That is depressing.

The first Transformers was damn near the worst movie I ever saw. It was surpassed only by The Thin Red Line, because if your war movie doesn’t have a shot fired for 45 minutes and looks like a NatGeo nature documentary in the meantime, your war movie sucks. But I digress…
The thing that just killed me about Transformers was how utterly and unapologetically stupid it was. I mean, we go to great lengths to make sure the robots all match up with the right size and shape so that all the parts are visible and the resulting robot is the same mass and parts and whatnot as the car or truck or whatever…and then we also have a gigantic cube the size of a house, but it can magically reduce to the size of a basketball. Oh, okay. The fights were loud and noisy and everything, not to mention damn near impossible to follow, and then everything just stops, because oh shit, the magic beam shot out of said tiny cube but nobody thought to do that beforehand? Note that I’m sticking purely with the robots here, leaving aside stuff like the ghetto computer whiz and the underwear-model-as-super-scientist – we have robots talking in jive, we have robots that pee on government agents (especially ones just crammed in at random because somebody mistook plot elements for actual plot), we have robots that apparently are capable of crouching behind a house in the middle of a residential neighborhood COMPLETELY SILENTLY.
This isn’t a movie, it’s fanfic. Written by a 10 year old boy. Who lives on a steady diet of Ritalin, Sunny D and paint chips.
And the new one, to all accounts, is even worse, and is exactly what you expect as that boy hits 12. Now the underwear model turns into a killer robot, and there are jive-talking robots with gold teeth, and one robot has balls! heheheheheheheheheh! Balls rule! Shut up Beavis. No way!
I realize that there are enough screamy kids, paste-eating fanboys, mental defectives, and people who just don’t give a shit to make this kind of thing a going concern. I didn’t realize there were $200 million worth of them. And now I’m seriously waiting to hear that NBC just greenlit 13 episodes of Ow! My Balls! for the fall season. You have to look awfully hard for it, but there is a line between dumb fun and just plain dumb…and Michael Bay’s basically wondering what that dot behind him is.

Sic transit gloria mundi

Plainly no longer what he was, but when he was younger, there was nothing like him. I wonder if this is how my parents felt when Elvis passed.

There is too much…

…let me sum up.

* So Himself apparently did get a liver transplant in Tennessee. My only regret out of all this is that it was in Memphis rather than at VUMC, but then, we can’t have everything. I think the results of the last six months speak for themselves, though – while having Himself at the controls is nice, it’s not necessary for AAPL to continue to operate successfully – and if they’re not bring back El Steve-o for the release of new MacBook Pros and iPhones, don’t expect to see him running keynotes routinely ever again.

* Seriously? 12% of the country thinks Obama is a secret Muslim? Can we have these people rounded up and shot? Do you know how much better off we’d be economically, intellectually and psychologically? (And yes, I am sure there are as many liberal whackadoos out there, and I would be as happy to bundle them off to the stockyard, except I would rather first take out the ones who are more likely to shoot me. What’s some hayseed hippie from Boulder or Austin or Eugene gonna do, pot-smoke me to death?)

* I must say that so far, I seem to be coping with work foolishness a lot better than I have at previous places. I think part of that comes from having 12 years of experience with the merry-go-round of “oh look, we’re out of money, fire all the contractors who were doing mission-critical work because we wouldn’t hire permanent staff in an attempt to save money.” I don’t care how badly screwed up these people think they are, I did seven years in Tech Support Vietnam with the greatest second-level support team that ever lived, and I fear no user…or VP.

* Much as I’d like the new iPhone 3Gs, I don’t think I could justify laying out that kind of loot. I haven’t had a chance to evaluate the real speed improvement or battery changes, so it comes down to “is it worth resetting the contract and laying out $200 or $300 for video capability and voice control?” And since I rarely drive, the latter is a scratch. At this point I’m better off waiting for the 2010 model. (To be honest, I would probably have still rocked my original, and be eligible for an upgrade by October, if I hadn’t screwed it up last year with lint packed in the dock connector. I still want to get that back from my brother-in-law at some point, just because, dammit, it was free from Apple and was the single greatest trophy of working there.)

