fifteen years

When I started this blog, it was supposed to be the public-facing option. It was going to be an adjunct to LiveJournal, which was locked down and private and only for friends. And then, as my wife says, time happened. And social media happened. And I made some bad decisions around the incipient world of social media in an attempt to make more happen in the real world, and I know now that all of that was part and parcel of the depression incident of 2007 and the last thing I needed was to sever parasocial ties in hopes it would lead to social ones. More fool me.

Well, I think I’ve built up enough backlog of content now. There’s the misery of four election seasons, there’s a decade of suspicion of Silly Con Valley and all its pomps and all its works and all its empty promises, there’s the complete history of the iPhone starting from my perch inside Apple for its debut, there’s the rise and fall of Vanderbilt athletics that aren’t baseball or women’s bowling, there’s travel abroad on half a dozen occasions. There’s the story of me, age 34-49, constantly fighting to stay what I am and resisting becoming who I probably could or should be.

It’s security through obscurity. I make no effort to promote this, nor do I really want to. But maybe it’s time to see if more than four or five people ever look at this, going forward. And maybe I need to see if I can do this on a schedule sometimes, address some broader topics, hit some word counts, see if I can communicate to a requirement. Because who knows, that might be next on the list if work doesn’t pan out the way I need it to.

And when I do need to put up a publicly identified known online presence, I’ll keep this air-gapped, because sometimes you need to erase a dot without leading people to wonder what was under the dot. But for now, if you’re just now here…welcome.

That’s a wrap on year 15. Here’s to better days coming.


There are no good answers now.

The good answer was in 2002, when the Taliban were pushed into a corner. The good answer was to accept NATO’s invocation of Article V, make this a multinational effort with the singular objective of overthrowing the Taliban, and then allow a drawn-down multinational force to supervise humanitarian reconstruction. But no, we had to go it alone and then take our eye off the ball before the job was done so that Bush the Dumber could work out his daddy issues in Iraq, with predictable results.

For the last ten years or more, there have been two choices: stay forever and slowly bleed out, or give up and come home and accept the consequences. There is no national will to stay, so the only thing to do is come home – which was not a controversial notion at all until two weeks ago when people realized What That Meant. Now the Republicans are desperately hoping everyone will forget all the tweets and posts and press released about how Tr*mp actually ended the war in Afghanistan so that they can paint this as Biden’s Saigon (timely reference, well done, why not compare Hillary to Maude again).

The fact is, Biden wants out. He wanted out in 2009-2010, and had to sit by as the Pentagon mau-maued Obama into going along with another “surge” in order to [FILE NOT FOUND]. Given the opportunity, he has refused to go along with it again, and the Pentagon has a lot to answer for – mostly “how come this army you trained and equipped for eighteen years fell over like a Big 12 football defense at the first sign of combat?”

It’s going to be ugly, and my heart breaks for everyone stuck there, and we’re probably ten years away from another mob of expat Saudis launching terror attacks around the world from their safe haven (and it’s past time to hold Saudi Arabia to account for the last twenty years, but good luck with that), but at some point, you just have to accept that band-aids don’t fix bullet holes and we don’t have the will as a country to do anything else, and that the time to save Afghanistan was three administrations ago. Let’s just try to make a little bit of an effort for once to put the blame where it belongs this time.

when the rules are broken

There are rules that weren’t there to begin with. There were no scholarship limits in college football until Bear Bryant started signing guys to sit on the bench for four years just to keep them away from Auburn or Georgia Tech or Tennessee. There was probably no icing in hockey until it was realized that you could just keep dumping it down to the other end and never actually get any action in front of the mount. The spitball was perfectly legal in baseball until a guy got hit in the head and died. A rule is generally there to maintain order and keep things fair, and as soon as someone figures out how to abuse it to their benefit, it generally has to be changed.

