the semiotics of the mall

It came to me in a dream, honestly. The notion that one would walk the mall with one’s friends is not something I got from popular culture, because popular culture didn’t reach the exurbs of Alabama in 1983. I literally had a dream that I and some of my classmates (notice I don’t say friends) were at Century Plaza, in an era when that was still the premier mall in Greater Birmingham. Western Hills Mall, Eastwood Mall – both still broadly feasible, but neither as equipped as Century Plaza for my needs, which in the early era meant a toy store, an arcade, a bookstore and a music shop.

Three years later, the Riverchase Galleria opened. And it blew every other place away – a quarter mile long, skylights and atrium with neon lights, aBanana Republic with a Jeep sticking through the window, two bookstores, two record shops, a Macy’s! – to the point that I stopped going anywhere else. Inasmuch as I could, obviously – I was two years from a drivers license and on the wrong side of Birmingham to get there without begging my parents. But it was something that approximated a future life – it was walkable. You could go from shop to shop to dining to just hanging around, all day and all night. I fantasized about the kind of wealth that would let me live in the top floor of the attached hotel or office tower (I was getting through a lot of Fantastic Four at the time).

There was one other smaller mall, closest to school and with a 70s Brutalist feel that was almost subterranean, but once I could drive it was the easiest stop from school. It was an obvious hangout, albeit a solitary one. It and the Gal were the only malls I frequented through the end of college. Largely because there was little enough else to do.

In Nashville, the malls were at the cardinal points of the compass, and diverse in audience – Green Hills, my local, was most posh, and Rivergate was a touch downmarket, but the others all covered a pretty broad array (with the additional novelty at Bellevue) and I could find most anything I was looking for – which by this point was mainly hats, jerseys, Nikes and outerwear. Music came from Tower Records and books from Davis-Kidd or Bookstar, and hanging out was for the Overcup Oak or SATCO.

By the time I was in DC, malls like Tysons Corner or Pentagon City were mainly for movies or dinner. It didn’t take long for music stores to become irrelevant in the digital era, and a good tobacconist was as important as anything else. It didn’t hurt to have the very first Apple Store open in Tyson’s either. Once I got to California, the mall was only interesting for a couple of years, and only out of habit.

Which brings us to today. With one exception, there are two types of malls in Silicon Valley: upscale luxury malls and demolished malls. Valley Fair, Stanford Shopping Center and Santana Row are all explicitly dialed in on big money, especially the Chinese tourism market. Sunnyvale Town Center, Tanforan and Vallco are closed or rubble. Hillsdale is going upscale. The lone holdout, so far, is Oakridge Mall in San Jose, which has gone broad church: Target as an anchor store, a food court and a movie theater, ethnic shopping and local ownership alongside more major national chains, and a willingness to cater to customers larger than size 4 or poorer than a quarter-million a year.

The Amazon bomb did for the malls. Did for most retail, honestly. I never thought I would be willing to shop for clothing online, but between American Giant and LC King, it’s gotten pretty simple. Socks from Bombas, drawers from Made Here, and as much as I don’t want to use Amazon, it’s basically the search engine for commercial goods. But more than that – I’ve spent most of a quarter century living with public transport, major cities, walkable downtowns of varying sizes. If all I get from a mall any more is lunch or coffee, there are plenty of options in Menlo Park or Mountain View or San Jose, and much better loitering.

The mall, in the 80s, was a set of training wheels for a bigger world. The problem was when I didn’t have anything else in Birmingham for years and years to provide the grown-up version. I suppose one of the reasons I have a hard time feeling fifty is because I didn’t accumulate fifty years’ worth of living. Maybe when I say it’s not the years, it’s the mileage, it’s because the mileage is lower than it ought to be. And more highway miles than city, to my cost.

when you had too much to think last night

There is too much. July hasn’t been much of a posting month, partly because of…well, reasons, but let’s try to take out the trash before July ends:

• Boris Johnson goes, far too late. On the bright side, the Tories are at least capable of realizing they made a mistake in ways the GOP is not. But now we will see how much they are in thrall to the ERG, the DUP and the alphabet soup of reactionary assholes intent on ruining the world if they can’t stay in charge forever.

