The real world

” [You] believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality….That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

Eight years ago, that unnamed Bush administration aide – reputed to be Karl Rove himself in some circles – essentially laid out the entire template for what it means to be a Republican in the Year Of Our Lord Two Thousand Twelve.  Being Republican now means you create your own reality.  That’s how it’s possible for a majority of the GOP in the South to believe that Barack Obama was born somewhere outside the United States and is actually a Muslim.  That’s how it’s possible for Paul Ryan to accuse the President of slashing a huge amount from Medicare when those cuts appear in his own budget.  That’s how it’s possible to say that the Obama administration has raised taxes and expanded the government to unprecedented levels, when in fact taxes have gone down every year and the level of government employment has been reduced so far it has a material impact on those pesky unemployment figures. That’s how it’s possible to sweep eight years of Bush mismanagement under the rug, provide nothing but scorched-earth obstruction for four years, and then claim that Barack Obama is on the verge of destroying America.

Look, there’s plenty to criticize with this President.  Did he bring about the progressive liberal New Jerusalem? Not remotely.  Are there serious concerns about the long-term prospects for civil liberties in a world of unregulated drone warfare? Naturally. Should he have done things differently that first year? Almost certainly. And yet, in a world where grandstanding conservative Democrats had to have their feathers preened (looking at you, Ben Nelson and Mary Landrieu), where moderate Republicans sloughed off their own recorded preferences and fell into lockstep with their party (looking at you, Maine women), where the GOP opened 2009 stating that their highest hope was for the President to fail (that’s you, Rush) and their foremost goal was to make Obama a one-term President (that’s you, McConnell, and fuck the Wildcats while I’m at it) – in short, in a world where everybody dug in their heels and said “Not it,” Barack Obama accomplished at least as much as could be reasonably expected of a President.

Was the stimulus large enough?  No, because it was arbitrarily reduced by Senate Democrats.  Did Gitmo close? No, because GOP Congressmen pissed themselves at the thought of evil magic terrorists crossing the border. Did the United States lose its AAA credit rating? Yes, because the Republican party decided to play chicken with a credit limit that few of them credibly understood. Did we get a public option for health insurance for all?  No, because Ted Kennedy died and the Wise Old Men of Washington decided that a routine sixty-vote threshold for all Senate votes was right and proper and normal and not at all an unprecedented feat of delay and obstruction.

It’s the age old story, sad but true: the first black guy had to be twice as good to get half as far.

I’m not going to reward obstruction. I’m not going to reward bullying. I’m not going to reward rampant douchbaggery. I’m not going to hand the reins over to the people who drove the car off the cliff and then spent four years slashing the tires on the tow truck before blaming the tow-truck driver for the wreck.

I live in the real world.  And in the real world, the guy who’s done his best under preposterous circumstances shouldn’t be punished for it…especially when he’s delivered results.  For this reason, yes, I endorse Barack Hussein Obama for re-election as the 44th President of the United States.

Hanging out Wednesday’s wash

* World Series time again. I don’t have an emotional investment in the Giants that begins to scratch the surface of Vanderbilt, or for that matter Cal football or the Redskins, but I enjoy having the World Series in town and I’d love for the guys to get another one.  San Francisco doesn’t get the kind of run St Louis or Boston or New York do in the “great baseball town” department but I’ll put it up against any of them for sheer fun factor.

* Autumn has fallen like an anvil. Scant days after a mini-heat-wave took the lower Peninsula within an eyelash of 90 degrees, the rain arrived and took the highs down into the 60s.  And since it coincided with being on call for jury duty, I’ve been driving to work in it all week, complete with sunrise times around 7:15 AM (thanks for nothing, Dubya).  And I’m enjoying it. I missed fall, and now I have fall color plus cool and damp plus the pattering of raindrops out the window at night plus an ironclad excuse for jackets.  Now if only I could settle on choosing between the Levis/Filson black tin cloth trucker jacket and the fog-colored ScottEVest Standard jacket…

