Christmas rapping

I have reached an age and a station where there’s not that much on my radar as presents go.  I’m pushing forty (dragging thirty!  DRAGGING THIRTY!) and I don’t have any kids, and the things I want most in the world aren’t really things I can have – or at the very least, they’re not things that I can stick on an Amazon wish list.  (I suppose if I had ridiculous 9-figure money, I could buy myself a Vanderbilt ride to the Sugar Bowl, but things like a do-over on undergrad or a sudden onset of sanity in the old country aren’t on offer.)

So what’s left?  This is an even more pronounced issue with a big birthday coming up sooner than later, but it’s not like I can even decide what I want to do to “celebrate” the great odometer rollover (although the series of blog posts is already in pre-production, don’t think it isn’t).  The real issue is that, you know, I’ve got a little money and I’m doing all right.  So anything under thirty dollars is probably something I’ve already bought myself, and the kinds of things I’d like to save up for are too costly for a present to make that much difference on – I mean, a night out at Bourbon and Branch is easily funded as a gift, but two weeks walking the Cotswold Way, not so much.

Right now, the things of foolishness currently occupying my list mostly revolve around the new Brooks Brothers line of Vanderbilt apparel.  I need a new dress shirt in the worst way, and since BB makes some of the best out there, one or two with the school logo on the cuff wouldn’t be the worst thing to get by a long shot. I hear they also do a very nice Vandy polo shirt, complete with black-on-black logo so it doesn’t look quite so prep-tastic. (If I had a truly ridiculous sum of money to hand, I wouldn’t mind overhauling my entire wardrobe with a nice selection of bespoke and tailored things of the sort that scream “Vandy lifestyle” – but if I had that kind of money, it wouldn’t be a problem.)

There’s a watch on the list – I know, I know, but this one is an automatic self-winding number from a small purveyor of government contracted goods, and it’s completely without logo or branding of any kind.  Basically, I could wear it for the next forty years without ever buying a battery – and there’s something about owning a completely mechanical, completely unbranded, completely superfluous accessory that would last the rest of my life…I don’t know, but there’s an appeal there to something in the kind of character I’d like to be.

As superfluities go, for that matter, there’s always the new waterproof Palladiums – which might just make a viable alternative to the endless parade of DMs I’ve worn for over a decade.  Not that I want to get away from my Docs, but something else might make a nice change of pace, and the ultralights I bought earlier this year were the perfect summer footwear all season.  Again, something about the “urban explorer” vibe of the revived Palladium pings something in the back of my head about what I’d like to be doing; this is where you go to Wikipedia and look up the word “flaneur”.  I guess this is where the Carharrt donkey coat, or the SeV outback jacket that holds an iPad, would come into play…

And that’s where things really trip up.  Because at the moment, there’s no telling when I’ll end up reworking my laptop situation at the office, let alone my cell phone situation.  And at some point, I may wind up having to purchase a portable computing solution of some sort, and right now everything is on hold until we see how viable the Kindle Fire is.  But I’m not fooling myself that I could blog on it, even assuming I wanted to…for that matter, I’ve not attempted Anchor of Gold blogging through the web interface on a non-laptop portable.  And above all, I don’t know what the shelf life of the modern tablet is, and I’m not persuaded it matches the three years minimum I expect of a laptop (and let’s be honest, probably more if I have to front the cost myself…and how long can we expect a MacBook Air to be viable?  Not three years I bet).

Hell, maybe everyone should just give me money and then enjoy the spectacle of me fretting about what unnecessary thing I should blow it on.  At least there’s entertainment value in that.  After all, I just churned out 800 words on what may be the Platonic ideal of first world problems – the comic potential of me agonizing over a gift card for six months is bound to pass some of the time, right?

We’re going to lose this thing

The whole point, the whole appeal, of the Occupy Wall Street movement was “99%.”  Everyone is suffering.  Ordinary non-political mainstream Americans.  People who are just living their lives and playing by the rules and getting screwed by the beneficiaries of the Whiffle Life.

