Flashback, part 51 of n

We cleaned out the garage this weekend, as you tend to do on Memorial Day – at least, I assume that is what people tend to do judging from the line at the Goodwill truck on Sunday afternoon. Lot of stuff went away, including a television and a sit-up-in-bed pillow, both of which are significant in their way.

See, I bought the pillow the summer before going off to grad school – I had envied them in college but never gotten it together to find one myself, especially since they always seemed to be offered in some sort of nasty corduroy. Then I decided one day to just get in my Saturn and drive up to the big-ass 24 hour Wal-Mart up US 78, because I could, and because I’d take any excuse to go for a spin in my little aquamarine compact. It was simple green fabric, and I snapped it up and immediately began using it to sit back against the chest of drawers as I fooled around with my new Power Macintosh 6100. And it stuck around, in varying degrees of cleanliness, for the next eighteen years.

Meanwhile, the television that I’d used throughout grad school suddenly and inexplicably bit the dust a month after moving to Arlington. It died without warning or explanation on the very weekend of the Alabama-Tennessee game, when my folks were up to visit me. Since they refused to sleep on the floor, they bought a bed; since they refused to sit on the floor, they bought a futon, and since they refused to miss the game, they bought a simple 19″ RCA television.

That was my TV for the next six years. When the wife-to-be moved in with me, she brought her larger television, and the RCA was relegated to the role of bedroom television, where it served more or less uninterrupted for the next eight years (barring our one year in a California apartment where it was stashed in the office rather than the bedroom, for want of appropriate furniture or a cable drop). And for seven years after moving into our house, the pronounced tick followed by the sound coming on was the regular alarm in the morning from which it was impossible to fall back asleep.

Then the cousins moved in with us, bringing their bigger HDTV, and our flat-panel 37″ became the bedroom television, and the RCA went into the garage and sat for a year.

Now it’s going to go find a new home with somebody who will actually make use of it, and I wish them luck with it. Some of the channels still have the manual labeling when you tune to them, from the days when it was a cable-ready set on Cable TV Arlington in the late 1990s. And being the pack rat I am, I thought I’d be sorrier to see it go – after all, it’s fifteen years old and a tangible reminder of those strange impossible days at the end of 1997 while the world was still set on “Flash Blend”.

But it’s kind of a preposterous keepsake when you can get a 46″ 1080p120 LCD for $700 at Costco. Nevertheless, I do wonder sometimes if there’s a single electronic device in the house now that will ever reach the 10-year mark without breaking or becoming unusably obsolete.

Flashback, part 50 of n

The last good summer before coming to California was 1990. I was out of high school, the whole promise of college lay before me, I had no girlfriend or trauma to deal with, the future was perfect. And then summer became an endless sea of heat and humidity and no escape for my life (and made doubly worse after 1998)…until 2002, the first California summer.

I’ve written about it endlessly, but 2002’s vacation week in California – cool, green, not humid, days spent among Apple stores and GSM cellphones and free pervasive Wi-Fi – was what really started the clock on “yes, I need to be here.” And summers here have been better ever since. There was 2004, where I arrived halfway through and had all the fun/terror of exploring my new home. There was 2006, also known as the dull moment, which in fact turned out to be a pretty damn good year top to bottom. The summer was spent in my office, out of the sun, doing a desk job with no manual labor required and banging my work out on a fast new black 13″ MacBook, when I wasn’t watching the World Cup or the Premiership. Lot of pub searching, lot of finally using the light rail, lot of enjoying my excellent new house. There was 2009, where the cousins came out to start the process that ended in summer 2011 with them becoming our new housemates. In between, there was 2010, loaded up with a 20th high school reunion and two weeks in Europe.

This year feels like it’s going to be a good summer. There’s European Cup soccer at one end and the Olympics at the other. There’s fog over the hills and it’s pleasant all day (for the moment). The job is manageable, Vandy baseball is in the postseason again, we have friends here and more moving in, and if I could just sort out my damned shoulder everything would be actually pretty cool.

Still, with the breeze from the open patio and live Irish music strumming away as I type this on an iPad with a pint to hand, it’s hard not to think that this is, in fact, the life.

Trumpapalooza, or, Trumps gonna Trump

The Donald just can’t help himself.  The world is made for people who aren’t cursed with self-awareness, and everyone’s favorite squirrel-headed failed property mogul-turned-reality TV whore is back beating the same drum he was thumping last year, going full-retard on Birtherism.

