House rules: everyone gets safe passage across the river. There will be plenty of time tomorrow. But for today, I would note that in 1986, Scalia was put on the court by a 98-0 vote after hearings that went like shit through a goose, largely because of the lengthy and rancorous elevation of Rehnquist to Chief Justice immediately before. I would argue that putting Scalia on the court was a substantially more consequential move, which as Chuck Berry would say goes to show you never can tell. 

Marked to market

As it turns out, driving an iconic Silicon Valley heritage corporation into the ground and then running a spectacularly incompetent GOP campaign for Senate that loses during a Republican wave election doesn’t rally voters to support your candidacy for President of the United States. So Carly Fiorina is out, along with Chris Christie (too Yankee) and Rand Paul (too glibertarian and too weird) and…who’s left at this point? Kasich (too unknown, too occasionally not nuts), Carson (too hopelessly unqualified and weird), Gilmore (one term as governor which ended in 2001 and you’re going to run for the White House NOW?), Bush (too Bush), and of course the Glimmer Twins, the beautiful duo, Trump and Cruz.  A hairdo like an onion loaf and a face like a fist. One tabloid star who thinks the White House is an entry-level job and has not the faintest idea how politics works, and one God-bothering Texan  who is universally reviled by his elected peers and has not the faintest relationship with the truth. 

Normally, this would be a layup for the Democrats, especially with the economy in not utterly ghastly condition and gas prices creeping down.  But on that side, it’s either a seventy-something self-described socialist who gets the kids fired up with things that are patently impossible to pass, or…Hillary.  I feel better about Hillary than I did eight years ago, but not much – I do think she learned from some of her mistakes (although with Mark Penn supposedly in the mix again, I think the ones she didn’t learn from will be more telling) and I think she has one big advantage (if you can call it that): she has been the most reviled, hated, slandered, and thoroughly put-upon woman in politics for the last twenty-five years, and it won’t make a difference if her enemies double-dog hate her, everything is pretty much out there already. The downside is that the Washington press has never liked her (or her husband), which is a big part of what helped Obama along, and the fact that…she’s been around for a quarter-century, which is how an old Jewish dude from Vermont can suddenly be au courant with the youth vote.

My big fear, as always, is that like Occupy Wall Street, Bernie will bring out a tidal wave of youth support…and when he doesn’t win the nomination, the wave breaks and his followers go back to whatever they were doing instead of getting behind Hillary. Look, this isn’t like the old days. The worst candidate the Democrats can put up is still better than the best one the GOP can offer, because if the GOP wins, they have the White House and Congress and there is no safety catch on the United States of Alabama. And a lot of people are saying “well with a GOP Congress Hillary won’t be able to get any more through than Bernie!” It’s not about that anymore.  It’s not about bringing around the progressive Jerusalem. It’s about keeping the Confederates from working their will.  At this point, we’re voting for a Democrat to be the finger in the dike, preventing the redneck flood. You can’t expect any more. That’s all they can be, until redistricting and demographics and hopefully the long slow arc of the universe bend things back around toward a vision of politics that isn’t grounded in Dixie in 1968.

So all I want out of a Democratic nominee is simple. I don’t care about the student loan stuff, because they can’t pass it.  I’m not interested in single-payer health care, because they can’t pass it.  I care about the Supreme Court and the veto pen, and that’s all I can care about. I need one thing and one thing only out of a Democratic candidate for President: victory in November, because the alternatives are too horrifying to contemplate.

So whoever, fine. Clinton, Sanders, I honestly don’t care which one gets it. As long as they fucking win.


ETA: did I forget Marco Rubio? Maybe, but as one Twitter wag put it, he failed his Turing test. In a world where anti-immigration sentiment is the driving force of the GOP primary electorate, Rubio fucked up by going along with the GOP’s postmortem in 2013 and trying to actually accomplish something on the immigration front. Bad mistake. You can’t really do that when a huge chunk of your base is voting solely on the basis of “who will shit on brown people the most” and if you don’t believe me, watch the numbers come in on March 1.

Wheels up

The car has a bad transmission, which is a sealed unit and will cost $6000 to replace. That’s bad arithmetic in a car that’s going on ten years old and over 100K miles and barely gets 23 miles per gallon at the best of times, and that’s before you consider that the speakers are randomly static-laden and the sunroof occasionally goes half-up of its own volition and the car stereo is iPod-era and doesn’t work well with the iPhone.  It’s one of those things where there’s so much to fix and straighten up that you despair of fixing it at all – and the promise of being able to find something at least partly electrical is very attractive.