* Jackets and fitting into them made me reflect a little more on yesterday’s announcement.  Between an iPhone 4S (with a 5 on the way) and a third-gen iPad, I have absolutely no justification (or desire) for an iPad mini.  However, the Nexus 7 is still tickling the fringes of my interest, because a) it’s an Android device that, by its Nexus nature and unlike most Androids, will get updated and b) it should fit in any ordinary jacket inside pocket in a way the iPad doesn’t, and c) it has Wi-Fi and GPS built in and could easily be tethered to the iPhone in a pinch. Given that the pixel space isn’t that much different from the iPhone 5, though (1200×800 as vs 1136×640), I wonder if the juice is worth the squeeze, especially when I already have a Kindle to handle the problem of the iPhone not being optimal for books.

* Speaking of books, I have two endorsements: Straphanger, by Taras Grescoe, a survey of the history of public transit in America and the current state of transit around the world, and Attention All Shipping: A Journey Around The Shipping Forecast, by Charlie Connelly, which I am about halfway through. It appears that my reading material has started to intrude on my jacket/footwear/bag glee as yet another indication that I’m ready to leave the country again.  Or maybe it’s just a certain stuffed turtle poking me with his little flipper-paw-whatever and cocking his head toward the atlas.

* Or maybe it’s lingering election panic.  Look, I moved as far as I could from Alabama, it’s not allowed to follow me. I’m not sure I’m ready for the prospect of governance by the Confederates.  And the irony of it is, as a straight white male of Protestant extraction and reasonable affluence with a well-remunerated job and health insurance, I stand to make out like a bandit if the other crowd gets in.

* Well, I say health insurance.  It’s only Blue Shield. Fuck those guys.

* The neck’s fine, it seems, or certainly less of an issue. Although I did go back on the diclofenac once I slept wrong and then raised my arm wrong and pulled a muscle on the OTHER side.  In fact, right now my shoulders ache like I did weights. Which I didn’t. Getting a review and ruling next week and seeing what happens, and then it’s back to the gym because I need to strengthen up.  Or maybe what I need is a long soak in the hot tub, a long soak in the steam room, and about 90 minutes of somebody who knows their way around deep tissue massage trying to beat the location of the Rebel base out of my back.

* The less said about Big Game, the better – I’ve said my piece elsewhere and stand by my assessment following the Holiday Bowl: Jeff Tedford is not fit for purpose as head football coach at the University of California and has not been for some time.  A move is long overdue…

* Meanwhile, one shitty win over Auburn later, Vandy is a homecoming victory over hapless and winless UMass from turning its 1-3 start into a 4-4 record.  Believe it or not, the possibility of winning out and posting an 8-4 regular season record and 5-3 in the conference – the first outright winning season on either since 1982 – is still out there and not unreasonable.  As a matter of fact, get me that and I won’t need anything else for Christmas…

It’s all true

Every single rumor appears to have paid out today. 13-inch retina MacBook Pro. New Mac mini, new iMac, updated iPad, and – of course – the long-awaited iPad mini, complete with 7.85-inch screen to use the same display resolution as original iPad apps.

Now…do I wish I’d held out and waited? You can’t do that with technology. You have to get what you can and get the full use out of it. And I have. From a pure jacket-ology standpoint, would I like an iPad that fit in all my coats? Sure. But that’s what the iPhone 5 is going to be for…in a month. Probably. Hopefully. 🙂

More to the point, it may be time for me to take the plunge and replace the Mac mini at home, which is three years old and showing its age. It wouldn’t suck if we could get the entirety of everything on a hard drive without dragging an external drive to handle the video storage.

But back to the iPad mini – why? And why now?

I think it goes to the Kindle Fire. Amazon gave the world its first 7-inch tablet that didn’t suck. They did so by following the Apple path: pare it down, include only the stuff you really need, and optimize it for doing the stuff that users want from it. Then, Google handed out the Nexus 7 and proved you could do a full-function tablet in that form factor that didn’t suck. So rather than leave a gap in the market between the iPhone and the full-size iPad, one that its primary rivals could exploit, Apple slid this thing in – the screen less than two inches smaller, but cut down in form factor to get in that 7″ tablet spot.