And yet, out here in the Bay Area at least, the wrong sort of people are taking over.  Occupy SF is getting costumed visits from Critical Massholes.*  Occupy Oakland is getting speeches from Michael Moore.**  And the kind of people who need to be behind the movement are going to look at it and see the usual suspects of the Professional Indignant Left – and the punditocracy will not hesitate to lump Occupy in with the usual suspects – the pot-bedraggled-Free Mumia-International ANSWER-ginormous puppet-crowd that helped paint opposition to the Iraq War as the province of Dirty Fucking Hippies.

If the people who really want to protest what’s happened in this country could be compelled to turn out in khakis and polo shirts, and lash out at things like Bank of America debit card fees and illegal foreclosures by banks that were bailed out with taxpayer money and failing CEOs getting one golden parachute after another, and if the Telegraph Avenue burnouts could stay home and shut up for once, it would only take a few weeks for Middle America to identify with the movement and wonder why we haven’t started stringing up hedge fund managers.

But as soon as the Professional Indignant Left gets themselves front and center, they become the story, and they become the face of the movement, and ordinary Americans don’t want to identify with them anymore.  And that’s how the 1% get away with it.  That’s how it worked in Alabama in the 1920s, that’s how it works in Alabama today, that’s what the GOP has attempted to nationalize in the last few decades, and on the available evidence you have to think it’s working out for them so far.

So bury the affinity groups, put out the fucking joints, burn the Chomksy and wash your fucking hair, and try to make Ed Earl Turnipseed feel like you’re one of him.  Unless, as always, you’d rather be right than win.  God, I miss Bill Clinton.***



* Seriously, there’s nothing wrong with Critical Mass that couldn’t be fixed with a couple of automatic rifles.  I’m sick of people who don’t understand what civil disobedience means – from either direction.

** Michael Moore needs to be sewn in a sack and dropped off the Bay Bridge.  No one who seriously argued that there was no difference between George Bush and Al Gore should be treated as anything other than a retard, let alone given any sort of credibility as a political figure.  You fuck up like that, you don’t get to play anymore.

*** It’s not too late for the Big Dog to be put in charge of Obama 2012.

flashback, part 39 of n

The memorials and eulogies and etc. for Steve Jobs have been plentiful and well-deserved.  Everyone is in awe of the iOS era, and to some extent of the iPod (still!), and everyone says that he “saved Apple,” which he certainly did.  But I don’t know how much people think about just what sort of state Apple was in.

I came on board in summer of 1994, with a Power Mac 6100AV that I bought in advance of starting grad school.  I’d wanted a Mac for a while, and the decision to go with a desktop over a laptop was a tough one until I realized that it would mean the difference between a 68K processor (past) and a PowerPC one (future, or at least futureproof).  And so it was that I wound up with the whole kit and kaboodle.  The 14″ monitor with the speakers underneath and the microphone built in, connected to that weird thick port on back of the pizza box.  System 7.1.2, back when the operating system was just called System.  And a Geoport Telecom Adapter, using some of the already-overtaxed CPU to handle the model dialup connection – which, in my case, meant using Apple Remote Access to establish a connection to the school network.

It could have been worse, to be honest – not that many people were dialing in on ARA, so I usually had as good a connection as the 14.4kbps modem emulation could provide me.  But this was an era when TCP/IP wasn’t actually part of the operating system.  I remember trying to get MacTCP working, and arguments over beers at the Garages over Thanksgiving break as to whether SLIP or PPP was a better way to try to get online, while I was dutifully logging into eWorld for Monday Night Football chat.

Salvation was going to come in 7.5.  Or with Open Transport.  Or with OpenDoc.  Or with CHRP-based clone hardware.  It seemed like everything on God’s green earth was being thrown at the wall in the hopes that something would stick long enough to be the miracle that brought everyone charging back into the Apple fold.  Every month, MacWorld or MacUser had details about some new thing – some preview of Copeland, or some new frogdesign concept for a new-look Macintosh incorporating Bluetooth peripherals, or a new line of Power Computing clones that ran faster than anything coming out of Cupertino.  MacWorld Boston, or MacWorld San Francisco, or Seybold – an endless stream of Photoshop bake-offs and promises of new things to come.

None of it worked, of course. Cyberdog was interesting – and one of its most knowledgable authorities wound up best man at my wedding – and things like the Apple Open Collaboration Environment had promise, albeit in a world of LAN-based networking quickly swamped by the Internet.  I never really got round to using my computer as the answering machine.  Similarly, Claris eMailer never really displaced Eudora (except a few years later, briefly, as Outlook Express for Mac), and the clones only serves to cannibalize the existing Mac line.  CHRP and PREP didn’t amount to anything, as nobody really wanted to dual-boot Mac OS and Windows NT on a PowerPC system.

