The final insult

The final insult. As Jeff Tedford slinks out of town with a 3-9 record and the worst graduation rate in the league, Stanford – six years removed from 1-11 – is going to the fucking Rose Bowl, their third straight BCS bowl. Which they got to by winning the PAC-12 title game at home in front of a crowd of just under 32,000. Which means TWENTY THREE THOUSAND EMPTY SEATS.

I don’t know how Old Blues can stand it. Cal maxed out in 2004-06, but lost the PAC-10 title both times to a USC team that later got absolutely nuked by the NCAA for their gross malfeasance, and missed out on a second-chance berth in the Rose Bowl after Mack Brown begged Texas a handful of poll votes to put the Horns just enough ahead to snap up a guaranteed BCS berth. The brightest era in memory for Cal, and a hollow “co-championship” in 2006 is all there is, plus 1-1 in the Holiday Bowl because Tedford couldn’t figure out how to use JJ Arrington and Marshawn Lynch to run clock and pound the ball on the ground.

In retrospect, I’m glad I came to it by marriage. If this were my own alma mater, and God took that kind of shit on us, I’d be done with football forever. As it is, I can’t see us paying for tickets next year, not until there’s some sign that our support and emotional investment isn’t going to be pissed down a rathole.

Meanwhile, three-quarters of the student body on the Farm thinks a BCS bowl is there every year, without the hassle and inconvenience of showing up to games. Amazing what you can get with a $10 million check every year. I can promise you this, though: if Vanderbilt gets this lucky, you won’t see us taking it for granted. Ever.

Third impressions

I can’t explain it, but I’m going to try to: the iPhone 5, on Verizon, is like rediscovering the iPhone all over again. The size doesn’t seem that big relative to the 4 line, but it feels cramped to go back. And the thinness and weight make it feel tangibly different to hold and use. Even with the current snap case, it’s got the hand-feel of the 4 with no case.

And let’s not mince words: if you’re serious about LTE, the only provider in the world right now that has you covered is Verizon, for better or worse. The network is pervasive enough here that I don’t generally have to worry about falling back on only the old CDMA crap-ass data protocols, and the combination of LTE with an A6 processor and extra RAM makes this the fastest iPhone ever. It’s hardly worth getting on Wi-Fi out and about: so much easier to just turn off and race. Give Big Red this: they went all-in on the new standard, and as a result the iPhone 5 is a rocket. Because let’s face it, actual phone calls are a tertiary priority at best.

I love it. It was the right move. And amazingly, it’s made carrying the iPad less of a priority, saving a pound and a half in my backpack daily. Say what you like, but Apple gets it, and they just keep grinding down the field relentlessly.

flashback, part 56 of n

Five years ago, our Thanksgiving dinner was high tea at the National Gallery, on Trafalgar Square in London. Singularly ironic, I thought, that we would commemorate my wife’s forbears loading up the Mayflower and fleeing England by spending the holiday in the Big Smoke, but there you have it.  We’re complicated folks. The trip was one we’d been tossing around for a while, but was triggered by two things: one, the notion that if we didn’t have kids yet, we should be doing the sorts of things that having no kids allowed us to do, and two, I saw Ratatouille that summer and decided I wanted to see Paris.  Which was an easy lift, as far as convincing the wife goes.

As it turned out, the trip also fell into the first ninety days at my new government subcontract job, when I couldn’t take any vacation.  The unpaid aspect of it was partly alleviated by the payout of the unused vacation from Cupertino Hexachrome Fruit that would have been spent on the trip, although that was at a time when Himself had a tendency to declare the whole of Thanksgiving week as unscheduled paid vacation, so who knows.  The timing was deliberate, though – our hope was that since England doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving, they might already be in full holiday roar, and we might get our London Christmas experience.  Easy peasy.

