Life, the Universe, and Everything

“…when you get right down to it, our lives aren’t measured out in easily-demarcated years. They’re measured in random eras – places lived, loves lost, championship seasons, cars driven, a million overlapping criteria that let us look back and try to gauge the distance we’ve come…

There’s not really anything I want for my birthday this year. Nothing I can buy with money, anyway. I have had everything I wanted in my life, even if I don’t have all of it anymore, or want all of it anymore, and even if I would like some more of what I already had… For today and tonight, though, I’m content with another cup of coffee, dinner with friends, and turning in early to snuggle with my sweetie. Tomorrow will take care of itself. You play the days like you play the games: one at a time.”

-Feb 28, 2011

“The only problem is with trying to find the solution is that this time there isn’t one. At some point, you have to find a way to acknowledge that shit happens, that life is full of randomness and it doesn’t always work out or even mean anything, that we live in a world of chaos and entropy – and you have to find your own light.  And for someone whose worldview has always depended on consistent rules and logical solutions, the real world is ever more difficult to cope with… The goal is to live in the now, in the moment – free of both the tyranny of memory and the trap of expectations.
That’s not a problem with a solution either.  You just do it, and hope nobody looks too closely at how…”  

-Feb. 28, 2012

“Aging sucks.  And yet I suppose it beats the alternative.  Yes, the sleep is more fitful and the pain lasts longer and the drinks hit harder and the stairs knock the breath out quicker, but fuck it, you’ve been dying from the instant you slid out of the birth canal. You just never paid attention to the fact.  Dwelling on it now isn’t going to slow the process down – just do what you can to stay healthy and get on with your life. But every February it’s the same story, and I’m starting to worry that I keep looking back because I don’t know what I’m looking forward to.  If it’s not going to be a long slow grind of the same thing every day until the grave, I need to find something to shoot for…”

-Feb. 28,2013


Huh. Well.  If that ain’t a show I’ll kiss your ass.  

Here we sit, 365 days on, and everything is just as it was the year before, and the year before that, and the year before that.  The goal is the same, but I seem to be falling shorter of it with every passing orbit round the sun.  Ever more cognizant that the world, or God, or Loki, or whoever – nobody owes you a happily ever after.  Stephen Schwarz’s Godspell notwithstanding, it’s not always all for the best. And the days may be long and drag on, but the years go flying by, each one faster than the last.

I felt it more this year than ever before.  Friends and family leave town – over the hill or up the coast or across the country.  Others fight through health issues, of increasing seriousness. Work becomes ever more intolerable, to the point where I not only despair of it ever getting better, but despair of it being any better anywhere else.  I feel like I’ve been spinning my wheels for too long, marking time, treading water, abiding by what’s safe and secure even as the safe ground slowly crumbles beneath us.

Right now, if the Old Scratch himself appeared before me, offering to jump me ahead to age 60, but I’d be retired, with my wife and a healthy pension, and a cottage in a cold seaside town where the cops still carry revolvers and the coffee shop is still where you go for bacon and eggs and gossip, and where the one dive bar in town has a fireplace and doesn’t sell anything more exotic or complicated than Guinness, and where the sputtering air-cooled VW can get us around without the hassle and strain of walking on a bad back…I’d have to think long and hard before turning it down.  Assuming I would.

So that’s the challenge: what can I do to make the next twenty years something that I’m not better off just fast-forwarding through to get to my dotage?  And if I had to guess right now, I’d say: do the things that make me happy.  Go ahead and make the coffee in the morning, go to the public house on the nights they have trivia or live Irish songs, find someplace to sit by the fire and read, sleep in and cuddle with my sweetie, take a walk in the fog, just spend the $20 on the damned Nerf gun, turn off all the devices and watch the Prozac channel on UVerse with the lights out, take the time to meditate with nothing but the rain app or the shipping forecast in the background, buy the books and read them, use the vacation time, go away to Tahoe or Portland or Boston or Ireland or Japan. Cherish the things I enjoy, because – like Dan Brown’s Lounge, or the Antarctica video that the DVR ate, or the Franklin era of Vanderbilt football, or pie beer at Tied House – you’ll always lose them in the end, and be sorry you hadn’t taken the full enjoyment of them when you had the opportunity.

