“I posited a theory that something happens at some point in adolescence, and whatever we see in ourselves at that point we are stuck with for the rest of our lives. You can win an Oscar, a Nobel prize and three straight Sugar Bowls, but deep down you still feel like the nerd/fatso/zit-face/beanpole/whatever you were way back when. I think a lot of the stuff that bugs me yet has its roots in those days when I came back to Earth, as it were, and found myself on the outside looking in on what was supposed to be the big moment. It would certainly explain the obsession with not being left out, with having my team and my crew, with needing the constant stream of feedback to assure me that yes, I am doing a good job by objective and quantifiable metrics…”

-March 2, 2009

I cite myself from eleven years ago just to show that I was onto something. If you go back to the 1980s and look at my life from second grade to college graduation – less a short stretch of two years and change in high school – you see a life in Alabama defined by “peer group rejection”. You could be arrogant and argue “well I didn’t have any peers in Alabama” and you’d be dead wrong after about seventh grade, but that’s not the point. The point is, peer group rejection is a primary indicator for the development of the DSM-V’s code 301.82, “Avoidant Personality Disorder.”

I was not diagnosed with that the first time I saw a mental health professions in 1991. Or the second time in 2000. Or any of the myriad times from 2007 to the present day, until a couple months ago. And I wasn’t diagnosed with it now, because AvPD requires a diagnosis of underlying general personality disorder. But the full psychiatric evaluation did yield a formal diagnosis of depression and anxiety, a pretty poor sense of self-worth, and an extremely high marker for “avoidant”.

Nothing on the spectrum. No Asperger’s. Some aspects of ADHD, ones that are exacerbated by anxiety and coupled with the high level of intellectual function might give the impression of Asperger’s, so you could see how someone would get there. But  nothing obviously developmental, unless you want to count the scarlet G and the consequences of pinning it on a kid in exurban Alabama in 1978. It was two years later, after I’d been promoted two grades after a month of elementary school and then inexplicably dropped back to my own grade level the following year, that I wrote in what I thought was a private survey and filled in the blank for “Secretly I wish” with “that I was somewhat normal.”

That never happened, not for a long long time. I did get to spend four years in a preserve for those like me, although it took most of the first year to click with anyone and I spent most of the last year openly feuding with my senior class, dating as far outside the perimeter as I could and counting the days until college – which in turn bombed spectacularly. And because it bombed spectacularly, I wound up in a grad school program for all the wrong reasons and wholly unprepared, and crashed out to Washington DC of all places – where through a low-grade miracle, I found myself in a peer group where smart was welcome and useful and not utterly alien. And despite missteps and tragedy, I managed to thrive there, for years, and continued to thrive even after leaving for Silicon Valley. But the underlying damage was always there, unrepaired. It’s why I couldn’t ask for accommodation at Apple, and instead took a path that set my career back another four years, and ultimately led to the tar pit I find myself in now. 

The traffic sucks, the tech bros are unmitigated scum, the breweries produce nothing but ever more dank stank IPA, and the summer gets hotter with every passing year. But the bottom line is that I live in a place and a moment when here, there’s nothing wrong with being smart. That’s not nothing. To be in Northern California in 2020 is a gift, especially when you consider that the last four years spent in DC would have had me dead or in prison with no door number three. If I were in a different job, one that felt secure and paid adequately and made me feel borderline competent, I’d be more ready to face the guns on all the other fronts. But I’m not. The health of others is a constant worry even when my own shoulder (and now arm) haven’t been hurting for a month waiting on various health providers to be available. The constant stress of politics is hardly worth bringing up, not that I won’t, and the shadow it casts over my relations in Alabama and elsewhere is impossible to ignore even if you don’t get lost in the black hole of “what if this doesn’t work out”. 

But I still have someone to snuggle in the mornings. I have a doable drive to mountains and redwoods and beaches and fog. I’m a surmountable distance from the better of the Disney parks. Baseball is back, and my affiliations give me something to be proud of. Who knows, I might have a more modern iPhone of my own by Easter. As long as I’m willing to live my own values, focus on the moment and shut the world out, it’s a life I can live with. The question, obviously, is how long that life is sustainable under the circumstances. Of which. 