2007 wasn’t the best year. In fact, it was kind of the worst. No bereavement to blame like ’98, or adolescent whatever-it-was in ’86 – just twelve months of suck.  Family illness (it seemed like everyone got some kind of cancer that year), my own knee surgery, the decision to change jobs and the almost immediate realization of what a huge mistake I’d made, and the slow evaporation of my past behind me. I mean, I didn’t even have Danny (my old Saturn) anymore, which was as complete a sign as any that my past was falling into a black hole and I wasn’t doing enough to build a present under myself.  And all that baggage went abroad with me, just in time to meet that peculiar depression that goes along with being in a new place for the first time and not knowing the language, let alone the way around.

Ironically, not knowing the language was the least of my worries, because Paris was the best part of the trip. Possibly because it was also the longest – we stayed at least three nights that I can remember.  In England, it seemed like we were somewhere else every night, passing through London three times in two different hotels when we weren’t on a day trip to Oxford or hurrying up to York.  And I hadn’t realized that late November meant sunset in York at around 3:45 PM, so early night in a strange town.  Ultimately, it felt like I was forcing the issue a lot of the time, instead of having the experience that was around me.

It’s not like it was a disaster, not at all.  I saw some things I was glad I’d seen, we had some fun – I’m sure I was an utter pill to be with, in retrospect, proving once again the surpassing patience of my wife – but I think I might have been putting way too many hopes on that trip, expecting it would be the same sort of more-fun-every-day that the honeymoon had been a couple years before.  And then it was over – I woke up one morning in London, got on a plane, got home that night at 8 PM, and woke up the next morning at 5 AM to go straight back to work.  And that was where the despair really hit like a load of bricks: holiday blues, the dread of going back to see my relations in the old country, and walking out in the dark every day at 5 PM and staring across the bay at the flicker of lights in the distance, wondering both where I’d gone wrong and how I was ever going to get right again.

Five years on, I’m thankful that I swallowed my pride and chose to swallow the meds. I’m thankful that I was sufficiently diligent to find another job, and not to pull the trigger on the wrong job (which would have paid me what I make now – except the company has gone under). I’m thankful that I learned some lessons from the trip and started making an effort to find the things here that reflect what I enjoyed abroad.  But more than most, I’m thankful that I broke off the pattern of holiday travel and will be here for the whole season for the third straight year.

Go home for the holidays? Fuck that noise.  I am home.



Second impressions

I think it’s traditional for me to punch one of these out on the device in question, so here it is. I’m very very impressed with Verizon’s LTE. I routinely get anywhere from 18 to 24 Mbps in normal use, which is damn near enough not to make Wi-Fi worth it except at the office. I’m less impressed with the lower ranks of data service – EV-DO is showing its age and 1xRTT is fucking primitive – but the LTE is sufficiently pervasive that it hasn’t been that big a deal. I don’t hit a dead spot on the train anymore, and today was the first day simultaneous voice and data became a problem (and only because I was stuck on the train for almost an hour. Caltrain kills more people than LAPD.)

It’s sexy, this. I almost feel like I have to up my wardrobe game ever so slightly – better jeans, better jacket, something appropriate from which to pull the phone. The screen is definitely larger but not obviously so; it doesn’t feel like I’m wrangling with a larger device like one of those Samsung slabs. The screen looks bright and clear even at half illumination, and battery has been largely well-behaved. I’m also again experimenting with Apple’s own Podcast app and this may be the time it takes. And the device is thin and light enough that putting it in a case (cheap one-piece Incase snap-in) doesn’t add any appreciable weight, bulk or inconvenience. I even like the lightning connector and am already kind of sick of needing the adapter all the time…

All in all, a good move, made at the right time. Happy I waited it out, but happy I did it, too, and the wife will have the benefit of the 4S by the end of the holiday season.

Sic transit gloria mundi

He’s out.

It had to be done. The signs were there in the inexplicable downward spiral in 2007. Not to say he should have been fired for one-half of one bad year, but by 2010, it should have been obvious to any observer that Jeff Tedford could no longer get the job done at Cal. And quite frankly, he should never have been let back on the plane from San Diego last December after the humiliation at Texas.

