Thanks Dave

Three quarters of my life. 33 years. A world without David Letterman seems almost inconceivable. I mean, I was imitating Paul Shaffer in a Letterman skit in high school in 1988. It’s every bit the same as when Johnny Carson retired – a legend, the sort of late night host that you’re never going to see again. Because let’s be honest, none of the guys out there now, not the Jimmies ( how the hell did we get three guys named Jimmy or James hosting late night shows on three different networks in the same time slot?), not Stephen Colbert, not Conan O’Brien – none of those guys would be there without Letterman. and none of them can remotely do what he did.

It really does seem like now everything is geared toward the YouTube clip, waiting for things to go viral the next morning. Nobody sits down and interviews, everything is geared towards what’s going to look splashing and funny, and it’s not the sort of setting for you to get the Indy 500 winner or the heavyweight boxing champion or hell, even some kid who won a 4-H ribbon at the Indiana State Fair. It’s basically celebrity goof off night, well God knows he did all the goofing off in the world, Letterman was real. He had that look that said ” look, you know and I know that this is bullshit” for all the celebrities and Hollywood riff raff. And then, when he would introduce his heart surgeons, or give that amazing monologue in the first show back after the September 11th attacks, it felt like something only he could do. Jay Leno couldn’t give that speech. Jimmy Fallon couldn’t give that speech. I can’t think of a single currently employed talk show host on late night who could.

It’s another memento mori – enjoy the things you enjoy it while you have them, because tomorrow is not promised to you and neither are they. It was a great ride, Dave. Hope you never have to see the Merritt Parkway again.

Election Night Special

UK elections are always fun to watch for a number of reasons.  For one, you don’t have the holy rollers mucking everything up. For another, it’s a short sprint of a campaign with strict limits on campaign broadcasting so you don’t get hammered with the samn damned ads every commercial break. And really, it’s a different and interesting form of governance that I can watch without that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, because it’s somebody else’s problem.

And right now, that problem is David Cameron’s. He’s gaining ground. The threat of UKIP appears to have been somewhat overstated, and Labour is crashing hard and fast, and the LibDems are paying the price for having allied with him – but the Scottish National Party, if the polls are to be believed, is about to take every single seat in Scotland bar maybe one. Which means Cameron may yet get to go down in history as the Prime Minister who presided over the dissolution of the United Kingdom.

It’s bad for everyone, really.  Labour relied so heavily on Scotland for support in recent years that the fallout from its Unionist stand during the referendum has really and truly poisoned the well.  The LibDems enabled a Tory government without getting anything its own way and have been well and soundly thrashed by what should have been their base, and may be on the verge of electoral annihilation. UKIP’s share of the vote is spiking without giving them any actual extra seats. And for all that, the Conservatives may yet fail to book a majority in their own right.

Long story short: this election was a powder keg under the UK political system, and the British people grabbed the plunger and slammed it down with both hands. Now things get interesting.

Final Impressions

So this review of the Apple Watch ends with the reviewer saying that it’s useful for him “to track my fitness and check the time and important notifications from the apps I care about most.” Turns out that’s the exact use case for me and the Pebble. I check the time on it. I have step counting and sleep tracking via Misfit – they don’t really integrate well with Apple Health but I don’t actually use Apple Health, and the Misfit watch app works much better than Morpheuz as a standalone tracker. Notifications to the arm without pulling out the phone are also handy, to the point where I’m actively considering changing my two-factor authentication at work to SMS rather than Duo Mobile because then I’d have two-factor authentication ON MY ARM.

Ultimately, this is where smartwatches will become a thing: you just have to get them into enough people’s hands to figure out what the use case is. Apple threw a bunch of stuff at the wall – things like sending your heartbeat or tiny sketches smacks of Samsung’s feature-itis for its own sake – but their user base is big enough that enough people will roll the dice, and they can iterate from there for the second generation.  As for me, I do have one customization that I wouldn’t have had on an Apple Watch: my primary watch face during the day tells time with Swatch Beats, which is a nice throwback to 1999 and a memento mori of booms past.