And for the love of everything, if there’s something in your life that sucks, that makes things worse, stop doing it.

I guess we’ll see how well that works out…

The Town

I mentioned it before, but one of the things that made the bowl trip to Birmingham so satisfying was that it was in a town where I had a past, where I had memories, where I had a life that could easily be related and relevant to the here-and-now.  And that’s not a small consideration.

I’ve mentioned the black hole before, I know, and how at diverse times it’s felt as if my past is falling into it, with me one step ahead like Indiana Jones jumping crocodiles or crumbling cliffs.  I guess 2007 was the worst example – leaving Apple, being gone from DC, my surrogate big sister’s moved out and the car I’ve driven since Clinton was sworn in is no more and I don’t have any friends from college or grad school and I’ve barely heard from anyone at my high school in a decade or more, and there’s the void yawning behind you.  And it’s a lot harder to keep your balance with a void front and back.

Part of it, I think, is just about having a past.  Remember when that bar was something else, remember before Pancake Pantry had the apartments built next to it, remember when that was Alpine Bagel, remember when that restaurant was a dodgy clothing-and-Chinese-cellphone shop.  I was here before, I’ve seen the change, I have institutional memory, I knew my way around and who knows, maybe I still do.  (hint: not as well as I thought I did.)

But part of it is about having that shared local culture. Mayfield Mall and the Old Mill.  Don and Mike and Low Budget Jeopardy and Vegas-style shows. KDF and HFS and 95 Rock.  People’s Drugstore and Big B and Long’s.  William Faulkner’s famous like about the South was that “the past isn’t dead, it isn’t even past.”  Which is true…if you’re there.  If you aren’t, then your past is definitely in the past, because I have at best tangential contact with anyone who shares common memory of the life and times of my first 25 years.

That’s what made it odd both times I made a big move – when I arrived in DC, it was almost fully-formed from scratch in 1997.  No past, no history, nobody around who could vouch for my prior existence – a big part of the reason why I was essentially rebuilt from scratch in the DMV.  And then, when I moved out here, nobody but my fiancee had any more than the faintest sense of my past existence, so I was dropped anew into a new world.

If I’m honest, I really haven’t done enough to build it.  Sure, I’ve had Cal football tickets for a decade (even if we don’t get very much use out of them lately), and I tried diversions as random as java programming lessons, Catholic RCIA and an a cappella men’s chorus – none of which really worked.  Work really hasn’t been as conducive to things social as it was back East, for better or worse – there’s no one tying me down to a crappy job, but there’s nobody there making it better, either.

But the other part of it is just time.  Putting in the hours, and the days, and the years.  Doing enough things that you can point back later and say “remember when”.  And in about five months, I’ll have a lot more to say about that.

Third Impressions

Honestly, I gravitate toward the Moto X more than the iPhone now. I don’t know how much of that is novelty, and how much of it is exasperation with the Verizon-based iPhone 5 (and the battery-gimped iPhone 4S). But on so many criteria, the X is the equal or better of the iPhone 5 – I loaded up most of the critical apps last night and so far, so good.

The battery advantage is real. I have a plain black background and most of the text apps (Press RSS, Kindle) are white text on black background, to save power on the AMOLED screen. Android 4.4.2 has fixed the battery issue, for the most part, and in roughly equivalent use it burned only about 30% of its battery in town yesterday, whereas the iPhone 5 burned over 60%. And that’s without any audio playback, either.

Right now, the biggest weakness of the X is the mail client – which is just dreadful, to be quite frank. It won’t check multiple accounts at once, there’s a separate app just for the Gmail account (which goes unused), and it doesn’t delete mail from the server in a timely fashion (if at all). I don’t really do much in the way of personal mail, so it’s not a dealbreaker.

