Act Four

I first heard of Kentucky Route Zero in late 2012, as its latest trailer appeared online and suggested a radical shift in the nature of the game. While it had started out as some sort of side-scroller and turned into a point-click game, the fundamental story seems to be similar. It looked haunting and magical-realist and very atmospheric, for lack of a better word.

Act One of a planned five first appeared in early 2013, just as I was hitting rock bottom at work and experiencing the kind of existential despair I hadn’t felt in years. The game turned out to be just what I sensed, and just what I needed: not really a game so much as a meandering novelistic story that the player immerses into and shepherds along. Originally, all five acts were supposed to be done in 2013, but almost five years on, we’re only up to act IV, which came out in the summer of 2016.

Kentucky Route Zero is the story of a strange and mysterious sort-of-underground road and those who travel on it. It intersects with the normal world in a fairly surreal fashion, and as you continue, you go from playing one character to several. The first trailer described them as “lost souls” and that’s as good a sense as any; they all find themselves in circumstances and happenstances that are somewhat their own fault, somewhat not their fault, somewhat nobody’s fault. Things just sort of worked out this way.

By the fourth act, the action had moved to a river, rather than the eponymous road, like some kind of dark and vaguely ominous version of Huckleberry Finn. Act IV is the only one so far to take place entirely underground, and I found it more affecting than any of the three acts preceding, because…you’re always concealed. It’s always dark. There are places and people you see and meet, things as strangely diverse as a gas station or a research center or a tiki bar, all along this river in the caves. And this hit home hard with me a year ago, as I was sick of the world around me and sick of dodging the bikeholes of Palo Alto, and I found myself using the tunnels at work to go back and forth. And they were quiet, uncrowded, maybe warmer than I really needed, but along the way you’d find a side door into a taqueria. Or a rarely used restroom. Or, surprisingly, the basement lounge of a building with an open four-story atrium that was nonetheless frosted over so the light was never direct, with a vending machine and some comfortable chairs – the perfect place to escape in solitude, if not privacy.

KRZ is art not unlike Hopper’s Nighthawks – it evokes an emotional response for me, twangs a chord that I feel sympathetically in my bones. That need for not so much light, for feeling like you’re safely stashed away under the ground or under the fog or under the night sky. That sense of solitude even if you aren’t by yourself, and that even if there are a handful of other people around, you are let to go on your own way as they go on theirs. A moment to step out of the world, to get away from the claustrophobia of the crowd and the news and the creeping distant horror, something like a smoke break from reality. It’s something I hadn’t thought about for a long time, but which in retrospect I’ve craved and sought from the time I was six years old right on through undergrad and ultimately to work last year. Sometimes, you just need that five-space and five-time, you just need the universe to let you be for a moment and not think about it.

And so, into the laptop, and a drink at the Rum Colony before a long float down the river that ends up with a meal at Sam & Ida’s, and wondering what is to become of our lost souls now. It’s been years if not decades since I could say this of a video game, but…it’s a masterpiece.


In the last six months, I’ve been intermittently listening to a podcast my wife’s cousin recommended. It’s called Expat Sandwich, in which a woman called Marty Walker interviews one American living abroad in one country or another. And two things recur as a theme, no matter whether it’s France, Japan, Berlin or Antarctica: one, everyone misses Mexican food and can’t get any where they are. And two, after a while as an expat, you still don’t feel entirely at home in your foreign country, but now you feel out of place in America too.

When I arrived on campus at Vanderbilt, it felt like home on day one. I managed to screw that up. Northern Virginia was nice, but it took some time for me to feel like I fit in (in fairness, part of that could have been down to my disappearance and regeneration after my dad died). Northern California felt incredibly different when I first moved here, and once the chaos settled down, I got comfortable – 2006 might still be the best stem-to-stern calendar year of my life – but the recurring bouts with the black cloud have made it incredibly difficult not to feel out of place, made worse by the deterioration of Silly Con Valley over the last five years.