California is spending millions and millions of dollars, in the middle of a pandemic and a protracted fire season and god knows what else is around the corner, in order to hold a recall election. This election is to turf out the governor, Gavin Newsom. Never mind that there are elections next year, or that Newsom was convincingly elected with almost 62% of the vote first time out, or that there is nothing in particular that he has done that is out of bounds with what any other governors have done in the last three years, especially as regards the pandemic. Newsom was elected to be governor of the capital of the Resistance, and has mostly handled his duties without incident.


If you can get 12% of the number of voters who voted in the last election to sign a petition, you can initiate a recall. And if the recall is successful, then there is a list of replacement candidates, and whoever gets the plurality of votes there wins.  About 60% of the state voted last time out, which means that in theory, you only need 7.2% of eligible voters in the state to call for a recall.  And since the incumbent can’t be on the ballot, whoever comes first on the list is governor, no matter how low a percentage of votes they get so long as no one else’s is higher.  Meaning that with 46 candidates on the ballot, it’s very possible that someone with a quarter of the vote or so will get to become governor.

This is happening for one reason and one reason alone: because the Republican Party knows it is too weak to win a fair election in California. They could barely muster 40% of the vote for their candidate in 2018 – but they only have to round up half of their own voters to have enough signatures to force a recall, at which point they get another bite at the apple for the low low price of a quarter of a billion dollars.

I’m sure the recall must have seemed a valuable tool at some point, but like the proposition system, it has become a way to buy and finagle what cannot be won fairly at the ballot box or through the political process. Both are past their sell-by date, and it’s insane to leave sharp objects lying around where the ignorant and willfully malicious can use them to hurt someone. Or the state.

social media revisited

A new app dropped a couple weeks ago, called HalloApp, which appears to be an attempt at a do-over by some of the WhatsApp founders and big wheels. It seems as if someone took WhatsApp and tried to engineer it closer to a social media tool than a messaging app – you can still do individual messaging, but the focus largely appears to be on group chats with the added ability to post “publicly” to everyone on your contact list or a fixed subset of same.

This is intriguing. Sure, it’s relying on your contacts, but at the same time, the world is only as big as your contact list. If you immediately go in and set it for “only these people”, you’ve essentially created an allow list that you can then expand. Anyone who wants to follow you needs to be in your phone book. This is not unlike what WhatsApp did with its “status” feature – you know, when Facebook decided that everything they do has to rip off Snapchat – but this time it’s built in from the start and those “public” messages are no different in content from the group texts.

Couple of thoughts here.

1) It would be the easiest damn thing in the world for Apple to slap this over top of Messages, or Signal to do the same, but it’s difficult to square “truly secure messaging client” with “public social media app”. Especially since…

2) This requires you to have each other’s phone number. One prospective user of this app was wary of this, since anyone she’d ever given her number to would be able to see her on the app (and thus would require the allow-list focus above). And I don’t blame anyone who doesn’t want to upload their contacts to match against everyone else’s in some as-yet-unknown application, but then, I’m not sure how else to make this work. Which means…

3) …that this app is not for parasocial relationships, where you’re following The Rock, or Rebecca Lowe, or the local pizza and beer joint – this is for people you actually know. Which is fine, kinda sorta, but it also makes it difficult to make those casual acquaintances or friends of friends. I don’t know how you’re meant to allow for the serendipity of meeting people without opening the floodgates for abuse and toxicity.

Which brings me back to…Twitter. Because without really meaning to, Twitter has made it possible to do this, kind of sort of, as long as you’re willing to lock your account and be judicious about who you allow to retweet into your timeline (so you don’t get overloaded with a ton of political stuff that you totally agree with but which is wearying to digest daily)…and as long as you use Tweetbot, which means you don’t get the worst of Twitter. You know: ads, promoted tweets, a non-linear algorithmic timeline and the constant intrusion of what your friends liked or followed even without retweeting. At the end of the day, as much as I moan that I can’t quit Twitter, I don’t yet need to, because these specific tools make it feasible.