$80 to inoculate against a $400 purchase turns out to have been money well spent, even if I do wish I could have copped the gray one instead. But this one also works just as well with the Moto X, which is handy (in fact it works slightly better, as I can pick and choose apps to notify me and reply with emoji to certain forms of messaging…not completely useless, which sounds like damning with faint praise but isn’t).  And in the end…it’s a watch. You don’t stare at a watch for hours on end, you look at it for a specific piece of information (like day or date, for instance). Viewed in that light, the Pebble is about dead solid perfect for what I need, and kind of an inspiring notion: a small company that had an idea and brought it to market without just selling out to Apple or Google or Microsoft, and with crowdfunding no less.  Well done. Would that more of this industry was like that.


They call it the A-Bomb Dome.  It’s what’s left of the former Industrial Hall, the building closest to the hypocenter of the detonation. It looks pretty much like any other bombed-and-burned building, just brick and steel, scorched and twisted and slightly melted in spots.  The thing is, all around it you have the river and the assorted monuments and memorials and the museum, and beyond that is the rebuilt city.  So when you go into the museum and look at the black-and-white pictures of a giant burnt plain with a few stubs of trees or buildings standing like random scarecrows in winter, it doesn’t seem real.

The aftermath is worse, of course.  The lucky ones got blown to pieces right away; the rest were left with burns and fallout and throwing up internal organs and microcephalic offspring.  All in all, pretty horrifying stuff, especially when you think about how we really didn’t know just how the thing would work out.  After all, there had been exactly one detonation of a test device, and the production design was the Mark 1 that was dropped from the Enola Gay.  They weren’t even sure if the thing would detonate, let alone what would happen.

Was it the right thing to do? We did it again three days later to Nagasaki – and even then, as the emperor was preparing to broadcast his rescript of unconditional surrender, there were officers plotting a palace coup to prevent it so that the army could fight on.  And the US had enough fissionable material for one, maybe two more bombs at most – so what then? Tokyo? Kyushu, to try to pave the way for the invasion forces? Hold it in reserve just in case things really turned ugly?

And then there’s that invasion itself.  Scheduled for November 1, 1945, less than six months after V-E day, the first landing to establish a base for the eventual assault on the Kanto Plain outside Tokyo four months later.  The biggest invasion force in human history, one projected to lead to a million Japanese casualties and more American deaths than the rest of the war put together.  And I think about the fact that today, in 2015, there are American officers in Afghanistan and Iraq with Purple Hearts in their kit bags, ready to award on the spot, because in seventy years we still haven’t awarded all the Purple Heart medals that were manufactured in anticipation of that invasion.

War is hell. We firebombed the very shit out of Dresden and Tokyo. We caused more casualties in Tokyo than in Hiroshima, simply because the city was mostly built out of wood and paper and went up like a torch when General Curtis LeMay switched to incendiary bombing. If everything in Osaka and Yokohama and Tokyo looks like it went up around 1960, well, I have a stunning coincidence to report.  About the only thing we didn’t pound into rubble was Kyoto, simply because some of the higher powers in the US command were unwilling to destroy the historic capital and cultural center of Japan; otherwise it probably would have taken the A-bomb instead of Hiroshima.

In the end, it was probably necessary.  It probably saved close to a million Japanese lives that would have almost certainly been lost in a protracted invasion, especially when middle-schoolers were being handed sharpened screwdrivers and told to aim for an American soldier’s abdomen.  The Marines who’d fought their way through the islands for over three years were counting on another three; the sullen motto was “Golden Gate by ’48.”

But if there’s a lesson here, this is it: you can do the wrong thing for the right reasons, but that doesn’t make it the right thing to do. And if you decide to do it, you’d better be prepared to accept and live with the consequences.