He did plenty of good.  He made Cal the second-best team in the Pac-10 at a time when a crooked USC team was first, thus adding to the tragedy of the thing.  He got the Axe back and held it for five years straight, even if he finished on a 3-Big-Game losing streak.  He got Memorial Stadium refurbished and new athletic facilities built, even through the obstacles of a $300 million price tag and almost two years lost to a handful of hippie gutter punks that the University and the city of Berkeley couldn’t or wouldn’t deal with.

And then, all of a sudden, that was it. He couldn’t get it done anymore.  The offense wilted on the vine, the discipline evaporated, the graduation rate plunged, and the losses started to stack like cordwood.  In the last three seasons, Cal totaled 12 wins against Division I-A opponents.  This year, they were only one score ahead of Southern Utah in the fourth quarter.  That’s an unequivocally bad team.

There’s a fresh start coming next year.  No longer can Isi Sofele be run smack into the middle at the goal line against defenders twice his weight, because he’s gone.  No longer can Zach Maynard be forced into 5-step pocket dropbacks with no rolling out, because he’s gone. In the wings are the speed of Bigelow, Treggs and Harper at tailback and the two wideout spots, and the promise of redshirt QB Zack Kline.  The cupboard is not bare for the next fellow, and for that Cal fans can and should be grateful.

Now…who?  This is a major-conference opening in a non-basket-case program (Kentucky football is an afterthought and Tennessee is a dumpster fire) and by opening the spot immediately with Cal’s season over early, maybe Sandy Barbour can bring in somebody she might not otherwise get.  The popular name of the moment is Greg Roman, the offensive coordinator at the 49ers – and ironically an accomplice of Jim Harbaugh in the turnaround of Stanford football.  Then again, Harbaugh took over a program in shambles and was in back-to-back BCS bowls within four years.  That’s the kind of turnaround Cal needs now – and ironically once got from Jeff Tedford.

Everything ends badly. Otherwise it wouldn’t end.


Part of the Great Distraction Plan for the run-up to the UT game (we need a name for that, honestly) was a trip to the movies – and of all things, a screening of Argo at 9:55 PM on a Friday night.  As a forty-year-old, I can barely wrap my head around the fact that in college, we routinely went to movies that started at midnight…but I digress.

Let’s get one thing out of the way right now: this will be nominated for Best Picture and Ben Affleck should be nominated for Best Director. Everything was perfect, from the casting to the cinematography to the selection of toys in the bedroom – hell, they had the standup Cylon figure with the silver chest plate missing, just like actually happened to everyone who owned it in 1980.  The color palette was straight Instagram, the fashion egregious in the extreme, and the whole feel of the movie was that of an America still reeling from Vietnam, bewildered and outraged at being geopolitically stalemated by a bunch of hopped-up holy-roller student “AY-rabs”, looking around and asking itself if this was the end of the American era. Anyone who watches this movie should never again wonder how Reagan managed to blow Carter away 489-49 in the Electoral College.

More to the point, though, Argo shows a different world. No cellular phones.  No internet access.  Hell, the only use of a computer in the whole movie was for flight reservations, and in real life the Canadian ambassador’s wife had booked three sets of tickets on three different airlines and they went to the airport with physical boarding passes already in hand.  Burning and shredding box after box of physical records?  I’m sure there are still plenty of those, but these days, a couple of bullets through each hard drive would take care of most of your secure data needs.

Think about it: how much of Argo would even be possible in a high-tech world? Where anybody who even thinks there might be Americans hiding out with the Canadian ambassador can tweet it once and have a flash mob on hand in minutes? Where passing around pictures of wanted suspects isn’t a matter of photocopying a woven-together packet of paper shreds and handing the results around in person, but a simple matter of two clicks in email? Where cellular records are as close as marching into the local carrier’s office and demanding they pull the logs?  Where passports come with RFID and biometric information and can’t be just filled in from blanks? And most of all – where the announcement of a new science-fiction movie would get picked over endlessly at io9 and Ain’t It Cool News and Defamer, and where it might become apparent sooner than later that this “project” consists of two guys, a phone and a hastily-arranged cosplay party?