Plinkin’ out loud again

The iPhone 9, so called, has the body of the 8 with the guts of the 13. Including the 13’s single camera (no tele or ultrawide) and lack of 3D Touch. Also presumably lack of 5G. But as an 8, presume no Photo ID (who cares) or Animoji (OK that hurts). No dual or eSIM (could be a problem later).

But also: proven components, no 5G, no possible USB-C, no radical new tech. For better or worse. And based on current offering prices projected forward, I can get a 128GB, which is all I need. Otherwise I’m paying the not-inconsiderable premium to go from 64 to 256 with no stops in between.

And the iPhone 12 has 5G, which is poorly distributed and not pervasive or proven. With, apparently, Apple’s antenna of their own design rather than Qualcomm’s. Which suggests, chillingly, that the phone has to be thinner than 8mm. And given that people are now mentioning a new side-mounted TouchID, that’s an ever-growing number of new parts.

Too, think about the changes. The 4 famously had antenna issues, while the 4S added Siri and a better camera. The 5 through work, first LTE device, turned out to be a dog on Verizon – and the 5S went 64-bit and added TouchID. The XS got a newer, more efficient processor than the X. The new style hardware has a world of issues the first time out, it seems, and the legacy of Jony Ive seems to be “never buy the first iteration of an Apple product”.

Why not get an unlocked phone that I know will be a step up from what I have now (by my lights), get myself onto the long-desired personally-owned device again? In a year when I know I have to buy the new Apple Watch to replace my Fitbit, is there something to be said for just paying $500 for the new phone now instead of $1200 in September? And then maybe in a year and a half, justification for the 12S or whatever it turns out to be, once 5G is pervasive and the technology is worked out?

It sounds like the iPhone 9 is coming in March, just like my favorite iteration ever, the iPhone SE. Four years on, maybe it’s a sign: save your money, get the known goods, and when the new hot fire comes out? Let somebody else go first.

the call

California actually has a primary sooner than June for once. I don’t remember the last time California was in a position to have influence on the primary race, an odd spot for the largest of blue states. Which means I actually have to think about it.

I have.

Let’s start with this: it is preternaturally fucked that Iowa and New Hampshire are still allowed to have a voice in this process at all, let alone be the dispositive first states that winnow the field. Too small, too white, too demonstrably conservative, and Iowa in particular with their wackadoo caucus scheme that is less historically traditional than the Super Bowl. No. In 202X, when next we have a competitive Democratic primary season (if ever), Iowa needs to ride the fucking bench and New Hampshire needs to be close behind.

Next, it’s absolutely shameful that there are four – FOUR – candidates over the age of 70 in this race. No one will rid us of the boomers, the worst generation in human history, and it’s unconscionable that we have a very real chance of yet another proxy fight over Vietnam in the Presidential race for who knows how many times in a row. But here we are, in all likelihood.

It’s not a great crop, but let’s take a look.

STEYER can fuck right off. President of the United States is not an entry level job in politics. Ditto to the late unlamented Andrew Yang. A strong party would never let either of these clowns near a debate stage, and it’s risible that they were there and Kamala Harris and Cory Booker were not. If the last three years aren’t proof enough, write it on the Washington Monument with a fucking laser beam: NO MORE AMATEURS.

BLOOMBERG is also right out. Sure, Manhattan is the 7th largest state by itself and mayor of NYC is uniquely positioned in American politics. But Bloomberg is a Republican who is only in this race because he’s choosing to spend a billion dollars instead of enter primaries for the first month. That should be unconscionable for anyone all by itself, but it speaks to another issue: the GOP was never held to account for Junior Bush. Ever. And then it was all “well Obama has to reach across the aisle to these people who want to spit in his eye”. Now the GOP has given us Trump, and the argument for Bloomberg is “the Democrats, especially voters of color, need to suck it up and elect a candidate that Ed Earl Brown is comfortable with because you have to coddle Trump supporters with an old white man so they don’t get scared.” No. Fuck that noise. For some reason, unity always means that the left has to give in to the right. The right in this country has never been asked to give anything. Fuck Bloomberg and fuck his shitty news org.

BIDEN breaks my heart. I know why he didn’t run in 2016, and I know he feels like he could have stopped this, and I know he wants to try, and God bless him, but the moment’s past. He had a good run, he was a loyal teammate, and he has borne as much tragedy as anyone should ever have to bear, and if it turns out he is the guy I will do all I can for him. But he feels more like a desperate grab for a do-over more than anything else.

