The Ultimate FrivoList

My original post on this topic was EATED because ecto has…issues. Grrr. Anyway.

I have an Eddie Bauer “Seattle Suede” jacket – like a typical denim jean jacket, but in a weird waterproof suede. I bought it in an outlet mall in a weak moment on the way down to the Holiday Bowl in 2004, although postgame trauma and retrojection mean that I tend to remember it being in use through Christmas that year (the bowl was on Dec. 30). And I’m sort of torn – from a distance it looks pretty good, and the wife likes it, but I think the sleeves are a bit baggy and the weight is a bit much. And up close, the color is sort of weird – dark chocolate but somehow a “warm” brown in a way that looks dated and 70s-ish (it calls to mind nothing so much as the pilot jackets in the original Battlestar Galactica series.

I mention this because I have spent a few weeks idly looking in on assorted work coats, mostly of the Carhartt canvas-duck type. And it just clicked for me today that what I’m looking for is something like the suede jacket, but slightly less ridiculous and more practical. Basically, it’s the Gabriel Hounds* again – something that would look sufficiently timeless and non-fashion to be wearable wherever and whenever. It also occurred to me that my oilcloth engineer’s coat is probably the sort of thing I’m thinking of – only problem is, it’s sort of olive green, and I’m trying to steer clear of the faux-military look that’s taking over everything these days. (In fact, that very feeling is probably what’s kept me from going the Cayce Pollard route and just buying a black MA-1 nylon bomber.**)

I think this all comes back to my need to have the 100% correct one of everything. I don’t know why, but I feel compelled to have absolutely the right pen, the right watch, the right phone, the right…you name it. Instead, as often as not, I wind up with a whole bunch of things that are 80% of the way there, and that’s what caused me to ultimately get to the point where I’ll worry for six months over a $10 Nerf gun (when TBSE doesn’t find one in a park, that is). In fact, the only things I’ve really hit 100% on (in retrospect) are a house, a car, a wife, and Levi’s 501 in original blue.

I don’t know if it’s years of comic books and cartoons, but I think at some level I want to piece together the costume. MY costume. The identifiable look – a hat, a jacket, a pair of kicks, whatever – not some scramble through the closet to see which piece of outwear is appropriate for this 5-degree gradation of weather or whatever. Dammit, I’m gonna make one size fit all.

So this, then, is the list of everything I can think of that I would buy to hit all the 80% marks for this, that and the other.

CLOTHING: A good solid Harris Tweed sportcoat straight off the Orkneys. A solid cotton-duck brown work coat, preferably union-made in the USA, for that Mike CASSSSSSSSidy look. Maybe, MAYBE, one of the lightweight collared nylon flight jackets if I could find a color that worked for me. A seersucker suit (STOP LAUGHING). A San Francisco GAA Irish Football jersey. A whole rack of plain black pique polo shirts with no logo of any kind, and a couple more of the old heavy white Britches of Georgetown button-up casual shirts.

SHOES: An 11-eyelet pair of oxblood Docs, ideally made in Northhampton somewhere. A pair of LL Bean duck boots. Something in between a Chuck Taylor and an Adidas Stan Smith, preferably almost indestructible. (I actually broke down on this front and bought a pair of Palladium Pampas LITE boots – think of them as weaponized Converse canvas hightops; cotton and ripstop nylon with moisture-wicking lining and EVA sole; they weigh practically nothing and should be a nice summer alternative to clunking around in my Docs.)

GADGETS: A Nexus S phone. An iPad (and a Rickshaw messenger to put it in). A Google Chromebook, and a MacBook Air 11″ for when the time comes to use something other than a browser. A proper pair of polarized black Wayfarers and some sort of gold-lensed wraparound thing for strategic football-supporting purposes. And oh what the hell, a Tesla Roadster. And a Smart Fortwo. And a Piaggio MP3.

So…anybody want to give me a Blue Ant corporate card and a special project budget?***

* William Gibson’s Bigend Trilogy probably informs my current sense of style more than anything. This is a Zero History reference, and I would probably wear nothing but Gabriel Hounds if they existed and I could buy them.

** Another Bigend reference, this one to Pattern Recognition – Cayce’s black MA-1 was by Japanese retro-replica manufacturer Buzz Rickson’s, which didn’t even make a black MA-1 until after the book came out and demand exploded.