To be honest, a lot of those conditions still obtained as late as 1992. It’s the same argument that says two-thirds of Seinfeld episodes fall apart in the presence of cell phones. We live in a world where a small handful of changes have fundamentally altered what it means to live in a modern industrialized country. Internet access means knowledge at your fingertips. Mobility technology means the ability to manipulate it anywhere.  It means that I’m in a marriage that literally would never have been possible before email and IM and unmetered long-distance phone calling.

For that matter, twenty years ago, there were exactly 140 Starbucks IN THE WORLD.  Think about that.  Think of a world without the ubiquity of white peppermint mocha in December – and without the influence that drove McDonalds to make a big deal of their coffee offerings.  Hell, to have coffee offerings other than “200 degrees and flesh-melting”.  This thing that’s a cliche and a stereotype and a hallmark of American life wasn’t hardly there at all two decades ago, and now there’s no getting away from it.

It’s a different world.  It sort of makes you wonder whether there wasn’t a nodal point somewhere around the late 80s, early 90s…all the more reason to be on top of your William Gibson.  Because if you know where the uneven distribution is, you can live in the future now.





Vawls gonna Vawl. After stealing a fluke-play win in overtime at home, and celebrating like they’d won the Super Bowl, and talking all manner of shit on radio and Internet leading up to Saturday, Derek Dooley led the Tennessee Volunteers into Nashville for what would ultimately prove to be his last game – because he and his team were on the wrong end of a worse beating than a 13-year-old with a Victoria’s Secret catalog. The nationally-vaunted Tennessee offense was held to exactly one offensive touchdown (the other coming off a fluky kick return, the second year in a row that ambiguous officiating let the Vols run for a late touchdown). Tyler Bray, aptly named after the sound a jackass makes, did some inexplicable fierce voguing at the Vandy bench before subsequently finding himself sacked repeatedly, coughing up three interceptions and never finding the end zone again.

And most satisfying of all: after Vandy hung three unanswered touchdowns out of the locker room at halftime (where they had taken a 13-10 lead), the Vawl faithful responded by starting to stream out of the stadium at the end of the third quarter. Faithless in the face of adversity. Craven in defeat. You know…Vawls. All mouth and no spine, their collective ass unable to cash the check their words wrote for a year. At least a school known for butt-chugging should be familiar with finding a foreign object lodged in their asses.

The best part, though, is that Vanderbilt has more SEC wins this year alone than Tennessee has to show for the past three seasons combined. For the second year, Tennessee will stay home for bowl season and look up the standings to see Vandy above them, playing against after Christmas. Two years ago, the Commodores were 2-10. This year, they’re 7-4 with Wake Forest and the bowl game left to play, and they’ve already opened as a favorite at Wake.

And all of the SEC is talking about James Franklin and where he will wind up – because the possibility that this is what Vanderbilt is now is too horrifying to contemplate, especially for the bottom third of the conference. Franklin has delivered in two years what I was hoping for in five. And that’s why the Vawls are so invested in him going elsewhere…because deep down, they’re terrified that our ships have passed in the night, and theirs is the one sinking.


First impressions

There’s no disputing it anymore: iTunes is a sack of shit. I was able to activate the new Verizon iPhone 5 on the fly yesterday, download about fifty apps, get everything going the way I wanted, and boom pow, as soon as I set up sync with the home computer, it tried to put every app – three hundred of them, all told – onto the phone. And then it wiped EVERYTHING I’d downloaded already when I tried to make it stop.  It ended up as a whole bunch of checkbox ticking on a Mac mini over three years old.  Annoying as shit.

But yes, the phone is up and running. Not a moment too soon, either, as the weird-ass battery issues with the iPhone 4S are continuing to plague me.  It’s dropping at a rate of 1% every time I look at it, seems like, and I’m going to be very curious to look at the usage at the end of the day when it’s done nothing but sit there.  But enough about the old phone (which will get wiped and repurposed and hopefully behave better for it), let’s talk about the new hotness.

