throughout most of my higher-ed career, they quickly went by the board in DC, and didn’t come back until I finally cut all my hair off the autumn after the wedding (and in California, with nine months of direct sunlight a year, you need something covering your scalp). Even though I have gotten away from my American-made and workwear obsessions, I have inadvertently stumbled into fulfilling them.

See, my wife gave me American Giant’s work shirt for Christmas. I had plenty of US-made T-shirts and aloha shirts, but that was all. This is a long-sleeve jacket-shirt with snaps, made of the same fabric as their famous hoodie – but with the detailing of an actual button-up shirt. It’s something you can wear out of the house in most any casual setting once the temps drop below 70, and it’s the sort of thing you can wear for a week at a time as long as you change the T-shirt under it. It is heavy and overbuilt and thoroughly comfortable, the perfect dream of a shirt for four days in Tahoe or a week off at Christmas or the first weekend of the NCAA tournament at home in front of the TV.

So stack it together. The Vanderbilt hat from Ebbets. The AG work shirt (and T-shirt under), over top of my LC King jeans. Some kind of footwear, ideally that doesn’t require lacing, like my Blundstone boots or my plastic Birkenstock sandals. And then, the real twist in the tale: my throwback glasses from Warby Parker, the ones that make me look like I stepped off the set of Apollo 13 (or Mississippi Burning). Stack it all together, and it’s a completely new look, radically different from anything I had in DC (or most of the time in California, to be honest). And it’s something that given the opportunity, I might just wear almost every day as long as climate permits.

It looks right on me. It feels right on me. It’s not something I was necessarily trying to craft, but I’ve fallen into a look that is effortless and easy without being unspeakably slovenly, and which doesn’t incorporate a single hoodie or V-neck t-shirt or skinny pair of jeans. I look my age, to be blunt about it, and I’m okay with that. The only thing keeping me from wearing it every day is that after four or five days, you can whistle for the shirt and it’ll jump up on your back, which is not compatible with going among people in a society.

Might need to save up for another one.

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Life After Facebook

Well, Zuckerberg, now you’ve climbed up there it’s a hell of a lot higher than it looked, ain’t it dumbass?

With that out of the way, let’s look at what happens now with “social media.” I’ve said previously that the high-water mark of my own “social media” experience was probably around 2006-07, when Vox was still a thing and Twitter was just emerging as a “mass text” service, for lack of a better description. The last social media app I was genuinely excited about was Foursquare in its original form, partly because of its utility as a social tool (for people younger and more social than I could admit to being, to be honest) and partly because it was the very definition of something that wouldn’t have been possible before Smartphone Time. Obviously there was some concern with someone having a record of where you’d been all the time, but Foursquare was its own thing, not part of Google or Microsoft, so it’s probably okay, yes?

(Key omission there was Facebook. This was before we grasped just how bad it was going to get.)

Flash forward to 2018. What am I using as “social media” now? Twitter, against my better judgement. Instagram, which is probably my go-to even though it’s part of the Facebook empire (at the very least, though, there’s nothing to tie it to my existing Facebook presence). Slack, surprisingly, which has become a collaboration tool inside and outside work alike. And the other group chats – iMessage (for almost everyone I know in the States) and WhatsApp (for almost everyone I know abroad, on Android or both). And that pretty much covers it. Never been on Snapchat (not likely to), Facebook is kept at arms length (and locked down to a fare thee well; I would probably delete it outright if I didn’t want the birthday greetings), and…

Hold up.

The original three Internet programs were telnet, mail and FTP. Everything since then is just some combination of those three functions: connect, message, transfer files. For simplicity’s sake, I’ll throw in another one: RSS. Because when you get right down to it, blog syndication is the root of every social media service. A stream of posts, text or files, from individual sources, showing up in a single feed. I’ll throw in another one: SMS, the primeval mobile text chat solution. Hell, even Twitter was built around the character limit of SMS.