• The real pain in the ass in all this is the DUP. They are holding Northern Ireland hostage to get results they could not obtain at the ballot box – and a coalition of Sinn Fein and non-sectarian parties is being kept from office because they are not willing to endure a world in which someone else has the upper hand. This plays perfectly into Tory hands, seeking to use Northern Ireland to extort from the EU what could not be had in negotiation and hold 25 years of the peace process hostage in hopes of achieving full cake-ism and a permanent back door into the EU. To be protected but not bound, while others are bound but not protected: it’s the definition of what it means to be a conservative in the 21st century.

• We’ve been a long time getting to this point. It really began in the 80s, when Reagan and Thatcher teamed up to say that there is no such thing as society, nothing we owe to other people, and it is perfectly all right to act as if such is the case. Forty years later, with no one having ever successfully pushed back against it, we now have an entire generation or two that has internalized this as the normal state of things, and a cohort of assholes pushing ever harder in the direction of “I must never be responsible to anyone ever.” To a large extent, the internet has made this worse, especially a generation whose parents weren’t online or were misguided enough to think that the internet wasn’t the real world. Meanwhile, “I don’t have to know or care there are other people” is the driving value system of America despite never seeming to have the most votes.

• I don’t have an answer, because there isn’t one. All there is any more is trying not to think too hard about it and desperately trying not to invite tomorrow’s trouble in before today. If there’s nothing you can do to stave it off, the best thing to do is save your powder, not soak in it, and preserve your strength and sanity until you can do something about it. Which was easier in July than in June, for obvious reasons, but it didn’t hurt that I had two major life incidents along the way. Of which.

What I wish Apple would Announce

“Announcements” ™ – an update to a selected Audience ™ of your contacts within the Messages app: can be pic, vid, gif, text, flight status, mood emoji, location check-in, anything from the stickers or iMessage apps – all in a separate scroll from text messages and group chats, in chronological order, without notifications.

Announcements are shared by default to an Audience you populate by choosing individuals and groups from your existing contacts. You then modify the Audience per post if required. E.g. – default Audience is BSW + Bastard Squad + The Kids + Rosa + Ray + Ashley; you can remove individuals or groups from specific Announcements when you post (Ray, BSW and Ashley might not be interested in Disneyland stuff, perhaps).

You can dip into your Announcement scroll whenever you like. Announcements are ephemeral and expire from the scroll in 48 hours by default (if you want more permanent communication, that’s what the texts and group chats are for).

In your contact list, each contact has a tick box for “Receive Announcements” – uncheck it and you will not see that person’s Announcements. There’s also a switch in Settings to turn your Announcement scroll on or off if you don’t want to receive any Announcements at all. Announcements appears as a circle with your favorited contacts in iMessage.

The only notification you ever receive is a one-time notice when someone adds you to their Audience. “XYZ would like you to receive their Announcements” at which point you pick Yes/No from the notification itself (you can change it in future in the contact card). You can add people to your Audience but are not told if they accepted or not. You don’t follow people; they offer to share.

The end result is that instead of texting the same thing to half a dozen people or groups that don’t overlap, you blast it to everyone you’d like to be able to see it and if they are interested, they can. Since it’s a feature within the app’s own architecture, it shares the same end to end encryption, and nothing is stored on a central server – it’s delivered and that’s an end of it.

What makes this an attractive prospect is that you can leverage the contacts you already have, in bulk. The group chat is still the most valid form of social networking, but you can’t combine all your groups into one big one because no one wants to be on a group chat with fifty people and the notifications are preposterous. Thus the scroll, which has no notifications and which you look at whenever you like. If it’s a must see, they’ll text you – this is ideal for the pictures of London you share in the moment while you’re there.

And here’s the thing: this has expanded beyond just Snapchat and Facebook’s properties. Twitter, Netflix, even LinkedIn – but most of all, if you look at the beta for the Android client for Signal, and turn on the correct flag, you can see the implementation of Stories ready to go. And this is huge – because you have the ability to do ephemeral blast communication to all of your contacts or at least as many as you want to, all end to end encrypted, from a program that is cross-platform, accessible from phone or desktop alike, and which is owned by a non-profit foundation rather than a corporation, and which has if anything a bigger middle finger up than Apple on the topic of privacy.

