Top 5 Moments of 2011

5) Vanderbilt vs Ole Miss.  A blowout victory of a type not seen for decades around the West End, one big enough that it drew the attention of Cal tailgaters and the eyes of a nation who said “wait, Vanderbilt is 3-0?” Maybe the high point of a season filled with promise for 2012 and beyond.
4) The Dirty Coast trip – Mobile, Birmingham, and New Orleans, culminating with the pride of RLC all sat around the same table for cocktails for the first time ever.
3) The Anchor of Gold experience – from being summarily appointed to the masthead in January to being recognized at Bourbon and Branch in November, AoG has gone a long way to filling in the gaps in the Vanderbilt experience.
2) Team Black Swan.  All of it – family dinners, cocktail hour, drinking whiskey in the hot tub, or just hanging out generally.  Glad y’all made it.
And 1) Disneyland in July – both for being able to tell EZ-E “You are surprised NOT AT ALL” and for being able to perch on the bench at sunset outside Sleeping Beauty’s castle with “Put On Your Sunday Clothes” drifting over from Main Street USA.  Walt Disney World is fraught with memories, baggage and emotional peril.  Disneyland is ours.
And so, 2012. To borrow from a President in similar straits, “I see the storm coming and I know His hand is in it, but if He has a place and a work for me, and I think He has,  I believe I am ready.”

Resolutions for 2012

1) Seriously curtail the soda intake.  Suck it up and learn to drink water, with as few adulterants as possible.  At the very least, stop getting through literally quarts of Coke Zero per day.  Little bottle of peppermint oil at work, Arnold Palmer in the In N Out drive-thru, Penguin machine at home with bitters instead of syrups.  Whatever it takes.

2) Exercise.  The Y.  Weights and running. Take the stairs in all 4 major supported buildings, all the time.  Once the bag and the 6 PM sky are both lightened, start walking home from Caltrain.

3) Try to expand my blogging beyond politics, portable electronics and Vanderbilt athletics.  I’m sure I must have opinions on something else…right?

4) Along the same lines, try not to get too overrun by the elections.  They carried me in 2008 blog-wise, but getting emotionally engaged in this year’s races will probably be the death of me if I let it.  Time to loosen the grip and let it go and hope that things will work out without burning 5000 words agonizing about what if it doesn’t.  Burn that bridge when we get to it.
5) Keep the toxicity at arm’s length wherever possible. It worked this year, mostly.  Need to keep it up.
6) Spend more time in the city.  I live 40 miles (or an hour on the train) from a world-class metropolis and it’s high time I explored and embraced it.  If I need Team Black Swan as a lever/crutch to get me up there, so be it, but it’s time to start doing the flaneur bit properly.
7) I have enough jackets, enough footwear, enough watches and enough Nerf guns to last me a decade.  Give it a rest.  I actually went 4 years once without paying money for a new jacket or a new pair of DMs.  Try that again, sort of.
8) Get out.  I derived a good bit of satisfaction from those nights of downtime at O’Flaherty’s or Trials in 2007…and 2009…and 2011…but for whatever reason, the Sunday night retreat once a month always seems to trail off by March.  I’m going to give it another try if at all possible.

flashback, part 44 of n

December 31, 2004:

The legend of Jeff Tedford is dead.  It perished in flames over San Diego, punctured by a one-dimensional passing attack from a fourth-place team, and fell in the former Jack Murphy Stadium as flat as the listless Golden Bear team he led into the Holiday Bowl this Thursday past.

With a Cal receiving corps in shambles, Tedford attempted to go to the air as he had in September and October, where the Bears featured America’s finest receivers on Saturdays.  But Chase Lyman has a shredded ACL, Geoff McArthur has a broken leg, and Burl Toler can barely walk, and while Jonathan Makkonen made yeoman’s work of his last outing, he cannot disguise the steps he has lost since the season began.  Nevertheless, despite the presence of J.J. Arrington in his backfield, Tedford insisted on trying to throw the ball to a patchwork of unsteady receivers.  Aaron Rodgers, shaky since November, was ill served by this decision.  While NFL glory may yet await him, he can no longer be considered the nation’s premier quarterback.  Against Texas Tech, he was not even the best quarterback in the stadium.

The only choice should have been to pound the ball up the middle, establish control of the line of scrimmage, and try to dictate the pace of the game.  Instead, Cal handed the ball time and again to the Red Raiders, whose offense features at best four plays: a slant inside, a ten yard out pattern, and a deep ball to the post, punctuated by a weak little fullback dive that fools no one.  Yet they executed those plays over and over and over, leaving Cal to wonder what might have been.