When you break it out like that, it becomes apparent that it wouldn’t be that heavy a lift to build a theoretical framework for an open social networking system, merely by everting it. Instead of everything flowing into one centralized service, have individual services feed back in a standards-based fashion. And here’s where I point to, Manton Reece’s project to build an open and interoperable social network alternative. The idea there is that provides a simple feed (“timeline”) of posts from a WordPress blog (“followed users”), truncated to 280 characters if longer than that (“tweets”) but otherwise capable of containing all the content of any other blog post. Basically no different than following any number of blogs via RSS, but it’s essentially a tool to facilitate putting them into a Twitter-like framework and thus more easily use it the way you would a social media service.

And in theory, this shouldn’t be difficult at all. You pick your service. WordPress, Movable Type, Tumblr, whatever you’re comfortable in, or even roll your own (as I am contemplating here). At that point, all the micro-blog service is providing is a handy list of posts and an @-name framework to help facilitate replies and threading, and even that could be associated with a more email-style name for additional granularity and decentralization. The second app that goes along with micro-blog is called Sunlit, and it isn’t a service at all, merely a tool for organizing pictures (and if desired, location data) to be more easily posted into your chosen source. But the data always lives on your servers. Nothing gets aggregated by at all. It’s the thinnest possible skeleton on which individual users then hang their data.

Something like this is going to be a really hard sell to the Muggles, at first. So was social networking in general. But if enough early adopters and technology (spit) influencers were willing to take a hard look and blow up their Facebook and instead work on making the tools to help facilitate this decentralization, it would almost have to trickle down over time. And consider the precedent of not only personal web sites, but email – you can get it from your ISP, or from Google or Yahoo, or from Geocities or Angelfire or just build your own if that’s how you roll, but it doesn’t matter, because anyone can interoperate with anyone else’s.

This can totally be done. It’s just that there’s no money in it, because it doesn’t involve doing for tech bros what their moms used to do for them with a side helping of “send them nudes tho”. But there’s no money in keeping the roads paved and the power on either, yet we find a way to do it, because it’s what you need to get by in a society. As people realize the value of privacy and retaining control over their own data, they might just be willing to put up the money for both.

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Flashback, part 93 of n

Spring of 1995 was my second term at Vanderbilt. I squeaked out of the first semester with a 3.25 GPA, not realizing that a B in grad school is like a D- anywhere else, and then promptly struggled with some poor choices. The only course I clearly remember taking was one on Pragmatism in the philosophy department with the legend John Lachs, which I finished with an incomplete. Which was a nuclear alarm red flag, except I wasn’t clued in enough to realize it. 
I remember hay fever, worse than I’d ever experienced, so bad that the drugs they gave me for it induced an actual blackout. I went to drop off a paper at 4 PM and woke up on my apartment floor the next morning with no idea what happened in between. I remember walking past the library in the morning and feeling like I was going to school on the back nine at Augusta. I remember wondering how exactly I was going to deal with not having internet access when I got home, given that my only connection was via a Geoport Telecom Adapter and an Apple Remote Access dialup to a campus number. 
I remember happy hour out on the front patio at a now-defunct Hillsboro Village sports bar, wearing my glasses and a button-up shirt, holding a Manhattan in a rocks glass, and one of my colleagues telling me that I looked like someone who didn’t have to prove anything. Which became more or less my life’s aspiration from that moment forward and shaped me ever since. Not only the look of nothing to prove, not only the fact of nothing to prove, but the additional bonus of having a peer group  to join out on the deck at happy hour on a sunny spring afternoon.
But something else shaped me that spring. I remember hearing the Cranberries’ “Ode To My Family” driving down the back side of campus one warm spring night, and hearing Springsteen’s “Thunder Road” for the first time, and seeing that the campus cinema was going to show The Graduate as the last film of the year, in keeping with tradition. And I distinctly recall wishing I’d had that tradition the year before. And then wishing I’d had any tradition at all in undergrad. And then…
If I had to pin down an exact moment when I saw the black hole open up behind me, that would be it. A realization that I might have made a huge mistake thinking that grad school would launder my college experience, and that I wasn’t ever going to be able to make up for what I missed. I’d had fleeting bits of that the week before I graduated from my undergrad, but they’d been washed away in the euphoria of actually marching and knowing Vanderbilt was on the way. This time, though, in the spring of ’95, I began to realize that somehow I’d managed to throw away my shot, that college had already happened for me and wasn’t going to happen again.
And I tried to make up the difference instead of moving on to the next thing – and it would take over twenty years for me to let it go. And that’s been the biggest breakthrough of the last six months. Partly because age 46 is too old to still be tearing up at “I Wish I Could Go Back To College” when you’re old enough to be sending a kid off that way, partly because I managed to create some of the same things out of a patchwork of Nashville and DC, and partly because I’ve managed to wall myself away at work and stop letting myself be constantly reminded that I could have been on a different path that led me to a better version of where I am now.
I wasted most of the 1990s. Of which more later. But if there’s a lesson I finally learned, it’s don’t waste now.
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troll world