And then I heard this podcast, and something clicked. I’ve lived in my current address for longer than I’ve lived in any one place in my life since graduating high school. But from birth to age 22? I didn’t feel any less out of place than I do now. In fact, in some ways, it was worse. At least in California, I’ve had the experience for a couple of years of sort of feeling like I fit in before Silly Con Valley turned into 1986 Wall Street. I never fit in when I lived in Alabama, aside from a roughly two year stretch in high school (and only at high school).

So if I’ve always felt out of place…why?

“To betray, you must first belong. I never belonged.”
-Kim Philby

There is a whole world of the alternate South right now. A world limned by the Bitter Southerner and by Scalawag magazine. A world where college football is defined by the almost surreal stylings of Every Day Should Be Saturday rather than the illiterate howling of the Paul Finebaum Show. A world where “Southerner” isn’t always defined as “white” and where Atlanta is the city of Outkast and Migos instead of Gone With The Wind. One where Nashville is the It City and Birmingham a culinary Mecca on the way up.

And in theory and on paper, I should be ideally fitted for it. I grew up in Birmingham. I attended Vanderbilt. I was out there trying to be part of the alt-South before it was fashionable, before Billy Reid and Good People and hot chicken. And the thing is…it was never enough to pull me back. Still isn’t. When I look around Birmingham, I see a place that I wouldn’t have been sorry to be when I was twenty, if it were still the early 90s and we had a downtown ballpark and this huge public space and bike share and…the thing about this new South is that in a lot of ways, it’s getting stuff I already had in the DMV or have now in California. Yes, I could get all the same stuff down South now that I could get in Silicon Valley, bar light rail and decent tacos. But I can get all that stuff in Silicon Valley too, and not have to wade through Vols or Tide fans or the kind of people who would literally rather vote for a statutory rapist than a Democrat. No amount of gentrification seems like enough for me to work through the humidity, the institutionalized ignorance or the past. Time is supposed to bring growth and modernity, but down South, it just brought the necks more to hate.

I think it’s pretty easy to tell why I felt out of place in Alabama – because I was. From the time I was old enough to read above my age level, I was officially different, and that’s the worst thing you can be in Alabama. Recent events have demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt just how messed up a place that state can be if you aren’t on the correct side, and despite having all the necessary markers – white, male, Southern Baptist (notionally), heterosexual and reasonably middle-class and thoroughly Crimson Tide – I was still different, and never mind how; different is all that mattered. I basically never had friends in the neighborhood, school was always ten miles away in another town, and huge chunks of my social life all the way through tenth grade were carried out mostly over the phone with the same two or three people. Most of the high school friends I made were all a year ahead of me, and when they graduated, I was adrift, but I figured college would take care of that. One biggest mistake of my life later, nope, and then you get to grad school for the wrong reasons, and this story is so old I’m sick of it myself.

So I guess there’s a question of when ever have I felt comfortable within myself – when have I been happy to be who I am and what I am? 1988-89. Maybe in 1994. Probably 2000-2006 inclusive. I was this close to coming to terms with who I am in 2016…and then the wheels came off the world. Now I just keep asking myself if this kind of despair, this kind of rage, this kind of uncertainly and fear of the future is normal. And the thing that kept bugging me over and over is that…I used to be interesting. I mean, when you go from a top-15 university to National Geographic to Apple, and Nashville to DC to NorCal, and you’ve driven cross-country twice and been to NYC and London and proposed to your wife in a TV star’s apartment and lived through blizzards and droughts and terrorism and have friends all over the country – after all that, it’s tough to go through a stretch where you don’t leave the US for years and you never even take your car out of state and you have the same mind-numbing job for six or seven years and all you get is more stress and more angst.


We rented a Skoda Octavia in Ireland, with right-hand drive. If you get in the car like you would in America, you’re sitting on the passenger side instead of the driver’s. And there’s no pedals and no wheel, and when you look up at the mirror, you’re looking somewhere completely other and have no view of what’s behind you. You’re left with a completely different perspective and have to change the way you look at things.

