Well that’s a damn shame

Look, I know he’s a bit of a wackadoo*, but I’ve got a soft spot for Bobby Jindal. I mean, the guy was a Rhodes Scholar, he’s not an idiot by any stretch. But he aspires to be a player in the GOP, and that means he has to get up there and do the same shtick as every other aspiring GOP national figure since the rise of the crackers in the early 1990s. One wag suggested that Jindal only got the gig because he’s the only Republican who can sound like one of Boss Hogg’s constituents without looking like one. I wouldn’t go that far, but I will say this: forcing your rising star to sing off the same song sheet as everyone else is cataclysmically stupid. Like drafting Magic Johnson and then making him take two-handed set shots from fifteen feet every time down the court.

The big names in modern politics get to be big names because they change the game. Bobby Jindal has the talent to change the game, but not if he has to run the same offense as Newt Gingrich in 1993. You’re going to see a lot of commentary, and from conservatives, griping that Bobby Jindal had a golden opportunity presented to him and that he shit the bed. But I don’t think it’s all his fault – not as long as he’s being made to chase a jet with a biplane.

* Okay, maybe ‘wackadoo’ is a bit strong. He’s a Hindu-heritage convert to Catholicism who participated in an exorcism. I’m a Zen Baptist with alternating flashes of Catholicism and atheism who believes that how I smoke my pipe or order my drinks has a direct and immediate influence on what Vanderbilt does against Kentucky. Let he among you who is without metaphysical idiosyncrasy cast the first stone…

kind of pathetic actually

It probably shouldn’t make me this happy to win the Trials pub quiz for the second straight week. It definitely shouldn’t make me this happy to have the quizmaster ask who else is on my team, tell him ‘nobody’, and hear him announce “this one guy kicked all your asses!”

But winning $60 and counting worth of pub credit? Why the hell did it take me 37 years to monetize my heretofore worthless trivia skills?

6 of 8 + 4 STRAIGHT

The last time Kentucky beat Vandy at home, I wasn’t married. Since I put a ring on it, Vandy has not lost at home to the Blue Mist and has won 6 of the last 8. To have scoreboard on one of the 6 biggest programs in college basketball? PRICELESS. I let Kanye take this one: “Now I, I go for mine, I got to shine, now throw your hands up in the sky…You prolly think you could, but, but I don’t think you should…”

Sunday morning, SiliValley

Rain, gray overcast sky but not utterly leaden, varying from a mild sprinkle to a soft steady rain that’s too much for just a ballcap. Another month of so of that and we might be spared water rationing this year, but I wouldn’t get your hopes up. The farmer’s market as sparse as you would expect on a rainy February morning – the die-hards with less seasonal goods, like honey or bakery products or coffee, are still there, but there are so many empty spaces normally taken up with vending fruits and vegetables that you can cut across the market in half a dozen extra places. Even the Peruvian coffee has taken a hit from the weather – it’s warm, not hot, out of the big thermos dispenser, and the dark earthy notes are there in the French roast, no milk or sugar needed here to bring out the flavor.

Seems like the usual rainbow panoply of white-people performance outerwear and university sweatshirts has been replaced with almost entirely black rain shells and hoods. Not that the crowd is huge – maybe the least I’ve ever seen, a few people picking up the weekly greengrocery or just shuffling through the rain because this is where you go and what you do on a Sunday morning. Coffee, maybe a cheese pastry, describing a slow circle around what’s normally the Caltrain taxi parking – this is the Silicon Valley version of the yuppie Mass.

The guy with the Tupperware full of cut-up Asian pears doesn’t really have his heart in it but offers the free samples to passerby anyway. Under the awning of the coffee booth, a woman with a first-generation iPhone touts its superiority to her companion’s Blackberry 7100 by showing the vendor the weather in Indianapolis. After a few moments, you notice that there’s no musician this week. In fact, it’s so sparse that one of the booth tents has nothing under it but plastic chairs and table, ideal for ducking out of the rain. Except that they’re all soaking wet.

This week is a short run, barely over ten minutes. In the height of the long California summer, this is a half hour easily, wandering around, grazing off a dozen different farms, picking up fresh cheese and maple-sweet-potato sausage and very tasty limeade that costs more than the equivalent size bottle of wine. But the brief Mediterranean winter of the Bay Area is hanging on, trying to assert itself despite the fact that spring effectively started a couple of weeks ago, and so we’re all getting rained on, and mostly without complain, because we know in August when everything is brown and you can’t shower for more than three minutes a day, we’ll wish we’d had more.

Back on the light rail. Today was so quick that you could be back on your couch with your coffee before it’s gone cold.

Where did THOSE decades go?

I can’t believe it’s twenty years today since we gave a girl a cactus with a black ribbon around it for Valentine’s Day.

I remember it like it was yesterday… “What is THIS?” “We just wanted to share our true feelings about Valentine’s Day with you.” “This is a CACTUS!” “Nothing gets by you, does it?”

I’m pretty sure I got slapped…


So I’m sitting at O’Flaherty’s tonight, which I sort of intended to make a regular first-Sunday-of-the-month stop. I even had my routine planned: bring the Economist to read, try a different single-malt Scotch for my single-malt diary (yes, keeping one now), have something different for dinner until I find what I like and settle on it, listen to Irish music of the instrumental type with fiddles and hammer dulcimers and pipes and things…

Then tonight, they rang a bell behind the bar and one of the waitresses sang something I don’t remember ever hearing before. Then she passed out songsheets for “There’s No One As Irish As Barack O’Bama” (you have to love the Irish, they’d claim the Maccabees if they could throw an apostrophe in there and prove one drop of Irish blood). And I was all set to settle up and catch the light rail….