Himself said you needed to file your fingers to a point to use a 7-inch tablet. But he’s not in charge any more. Things change. And Apple’s starting at $329 for a wi-fi 16 GB model, almost $100 more than the Nexus 7…and counting on the Apple ecosystem and reputation to be worth an eighty dollar premium. Because that’s where they’re playing: affordable premium, instead of lowest cost.

Can they keep it up? Who knows? It hasn’t stopped yet.

The fish problem

In the early-mid-1960s, Clyde Lee was the greatest prep basketball player in Nashville. He was choosing between Vanderbilt and David Lipscomb for college, and was advised that he needed to decide whether he wanted to be a big fish in a little pond (at Lipscomb) or a little fish in a big pond (at Vanderbilt).  He chose Vanderbilt and only became the greatest player in the history of the program (barring neither Adcock, Perdue, McCaffery, Byers, Foster, Jenkins, Ezili nor Taylor). 

This came to my mind during the furore about Vanderbilt getting out of its Big Ten games next year.  We’re merely doing what the rest of the league did long ago: pull up the ladders and schedule only chum for out-of-conference games (barring rivalries OOC, something that seems to be an SEC East-only phenomenon), on the pretext that the SEC is so difficult to navigate that we don’t need anything else to improve our strength of schedule.  Personally, I question this for a team like Florida or Alabama (not to deny Alabama credit for the Saban-era practice of a marquee opponent in a neutral-site season opener), but for a team like Ole Miss or Kentucky or Vanderbilt, the notion that we’re wimping out if we don’t stack another big-ticket foe on top of three top-10 opponents in-conference doesn’t deserve the dignity of a reply, especially to programs that won’t face a ranked opponent all year.

This is the fish problem, and it’s one that Vanderbilt has struggled with in football for fifty years.  We’re a contender and a title winner in the conference in almost every other sport we play (baseball and men’s basketball both played in the conference title game last year, the hoopsters won it, and the women have multiple SECT titles on the mantle in the last decade, plus women’s cross-country won the SEC last year).  But as I’ve said before, over and over, the SEC is about exactly one thing, and it’s the one thing we as a university do worse than anything else.

The talk comes up periodically about how we should be traded to the ACC for Florida State, or Clemson, or maybe even move to the Big Ten (there was some talk about Vanderbilt as a possible 12th before Nebraska made the move) and across the board, it looks more suitable.  Better academics in both, basketball first in the ACC, the possibility of a Rose Bowl berth in the Big Ten.  And while it’s true that we’re not that good at the SEC’s one thing, is that a reason to pull out when everything else is first-class?

Maybe. But before we do, I’d say it’s incumbent on us to do everything we can to compete without compromising ourselves.  Keep going to class, keep graduating players, keep off probation, keep away from NCAA sanctions. But there’s no need to try to out-schedule everyone else, to get by on older facilities, to avoid making a play for the best recruits.  And yet it’s possible we may never grow big enough for the pond.

This is something I wrestle with myself from time to time. The single biggest mistake of my life was in where I went to undergrad. Had I left the state and been exposed to the wider world, maybe I would have grown to fit the pond. Instead, I went to a place that specialized in fitting you for a life in the small pond.  And when I finally did leave, it was with my growth stunted in a way I never really recovered from.

The question I have to ask myself is – could I have been happy as the tallest dwarf in the circus? Would I have strained against the constraints of a more circumscribed life?  And the answer is: I wasn’t. And I did.

Would Vanderbilt football be a happier place to be if we were playing in a conference of, say – Rice, SMU, Tulane, Army, Navy, and hell, maybe Wake Forest and Notre Dame? I don’t know. Is the Ivy League happy playing I-AA ball with no postseason?  Can you elect to step out of the big pond and find one just right?