This, in short, might be what I’ve been moaning about for two years. And it might be the thing that prioritizes Signal over any other service (well, except for CarPlay texting while driving) – because at the end of the day, that sort of ephemeral blast content, if you can coax people into using it, would obviate the need for Insta and Twitter and at that point, I wouldn’t require anything else.

Something to think about.

the war was already here

Basically, the Supreme Court has torched the 14th amendment and its emanations and penumbras. Post-WWII juridprudence is absolutely for the chop, and states will be allowed to opt out of the postwar consensus en masse. It’s soft secession, as described elsewhere: states can do what they want and the conservative machinery at the federal level will protect them. The only way to prevent it is to somehow retain the House, somehow retain the Senate, add enough Senators to make a solid 51 votes for the entire Democratic plan, and then run roughshod – pack the Supreme Court to at least 15, destroy the filibuster, pass federally binding election law to prevent states making their own shenanigans. Right now, the Republican Party is devoted to the destruction of American democracy, and is acting and adjudicating as if they will never again be out of power. It has to be stopped now. Forget loans, or stimulus, or anything else except inasmuch as it will bring more voters to the polls in 2022 and 2024 to defend the entire concept of majority rule.

21 May 2022

This is it. When they invoke the past, that’s what they mean. Not a manufacturing base that was heavily unionized, not a top marginal tax rate of 91%, not nuclear-tipped stalemate against the Soviet Union. What they’re peddling is cultural hegemony. Homosexuals back in the closet. Negroes quietly in their place. Ladies who know their place is in the home. That’s the pitch. They can’t run on a rapidly improving economy, with GM posting record profits after the federal restructuring and unemployment slowly waning and Apple passing oil companies in revenue while carrying the S&P 500. They can’t run on foreign policy, with Bin Laden and Qaddafi’s faces painted on the “kills” fuselage of Obama’s administration.

So this is it. Pleasantville. They’re pushing all their chips to the middle of the table and betting that enough people want to live through Mad Men again that they can knock off a President who isn’t even the right color. As stunning as it is, we’re apparently going to spend the spring 0f 2012 re-litigating Griswold v. Connecticut and exhuming pre-Vatican II debates about the Pill, fifty years after the fact.

-17 Feb 2012

When I’m wrong, I’ll tell you, but I haven’t been wrong yet. Not only did the Court wipe its ass with stare decisis on Roe, it basically trumpeted its intent to come for Obergefell, and Lawrence, and Griswold. Anything based on a right to privacy is cooked. Contraception. Gay marriage. Your own bedroom conduct. In essence, the Supreme Court has relinquished any claim to calling balls and strikes, to being above the partisan fray – they are what they decried from the Warren and Burger courts, an activist court with an agenda that they are actively seeking to implement. They are the GOP’s masterpiece in the plan to avoid having to win the most votes in a fair election ever again.

The GOP has nailed its colors to the mast: it believe that it should rule, that only it should rule, that violence is an acceptable tool and democracy an unnecessary obstacle, and that their will alone defines what is American, or legal, or normal. And the vast majority of its membership is perfectly fine with this, because it means lower taxes or less regulation or something, and is willing to excuse anything no matter how much the truth has to twist to do so. The rules don’t matter any more: the ethos is “we can do whatever we want and no one else can do anything we don’t want.”

This makes me think of bell hooks, the poet and woman of letters who was a Berea College professor for the last years of her life, and an interview she gave in which she said the following, which I have taken the liberty of formatting as the poem it should be:

the author bell hooks’ definition of queerness as not only

“about who you’re having sex with”

but rather

“about the self that is at odds

with everything around it

and has to invent and create and find a place

to speak and to thrive and to live.”