Nothing that happened here reduced the fact that Cal has a strong season, or that they were wrongly snubbed by the BCS.  But with a complete absence of fire, and with no apparent motivation of any kind, they fell on their face tonight, leaving the Cal faithful with nine months worth of embarassment and disappointment.  It is a sickening end to what should have been a triumphant season, and it is now up to Jeff Tedford to give an accounting of why he picked tonight to deposit a one-point-five million dollar flop on the grass of San Diego…


At the risk of invoking Godwin’s Law, Jeff Tedford couldn’t motivate a synagogue to fight Nazis.  If there were any doubt about that, last night’s Holiday Bowl loss to the Texas Longhorns – featuring four turnovers and offensive line pass blocking that suggests the guards and tackles were replaced with Girl Scouts – should settle the argument once and for all.

Next year: eight wins, victory over at least one of the LA schools, and the Axe. Otherwise, he goes.  Jeff Tedford has already demonstrated he is no longer fit for purpose as head coach of the Golden Bears, and is only spared this year on account of the bizarre circumstances of the season.  But next year’s order is simple: win or you’re gone. Cal can flop without paying two million dollars a year for the privilege.

Don’t let the door hit you on the way out

So Ben Nelson is packing it in.  After years of sabotaging the Democrats from the inside, and voting with Teabaggers over and over to “protect his viability for re-election,” the Senator from Nebraska has elected to get out of town.


I’m not under any illusions that he’s going to be replaced with anything but the worst sort of Confederate redneck, given that Nebraska is basically Alabama with wheat.  But the fact of the matter is that in the US Senate, if you don’t have 60 votes, it doesn’t much matter whether you have 51 or 59.  The only thing Nelson has brought to the table for years is ideological cover for right-wingers who want to cry “bipartisan opposition!” for their scorched-earth campaign against the Obama administration.  So if you’re actively taking things off the table, you should pretty much get to miss dessert.

So long.  Fuck ‘im.  As long as we keep 51, we’ll be fine, because don’t think for a second that the GOP is going to keep the filibuster around once they hit a bare majority in the Senate.  We could have solved this already – and done a lot more for the country – if Harry Reid had any balls at all, but instead he allowed the Senate to be led around by the likes of Ben Nelson.

Makes you wish Nancy Pelosi was a Senator.

Boxing day!

When we box up all the S we didn’t want and try to get money for it.  OK, I know that’s not what Boxing Day technically is, but bear with me, because I’m boxing up some Christmas songs to send back for good, hopefully.

I have no idea why, but I’m really tired of “Everybody’s Waiting For The Man With The Bag.”  Cheesy, hokey, and reminds me too much of those mother-!-ing Lexus “December To Remember” ads.  If anybody gets me a Lexus for Christmas, I’m returning that shit on the 26th.  You better be paying straight cash for that Lexus.  I don’t need a gift that comes with a monthly note.

I’m also done with “This Christmas,” which has that soulful 70s feel to it and seems specifically engineered to induce either proposal or raging guilt in all those guys who haven’t popped the question yet.  It also gets stuck on the trailer of every holiday rom-com on Earth (thanks for nothing Richard Curtis, now everybody who can get twenty actors in a room thinks they can remake Love Actually every year).

And then there’s “Here Comes Santa Claus,” a song which undertakes the uncomfortable task of trying to mash up the Santa Claus story with the actual Jesus bit of Christmas. Awk-ward.

Actually, let me here drop my Top Five Christmas Songs That Never Mention Christmas, Jesus, Santa Claus Or Even Bloody DECEMBER In The Course Of The Song:

5) “Winter Wonderland.”  Seriously, if they can pop the song out just fine when it snows in February, it’s not much of a Christmas song, is it?  And that was before all the Ricky Hatton fans started walking around the MGM Grand singing “There’s only one Ricky Hatton, there’s only one Ricky Hatton, a beautiful sight we’re happy tonight walking in a Hatton wonderland” right before he got his ass knocked out by Mayweather or whoever it was.

4) “Let It Snow.”  Similar.  Hell, it was written on a scorching August day in 1945 and released as a plea for colder weather, not anything Christmassy.  Nice tune but nothing ties it to the holiday except for the generic theme of “Ooh Winter Look.”

3) “Sleigh Ride.” I could go the rest of my life without hearing the Boston Pops version – IT DOESN’T EVEN HAVE LYRICS.  And the versions that do have lyrics reference that there’ll be a BIRTHDAY party, not even a Christmas party.  OK, the Debbie Gibson version gets a pass because of happy memories of Christmas at Vanderbilt and yelling “pass around the coffee and the SWEET POTATO PIE” but in all other respects, again, NOT a Christmas song.