The bigger dealbreaker is iMessage. Apple’s bespoke solution to cross-device text messaging.. Literally every single personal message I have in my text messaging since I last restarted the phone is a blue bubble, even the folks in Nashville like the tailgate crew or the basketball manager who got promoted to player this year. Even at work, I only have a couple of green messages. Were I moving to a new iPhone, this would be a piece of cake, because the number would be abstracted away automatically, but now I have to tell everyone the new number. Which has the potential to be a gargantuan pain in the ass.

The iMessage issue really pointed up how stuck into Apple services I am. Having my personal calendar in iCloud is something I’m willing to do – and unwilling to move to Google’s service. Music, of course, is all from the iTunes Music Store – I might buy some MP3 from Amazon but I’m not about to commit to the Google Play Store for that stuff. And having iPhoto Stream automatically taking care of pictures as I shoot them is more convenient than I realized.

The polish just isn’t there, either. Little things as simple as having a quick lock to keep the screen in vertical orientation, or self-labeled folder creation, have been annoyances. I wish I could get the battery percentage beside the indicator instead of having to pull down a windowshade and then hit a button. And while Google Voice Search is great for entering terms, it doesn’t seem to work as well for some random inquiries, although I need to look more at what it’s supposed to do well. I wouldn’t mind having the headphone jack in the bottom of the phone instead of the top, though that’s probably personal preference as much as anything.

On the other hand, there are some things Apple definitely needs to go to school on with the Moto X. First among them, the camera-twist. Being able to twist the phone twice as it comes out of the pocket and have it ready to shoot? Absolutely priceless, especially when you’re out at the Chinese New Year parade. The display itself is perfectly nice – the 720p decision was the right one, and the iPhone 5 is legitimately starting to feel a little narrow in the display. I read a lot more Kindle books on the Moto X than I ever do on the iPhone.

Too, the battery management is beyond crucial – it’s 50% larger and things like the AMOLED screen help, but more importantly, there’s a table showing what percentage of battery use can be attributed to what function, whether it’s an app or the screen or the GPS or the Wi-Fi. It’s absolutely necessary and it’s inexcusable that Apple hasn’t put that into iOS yet. Similarly, it’s great to be able to see which apps took up how much cellular data. Since February 10, I’ve used about 300 MB – so 2 GB a month ought to be plenty, which means either T-Mob or AIO will do at $60 or $55 respectively (assuming I could live with AIO capping LTE at 8 Mbps, and I’m not sure I could when T-Mob was outstreaking Verizon at close to 20 Mbps in San Francisco last night).

But in any event, I can live with this phone. If I were going abroad, I wouldn’t hesitate to grab it first, and I wouldn’t be bitter if it was all I had until the notional iPhone 6 ships – and that notional iPhone 6 would have to impress me enough to pay full freight for, because I think I’m going to like no contractual obligation.


…is what we used to call Comcast when I lived in DC.  Bunch of bastards – they ate Cable TV Arlington, so I was stuck with them.  Substandard DVR option (if any), horrible cable guide functionality, stuff breaking at random, and clueless customer service that would show up to your house…maybe.  If Comcast said the technician would arrive between 12 and 5 on Tuesday, there would be no technician and there might not be a Tuesday.

But it was my only option for TV, because I lived in an apartment.  Sure, I could put up rabbit ears, but things like DirecTV or Dish or an entirely theoretical fiber offering were non-starters.

That’s the thing: Comcast is out there trying to sell its Time-Warner Cable merger as being entirely pro-consumer in a thriving competitive market because DirecTV! And Dish!  And Netflix! And Hulu! And Google Fiber!

Hold. UP.

Here’s the fact of the matter: the so-called “triple play” is a ruse.  Ultimately, what you’re getting is phone, TV and Internet access – but the phone service is delivered as data, and the TV is just a collection of streams. What Comcast really is – what any cable company is, to be honest – is a data pipe into the house with some services slapped over top of it.  Hulu and Netflix aren’t competitors at all, because they aren’t running a pipe.  DirecTV and Dish are competing television services, but they’re not a pipe.  Google Fiber is a pipe…if you live in Kansas City or Provo or maybe Austin.