Something to think about going forward. Because even though we’re going to do everything in our power to be an SEC school without compromising who we are, it occurs to me that we might not get away with this one.

No Favors

(cross-posted from Anchor of Gold)

First, go check this out. It’s an article in the Sporting News last June about non-conference scheduling in BCS conferences in 2012. It’s several articles, actually; I merely linked the one pertaining to the SEC.

Finished? Good. Just to have it here where we can look at it, I’m going to paste that table in here again:

1. Missouri: Southeastern Louisiana, Arizona State, at UCF, Syracuse
2. Vanderbilt: at Northwestern, Presbyterian, UMass, at Wake Forest
3. Arkansas: Jacksonville State, at Louisiana-Monroe, Rutgers, Tulsa
4. Alabama: Michigan (at Dallas), Western Kentucky, FAU, Western Carolina
5. Florida: Bowling Green, Louisiana-Lafayette, Jacksonville State, at Florida State
6. LSU: North Texas, Washington, Idaho, Towson
7. Ole Miss: Central Arkansas, UTEP, Texas, at Tulane
8. South Carolina: ECU, UAB, Wofford, at Clemson
9. Auburn: Clemson (at Atlanta), Louisiana-Monroe, New Mexico State, Alabama A&M
10. Georgia: Buffalo, FAU, Georgia Southern, Georgia Tech
11. Tennessee: NC State (at Atlanta), Georgia State, Akron, Troy
12. Kentucky: at Louisville, Kent State, Western Kentucky, Samford
13. Texas A&M: at Louisiana Tech, at SMU, South Carolina State, Sam Houston State
14. Mississippi State: Jackson State, at Troy, South Alabama, Middle Tennessee


You notice that this year’s Vanderbilt OOC schedule is considered second of fourteen in degree of difficulty. That’s all the word of credit we get for scheduling two BCS-league OOC opponents, both on the road. Missouri has two, but they’re both at home – and frankly were probably booked before they joined the SEC. (Only the Big 12 has more appalling OOC scheduling than the SEC, and where did our two newbies come from? Texas A&M’s OOC lineup certainly has a high glycemic index.)

Florida gets dinged for the fact that it’s been 30 years since they went west of the Mississippi for an OOC game. Well hell, when’s the last time they left the very state of Florida for an OOC game? They plead Florida State, Georgia pleads Georgia Tech, South Carolina pleads Clemson – you can see why we locked up a series with Wake Forest back in 2006, and not a softball either – last year was our first win over our “rival” since it became our season-ending matchup. In the SEC East, though, once you have your permanent OOC rival, it’s apparently just fine to schedule troops of Girl Scouts and last year’s frat league champion the rest of the way. Except for us, apparently.

Look, something had to give. We had five OOC games for four spots on the slate in 2013. And the SEC promptly moved conference games into the weekends where our newly-dropped matchups were scheduled. We could have done some shucking and jiving and tried to make it work so that we could still play three BCS OOC opponents, despite the fact that pretty much every team in the league competing for a bowl slot will only be playing one. Or we could do what we did, and accept the fundamental truth of the situation: we gain absolutely nothing by playing a tougher OOC schedule than the rest of our conference.

Last year we had two BCS teams and Army. Now one of those was a Big East team, and that league’s next deserved BCS berth will be its first, but it is what it is. The year before, we had Northwestern, UConn and Wake, and lost all three. In 2009 we had Georgia Tech instead of Wake, and lost to them and to Army while beating Rice and Western Carolina. And in the 6-6 year of 2008, we split our OOC games – beat Rice and Miami of Ohio, lost to Duke (!) and Wake. Or to put it another way: last year was the first year in as long as I can remember where we swept the board in OOC games. If that’s the case in 2008, we go 8-4. In 2009, we go 4-8. In 2010, we go 5-7. On average, we’re playing multiple BCS OOC teams every year and going .500 against them for the privilege.