Apple was a mess.  And within two years of Steve’s return, the product line was simple: PowerMac, PowerBook, iMac, iBook.  And to this day, that’s pretty much how the Mac side of things looks: a desktop and a laptop each, for consumer and pro markets.  Simple, self-replacing, non-proliferating (God only knows how many Performa models there were by 1998) – pick something to do and do it right.  And embrace standards – USB,TCP/IP, POP/SMTP, no more proprietary nonsense.  Today, you won’t find a single port on a MacBook that you can’t find on any other laptop, except for the new standard by Intel originally called LightPeak – which Apple now markets as Thunderbolt.

Apple stands for simple computing.  Fortunately, Steve had the chops and the sense to simplify Apple.


It’s not difficult to see a line of connection between the baseball owners in 1994 complaining about “economic uncertainty” and the various one-percenters* of the business community making the same complaint today.  Both were after the same thing: a guarantee that they would continue to make ever more money, irrespective of how bad they were at managing what they owned.  Bankers who took a huge federal bailout and then insist that regulation is the greatest threat to economic growth sound suspiciously like small-market owners who shelled out ridiculous contracts only to demand salary caps and revenue sharing.

Really, it’s PJ O’Rourke’s “whiffle life” again: the belief of the upper class that they should enjoy perpetual immunity from the consequences of their actions.  Must be nice.


* In years gone by, motorcycle enthusiasts insisted that they were perfectly respectable people and that the “outlaw biker” thug image represented maybe one percent of bikers.  Which in turn led certain biker gangs to start wearing a patch that merely said “1%”.  So if you ever wander into a bar and see a lot of those patches, I hope you wore your steel-toes, because you’re in for a rough night…

Further Review

After a week and a half with the 11″ MacBook Air (thanks to the good offices of the Worldwide Product Marketing seed pool), I have changed my mind yet again. I think the 11″ model could actually be a very viable workplace machine for me – sure, the display is a little cramped, but (at least from my main desk) it’s a piece of cake to attach an external display and boom, off to the races. In fact, most of my usual squats at work feature a loose display one place or another. The main appeal is that this thing weights two and a half pounds – I think my first cellphone weight about that much – and is just wicked quick.

Something I hadn’t considered is the ergonomics of the thing. Sure, I say all the time that typing on glass isn’t a great idea, but how much easier is it to have the laptop in your lap for reading things? If you’re stretched out with your feet propped up and the thing in your lap, it’s a lot easier to watch the screen than it is to prop up an iPad somehow.

Battery life is a bit of a concern. I’ve established that with my normal real-world use, I can only expect about 4 hours of battery life (now in fairness, that has included more than a little Flash video thanks to Might be time to activate the free trial of Hulu Plus and see how the iPad stacks up in terms of streaming video. Worth noting: this is the i5 processor MBA with 4 GB of RAM, and it hasn’t struggled with anything.

Bottom line: the 13″ MBA is probably a better all-around choice for work, even with the i5 and especially re: battery life, but I wouldn’t be heartbroken if I got the 11″ instead – and if I were buying for personal use, I wouldn’t hesitate to take the 11″. For all the emphasis on phones and pads, Apple laptops still lead the way.

EDITED 10/20: however, it bears noting that a first-gen iPad running iOS 5 depletes its battery at half the pace of an 11″ MBA running the same six apps, and is far easier to use with one hand when having platelets needled out of your arm. Kind of back to square one. 🙂

Midterm Evaluation Time

(cross-posted from Anchor of Gold)