And I look at 45. And I look in the mirror at the paunch beneath the fisherman’s sweater and the jowls below the tweed flat cap, and I look back at twenty years in Macintosh IT and its ancillary professions, and I look at things like my hybrid Chevrolet and my iPhone that are straight out of some futuristic fiction or maybe Popular Science in 1988 or so. And I think how comfortable I am at home in the recliner with a pint of something dark and a good book, or taking a leisurely drive up PCH, or being able to cuddle the same girl since 2001. And I reflect on being able to say that I remember when this happened 10, or 20, or 25 or 30 years ago.

Through no fault of my own – or creditable effort, if I’m honest – I’ve aged into being where I kind of wanted to be all along. The birth certificate is catching up with the soul. I don’t need to be 45 pretending I’m 25. I have the advantage now of distance and perspective, and the ability to appreciate what I outlasted. And not coincidentally, enough income to actually do the things we want to do, whether that’s London or Ireland or seeing long-lost friends. I still have problems with the geography of belonging – the constant exodus of friends and the bad energy around the Peninsula – but I’m remarkably close to being OK with me, myself, who I am, in a way I haven’t been for a long time. And that’s progress not to be dismissed or diminished. Now it’s just a question of holding the world in macro at a distance and acknowledging and fighting the horror without letting it diminish me in micro. Which is not a small undertaking, but it’s one worth trying for.

flashback, part 88 of n

There wasn’t a whole lot to do in undergrad. I wasn’t old enough to get into bars, not that Birmingham had the greatest bar scene in the world in the early 1990s. I wasn’t in a fraternity, so I had no social life available to me through my college. I’d exhausted most of the amusement possibilities available to me in the greater Birmingham area during my high school years, so there wasn’t much available to explore that I hadn’t already seen enough of.

But there was one thing I could do which wasn’t available to me at home in high school. And that was the midnight movie. Matinee prices for a picture that started on or around 12 AM? Something to do late at night, something date-worthy and less expensive than it would otherwise be? Sign me up. The early 90s were the one time in my life where I actually went to the movies on a regular basis. I mean, think about it – there was no percentage in going back and forth to Blockbuster looking at the same tired selection again, not everyone had a VCR or cable or even a TV in the dorm room, and this was an era when Hollywood was able to turn out movies other than blockbuster adaptations of existing intellectual property or endless sequels. There was space in between the indie darlings and the Jurassic Parks and Dances With Wolves, where an assortment of romantic comedies and middling dramas and such sat in that $20-30M budget range.

I mean, look at the films that were number one at the box office for 1991: Sleeping With The Enemy. Silence Of The Lambs. What About Bob? City Slickers. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Naked Gun 2 1/2. Terminator 2. Hot Shots! Dead Again. Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare. The Fisher King. Hook. I saw every one of them in the theater. In fact, I saw 11 of the top 12 grossing films of 1991 in the theater (how did I miss on The Addams Family?) The more amazing thing, to me, is that I could drink one or even two of those 44 oz “Cobbster”-size sodas and then go back to the dorms and fall asleep.

That seems like the last gasp of another world. That was before I had internet access or a cell phone or even so much as a pager; I had an answering machine on my dorm phone which I could call and check messages (it wouldn’t pick up until the 4th ring if there were no messages, but it would pick up on the second if there were, thus saving you the quarter if you were calling from a pay phone) and if someone didn’t make the meeting point on time, you had no option but to wait around. Not that there was a lot of meeting; it was a rare occasion that anyone but just me and the girlfriend were going to the movies (or anywhere else for that matter). But then, when you’re in a relationship with someone who doesn’t really get you at all, which has to be maintained just so you won’t be completely alone, the best kind of date is one where you sit in the dark and don’t have to talk for two hours.

Maybe that explains why my wife and I never go to the movies much anymore. =)

Ol’ Roy

I didn’t leave Alabama because of Roy Moore.

