The thing about Maker Faire…

David Gerrold, the sci-fi author, famously said that when you get right down to it there are only three occupations in the world: Producer, Servicer, and Salesman. (He contemplated Godhood as a fourth but decided that fell under Services.)

Maker Faire is for the Producers. The people who turn old typewriter keys into cufflinks. The ones who use old bookcovers to produce spiral-bound notebooks. The ones who make huge plush porkchops and felt bomb pops. The ones with giant mechanical snail cars that breathe fire and Victorian mansions on wheels and four kinds of hand-roasted coffee and a hand-wired 8-bit CPU of their own design and silver earrings shaped like theobromine molecules and 1/144 scale battleships that blast the bejaysus out of each other and PVC marshmallow blowguns and a 10,000-year clock and brass-rimmed leather goggles and the Bellagio fountains executed in Diet Coke and Mentos and…

…well, I would say “you get the picture” but it’s really hard to explain unless you’re there. It’s like music festivals, I guess – all these artists you’ve never heard of, working in a thousand different genres, things you just have to see to believe.

If you don’t think I’m going to be there from the minute the gates open every day of next year’s edition, you’re crazy.

Fuck Tuesday.

ITEM! Ever wonder why the Federal government still requires certain states to pre-clear under the Voting Rights Act? Because it’s 2009 and they’re still segregating proms!

ITEM! Ever wonder why we have such a complicated process for amending the Constitution? Because if you allow for amendment by simple popular majority vote, a 52% share of 58% of the voting age population – in other words, less than a third of all people over age 18 – can make their own oogies the law of the land!

ITEM! Ever wonder if you really are the Angel of Death? Maybe, if every new job you take starts with a mass layoff of contractors!

What the hell is wrong with me that I knew all of this was going to happen and I still got up and out of bed at 6 AM? Aside from a massive sinus infection and a really bad attitude problem, that is. This is your notice that I am now actively Looking For Trouble, so if you are finding yourself short of an ass kicking, come on.

Mood swings are FUN!!

In other news, the black cloud can be dispelled temporarily through the cunning use of breakfast and jokes about state data managers trying to ghost-ride the whip. The two-stripers know: GOOD end-users are worth their weight in platinum.

In other outraged matters…

…my knee is shot to hell again. The one that had surgery, that forced my premature resignation from my first Silicon Valley job, has started to hurt in a very different way – and has started to impact my ability to walk. NOT CISED.

The great relief here is that not only do I have my own insurance this time, but I have more than three sick days a year. If I’d pulled up with this back in 2007-08 on my last job, I’d have to suck it up and walk it off. Even as it is, I’m hoping I can get anything that I need done to it done at work, so to speak, but it may not be my call. Memo to all the fainting goats who wail that “socialized medicine” will mean waiting lists and an inability to choose your own doctor…that’s what we have RIGHT FUCKING NOW. Don’t believe me? Ask a person I know who was hospitalized with an infection and had to change hospitals halfway through because her insurance WOULDN’T PAY FOR THE FIRST ONE.

I’ll probably have something more philosophical on this front later, but I have an early morning tomorrow…

Fuck. Me. Running.

The scariest, stupidest shit imaginable.

Seriously, how did anybody AT ALL think this was a good idea? Anyone? And more to the point, why do mental defectives like Harry Reid live in pants-pissing terror of these people? Memo to Senate Democrats: just because Republicans shit themselves in fear when you whisper “terrorist” doesn’t mean you should try to out-pussy them! Actually, I take that back, as I would not want to sully the good name of pussy by association with members of Congress…

I told you that changing administrations wouldn’t make a dent in the state of things. This is why.