But the thing is, right now, there are two pipes into the house: your cable company and your phone company.  And that’s it.  Anything more would require running new cables to your house, whether it’s Google Fiber or a municipally-owned fiber option (such as in Chattanooga), and that represents a non-trivial infrastructure cost plus the limitations on what local municipalities and HOAs and the like are willing to have done.  So at the end of the day, you face a duopoly: your local cable company, irrespective of the name, or your local Baby Bell, also irrespective of the name.

And that’s the problem.  Comcast can point to companies like Cox or Charter or the like, but cable TV is a local monopoly everywhere and always.  How many cable companies can you choose between?  For my part, I get to pick between Comcast and U-Verse.  That’s AT&T U-verse, the local Baby Bell.  I can’t choose a fiber option, because nobody’s running fiber to my house.  I could go back to DirecTV for my television, but I’d still have to pick a broadband provider.  And I could choose DSL from a Competitive Local Exchange Carrier…and be limited to whatever the copper can carry from the CO, assuming they can actually undercut the Incumbent Local Exchange Carrier (i.e. the Baby Bell). I went down that route, but Speakeasy could never get faster than 1.5Mbps, no matter how much they wanted to.

There are any number of possible alternatives which Comcast or Verizon or AT&T will flog to show you what a real competitive bidness they are in – and most of them, like WiMAX or municipal fiber or the like, barely exist and often as not are crap where they do.  Ultimately, if you want a legitimately competitive business environment, the only thing you can do is to have the local community take possession of the last mile – the line from the central office to the house – and then allow anyone to use it.  If the two lines into your house are suddenly open to half a dozen providers each, then all of a sudden you have real competition and real choice.

As it is, Comcast is happy for you to have a choice, and the choice is go with them or go without.

flashback, part 68 of n

 “Ultimately, I think the lesson of the Olympics is that your life goes further in four years than you think. It’s worth taking time to appreciate the trip.”

That was four years ago.  Four years ago, I was just wrapping up my first year at the new job. It went pretty well, as I recall; the worst bit of the year was the ill-fated decision to spend nine days in Alabama at the holidays.  But the winter of 2010 seems to have been a bit of a dull moment, with plenty of watching the Vancouver Olympics in HD. Obviously the honeymoon was over at the new job, looking back, and I was missing my gang enough that my birthday present was a surprise trip back to DC.  Still, it wasn’t a patch on how things are four years on.

I didn’t say much about the project as it was happening, partly because I generally avoided talking about work business on here and partly because there just wasn’t time.  But it was just exactly this time last year that everything really went sideways and pear-shaped, and my conflicting urges – to be a stupendous badass and to be left alone – really got me deep in the shit.  I avoided punching this particular tar baby for as long as I could, but I wound up stuck worse than Br’er Rabbit ever did, and there wasn’t any briar patch to beg my way into instead.

It was a combination of every single work trauma I’d ever had to that point: excessive-to-the-point-of-actual-pain physical labor, arbitrary deadlines, an ill-defined project with incompetent leadership, tons of extra bodies of the “now does anyone hear speak Windows, with some difficulty?” variety (including, famously, one contractor who just wandered off after I explained the process and decided he would do something else). Not to mention ridiculous hours, horrifyingly bad nutrition, and severe inattention to personal maintenance (i.e. a hipster neck beard of the sort I’d normally shoot myself in the face rather than wear).  Normal duties, which of course I was still on the hook for, fell further and further behind. My shoulder, which two rounds of steroid injections had mostly sorted, was soon hurting worse than ever.