There was a time when “trolling” was considered a bad thing. You’d go out there and deliberately chum the waters of a discussion space – web forum, chat room, what have you – with some kind of bait intended to get a rise out of people. It was considered anti-social, despicable behavior, and “griefers” and the like were routinely excoriated and mechanisms built to suppress them. Consider Slashdot, which was as potentially vile a cesspit as could have existed online – but it had a community moderation system (checked by meta-moderation) and you could ratchet up the filter level. I read at 3 and almost always got either useful insight or genuine wit. Had I read at 5, I probably wouldn’t have missed much.

And then came Facebook, which created a walled garden and pulled the walls down without ever being held to account. And then Twitter close behind. And both began to optimize for whatever would produce the most growth. And trolling did it. And so Facebook and Twitter looked the other way on bots, looked the other way on artificial content, looked the other way for the sake of whatever grew the MAU and DAU numbers and generated the most “impressions” and basically built what has been so frequently cited as “a honeypot for assholes.”

The problem is, we have one political party that has completely rebuilt itself around trolling for the last decade. The entire function of the GOP at this point is to “own the libs” irrespective of what that means in terms of policy, national security or even what the party itself believed in thirty minutes ago. It really started in earnest with Sarah Palin and Joe the Plumber, but for eight years of the Obama administration, all the Republican Party really cared about was reflexive opposition to what Democrats wanted, updated daily, and ginning up outrage.

And so a party of trolls met an industry that built trolling engines, and an electoral base that cared only about trolling did just that, and that’s how you end up filling the Oval Office with a senescent buffoon with a Russian lien on his balls. And it’s going to be difficult to do anything about it, because half his party is committed to trolling above all else and the other half makes sorrowful noises and goes right along with it in hopes it’ll get them over 50% on Election Day. I honestly don’t know whether the monkeys or their enablers are worse, but I’m out of patience with both.

But what can you do? Shut down Facebook? I would shed not one tear if a pocket nuke leveled the eastern edge of Menlo Park at 11 AM on a Tuesday. Shut down Twitter? I’d love to see Jack Dorsey in Gitmo with all his developers, and let them figure out which one gets ground up for meatloaf first. But that doesn’t undo the mechanism. 24 hour cable news makes it worse. Endless email forwards makes it worse. There is not a technological solution to the mess we have found ourselves in. The solution requires a stronger political culture, something that we’ve gone to endless lengths to tear down and denigrate over the years because of some notion that politics is inherently bad, inherently divisive, that it’s some kind of alien thing that we have to move beyond. That’s like saying we all need to saw off our legs because there’s a better way of getting around than walking.

I shouldn’t have to explain this, but the alternative to politics is not everyone around the campfire singing Kumbaya and holding hands. The alternative to politics is Somalia. Or Syria. It’s bullets and bombs and the state of nature. We have a process for how society should make decisions and direct itself, and our neglect and abuse of that process has brought us to our current state. The choice is to repair it, or else brace yourself for what comes after.

You won’t like it.

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Plinka Plinka 2018

I had to reckon with an iPad mini 2 recently – the first retina-display Mini, the one that shares its chipset with the iPhone 5s, one bought less than two months before my now virtually unusable Moto X. And the unfortunate fact of the matter is…the iPad isn’t too much better off. It’s sluggish on iOS 11, occasionally unresponsive and difficult to get working on anything particularly complicated. With a little work, you can get it going on VPN to bootleg a BBC iPlayer stream of the Olympic closing ceremonies and output over HDMI to your television, in theory (for legal reasons), but trying to multitask is a bit of a challenge. It’s also fine as a Kindle replacement, except that I have a Kindle Paperwhite that does that job splendidly. And if I’m honest, so does this iPhone X.

