This Is The Day

365 days ago, I padded downstairs to make coffee and watch the Rose Parade. As other people woke up from the party the night before, started putting together breakfast and generally recovering their senses, I watched a bunch of anthropomorphic M&Ms advertise themselves with a song that sounded vaguely familiar. I did some Googling and found it out was a song by The The.

Yeah, that’s right. My great inspiration for the year came from a chocolate commercial.

I don’t think it’s any secret that 2007 just sucked out loud. I told myself that day, “Are you better off than you were 12 months ago? If not, what are you going to do about it?”

I’m not all the way back yet. I’m out to resolve some things that have been out there in my life for a long, long time, and one of them is to recognize that there’s no quick fix for the things that are really important. So the comeback is not complete, but the trend is 180 degrees from where it was this time last year on the afternoon of December 31.

One thing I did manage was to write more than I had been. I thank you all for bearing with me, and dearly hope I can keep it up without the crutch of a Presidential election or without descending into utter solipsistic wankery. I promise to come up with more diverse amusements in 2009.

So…another 365?


I fly like paper, get high like planes

If you catch me at the border I got visas in my name

If you come around here, I make ’em all day

I get one down in a second if you wait

Sometimes I think sitting on trains

Every stop I get to I’m clocking that game

Everyone’s a winner, we’re making our fame

Bonafide hustler making my name

Pirate skulls and bones

Sticks and stones and weed and bongs

Running when we hit ’em

Lethal poison through their system

No one on the corner has swagger like us

Hit me on my Burner prepaid wireless

We pack and deliver like UPS trucks

Already going hell just pumping that gas

Four months ago, when somebody borrowed a lyric from M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes” to advertise their season-opening house party at Vanderbilt, the idea that the Commodores had anything to offer this season seemed laughable at best. The stars were poorly aligned in conference – Ole Miss and Georgia on the road, a brutal Mississippi State defense (Sly Croom coming off coach of the year), Auburn coming to town, and Kentucky not really suggesting pushover. In the non-conference, at Wake Forest looked tough. Nobody looked at the schedule and saw more than three or four wins.

Nobody saw 5-0.

And then, it just all went to hell, so badly and so inexplicably – slipping away against MSU, falling apart against Duke – and you wonder if you’re really going to piss away the best start since World War II. And then one more win, there’s Big Six, and then two more losses, and suddenly you’re sweating out even getting a bowl bid before trying to make the best of playing in your hometown. And it turns out that playing at home is the best thing you could have hoped for, because your home fans are there for you in force.

They finally did again what they’d done in the first place: perfect football. No turnovers. No penalties. Nothing to beat yourself. When you can play like that, you can play anybody tough even if you can’t deliver a single offensive touchdown. And you can usually turn out just enough to win, beat your third ranked opponent of the season, beat your fifth bowl team of the season, deliver a winning record for the first time since 1982.

They don’t call it a hard six for nothing…but you’d much rather just throw the seven.

Ghost of Christmas Present

Food poisoning is no joke, kids. At least I’m pretty sure that’s what it was. All I know is that I woke up at 4 AM on the 26th with my entire metabolism on blue-screen, and spent the next twelve hours hanging out with Bobby Hurley and Rhea Perlman (ask the DC folks) and outright delirious (ask the wife) before finally crashing to sleep, hard, for the next 17 hours. By morning on the 27th, the fever was broken and I was generally asymptomatic, and I posted on time for the Emerald Bowl tailgate on a rooftop in China Basin. What can I say, I’m a gamer.

I will say, however, that it was basically the WORST hangover of my life, and I treated it as such – nothing stronger than a couple bottles of Guinness save for one very dilute Irish coffee at the ballpark, nothing wilder or spicier than a plain hamburger on the rooftop or a bowl of oatmeal at breakfast or cold fried chicken after the game. (I didn’t eat one bit of solid food on the 26th, but I can put away the Pedialyte and Gatorade like a CHAMP.) And I had to keep the shouting to a bare minimum – in a state like that, every decibel is precious and has to be saved for the most vital moment, like that defensive surge in the final moments that led to the Pain Train liberating the football and Cal eking out a bare victory over Al-Qaeda University. Actually, I suppose I would reluctantly root for the ‘Canes over Al-Qaeda…but I would pray like hell that they didn’t cover. EIther way, there’s nothing like seeing a bunch of Miami fans trying to chant that Cal didn’t cover and telling them “Congratulations, you’re officially the Miami Commodores.”

I’m not sanguine about our bowl, obviously.

Christmas? Oh, that went very well. I got a lot of nifty little things (especially the $illy coffee siphon, which is a brewing mechanism for engineers and smart-asses if ever there was one) and will finish with a whole stack of books and DVDs that have long needed reading/viewing. And before you mock me, I will point out that the wife has had the Wii on her Amazon wish list since the summer and when I found one available for ready money, I took the opportunity. She has controller #1, in case you doubt whose it is. (And in case you think “oh right, he got HER a WII, suuure,” I also got her another little something that came in a box in a fetching shade, so I did my husbandly duty and don’t you forget it.)

I did however get myself NCAA Football 09. I’m not made of stone.

I also got a High School Musical night-light in the White Elephant swap, but managed to unload it in trade for a teapot. Not a particularly fetching teapot, I must say, but there’s another swap next year…

Ghost of Christmas Past, part 3 of n

In a lot of ways, Christmas 1994 was the high-water mark of my grad school career. I hadn’t gotten any grades yet, so there was no real sense that I might be doing quite badly. My then-girlfriend was off to California for Christmas with her family, so I didn’t have that hanging over me. As the semester wound down, there was a whole social ramble to contend with, and when it ended, I went home with a big leather coat, a goatee, and the air and aspect of the big-alligator alum returning to the old patch.