So here we are, sitting at 3-3 coming into the Army game for Homecoming.  I think we are sitting exactly where most folks expected us to be – winning the first three at home and then dropping two tough road games.  As for the Georgia game, I think most people would say it was a competitive loss, certainly more so than the two preceding it – and in all three games, a touchdown in the last minute of the first half obscures a pretty good 29 minutes of football in adverse conditions.
Worthwhile to consider the wins, too.  While we always should have beaten Elon – and the performance of their stud receiver made that a lot scarier than it ought to have been – the way in which we won the other two was a clear demonstration that things have changed.  Against UConn, we took their best shot, rallied, and came back to take charge of the game.  Against Ole Miss, once we got rolling, we never took our foot off the gas and very nearly delivered a beatdown for the ages; at the very least, we may add Houston Nutt to the collection of “coaches who lost their job because of Vanderbilt.”
What else?  We certainly miss Warren Norman, but Zac Stacy and Jerrod Seymour are certainly doing their best to take up the slack.  Next year, with Norman back and Brian Kimbrow in the fold…the possible speed we could deploy next year would be unprecedented in our history.  Quarterbacking…it looks like most of Dores Nation has settled on Rodgers, and I don’t doubt he will probably see the bulk of snaps Saturday.  Regardless of how you feel about Larry Smith, his nagging injury problems alone will probably make him the second option going forward.  I suspect that the arrival of Austyn Carta-Samuels (from my wife’s arch-rival high school, no less) will complicate matters, as will the presence of redshirt freshman/recruiting coordinator Josh Grady.
Defense…what can you say?  Fifteen interceptions.  The legacy of Corey Chavous and DJ Moore is safe in the hands of Heyward and Wilson, and Heyward’s change-up power on offense has bailed us out of more than one sticky situation this year.  Chris Marve is exactly what we expected, Tim Fugger is a bad mo–oh I can’t even.  Anyway, Tim is a BAD BAD MAN behind the line of scrimmage.  Guys are stepping up and doing work.

The thing that really stands out to me, though – no sacks against Alabama.  I would have bet my house, my automobile, my sister, the complete contents of my liquor cabinet and my iPhone that we would never hold Alabama’s defense without a sack.  Hell, only one against Georgia.  Is it possible that Herb Hand is paying dividends at last?  The offense certainly seemed to have the measure of Georgia, barring that first disastrous triple-coverage end-zone pick.
So what’s next?
I think, again, most folks were and are predicting 3-3.  Army at home: winner.  Kentucky at home: winner.  Wake Forest, on the road or at home or in the parking lot of the Green Hills Kroger: winner.
That leaves the road games. Of what’s left, I dread Arkansas the most.  Florida and Tennessee both have quarterback injury issues, and while we won’t be favored in either matchup, they suddenly look eminently steal-able, especially in a Neyland Stadium where fans may well have tuned out and checked out by mid-November.  At last check, Tennessee is getting even more points from Alabama in Tuscaloosa than we did.
So, is 6-6 a successful first year?  I don’t know how anyone could think otherwise, especially coupled with the recruiting coups and the changed attitude and energy around the program.  There are things left to handle, of course.  Getting a packed student section from open gates to final gun is something that desperately needs to happen.  An indoor practice facility is something else we really shouldn’t be doing without in the new era.  The big-time recruits have to be kept in the fold all the way to National Signing Day.
But for right now, the dream is alive and the future is bright.  Anchor down?  ANCHOR DOWN.

Things have changed

I don’t know how it went down at the end of the game. Largely because I was busy drinking half a dozen cocktails in a speakeasy in San Francisco for most of the game, and they don’t exactly appreciate people hunched in a corner hitting reload on Sportacular over and over. But apparently, somebody had the ass at the end of the Vandy-Georgia game, and words were exchanged, and the shit just about jumped off.

Which. Is. AWESOME.

Look, I’m not saying we need to remake ourselves into the classic era Oakland Raiders, or the 80s Miami Hurricanes, or any Lane Kiffin team. But for far too long, we have been a doormat. More to the point, we’ve lived like a doormat. Terrible body language, shoulders slumped, no fire – remember 2007? Georgia barely escaped with their nuts against a sub-.500 Vandy team and felt sufficiently enthusiastic to dance en masse on the midfield logo, such that Mark Richt felt compelled to apologize after – and we basically sat there and let them do it.

And now, we actually have Georgia fans invading the board to rage about alleged cut blocks and dirty play and blah blah blah, as if this was Auburn or something. Meanwhile, who’s gotten the call back message from the SEC? Yup – Georgia’s defensive coordinator.

And you know why they’re mad? Because they didn’t cover. Because we had two plays at the end that could have won it. Because this team has more players from Georgia than any other state, and because Coach Franklin has been shuttling between high school games in Georgia via helicopter, and getting commitments.