2) “Baby It’s Cold Outside.”  Hoo boy.  This one has come in for quite a beating the last couple of years, and no wonder – on the face of it, the best you can say for it is that it’s kind of creepy, and at worst, the only way not to make it sound like something out of a terrible Lifetime movie is to gender-swap it (a la the She & Him version or last year’s Gap ad with Selma Blair and Rainn Wilson) or do some other twist (like the Glee version).  In any event, again – all it’s got going for it is snow and cold.  Yet it gets hammered to death this time of year.  But nothing more than…

1) “Jingle Bells.”  Yes, go through it, there is NOTHING IN JINGLE BELLS THAT REFERENCES CHRISTMAS.  It’s a song about having a fast horse and a fast sleigh and picking up girls.  And the author intended it to be a THANKSGIVING song.  The most Christmassy of Christmas songs growing up, and there’s not a lick of Christmas to it.

There.  Done.  Now that we’ve punted eight songs from the canon, let’s see if we can find five good ones next year that don’t get nearly enough run…

The Duke of Edinburgh

Too long since I was here last. Long enough that I’ve not checked in here on Foursquare ever. Nothing fancy in the order – fish and chips with a pint of Newcastle, just like four years ago. Dim lighting, red velvet furnishings (with wallpaper to match), it looks and feels and even smells like an upper class English pub built to purpose and then disassembled to relocate to Silicon Valley. Which is exactly what happened. Always sparsely populated whenever I’ve been here, quiet and secluded – a perfect getaway. Hopefully it doesn’t lose that character when the Apple Death Star rises across the street on the new campus.

Galactic Fail

In a highly ironic and appropriate twist, Samsung has chosen Festivus – the day of the Airing of Grievances – to put out the word that Ice Cream Sandwich, the Android 4.0 release, will not be made available for the Samsung Galaxy S line, nor for the original (pre-Honeycomb) Galaxy Tab.  Why? According to Samsung’s statement as reported by The Verge, “The company’s argument is that they lack sufficient RAM and ROM to run the new OS alongside TouchWiz and other ‘experience-enhancing’ software.”

The Galaxy S first dropped in 2010, in March.  So with three months to go, the first adopters have officially been end-of-lifed on OS upgrades, because in a choice between the latest version of the OS and their own proprietary UI gimmick, Samsung has chosen the gimmick.

Say what you like about Apple, but when you buy an iPhone, you know (based on four years’ results so far) that you will get full upgrades to the OS for the life of the phone’s 2-year contract.  The original iPhone got the update to iOS 2 (inasmuch as its hardware could support it; obviously GPS and 3G didn’t come with) and the iPhone 3GS got updated to iOS 4 without a fight.  Beyond that, there’s even support for iOS 5, so if your iPhone is over two years old, you still get some of the new functionality.

This isn’t necessary.  Maybe in the early days of Android it made sense to slap your own UI on there, but Ice Cream Sandwich in its pure form (inasmuch as such can be had) is generally regarded as the best Android yet and doesn’t need to be tweaked up by OEMs.  Nevertheless, Samsung has made their call.  The real issues is that Samsung isn’t party to the notional Android upgrade agreement from a few months back…not that it helps, as that deal is allegedly for May 2001 and forward.  So if you bought your Android phone before this summer, it’s best to assume that you already have the newest version of the OS you’ll ever get.

Barring rooting and hacking, of course, and the usual suspects will sarcastically post compile commands and point out how open Android is so all you have to do is apply a custom build of the OS and you’re fine.  And the overwhelming non-geek majority of phone consumers will throw their hands in the air and line up for an iPhone, because at least you can be confident that you’ll get the full two years’ support for it.

Progress Report

Resolutions for 2011:


1) To take better care of my teeth and my hair, as I am running perilously short of both

Eh.  This sort of happened.  Needs to happen more.  Mainly I need to start flossing religiously and also put a better brush on the Sonicare.


2) To exercise beyond just letting the personal trainer torture me once a week

This kind of sort of happened but not really.  We quit the trainer after a while, but we did run a 5K on two separate occasions this year and did more regular walk/run work than has been done in ages.  I’m ticketed to join the Y after first of the year, both to facilitate cold-weather running (treadmill, aka the Horse Dyno, FTW) and to force me to do *some* weights.  The notion that I would exercise at work was a noble one, but logistically impossible to make happen regularly.


3) To make a better effort to find the free coffee on campus

Varying degrees of success.  Although one business unit I support did splash out for the Keurig this year.  More helpful was getting into the groove of filling the coffee thermos before heading out the door in the morning, something I intend to do more of in 2012.  Note to self: buy new GoodGrips 14 oz mug for Christmas.  Metal one.


