It wasn’t that bad a year, personally. Work went well, or at least didn’t make me want to walk in front of a Caltrain. Personal life went reasonably well, highlighted by a 20-year high school reunion that really completed the “remember who you are” business. My health is pretty good and getting better (looming trip to the dentist notwithstanding), the car is running well, and I have much faster Internet access at home than ever before.

And yet.

The crap of the wider world is out there. Whether it’s the ongoing disaster brought about by the Confederates and their amen corner in the press, or the nonsense going on with my relatives down South, or an economy that just seems stuck in neutral, or the growing sense that those responsible for this foolishness will completely escape consequences for their actions – there’s a lot out there to be depressed about, which can only be held at bay by resolving to shut out the outside world and not participate.

Maybe that’s why my Christmas wish was for a dull moment – enough of them to last a year. 2011 may well be a cocoon year – stay home, curl up on the couch at the screen end of our new fat pipe, get lost in the distraction of books and movies, and regularly pull the plug to go hide somewhere with coffee and comfortable chairs and maybe even a fireplace.

For the last four years, I’ve regularly kept a list of things I’ve enjoyed throughout the year, so that I can look back for trends and things to look at for next year. The theme this year, it seems, was either traveling to someplace far away and unreal (Europe, or Disneyland) or else holing up somewhere quiet, whether that be at home on the couch or on a backroad in the driver’s seat or in some quiet and largely empty dive bar. There’s something to be said for five-space, and that may be what’s helped keep me sane this year. Maybe an increasing sense of self-reliance is preventing the kind of trouble I had in 2007. Who knows.

Meanwhile, we have a New Year’s Eve plan – a very nice early dinner in Napa, followed by a proper party with friends, and then? The Rose Parade and the moveable feast of college football.



Over 75% of Bill O’Reilly’s viewing audience is age 55 and up.

On Saturday, the first baby boomers become eligible for Medicare.

If you look at the demographics of the budget battle, of the health care reform debate, of the teabaggers generally, it’s difficult to escape the conclusion that our immediate political future is the war of the Boomers against everyone else, behind their banner reading “I Got Mine – Fuck You.”

But the other thing that springs to my mind – especially looking at Christine O’Donnell’s newfound trouble with her election cash – is that sometime in the last twenty years, talk-show hosts and their anointed candidates became the new televangelists. Whereas in years past, the stereotypical person of a certain age would send the whole Social Security check to Oral Roberts, now the money all goes to Cash4Gold and SarahPAC. And for much the same reason – if you can trade cash for salvation, temporal or heavenly, you have to make that deal, right?


So after almost a decade of hemming and hawing about it, I finally splashed out today on a legit Navy peacoat – as in, bought from a surplus store, with no branding aside from the Navy inventory label, size 46L and made in the USA. If Gabriel Hounds made outerwear, this is what the first product would be. And given that it’s going to be wicked cold for the Napa Valley tomorrow when I have an early New Year’s Eve dinner at Ad Hoc, it’s not a minute too soon purchased.

I also tried on (but ultimately didn’t buy) an Alpha MA-1 bomber jacket, and came to the realization that I really do need long sized for shirts and jackets. Unlike my lovely wife, whose six-foot height is all in the legs,* my height is all in the torso length, which is why most jackets just come off way too short or way too wide on me. Having a nice classic coat which should (and could) last until I’m 60, and will be in style the whole time, is a straight-up win.

Speaking of two decades, it’s remarkable to me that in my life, I’ve seen the textile industry move from the South to Central America to China. I was flabbergasted at how almost everything in the surplus shop was actually made in China. I mean, if I wanted an American-made pair of hiking boots, where the hell would I even start to look? God help me if I needed something even more specialized, like trail runners. I think the whole “Buy American” phenomenon is an interesting hybrid of the nationalistic right and the union left, and I’m tempted to go mulling about in the contract-apparel business to see if I can find some nice sturdy long-lasting shirts and things. Although even the Ben Davis chore coats are made in China now. I mean, WTF…

That reminds me, I need to call in a service on my DM 1460 For Lifes – the right one appears to have picked up a squeak in the sole, as if some sort of whoopee cushion has formed under the arch of the foot somewhere and is squeaking with every step (and much worse on tile or hardwood). Now we will see what’s doing. I admit I have been looking at LL Bean Maine Boots for warmth and water-resistance (of no small consequence when commuting on foot), but the only piece of footwear I could conceivable justify at the moment would be MAYBE a pair of cross-trainers more suited for non-running forms of exercise. And duck boots ain’t gonna fit the bill.