It was pointed out to me that I forgot the central bit of California, which is a key omission – this is, after all, the bit made famous by The Grapes Of Wrath. It bears pointing out that if it’s on your plate and it’s not made of meat or bread, it probably came from the Central Valley or the San Joaquin Valley or somewhere thereabouts. California produces more rice than Japan, seriously. This is also where all those fleeing Okies settles, and the cultural and political impact of that migration is still a major factor in state politics seventy-plus years on.
I would also be remiss if I didn’t point out that the entire aerospace industry – not to mention the Reagan doctrine – are completely unimaginable without considering Orange County in the last sixty years. (This is not necessarily a plug for Before The Storm, the best book ever on Goldwater in ’64, because I assume you’ve read it already, and if you haven’t, you’re just not paying attention, because it is really compelling stuff.)
For all the guff about Texas splitting into 5 states, let’s be honest, you could split California into at LEAST 5, and all with a pivotal hand in the national economy – agricultural, technological, media, booze, you name it.
There are far worse places to call home. =)

Against all enemies, foreign and domestic, part II

OK, I will freely admit that it’s kind of a show out here. Exhibit A – they threw out a perfectly mediocre governor because of, well, I don’t even remember what, and replaced him with a Botoxed foreigner who didn’t even pull 50%. And now said Botox receptacle is in much worse straits than his predecessor ever got into, but nobody’s clamoring to heave him out on his steroid-pocked ass, because nobody’s got any better ideas. The local football conference can’t get their bowl bids sorted, and if I’m honest, the hippie quotient is probably above the level specified by the board of health.

And yet.

When I first volunteered to become a DSW, and learned that I would have to be sworn in, the thought occurred to me that this was really it – that after almost five years, I would really be an honest-to-God Californian. Which was kind of a strange thought. Ever since I arrived for good in 2004, my gimmick has largely been that as an Alabamian, I am probably the most exotic ethnicity anybody here will ever meet. Think about it. The Latino population of California dates from Fr. Serra’s string of missions back in the 1770s. The Chinese arrived with the Gold Rush. That person in line in front of you at In N Out could be two weeks off the boat or they could be seventh generation on the Peninsula. Meanwhile, California leads all states in population of Catholics, Muslims and Buddhists and is second in Jews and Mormons.

Everyone known Hollywood down South and thinks they know San Francisco…but people in Berkeley know the real hippies are in Santa Cruz, and people forget that Reaganite conservatism was birthed in Orange County. An entire wave of country music grew out of Bakersfield, when Buck Owens used his radio-engineer knowledge to optimize his sound for AM transmission. There were honest-to-God separatists all the way North, who planned to join bits of Oregon and carve out the new state of Jefferson, but scheduled their big announcement for December 7, 1941…and wound up punting. There are mountains with fog in the morning, kind of like the Smokies. There’s an old downtown with subways and ethnic neighborhoods and major league baseball – San Francisco is basically the New York of the West. There’s cool weather most of the time and rain in a tightly confined space on the calendar and, well, Silicon Valley. You know, where the future comes from.

And all things being equal, there’s a spot for anyone and everything. Just because I struggle with cramming myself into it doesn’t mean it’s not there.

I guess my point is: the thing about California is that it’s just like the rest of America, only more so. I was raised in a very insular place that actively taught that not only was the past not past, you could make things the way they used to be. Out here, not only is the past past, the present’s past, and when the future comes, California is the one kicking down the door and charging through first, for better or worse. California will not hand you everything you ever dreamed of on a silver platter, but neither will it decide you don’t belong and slam the door on you. California is the Mos Eisley cantina – if you want in, seat yourself. Buy the ticket, take the ride.

And that’s where “foreign or domestic” comes in. Given the choice, if I have to decide between here or a place that still thinks they’re two elections away from being able to turn the clock back 50 years…well, the hills send back the cry, we’re out to do or die. To crib from Lord Webber, the choice was mine and no one else’s, and if that makes me a scalawag, well, wag is as wag does.







My God, for me this is like “what if Tennessee hired Ty Willingham, Matt Millen, Mike Shula and Tom Holmoe all on the very same historic day.” I can’t imagine what it must be like to know that your party is being run by the stupidest fucking people alive.

Actually, I’m starting to think that the Larisons and Posners and etc. of the world are sitting it out on purpose and waiting for the dog’s breakfast of holy rollers, neo-Confederates, and just plain old assholes that make up the modern Republican party to flame out, so they can start fresh with some new conservative party grounded in, you know, conservatism, rather than trying to turn a handful of zingers into a political philosophy.