And I had only two sources of comfort: my wife, infinitely patient while inwardly terrified that I was more depressed than she’d ever seen, and my old crew back East, who one day all reminisced about the nightmare of summer 2003 wishing they could ride out and prop me up one more time. That day was one of the best gifts I’ve ever gotten in my life, for the same reason that Roddy McCorley went to his doom smiling with his eyes glad and bright…sure, he may have been hanged, but he went down knowing his crew was coming to save him – and failing that, to avenge him.  There are worse ways to go, if you’re going.

Eventually we powered through, but the damage was done. Doctors, chiropractors, therapists mental and physical, painkillers and antidepressants and steroids and acupuncture, for godsakes, and a lot of hard thinking about where I want my life and my career to be headed.  No one in the history of the human race ever followed their bliss into IT support, so I either have to figure out how to make a living out of drinking and talking shite on Twitter and Anchor of Gold, or else come to terms with the fact that this is the career I’ve made for myself these last sixteen years.

And maybe that’s part of my irritation with the tech sector at large, because I’ve spent most of my career outside the commercial realm.  Non-profit, education, federal government – places where you don’t get unrestricted stock grants and unlimited free snacks and twice-weekly telecommuting and private transit with Wi-Fi.  I’m in tech, but it’s not the pretty part – it’s the part where “perks” consist of a shuttle bus from the train station and a coffeepot you can refill yourself for free.  I flatter myself that I’ve been in the tech sector for sixteen years, but let’s face it – most of the time I’ve been a bit-janitor, functionally little different from the general services folks you call when the light fixture overhead shorts out or the carpet needs to be replaced or the desk needs reassembly across the office.  

In fairness, I was at Apple for three years, where I was a glorified dock-walloper half the time and an organic set of shell scripts for the rest.  Most of my work in the latter years could be attributed to the fact that our database was tossed off as an afterthought by the C-team FileMaker developers.  I did get an ESPP and an original iPhone for my trouble, but I also got knee surgery and a creeping sense that my technical skills were eroding daily in favor of days spent chasing people on the phone to send our property back to us pleeeeease.

I wasn’t out there coding projects, I wasn’t out there developing apps, I wasn’t any manner of engineer or designer or what have you.  I’m the IT Crowd, I’m Nick Burns Your Company’s Computer Guy, I’m a glorified version of the bad stereotypes at Best Buy (which is one reason I’ve always gone out of my way not to dress like a computer person).  And I’m getting all the crap of the high tech life with none of the rewards.

Maybe it’s time I decided I’m not a non-profit.

Nine days in

So I can’t really say that much about the Moto X in its first week, because there is apparently a nontrivial glitch in using a Moto X with Android 4.4 that absolutely pummels the battery life. In fact, last night, it bled 10% of its battery in eight hours of sitting untouched on the coffee table in airplane mode. On the good to bad scale, that’s bad, so my lovely bride did a factory reset for me while I was at work – and mirabile dictu, when I got home, the refreshed phone was offering me the mythical 4.4.2 update, which I promptly ran.

I’ve only reinstalled a handful of apps – Evernote, Instagram, Kindle and Press, the best RSS app for Android to all accounts – and done the bare minimum of configuration. Oh, and put on a solid black wallpaper in the interest of conserving battery on an AMOLED, since black doesn’t draw power. Must remember to make the Kindle white-on-black too.

It’s been hard to judge, simply because the battery life was probably the biggest influence in getting the phone in the first damn place. Setting that aside, though, it’s possible to make a few early assessments:

* The things I’d like to see show up on a notional iPhone 6: the wrist-twist for starting the camera, the larger screen (in a device that’s not heavier or materially much bigger), the ability to hear and parse voice commands without pushing a button. Assuming the power savings are real, I wouldn’t say no to AMOLED and the larger battery either.

* It really drives home how stuck into Apple services I am: the iCloud email as my public primary, all iTunes everything, the convenience of having a central account that isn’t part and parcel of Google (with the presumed data mining that goes along with that). So far, the only Google login on the refreshed Moto X is setting up Moto Care (and thus the ability to remotely find, lock or wipe the thing) and using the Google Play store for apps (which seems inevitable – my use of the Amazon App Store the first time out was a nice effort, but lacks the auto-update and latest versions that seem to appear in the Play store). Not using Google Mail or Calendar and I haven’t re-enabled Google Now, and it may be a while before I do.