SANDERS shouldn’t be on the podium for one reason: the nominee of the Democratic Party should be a member of the Democratic Party. Setting that minor quibble aside, I question whether the “Bernie Beats Trump” crowd has grappled with this: like Obama in 2008, Bernie got an easy ride in 2016 because He Wasn’t Hillary. A press corps that has salivated to preach the death and burial of the Clintons for two decades and more was never going to sandbag the closest competitor. And now, a seventy-something Jewish atheist socialist thinks the press isn’t gonna tear the bark off him? Made worse by the fact that his campaign has drawn a whole lot of the worst assholes of the left, an army of sentient Caucasian dreadlocks who dismiss concerns of sexism or racism because all politics is economic and all’s fair in love and war, and the enemy isn’t the right, the true enemy is the insufficiently left. It makes perfect sense that his most hardcore fans think he’s the savior. Jesus is a good dude but his most hardcore fans are horrible too.

BUTTI- BUTI- BU- PETE. Set aside the question of whether a gay candidate can win. It’s not a small question, but set it aside. Because if he weren’t gay, you’d be looking at a McKinsey alum who’s never won a race bigger than mayor of a Midwest college town and who’s too young to have seen The Empire Strikes Back in the theater. It doesn’t pass the laugh test. Young men in a big hurry get elected President because in their young life they’ve wound up in the Navy and then into the Senate, or they’ve been a multi-term governor of Arkansas by the time they were 40, not mayor of South Bend, Indiana. They say Pete is doing big in Silly Con Valley, and I believe it, because shooting a giant firehose of money at underqualified young white men is what this place does best.

KLOBUCHAR is someone I don’t know as much about as I should. I know she’s supposed to be on the moderate side of this field, and I know she was supposedly mean to her staff, and I know she supposedly ate a salad with a comb once (which is some damned good adaptability if you ask me) but she only seems to have got hot after finishing third in New Hampshire. The fact that there are supposedly three tickets out of Iowa and she finished fifth means that somebody’s conventional wisdom is wrong. I would like to know more, but if someone like me is asking to know more in February of primary season, I worry about whether they’re ready to contend. Honestly, this feels a lot like “we’re going to bet the minimum, wait to see the flop, hope Biden folds and be ready to bet big when he does” and it feels to me like that’s the kind of thinking that got Jeb Bush rusticated from the GOP race four years ago.

All you need to know about GABBARD is that I was in Honolulu during the 2018 ballistic missile alert, and she tweeted that it was a false alarm, and I said to my wife “I need to hear it from someone who’s not a nutter.” When there’s a chance you can be nuked, and you can’t trust someone who offers you a lifeline of hope, you sure can’t trust them in the White House.

God, what a pile of rocks. Anyone left?



Yes, the candidate is 70 years old. Yes, the candidate has some problems around their disproven quantity of Native American heritage. Yes, the candidate has had some staffing issues. Yes, the candidate was probably wrong to come out for Medicare For All as a viable policy option, especially since it’s unlikely that we’ll see 218 Representatives and 60 Senators to pass it and 5 Supreme Court justices to defend it in my lifetime.

But Elizabeth WARREN is the best of a bad lot, and a bad lot doesn’t mean every piece of the lot is bad. She has credentials academic and political. She has a signature issue of punching back against the financial shenanigans and house of cards that collapsed in 2008 and at the perpetrators who skated free. She has done the homework, in excruciating detail, to the point where “Warren has a plan for that” is a groan-inducing cliche. Well, cliches don’t get that way for being false.

More important is that she seems to enjoy being out there. It’s not a chore. This was one of Hillary Clinton’s problems: unlike her husband, she could never make it seem like she’d rather be on the campaign trail than anywhere on Earth. The Warren selfie lines are the stuff of legend now, and she is as bright eyed and bushy tailed at the end of them as at the beginning. That’s not nothing, especially for a 70 year old candidate.

And I get how Native voters have a beef. I am not saying they are wrong, nor that they should suck it up and vote for her anyway (in the primary, anyway, more on that in a minute). But a woman who was raised in Oklahoma in the 1950s and 60s could absolutely have been told things about her heritage and taken them at face value. I did. Although it was certainly never enough for me to attempt to trade on, by a long shot. I’m not saying it’s right, because it’s not, but I can see how it would happen, and I have real issues with it being weaponized against her by people with no standing to do so who plainly do not have Native interests in mind (cf. “Pocahontas”).