* I am reluctantly realizing that there’s not one single computer in the house that we actually own. Everything has been through the good offices of current or former employers, and it’s all loaned with the understanding that it *could* get called back in. Consequently, I’m having some trouble sorting out the best methodology for backing up my personal info and keeping it separate – and secure – from the work content. (Not to mention finding some way to run Snow Leopard preview on my good work laptop.) At least my streak of not paying for a computer since 2000 is intact (come to think of it, I need to get that iBook back too – lot of history in that little gray toilet seat).

* Come to think of it, though, I could operate for an awful long time on just an iPhone, battery permitting. I’m still considering getting one of those Mophie JuicePaks or similar, or even just one of the things you can pop four AAs in and recharge, because I’m basically limited to about 5 hours’ usage irrespective of what I do – any combination of location services, Bluetooth, Wi-fi, push, 3G, screen brightness and podcast playback adds up to 300 minutes of live usage. The key thing for me is just keeping it charged up at work during the day (and staffing out podcast playback to a leftover iPod shuffle) – I’m not sure what I’m going to do when I’m out in the city all day with the other half of Team Black Swan next week. Not that I expect to be listening to stuff or talking much on it, but we’re going to need those location services pretty badly, not to mention the MUNI sched.

* I need somebody to build me a nice little steampunk Gentleman’s Compact Aetheric Discharge Concealable Sidearm. No, I’m not planning for Maker Faire, why do you ask?

* It seems the height of sense to be reading William Gibson on an iPhone.

* I’m getting interested in the Giants again. I guess interleague play is justified, because the series against the A’s has me paying attention again – as does the pitching of what seems to be a pretty good staff, evenly split between fireballing young talent and crafty more-guile-than-goods veterans. Lincecum needs to settle down if he’s going to get out of the 7th though.

* My various glees have subsided, it seems. I have no current case of Shoe Glee, Outerwear Glee, Netbook Glee, or even older now-obsolete forms like Car Glee or Phone Glee. Good thing, too, as I don’t need any slow leaks in my checking account. I will be glad when this week is over with, as I have been too far removed from the free coffee in the office that normally sustains me. (I think there’s a half-2-liter of blue Mountain Dew still on my desk from Friday’s cookout.)

* O me of little faith. Lincecum is the bomb, even if he did have to be saved at one point by a terrible call at second.

* I’ve about decided to adopt Fulham as my team in the Premier League. Yes, yes, I know, any team whose most prominent celebrity supporter is Hugh Grant must be the height of embarrassment. But they have been very friendly to Americans – not only is Clint Dempsey a bright star in their lineup, not only did they have Bocanegra and now have Eddie Johnson, but they actually named a bar in their stadium after Brian McBride, he of the crimson mask against Italy in ’06 who captained them to their Great Escape a couple years back. Plus they are the only team in the Premiership with a neutral section, where you can mix freely with supporters of both teams. Plus it’s in London, and a posh and scenic bit of London, so the odds of actually going to see them go up. Plus Craven Cottage is right on the river, just as Pac Bell is right on the bay…plus being owned by the bloke who owns Harrods, you have to think that a) there’s money on the table for transfers and player personnel and b) the catering must be all right.

* Seriously, how do you lose an entire state governor for damn near a week? Hopefully it’s not too serious (TPM is reporting that one witness has Sanford on a plane to Minneapolis, which suggests the possibility of the Mayo Clinic and thus serious health matters, in which case good luck to him) but if it’s not, expect a zillion euphemisms to crop up around “hiking the Appalachian Trail.”

* Spent two days in a Perl class this week, finally developing skills I should have been working on ten years ago. As with so much of my life, though, let’s overlook how long I was getting here and be happy I just showed up at all. =)

* God bless, Persians, keep it green.

The Kids Are All Right

No screwing around, no backing down – you can tell that the underlying thought process in the Iranian demonstrators boils down to they can’t shoot all of us. The most telling moment will be when the order finally comes down to open fire en masse. A lot of people forget that the other hero in Beijing was the guy driving that first tank, who tried to go around the iconic protester in front of him but ultimately refused to run him down – and as one blogger recently opined, whatever happened to Tank Man, you have to think Tank Commander was shot in the head at the first opportunity, because once you’ve lost Tank Commander you’ve lost the country.

Anyway, those kids have balls the size of minarets. Good luck out there today. And tomorrow. And however long it goes.