The reason Georgia is mad is because the Bulldogs and Commodores have momentum in opposite directions, and the second-tier teams are going to be the first to feel the difference.

Speaking of vice glorified…

USC is the West Coast version of Auburn or Alabama, albeit with a higher payroll and a higher risk of giving trophies back.  Dubious academics, a fan base that never set foot on campus other than for games, and the kind of mouth and attitude that makes you hate college football generally.

Last night, the team with a band somewhere on the autism spectrum for their musical preferences and “song girls” better suited for the pole at Mitchell Brothers came to San Francisco, led as always by a coach whose aspect suggests he was raised on Sunny D and lead paint chips.  The NCAA sanctions should have left the Trojans as nothing but a sheet of glass somewhere in South Central LA.  Instead, Cal came away without a win for the eighth consecutive year.

Notice I didn’t say SC won for the eighth straight year – that’s because some of those wins were vacated.  But much good it does Cal, whose sole loss in 2004 – costing them at least a Rose Bowl and possibly a national championship berth – came to a USC team whose win now no longer officially happened.  Where does Cal go to get back what USC’s cheating cost them?

But this is not the time to discuss the thin edge on which college football skates at the moment.  This is about Cal.  More to the point, this is about the fact that Jeff Tedford remains unfit for purpose as head coach.

The only thing saving him is 2011.  Playing a season away from Memorial was never going to be easy.  Playing it in a converted baseball stadium that provides a gimped game day experience at best?  Makes it tougher.  Add in the chaos of the Pac-12 expansion, the issues working around the Giants, the fact that Cal played its first five games in five different stadiums, the need to schedule Presbyterian – PRESBYTERIAN for Godsakes, a school barely in I-AA ball – this season is through the looking glass, and was always doomed to be such.

But this team is too flawed to ignore.  Special teams are a disgrace; Tavecchio is not and will never be a BCS-quality kicker and the ridiculous rugby-punt scheme Bryan Anger has been using is worse than worthless.  The two-return-man scheme isn’t paying any dividends and we aren’t blocking anything, and last night’s ill-advised fake punt is the sort of thing that gets assistant coaches fired overnight and left holding a box of their office crap standing outside People’s Park.  Or should be, anyway.

The defense gets a pass here; they are doing yeoman work with an injured roster and a green defensive backfield, and they handled their business about as well as could be hoped for.  No, the problem is that the offense is putrid.  Time was, a Jeff Tedford offense meant a powerful run game with two interchangeable tailbacks pounding the ball inside and out, with the deep pass always waiting as soon as teams inched too close to the line.  It’s a system that put Arrington, Lynch, Forsett, Best and Vereen into the NFL, catapulted Kyle Boller from obscurity to first-round pick and made Aaron Rodgers a superstar.

Now, it’s a mess.  The formations are a show – empty backfield, pistol sets, some sort of 1993-Florida-State fast-break  – and none of them seem to be effective, for three reasons:

1) Zach Maynard apparently decides in the huddle who his one receiver is, locks in, and never manages to check down.  And since it’s usually his brother, even a mediocre defense like USC can figure it out eventually, to the tune of three picks.

2) The management insists on using Isi Sofele as an inside runner, despite the fact that he gives away six inches of height and about a hundred pounds to the D-line into which he runs.  To their credit, it seemed like they were getting away from this – right up until they started running him into the pile from the shadow of Cal’s own goalpost.  Even my wife, whose tactical football expertise is younger than Facebook, can be heard screaming at the coaching staff to stop running Sofele inside.

3) Downfield blocking on the run game does not happen.  Period.  The quarterback and halfback run a weak-side option with NO ONE IN FRONT OF THEM – all the SC defenders have to do is run straight forward in a line and they’re guaranteed a five-yard tackle for loss no matter who winds up with the ball – and assuming it doesn’t wind up on the turf.

Of course, there has to be some accounting for the officiating as well, which seems resolutely stuck in last decade’s Pac-1 mentality: protect USC at all costs.  This is something Larry Scott needs to get on immediately, because not even the ongoing shenanigans of SEC refs have budged the Pac-12 officiating from it apex as a national joke and a disgrace to the conference.  Memo to the commissioner: you have a big-time conference in every other respect, and you’re ruining it with your WAC-caliber zebras.  You want to be the top league in America?  Quit running seven blind mice out there in stripes every weekend.