* The Moto X feels nice. It doesn’t feel materially more burdensome than the iPhone to carry, hold or use (indeed, for Kindle or Instagram, the iPhone now feels unusually narrow in the same way the iPhone 4S came to feel unusually squat). Black on black on black was the right move; the thing has the sort of cyberpunk feel to it that suggests it’s what William Gibson would have written into the Sprawl trilogy if he’d known cell phones were going to be a thing.

* Wild card: podcasts. Once I sort out the battery situation, the trick becomes: can I download the Junks and the Geoff Show weekdaily and play them back without any hassle? It looks broadly feasible at the moment, but over the long haul, how convenient will it be?

* I’m using the phone on T-Mobile, prepaid, $3 a day for days I use it. It’s still cheaper than paying for a full month…for now. My presumption is that this would only need to be a monthly phone if I changed jobs and had to give up the work-provided iPhone 5, but it would also serve as a very viable phone to go abroad, being completely unlocked and capable of HSPA+ service in almost any country. And if T-Mobile doesn’t work out, there’s always AIO Wireless, unlimited talk and text plus 2 GB data for $55 a month, assuming the speed throttle isn’t too much to cope with.

* This phone cost me $325, sack and all. No contract, no commitment, no obligation. Just free and clear, as good a phone as you can buy unlocked, for half the cost of buying an equivalent iPhone. Can’t argue with the value proposition there. Put another way: given that the normal phone subsidy works out to $20 a month, this phone pays for itself in 17 months of daily use on prepaid monthly service. I’m very pleased with that – doubly so given that it was designed in the USA (partly by me) and assembled in the USA (well, Texas, but that’s practically America). First phone I bought with my own money in three and a half years, and the most money I’ve put down on a phone since…when? Maybe the V635 in late 2005? But it was a first-rate unlocked smartphone for $300 plus tax, and you can’t beat that with a stick.

Speaking of football and Tebow…

Supposedly he may wind up playing for a Florida entry in the new A11FL, another spring football league that will bring an exciting brand of high-action football to a season where there isn’t any, taking advantage of blah blah blah blah…

We’ve been down this road before, folks.  The USFL.  The WLAF. The CFL’s American experiment. The XFL.  And those were just the leagues that actually managed to put games on the field.  Every decade or so, somebody decides that you know, hang it all, spring football will work THIS time. And this time, instead of NFL support and foreign teams or an existing league elsewhere or pro wrestling gimmicks, the secret sauce that will make it go is…the A-11 offense.  You know, the super-gimmick high school offense that relied on a loophole in the rules to make every single player potentially an eligible receiver, so long as the play starts with one guy back as the punter.

This is ridiculous. The governing body of high school football has already outlawed the formation, so it’s based around a system that’s literally against the rules at every level of football.   Supposedly we get “showcase games” this spring and the league will launch in 2015, and I will bet any one of you one shiny American dollar that we never even get to the showcase games.  Sure, ESPN2 will supposedly be televising this nonsense, but a commitment to show two individual one-off games isn’t a league TV contract.  Hell, the UFL went right against the NFL, playing on fall nights when the NFL legally couldn’t, and they had a small number of teams and central cost control and a TV contract and they were a resounding bust.

Major league sports are inherently a monopoly business.  You can split it up for one reason or another, like baseball was for years, but that’s largely a function of arbitrary division and an underserved market.  Most every pro sports league in North America has gone to between 30 and 32 teams.  It’s not as if there are a dozen major markets unserved by a pro team, the way there were in 1959 when the AFL launched to challenge the NFL.  You can’t launch a major league in an existing sport, and the money isn’t there to make minor league sports profitable without farm team and player development agreements like baseball and hockey (and the NBA D-league) have.