Nailed it. I was certainly called queer (and worse) as a kid, despite being a straight white male Southern Baptist Alabama fan, because I was different, and the South does not believe anything should speak or thrive or live if it differs in any way from what is normal, what is acceptable, what is right. And my entire life story from second grade on has been about trying to find a space to live and thrive. Which I have found, intermittently. A couple years in high school, one at Vanderbilt, sorta, a few in DC, a few in California, but that space – and the circle of people who help make it – seems to shrink with every passing year. To the point where sometimes, the only safety is not in going down the pub or going for a drive, but going into my own back yard, under the cover of fog or marine layer or encroaching dark, and drown out my eyes with a book, my ears with RTE in Irish or maybe some moody lo-fi beats or scratchy old country music, and my tastebuds and mind with a pint or three of something smooth and malty and ideally under 5% ABV. Sometimes, you need to not be too much in this world.

But you can’t run forever. And it’s possible you can’t run far enough. California will hold til the end, but there will be hard decisions to make, and there are only bad ones. Secede? Stop the red states leaching off your federal tax dollars to underwrite their Christo-fascism, and then fight a two front civil war against them and their amen corner of Okies down the Central Valley? The option to live in peace and mind your business is vanishing, because my childhood bullies are on the march, and the end state is the United States of Gardendale Alabama.

What are you prepared to do?

trinity

It’s become impossible to ignore how the church of my upbringing has resolutely sold itself to the Enemy. As a kid, I was always taught that the Antichrist would appear and be irresistible to people who thought him the true Messiah. The funny thing is, despite rumblings around Reagan or Obama, nothing has really fit the bill like what we have now. Not content with an Antichrist, the Enemy has built a whole anti-Trinity.

THE FATHER. Still God, although pace the classic Inherit the Wind, God created Man in his image, and these men, being gentlemen, returned the favor. God is resolutely and remarkably 100% on their side in all things, especially as related to gay people or women or anyone darker than a paper bag.

THE SAVIOR. This of course is not Yeshua ben Yosef, Jesus of Nazareth, he who some men say is the Son of God. No, the Enemy’s salvation is in Donald John Trump, who was very wrongly cheated bigly on the third day (of November) and who will come again in glory to judge the woke and the brown. Someone who in every particular is set 180 degrees against the teachings of the Man from Galilee.

THE UNHOLY SPIRIT. This, of course, is Fox News, which was sent to sustain the faithful in the absence of their savior until his return. When they pass up the opportunity to run commercials just to help ensure that their followers might not switch channels during another MyPillow ad and inadvertently be exposed to the January 6 hearings, you know that it’s gone past a shuck and a hustle to a genuinely ideological crusade – and the news organizations who insist on treating Fox as a journalistic peer rather than the priesthood of a cult only diminish themselves by the comparison.

And there you have it. A religion that replaced the cross with the AR-15. A religion that promises paradise right here on Earth, no waiting for the sweet by-and-by, everything put back the way it was. A religion that is engaged in a holy war every bit as violent and malevolent as anything that ever came out of the Middle East. And which is far more dangerous. Al-Qaeda never put three Justices on a Supreme Court that already had two sympathizers, after all. And once they shred the rule of law, it may be more difficult to stop them than one or two elections can sort out. It will be time for structural changes, undertaken without hesitation, on the precept that there is right and there is wrong and that the Constitution is not, as was insisted before, a suicide pact.

Long days ahead. And longer years.

final impressions

I didn’t think I was a beach person. My whole life, the beach qua the beach was not interesting to me. And then, after a family outing to Watsonville or thereabouts, I realized I was a cold beach person. Miss me with the Gulf Coast or LA, give me fog and sweatshirts to go with the plastic Birks.

And as I sit on the patio looking out at the Pismo Beach pier, it occurs to me I may have been hasty. Pismo, Santa Cruz, Half Moon Bay, the old school central-to-north California beach towns…there’s something here. I don’t know what it is, but it’s a much more pleasant vibe. I like being here for a couple of days just to hang out – like the Disney Beach Club resort in Orlando, except it’s real and that’s the Pacific right over there.

It’s too far a drive to do in one go on the ID.4, though. After panicking and choosing Soledad over Paso Robles, I have about decided that the move will be to charge sooner than later, and thus quicker, and then coast down to a minimum on arrival. It took us a little over 30% from home there, and then 40% from Soledad to Pismo, and just the act of turning on the air conditioning knocked 12% off our forecast range. But said forecast range seems fairly accurate, and increased by ten miles by the bottom of the Cuesta Grade. So if you have the juice to get up the hill, your range forecast will be correct assuming you come back down it.