It’s looking increasingly like there isn’t going to be any iPhone SE2, and on balance it doesn’t looks like an X-Minus is on the cards either. If you believe the Great Mentioner, the fall lineup appears to be a tweaked iPhone X (5.8” display), a new iPhone X Plus (6.5” display) and something else (the heretofore skipped iPhone 9?) with a 6.1” LCD display rather than AMOLED and a price point lower than the X (generally assumed to be $700-800 in most quarters). One can only assume that the iPhone 8/Plus will stick around as the last-but-one discount models, and that the 7/Plus will remain in the “free with contract” slot.

This is hugely problematic. Yes, the entry level iPhone has always bumped around $650 or so, but in the last couple of years, there was that iPhone SE, with either the current chipset or only one year behind, first at $400 and then $350. Now, the cheapest current-chipset phone will be this notional iPhone 9, so-called. Which could conceivably cost $800, double the launch price of the SE – without taking into account that the iPhone X will be the smallest and most compact current iPhone. The iPhone 6/s/7/8 was just a hair too big, and now a phone a hair bigger than that will be “the small one.”

It’s really getting hard to shake the sense that Apple has lost their way, and is content to lean into being the new Tesla, churning out mildly reliable produce at premium price. Don’t @ me. iOS 11 and macOS 10.13 have both been shit on toast from a bugs-and-security standpoint, the very worst of the OS X era, and to have the baseline “current” phone jump to a thousand dollars besides is just insult to injury. Meanwhile, for those willing to take their chances with the Beast of Shoreline Boulevard, there are Android devices out there with last year’s OS for $100. You can get a smartphone – not a great one, maybe not a long-term useful one, but a smartphone nonetheless – at burner phone prices now. And Apple’s setting the flagship baseline ever higher.

Thing is, I have the iPhone X through work. I would love a notional SE2 or X-Minus to replace the two-year-old SE as a likely travel phone, but that looks increasingly unlikely. I’m not buying a 6-inch phone, ever, full stop. And it’s hardly worth it for me to buy an iPhone X just for the sake of owning it myself. Maybe if my job changed and my hand was forced, but not until my employer demands this one back. Especially if I’m not leaving the country before December at the earliest and can have this one unlocked by then.

And the iPhone X, annoying as it is, keeps growing on me. It’s easy to keep it charged. The screen is big enough that it can substitute for a Kindle. The lack of a headphone jack has been less of an issue than I expected, thanks largely to the Beats X headphones. I can’t deny the power of Animoji to entertain toddlers. And yes, frivolity of justification notwithstanding, I can actually do some work from it and deal with technician requests from a barstool.

But it’s still too big to easily use one-handed. It’s still too big to be comfortable in a front pants pocket. FaceID isn’t as reliable as they claim, especially when you’re lying in bed or sitting at the desk and have to crane the phone around in ways that weren’t necessary when TouchID could just let your finger rest for a second.  It’s just a hair too big to be a hair too big - and meanwhile, Sony has picked up the torch and make the Xperia XZ2 Compact, which is ever so slightly taller than the perfect-sized first-gen Moto X and tapers the back to fit the hand in similar fashion. And a 2870 mAh battery is on par with…the iPhone X.

Just because Apple doesn’t do it, doesn’t mean it can’t be done. Which should send a terrified shiver through every AAPL stockholder.

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“There’s not really anything I want for my birthday this year. Nothing I can buy with money, anyway. I have had everything I wanted in my life, even if I don’t have all of it anymore, or want all of it anymore, and even if I would like some more of what I already had (there’s probably a new Timbuk2 messenger coming sooner rather than later, and will probably get a bunch of custom work done to boot). For today and tonight, though, I’m content with another cup of coffee, dinner with friends, and turning in early to snuggle with my sweetie. Tomorrow will take care of itself. You play the days like you play the games: one at a time.”

-28 Feb 2011

It’s taken seven years, but I have finally gotten back where I was, I think. The world as a whole is worse than it was in 2011, by leaps and bounds. Friends have moved away – some over the hill, some to the other side of the world – and loved ones are in far poorer health than before. I’m on the wrong end of my 40s now, and the social media outlets that used to serve me in place of a local gang of my own have turned into the worst sort of toxic cesspool.