Eh, whatever. Time to decide what I’m going to wear into 2011…

* I believe that among the kids, the done thing is to add “U Jelly?” God, I’m old.

More mobile thoughts

So I finally handled a Nexus S. This is a step up from the Nexus One, where you got to put your hand up to a Flash animation. But any Best Buy should be able to show you the S, even if the alarm cable goes off EVERY TIME YOU TOUCH IT. It’s not bad – the curve of the Contour Display is barely perceptible and Android 2.3 is the most refined and responsive version yet. The build feel is a little cheap, but that seems to be the case with almost any plastic phone these days; the iPhones and Nexus One and certain Droids have ruined me for any phone that doesn’t have some heft to it.

What struck me, though, was that you have to download and install Fring or something similar to facilitate video calling on the Nexus S – it has a front facing camera but no native video calling support. And I thought about FaceTime, and it clicked for me – Android is well engineered, but iOS is well designed, and the difference is significant. I can’t imagine Apple shipping a product with hardware in it that would require a third-party install to use at all (and don’t say Bluetooth – maybe you can’t sync over it, but Bluetooth support exists for headphones and keyboards). All in all, I think I’d still rather have the Nexus One.

But…supposedly there will be a Samsung media player at CES that is essentially the long awaited “Android Touch” – a real iPod Touch competitor, not a 7-inch tablet with 800×480 resolution or a 5-inch phone. And that would tempt me; after a couple of days in airplane mode I find it easier than ever to get by without needing the 3G data. (Being lucky enough to live in Silly Con Valley, with pervasive Wi-Fi everywhere, makes it simpler.) In fact, Google Voice is perilously close to becoming the free SMS replacement that Blackberry users fulfill with BBM, now that there’s a native GV app for the iPhone. And hell, Skype is now doing video calling on iPhone over 3G…which will make things interesting.

Meanwhile, the Kindle is doing work. It’s my sole source for the New Yorker, and all my upcoming pre-orders for books have been changed to Kindle editions instead of paper. The browser is surprisingly capable for stuff like Google Reader or Wikipedia (hint: load the mobile version of the site and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the speed) and the free 3G data is going to make this a handy thing to have. I even bought the Ocean’s 11 soundtrack from Amazon in MP3 format and dragged it onto the Kindle for nice ambient listening music. Now I just have to take “Clare de Lune” off repeat…

Resolutions for 2011

* To take better care of my teeth and my hair, as I am running perilously short of both. Seriously, I’m down to 21 naturally-occuring adult teeth as of January 31. It’s time to floss.

* To exercise beyond just letting the personal trainer torture me once a week. I need to run, I need to stretch, I need to do some weights and some mat work. I’m not getting any younger and it’s not too late to halt the decline, maybe.

* To cut down soda consumption – I’m going to be very serious about turning away everything but Coke Zero, even if I’m at In N Out or somewhere like it that doesn’t have any of my usual options. Iced tea, or (heavens above!) water.

* To make a better effort to find the free coffee on campus instead of just caving and going to Peet’s.

* To kick the white peppermint mocha addiction.

* This is a big one, maybe the biggest, because I haven’t made any real effort toward it that wasn’t tied in with trying to hide from dysfunctional relatives: I will unplug one night a week. When I say unplug, I mainly mean the laptop and the phone – the combination of uVerse and streaming Netflix means that the wife and I can finally catch up on movies, and I’m sure we will. I’m talking more about the endless refreshing of email, Twitter, Facebook, the RSS reader. In short, the only personal electronics or computational devices I will be allowed to operate will be my F3 phone (in case I need to run errands and have the wife reach me; it’s a different Google Voice number and is almost useless for anything but talking) and my new Kindle (with the wireless turned off; no cheating and browsing the web on it – reading only).

