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.

postscript: the nation state

Once again, a year and a half into a Democratic presidency, I find myself asking “why the hell doesn’t it feel like we won?” The obvious answer is that we won in name only; with two fake Democrats in a “majority” of 50+VP, we don’t actually have the power to pass a damn thing, which in turn leads people to scream at Biden for not doing anything. Well, apart from student loans (which he should definitely be free-rolling in the next four months tops), there’s nothing he can do that a Republican couldn’t immediately do away with in 2024. We could make a temporary benefit, but that only works if it gets people out to vote.

Then, too, there’s the usual problem: the Republicans run the country into the ground, lose power, then throw everything they have into preventing the Democrats remediating those problems and blaming them instead, with the help of the supine catamites of the Washington press. Twas always thus. It’s cooking along in jig time, seems like.

But the biggest reason it feels like things have gotten worse is that we are currently experiencing the delayed-effect bombs of 2016-20. The sacrifice of Ukrainian independence to Putin-worship, the indifference to stopping the Covid-19 pandemic, and the unprecedented and shameless shattering of what we thought were the rules in order to pack the Supreme Court. Now it’s all going off at once, and here are the Democrats having to navigate the wreckage of the last five years all at once.

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.

And this is where California comes in.

California doesn’t have an electoral college. California’s GOP burned itself down on the altar of “we hate Mexicans” twenty years ago, and can only achieve statewide power now through methods that don’t require them to win the most votes (see: 2003 recall, Arnold Schwarzenegger). That’s why there was a recall attempt on Gavin Newsom, that’s why there are a steady stream of Three Californias or Six Californias or whatever bullshit. California is a state where the modern racist redneck GOP simply cannot achieve political agency at the ballot box, because they do not have the votes, and if you don’t have the votes you don’t get agency.

California has food. California has oil. California has high tech and entertainment and the finest public university system in the world. California has a budget surplus of $97 billion dollars this year and can afford to ease its citizens’ extortion by Big Oil. California, depending on how AAPL is doing today, has the world’s sixth largest economy. And while I have never thought California should secede from the United States, it should be prepared for the Confederates to secede from it, and it should not shirk from the challenge.

California will continue the American experiment. The notion that all people are created equal, regardless of race or gender expression or sexual orientation or national origin, and that they are endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – irrespective of income, irrespective of property, irrespective of adherence to the backward beliefs of the Deep South. The modern GOP is about one thing: freedom of consequences for the right whites and absolutely no one else. That they should be protected and unbound by the law while all others are bound and unprotected. And California will stand between the Rockies and the Pacific and say, not here.

And if by life or death I can stand with them, I will. And when the day is over we will buy a keg of booze, and we’ll drink to California til we wobble in our shoes…

half a life, part 4

“I hated how they hated smart kids, or even half-smart kids like me. I hated how they had a playbook I did not have: things that were good, things that were bad, and anything off by so much as a degree from those things — these things were worse than strange. They were unclean, to be beaten or shunned into a dark nothing…It was so suffocating and loud and dull, emblematic of everything I hated about growing up where I did. I could not escape the suspicion from a young age: that where I was from was both deeply embarrassing and deeply embarrassed of people like me.”

-Spencer Hall, “Volunteer”

It’s so sparse.

The psycho-geographical density of the second half of my life…Washington DC. New York City. Silicon Valley. London. Tokyo. Driving down from Nashville to Birmingham for the first time in a decade or so only rammed home how little there is off the sides of the interstate. Even my old neighborhood development growing up has more houses than it ever did, and yet, they sit far apart by California standards on lots that would be unspeakably huge in Santa Clara County. If you’re on two and a half acres on the Peninsula, it’s Woodside or Atherton or Los Altos Hills, not 1400 square feet of single story fifty year old brick ranch.

There’s not that much. Go ten feet outside a metro area and at best, you have a selection of strip malls and outparcel restaurants. Maybe the Amazon bomb hit here, but it was mostly to clear out whatever Wal-Mart didn’t. The building that was a Piggly Wiggly when I was stacking lettuce in 1988 is being remodeled into…a church, in a town of 3000 people that already has three Southern Baptist churches alone, never mind one Missionary Baptist, two Methodist, a Church of God, a Church of Christ, and even a tiny Catholic chapel. And they said the Irish were priest-ridden?