…and then they rang the bell again and she started singing the Fields.

You know. The Anthem. The fight song of Celtic FC, Muenster rugby and the EUS. And I sang along, full voice, didn’t miss a note and threw in a surprisingly loud “HEY BABY LET YOUR FREEBIRDS FLY” where appropriate.

Afterwards, an old fella at the bar wanted to know if I was actually from “the Holy Land,” as he said. Turns out he was Mr. Ray O’Flaherty, the proprietor of said establishment. And that the music is much more rambunctious of a Tuesday night and I should come out.

Early birthday present?

How can anyone possibly think otherwise?

The WHAT mightier than the sword?

Before I was a computer nursemaid, I was a scholar. And for the scholar, the indispensable sidearm is the pen. I think it was around third grade that we were first expected to start writing in pen, maybe a bit later – but significantly, my elementary school years were in the salad days of the “eraseable” pen, which was in every meaningful way not “eraseable” so much as “smearable.” And the ink stank to high heaven…

Anyway, by the time I started in on actual indelible adult pens, it was roughly 1984-85, and I gravitated quickly to the Faber-Castell Uni-Ball Micro, which was a 0.2mm rollerball disposable. The finer the point, the better, as far as I was concerned – any mechanical pencil over 0.5mm lead was hopelessly thick, and when I finally drifted away from the Uni-Ball Micro, it took something special. The problem I had with the Uni-Ball is that it was a bit too fine – and tended to do more scratching than writing on the sorts of paper I was using.

The other significant thing in seventh grade was the problem of carrying the pen. Like most kids my age, I didn’t really have anything I had to have with me, although I did carry a wallet full of a whole bunch of nothing (least of all cash). For some reason, though, the boys at Bragg Jr. High carried pens in the right hip pocket next to the wallet. So I did too…and twenty-five years on, I haven’t stopped. This will be important later on. But it’s from that era that you can date one of my personal quirks: I would sooner go out without pants and drawers than without a pen and a watch.

My first year of high school, an acquaintance who was in college already (and who would eventually become a fraternity brother, but that’s another story) gave me a Pilot Precise V5, which wrote smooth and clean on almost any paper I touched it to. It took careful handling, because of the little straight metal tip (easily bent), but the Precise V5 carried me through the Great Years and all the way into college. At some point, I discovered the Pilot VBall Extra Fine – another 0.5mm rollerball, but with a tip more like the Uni-Ball. And that became THE indispensable pen – shorter than the Precise or the Uni-Ball, the perfect length and balance and ink-flow. It was my go-to pen for over a decade, even when I had to skulk through multiple college bookstores and office supply retailers to find it.

I tried other things, off and on. The Pilot Varsity disposable fountain pen was something I came back to every couple of years, tried, and rejected almost as quickly. I bought a nice refillable Waterman when I got to Vandy, which could take roller or ballpoint refills, but lost it before I left. Around 2000, I found the Cross ION, which was a one-handed retractable pen with fancy gel ink – but it was too short and thick and didn’t carry at all in the hip pocket. Eventually I always fell back on the VBall.

When I got to California, though, I found that the bulk of my writing – especially at work – called for writing on cardboard boxes and FedEx labels and such, in ways that a rollerball pen simply couldn’t handle. The ultimate solution was a Fisher Retractable Space Pen – pressurized thixotropic ink, write on anything at any angle. Sure, the ink was a little goopy and it was nowhere as smooth or fluid as a rollerball, but it could be opened and closed in one hand. This was an advantage over the space pen I bought at NGS – which was laser-engraved and very nice to look at but not that great as a daily sidearm. But the Fisher worked nicely for the first couple of years. It’s not that great if you have to write on a daily basis, though, and when I went to driving a desk full-time in mid-2006, I needed something else. And I cast about for over a year.

I hadn’t gone for gel pens in the past – they were too scratchy and never seemed to deposit ink in anything like an even manner. But after a little poking around and a lot of impressive comments on line, I went for the Pilot G2, the generally-acepted gold standard of retractable gel pens. The catch was that I ordered it online in the “ultra-fine” spec, the 0.38mm, leading to my remark, “We need to get down to HUNDREDTHS of a millimeter? We can get down to hundredths of a millimeter??” But amazingly, in this finest of points, the G2 wrote smoother and cleaner for me than any of the larger point sizes, and it became my go-to, despite being a retractable pen in my hip pocket. So far, however, I haven’t had an issue with sudden splotches of black in the 501s.

And that’s where we have it today. They actually have the 0.5mm in the supply closet at work, and I’ve tried it, but it just doesn’t work as well for me. Fortunately, the 0.38mm now shows up at Walgreens, so when my last one from that first box goes away, I can replenish my supply without the hassle and inconvenience of special orders from Japan or having an account at jetpens.com.

There you go – 900+ words on pens. Does that make me some kind of annoying hipster blogger?

A fish, a barrel…

…and a smoking gun.
New RNC chair Michael Steele: “Not in the history of mankind has the government ever created a job.”
Maybe this fool would like to explain where my paycheck was coming from for all of 2008? I don’t remember the cash fairy waving a wand over my checking account, and if the cash fairy WAS waving a wand over my checking account, why the hell was I driving down to base five days a week?
Memo to my old smoking buddies in DC: it’s looking like you just hired Matt Millen to run your party. I’d turn back if I were you.