This is not a bad thing.  Donald Trump has a way of showing who the real idiots are.  Last year, he exposed Birtherism for the delusion it is, and as a side effect brought about an excellent video for the White House Correspondents’ Dinner (soundtracked with “Real American”, Hulk Hogan’s old WWF intro music).  At the time, he was pretty well shut up by the simple expedient of doing what the Bush team failed to do: nail Osama bin Laden.

Now, the Trumpster’s back and doing the world a service by exposing the real problem with Mitt Romney: his absolute lack of identity.  The danger of Mitt Romney as President isn’t anything he would do, because he is without form, and void.  The problem is that he would essentially serve as the turnstile attendant for the modern GOP – sitting in the Oval Office rubber-stamping whatever the Confederates serve up.  Since 1994, we’ve seen exactly what’s on offer with the modern Congressional GOP.  Clinton stopped it.  Bush didn’t want to, and Obama’s been hamstrung by the Bully Party’s indifference to decades of Senate norms and folkways (and further sandbagged by Harry Reid’s sullying the good name of pussy as Majority “Leader”).

Enjoy the Trump spectacle.  That’s exactly what you can expect life to look like under a Romney administration – send in the clowns, 24-7-365, and watch Multiple Choice Mitt hold the door.

God, what an asshole.


The thing I most frequently tune to on the house televisions these days is channel 1800 on the UVerse dial, “UVerse Showcase.”  It shows a 20-minute HD loop followed by some promotional material.  But the 20-minute loop is the sort of thing they use to demo HD televisions – long sequences of sunsets, or tropical views, or Antarctica, with vaguely NewAge-y ambient music.

And I get sucked in.  I sit with that on for literally hours at a time, losing myself in 1080p vistas of something in the Caribbean.  I don’t even like tropical beaches, and yet, I stare at the crystal blue water and the thatched huts and am just absorbed.  Maybe this makes me 40 going on 65, I don’t know.

But it’s a meditation of a sort.  Not unlike those Saturday mornings where I get up earlier than I like, stopping by Starbucks on my way to unload two bags of assorted meat and accoutrements in front of the smoker.  Then I fire it up, get the meat in the pans and into the hotbox, get the temperature around 180 degrees from smoke…and then it’s just nine or ten hours alone in the back yard with my pile of wood and my poking-stick to try to manage the fire.

The first three times, I did the whole job on my own, with only Absolute Radio’s “Rock And Roll Football” to accompany me the first couple hours.  And I seriously wondered whether I could get away with this in Britain -stack a load of wood by the shed in the back garden, pull the fire box smoker out and load it up, and spend the whole day until dark tending a couple of pork shoulders in the native style of my ancestral land – in a place with nothing of the sort for hundreds or thousands of miles in any direction.

After that, it’s just reading and maybe a little music in the background.  And it occurs to me that I don’t do this anymore. Years ago, when I first came to California, my old tobacconist in DC would send a care package with some of my favorite sticks, and I’d park my stadium-tailgate-camping chair by the car and rest my feet on the bumper. And I’d have a 2-liter soda and a tumbler of ice, and I’d sit and smoke a couple of cigars for a couple of hours. Maybe have the laptop there for Wikipedia purposes as my mind wandered, but otherwise just sit under the stars and clear my head.  But now the only place you can really smoke is in a tobacconist’s or in your own home – and the only time I can really get away with it is out by the firebox where I’m going to smell like a forest fire no matter what I do or don’t puff in the meantime.

But that’s what the cigar shop was in DC, in retrospect – sit, relax, detach, maybe hear the surrounding conversation but just as easily tune it out.  I didn’t know it at the time, but I needed that time to just clear the mechanism – different from the “5-space” where I need solitude to recharge.  I thought they were one and the same, but in many ways they aren’t.

And that’s where channel 1800 comes in – anytime, day or night, I can stretch out on the sofa or on the bed and turn it on and disappear.  Nowhere in particular – just something to clear my head for a while.  I need to make a better effort to do that, because I think we’ve conclusively proven that living too much in my own mind and dwelling on the present tends to lead me down a bad road.

And if you think this is a tacit concession that yes, I need to go back to unplugging on Tuesday nights…well, you got me.