And assuming you don’t route too much power to accessories. This was a “use up the free SiriusXM” trip, not an iPhone trip. But the iPhone 13 mini has settled neatly into the routine. I don’t have the battery strain I had before, and the silicone case make it not only visually but tactile-distinct from my wife’s phone, and I am so taken with the “midnight” color that I am recklessly eyeballing the new M2 MacBook Air that I absolutely do not need. And if the Great Mentioner is correct, and the iPhone 14 Not-Pro has the same processor as the 13 with just a RAM bump, then it is reasonable to expect that every new feature in iOS 16 shown off today will be available on my phone in September.

Including but not limited to four additional full OS upgrades, which isn’t nothing. All the stuff that dropped in 2017, including the much-debated iPhone X, is still in scope for iOS 16. So I should be able to replace the battery and the front glass and keep rocking my one handed phone into the summer of 2027. And I would like to, if I can. In a world where everything moves to a local authentication device instead of a password, a one-handed phone is something I will gladly squeeze five years out of before my eyesight and coordination makes a 6″ phone a tragic necessity.

They’re two purchases I am very happy with. I didn’t see them coming from this time eighteen months ago, but then, I also got sick of waiting for them for six months before collecting each one. So it’s nice to be topped up on the things I need to get by.

Next stop: figuring out how to spent more days working from Santa Cruz, or Pescadero, or Capitola. Just because.

the juice and the squeeze

So there’s a lot of calculation around the ID.4. I think the biggest issue I’ve had thus far is not having a clear understanding of the relationship between mileage and storage – I get miles per gallon, and the cost of gas, but when I’m not paying to charge at Electrify America or the local elementary school, and when I don’t know what’s a good price for a kilowatt-hour of juice in public or how far that will take me, it’s kind of a wash.

So first things first: the net storage on the battery is 77 kilowatt-hours, and the rated performance is 30kWh/100 miles. Which means in theory, we’re looking at right about the EPA estimate of 240 miles of all-purpose range – in theory, the city-based European measure is closer to 300, but the time you have to sweat range is when you’re driving American-style, so let’s stick to the 240 for now.

So a full charge of 77 kWh gets you 240 miles. Which works out to 3.12 miles per kWH. The baseline rate at Electrify America, if you don’t have the three years’ free charging, is 43 cents per kilowatt hour, which means to fully fill the battery up is roughly $33. So 240 miles for $33. Now comes the tricky bit. To go 240 miles in our beloved Chevy Malibu Hybrid takes six gallons of gas. Which right now in California means north of $36, which means we’re already ahead of the game even before considering the discount of charging for free at EA or at one of the local schools, with their free off-peak solar charging. Even charging at home overnight maxes out at 35 cents per kWh, or $27 a “tank”.

But let’s face it, we’re not comparing to a hybrid. The ID.4’s nearest ICE equivalent is the VW Tiguan, which has the same interior space, the same all-wheel drive (with an 8-speed automatic transmission), and…an aggregate 25 miles per gallon. Meaning that realistically, given our driving style and patterns, you’re looking at 10 gallons of gas for the equivalent range. Which means that right now, instead of paying $33 at the charger, you’re paying $60+ at the pump – assuming you pay at the charger at all. And given that you can charge free at a local school from 100% solar power, that’s impressive savings and earth-friendliness even before throwing in that the ID.4 has 50% higher horsepower and no transmission to go bad on you.

So here’s the other thing: to maximize the life of the battery, you’re meant to treat it like you should be treating your cellphone, and charging from 20% to 80% rather than to full juice. Charging to only 80% means your realistic range is only 200 miles, and if you want to juice up at 20% every time, that means you’re basically going 160 miles between charges, or about 50 kWh. And to be honest, that’s an easy calculation: at EA rates, $21.50. Chop that, based on 25mpg, and you’re back to about 6.5 gallons of gas for the Tiguan to go the same distance.