Right now, the three contenders are the Prius V, the newest Chevy Volt, and the Ford Fusion Energi. The Prius is just as it says: big hybrid wagon, proven technology. But ultimately fuel-burning; there’s no all-electric option there.  The Volt will go all-electric for 50 miles, which is enough to get to a Cal game or up to the city – and if you don’t find a charger, you still have the gas generator charging you back up, with an ultimate range far enough to drive to Disneyland on a tank. Splitting the difference is the Fusion Energi – only about 20 miles all-electric, but enough for me to go to work and back or for us to get groceries or run the quick errands without having to dip into the gas motor. 

Personally, the Volt is at the top of my list, but I haven’t sat in one or driven it or anything – but I do really like the idea of an American-made electrical vehicle (and a Chevy at that, given that my family literally bought nothing else from 1969 to 1993) without the complexity of a six-speed transmission to deal with and with support for Apple CarPlay and modern phone integration. But with the others, I also like the idea of a car that I know I’ll have room to sit in and have a grown-up midsize ride.

And that’s the thing – I’m starting to get like that with the house. The facing on the cabinets is peeling, the carpet on the stairs needs to be cleaned if not replaced outright, one of the toilets makes a noise and another has a rickety seat and has to have the handle held down to flush, and the whole thing needs a massive allergen flush to get the dust out so I can start breathing through the night normally. (Maybe.) Things being how they are, though, it’s not like we can sell the house and start over somewhere else; unless you bought AAPL at $15 in 1997 and sold it all six months ago, the only way you sell a piece of property in Silly Con Valley is if you’re leaving for good and never coming back.

And in a way, I suppose I’m a little like that about myself. I’ve been dealing with this sleep study and its aftermath for months now – what started off as a “am I sleeping wrong on this shoulder and causing my neck/shoulder pain that way?” turned into claustrophobic masks and allergy shots and a million wires in my scalp, and even now, when I can finally just barely make it through the entire night without ripping the BiPAP mask off my face, I’m not sleeping any more soundly or waking up any less, which begs the question whether the sleep clinic knows how to do any more than “positive air pressure”. I genuinely suspect they don’t, which makes me wonder how I’m ever going to property evaluate things like posture and head elevation and whether I need a different pillow or mattress or God knows what. The shoulder still hurts, by the way, and there’s been a recurring pain in the left hamstring for a while now and we haven’t yet sorted out what the deal is with the dust allergy and whether that’s helping or not, and my heart rate and blood pressure and cholesterol are all elevated from even four years ago and only respond sporadically to changes in diet and exercise, if at all.

As with so many things, the problem is that when there’s too many things to fix, you despair of ever being able to get them all fixed, which in turn leads to despairing of getting any of them fixed.  And it’s often tough to undertake a new approach when it’s going to be a long time before you see results, if ever, and then ask why you gave up this food or that drink or did this much extra exercise only to see your LDL or triglyceride numbers budge not at all. It’s not just energy of activation that’s tough to overcome, it’s the willingness to try something new that’s going to take take a lot of time and effort and isn’t guaranteed to pay off in the end.

Maybe that’s why I don’t have any hobbies. Or why I’m not a gamer. Actually there are plenty of reasons for that, but we’ll get to that later.

Mood altering

It’s strange how some things (take, as a completely random example, all American football) can put you in an incredibly shitty mood for no apparent reason (okay, because it strikes at deeper emotions about your place in the world and the state of our civilization, but bugger all that for now) and some other things (like, say, the right pair of boots and the right jacket and the right song randomly coming up on the iPhone) can put you in a good mood…and what do you do? You question WHY you’re in a good mood all of a sudden.

This, bluntly put, is incredibly fucked up. If there’s one thing I like to think I’ve figured out in the last ten years, it’s that life is poor, nasty, brutish and short, tomorrow isn’t promised to you, and you need to indulge in the things you enjoy and stop doing the things that make you miserable. So if some combination of Aldens and second-hand Navy peacoat and a random Irish song combine and put a smile on your face, the thing to do isn’t to mourn how that public house isn’t there any more and you haven’t seen most of that gang in person for years and there’s nothing like that here…the thing to fucking do is to bathe in the warm glow of your memories and take that energy and point it toward laying waste to all in your path and bringing honor and pride to the memory of the rifles of the EUS.

If you’re happy, stop fucking asking why.