And yet…

“When you go by Stagger Lee, you rather expect 44 and 45 to be good years. It’s right there in the songs, after all. 44 is that hard eight on the craps table that made money at my bachelor party. 44 is Riggo plowing through a 50 Gut pulling-guard block in the days when football was fun, rather than a boundless misery. 44 sounds and feels like somebody set with adulthood and nothing much left to prove, which is what I’ve been trying to prove for over twenty years now without success.  And yet, I’ve always skewed older than I really was. Maybe I’m finally hitting equilibrium. It would be nice.

So we set forth on the goals: don’t give up on fixing the health issues. If it means having to liposuction the inside of my nose to breathe at night, do it. If it means the monthlong moratorium on hard liquor has to be extended, I’ll live with it. If it means that cutting out carbs and soda and eating salad for lunch every day and going to see all manner of exotic specialists will actually produce results, then I’ll have the results.  And I’ll plug in the headphones of a Sunday evening, with a reading lamp and a Kindle with the wireless turned off, and listen to music and sip something out of a fresh jug of oatmeal stout and do the pub thing at home where it’s inexpensive and easy to get up the stairs.”

-28 Feb 2016


I did liposuction the nose. A month off hard liquor turned into two years of eschewing cocktails in favor of craft beer, the lower-alcohol the better. I haven’t purchased a single Coke Zero in 2018. And not only did I spend a week in London, but I finally spent a fortnight in Ireland. And my job has evolved into something that’s paying me more money for less work, something I can do remotely and take training and go on conferences and have a title and salary commensurate with what I actually do instead of being the human equivalent of an overloaded-Indian-subcontinent-train, paid and titled like a tier-2 help desk operator.

I did age into where I wanted to be. I have old outerwear I’ve had for a couple of decades. I have twenty years in the IT business. I have a resume with a certain amount of “Most Interesting Man In The World” to it, between Vanderbilt and Apple and National Geographic. I’ve been cuddling the same girl for seventeen years and change. I have a comfortable car that gets over 40 mpg and lets me cruise around this beautiful state that I get to live in, even when the local counties get annoying as hell.

I guess I’m good, really. There aren’t things I want – anything that piques my interest for under $20 I’m probably just going to buy, whether it’s a pen or a Nerf gun or a bomber of milk stout – and if you gave me actual wishes for my birthday, I’d probably spend them all on family health and regime change (unless I could sneak an iPhone X-Minus in there at the end, of which etc). I mean, there are absolutely things I wish had gone differently in the past, but wishing for a better past is pretty much the textbook definition of insanity and I’ve finally gotten better at avoiding it. Just to have pleasant weather, snuggled sleep-ins, road trips, baseball, pints, the chance to wear comfortable footwear without socks…

That would be enough, wouldn’t it?

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Flashback, part 92 of n

I don’t remember exactly when I first got the glasses. I want to say it was around third grade or so. Brown plastic frames with a double bridge, plastic lenses with a reddish-brown slight gradient tint – just the thing for maximum 80s nerdery. Largely unchanged for years, replaced for about six months with contacts until the pinkeye problems became too big to contain (oh, the problems of non-disposable lenses and heated cleaning)…

But after about five or six years, the insurance changed, and suddenly I could get a new pair of glasses every year. Spring of ninth grade, it was a less-rimmed but still hugely thick pair with a gray tint instead of that nasty red-brown (but still no high-index lenses and SO ridiculously thick). Tenth grade, it was a black plastic pair that I wore for a couple of years – because in eleventh grade, I got prescription sunglasses for the first time. Standard aviators, which might have almost looked cool on anyone else at all. And then, summer before college, finally some semi-trendy round-ish glasses with high-index lenses to keep them from being coke-bottle thick.

I replace them the next year with another pair almost just like them – and then discovered disposable contacts and the prospect of not wearing glasses all the time AND having the option to have cool sunglasses. And that did for it. I went a decade without a new pair of glasses, because my insurance was used every time on replenishing the disposable contacts. By 2001, the prescription was so far out of whack that I needed something for those days when I just couldn’t blink the crud out of the contacts one more time.