Against all enemies, foreign and domestic – part I

I don’t know that anyone else has ever been sworn to protect the Constitution of the United States on an iPhone. But my left hand had to go somewhere, and it was in my pocket…and there you have it. By the power vested in me by Steve Jobs, Jonathan Ive and Scott Forrestal…

So the wife and I were sworn in as disaster service workers tonight. I’m not sure why this requires a loyalty oath – I suspect some mid-50s law that never got rescinded – but there it was, right on the page, “that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California.” Which is a pretty tall order, if you’ve ever see the Constitution of the State of California – a document second only to the Constitution of the State of Alabama in making you hang your head and mutter “you sorry son of a bitch…”

I’m sure that in 1911, when the railroads had the California Legislature in a professional threat sandwich, the idea of proposition/initiative direct democracy seemed like a good idea. And hell, it probably was. For a while. However, as was memorably said years ago in another life, “California officially failed in 1978 when people realized they could vote themselves free shit.” That was the year of Prop 13…and that was the year when “citizens” were replaced by “taxpayers.”

The problem with cutting taxes is that while it will free up money, some of which may even go into investment and creative efforts that eventually produce more jobs and economic growth, it also deprives the state of money. Which probably sounds like an unalloyed good to a lot of people, until you consider that the state also has the responsibility for things like schools. And jails. And police. And disaster management. The sorts of things that you probably could privatize, as long as you’re willing to farm out your kid’s eduction or your neighborhood’s safety to the lowest bidder. Sure enough, California’s public services went to hell, went directly to hell, do not pass Go, do not collect $200 because by God, that’s your money. There were efforts, of course – keep the legislature from spending or taxing any more (2/3 vote required, ably deadlocking government), there were added fixes (couple dozen propositions per year, EVERY year, writing this or that trendy preference into black-letter Constitutional law), there were attempts to take it out on the foreigners (Prop 187) or the coloreds (prop 209) or the homos (Prop 8). And the state is still just as bad off as ever, and teetering over the precipice, for one reason that is an indisputable fact:

Democracy doesn’t scale.

I could be wrong, except I’m not. The reason why we can enshrine the likes of the Greek polis or the New England town meeting in our collective mythology is because those were small, localized undertakings, consisting of considerably less than every living adult, where everybody knew everybody else’s business and were responsible before each other for the daily consequences of their decision-making. And at some small-town level, I’m sure things still work like this, where the mayor and the city council and the local crank and the harpy vice-president of the PTA and Otis the village drunk all have to face each other tomorrow at church, or Piggly Wiggly, or the football game.

California is the 8th largest economy in the world. California has 36 million people. The notion that anything at all in California can be handled by direct democracy is…what’s the word?…insane. Most people have no idea what’s on the ballot every year, even if they think they know because they saw the same commercial every morning for six months. The average voter gives ten times more thought to who they want for American Idol than they do for Proposition n+1. In fact, the most common coping mechanism is a blanket no on everything, which would make perfect sense, staff it back out to the elected officials – but the elected officials are hamstrung by constitutional rules that were voted upon them…wait for it…by a proposition.

If you think that the working equivalent of a G20 country (think Italy or so) can run itself by direct referendum at the ballot box…well, you’re entitled to your opinion, but you would be factually incorrect.

And this 18-wheeled shitshow is what I am pledged to support and defend. I guess it’s a good thing I was being sworn in as a disaster service worker.

to be continued…

35.2% White

So I went through and totalled up everything in Stuff White People Like. I took a point for anything that I could not honestly say I was wholly indifferent toward, then knocked off a point for everything I revile on the list (Not Having A TV, I should get TWO points off for) and divided it all up and got 0.352 as my SWPL Index. I figure as long as I keep it below 50%, I’m doing OK in staving off the inevitable onslaught of middle-aged yuppie douche-dom.

Gonna be tough, though, because I picked up another pair of New Balance yesterday. Didn’t intend to – at most, I was looking for insoles – but these are apparently the new hotness and are additionally tricked out with aftermarket insoles with VERY rigid heel coverage. And believe it or not, coupled with socks of appropriate thickness, they are as stable and comfortable a pair of walking/running shoes as I have ever had. Given the weight (very low), the evaporation factor (very high), and the prospects for keeping me from rolling my knee any worse (pretty good, and anything is an improvement, my damned knee hurts worse than it has since before my surgery), I may find myself leaning harder on these than I’d expected as spring wears into summer.

All I can say is thank God that coffee and Apple products only count as one point apiece…