And it overlooks something else: football has a minor league, and it’s called college football.  Hell, college football was there first. It wasn’t until the NFL-AFL wars and merger of the 60s that the pro form of the game became dominant.  The SEC is practically a triple-A league for the NFL already.  Throw in the fact that spring already has the beginning of MLB and MLS, the playoffs for the NBA and NHL, and nice weather returning when you want to go outside instead of parking in front of the TV all weekend…and you can see why spring pro ball has always run on the rocks, whether it’s 1985 or 1992 or 1995 or 2001.

Or 2014.  God bless ya, guys, but one shiny American dollar says you’re going to sink like a rock.

Here we go

The one bad thing about Michael Sam outing himself to the world as a gay man is that the footage of his gameplay that ESPN insists on airing in a constant loop consists mostly of him tossing Vanderbilt players around like rag dolls.  As Austyn Carta-Samuels tweeted earlier, “If anyone misses watching me play turn on ESPN. I think I’ve been sacked by Michael Sam over 150 times in the last few hours…”

But setting aside the abuse suffered by our offensive line and quarterback, this is absolutely the biggest sports story of the year.  This is not Dave Kopay coming out years later, this is not Jason Collins coming out at the end of his career – this is the SEC’s co-defensive player of the year, the linchpin of the defense of the #5 team in the country, a team one loss against Auburn removed from probably playing for a national championship, a unanimous first-team All-American and therefore, logically speaking, an almost sure thing to be picked on the first day of the draft (yes, I know the first round is broken out all on its own now, but you know how conservative I am).

And he’s gay.

First off, let’s not mince words: Michael Sam has balls the size of church bells to do what he’s done.  He could have kept his mouth shut, or even just stifled it until the draft was done and his contract was assured.  Instead, he put it out there for the world to see, for 32 teams to weight and consider – and guaranteed that he would go to a team willing to be the home of the first openly gay NFL player.  He also put a lot of pressure on himself to perform – if he can’t play, if he struggles, you can expect Tebow volumes of coverage about whether he’s a distraction, whether the pressure is too much, and from every side – this won’t be a beat writer and a division guy on ESPN, this will be a hundred media outlets at Tuesday practices.  He squared up to the challenge, and I can’t imagine that it’s not a huge load off his mind just to have it out there and play it as it comes.

The other heroes in this, of course, are his teammates and coaches. Supposedly, he outed himself to the team at the beginning of last season, when the coaches were doing the old “tell us something about yourself” to get the team talking with each other, and he dropped that bombshell.  And his team considered it and rolled right on as if nothing had changed.  That ain’t hay, folks.  That’s college football.  That’s the SEC.  That’s a team with national aspirations.  If they were distracted or sidelined or negatively impacted, they sure didn’t look like in Nashville, or anywhere else in their twelve wins.  And let’s face it, they could have won at South Carolina (double-OT slugfest that might have been the best game of the year) and probably could have beaten Auburn if Gus Malzahn’s mad-scientist act hadn’t gone batshit loonball.

But they rolled with it, and they won with him, and they had his back the whole way.  That ain’t hay, folks.  That’s the generation after mine, and it’s the generation that will ultimately redeem the South.  They probably heard all the stuff you hear growing up about race and homosexuality and foreigners and everything else, but they also know kids of other colors and preferences, and they listen to Frank Ocean and they watch Glee and they wonder what some Southern kids always have: if they’re lying about this, what else are they lying about?

They will save us.  You can hang that on Michael Sam, too: not for ourselves alone.

Well done, young man.  You didn’t have to do our O-line like that, though.


