NaBloPoMo, Day 7: Armor Up

It’s going to be below 50 degrees, and possibly raining, when I head out the door tomorrow morning. At least it won’t be as dark as it’s been the last two weeks, assuming the clouds aren’t too bad. I’m looking at various websites trying to sort it out and mulling over what I’m wearing tomorrow.

The problem is, I have a crap-ton of jackets. Having gone from Nashville to Washington DC to Silly Con Valley, I have a wide and varied array of coats, most of which are about 80% of the way there. Right now, the problem I’ve had lately is that it’s cold enough for a jacket in the morning but too warm for it by lunchtime, which usually means a softshell that can be wadded up and crammed into the backpack. If it’s raining, though, you have to commit to the coat because you’re not going to want to stuff a wet rainshell in with your laptop. And if the coat’s too thick, you can’t wear the backpack (the leather stuff is right out).

Right now, a rainshell isn’t enough unless you’re layering with something else, but the shell is the only thing with a hood. I have an oilcloth engineer’s coat which is shorter than a typical duster and flannel-lined to boot, which is plenty warm and doesn’t let the water through even if it does get hella wet on its own, but it doesn’t have anything to keep the rain off my head. There’s always my CERT jacket, but even if it was here and not at work, it’s BRIGHT canary yellow and tough to miss. (Although it would have been nice to have for today’s drill.) Hell, I even have a state-of-the-art sportcoat by Saboteur, in dark gray wool. that has taped seams and waterproofing, but you wouldn’t dare wear a backpack over it even if it were roomier, which it’s so not. That’s going-out wear, not a daily driver.

At this point, I don’t quite know what the move is. I know that everyone here repeats the manta “LAYERS LAYERS LAYERS” but I’d rather not have to take off more than one thing. Even if I were going to, I’d need some better layers than what I have. The really annoying thing is that I have a whole lot of jackets that are 3/4 of the way to what I need, and a lot that are wholly impractical but rich in sentimental value. And as always, I’m constantly searching for the one perfect 100% thing so I can unload a bunch of the 75% things.

What is it with me and outerwear?

If I told you…

that Vandy was down 41-0, and the coach of the other team challenged the call that the Vandy ballcarrier was down, claiming he’d actually fumbled, you’d say “wtf, Vandy doesn’t play USC this year.”

Fuck Urban Meyer. Fuck them Gators.

NaBloPoMo, Day 6: The Ringing of the Phone

The first time I can remember it was my senior year of undergrad. My phone (and its integrated answering machine) was on the main line at the Honors House because my roommate was the RA, and as such he had system voicemail which I couldn’t check. So my phone was downstairs, ringer cranked to the stars. It was impossible to miss.

And nothing good ever came of that phone ringing. The only person who ever called me was my new girlfriend, the one who replaced She Whose Name We Do Not Speak. And she had already gone off the rails. I should have had the sense to pack it in, but I didn’t, and one thing led to another and she was still my girlfriend even after I went off to grad school.

Grad school was electronic. Email off the VAX was our principal means of contact. So the ringing phone could only mean somebody I didn’t particularly want to talk to. And then grad school wasn’t there anymore, and in those first trying years out of school, the phone meant family I didn’t want to talk to, or bill collectors, or worse.

And over the course of these past nine years, everybody I want to talk to has long since figured out that the text message is the best way to reach me. And I’ve done the same. I don’t know if this is a product of the aversion or just feeds it, but there it is. Because I hate it. That’s half the reason I have one wacky ringtone after another, especially tailored to certain numbers so I’ll know whether it’s somebody I want to talk to. The regular ring of a phone is like an icepick down my spine, a shock of dismay and foreboding that I can’t abide having to deal with. And the more tense, or uneasy, or depressed, or anxious I am, the worse it gets.

Maybe that’s the price of having embraced the modern era. Email, SMS, picture messages, Twitter, Facebook, FaceTime, all manner of ways to reach the people I want reaching me. And so only the bad things come over the phone now.

NaBloPoMo, Day 5: Football Wrapup

No, seriously. I’m disengaging from football as much as I can at this point, because quite frankly this year has done nothing but add to my general store of angst and despair. Consider:

* Cal is circling the drain and now has lost the starting QB for good thanks to a shredded ligament. Kevin Riley’s career with the Golden Bears is done.

* Vandy’s best player, running back Warren Norman, broke a wrist and is out for the season, with Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee and Wake yet to play.

* As it stands right now, the Furd is in a position to potentially make the Rose Bowl.

* Auburn is on the inside track to a national championship appearance, despite the new Cam Newton scandal flowering in Alabama.

* The Redskins are in utter disarray, thanks to their highly overrated coach whose only accomplishments have been inheriting John Elway, putting guys behind the dirtiest line in football, and being a golden child of the NFL re: officiating. Now he’s benched his QB for reasons that defy logic (and which have changed with every press conference) and the city is in an uproar, and rightly so.