Honestly, the main reason I went looking again was because of my new girlfriend, who wore glasses sometimes and had these amazing magnetic clip-on shades that went over them. Brilliantly simple, made you wonder why nobody had thought of that before, and I wound up buying a similar pair in 2002. Tiny things, and once again, the last glasses I would buy for a decade (although six years in, I did have the lenses updated with the kind that get darker in UV exposure). The contacts were still primary, but I at least had some alternative.

Six years ago, I replaced them with a frankly too-expensive pair of frames that were doing their best to be stylish. Self-darkening, too, which I soon realized was less than optimal when driving. Within a year I was mostly off transit, and on days I took the car, I found myself squinting just a bit too much to be comfortable. But then, they weren’t really meant for everyday wear.

Which leads us to now. I spent my entire VSP benefit and some flex-spending aside on two pair of Warby Parker glasses, one sunglasses and one regular, in a neo-retro style that frankly suggests nothing so much as “short-sleeve dress shirt, skinny tie, and you’re launching a Gemini mission at six but serving a warrant on some Mississippi Klansmen at nine.” Which I only undertook because my cousin does all right switching between two pair of glasses and I can always leave the polarized prescription shades in the car for just such instances.

I’ve come full circle, to be honest. I don’t want the hassle and inconvenience of carrying extra contacts and replacing them every week or two. It’s the same line of thinking that has me on a regular rotation of footwear that doesn’t need to be laced up (or, in the summer, require socks). To wake up and put on a pair of glasses is a lot lighter lift than to wake up, take out the contacts case, rinse off each lens, blink it into the eye, and then remember to take them out at night so you don’t sleep in them and make things worse in the morning. And much easier to deal with for camping. Even if you’re just driving up to a cabin with running water and electricity.

I guess it’s possible that I’ve just aged into wanting simplicity without artifice. The glasses aren’t exactly hipster – they might read that way on a millennial, but on someone in their mid-40s it just reads as…I’m not sure what. Hopefully something like that infamous afternoon when I was told that I looked like I didn’t have to prove anything.

I was wearing my glasses that day.

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“Ultimately, that’s why we’ll bear through the horrific NBC schmaltz, set up the shady streams, DVR overnight action, and even just suck it up and actually watch what we’re handed.  Because once you dig down and drill through the weepy interviews and the Ryan Secrest horseshit and the pious blatherings of Pinkeye Costas, and get through the politics and the geopolitical nightmares and the unsettling corruption and legal horror, it’s still that magical winter village that only appears every four years.  Dreams of racing down a bobsled run at breakneck speed, or cresting a rail on a snowboard and being seventy feet off the ground, flying, or just the whole spectacle of speed and snow…more even than the summer games, the Winter Olympics have that magical dreamlike quality that no amount of autocratic dictatorship or network malfeasance can bury.”

-7 Feb 2014

As always, there’s a sort of taking stock of where you’ve been in the last four years. Winter of 2014 wasn’t great, certainly, and the shady cloud around a Winter Olympics in a Russian beach resort is more on the nose than ever before, the way things worked out. But it was a little different this year – NBC put more sportscasters in the mix, and ultimately jettisoned their recycled-morning-host and dodgy-cultural-expert in time to just let Tara and Johnny call the closing ceremonies (which, if they aren’t calling the opening in Tokyo in two years we riot). A lot of the Americans that NBC really wanted to push on us turned out to be flops (like, for instance, the entire contingent of solo figure skaters) but a lot of Americans turned up all right (like the redemption tour of John Shuster, or the youth-will-be-served antics of Chloe Kim and Red Gerard, or just the American women’s hockey team getting the job done the menfolk couldn’t). And it’s just fun to see things like snow, or things you wish you could do like bobsled or snowboard cross. (Seriously, if I could successfully do any Olympic sport – not compete, just do successfully without killing myself, snow cross is number one with a bullet and nothing is a close second. That looks amazing.)

Likewise for me, since 2014. Yes, the world is a worse place, but if you cut the toxicity out and send the cheaters away rather than let them into your playground, you can still piece together a good time. Be happy for the rest of the world instead of assuming that the only happiness comes from getting gold yourself. Take the wins where you can find them. And be cognizant of the fact that you, personally, are in a better spot than four years ago, and try not to let the wider world negate that.

Of which.

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Billy Graham

The Baptist Pope, dead at 99. 