“This isn’t sports. This is sports thrown in a blender, drowned under entire tankers of schmaltz and nonsense, dumbed down to appeal to the kind of people who think the Today Show is a newscast, and then they shower themselves in celebrating their own cleverness. And the worst part is that we don’t have a choice. We have to dig like hell if we want to somehow steal an illegal stream of the BBC’s coverage, because the “live streaming” NBC claims to offer has yet to function all day for me (thanks largely to basing their tablet app around the binary abortion that is Adobe AIR)…”

That was my complaint about the London games.  It’s still just as valid, maybe more so – yes, there’s a problem with being eleven time zones away or something like that, but I’m still waiting to see whether events that happen while I’m asleep are available for playback when I wake up.  If the choice is between “stream this live on your iPad at 2 AM” and “wait for our chop suey coverage in prime time, three hours behind the rest of the country” with nothing in between, NBC has learned nothing.  At least now I have the shady UK VPN option…because I’m going to watch.  It’s the only game in town, and it’s worth it.  Why?  Look at what I said about London again…


“Every four years, like bloody Brigadoon, this little magic village appears. And we see some of the people we saw there four years ago, and meet some new ones, and remember some we don’t see anymore. And normal service is suspended and we watch something special, and hell, some of our basketball players even colonize it briefly. And then Monday arrives and it’s gone as if it were never there.

“It’s like Disneyland. We can’t stay. We wish we could.”

Ultimately, that’s why we’ll bear through the horrific NBC schmaltz, set up the shady streams, DVR overnight action, and even just suck it up and actually watch what we’re handed.  Because once you dig down and drill through the weepy interviews and the Ryan Secrest horseshit and the pious blatherings of Pinkeye Costas, and get through the politics and the geopolitical nightmares and the unsettling corruption and legal horror, it’s still that magical winter village that only appears every four years.  Dreams of racing down a bobsled run at breakneck speed, or cresting a rail on a snowboard and being seventy feet off the ground, flying, or just the whole spectacle of speed and snow…more even than the summer games, the Winter Olympics have that magical dreamlike quality that no amount of autocratic dictatorship or network malfeasance can bury.

And once again, it’s a marker for where my life has gone.  Of which, as always…

flashback, part 67 of n

I first found the pub in January 2007.  Honestly, it came onto the radar simply because it was walking distance from a likely Irish pub that claimed to have live music on Sunday nights, and because it was close to the light rail home.  It dovetailed with an interesting time in my life, when I was starting to explore who I might be in the process of becoming (now that I was plainly no longer who I’d been). The memory is thick with 2-Tone songs plucked from the wife’s collection or from Virgin Party Classics of a Friday morning, songs that featured more than a little in the pub.

It was dark in there, most of the light coming from a couple of bright red neon signs, with a gas potbelly stove in the front and a gas fireplace in the back room. 20 ounce pints, real cask ales on tap and no televisions anywhere in sight. No wi-fi, either, or at least none publicly accessible. Lots of soccer scarves – mostly Quakes, obviously, but others as well, along with assorted paraphernalia from sports and music alike. The general atmosphere was like the place had been taken ever so slightly out of time, a feeling enhanced by the confluence of “Ghost Town” and “Set the Fire to the Third Bar” and the occasional Irish song flickering back up through my iPod.

And I sort of forgot to go back for a while, until January 2008, when I resolved to start checking out the Irish place again, and the pub into the bargain.  A couple or three Sunday nights, and then that was an end of it.  And then 2009 rolled around, and as I adjusted to the changes of a new job, I took on the notion of trying my hand at the pub quiz, at which I won about $75 over the course of a month.  All in pub credit of course, and when I left with the monthly prize single-handedly, that $40 of credit sat untouched for some time.  I know I must have gone back in at some point in the ensuing three years, but I’m not sure when it was exactly – friends came to town and social life became, well, social, and sitting alone down the pub wasn’t really a thing anymore.

I don’t know when I flipped it back on again – January 2012 maybe? – but by January 2013, I had locked in on it again, and rediscovered that sense of being taken out of time.  And last January and February, it was what I needed more than anything, because the world was getting to be too much.  Of which more later.  But with a Kindle and the Sunday burger (bacon gouda BBQ last night) and a cold pint of cask-conditioned porter, with the Selecter playing overhead as you recline in the leather chair, it’s just about dead solid perfect.  Even if it’s going to take almost an hour to get home.