The Superb Owl Has Flown

It’s almost over with, and not a minute too soon. The NFL gets its slime on enough without adding a soupçon of inconvenience, and this has been a rough week for the train and the traffic and everything else. I just came from two hours of additional walking patrol to be eyes and ears for the cops so that nothing untoward happens, and the road closures are bad enough without the fact the light rail has been commandeered for stadium travel only. If you normally take the VTA train, you’re on a bus bridge today, and good luck finding it.

And for all of this, I still have a rooting interest, despite my determination not to watch a minute of the game – I want Denver to lose, partly because of residual venom when I backed them only for them to shit the bed against the Niners, but largely because I don’t want to have to put up with the avalanche of Peyton Manning fellatio if he falls ass-backward into another ring through no fault of his own. One more loss in the championship should shut that down quickly, and offer the added attraction of the hidebound NFL and its media apologists losing their shit over Cam Newton.

Which is its own problem – I love what Cam Newton does for the league, or to it, but I resent the fact that he’s the living breathing incarnation of why Vanderbilt’s ceiling is nine wins once a century or so. Which is one of the things that made Vandy football so difficult to watch last year and this, and why I largely punched out on college football.  Now I find myself doing the same thing with basketball – partly because Kevin Stallings is past his sell-by date as head coach and excels at making a nickel out of twenty-five cents, but largely because the SEC cares about one thing and basketball isn’t it – and the caliber of officiating and decision-making reflects that, especially when the ref show blows for 52 fouls in a 40 minute game.

So what does that leave me with? At least we’re competitive in baseball. Plus, there are a handful of teams and sports that I can engage in and root for without being emotionally over-involved.  Baseball is at the top of the list, just because you can’t get too high or too low when you have a hundred and sixty-something games to get through in six months. The expectations for the Oakland A’s are about right too; with the Giants having three World Series wins in five seasons, it’s starting to feel a bit like rooting for the house. But the San Jose Giants are immense fun to go watch in person, as are the San Jose Earthquakes. As is the English Premier League, for that matter, and despite all these years of trying I still don’t have a team I’d rather pull for than Fulham, so I don’t have to be too too stuck into any particular result.

And then there’s the Warriors, Golden State and Santa Cruz alike. That’s a pretty easy lift when they’re defending champs and Golden State is on course to set records for season victories and home winning streak and Steph Curry is the most electrifying man in sports, but I’m not under any illusion that’ll last forever…so just enjoy it while it does. Sadly, though, the featured sports of college athletics are pretty much a no-go zone these days. It’s unfortunate, but it’s what self-care and mental health require.


So it looks like March 15 will be the event in which Apple unveils the next round of stuff: new Watch information (and possibly new bands), an iPad Air 3 with some sort of compatibility with the Pro’s accessories and special features, and of course the much-debated iPhone 5SE, so-called, which the Great Mentioner now thinks will be running the chipset of the iPhone 6S alongside the camera of the 6 and the form factor, more or less, of the 5S (or perhaps the current iPod Touch).  The logic behind giving it the 6S chipset is that Apple doesn’t want to produce a new phone which will be two generations behind current come September, so we will presumably get to Columbus Day with all Apple phone offerings running either the A9 or the notional A10 in the notional iPhone 7.

And the rumors are flying about that – now in addition to the absence of a traditional headphone jack, we are asked to believe that wireless charging (at some distance, no less) are part of the package for the 7. It’s starting to sound like Jony Ive is serious about creating the Movie Phone – complete slick and modern and no wires ever and is never plugged in and magically juices up. It’s a nice thought. I’m not sure it’s what I want to gamble on just yet. Having the wireless tethering to the watch and Bluetooth headphones has already proven harsh on the battery without having to stand within a foot of the magic pad to get some charge back in the damn thing.

In a lineup like that, too, the 5SE moniker makes even less sense.  If the phone is a smaller version of the 6S without TouchID (and a 8 MP camera rather than 12), why not just say 6C and make it “compact” rather than “cheap”, have the 6S and 6S Plus, and then the 7? Why stick to the 5 numbering at all? I’m trusting that this will all get cleaned up sometime in the next five weeks.