Now, another question: where are these teams that are going out to take on all comers? Northwestern had a respectable slate this year (Syracuse, BC and North Dakota in addition to us) but Ohio State? Had a weak Cal team (and got played within an inch of their lives), Miami of Ohio, Central Florida and UAB – all at home. Look the Big Ten schedule up and down – every single team except Indiana plays at least three of their OOC games at home, and Ohio State and Iowa never leave home for an OOC game. And how many of those Big Ten schools are playing more than one BCS OOC opponent in 2012? Here’s the list: Northwestern. That’s it and that’s all.

Here’s the thing: we’ve finished the regular season over .500 three times since the scheduled expanded to 11 games in 1970. The SEC actually only played six conference games a year from 1964 to 1988, but even then, the last time we finished over .500 in conference play was 1982. Before that? 1959, when we went 3-2-2 in the SEC en route to a 5-3-2 overall record. Why do I bring this up? Because we aren’t Auburn in 2004, trying to squeeze into the BCS title game with Louisiana Tech, Louisiana-Monroe and the Citadel as its OOC opponents. We aren’t Boise State trying to get #1 votes with one splashy BCS win and a WAC schedule. We’re not the ones trying to play a national championship schedule. If anybody in this league should hang their heads in shame, it’s the Gators, who the BCS computers think the best in the land off the back of Bowling Green, Louisiana-Lafayette and freakin’ Jacksonville State.

Look, let’s not mince words. Art Guepe left with the parting shot “there is no way you can be Harvard six days a week and Alabama on Saturday,” and he was right. If he wasn’t, Northwestern wouldn’t have had the longest losing streak in the country nor gone almost five decades between Rose Bowl appearances. We have a football program which, in the main, has been a dumpster fire since JFK was assassinated. We are accustomed to seasons when we go winless in the conference. We haven’t seen a bowl game outside the state of Tennessee in almost thirty years – hell, until last year, no Vanderbilt football player in the entire history of the program had ever been to two bowls.
You know how much credit we got for those harder non-conference schedules? You know how much regard we received for trying to punch above our weight? Hell, go back and look at that Sporting News article again – you know what we got for having the second-toughest OOC schedule in this conference? We got Presbyterian name-checked as another laughable piece of SEC scheduling.

No one in this conference is doing us any favors. No one. Not in scheduling, not in officiating, not in television, nothing. We already handicap ourselves in the SEC by honoring both halves of “student-athlete” and refusing to compromise our academic mission. The notion that we have to keep playing tougher OOC games than our conference foes – it is, as I said elsewhere, risible. To what end? To make sure we stay down below the salt in the pickle barrel? To keep various blogger and Twitter jackasses from making fun of us? To atone for the rest of the league’s deficiencies in scheduling? To make the league look like it plays tough, and thus do the SEC a favor it doesn’t do us?

Apologies for language: Fuck. That.

There’s no reason we have to sacrifice ourselves for the SEC’s sins. None. You know what will improve this program? You know what will get us noticed? You know what will get us respect? Winning games. Going to bowls. Once we’re not a doormat, once we’re not a punchline, once we’re not a reason for teams to fire coaches when we win – then we can raise the bar and play the kind of schedule that gets you to New Years Day and beyond. Until then, we shouldn’t apologize for doing exactly what every other team in this league – and others – tries to do: maximize our opportunities for wins.

flashback, part 55 of n

Our first place of our own in California was in Mountain View, close to Castro Street – the main drag of downtown. And my vestigial cigar habit meant I needed to spend plenty of time outdoors of an evening, which gave me lots of time to wander up and down Castro to see what was doing.  I had been around there before on visits to California – mostly to go to Books Inc and occasionally to Dana Street Roasting – but this was the first time I could really wander up and down and see what was happening.

It’s been eight years since that autumn, and last night I got to see most of Castro en route to dinner.  And what struck me was how much has turned over.  The big appliance store appears to have some tech company in that space. Kapp’s Pizza is now Restaurant 191. King of Krung Siam is gone, replaced with a Cal-Mex fusion place. The former Wienerschnitzel on the corner of California and Castro has been half a dozen things before settling on a burger-and-beer-garden. The cigar shop is now a Mediterranean joint – under the same ownership. The pool room almost immediately turned into some sort of velvet rope nightclub. And the mildly dodgy cellphone-and-clothing shop has turned into three or four restaurants and is now waiting to get turned into Crepevine.