And so USC skates again, and Cal’s slow slide continues back into the 1990s swampland from which it was temporarily pulled by a coach who hadn’t yet lost his way.  Next year, that will stop, or else. If Tedford can’t win in 2012, he shouldn’t see 2013 with this team – and at the very least, someone should be installed who can lose without embarrassing the Old Blue faithful in the process.

Vice Glorified and Virtue Unrewarded…again

So apparently the NCAA’s year of sniffing around Cam Newton and the Auburn Tigers came to nothing.  Sigh.  Now we have an eternity of indignant Auburn fans ranting about “HATERRRRRZ” and “FAMBLY” and basically claiming complete vindication for their particular brand of cracker paranoia.

I think the reason the story got so much traction is because it just offended reason on so many levels.  The notion of a vagabond player (third collegiate team in as many years) who shows up and wins everything before leaving straightaway seems like something out of a Marx Brothers college football picture.  More to the point, the notion that said vagabond could run a high school offense to a 14-0 record in the SEC is risible on its face – and points up the extent to which the SEC is not what it used to be, and hasn’t been for a couple of years.

Most of all, though, is the way in which one instance where Auburn was in the clear is supposed to suddenly render them purer than the driven snow, after the ages upon ages of Bobby Lowder running the school as his personal plantation and almost losing their collegiate accreditation as a result.  Nobody likes Auburn fans, and this is going to make them more unbearable than ever.

But yes, Auburn walks away with their trophy.  Just like Tennessee football reported a dozen violations under Lane Kiffin and caught no penalty for them.

Honestly, I’m about sick of being in the SEC if it means we play with both hands tied behind our back.  It’s not enough that we have to compete with schools that give away diplomas for rolling slowly through the parking lot, it’s that we play it straight and narrow and abide by the rules and put academics first and do everything we’re supposed to – and for our trouble we get to be the SEC’s personal doormat (with the exception of LOL Miss, our own personal doormat).  And now, unless you’re a big-time historical power that the NCAA wants to make an example of, well, forget it, you’re fine.  Especially if you’re doing well already.

If this is what SEC football has come to, then fuck the SEC.  Let’s find a conference that’s at least embarrassed to be a whorehouse.

iOS 5

I’m not having nearly the problems some seem to be.  Of course, I was downloading at 10 AM on a multi-gigabit connection to one of the original ARPANET nodes.  Speed kills.

Speaking of speed, I have not noticed a material drop in performance going to iOS 5 on an iPhone 4.  After the choke that iOS 4 put on my 3G in the day or so before getting my new phone last year, I was wary.  Everything seems to be fine, though.  I wouldn’t say it’s any faster (SNAPPY!!!!!!!!)* but it certainly seems responsive, even with using things like Notification Center or the new lock-screen camera launcher.

I’m actually drilling on that camera function.  Wake up button, double-click home button, tap camera icon and you’re live, then just volume-up to shoot – for some reason I keep flipping the camera around before hitting the volume button.  Which will suck if I wind up taking a picture of myself at those moments when I’m trying to snap a fast candid shot.  The trick will be hitting all the necessary mechanical buttons on the way out of the pocket, so all I have to do is tap the screen to go live…

Everything seems to be fine. New notifications are unobtrusive, the iMove Trailers app replaced about three others for me, iCloud backup seems to be working and sync via Wi-Fi is fully functional, even when a different account is logged in and mine is in the background. This will be critical to the long-term plans for the house.  It also doesn’t hurt that I can initiate a Wi-Fi sync from the computer, and keep using the phone normally while everything else updates.  Handy!

App updates are coming in by the bushel basket, for sure.  Everybody’s rewriting for 5 compatibility, which I presume mostly revolves around notifications.  Hell, I’m putting the ESPN app back on just to get score alerts on gameday now.  It’s that kind of tinkering that makes it impossible to gauge the battery-life impact…it’ll be a couple of days before I stop screwing around with it long enough to get a realistic measure of how long it goes between charges.

Now to test the Airport Utility.  That and WatchESPN would pretty much put the laptop to bed for good…