Happy Towel Day

And so it is, two weeks after the anniversary of the death of Douglas Adams, that we celebrate Towel Day and the magnificently insane world he created with The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  it doesn’t hurt that it’s the anniversary of the release of Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back as well, if I remember right.

But here’s the thing: the new iPad, with its wicked-fast 4G and amazing screen and your ability to speak to it – and the iPhone 4S with Siri – have come damn close, in conjunction with Wikipedia and Wolfram Alpha, to giving us just that.

Actually you could sort of do it with the Kindle, as xkcd famously spoofed, thanks to its own pervasive 3G, but the speed and UI issues of the regular Kindle are damn near insurmountable and they kind of don’t offer that anymore.  Plus Douglas Adams was famously the biggest Apple fanboy in the British Isles – Stephen Fry only really inherited that title when Adams passed in 2001 – and I think he would have been tickled pink to have a roughly book-sized-and-shaped device that offered the whole galaxy from its screen.  I envision a very nice “Don’t Panic”-embossed SmartCover being offered as a limited edition – say, at WWDC or similar.

Because I still get that feeling, occasionally – I pull out the iPad and dash off something quick and grab myself a copy of The Great Gatsby instantaneously, then an hour later pull out the iPhone and literally tell it to update me on the weather and dictate a text message before picking up right where I left off reading on a different device.  And then, on the train, I pull out the iPad and spin around the diagrams of the new workplace so people can laugh at “Collaboration Harbor,” which is consultant-speak for “there’s not room to put another cubicle here so we’re going to drop a couch and see if anyone uses it despite the fact it’s surrounded by cubes on all sides”.

Seriously, the iPad is the Hitchhiker’s Guide, with Tony Stark’s earliest UI.

(And yes, I need to see The Avengers for the third time.)

Lock and load and find some cover

So Eduardo Savarin, who came to this country from Brazil, and stands to make $3 billion off the Facebook IPO, suddenly goes before the American consul in Singapore to declare a renunciation of his American citizenship, then tries to backspin and say he’s been living there a while and considers himself a citizen of the world?

Pull the other one, fuckface, it’s got a bell on it.

Eduardo Savarin needs to have every last dime possible wrung out of him on the way out the door. If he ever sets foot across the US border again, he needs to go to Gitmo and have a highly trained team of professionals investigate the entire length of his bowel for any hidden monies.

You don’t get to become a citizen of the United States, make a fortune off the back of a network system invented on the taxpayer’s dime by Uncle Sam, and then suddenly decide that you don’t want to be a citizen anymore as soon as the bill comes. $67 million? That’s two and a quarter percent of $3 billion.

On the other hand, I would be happy allowing him back in the country, on the condition that the $67 million be made up by charging $1 a head for anybody in the United States making under $50,000 a year to take a free shot at this douche’s nutsack. With a pipe wrench.

He can’t be the only dickbag trying to get away with this. Is Seal Team Six busy?

Sic transit Lafonte.

(cross-posted from Anchor of Gold)

The Tennessean is now making it official: Lafonte Thorogood, possibly the most heralded name in the whirlwind 2011 James Franklin recruiting derby, is leaving the Commodores. Thorogood, who was described at the time by one knucklehead blogger as “the four-star recruit with the five-star name,” started off as the future of the QB position for the ‘Dores – but when Jordan Rodgers broke out big, Austyn Carta-Samuels transferred in from Wyoming, Josh Grady proved to be a deadly threat under center despite being listed at WR and Patton Robinette made the move from UNC at the last moment, the Virginia Beach product found himself at 5th on the depth chart. So he moved to RB, where he found himself stuck behind breakout star Zac Stacy, returning one-time SEC Freshman of the Year Warren Norman, changeup-back-extraordinare Jerrod Seymour, and the bright star of the 2012 class, Brian “Got Running Away From A Porsche Speed” Kimbrow – a lineup so deep that Wesley Tate moved to wideout at one point.

At this point, having redshirted, Thorogood has four years to play three pretty much anywhere in the country he likes; there’s no indication that there are any strings tied to where he might transfer. There’s nothing to indicate that he has been anything other than a fine player and student; it’s merely a case of not enough chairs left when the music stops. But looking at the verbal of Johnathon McCrary on top of the Rodgers-ACS-Grady-Robinette lineup, I suspect LT still has ambitions of playing quarterback. And given that he was a four-star dual-threat-QB prospect, one can hardly blame him for seeking someplace where he can go under center.