The problem is just picking a night. Mondays are out, as are Fridays and weekends. It should ideally be Tues-Wed-Thurs. Each has its own challenges – there are Vandy games on Tuesday and Wednesday that might require laptop streaming to view, the wife often babysits on Wednesdays so I’d be left to my own devices, and Thursdays are theology class – which is almost cheating because I’d be away from home and not online for a couple of hours anyway. I don’t want to do Thursday because I usually get home from that class and have to jump on Wikipedia immediately.

So Tuesday or Wednesday. Any suggestions? Anybody else want in on it?

71 today…

…if fate were kinder and virtue rewarded. And I have a sneaking suspicion my family in the old country wouldn’t have deteriorated into the worst sort of white trash soap opera if he were still there to lay down the smack.

Happy birthday, pops.

Mobility Computing revisited

So as it turns out Fr. Christmas (by way of the wife) chose to bring me a Kindle. The new third-gen Kindle, with Wi-Fi and 3G. Good get =)

As it turns out, this may very nearly be the perfect solution. The Kindle brings a lot of things to the table – magazine subscriptions (after literally twenty years, my New Yorker subscription is moving from paper to bits), a larger screen and ridonkulous battery life, and a size, weight and form factor that might just fit in the poacher pocket without having to carry a bag the way an iPad or laptop would require. Still doesn’t fix the text-entry problem for blogging, but on the bright side, Wikipedia and RSS reading just got a lot simpler -basically this thing is a universal reader of text (complete with selections from the Stanford Philosophy wiki in PDF) and that’s not a bad thing to have around.


Until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow

Dear Santa,

All I want for 2011 is a dull moment. A lot of them, actually. A nice, steady, uneventful year, bereft of ridiculous drama or general foolishness. Something like 2006 turned out to be. I can live with a smidgen of existential doubt in exchange for the peace and quiet.

Seriously, that’s it and that’s all.



Ghost of Christmas Past, part 5 of n: 2006

2006 was a whirlwind year. It was made more complicated by the fact that Cupertino Hexachrome Fruit did the transition to Intel products that year, meaning that their entire product line was turned over in 12 months – which makes life complicated when your job is managing a large inventory of said product. It was also the year I moved from the workbench to an office, and had a legit desk job for the only time in my life – that is to say, my job took place at my desk rather than everyone else’s. It was fun, it was exciting, it was in many ways the high-water mark of my Silicon Valley career, and at the end of it all I got to spend Christmas here rather than in the ancestral lands. And I even finished the year with a new automobile for the first time in 13 years, complete with the return of Sonny Jurgensen and Sam Huff to my Sunday afternoon ridearounds.


Something was wrong, something was missing, and I couldn’t put my finger on it. Ultimately, that was when I curtailed my previous primary online presence in an attempt to get out and build a real-world social life. It didn’t work out quite like I’d planned, despite my best efforts – the attempts to find another Irish pub in the style of the 4Ps failed miserably, although I did find a couple of drinking establishments that don’t get nearly enough run.

I think what I realized at the end of 2006 was that although I had finally learned a year earlier “I’m not the person I was,” I hadn’t made any headway toward figuring out “well who am I now” – which led to all manner of oddities. I changed jobs, there was an abortive run at a community-college programming course, there was an abortive stint with an a cappella choir, there was RCIA right up until two days before I would have been required to produce a sponsor and start the formal process, there was a two-week trip to England and France, there was an attempt at regular walking around the neighborhood for exercise and head-clearing, and I think I may have even tried giving up caffeine for Lent. Nothing worked, and a slew of health problems and family issues all piled up to make 2007 miserable right up until New Year’s Eve.

2006 was a good year, and a good Christmas all things considered, but I don’t think I appreciated it until the following year turned to shit. I just remember everything feeling crisp and cold and quiet. Right now, I could totally go for that.

Line of the day

After the Nullification Crisis, then-President Andrew Jackson was asked if he had any message “for his friends in the South.” His reply was absolutely classic:

“Please give my compliments to my friends in your State and say to them, that if a single drop of blood shall be shed there in opposition to the laws of the United States, I will hang the first man I can lay my hand on engaged in such treasonable conduct, upon the first tree I can reach.”