And the kicker there: at that mileage, and that rate, gas has to drop back down to $3.30 a gallon before it’s cheaper than EA charging. At home rates, it has to drop to $2.69. God Himself could not bring California gas down to $2.69 a gallon at this point. And we get the cheapest home rates between midnight and 3 PM every day, which means you can walk outside in the morning, plug the car in, and have it ready to go by the afternoon for that lowest rate (or wheel over to the junior high, plug in on Saturday or Sunday morning, and drive away fully charged for free by mid-afternoon).

Last week, I was privileged to be paid $140 an hour for my opinions (which is the greatest scam of all time, as I have proven in this space for over fifteen years that I will have opinions for nothing). I was part of a focus group of California EV owners asked to consider the prospect of a major automaker’s concept of a “Green Energy Hub” and what amenities might make it an attractive alternative to charging at home or at other venues. And I have to say, it was genuinely very interesting. Many of the suggestions were reminiscent of the midwestern turnpike travel plazas of my late 20s, or vaguely suggestive of how it seems like every Harley-Davidson dealership back East has a diner attached. The prospective considerations for the Hub included everything from retail to casual dining to dog parks to movie theaters to workout gyms to airport-style lounges to medical clinics.

And I found it fascinating, because their thinking was something that car makers are not generally known for. The thesis was “how do we rethink putting range back into your vehicle, rather than just trying to reproduce the experience of gassing up?” And it appears that they’re inverting the customary logic of “where can we put a charger” and asking “what can we put with a charger?” Personally I think the answer is slightly different, depending on whether you’re talking about charging up on the road or an alternative to home charging locally. If you’re going point to point, driving down to San Diego or something, you probably want your ample supply of DC chargers to be accompanied by nice clean restrooms, some sort of drink-wallah with coffee and a Freestyle machine and maybe even boba, and a sit-and-relax experience somewhere between Peet’s and the airport lounge – plus a purpose-built dog walk for those of you traveling with Fido.

But locally…I think there’s a certain appeal in crafting that kind of Starbucks-ish third space. Today, I had my hair cut while plugging the car into the nearby evGO station, and in 18 minutes it jumped from 52% to 74% charge. That kind of math works out to needing an hour to go from 20% to 80% charge, and at that point it’s hangout time. (Not for nothing but you’re gonna have to be able to put the juice into the car a LOT faster than that on road trips; even if you press it from 20% to 100% and take off immediately you’re talking about stopping every three hours for charging, and while it had better be considerably less than an hour, the last 20% is trickle charge that’s slower than geological time.) But for a fast charger, at a cost comparable to home charging (ballpark 35 cents a kilowatt-hour plus a slight premium for DC speed), would I be willing to pop over and prop my feed up and catch up on my podcasts while sipping a nitro cold brew? Sure, why not?

And the real appeal, now that I live in a place where transit is something that happens to other people – what if I can drive to the Green Energy Hub adjacent to Caltrain or BART or even VTA light rail, let the GEH valet take the car, and when I get back from the Giants game, I pick it up at a full easy level-2 100% charge, tires checked and pressurized, all fluids topped up, maybe even washed and wiped, the full we-are-the-men-of-Texaco-we-work-from-Maine-to-Mexico experience? Now that is what I would call back to the future.

In any event, there was never any doubt before, but now it’s a lock: the ID.4 is the local car wherever possible from now on. And at least now I have some sense of how to tell if I’m getting shafted on charging – cost or speed alike. Of such is life in the future made.

so what’s it gonna take

1) either return the filibuster to “someone keeps talking, the whole time, and all Senate business is on hold until it breaks” or (preferably) do away with it altogether. The notion that 60 votes is a requirement has no basis in history or law and is an artificial construct of the last few decades that has been blithely accepted by those who should know better, and having it has done the friends of democracy no favors. The Enemy will gladly make an exemption for anything they want, and Obamacare was not saved by the filibuster – it was saved because they couldn’t get a majority. Which is how it should work.