Lot of stuff I should be blogging about…

…but I can’t choose between this Iran business (the next 24-48 hours are the most critical bit yet), the new iPhone (no, I’m not taking the plunge – my old one could stop a bullet and certain people would still think I’d done it deliberately ;] ), the impending chaos in my life (long-awaited guests, long-awaited camping trip, major system transition at work), the jackhole who decided it was a good idea to push his car across the Caltrain tracks at rush hour (car, foot or bike, makes no difference – Caltrain is still undefeated), Maker’s Mark Mint Julep (don’t know whether it’s a pre-mix, a cordial, or what, but it’s bazilly), or the ongoing reclamation of my high-school-era life and memory (still wearing the old ring).

Maybe a trip into town will give me some ideas. At the very least, it might mean gelato and coffee. =)

Reading the old yearbooks…

…for the first time in a long, long time. The class before me had their 20th reunion, but it seems like one big rolling reunion is ongoing over in Pastebook. People are appearing who knew me when – some of whom knew me WAY back when, too.

And looking at the pictures, and the signatures, and the general record of events – I don’t know how so much of this has stayed walled off for so long. It may be for the best – God knows I don’t want to be one of those people whose best years were in high school and won’t shut up about them – but there’s no getting around the fact that twenty years ago, we were the princes of the universe. Here we are, born to be kings…

That DNA is all still there. Two decades on, the kid who won two state titles, MVP at Auburn in ’89, two-time all-county, ringer for the math team, bright star of the Constitution competition (state winner in 1989), Hearst scholar – that was me. That is me. If I feel like I haven’t changed since high school, well, so what – if the boy I was is the man I am, I’m doing pretty damn good. And if I’m trading my usual class ring for the one from two decades ago for a while, it’s because that same blue stone that once held the answer to the universe deep beneath it now winks at me as if to say remember who you were? remember who you are.

flashback, part 8 of n

From the blog at, June 12, 1999:

I wasn’t supposed to go into work yesterday. I was going to take the day off for just the reasons you can read below. I asked to have that day off about three weeks ago because work is getting more stressful all the time and I needed a little time to myself, especially since I was almost guaranteed to be depressed all week. Sure enough, this was as rough a week as we’ve had in a while–they insist on treating our team as the red-headed stepchildren. They ignore us, act like our advice and opinion is worthless–and then things turn out exactly like we warned them and then they almost act as if it’s our fault. I was VERY glad I wasn’t going to be in on Friday.

Then Thursday about 5:45 I got a call from Priit Vesilind, our number-one gun. Senior writer, close friend of Bob Ballard, the man who goes where the action is for the National G. He’s off to Albania and assorted places and bought a new laptop and wanted to know if I could set him up for AOL dial-up from Europe on it. I said sure, I can do that, I’ll just set it up Friday.

Well, I figured I’d come in on Friday and it’d take a half-hour and I could slip out. Ha. It’s a Micron PC laptop and it had hardware problems. I’m a Mac software guy. This contraption is the exact opposite of what I was hired to work with. But a promise is a promise, so I started in on it.

I didn’t get away from work until 7 PM. On my day off, I spent over nine hours in the office getting the thing to work. And ultimately I did, with the help of another guy and a couple of phone calls. Priit had a laptop that would do nothing at 10 AM and at 7, he had one that would dial in and get his mail from Rome, Athens or Zurich.

And I thought about all the times I heard someone getting up at 2 AM to go shovel coal into the furnace at Fultondale Elementary, and I didn’t think anymore about the leave I wasted or the time to myself I didn’t get. I thought that I had done a great job that I–and others–could be proud of.

That kind of week this week. Instead of being at WWDC, I’m covering for the folks who are. Aggravated by a left knee that’s worse now than it was before the surgery, and made worse by a sudden crisis project that came about specifically because somebody chose to ignore me rather than deal with the problem I warned them about. Leaving me holding the bag with a very tricky needle to thread technically and politically.

And yet.

Tomorrow I’m going into my weekly meeting with everything topped up, all projects done or documented, and a sheaf of grateful emails from people I bailed out at 6 PM. Some days, it’s just your day to shovel coal. And I’m never prouder – and I know some others who are probably the same – than when I go home late, grinning through the exhaustion, because I know that shit got shovelled.