Everyone gets safe passage across the river, but I will say that for evangelicals to see their highest figure eulogized by Donald Trump is pretty much what the evangelical movement in America deserves in 2018.

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Seen it coming

My stress is induced by those who don’t follow the rules. Dirty dealing Confederates. Obnoxious users. Shitty drivers. All rooted in the fear that in the end, playing by the rules gets you nothing. Reason and logic get trumped by fear and force. virtue is unrewarded, and those who do wrong get away without consequence. In the end, my stress and depression is rooted in the fear that I too will die having done right for nothing.

Consider the “libertarian” – the redneck apotheosis, the essense of “no one can tell me what to do” – the complete rejection of any sort of collective responsibility. Pure animal law of the jungle. I got mine, fuck you. And thanks to a soft media, we have a situation where the little man goes along with the big mule – not even because he thinks he might be a big mule himself someday, not because he has any hope of being on top at any point, but he will vote against his own self-interest because he has somehow internalized that he wants to be like the big mules, so he will vote with them and support them and defend them, even at the cost of his own good…

The whole concept of “media bias” only arose with television, when it was possible for the news to show you things you didn’t want to see. Actually being challenged with images of their worldview was too much for the South to take, and coupled with Nixonian paranoia it became possible to cast as “biased” anyone who broadcast anything that infringed on what you already believed. The massive runaway success of Fox has come from their talent for telling the Confederates what they already think they know – which also bears out why they tend to be so misinformed…

And because we validate dumb, we get dumb in charge. And now people are making political decisions based on what they think they know – which is the farthest thing from the truth. Stupid should hurt – but their stupid is going to hurt us…

-21 June 2011


At the risk of self-aggrandizement…fucking nailed it.

I think the most amazing thing, looking back at this, is how after two and a half years working there it didn’t even occur to me to put Palo Alto cyclists on the list of those who can’t follow the rules. More proof that it really wasn’t an issue until late 2012 or so. Would that the political issues were of similar vintage, but then, we’ve been on a steady slide to this point for twenty-five years. The GOP could have stood up to Trump, but they didn’t, because “vulgar ignorance” is too big a chunk of the base to risk alienating. But honestly, where else were the necks going to go? What would have been lost to the GOP by telling Trump to go screw, by rolling out Jeb Bush or John Kasich or somebody who would have given business 100% of what they wanted, and holy rollers 80% of what they wanted, and probably not activated the Democrats to “resistance” or the North Koreans to the point of ballistic missile false alarm issues?

Maybe the election, sure. Maybe not. It’s pretty abundantly clear that as long as Hillary was convicted of being Hillary, the press was going to grease the skids for anyone else, and Kasich probably could have pulled the same trick just as slick and possibly even won a popular vote majority into the bargain. You have to think that every white nationalist vote you forego puts another grave Very Serious Centrist suburbanite back on the table. It’s not like Hillary’s coattails were ever going to flip either house of Congress.

And now, as Ed make clear, matters are worse. You can put Democrats in control of Congress for maybe four years before the New York Times does its patented mournful po-mouth routine and validates the rednecks right back into power. You can elect a Democratic President and Congress watch as the Washington press corps demands to know why they won’t capitulate to the teabags in the name of bipartisanship, especially after the Democrats wouldn’t just capitulate to a GOP majority government in the name of bipartisanship. Meanwhile, the damage to the guardrails continues apace and the institutions continue to suffer and our ability to stand against the likes of Russia and China in the wider world deteriorates and the defense of liberal democracy is left to whatever Germany can muster while the UK and US collapse into their own sphincters. Maybe we end up with a multipolar world. Maybe we end up with the United States of Alabama, hoping that Tencent and Alibaba and Baidu will open up facilities here instead of Vietnam or Nigeria or Poland. 

But between climate change, political instability, routine mass killings, Russians working our elections like they had one hand up the puppet’s ass, the increasing likelihood of renewed inflation that wipes out my retirement savings and just the general health burden that comes of living on the edge of a knife all the time – and I’m white – I’m not sanguine about the prospect of those golden years that were supposed to be hanging out there in the future for the previous generation. When they write the legacy of Generation X, it’ll read “first to fall to the Great Screwing.”

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