But the big thing is this: I have to hold off on buying any of this nonsense. I have batteries lying around everywhere (I think I may own at least three lipstick chargers plus the external case) and my iPhone 6 through work is unlocked, so there is no percentage in buying this notional new iPhone until proven by experiment and math that the newer chipset and smaller screen actually work out to superior battery life.  Otherwise, there are much better things I can burn this $650 of walking-around money on, mostly in London…


EDITED TO ADD: So at lunchtime today I finally had the opportunity to handle the much-debated Apple Smart Battery Case with an actual iPhone 6S in it. For as much abuse as Apple’s taken over this product, it’s been all in the wrong direction; everyone went mental about the “hump” in back.  Well, spoiler alert: the hump means that the edges are just the same as they would be normally, and the hump fits in (but doesn’t fill in my case) the hollow in your hand while holding the phone. No other battery case I’ve ever used on any iPhone was able to accomplish that (although the Moto X did it internally, with a terrace-stepped battery in the rounded body of the phone itself).  And the practical upshot is that with the Apple case, it’ll draw all its power from the case first and leave the phone fully charged, rather than having to use the case to charge the phone at diverse times. 

The biggest shame on this case is its necessity, not its implementation. The implementation is surprisingly good. It’s only because I’ve already spent that $100 on all the above-mentioned external batteries than I don’t spend it on this.

As promised, PLINKA PLINKA

So on Saturday (really on Friday night), I switched SIM cards in my phones. The iPhone 6, freshly unlocked, took a turn on T-Mobile while my daily driver AT&T account ran through my first-gen Moto X. I only bothered for about a day, but it was terribly illuminating.

For starters, the AT&T Moto X didn’t have any appreciably better battery life than when it was on T-Mobile. I didn’t do any music playback from it, but it was fully charged at 9:30 AM and was down to below 15% battery by 7 PM. I didn’t think I was hitting it particularly hard, either, but with no music happening everything I was doing was hitting the screen, which is the biggest draw in any phone. Meanwhile, the T-Mobile-equipped iPhone 6 was pulling upward of 68 Mbps data download on LTE and seemingly offered plenty of signal anywhere other than on base at Moffett, which is a bad spot for signal for anyone. 

But more alarming was Sunday after I’d switched back. I did some audio playback but not that much – but in the span of maybe five hours off the plug and about three and a quarter hours total use, the iPhone 6 dropped to about 15% battery life. If I had to pin it down to one thing, I’d say it was Twitter, because that was the biggest battery killer while we were in Maui last week. Fortunately, the wife came through with the battery pack I’d loaner her for her day in San Francisco, or I would have had to call it a night and go home at 5:30 PM. But to only get four hours of actual screen time off a phone is kind of a problem.

The Hawaii test worked out reasonably well – I had the external battery case, which is a bulky plastic thing that holds about 3000 mAh and is good for charging the phone from 20% to 80% twice. As long as I can plug it in every night, I ought to be OK with that abroad – bearing in mind that I was never using it for Kindle and precious little audio (other than in flight). But Safari, Tweetbot, Instagram, even Mail – all burn 1% of battery every three minutes of use, seems like, and Reeder even slightly more. I think it’s reasonable to assume in London that in addition to social media and photography, we can expect to hit transit and mapping apps pretty hard (there wasn’t much call for it in Hawaii on account of either driving everywhere or laying out by the pool. Transit wasn’t a thing). More to the point: that bulky plastic case sucks. It’s huge in the pocket and impossible to get on and off the phone (unless you drop it, in which instance it flies apart in two pieces). On the other hand it basically means you only have to take the micro-USB charger. If I want to take an external battery, it’ll mean having a Lightning cable AND a micro-USB if I want to charge both at once.

And here’s the wild card: that iPhone 5se is still out there, notionally packing the same camera and chipset as the iPhone 6 I currently carry but in a 4-inch form factor that represents a display 37% smaller (and presumably less power-consuming) with a larger battery than the original iPhone 5S.  Depending on who you believe, more than half the people currently carrying an iPhone 5S are contract-eligible to upgrade, but haven’t – because nobody makes a 4-inch premium phone anymore.  The battery of the 5se, so-called, is allegedly 1642 mAh, which puts it almost halfway between the 5S and the 6S, but driving a 5S display and 6 chipset. Since the battery size went up 16% from the 5S to the 6, and the screen became 50% larger, the fact that advertised battery life went up slightly in the 6 is suggestive that the same chipset with a smaller display and larger battery than the 5S will yield legit battery life improvements over the 6 and 6S. And if nothing else, I’ll have two or three months to figure out whether this is true before travel time.

But the take-home message of the week and weekend is this: Android is no longer worth the squeeze. It’s nice to have a phone that feels smaller the way the X does, and I wish I had those kinds of features in an iPhone (2 GB RAM, 2200 mAh battery, and AMOLED display, for starters), but right now there’s no reason to rely on it in favor of the iPhone. I don’t know what changed aside from the new number and the unlock, but for whatever reason, I’m happy to just deal with the iPhone alone now.