Basketball starts in a week or two, and I will be off to that like a shot. Meanwhile, the postmortem:

Vandy has a first-year coach and is, well, Vandy, so this is about as good as you could expect. I think Tennessee and Wake might still be doable, for all the good it does us. Bama will be fine; even if they don’t beat Auburn they may still luckbox into the Sugar Bowl if Auburn makes the BCS simply because they will be the second-best team in the SEC (the SEC East is beneath pathetic this year). As for Cal, this is the beginning of the dark age. It will last through 2012 unless Tedford can do something amazing in AT&T Park, and at a minimum he needs a new offensive line coach. If they can’t pass-protect any better, it won’t matter which of half a dozen candidates goes under center next year. I don’t really want to go to any more Cal games this year, just because the losing is going to be miserable in every particular. Maybe the UW game because it’s the last game in Old Memorial, and the only reasonable possibility for a home win left on the schedule. And the Redskins? Well, I’ll probably want a trip or three to Dan Browns, and I’ll want to listen to Sonny and Sam on the ridearound because you never know how much longer they’ll keep the team together (and I’ve been fortunate to have them out here for 4+ seasons I never expected to get).

But it’s time for cold weather and hot gyms and my Commodores doin’ work. Break out the rugby and strike up the band.

NaBloPoMo Day 4: Halfway to the Stars

Invocation: St Willie Mays, pray for us.

I can’t claim to have been the greatest Giants fan over the last decade. I saw Pac Bell Park on the same trip where I met my now-wife in person for the first time, and a couple of years later we took the park tour (a very worthwhile trip when in SF, even if you’re not a big baseball fan) and a little old lady in the gift shop said the batting practice hat made me look like Rich Aurillia, and I decided that the Giants would be my baseball allegiance after some post-Braves years of casting about among Royals, Mariners, or Red Sox. It was National League time again.

Sure enough, a pennant and a World Series appearance followed immediately, only to be short-hopped by a failing bullpen in Game 6. But not before I went to the ballpark and hung out at the back of McCovey Cove and ate at MoMo’s with the huge TVs wheeled into the dining room and soaked up the whole experience. And then, for about five years, the Giants consisted mainly of Barry Bonds’ personal batting practice.

I’ve written about that at length elsewhere, about how Bonds was God’s personal vengeance on baseball, how Bud Selig and an army of sportswriters attempted to make him the scapegoat for the steroid era and how he refused to play along. Well, the Giants refused to play along as well. They kept Bonds around until the record was broken, and even after not signing him in 2008, the fans and the franchise never turned on him. When they reached the playoffs, there he was, cheering from the stands, getting roar after roar from the crowd. And the fans who had not broken faith were rewarded for their fidelity.

This team was a mixed bag. The best young pitching in 20 years, with a catcher who wasn’t called up for good until May, coupled with a ragbag of position players who were charitably described as journeymen at best – hell, some of them weren’t even in the organization on Opening Day. At least one was plucked off his couch in the summer. Nowhere did it look like a team that would be able to knock off the Philadelphia Phillies, the best team in baseball down the stretch and the two-time defending NL champs.

And yet.

The best part isn’t the endless Journey montage, or the plethora of merchandise (“Fear the Beard!” “Let Timmy Smoke”) or even that a team from a city that George W. Bush wouldn’t set foot in for eight years went down into Texas and took a huge shit on the thing he loves most. No, the best part is that everyone – EVERYONE – was in black and orange, EVERYONE was packing the trains and milling around the stadium with no need of a ticket, and EVERYONE outside of San Francisco was reminded that this is the best baseball town west of St Louis and that San Francisco is the most American of cities and WE FREAKIN’ WON THE WORLD SERIES FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER IN SAN FRANCISCO.

If there’s any team that can claim its hometown band’s “Don’t Stop Believing”…

NaBloPoMo Day 3: Post-mortem

* I think history will bear out that I was pretty much right about everything. Check back in two years.

* Nancy Pelosi was the most effective legislative leader for the Democrats in ages, and her house was lost. Harry Reid was the least, and he was preserved alive. No freakin’ justice. At the very least, Reid should lose his gig to somebody else (as I said something like six or more years ago, Dick Durbin should be the guy).

* Keeping the Senate is critical because that’s where treaties and appointments are ratified. Not that it’ll do a whole lot of good, but if the Dem leadership is willing to gut the filibuster rules, it might be easier to fill some of those bazillion vacancies that are still there two years on. (And for those balking at gutting it – you can do it now, or you can wait, not take advantage of it, and then watch as the GOP does it next time they’re in charge. I’m done with the unilateral-disarmament crowd.)

* Once you lose the House, it doesn’t matter if it’s by five or fifty, so that ship pretty much sailed long ago.

* Clinton got re-elected by running against Newt Gingrich. Obama now has a half-dozen Newts to run against at a minimum. Will be interesting to see whether the White House dials in, focuses, and starts punching.

* Alabama basically went GOP across the board, including both houses of the Legislature for the first time since 1874. The only question is why it took so long, given that the state hasn’t gone for a Democrat in a national election since Carter or elected a Democrat to the Senate since 1992 (and that one switched parties as soon as the GOP took control).