2) pack the Supreme Court to at least 13, ASAP, and implement term limits (18 years? Out at age 70 automatically?) and a regularized method of selection (new justice every two years?). The random nature of opportunities to select justices – coupled with the political manipulation of those opportunities, and the fact that one-third of the Court was appointed by a President who never won the most votes – has damaged the legitimacy of the Court beyond repair as currently constituted. (And before someone starts the bad-faith caterwauling about the Warren Court in the 1950s, that was also a response to a broken democracy – one where a large swath of the population, especially in the South, was subject to de facto second-class citizenship. That wasn’t judicial activism, that was a court applying federal law as it was written – and with nine justices that despite all being white men were still actually appointed by a President who had gotten the most votes in his election.)

3) eliminate the Electoral College, either by amendment or compact. No one thought it was a problem when it didn’t matter for a hundred years, and 2000 was brushed off as a fluke, but it is no longer acceptable to award victory to the person with fewer votes than his opponent. The Electoral College is the inflamed appendix of America, and to defend it is to wipe one’s ass with the concept of democracy.

This is the barest minimum. This is the baseline requirement just to get us back to something like a functional democracy. It’s not perfect – the Senate as an institution may be beyond repair – but when you can get your way and win despite having fewer votes than your opponent, democracy is broken. All three of these measures are meant to restore some sort of connection between who gets the most votes and who gets to govern as a result. Because right now, the balance of power is held by the same side irrespective of election results. And that is unsustainable in the long run, because when ballots fail, people turn to other options.

moloch is risen

The NRA’s annual convention starts Friday in Houston. Only fitting that Texas offers up a child sacrifice to its true lord and master for the high holy days.

We don’t care. We didn’t care after Sandy Hook. We didn’t care after Marjorie Douglass Stoneman. We won’t care now. Because caring would require acknowledging that we have allowed a small minority of people in this country to bend the political system around their finger, and require the rest of us to offer regular blood sacrifices to the cause of their ability to do whatever they want. And it would require acknowledging that our political system is broken, that majority rule is no longer possible, and that it was deliberately broken so that white people could be free from having to acknowledge the legitimacy of anyone different from themselves.

Every so often, a dozen people have to die so that a shrinking number of aging white men can cling to their mechanical erections and pretend they are the masters of the world. How long are you going to put up with this bullshit?

second impressions

I was honestly not expecting to like the silicone case. It’s what was available for the low before I left on my trip: soft to the touch, sort of like how the back of the Moto X was supposed to be. The “midnight” color really is the most navy blue, and you can always see that edge of blue beneath the black. On that Southern sojourn, it was easy to toss it onto the charge mat of the rental car and top it up at any time, but more importantly, there was never a point on the trip where it dropped below 20% before bedtime. To be fair, it doesn’t get hit as hard when you’re out with your favorite family, but then, it does get hit pretty hard when you’re out with your least favorite family, so it’s a wash.

I don’t make the Moto X comparison lightly. That phone – the only Android phone I ever bought, the last American-assembled phone I ever bought – has for the last nine years been the touchstone for what I wanted most out of a mobile device. And to be honest, it’s not just me – when the founder of Pebble starts a website to agitate for a one-handed Android phone the equivalent of the 13 mini, what’s he’s arguing for is the original Moto X. Size, hand feel, battery life, bells and whistles – and sure enough, this black (sorry, midnight) iPhone 13 mini is as close as will ever be to my Moto X.

Including its eventual fate. Apple is apparently dumping the 5.4″ model in favor of four phones: a regular and a pro, in both 6.1″ and 6.7″ sizes. But on current form, I should be able to carry this iPhone 13 mini with updates through at least Christmas 2026, at which point who knows, maybe we’ll be down to watch and smart glasses. Or the pendulum will have swung and I’ll be back to one device the size of the old iPhone X doing for everything, reluctantly (I never carried the X abroad, as it happens, and for good reason).

It feels good. I expected that within a week I would be indifferent, having replaced one device with a nearly identical version. But I still feel like it’s a new and better phone. That’s not nothing. It genuinely feels like the end of the road: the last phone I’ll ever want, barring some actual game changing technology or the lack of updates becoming fatal. For now, though, it is my lightsaber, my sidearm, my sgian dubh if you will. And it is indispensable.