Ol’ Roy is of a type that should be familiar to anyone: he’s a televangelist. He’s an aspiring martyr without the balls to actually face death. The sort of whom a smarter and sharper Hank Williams Jr once sang “They want you to send your money to the Lord, but they give you their address.” He found a bulletproof hustle: the persecuted Christian in a state that’s fully half Baptist. Telling the veto majority that they are an oppressed few is always reliable grift for the holy rollers, and informs no small bit of how we got to where we are.

Ol’ Roy’s a troll. He specifically put up one Ten Commandments after another knowing he would be made to take it down, knowing that this was out of bounds to anyone with better than an eighth-grade-civics grasp of how church-and-state works, knowing that the rednecks would bay and howl to his benefit and he could use this to get rich and famous. And he did. He managed to get himself thrown off the Alabama Supreme Court twice – and the fact that he made it back to get thrown off the second time puts the lie to anyone who thinks Christianity persecuted in the least in this country – and then managed to get himself the Republican nomination for Senate, which is normally tantamount to election ever since 1996.

And then, the truth started to come out.

It’s not like this is the thing that disqualifies him from office. Roy Moore should have never been elected anything more responsible than head of the coffee club. I thought about saying “maybe deacon” but the news of the last week has made it pretty apparent that he never should have been placed in any position of power, by anyone, ever. I’ve been to Gadsden, more than I’d’ve liked, and I assure you I can absolutely see how such a thing could transpire there in the 1970s.

Here’s the thing: you could get a Roy Moore anywhere. There is nothing exceptionally Alabama about him, nothing that couldn’t have been bred in central California or South Boston or Idaho or Missouri. That’s not the thing that jumps out. What jumps out is the army of loyal zombies rising to his defense, saying not that he didn’t do it, but that even if he did, he didn’t do anything wrong. People making Biblical analogies which are either spectacularly blasphemous or else torpedo the fundamental understanding of Christianity at the waterline. Insane talk about how he never dated anyone without the mother’s permission. One thing after another that makes you grab your skull with both hands and scream “how in the chicken fried fuck do you think this is somehow a DEFENSE?”

But he’s on their side. No amount of sin is enough to make it worth cutting ties with someone on your side. The fact that they have a concept of “side” that is appalling at best and inhuman at worst makes no difference whatsoever. Maybe he’s a serial child diddler, but at least he’s not a Democrat. They don’t have an answer for it when you accuse them – when you ask exactly what part of God’s miracle plan involves groping a teenager, they hem and haw and try to work around it, but it’s not enough to make them disavow. It’s not even a question of “well I don’t want to vote for him, but the other guy is worse”, which in itself would be asinine. No, it’s “I don’t care, I still think he’s the best one to vote for.” It’s affirmative support of a crime and a sin, simply because that’s their team.

And that, dear friends, is why you will never find me with an Alabama address ever again, for the rest of my days. Because on December 12, you’ll get a precise count of just how many people in that state are willing to countenance the unspeakable for the sake of their side. And I’ll have that many reasons why my ashes will be going into the Pacific instead of the red red dirt of what was never really home.

Of which.

To the box

It’s time. After over three and a half years, the Moto X is going to the memento box and its SIM will be repurposed in the iPhone SE, which has deftly filled the role the Moto X was originally intended for: compact travel phone and backup device. It’s getting increasingly difficult to turn the Moto off and on, it hasn’t had a security update since April 2016, and it wasn’t the most powerful phone in the world when it debuted four years ago (I remember more than one jibe about it being “pre-aged”). A device that wasn’t rocket-quick in 2013 and hasn’t been updated for a year and a half is no longer a broadly feasible device.

But it’s an existence proof that you could build a 4.7” AMOLED screen into a phone small enough to use one-handed and slap a 2000 mAh battery on it. Nobody has been able to do that since. And you could assemble it in the United States and sell it for under $350, tax tag and title. The camera wasn’t fabulous, and the battery life improvements that Android 5 was supposed to bring never quite came to pass, but it was proof of concept that you could make a phone with Android that put the user experience ahead of the stat sheet. It’s also the proof for me that Google will never succeed as a phone manufacturer, because if they couldn’t sell this, they won’t be able to sell anything.