4) To kick the white peppermint mocha addiction

Done.  Too sweet and too pricey.  An indulgence for Christmas only, and only because I’ve basically punted life until January 3. =)


5) 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.

Done.  Amazingly, this actually happened.  There were times when I might cheat and glance at Twitter or look up the URL of a band while out, but almost across the board, Tuesday night in 2011 meant that the laptop stayed shut, the phone stayed on the bedside table, and I packed nothing more electronically capable than a MOTOFONE F3 and a Kindle with the wireless off.  I’ve done some reading, I’ve watched some TV, I’ve hung out with people, and I’ve basically taken advantage of the forced disconnect to help center myself and let go of the world for a bit.  This was the best resolution of the year and one that paid dividends in a big way.


Now, for 2012…we’ll see what I come up with.

Newt’s World

Sic transit Newt. After a surprising second act in the GOP primary race, the ground seems to have opened up beneath the self-styled historian. A barrage of negative ads in Iowa has not helped the man who today got called a “fucking asshole” to his face by one irate camo-clad Hawkeye, and his inexplicable sabbatical (and ensuing desertion by almost the entire staff) have left him without the resources to fight beyond whatever free media he can scrape up – especially in the face of a conservative establishment rising as one to reject him.

Which is truly ironic. Because the modern GOP is the party of Newt. His plan to become Prime Minister of the United States was predicated on a Confederate takeover of the GOP – not just in terms of elected members of Congress, but in personality and campaign style. Redneck populism with a racial edge has been the Republican stock in trade for two decades now, and its origins – especially for the GOP as a Congressional entity – can be laid at the feet of Gingrich.

Like Frankenstein, though, his monster has run out from under him. The Tea Party now runs the GOP in the House, and it has forced the hand of John Boehner – as weak a Speaker as Gingrich was strong in the mid-90s – so that the House GOP is now on record as de facto rejecting a payroll tax break for ordinary working Americans that mustered a mere 89% support in the Senate. Because the most vital consideration for the modern GOP is to oppose – regardless of merit or consequence. The same scorched-earth approach that Gingrich brought to the table in the Clinton years is now the only way of doing business, and it has led to a Washington environment in which merely keeping the lights on is a Herculean task.

So it’s quite fitting that the future of the GOP has been perched on the Newt precipice these last couple of weeks. Sooner or later, the day comes when you can’t hide from the things you’ve done anymore, and that day is coming for the Republicans. Meanwhile, the odds are growing that Ron Paul may be the last man on the anyone-but-Romney-go-round, which may finally get him the airing his devotees have demanded for years now. Be careful what you wish for.

If nothing else, one thing stands out for Barack Obama: he has always had providential fortune in his choice of opponents.

flashback, part 43 of n/Ghost of Christmas Past, part 6


Dec. 26, 2005…

Well that was interesting.

I’ve just gone through a time warp. I have spent the better part of the last five hours digging through a footlocker stuffed full of my old paperwork, from junior-high to the middle of Vanderbilt – in short, everything between “hey, girls are interesting” and “subscribe LISTSERV”. I generated two huge trash bags and most of a good-sized box, parsing into “keep this” and “trash that,” although half of the stuff to keep should probably actually be trashed. If any of you are Doctor Who fans, I think I may have just finished regenerating.

It’s a very surreal experience, knowing that all this stuff is at least ten years old and probably more like fifteen, but what’s more surreal is the way that I had that big needle-scratch in my mind when the wife came into the room and I realized that it wasn’t actually 1988, or 1993, or…

In high school, you always think you’re all alone, that you’re special and misunderstood and whatever. The really disappointing thing is realizing that you were just exactly like everybody else….

Dec. 27, 2005…

…the process of weeding out the cruft of half a life ago (literally, this coming spring, half a life ago) has done some really weird things to my psyche. All I can say is that I am clearly not the man I was, and not just the way that Christopher Eccleston is not Jon Pertwee. If you track back to 1988-90, I have gotten almost everything I ever wanted – granted, it took a hell of a long time, and a lot of what I got was not what I expected, and I have since lost some of what I got, and a couple of the things I just grew out of needing. But for better or worse, here I am. I don’t even have anything I wanted for Christmas and didn’t get.

God willing, maybe this means that some of my thought-processes and reflexes and instincts that were wet-wired back in the dark days of adolescence will go away now, or at least grow up. I’m not counting on it, though. I’d settle for just being able to make the mortgage on time and for my car lasting one more year…