Identity and Atmosphere

We all know the story. I’ve beaten it to death on here more times than I can count. For persons of a certain age and class, your college friends are a nontrivial part of your life – the ones who stand up with you at weddings, send cards at Christmas, blah blah. Some you may be more involved with than others – some of my closest friends are still in a tight loop with them twenty or twenty-five years on – but they exist.

By my best reckoning, I am in contact with exactly ONE person from that seven-year stretch at my undergrad school and Vanderbilt – and it’s because said Vanderbilt person was also at my high school back in the day. (She’s a foreign service officer in the frackin’ UKRAINE now, but that’s neither here nor there.) So…what exactly am I doing? If I still lived in the ancestral lands, would I still want to be involved with the local alumni organization? Especially given what sort of people from my school are likely to be in Birmingham or Atlanta or Nashville instead of San Francisco? I’m not going to be going to any reunion events, because, well, I wasn’t an undergrad and the grad students are unlikely to do one.

(What provoked all this? I Kindled a book on the Senate by Dr. Frances Lee. I can’t even remember her last name now, but she married Emery Lee, another guy from our department – they were the anchor couple of the Family back in the day, and she is now a name to be reckoned with in matters Senatorial – she will be up there with Bruce Oppenheimer and Barbara Sinclair before you know it if she’s not already. And looking through the early pages, I saw names of faculty and students I hadn’t thought about in years, and it warms my heart to see these guys as decorated political scientists – even if the last time I saw them was on New Years’ Day 1998 about 1 AM in Alexandria when we just happened to be on the same Metro train.)

So we have long established that I have disavowed my undergraduate institution, and have distanced myself from the collegiate team of my youth. There is, as you all know, a serious impediment to affiliating myself with my current employer. So my current options are to either take a bite off the wife’s team (which has heretofore been a much better solution for football) or continue to claim Vanderbilt. But what am I claiming? What’s the connection?

I was going over my list of things I have enjoyed over the last four years, something I started back when I first began grappling with the “who am I now” question, and because I’m me, I was trying to puzzle out categories and metrics and quantify it, and ultimately it boiled down to two things: friends (self-explanatory) and atmosphere. Seriously, that’s what I came down to. And then it all clicked.

What do I miss from Vanderbilt days? Sitting on the deck at SATCO with a bucket of Rocks to wash down the fajitas. Walking by the library at dawn or up Peabody Esplanade at dusk. The Overcup Oak at night, with a fire in the fireplace. Memorial Gym, anytime. The feel of driving up US 100 or 70 with a clear sky full of stars and 20 degrees outside and Sacramento-Cavs coming in clear on WWWE out of Cleveland. The novelty of new channels on the TV and new local commercials. And what is it about throwing in with Cal that I enjoy? Gameday, of course, the roar of the band on Sproul Plaza and the setting sun lighting up Tightwad Hill in a golden glow and the chill of a Big Game tailgate morning up by Sather Tower and Zachary’s after the game.

I had contradictory things all over the list – 5-space, going out with friends, having people over, cocooning at home with the wife, you name it – but so many things just came down to atmosphere. Stretched out on the sofa in a nice freshly clean house with a little Gaucho on the Bose. Driving up Highway 1 under a gray sky with the Redskins on the radio. Walking down the street in the Outer Sunset, a block from the Pacific Ocean, on the way to stepping into the Riptide to sit in front of the fire with a wee dram. A quiet seat at O’Flaherty’s or Trials or O’Neills on a sparsely populated Sunday evening, or walking through the farmer’s market on a Sunday morning, or a beer at Tied House with the NFL playoffs on one screen and hockey on another. Or the phenomenon of “Vanderbilt camping” at the Ritz-Carlton, or actual camping in Portola with the kind of silence you only get by going deep into the woods. Or anything in London, or Switzerland, or Yosemite, or New Orleans…

I can’t nail it down to one thing in particular, I can’t describe it or reliably recreate it, but I know it when I experience it (and I certainly remember after the fact) – the setting makes a big difference in my story. And this may be a healthy thing – after all, living in the moment probably involves a good deal of appreciating the moment and the circumstances. Who knows, maybe I actually developed some in those four years.

This, also.

A lot of people are talking a bunch of nonsense about not jumping to conclusions and avoiding incendiary rhetoric and such.