* 1994 was worse, because I don’t think anyone expected it to be that bad. 2000 was worse, because of the prolonged torture and the fear that a Republican in the White House meant the safety was off for a Confederate-ist Congress. 2004 was worse, because the whole gang was reelected despite the fact that Bush’s approval rating immediately sank below 50% and never recovered. This is only bad for one reason: a party where the politics is divorced from governance is capable of serious negative action. Things like government shutdowns, or worse yet a failure to lift the debt limit – stuff with actual circumstances. There’s also the potential for highly annoying things like endless hearings on ACORN or the like, and I still believe an actual impeachment vote is an above-average possibility before 2012, even though there’s no way it could actually go through in the Senate – but there’s going to be no Republican program put through (largely because they haven’t got one) and there’s going to be no Democratic program put through (because the GOP House won’t allow it), so get ready for two years in neutral.

* There’s no point in considering moving somewhere. Hell, I moved to California, and they chased me here. At some point, you turn around and you stand and you fucking fight. Besides, if I were in London, how on Earth would I follow college basketball? (You notice I don’t say football. That is not a misprint.)

NaBloPoMo Day 2: The Analyst Dodge

A lot of people were up in arms when Juan Williams lost his gig at NPR for going on Fox to talk about how he was skeered of the Mooslims. It should come as no surprise that he fell ass-backward into a $2 million contract from Fox, which is doubtless more than he could get at NPR for anything.

NPR has a problem, and it’s not that it’s some sort of hotbed of liberalism or political correctness. That’s the rap that always comes up, and it’s the same right-wing horseshit they’ve been spewing for 40 years; hell, a letter-writter in the Economist last week asserted that all media in the US other than talk radio was liberal – apparently insufficiently satisfied with the fealty of the Wall Street Journal, Fox News, CNBC, the morning show on MSNBC, half the newspapers in the country, all the stations of Sinclair Broadcasting, etc etc. No, NPR’s problem is that they are synonomous with soporific terminal earnestness; the soothing tones of thoroughly unironic, Very Serious newsreaders and commentators.

The problem has come when the likes of Juan Williams or Cokie Roberts have staked a position with one of the Sabbath Gasbag shows, up there spewing the same old blatherskite of conventional wisdom that every other Beltway pundit partakes of – and have used their NPR branding to give them some sort of imprimatur of being Very Serious People. So when Juan WIlliams starts talking about how people dressed as Muslims scare him shitless, or Cokie starts saying that Real Americans don’t go to Hawai’i because it is strange and exotic and not, you know, A FUCKING STATE, people get the impression that these are Serious People making Serious Political Observations. As opposed to insider pundit douchebags trading on the reputation of their employer.

Personally, I don’t think NPR keeps pace with, say, the BBC World Service – it’s obviously not as global in orientation and its mission is slightly different. But it’s also constantly playing defense against allegations that it’s merely the liberal version of Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck, which is an insult to all concerned (I think the radio assholes of the right would be APPALLED at the insinuation that they were as boring to hear as NPR). But if they’re really trying to do some sort of serious, detatched, journalistic programming that’s thoughtful and insightful rather than emotional and only tenuously connected to fact, well, it’s no wonder they’re a public broadcaster dependent on the goodwill of government and donors. Because right now, there’s certainly no actual market for anything like that.

NaBloPoMo Day 1: Things To Remember

Today, the Democrats have a lead of 255-178 in the House of Representatives. The general consensus seems to be about a +50 for the Republicans, which is going to result in roughly 230-205 (assuming the two vacant seats go GOP). This puts the Rs in control of the House, albeit with a majority one-third the size of what the D’s have. Not that it matters immensely, because with a strong Speaker, the House pretty much does whatever the majority wants.

In the grand scheme of things, this isn’t nearly as big a blowup as 1994. Nobody was expecting what happened in ’94, especially given that the Ds had run the House for four decades straight. The GOP has only been on the outs for four years, and was on the wrong end of two huge blowouts – meaning that at least twenty seats and maybe more are normally Republican seats that are reverting to the mean. Factor in the economic conditions generally, plus the fact that the Republicans have been running this race for two years nonstop and the media called it in August, and what happens tomorrow is pretty much what you’d expect from the surrounding circumstances.

More interesting is the Senate – if it tips sides, things are really out of whack – but one interesting possibility is that the Democrats retain control but Harry Reid loses. At that point, the question becomes who takes control of the Senate in the absence of the feckless catamite that has been the Reid leadership, and that tells us a lot about where things go in the next two years.

The really discouraging thing is that it worked – the GOP ran harder to the right, obstructed nonstop for two years, and are poised to reap the rewards – despite the fact that the general public is less approving of the Republicans on almost every particular. But the likely voters are the Republicans who have spent two years chomping at the bit to try to undo what happened in 2008, and after twenty-four months of priming, the opportunity to vote against Obama is going to drive the base to the polls in ridiculous numbers.

And as always, we wind up with the government we deserve.

(NB: this is day one of National Blog Posting Month, and I’m going to go for it this year – having done NaNoWriMo last year, I am completely out of inspiration for anything that would sustain 50K words. We’ll see what happens if I nub it in 30 days at a time…)