And so I will close, as I did a decade ago, with the same toast…to absent friends.

I can’t ever be President.

The problem is, I am unfortunately gripped by the conviction that if you are the good guys, you have to be the good guys. Which means you don’t torture, you don’t carry out reprisals against civilians, you don’t engage in wildly disproportionate attacks – you wear the white hat and you play the thing fair and square, and your Texas-moron Stone Cold Steve Austin types be damned.

But the problem is, you can’t always live up to being the good guys. And when you can’t live up to it as an irate blogger, that’s one thing, but if one were President of the United States, one could get in a good deal of trouble saying things like “Tonight we’re going to turn the DMZ into a river of radioactive glass. And tomorrow after breakfast, we’re going to pick names of North Korean cities out of a hat and take turns dropping a hydrogen bomb on a random city, one every twelve hours, until you give us our two Americans back alive and unharmed. And if we never get them back, if we have to bomb and burn the entire Democratic People’s Republic of Korea until no stone sits atop another, if we have to snuff out twenty-four million lives because of somebody’s foolishness in kidnapping two American citizens – then fuck ’em. Sucks to be North Korea.”

The challenge in being the good guys is being the good guys, even when you’d so, so, so rather not.

flashback, part 7 of n

It was another world. Williamsburg, Virginia, out on the green at sunset, trying out a box of Altoids for the first time. Princeton, watching on TV as history collided in Iran and in Beijing. On the way to the first stage of That Month, though I had no idea that’s what it would turn out to be.

The United States Military Academy, at West Point, is way up on the bluff overlooking the Hudson. The dropoff from the back balcony of Eisenhower Hall is precipitous. It’s green and foggy and gray and full of ghosts, and it’s just an amazing place to spend a week – even if you’re just one donkey in the Academic Workshop Battalion, Bravo Company, Second Platoon, squad 2. Whatever – it was enough for me to turn on Navy and pull for the Black and Gold ever since when first Saturday in December comes around. From there, it was on to Orlando, Disney World, received by my teammates like a conquering hero as we swept out to do to the rest of the country what we’d done to Alabama. From there, Alabama Governor’s School, two weeks in one of the leafiest parts of the campus of Jesus A&M, somewhat back to Earth but still definitely not the drudgery of high school.

I know what most people think I mean when I talk about what happened in June 1989. I know what I used to mean, anyway, and I’m not proud of the fact that a lot of people had to compete with a ghost. But twenty years on, I’ve long since realized that the actual flesh-and-blood person who had that name was long gone before even a year had passed, and isn’t a part of the story in the way the ghost was. And in reality, the ghost was only a tiny reflection of the whole of what really happened and what I really obsessed over.

Because the whole was this: I was everywhere, flying between New York and Florida and constantly on the move. I was surrounded by new and amazing things. I had interesting people all around. Some of them were even girls. Who were interested in me. Which was a completely new and unfamiliar experience. And most important of all: these people were all like me. I wasn’t the Black Swan anymore. I wasn’t the weirdo, or the space freak, or the person who sat there in the parking lot of Piggly Wiggly and thought “This can’t possibly be the place I should be.” I belonged, in every way that mattered. I had found my place in the world. Everything I’d ever dreamed of, wished for, cried over – it was all right there, every bit of it. And if the devil had appeared right then, in his oily Rupert Everett pompadour and posh accent and arched eyebrow, and said “for the low, low price, today only, of a mere ONE soul–” I would have bitten the tip off my own finger to sign in blood before he could finish. And then…

There’s an old joke in Silicon Valley. Bill Gates dies, and St Peter is looking at a clipboard and says “Gosh, we don’t know what to do. The Foundation on one hand, but Windows ME on the other…tell you what, we’ll let you pick.” So they look at Heaven – nice, white, cool, airy, a bit dull perhaps. Then they look at Hell – wild, noisy, casino games, dance music, lights flashing, hot chicks gyrating, Vegas on acid – and Bill Gates says “Let’s go with Hell.” Instantly – dark, sulfur, lava, red-hot poker up the anus, and he screams “WTF, this is nothing like the Hell you showed me!!”

“Sorry, Bill,” says St Peter, “that was the demo.”

to be continued…