PLEASE. After a year of jabbering about “reloading” and “Second Amendment solutions” and lists of names with crosshairs by them, we need to show some restraint so a bunch of teabaggers don’t get their precious fee-fees hurt? How about this: don’t lie down with pigs if you don’t want people to accuse you of smelling like shit.

The guilty flee where no man pursues.


Yes, you still have to execute when you’re put in a situation, but there is absolutely no way that an 11-5 team should have ever been made to go on the road 2000 miles away to play at the home of a 7-9 team in a playoff game. The fact that the NFL still privileges winning the division when there are so few division games (only 6 out of 16 – less than 40% of the schedule) is ridiculous in the extreme, and if there are no changes to the playoff system before next year, it will prove once and for all what a garbage organization the NFL is – assuming, that is, they don’t lock out the players and prove it anyway.

That, plus – where to start? Vandy pisses away a 14-point lead and loses to South Carolina? Stanford wins the Orange Bowl? Auburn a field-goal favorite to win a national championship? There is no God. Not in sports, anyway.

All right. Puke and rally. There’s still dinner out on the town yet to come…


The spam situation with Moveable Type is out of control. Legit comments are being auto-flagged as spam, while spam is getting through the tightest filter settings at a rate of ~1000 per week. So if you do place a comment, it might not hurt to ping me…I’m considering trying to implement registration but I don’t know if that’s possible in this configuration; I’m also considering whitelisting email addresses if the system will allow it.

Thanks. We now return to your regularly scheduled snark and whining…


So Andrew Luck, faced with the loss of most of his bodyguards (3 O-linemen and a fullback going away) and with the money of the #1 overall pick on the table, decides to stick around and play at least one more year.

And then 24 hours, his coach flies the coop to go to the NFL.


Global Frequency, or, Why Facebook Could (Sort Of) Beat Google

What’s Google’s core business? Aside from advertising, of course. Well duh: search. Search is at the root of what Google does; it’s the reason they can even sell you advertising in the first place, because it’s keyed to what you search for.

Earlier in the week, on Shutdown Night, we had a friend over who lives in DC and is searching for a new place to live, owing to a massive soap opera with her landlords (who are splitting up) – but her situation is complicated by the fact she has a dog. No problem – my first instinct is to jump on Facebook, make sure all my old DC people are on the post, and pitch her situation and requirements to see if they have any insight on pet-friendly accommodations in proximity to either where she works or a Metro line that will get her there. Bibbity bobbity boo.

Warren Ellis had a 12-issue comic miniseries called Global Frequency, which John Rogers (of Leverage fame) turned into the pilot for a series. It didn’t get made, but the pilot leaked on BitTorrent and became a cult hit. The premise is that there is an organization known only as the Global Frequency that exists outside of normal government and multinational channels, largely focused on cleaning up the messes left behind by the Cold War and other clandestine nonsense (and funded on the sly by the countries that created those problems). The organization consists of its mysterious leader, her mysterious assistant who runs the switchboard and the screens…and a thousand people who have The Phone, which will occasionally ring, and you will be asked to bring your particular talent to bear on the problem. Linguistics, physics, sharpshooter, free-runner, guy who built his own homemade rocket – if you are the best there is at what you do, at some point Miranda Zero shows up on your doorstep and hands you The Phone.

The thing is, we all have that. Doctors, video game designers, amateur pilots, psychologists, law enforcement, insiders at Fortune 100 tech companies, knitters, journalists, artists, lawyers, Foreign Service officers, cello players, National Geographic photographers, librarians – all of those and more are just in the first hundred or so people I see on my Facebook list. Now maybe I’ve lived most of my last fifteen years on the Internet and benefit from having built out an eclectic group of friends and acquaintances to start with, but if somebody says “dog-friendly lodging in DC,” my first thought isn’t to type into Google, it’s to punch out a post – “hey DMV, you are on the Global Frequency” – and see who replies and what they suggest or report.

Google used to be much better at this. PageRank and its algorithms did what Yahoo hadn’t been able to keep up with by hand and Alta Vista simply wasn’t capable of handling: cut through the crap and get to what you want. But as one writer after another is reporting, the eternal quest for SEO and ad revenue is leading to an explosion of redundant content, scrape-off sites, and out-and-out spam between you and what you want to know. And if you can post on Facebook, or fire off a tweet and get a response, how much faster and more reliable is that than wading through ten pages of Google links trying to see which of them might have valid information and which are LITERALLY the same forum content recapitulated three times over with different ads NASCARd around them?