It’s not all bad. The Scientologists are gone, which is fine, as I got my anecdote out of them; they had nothing left to offer but an excuse to cross the road.  La Bamba has arrived, for all my carne-asada-nachos needs. Red Rock has expanded to two stories. Neto is the first coffee still on offer at midnight. Jane’s Beer Store is now open with almost any brew you can imagine, Ava’s has provided a legit grocery store, and Scratch provided a top-shelf date night restaurant with cocktail offerings to match.

Meanwhile, plenty has carried on like normal. Books Inc is still hanging on in an Amazon world, as is the used bookstore next door. The gelato place is still featuring a longer line than the velvet-rope nightclub. St Stephens Green and Molly Magees are still offering plenty of food and drink respectively, although the Saint’s Irish character isn’t what it was when I arrived.  Then again, neither is mine, I suppose. Best of all, Los Charros is still serving up a carne asada plate with a bottle of Jarritos for a price that has climbed from preposterously to merely ridiculously cheap.

But a lot has changed, and it drives home the point that I’ve actually been here longer than I was in DC. In fact, I’ve spent fully twenty percent of my entire life as a Californian now, and I’m still trying to wrap my head around that.

What works

The buzz around town today is about whether Color is going down or not. Color launched in March 2011 as some sort of social-photo-location app for iOS – basically the perfect storm of buzzword compliance. It went nowhere, reinvented itself as a live-self-video-streaming app, and now is allegedly on the brink of shutting its doors.

And it’s based in Palo Alto, which is the point of this exercise. Of course it is.

What are the things that have transformed American life in recent years? Google: Mountain View.  Apple: Cupertino. Twitter: San Francisco.  Facebook: founded in a Harvard dorm room, but incorporated in Palo Alto.  When they moved, did they move to Texas?  Did they move to Alabama, or Mississippi?  Hell no.  They moved to Silicon Valley.

It’s become fashionable of late for certain conservatives to point to California as a dysfunctional, financially doomed canary in the coal mine of the American economy, on the verge of going down like Greece.  I’ll set aside the fact that if California only paid as much federal tax as it gets back in federal services, the budget would be in surplus (you’re welcome, rednecks) and I’ll also set aside the preposterous clusterfuck created by Prop 13 that requires a 2/3 vote of both houses to pass a budget when 50%+1 of a referendum vote can change the state constitution.  Instead, I’ll just ask: if California is a horrible place to do business, why hasn’t Apple decamped to Austin? Why didn’t Twitter relocate into a nice set of lofts overlooking Railroad Park? Why didn’t Facebook take over a shiny new campus hard by the future Interstate 22 in the scenic bit of Mississippi?

This doesn’t even require an answer. In fact, it probably leads to a lot of guffaws at the notion of, say, Knoxville as the new home of Gewww-gull. But to hear everyone from Newt Gingrich to the Economist tell it, businesses are dying to get away from places like California and relocate to the low-tax laissez-faire paradises of the Deep South.  But there’s a hell of a lot more to it than that.  If that’s all it took, manufacturing wouldn’t be overseas and design wouldn’t be in the Bay Area.

Fact of the matter: the Southern approach to economics doesn’t work. You can cut taxes to the bone, cut services to nothing, offer billion-dollar tax incentives to the likes of Mercedes and make up the difference with 9% sales tax and income tax starting on $5000 a year, but it’s not going to deliver the New Jerusalem to your notional Silicon Holler.  Too many people are trying to sell us the idea that the race to the bottom is the only way to turn the economy around – but that only works if you think Alabama is heaven on Earth.

Of which…you know.