*** Pretty much all three books…


Well, at long last, here we are. There now exists a piece of malware for Mac OS X that is sufficiently distributed that Apple has issued a K-Base on it.

This is a tough one to deal with, because it takes the proof-of-concept malware from five or six years ago and adds social engineering. Basically, to catch this, you have to:

1) Get a popup on your browser saying “YOU HAVE A VIRUS, CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD MACDEFENDER” or similar.

2) Actually click on it.



This is barely malware, people. This is practically the goddamn Amish Computer Virus. It relies entirely on social engineering, and it puts Apple in a tough spot: if this goes big, it will encourage people to think they need virus protection on their Mac…which in turn makes them more likely to succumb to the malware if they do run into it.

Once again, the problem is that Apple has made a computer that anyone at all can use…and that’s the chance you take. Plenty of people out there bought a Mac because they thought “it doesn’t get viruses” – and yet the first time a popup tells them they have a virus, they will believe the popup to the exclusion of ten years of history. But this is more likely to get traction because rather than taking advantage of a zero-day exploit or the kind of unified vulnerability that the Outlook/Exchange/IE monoculture gave us, it relies on human stupidity – a bottomless natural resource that can be easily replenished with unskilled labor. And all you need to know to prove it is that the problem is almost unheard of in corporate or otherwise-organized environments…but crops up daily at the Genius Bar.

Ah well. Still sufficiently bulletproof that if I could only have one computer to use for everything, it’d still be an 13″ i7 MacBook Pro. If this is the state of the art for Mac malware? COME AT ME, SON.

flashback, part 32 of n

The summer of 2003 was a ridiculous time. My girlfriend was moving in with me – not that it made a huge difference, because she was back to California for work for weeks at a time. Meanwhile, work was undergoing a seismic shift with the coming of Mac OS X. My six-month rollout project got crushed down to three days, and my imaging solution (using Carbon Copy Cloner and a firewire drive) saved my ass. Then Apple Network Assistant (and then Apple Remote Desktop) came along and saved my ass again. And then there was the PC meltdown.

See, we were supposed to spend the summer deploying Lotus Notes 6 to all the machines in the company by Labor Day. And since we were ass-backward, that meant about 2000 workstation visits. Only problem is, before we could get going, one of the incompetents in the infrastructure group killed the primary domain controller in mid-July. Since they didn’t have clue one how to restore it, we ended up doing about 1200 workstation visits to put PCs back on the domain. And management wouldn’t let us kill two birds and put Notes on at the same time.

And then, just under a month later, a massive virus outbreak forced us to go around and touch all those PCs again. And once again, virus first, no Notes rollouts.

So when the time came, we were on a short schedule – and thanks to the various tools afforded us by ANA/ARD, we were able to hit up the Macs quickly, while the PCs were done one at a time by hand. And of course, through all this, the usual array of help calls was coming in. No extra manpower, of course; we got “assistance” from help desk operators and infrastructure staff who could have been more help if they’d gone home sick and not tried to assist OR do their regular jobs.

It was my MVP year. In my memory, it’s down as one of the Heroic Age years, like 1989 or 1994. But I burned bright and fast. I think I quit twice, and by September I’d been pulled off the regular help-ticket rotation and moved to new-machine-rollout duty with occasional Winston Wolf action. Those were the days when I would flip out in IM to my girlfriend and storm out the door…and by the time I’d gotten to the cigar shop, she’d already called in an order for me so that I’d have a couple of sticks ready to light.

Because for whatever reason, I was out there saving the world and being proven right over and over again – but once you got above my immediate boss, the rest of management was taking anyone else’s advice over mine. That is, when they weren’t flagrantly undermining policies and procedures we’d already agreed on. And it was driving me insane. Actual quote, September 16 2003: “Here’s the way work should go: if I’m not doing my job, fire me. No prob. If I am doing my job, then quit trying to find reasons why other people should be allowed to do it.”

I think that’s a big part of the reason why I’m having the flashbacks this week. Once again, somebody has gone outside the rules and outside the process, things have gone badly, and now they are having the ass with us and insisting that we owe them immediate satisfaction. And it happened on a day where lying nauseous on a gurney with a nurse missing the vein in my arm for the fourth time was the high point of my workday, other than my wife’s safe-arrival call from her vacation flight. And once we agreed to help them – once we threw out the rules and the process and capitulated completely – the person has made herself unavailable for two days in a row, working from home on the very computer she insisted was so non-functional as to require immediate response.