If Facebook – or Diaspora, or Twitter, or some other social networking entity I can’t even imagine yet – can do a good job of streamlining the path between the knowledge our friends (and theirs) possess and what we want to know, it would trump any search engine you can think of. If somebody figures out how to make this work reliably – and then monetize it – look out.

Week 1

Why the hell does ecto keep eating these posts?

Anyway, week 1 of Tuesday Night Unplugged went just fine, largely because we had a friend over for dinner until almost 11 PM. I never even brought the backpack or Kindle upstairs, and the only reading was a bit more of At Day’s Close, which I’m re-reading because my original copy was the victim of a water heater overspill incident and I just received the replacement copy from Amazon. There was a wee bit of computer usage, but it was using the AppleTV to show the Demon Sheep ad on YouTube, so I think that’s within the spirit of the parameters I specified earlier.

Speaking of replacement, it looks like Dr Martens is going to replace my 1460 For Lifes for no more than the cost of posting the boots back to them. They are not kidding about the lifetime warranty on these bad boys, and me, I’m just cised to get a pristine pair of new black 8i Docs to start the new year…

Morons Electing Assholes

Well, we’re off and running, as the House of Representatives opens its bid to retake its title from the Senate as the world’s largest open-air special-needs kindergarten. Seriously, we have reached a point in history where all you need to make a name as a Republican is a Southern accent, an undiagnosed case of oppositional-defiant disorder, and the ability to surmount any obstacle between you and a camera – one look at the new “cutgo” rules and the gymnastics on waiving deficit reduction for the health care repeal bill should make it obvious that things like reason and logic will be taking a hike for a while up on the Hill.

Ah well, can’t sweat it too bad. Yes, California still ships enough money to the Feds to pay for its own share of federal benefits, pay off its own budget deficit ten times over, AND cut every man, woman and child in the state a check for $1000 annually besides, but in all other respects we still have the Valleys and the world’s eighth largest economy PLUS a government not in the kung-fu grip of the kind of people who need to cancel the week’s activities because Auburn’s finally in a BCS bowl. I’m 3000 miles away, I’m more than happy for people to get the government they deserve – but I do the math and pay attention, so try not to get it on me.

If that sounds like I think I have some sort of superiority complex…well, duh.

Two days in

Early notes on 2011:

* Congratulations to the NFC West champion Seattle Seahawks – at 7-9, losers of 7 of the last 10, officially the single worst playoff team in NFL history. And because all division winners are treated equally, they will host the 11-5 Saints on Saturday. Meanwhile, two 10-win NFC teams will be sitting at home for the crime of playing in the wrong division. The NFL is shit.

* The Redskins are worse shit, of course. With all the other 6-10 teams (there are at least six, maybe more, I lost count), the Skins wind up picking 11th in the draft, which will probably mean no Andrew Luck. Don’t know if I think anyone else is obviously worth a first-round pick (I don’t think the NFL will know what to do with Cam Newton and I don’t think he can be turned into a pocket passer given how much of his game is running) and not sure I trust the Skins to make good trades to get more picks and find gems in the lower rounds. I know this, though: Grossman is in no way materially superior to McNabb, there are no adequate replacements in free agency, and the odds of success with a rookie quarterback are nonexistent (even assuming we did a better job drafting than we did with Heath Shuler and Patrick Ramsey).

* The Kindle browser is quite effective with Wikipedia and IMDB (assuming mobile versions of each) and as such is the ideal thing to have while perched in front of the TV watching movies and sorting out obscure plot points or “hey-it’s-that-guy” identifications. That plus it fits neatly into the inner pocket of just about every jacket I own. That’s an end of using the iPhone as a Kindle, which will extend my daily battery life that much more…

* Looks like we’re going to use Tuesday as shutdown night. First attempt is in two days. Looking forward to it, actually.

* Starting the new year with a sinus infection. I could feel it kicking in about 8 PM last night and immediately started in on zinc and vitamin C and herbal remedies, but I’m not sanguine about the prospects for the rest of the week, especially being on call to start the new year…