I was last using the Moto X as a species of cosplay – a device that would do Swarm checkins and let me look at Instagram, read books on Kindle and stream RTE Radio in Irish or minor league baseball games. Something that I could use to get out of the world for a while. I suppose the iPhone SE could be that now, in a pinch, but it was nice to have a completely different UI to further the illusion. At this point, if I go down the pub and want to punch out, I’m actually a lot more likely to take the new little Nokia and an actual Kindle and maybe a Field Notes notebook and a pen for jotting down ideas. We crossed the finish line for phones in 2013, and I’m not convinced we didn’t cross the finish line for social media in about 2007 or so. Original Vox and early Twitter were just about sufficient (although I like Instagram – I think it’s a healthier environment for a 45 year old following friends than a 16 year old following celebrities, but that’s neither here nor there).

The iPhone SE is likely to be good for at least two more years, possibly three. If I just use it for the same purposes as the X, it should hold up to about 2021. I’m a little sad to be putting the X out to pasture, but not every good idea gets the reward it deserved. 

The quarter pole

November 1 in NorCal is like flipping a switch. Weather, time and the end of daylight saving cause the seasons to turn on a dime, and it’s definitely got more in common with “fall of the year” than the kind of color-spattered gradual shift of a Tennessee or New England. The week before Halloween sees temps in the 80s (this year it touched 90) but roll over to the eleventh month and just like that, it’s dark and cold and threatening rain all at once. There’s not much here in the way of autumn; this is as close as you get. 

I don’t think I noticed last year. Partly because I was coming from Minneapolis where I needed my bomber jacket every day, and by the time I got back to California it was already cold and dark to match. But the sudden change and the memory of last year is a somber wave that I honestly thought would have been lightened by the results on Tuesday in the old patch, never mind everywhere else. But proud as I am to carry that 703 phone number this week, it doesn’t make me any less grim. If anything it’s worse, because one tenth of this extra effort applied last year could have changed everything.

It’s not like we didn’t know. It’s not like it wasn’t telegraphed. People deluded themselves, and keep deluding themselves if the endless wave of Trump-voter hagiographies are to be believed. I stand by what I believed last year and for years before that: there is no point chasing the Old Ones. Ring-fence, contain them, and wait for them to die. Only now there’s another step: quit your whining and your sorrowful self-deception and accept that you’ll have to vote for some people you may not like 100% of in order to get 100% Not Trump.

Mostly Republicans I’m thinking of here. Yes, Hillary was the ur-demon of your mythology for a quarter century, but wouldn’t you rather have a President you loathed who didn’t make you worry the world was going to end? You indulged this shit for decades and then the mangy cur you kept feeding and poking finally caught the car, and bit your leg off. You’re going to have to vote for Democrats now, and wait for the poison to burn itself out. This is what you deserve and worse, so you might as well take your medicine and get it over with.  You’re going to have to decide whether a tax cut is worth sinking American prestige in the world, whether poking Obama in the eye is worth lighting the economy on fire, whether not having to say the words “President Hilary Clinton” are worth sitting on the edge of the sofa wondering if today’s the day someone tries to lob a nuke into San Diego or what the incipient senility case in the White House is going to give away to Russia or China today.

If everybody who doesn’t like Trump pulls in one direction, we can stop this. We may not get everything we want, and we may have to haggle over a lot of shit, but we can put the Trump faction on an iceberg and wait for it to melt. Because reason doesn’t enter into it. Policies and goals and actual metrics of reality don’t enter into it. He gives certain older, whiter, more racist people special feelings in their chicken parts, and you can’t logic your way out of that. We just have to regain containment and start trying to repair the damage, and we’re going to have to learn humility and re-learn how to take half a loaf along the way.

Rebel forces striking from a hidden base in Virginia just won their first battle against the evil Empire. We’ve had our Rogue One moment. Now we have to start planning the attack on the Death Star. Brace up. There’s a long road ahead.