I have gone to great lengths not to be like I used to be. The black-glass bottle with the rage genie trapped in it sits on the mantlepiece of my mind these days, usually, and I do sometimes look at it and take a long breath before turning away and going back to work. But last week, confronted with half a dozen foes at once, I didn’t hesitate and I smashed the son of a bitch right open. At least this time, I have reasonable confidence that I will put it back on the shelf.

When I’m through, that is.


Jeffery Goldberg is somewhat polite in his response to Benjamin Netanyahu’s latest hissy-fit. Well, at least he said “please”.

Personally, I feel that anything the President says to the current Israeli leadership should be proofread first by The Rock and Nature Boy Ric Flair to get the correct tone and content. To wit:

Dear Benny:

Know your role; shut your hole.

Suck it,


Retail, or, Here Comes The Money

It’s almost comical looking back at the coverage ten years ago as Apple geared up to launch their retail efforts. The thing people kept going back to was the flop that was Gateway Country – and a decade on, it’s absolutely comical that people would mention Apple and Gateway in the same breath. But less than five years removed from a stock price of $15, and mere months after the collapse of the dot-com bubble, people were convinced that Apple’s effort at a brick-and-mortar retail presence would be a colossal flop.


Mickey Drexler was the ace in the hole – the Gap CEO sat on Apple’s board and was the helping hand behind the retail launch. But for all the other names at Apple who have been credited in their turnaround – Himself, Avie Tevenian, Jonathan Ive, Phil Schiller, Tim Cook – the guy who might just deserve the most credit is Ron Johnson. When he showed up in 2000 – with a Harvard MBA and a recent posting as VP of Merchandising for Target – it was with a mandate to deliver a one-of-a-kind retail experience for Apple. And what we got, instead of Gateway Country, was a line of temples for the Cult of Mac.

The Genius Bar might have been the best part. If you have a problem with your computer, why sit on the phone with somebody halfway around the world telling you to turn it off and on again? Bring it in. If there’s new stuff out there from Apple, why look at a catalog, or take a chance that Sears or Best Buy or CompUSA will actually have one out and working properly? Go by the Apple Store and see it, pick it up, play with it, use it. It seems like the most obvious thing in the world, but there it is, the kernel of the post-Jobs-II Apple philosophy: don’t put your success at the mercy of anyone else. You want people to buy your stuff? Don’t rely on a bunch of big-box retail drones. Go out and build the kind of experience you want people to have.

Ron Johnson probably has the biggest delta of anyone at Apple for ratio of profile-to-importance, but today’s his day. 300 instances of proof, and counting.

Huckabee Punts

Shocker – Mike Huckabee isn’t running either. The fact of the matter is that there’s no way you’re going to put a white Southerner out there and win in 2012, because the GOP is still trying to get beyond “party of the Confederates” – and not really succeeding.

Besides, Huckabee is in the Palin spot – he has media, he has money, and he has no incentive to give that up in a losing cause when he’ll still be young enough to make a move in 2016. But he was as viable a candidate as the GOP could muster – and is the latest big name to look at the pot and fold before the flop…

Graduation 2011

To the Commodores who joined the ranks of the alumni this morning:

Thirteen years ago, I stood out on Alumni Lawn under a bright blue May sky in Nashville, wearing a robe and a mortar board for the last time. Graduating from high school was like ripping off a Band-Aid. Graduating from college felt like my life’s work was finally complete and I could move on with what I wanted for myself. Graduating with a master’s from Vanderbilt, especially under my unique circumstances…

I’ll be honest, I didn’t know what to think. When I left Nashville a year before, it was with no idea where my life was headed and no clue what to do next. That was the first week of May, 1997. Four and a half months later, I was living five hundred miles away, with a job working for a place that needs neither introduction nor description, making better money out of the box than I ever could have expected from my first job in my original profession, in a field with no connection whatsoever to what I’d spent the past seven years studying and preparing for. As my wife would say, “then time happened.”

We are told that in days of antiquity, the Temple of Apollo at Delphi bore an aphorism over the forecourt that read “Know Thyself.” Ultimately, that’s what the college experience is meant to do. Sure, you major in something. Or you play ball well enough to do that for a living. Or you meet the friends who will ultimately hire you into something unlike what you trained to do. Or you punt, head for grad school, and kick the can down the road for a year or six.