Two thoughts here:

1) How much have things changed when we have so much depth at critical offensive positions that a four-star prospect is leaving Vanderbilt for playing time elsewhere?

2) No Vandy player who never played a down did more for this program than Lafonte Thorogood did, just by signing and coming here. The fact that a prospect that well-regarded would turn down an perennial BCS bowl contender in Virginia Tech to sign with the new regime at Vanderbilt was the shot heard ’round college football, and did more than all the inspiring press conferences to give James Franklin’s new order a dose of instant credibility.

I’m glad he came. I hope wherever he winds up, he gets his shot and sets the world on fire (though I’d rather not see it across from our defense). No matter what, though, when they write the history of the Franklin era at Vanderbilt, you’ll see the name Lafonte Thorogood. It may not seem like he did very much, but he did the most important thing: he believed in the future of Vanderbilt football. And for that, we owe him our thanks.

Fuck You Wall Street

Looks like they’re at it again.

Memo to the President, to Congress, hell, to everyone: they have not learned.  They will never learn. The only way you advance in finance is by being a big swinging dick who thinks he is so important that the world will bend over backwards to save him (thus “too big to fail”).  It is the purest version of the Whiffle Life, and they are convinced that what they do is more important than anything else on Earth.

Overregulated? FUCK. YOU.  I want Jamie Dimon to have to go to the Securities and Exchange Commission to sign out every time he wants to take a piss.  I want TSA agents at the doors of Bank of America patting down staff in the evenings to make sure they’re not walking out with cash in their socks.  I want every bank with assets over a billion dollars to spend its existence in what I can only describe as a permanent prostate exam.

If a dog won’t stop humping your leg, fine, that’s in his nature, but eventually you cut his balls off.  It’s long past time to cut the balls off American finance, and when Obama drives to the airport for the last time as president, I want it to be with Wall Street’s testicles hung like Truck Nutz from the back bumper of the limo.

Here we go.

So in the wake of North Carolina’s incredibly asshole move yesterday, the President is finally stepping out and saying that he thinks same-sex marriage should be legal.  Which should come as a shock to absolutely nobody, quite frankly.


1) Maybe now the Professional Indignant Left will STFU. Not expecting it to happen, but it would be nice.  Politics is the art of the possible, and while Presidential leadership is nice, the current political environment means that the only federal movement on this for at least two years would be in the form of a Supreme Court case.  You’re not going to get a DOMA repeal with the GOP in control of Congress – and as long as the Democrats don’t have sixty reliable votes in the Senate, then yes, the GOP has control of Congress.  So no matter what Obama thinks, his only real power at this point is whatever influence he might have on public opinion; his de jure authority over the matter is effectively nil. So…

2) This is basically a “fuck it, as well hanged for a sheep as a lamb” move.  The kind of places where the President’s approval of gay marriage is going to be an issue are, by and large, states that will never vote for him anyway.  (Case in point: last night, one-third of West Virginia Democrats voted for a white incarcerated felon over a black sitting President.  Fuck you, hillbillies.)  Did Obama win North Carolina in 2008?  Yes, but right now the math suggests that it’s not critical to the path to 270. More to the point, there are thirty states with gay marriage bans, and Obama got elected on the same night California passed Prop 8, so I doubt it’s a 1-to-1 relationship where he will lose any state with a ban automatically.  That said…

3) Not that we needed it, but this is red-flag-to-the-bull material for the GOP, and you can be assured that the holy rollers will reach a higher level of froth than ever that this Satanic atheistic Muslim foreigner will not be satisfied until the United States is [INSERT SPITTLE-FLECKED HYPERBOLE HERE].  This is probably going to be a free gift to a GOP that was having trouble firing up the base to support Multiple Choice Mitt.  Again, though, it’s mainly going to drive turnout among holy rollers in states that Obama never had a prayer of winning.  Mainly.  But…

4) Where it does potentially become a problem is in a few swing states like Colorado or Virginia.  To a certain extent, it’s possible that a big boost among rural God-floggers will be enough to offset less socially benighted votes in Arlington or Denver.  The counter-argument, by contrast, is that this – and the student-loan push – might be sufficient to push the young voters of 2008 into believing and turning out again.  Could be a wash, I don’t know. And when I say I don’t know, I mean…