I also acknowledge that the campaign has had stumbles and flaws in other areas, some more meaningful than others, and those are all fair too. But go up the list. We don’t have any flawless candidates. We had some candidates who were better than the ones on that list who didn’t make it to Iowa. Republicans always fall in line, but for some reason, Democrats have to fall in love. I don’t. I need someone who can win.

And that is the real conundrum. The most important criterion for a candidate is “Must Beat Trump.” But how do you know? Can you balance homophobia against sexism and figure age for weight and say “this is the most likely winner”? Can you move the balance between what lures back supposed Obama-Trump voters and what brings out the biggest base turnout for the Dems generally? Is the most likely winner the one who would make the best President? Does that even matter if the one who would make the best President can’t win? There comes a point where you’re talking yourself into eleven-dimensional chess.

But it’s not. It’s simple. Pick the one you think would make the best President. And then, whoever wins the primary, support the shit out of them in November. I have my doubts about some of these candidates and their hardcore ultras, and what would happen if some third party interloper backed wittingly or not by Russian ratfucking jumped into the scene in July. (It’s not lost on me that a lot of the Sanders-Gabbard types were screaming twenty years ago that there was no difference between Gore and Bush.) But after finishing third in Iowa, fourth in New Hampshire, and having her political obituary written with fewer than 10% of the votes cast, Elizabeth Warren was on the podium last Tuesday shouting out her rivals, congratulating them, urging everyone on to the fight. That tells me a lot.

Look, I will pull the lever for the Democrat in November. I will vote for Bernie and his band of Twitter dicks. I will vote for Bloomberg and his thinly veiled brand of corporatism with a human face and no guns. I will vote for Eddie “Pete” Haskell despite the fact he would never get that reference with fifty years on TikTok to look it up. I will cringe and cross myself and pull the lever for Joe one more time. I will figure out who Amy Klobuchar is and give her my support. I would suck it up hard, mark the ballot for Tom or Tulsi, and see about liquidating our house to buy into the Malta Sovereign Wealth Fund to obtain EU citizenship because we might have to do that anyway.

But of all of them, the one that might put a flicker of hope in my heart, the one who I think can start on January 20 to do the most to try to crawl this country out of hell one inch at a time toward daylight, is my vote in the California primary on March 3, Elizabeth Ann Warren.

What the hell. You gotta die of something.

the good old days

Pace Macklemore and Ke$ha, I wish somebody would have told me then that someday these would be the good old days. Twenty years ago, in the snow outside Ireland’s Four Provinces, a new pair of Dr Martens and a new obsession with Irish music and a new home away from home for what was rapidly becoming Our Gang.

I don’t think I realized until years later that it was an anomaly to have television. They would pull down a screen and run a projector during the World Series, or on an election night, but on a typical Saturday, you only had the musicians or the jukebox. I don’t think I ever ordered any beer but Guinness, although I did have a weakness for the occasional Blackadder, Guinness cut half with cider. (Which is apparently a Black Velvet anywhere outside DC, but I go with what I was told first, and besides Black Velvet is Guinness and champagne.)

The pub would ultimately come to stand in for DC, I think. I missed the pub, and came closest to reproducing it with a mixture of two bars in San Jose, but what I really missed from 2007 on was that sense of purpose, of camaraderie, of being on the one road – north men south men comrades all. I had my troubles in DC, and there’s no diminishing them, but I don’t remember ever questioning my purpose or who I was as a human being from 2000 to 2004. I was a loyal specialist in the Rifles of the EUS, and that was sufficient. And I went looking for a California pub at a time when I was adrift in identity and purpose, and you can make a case I never really figured it out in the same way.

And I’m reminded of this, seven years on from the encryption debacle which I never really recovered from, as the same left shoulder hurts bad enough for me to go to urgent care and the workplace management spins its wheels fecklessly while the rest of us wait for the penny to drop. The values I developed then are the ones that sustain me now, and as before, it doesn’t matter that they can’t ride to my rescue. It’s enough to know they would.

And meanwhile, the world spins. Of which.