Second impressions

Having a case on the iPhone X is essential, both for feeling secure and for knowing which side is which. With no bezels, no home button and glass on both sides, it’s not easy to know how to orient the thing just pulling out of your pocket. Setting aside, of course, the fact that it’s glass on both sides and dense and heavy and will smash into a bajillion pieces if dropped. The flip side, of course, is any case makes it even thicker and wider, and it was already too thick and too wide. As with the iPhone 6 before it, I chose Apple’s own leather case, because it’s not too thick and slides out of the pocket more easily than silicone.

And unless you live in the Fog Belt, you don’t need a jacket in the Bay Area before Nov 1. So the timing was perfect. But I don’t know what I’m going to do after Valentines Day, because this is a purse or jacket device. I don’t think it’s gonna work out too good in the front pocket. Just have to learn to live with it. It’s also a two-handed phone; there is simply no way to use this thing one-handed in the non-dominant hand. At least some of the controls are migrating to the bottom half so that it’s easier to use (although the two top swipes for notifications and controls are a royal PITA, they move down with the accessibility double tap) but there are still applications that don’t work quite right with the modified screen shape (looking at you, Insta).

Speaking of, I spent years clamoring for a percentage counter on the battery, but in a way I’m glad it’s not there just because maybe I won’t obsess over it quite so much. The placement of what’s in the “horns” of the display makes good sense for now, but something about the clock looks a little off. Once you get past that, though, there’s no getting around it: the screen is gorgeous. I don’t know how I’ll ever go back to non-AMOLED; the sharpness and contrast are that much further beyond the Retina display of the SE as it was beyond the 3G. And the size really hits home with every app opened, esp once they are upgraded to meet the standard. There’s still something almost fake about it, though: when the screen is lit up white and you can see the notch and the rounded corners, it looks more than ever like something someone else might have mocked up as a future iPhone design. That’s not necessarily a compliment. It will still take some getting used to.

I did go out and buy a USB-C to Lightning cable for use with my MacBook Pro charger. In a pinch, I’ll be able to jet this thing from 20% to 80% battery in a little over a half hour. Allegedly. I don’t know how good for the battery that sort of thing is, but then, I don’t know when I’ll be able to test wireless charging anytime soon (I’m not buying a mat, my car apparently doesn’t support quite this flavor of Qi, and I haven’t heard of a single Starbucks upgraded to support Qi yet, sooooo who knows).

But so far, I haven’t run back to the SE, or pulled out the iPad, or taken the Kindle to bed to read. Four days in, one-thing-to-rule-them-all is broadly feasible. We’ll see how it holds up once I start seriously torture-testing the battery life. Or taking it on a plane again. Or trying to get by all day in the city. Come to think of it, I really need to be getting on with my life. Of which.

Wednesday morning, Sunset District

(NB: this draft was found in the Phone transition. Don’t know why it never posted but I’ll try now.)

9 Aug 2017

It’s quiet out here. The BART lets you out at Montgomery in a vague aroma of smoke and diesel that suggests London as you walk upstairs in the fog past the Palace Hotel. Popping into the office of American Giant – where they have a showroom, not a retail shop as such, but able to try sizes and evaluate colors and plan your fall order – feels like a bit of something else. Then back on the Muni, the N Judah, where it’s not far from Market Street to the beach, a beach that’s fogged in solid and 57 degrees on an August Wednesday.

There’s coffee and cinnamon toast at Java Beach, and a couple blocks away, Pittsburgh’s Pub has been open since 8 AM dispensing adult libations in a manner recalling Cookie’s Caboose in Punxsutawney. It’s a marvel that a little slice of western Pennsylvania exists in the corner of a motel three blocks from the Pacific. And it may be a day game in the summer sun for the Giants, but the fans piling into the train are bundled for autumn here on the edge of the Western world.