So I got the shots. And stayed home all day, and only did a half-day at work Thursday – of which more in a moment.  And I’m feeling something similar to the last round of prednisone – I know that all I had was cortisone in a disk, which should reduce inflammation, but I’m having everything from insomnia to stiff muscles to drowsiness to a cough to weird intestinal happenings…basically it feels like I’m having my DNA rewritten from the inside out.

When I did come in, though, I found out that work will be featuring the kind of emergency crash program that made me in the summer of 2003.  This time, it means a massive cleanup/deployment of stuff that should be out there already: remote management, online backup, and whole-disk encryption.  It’s a huge priority, it’s an emergency, it’s a massive project with a hard deadline, it’s a crisis environment.

And today I broke out the riot reds and my old Indy jacket from DC, because this is what I live for at the office.  Somebody else broke it.  These guys will fix it.  We need fast, effective and brilliant, and we have to have all three.

I’m Winston Wolf.  I solve problems. May I come in?

Them that cares and them that doesn’t

I’m sure I’ve commented on this before, but it bears repeating: there is a substantive difference between specialist opinion and the general public, and it’s the same in politics and technology alike.  It’s because most people aren’t really paying that much attention.  Take the iPhone 5, for instance – judging from the technology press, you’d think that the iPhone 5 was the biggest disaster since New Coke.  And yet, sales are through the roof and more people are citing the new Lightining connector as a bigger issue than the new Maps.

Similarly, to most accounts, the vice-presidential debate was mostly a wash, maybe a slight edge to the Vice-President – unless you’re on Twitter, where everyone was persuaded that their guy had mopped the floor with the other fellow.  And let’s be honest – between the most gripping playoff baseball in years and a Thursday night NFL game, how many people were paying attention to a vice-presidential debate?  A VP debate is like watching the ACC Championship Game in football – unless you’re watching to see gaffes and to jone on the participants, there’s really nothing to be gained by wasting your time.

The thing is, you wind up with a participatory minority, usually highly partisan and motivated, and a vast majority who doesn’t really care that much or pay that much attention.  This is less scary or upsetting in the realm of consumer electronics than in addressing who’s going to be President of the United States.  But ever since 1996, the push in Presidential elections has been to get your guys to the polls in a low-participation environment, and in some cases to try to press participation down until your share pops above 50% by one vote.

It’s a mixed bag.  People need to understand politics and technology – you don’t have to be an expert, but you should know how to use the tools in front of you.  And once again, I’m starting to wonder if Westminster isn’t a better way – if nothing else, to eliminate the logjam from separation of legislative and executive powers and provide for more rapid-response elections at times of no confidence…


So Levi’s and Filson are collaborating again. This year, the Tin Cloth trucker jacket has an additional black version alongside the tan. And during Bay Super Weekend last Sunday I had the opportunity to try it on at the Levi’s flagship in Union Square.

As it turns out, the fit is a lot more normal. All they had was a large, and I needed an XL, but it was easy to extrapolate from the large that I only need to go up the one size. And the black looked better than I was expecting. I need black outerwear like I need a hole in the head – I have the shell, the Vandy soft shell, the Claiborne casual jacket, the black Uniqlo blouson, the WWDC zip-up thing, plus a peacoat in a true navy that’s almost indistinguishable from black and an old oilcloth duster that came from DC and is probably only of use for costume parties at this point.

So why this one?

For starters, it checks a whole lot of random boxes. Classic American workwear. The denim jacket look without being a jean jacket. Made in the USA by two iconic American brand names. Water resistance without the “performance outerwear” look that everybody else relies on. I may not be a trucker, but I’m a hell of a lot closer than being a hiker.

Drawbacks: it’s woefully expensive. It’s not got a hood, which is a detriment to the whole waterproof thing (although in a steady pour I’m going to be using an umbrella, one hopes). It won’t hold the iPad inside, but that’s what the shoulder holster is meant to provide (once the shoulder is healthy).

But it’s like the automatic watch, or the 1460 For Life DMs, or my Rickshaw and Timbuk2 bags, or the peacoat – it’s something I could legitimately use for the rest of my life.

Something to think about.