The seven week wait wasn’t out of the ordinary. It took a month before I got my company-issued original iPhone, and I didn’t run right to the 3G until my original shorted out (lint in the dock connector). I skipped the 3GS altogether, got the 4 on launch day, and only got the 4S owing to parts constraint when my 4 failed while still under AppleCare.  So it’s not unusual that I took a couple months to take possession.  The delay, of course, was occasioned by the carrier change – after my great success with a Verizon LTE iPad, there was no reason not to make the move as I allow work to pay for my phone going forward. =)

I went with the black one, of course. You should know me by now…I also had the standard Zagg InvisibleShield applied to the front.  I’m in kind of an unusual spot in that for the last two years, I’ve relied almost entirely on the standard Apple bumper – almost every other case out there felt too big or too bulky or just didn’t seem right – but before that, I had reverted to carrying my iPhone 3G with no case (barring a brief period of experimentation when I first got it, in hopes of stopping the aforementioned lint). So I don’t know if I’ll ultimately cave and find a case for this one.

LTE is legit. I sat at the train station in Mountain View, California, and pulled 24Mbps downstream – or roughly double the speed of my uVerse connection at home.  Unless they actually meter the data at work and ding me for it, there’s precious little reason to ever keep Wi-Fi on this thing away from the office.  Coverage has been pretty good thus far, although it’ll be tomorrow before I can see if I still have an issue with the famous dead zone on the Palo Alto border on Caltrain.  I also need to see whether tethering is enabled, because that would be handy to have.  Not critical, as the iPad has its own LTE for travel and I don’t anticipate taking the laptop much of anywhere any longer.

I’m also sorting out where I need extra cables. I bought one 30-pin-to-Lightning adapter which is going everywhere with me at present.  The cable that came with it is on the bedside charger, for obvious reasons, but the fact that the adapter costs $10 more than just buying a cable is making me evaluate how badly and where I actually need connectors these days.  Still, with the wife and the iPad both on 30-pin, a certain measure of flexibility is required for the present…but the places where my iPad and iPhone overlap to charge are almost nonexistent, which is convenient.  All the more reason to adhere strictly to wireless sync at home.

The bigger screen is nice but not radically so; its main effect has been to make the old phone’s display look kind of squatty.  Also haven’t been impacted by apps not changed to fit the screen, but give it time – I’m sure something will annoy me.  I’m happy to have the headset connector on the bottom, but I haven’t used it in any meaningful sense yet, so we’ll see how long it takes to get used to it.  Which means it’s time to bring up the podcasts and see how the battery lasts…


More postmortem

The Washington Post yesterday profiled a woman in Hendersonville, Tennessee, shutting down the Romney campaign office – and still in shock that her guy lost.  The recurring theme is “what’s happened to this country?” – and then, about halfway through the article, you get to the throwaway line that her children aren’t allowed to read Harry Potter or Twilight.  One of those being much more reasonable than the other, but still.

This didn’t use to be how things were down South.  Sure, there were holy rollers out on the fringes, who gave you tracts instead of candy on Halloween, and your parents rolled their eyes and walked you on to the next house. Because you were out trick-or-treating in your Darth Vader costume, not at your church’s “Fall Festival” for kids whose parents had bought into the idea that anything remotely supernatural was the work of the devil.  Ordinary parents didn’t object to sitting up and watching Cosmos on PBS, because it was educational. 

Fred Clark has spent the last month or so on his blog driving home the point that in the early- to mid-1970s, the Southern Baptists weren’t all that het up about abortion.  Indeed, the fixation on abortion was considered a Catholic obsession, and the Baptists explicitly considered a fetus less than a person, based on scripture.  Books on Biblical ethics from the 1970s were re-published over a decade later and were suddenly horribly controversial and yanked from Baptist bookstore shelves – without having changed a word of the original text.

Something happened, all right.  It happened to a Republican party that sold its soul to own the Confederate vote and get over the top nationally.  It let itself adopt positions in 2012 that it would have dismissed as hopelessly backward in 1976.  And now the choice is whether to reach beyond the base, knowing that the mere act of reaching out to Latino voters, of abjuring the culture wars, of admitting the reality of climate change – doing those things will alienate their existing base.  But is that base actually going anywhere?  They might not turn out, but in twenty years they won’t be turning out anywhere except parts of Chicago and at the Legion Field box.