In the end, though, you’re not here for vocational training. You came here to learn – to learn what you think, to learn how to think, to take another step into a wider world. I can’t say it enough – college IS the real world, it’s just not the WHOLE world. Things as simple as fending for yourself on laundry, or trying to make $23 in your checking account last the whole weekend – that’s not going to end just because you’re in an apartment somewhere cashing a bigger check than ever.

College gives you a chance to reinvent yourself. You’ve been able to try out all manner of things – interests, aspirations, intoxicants (let’s not kid ourselves) – and see what you like, what you want…but now you have a chance to do it again. Another fresh start. Another new group of people to meet, maybe another town, maybe a completely different realm than you thought you’d be going into when you first set foot in the West End four, or five, or however many years ago.

I can’t speak to what kind of college experience you may have had, or how much you loved being here, or didn’t love being here. Maybe these were the best years of your life. Maybe you just want to get out as quick as you can. But whatever you are now, you’re not the same person who walked through orientation at the Commons all those years ago. Maybe you don’t know what you want to do. But hopefully you know who you want to be. And if you don’t…well, you just have that many more options to choose from now.

But above all else, enjoy your day. Academia is the last medieval profession – you have to put in the years, you have to earn the credits, you apprentice yourself and carve out a future with your fingernails – and God help you if you go for something beyond a bachelor’s degree – and the fact that you’re standing here today means that you climbed this particular mountain. Whether you enjoyed it or not, whether it’s something you wanted your whole life or something you want shut of as soon as we walk off today – you can leave today in the knowledge that you can bear down and endure and achieve something that takes your time and your sweat and your tears to get. You’re going to have to do it again, you know – tomorrow, and the next day, and for the rest of your life – but remembering that you can will make all the difference.

I’m going to shut up now. It’s your day. Treasure it, cherish it, and if you have the ring, wear it where people can see it, because today is your championship parade. Enjoy it.


Flashing Chrome

Well, the first two ChromeOS notebooks (netbooks? Chromebooks, apparently) are out of the gate, an 11″ from Acer for $349 and a 12″ from Samsung for $429 with Wi-Fi only and one with 3G for slightly more. Due next month sometime.


Let’s remember that what you’re getting here is a browser with a screen, keyboard and touchpad attached. It’s not materially that much different than a tablet, although in the Acer’s case you are definitely undercutting the iPad on price. Still, it sort of makes you wonder what the point is in Chrome when you could instead get an Android tablet or iPad and get a browser PLUS native applications.

More to the point, though, I bought a Dell Inspiron Mini 1012 netbook for $300 and ran Chrome browser on Ubuntu – this time last year. Hell, you can buy a Dell Inspiron Mini1018 and install Chrome browser on it for $279. Now in fairness, it looks like Acer isn’t skimping on the battery, RAM or storage – 2 GB RAM, 16GB of solid-state drive and a 6-cell battery are certainly nice, and more or less what you should expect for $350.

I really think Google is missing out on an opportunity to spend some of that cash in the service of gathering market share – if they could bring this thing in for $200, they’d have a genuinely kick-ass alternative to tablets and netbooks, something lean and light with all the benefits they’re pitching of a constantly-updated browser/OS with no “computer” overhead. But without a compelling price-point value proposition…I don’t know. I’d certainly take one for 30 days and test the hell out of it, but based on my extensivelyrehashed netbook experience, I’m not convinced it’s a dealmaker for me.

throwback day!

Looking at the two big headlines of the day, it’s all I can do not to look for a chorus of All-4-One and Shania Twain. Two of the biggest names of the 90s making their big bid to remain relevant on the very same historic day…one at a time, please:

1) Newt Gingrich. Where to start? America really wants a guy who knows how to strike when the iron’s had sixteen years to cool? A guy who has experience dumping cancer patients AND MS patients to take up with younger wives? An old white guy with a Southern accent? Let’s be honest: if you split Bill Clinton down the middle into one part with everything people loved about Clinton and one with everything people hated, you’d basically wind up with Barack Obama and Newt Gingrich. But because Washington DC is a company town, and the Sabbath Gasbags are a branch of the company, there is an actual perception in some quarters that Newt Gingrich is a wise old seasoned veteran of Washington – or worse, that he can merely be sold as such. That the rest of the world won’t look at him and see “Sarah Palin without sex appeal” – which, let’s be honest, is what the mighty Newt brings to the table.