What really stands out, though, is the crew. I hadn’t had “my gang” in five years – certainly there was nothing of the sort on offer in college, and my team graduated a year ahead of me in high school for the most part. But within a couple of months, our oversized class of first-years had somehow becomes known as “the Herd.” Which was a subset of the larger “Family” of grad students in PSCI (for “Family” think “Manson” or maybe “Gambino”). We did things together, had signature features (Red Dog…I actually drank Red Dog. It isn’t a crime exactly, you can’t go to jail for it, but it’s kind of a disgrace, almost as bad as being vice president), had a reputation as the Oakland Raiders of Vanderbilt Graduate School, won the C-league intramural softball title. Our women got dated and our men got fleeced (trust the sucker from down South to admit having $70 in his pocket when everybody else was mysteriously broke in line for beer at the Mapco). We dressed up to go drink at the Oak Bar and went bowling at midnight and howled drunkenly for the GRINCH and slumped in hung over as one.

So when I swaggered home, in my Maynard G. Krebs starter-kit goatee and my huge overstuffed leather coat (which another grad student christened “the Elk”), it was with a confidence and sense of belonging I hadn’t had in years, and it made it all the better to link up with my old crew again back home. Especially now that we could all drink, which meant that horrifyingly bad Garcia Y Vega cigars ($3 for four!) on the concourse at Bulls games were followed by beers at the Garages and vigorous debates over SLIP vs PPP and whether it was worth paying extra to have other than a terminal connection to the Internet.

Oh yeah…I had Internet access for the first time. And it was so amazing that I actually drove back to Nashville during Christmas break to check my email. It was, as it turns out, a life-transforming experience.

Naturally, it would all go wrong in the spring, but under the cold clear skies of December 1994, life was just about perfect. And to this day, whenever I hear Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers wailing “Christmas All Over Again,” I can close my eyes for just a second and there I am…first-round draft pick, shiny Saturn SC2 with less than 20K miles on it, new Nikes laced up tight, class rings on both hands, leading the charge with Chris, Craig, Nicole, Stephanie and Tracy. The good old days may not be as great as we remember…but those? Were.


So here I am in theater 9, AMC Cupertino Square. This is where I saw Transformers…I can only hope Quantum of Solace is better. Worst case scenario: it’s Die Another Day II, I eat some Uno pizza and drink a big Zero, and that’s two hours donked off. At least I had credit on last year’s AMC gift card, so the flick itself is paid for. Makes me feel slightly better about $12 for a mini pizza and a small vat of soda…


Slingin’ Sammy Baugh, 94, last living member of the inaugural class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and the QB who turned the Washington Redskins from a castoff Boston franchise into one of the NFL’s crown jewels in the late 30s and early 40s (that Chicago title game in 1940 notwithstanding). At the time, most of the league was still running an offense based on a single wing or box set – to have a passer like Baugh was very much like carrying a machine gun to the Battle of Hastings.

In 76 years on the field, the Redskins have only ever retired one jersey, and it’s ol’ number 33.

Wild speculation on things Apple

My theory: Apple has nothing to announce. And when you’re diminishing the role of Steve Jobs as the public face of Apple, you don’t use him to roll out a 17″ MBP and a Mac Pro speedbump. Even a new Mac mini probably doesn’t rise to the new threshold of Steve-ness. Some entirely new product that nobody was thinking about? Sure. Is there one on the horizon? Unless you buy into the netbook hype, nothing really springs to mind.

Now as to why they waited so long…maybe they did have something to announce, something big, and it’s not going to be ready. But again, I can’t think of anything that would be big enough to warrant the shift up that wouldn’t have all its Ts crossed and Is dotted by now if it were rolling out at MWSF. No…I think that for the first time in a long, long time, the cupboard is bare, and Phil gets to roll out there and put a brave face on it.

At least he has the Sharks, though. I’m not going to challenge him on anything hockey THIS year.

Judgement Day in Paste World

Yes, Apple is pulling out of MacWorld. No, this is not as big a deal as it sounds. Remember MacWorld Boston? MacWorld New York? Apple pulled out of those, too – and basically killed them. What you may not know is that Apple didn’t exhibit at this year’s NAB convention, either – and that used to be near the top of the show schedule, at a level below only MWSF and WWDC in the hierarchy.

I went to MacWorld twice – 2006 and 2007 – and not once did it strike me as that big a deal once the keynote and product announcements were done. If you walked the show floor, the only things that might be of interest would be obscure things appealing to technical niches – the rest was a flood of accessories. In fact, after my first trip, I openly speculated on whether they would be renaming it “iPod Case World” for next year.

The much bigger deal is having Phil “Steve’s Pal” Schiller delivering the keynote. Partly this is to further de-emphasize the importance of MacWorld, partly (I suspect) it may be a concession that there’s nothing that big on the way. The only bit of Apple’s product line that’s really ripe for a refresh is the Mac mini and maybe the XServe, neither of which strikes me as the sort of thing you could wrap a keynote around.

The point is, trade shows aren’t integral to the operation. Apple announces its stuff however they like. In fact, the “September iPod announce event” has become almost standard since 2005. And trade shows themselves aren’t exactly healthy – COMDEX shuffled off this mortal coil some years ago, and CES is 10% smaller than last year according to some reports. And given that Adobe and Google, among others, were massively scaling back their MWSF presence – well, Apple’s not going to be the last rat off the ship.

What this really is about is what happens with no Steve. Life without the big Barnum and Bailey events every six months, life with Tim Cook and Phil Schiller at the controls and occasional appearances from big wheels in the iPod and Mac OS groups. The stock is already down 5% in after-hours trading and I fully expect a bloodbath tomorrow, because the market is seriously starting to contemplate Apple’s prospects for life after Jobs.