And now the usual suspects come down out of the woods to shoot the wounded. Mitt Romney wasn’t a true believer.  Mitt Romney was screwed by the liberal media (ooooh, that Fox News!).  The GOP spent too long trying to get a nominee and should have picked somebody quicker. (Like in 2008, when John McCain fell ass-backward into the spot.) The primaries went on too long and gave too much exposure to the carnival sideshow of Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann and Donald Trump.  And most deliciously – the campaign knew they were dead with a week to go, but had to push the “shellshock” meme because if donors knew that Team GOP knew they were about to take an ass-kicking, they would start wondering why they were giving so much money to a lost cause that its operators knew was lost.  Plus, naturally, nobody could have expected big turnout among black voters, among Latinos, among women, because obviously the Democrats are cheating by running up numbers with minorities.

Right now I don’t take the secession talk seriously, because half the names on the petitions are Californians who would slice off a finger to kick Texas and Alabama out of the country.  The psycho libertarian types are fun to point and laugh at, but I think for the time being it’s going to be more nullification than secession – shocker, the governor of Alabama is already refusing to set up a health care exchange.  Here comes an attempt to create a viable marketplace for health insurance, to expand the range of consumer choice, as Republican an ideal as possible, but since that ni(CLANG!!!!) passed it…well, I guess we’ll see how that works.  Just remember what Earl K. Long warned Leander Perez back in the 1950s…the Feds have got the hydrogen bomb.


Postmortem 2012

This was always the Karl Rove offense: you only need 50%+1, so the move is to get your base fired up beyond all reason while simultaneously turning off marginal voters. The point isn’t to grow your base, it’s to shrink the field so that your base becomes 50%+1 of the turnout. Thus the flood of anti-gay-marriage amendments in 2004, to ensure that the holy-roller faithful would show up to the polls. This time out, the plan was taken to its logical conclusion: actually make it difficult for the other side to cast its ballots.  Shorten up early-voting, limit vote-by-mail, reduce the overall level of participation.  Simple.  One loose-lipped GOPer even said that Pennsylvania’s voter-ID laws would deliver the state for Mitt Romney.


If there’s one word to carve on the tombstone of GOP2012, let it be this: “Unskewed.” When polling numbers didn’t synchronize with their expectations, the Republican brain trust decided that the flaw was not in the expectations, but in the polling, and they promptly re-ran the numbers with the turnout/participation figures they expected, rather than the ones reported in the polling. They chose to believe in their own reality. And they got shellshocked.

Now the fears and doubts commence. Some Republicans (noted airhead Sean Hannity springs to mind) are swearing that all they have to do is say something good about immigration to make nice with Latino voters and everything will somehow be all right. Many rightists, quite predictably, are blaming the nominating of Multiple Choice Mitt and saying the answer is (surprise!) selecting a true-believing red-blooded conservative instead of some Massachusetts squish. And everyone is convinced that if they just find another Reagan, somebody who will put a sunny face on what they already believe, they will be just fine.  Maybe within four years Jeb Bush can get his name changed!

And a few – a tiny few – are starting to question how much longer the GOP can survive as the party of the Confederacy, by the Confederacy and for the Confederacy.  Check out some of the maps that count up racial epithets on Twitter Tuesday night and you’ll see why the Supreme Court has no business even calling Article V of the Civil Rights Act into question. Meanwhile, teatards in Texas are already slinging around the age-old re-secede argument (as if anyone in the US needs to sign a free-trade agreement with Texas – wishful thinking, dumbass).  There are Republicans who recognize that America is changing and that the old ways won’t work forever – but so far not enough to drag the party away from the same Nixonland cliches that have carried them for forty years.

Because that’s what it comes back to, in the end. Creating your own reality at Presidential election time has proven to be a losing strategy for the GOP in the absence of a terrified populace, and even then, Bush’s stronger second win wasn’t a match for Obama’s weaker one. Until the Republican party learns to cope with the world as it is, it’s going to be a long road back to the White House – and at the moment, the House gerrymander seems to be the only thing between the party of Lincoln and firsthand experience as a minority.