5) I don’t know.  From my cynical professional standpoint, I don’t see a whole lot of upside to this.  Anyone with a post-medieval position on the topic of homosexuality should be supporting Obama over any Republican at this point – not on the principal of “lesser of two evils” but on the principle of “first do no harm.”  Obama’s not out there working to make things worse for the LGBT community.  Any GOP President will effectively be an enabler for the GOP Congress, which is as backward, racist and ultimately harmful a legislative body as ever crawled out of the Deep South.  So if Obama’s not leading the first float in the Pride parade, well, it sucks, but that guy’s not running.  The choice isn’t between the magical spawn of Harvey Milk and Barney Frank versus the status quo, it’s between a largely sympathizing figure and somebody who will hold the coats of the Philistines.

I don’t know.  I just don’t know.  I know what’s right, but given how bad things will be in 2013 if a Republican is in the White House, I live in dread of the right thing to do also being the losing thing.  

Ultimately, I suppose, it’s a question of how much faith you have in the American people. I have none.


I’ll be honest, I had my doubts.  When they attached Joss Whedon to this picture, I cringed – TV guy, very good for genre shows that get whored by Fox, excellent at empowered young women but overly fond of gratuitously killing supporting characters for the sake of a cheap jolt – but absolutely nothing on his CV suggested that he should be given the controls for the crowning piece of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the payoff of five (FIVE!) interconnected movies over the last four years…it looked like a cheap-out move by a studio that didn’t want to pay Jon Favreau, like a move designed to say “we’ll just fanboy it up and milk the nerds for all they’re worth instead of trying to draw the broader audience.”

Mea culpa. Mea culpa.  Mea maxima culpa.

Easily the best superhero movie since the first Iron Man. Maybe the best…well, ever.  A movie that actually felt like it was paying off five lead-ins. A movie that gave us character development and plausible relationships and a sufficiently feasible “save the world” story. (Even if Joss did fall back on his one predictable crutch.) Basically it was exactly what one reviewer described: “a Transformers movie with brains, heart and a working sense of humor.”

Everyone knows by now that Robert Downey Jr was put on this earth to play Tony Stark.  We knew he was going to be incredible.  What stole the movie, I think, was Mark Ruffalo as Dr. Bruce Banner, who knows damn well what he has inside him and knows how important it is to keep the other guy bottled up. Until it’s time not to.

I think of this because of work.  

It was about this time nine years ago that I was well and truly embarked on my MVP year at the first job.  It was the year that taught me Hanlon’s Razor: “Never attribute to malice what can be explained by stupidity.” And Grey’s Law: “Any sufficiently advanced stupidity is indistinguishable from malice.”  Combine that with some very real mendacity and some outright willful obstruction from many different angles, and it’s not surprising in retrospect that I was driven by rage – the very real burning fury at the people who were trying to beat us, trying to prevail on us, trying to tell me how to do my job – or worse yet, trying to be allowed to do my job instead of me.  I burned like a supernova for a year and change, and I burned hot and I burned bright. And ultimately I burned out.

Since then, I’ve tried hard not to make my job too much of what I am and what I want to be.  I can’t afford to have my happiness, my core friendships and my ultimate sense of identity dependent on a mere job, no matter how much of my waking life it takes up.  And I’ve managed to keep a fairly even keel and plug along, marking time and clocking in and out and basing my happiness on things that have nothing to do with my daily grind.

And yet.  

All that dark rage is still there, in a bottle on the mantlepiece with a label that says “IN CASE OF MOST DIRE EMERGENCY BREAK GLASS.” And today – when I was being threatened by some other user because a completely different group had failed to do their job, despite my prompting and best effort and doing 100% of what I could do – I admit openly and without shame that I had my hand on the bottle and my arm raised and I was about five seconds from smashing it and going full-bore 2003 Dark Hulk.

I didn’t smash it.  I might have pulled the cork out for a couple minutes, but I didn’t smash it.  I don’t really want to go down that road again, especially without the kind of in-house support team and best-friend-as-manager cover I had in the old country.

Less Bruce Banner.  More Tony Stark.  

Maybe I just need a better budget for armor.