If you want a resume topline for Gingrich, make it this: he was midwife to modern conservative politics. He actually staked a bet that he could make American government into a parliamentary system with him as Prime Minister, and he nearly pulled it off for a year and a half. Sure, he couldn’t get the Senate to go along with him, and he eventually got outflanked by the President, but if you need a name to answer “who brought us the House Republicans as a supine body that would blindly do whatever they’re told, no matter how asinine or illogical,” Gingrich is that name. Government shutdown, Presidential impeachment, six years of roll-over-play-dead for Bush, and scorched-earth resistance to anything and everything Obama says up to and including “Good morning” – all can be laid at the door of the big thinker from Georgia. Including Republican defeat in 2006, when his own playbook was used to bum-rush the incumbent House majority.

It’s amusing and handy to have Newt in play. For one thing, it makes a mockery of every word spoken about “sanctity of marriage” by the GOP field. For another, it helps drive home the point that the GOP is still the party of the Confederacy. For a third, it helps drive home the point that the GOP hasn’t had a new idea for about two decades. And most of all, it gives us the very real possibility that the 2012 electoral map will look like the 1964 one.

2) EIGHT AND A HALF BILLION DOLLARS. For bloody SKYPE. Microsoft has the cash, somehow, but this is a hell of an outlay when they were essentially bidding against themselves. And for what? Video chat everywhere? The ability to talk from your Hotmail account to your Windows 7 phone? (uncontrolled snickering goes here)

Microsoft hasn’t had a good idea in…well hell, ever. They have built an empire on Windows and Office and created nothing of interest since; even their Internet Explorer monopoly was a product of building it into the operating system. Which in turn led to a decade of malware and security nightmares, while superior browsers emerged from the Mozilla project and from KHTML’s evolution into Webkit. All the big things of the last ten years – search, digital music, web-based collaboration, consumer smartphones, social networking, blogging – in every case, the Beast of Redmond has been a day late and a dollar short, and everyone in Silicon Valley knows that if your next big thing depends on a Windows PC, it’s not the next big thing.

So this is Microsoft making an all-in bid to buy themselves relevance in the field of video chat. Hopefully the carrier partners they need for their Windows phone platform won’t be too pissed at bundled VoIP video chat, because they definitely don’t have the stroke Apple does with AT&T (and presumably now Verizon). Hopefully the emerging data caps on home broadband won’t discourage people from trying to Skype up their own personal Telepresence room at home. Hopefully acquisition by Microsoft won’t do for Skype what it did for, say, Hotmail…

NB: As an aside, the most interesting thing to come out of Google I/O, for me, is the commitment on the part of carriers and manufacturers to support Android upgrades for 18 months. In a world where the Nexus One gets introduced in January and dumped in May, where phones are unable to update eight months later, where the only way to get a current version of Android is to root and hack your phone or buy the one unlocked Google model – this is the only thing that will keep pace with iOS in terms of knowing for sure that you can update your device for the life of your contract.

Somebody Got Some ‘Splainin To Do

So now the New York Times is reporting that the force sent into Pakistan to take out Osama bin Laden was beefed up and overequipped “to fight its way out of Pakistan if confronted by hostile local police officers and troops.” This on the heels of word that Pakistan is deeply concerned (read: butt-hurt and pissy) about violations of its sovereignty. And to their credit, the Obama administration isn’t taking the bait.

It’s probably a good thing Rahm Emmanuel has rolled out already. Because really, what should be happening at this point is somebody getting the president of Pakistan on the phone, saying “Please hold for the President of the United States,” and then Obama opening his remarks with “You want to explain why Osama bin Laden was living a hundred yards from your military academy?”

To borrow a line from Pulp Fiction, Pakistan just lost its LA privileges. They have nukes? Fuck that shit, North Korea has nukes, and we don’t make nice with them. India has nukes, a democratic system of government, almost as many potential consumers as China, a critical high-tech sector and didn’t have the world’s most wanted man living in a GIANT FUCKING WALLED COMPOUND NEXT DOOR TO THEIR MILITARY ACADEMY without telling us.

I know whose side I’d rather take. Whoever’s in charge in Pakistan – and it sure as hell isn’t their President – needs to start talking fast. We violated your sovereignty? Fuck you, convince me you really didn’t know where the head of al-Qaeda was for six years, and this had better be fucking brilliant.