In the Inner Sunset, at the Fireside Bar (whose fireplace is tragically unlit despite 58 degrees weather at 1 PM), the bartender sees the Vanderbilt hat and immediately asks about Damian Jones. It’s hard to explain but there’s just something about the light rail trundling down the street outside that heightens the sense you’ve landed somewhere else – a phenomenon equally pronounced at Trial’s in San Jose…

First Impressions

So in keeping with tradition, this was banged out in the device itself. I was three years since my last company Phone, they had already ordered loaded iPhone 8 Plus devices for staff, and I presented a use case for the larger screen of the iPhone X as well as a willingness to test against our security standards.

Reader, they bought it.

This is only the second time I’ve had a new iPhone on launch day. The first was the iPhone 4 on the day after that epic 2010 day with the Isner match at Wimbledon, the firing of the chief officer in Afghanistan, the Lawrence Taylor arrest and the greatest USMNT goal ever when Landon Donovan slotted it to beat Algeria in the closing seconds. Yesterday was not nearly as eventful. Maybe it was and I just don’t notice the world anymore. But anyway.

It’s big. It’s a hair bigger than the 6/7/8 line, smaller than the Plus, and the geometry of no bezels makes for some awkward handling when you don’t have all the new swipe gestures down yet. It’s a bit awkward in the front pocket for sure.

I did this for two reasons. One was the ability to test whether I can live with the phablet as the One Device. The iPad, the Kindle, the travel phone(s) – all on the shelf. One iPhone X to rule them all at least for the next few weeks, and see how it works out. This is clearly the way the world is headed and I need to see if I can adjust to it.

The other reason, honestly, is that Apple crossed the finish line with TouchID and NFC in 2013/14. Everything has largely been iterative. The iPhone 6 was compelling to me simply because I needed off that dreadful Verizon 5, but the only new iPhone I’ve paid for myself since launch day 2010 was the iPhone SE. Nothing else was compelling. But with the OLED display and FaceID and the emphasis on viable AR and the shift to a gesture-driven UI, Apple is plainly making a case that this is their future vision. And if work will float the cost, I’m willing to play in their sandbox for a bit.

The look is distinctive. The rounded corners and the notch on a screen that covers almost the entire front all combine to shout that this is Something Different. I’m curious to see how long it takes developers to adapt. I’ve left all the bits and bobs turned on with screen animation and raise to wake and Hey Siri and everything else, because I want to experience it the way they want you to use it and see what happens. BeatsX buds, Apple Watch paired, and let’s see how it goes.

But I have to put my drink down to use it. That isn’t gonna go well.

The New Gilded Age

“I can’t help but wonder if the real desire behind the tax bill is to end social mobility completely. It’s all to keep people in their place.”

-Catherynne Valente

She’s not wrong. What the proposed tax bill does targets all the things that heretofore allowed you to avoid living hand-to-mouth as a subsistence worker. Blowing away the home mortgage interest deduction makes home ownership more expensive than renting. Messing with 401(k) in a world that already did away with defined-benefit pensions takes away any prospect of retiring in comfort. Removing the deductibility of student loan interest makes higher education an even greater burden, but one that if not borne prevents you being able to get anything other than hourly work forever.

It’s difficult not to feel like the last two or three recessions were all about giving business the excuse to cut until we were left with nothing but walking wounded. Outsource everything that isn’t a core function. Your general services, your IT, your facilities, even your payroll and HR – all that is shuffled off to one contract or another. Create a permanent level of structural unemployment and you can start cutting salary and benefits and any kind of security, because you should just be grateful to have a job at all.

This isn’t accidental, this isn’t inadvertent – this is the whole plan. The goal is to perpetuate financial insecurity. Because when you don’t have financial security, you have to take whatever you’re offered. If you have student loans you can’t write down, if you have no benefit for home ownership, if you’re going to bear the whole brunt of medical emergencies, you can’t afford to roll the dice. You can’t leave and build your own business. You can’t risk a bird in the hand. So the bosses and the owners can keep more for themselves and you can scuffle for peanuts, because what’s the alternative? Strike out on your own and if you don’t make it, you’re cooked.

The entire organizing principle of this tax bill is 99% of America saying “please sir can I have some more?” Forever. It’s a piss-poor way to run a country, but then, we’re proving to be a piss-poor country.