The thing is…you can have the stuff. Birmingham has the best all-around food and brewing scene in the Deep South, barring maybe New Orleans. Maybe. There’s a food hall in the first floor of an old department building that would not be out of place in Santa Cruz, there’s ice cream in Avondale that’s on a par with the best mint chip in the Bay Area, there’s only the second location in the world of Rodney Scott’s Whole Hog BBQ. With no railroad bridges to turn into a High Line, they have turned ten blocks beneath the freeway into the City Walk. It’s an attractive place to be – and honestly, I would rather move back there than Nashville, because it’s not freighted with Baptist Vegas – it’s a majority-black town with majority-black government, a reliably safe blue bubble amidst a horrifying state rather than a purple smear in Tennessee’s red sea.

But at some level, I know now: I just don’t want to need a bubble. I don’t want the camaraderie of the foxhole, the blue island in an ocean of blood red. I don’t want to be a dot, I just want to be. I want friends, not a mutual aid pact. I want a life that’s isn’t at the mercy of the agency of rednecks. I don’t want to live a life that’s only protected by my own affluent whiteness from the worst among us.

Maybe it’s just being 50, but the things I want now are safety, stability, the comfort of knowing I can have a nice quiet pint and be left alone for a couple hours. Maybe the pandemic did for everything that wasn’t the cocoon. I’d love to have a gang of friends to do stuff with, but if that’s not on offer, then I want to be in California, where white people are a minority, where the Okies will never take charge of state government, where it will always be possible to mind your business. And I will find the bits that spark joy, and spark them.

And yet, forty-eight hours after landing, I tested positive for COVID after twenty-six months. I made it to Seattle, Santa Barbara, Disneyland (twice), London for three weeks, and no problem. But one trip to the South blew it all to Hell. The lesson is a bit heavy-handed, but then, some parts of me have always needed an elephant to shit in the tub to realize the circus had come to town.

I’m Californian now. The end.

half a life, part 3

I was stood in the Whole Foods Market off Hillsboro Pike when all of a sudden the bottom fell out.

I know what I said about Baptist Vegas and White Girl Instagram Valhalla, but you can’t know how horrifying it really is without seeing it. I was not averse to a quick dip into the Sucker District twenty-five years ago; I saw “Always…Patsy Cline” at the Roman and we went to Polly Esther’s one night after drinking at the Oak Room for a teammate’s birthday and it was perfectly respectable to drop by Robert’s Western World on a night when BR5-49 was playing. But Broadway between 5th and 2nd…there’s no nice way to put this: Bourbon Street or the Vegas Strip for people who never want to see anyone darker than a paper bag. My hosts made no bones about admitting “we do not get the best sort of tourists.” And that set the hook for a serious bout of existential despair that caught me two days later.

The Whole Foods, as best I can tell, sits almost right on top of where Davis-Kidd used to be. It was Nashville’s biggest and best independent bookstore, back when books were something you picked up and bought physically, and a bookstore was a place to explore and find things. It was a regular haunt, the main draw of Green Hills apart from the mall. Green Hills in general was definitely posh – not like Belle Meade posh, but meaningfully affluent – but what I found myself in was the epicenter of an ecosystem designed to service families of problematic white moderates with three-row SUVs and tucked-in gingham button-ups. The kind of person I was wholly intended to grow up and become, if my mother had her way: a well-to-do professional at something she could brag about, living only a morning’s driving distance away rather than flying distance, with a Godly sort of wife and two or three grandkids who took a good Christmas card picture. The exact sort of life that had been permanently derailed twenty-five years ago to the day, 10 May 1997, when I drove back home from my campus apartment for the very last time.

And it felt like a glimpse into an unpleasant reality: life on a tiny purple island amid a blood-red sea. Nashville is absolutely in Tennessee, and it is the chosen resort of the entire Confederacy, Southern or otherwise. My host lives in a very scenic neighborhood of old historically-protected houses, with retirees and songwriters and the like, and he allows that some of the neighbors have views that can charitably be described as “iffy.” And I just don’t have it in me to put up with that any longer, for reasons I will elucidate later. But the prospect of a world where you are permanently besieged by and at the mercy of the most reprehensible segment of America…that is a world I cannot, will not reside in. And if I’m going to have to live in California until I die, bring it on. Of which.

I did go to the baseball game, as planned. There were parking lot beers with the tailgate crew beforehand, there were people I hadn’t seen in person in years, there was a baseball stadium that was basically two sets of aluminum bleachers and a dirt field the last time I was there, and there was a grueling play-from-behind game that saw Vandy give up 3 runs in the 9th to fall behind 7-3…and then rally in the ninth with the tying run scored with two out, on a steal of home by Enrique Bradfield Jr that was the most electrifying thing I’ve ever seen live on a baseball diamond. The first lead they had all night was on the last play of the game, when Spencer Jones connected for his sixth hit of the night to send Bradfield home from 3rd after he’d singled, stolen second and taken third on the overthrow. It was magical.

And it felt like a bit of a valedictory. As if it were a sendoff. Like graduation day from eleven years of fandom that went to a different level when I was added to the masthead of the blog, a fandom that through no fault of its own now takes more off the table than it brings, thanks to so many factors – the cesspool of social media, the moral and ethical bankruptcy of the SEC, the changing nature of college sports. If NIL “collectives” have legalized the bagman, and Vanderbilt is going to be forced to go payroll-for-payroll with Alabama and Texas and Florida and Georgia and Tennessee and Oklahoma, then I may as well be an early adopter and shift my fandom to a sports league with a little more economic parity until the Commodores do the same.

And honestly, how many more trips down South do I have left? How many more times will I be in Nashville? Two? Maybe three? I feel ashamed of the fact that since leaving DC and making four trips back in a year, I have since returned to the DMV a total of five times in 17 years, sometimes five years apart, with no immediate plans for another trip anytime soon. And far more than Vanderbilt, that’s the place where I was made and remade and became the person I still am today.

The young man who drove off half a life ago, never to return as a student? The one whose personal life and career were headed into the abyss, but who at least lived in a world of reasonable sanity and a promising future, where the 21st century meant hope and not dread? The one who could credibly say that the best days of his life were still ahead of him?

He’s been gone for a long, long time. He’s never coming back.


My first iPod was a gen-2 model, May of 2002. I had brass in pocket, and was tempted beyond belief, but reluctantly conceded that I should spend the cash on my first new pair of eyeglasses in eleven years. Whereupon my girlfriend reached into her bag when we got back to her apartment and presented me with the iPod I had been coveting. (Reader, I married her.)

My favorite iPod was the gold iPod mini, which was handed to me on my first day as an Apple contractor as an indefinite loan by my then-lead. It was the capper on an amazing day – it went along with my 12″ PowerBook G4 issued as a work system (and newer than the laptop I would be issued on my first day at NASA three years later), so I had an Imperial crap-ton of migration to do from my TiBook and second iPod (my wife resold my first one and put the proceeds on a gen-3 model for Christmas 2003). I took that gold Mini everywhere – including on the honeymoon – and it was a constant companion in constant use until the heating and hard drive issues did for it.

My other notable iPods were a borrowed iPod Nano, which resided in my VW Rabbit’s glovebox as the permanent jukebox, and a PVT iPod video model that was close to the size of an iPhone, in my estimation, which I carried for several months to try to get used to the idea. There was also the second-gen iPod Shuffle, a freebie from work, which I lost within 48 hours. It’s possible to make technology too small, honestly.

My last iPod was a Project RED shuffle, bought at a time when I was trying to ensure my iPhone 3G would last through the day at work. I updated podcasts on the phone and listened to them there, but kept the current music (and classic podcast episodes) on the Shuffle in an attempt to offload some of the listening to a different device. But by and by, the iPhone got better, and I stopped flying (and thus needing to save the battery for 4 or 5 hours at a go), and eventually I quit carrying plug-in headphones altogether by 2017. And to be honest, I’m not entirely sure where that iPod is.

It changed the world, honestly. MP3 players were either small flash memory things the size of a cigarette pack that would hold maybe 16 to 20 songs, depending on length and bitrate, or else hard drive things bigger than a Discman that were heavy and complex and unfriendly to anyone but severe nerds. Thus Slashdot’s famous dismissal: “no wireless. Less space than a Nomad. Lame.” And then the iPod basically destroyed the rest of the market, and rightly so. After fourteen years of carrying some kind of cassette Walkman most everywhere, and another year of fumbling with the primitive MP3 players of the turn of the millennium, the iPod was huge storage, simple interface, and utter elegance.

And Apple was smart about it, honestly. They always self-cannibalized. As soon as flash memory let you replace the tiny hard drive, they killed the mini for the nano. They replaced monochrome with color, audio with video, physical controls with touch controls with actual touch screens. No one ever came close, and most people gave up and just went straight to imitating the iPhone. Which even Apple did – the last iPod was the iPod Touch, the 4-inch super-thin Wi-Fi only model that was the perfect My Very First Personal iOS Device. Sadly, with its demise, the entry level price for iOS has jumped from $199 to $329.

But the iPod was that thing Steve coveted most: a dent in the universe. It was what shifted Apple’s focus away from desktops and laptops toward truly personal computing. And it’s an icon, the first great technological achievement of the 21st century.

Ave atque vale, iPod. Thanks for the ride.