The other thing is…I’ve been on Twitter in some form since 2007. Their shitbaggery has forced me to jump through some hoops from time to time, but the practical upshot is that most everyone I would need to see my updates can – only a handful of people from my high school or from DC are not there. And the other problem is that you’re never going to get people to move to a new app, not now. Unless we put a torpedo at the waterline of Facebook, because let’s be honest, what was the last thing everybody ran out and signed up for? Instagram. And that was a decade ago. It’s singular that the only two things that have cracked the shell since then are Snapchat and TikTok, both of which are explicitly targeting a far younger generation than mine; the people who I want to stay close to are never going to be on what is essentially an even more do-it-yourself YouTube. And that’s not how we do things. Text, still pictures, occasional rare video.

I was told previous that at my age, the easiest way to make new friends is to connect with your old ones. Similarly, the only way to get the new social media app you want is to engineer an old one into working for you. And to be honest, that Twitter account and one Signal group chat can just about cover everything, if I’m being honest with myself.

Now if only those sons of bitches would give me my original four-character name back.

the semiotics of the hat

It really began my senior year of high school. I needed a cap to advertise where I was going to college. I bought a white circle-pattern Vanderbilt cap by The Game, which was the standard for hats at the time…and promptly flung it out of sight in the closet when things didn’t quite work out that way. For years afterward, the quest for a decent Birmingham-Southern cap would vex me to no end, especially given the shitty bookstore options for an NAIA institution. But that was the era in which I discovered sports, and it didn’t take long before I was accumulating headgear for every and any team I could claim the slightest interest in or affiliation with. Alabama. The Braves. The Chargers. The Padres. The Redskins. And then as the expansion hit, I started buying stuff that I just wanted, like that teal Marlins hat. (What? It matched my Saturn.)

Then I washed out of grad school (after three years of piling up even more hats) and suddenly I was living and working in DC where a hat was not really a viable thing – partly because I didn’t have the hair to come to work and take one off, and partly because it was just hotter than Hell too often. I’m sure I still had a few, and I did famously buy a Cal hat in black-on-black after a fateful wedding in Santa Cruz in 2000, but I don’t recall routinely wearing anything other than a Boston Red Sox batting-practice hat for strategic softball purposes – which in turn was replaced by a San Francisco Giants batting-practice hat in spring of 2002. Even after I cut my hair down to nothing at the end of 2005, you still have to go almost to mid-2009 in my photo album on my iPhone before you see me routinely wearing a ball cap on a routine basis.

The accumulation in recent years was largely driven by Vanderbilt, and the constant quest for the Best Possible Vanderbilt Hat (a quest which was only satiated when Ebbets Field Flannels brought out their throwback wool flannel Vandy cap, which I bought directly I found out about it). In addition to all the official Vanderbilt caps, there were Vanderbilt-adjacent caps, mostly of teams with VandyBoys on them (there is a black and gold A’s hat and a black and gold Braves hat, for instance) and a steady buildup of lids for the Giants (SF and SJ), Cal, the Warriors, and the like. There were a couple or three Nats hats over the years, as I tried to find a way to keep a hand in with the District without perpetuating the merchandising of an unsavory nickname or enriching the worst owner in sports. There was a Barons hat or two, as I tried to maintain a connection with my past.

And then there was a pandemic, and things got a little out of hand.

Suddenly, I had two or three hats for every team. I looked up and I had bought a San Diego Padres hat that was, if anything, an artifact of a life not chosen. I had three or four Barons hats, trying to pick something that seemed like an appropriate match for the connection I now had with my birth city. I had a hat for every occasion with the Giants: the 4th of July cap, the Pride cap, the St Paddy’s cap. I had two or three of the plain gray Philadelphia/Oakland A’s hats. I had the New Hampshire Fisher Cats lid with the leering top-hatted donkey on it, and the Louisville Bats cap with the cheerful mint julep on it. And on top of all that, now there’s the charcoal-gray Kangol flat cap for cold weather, because…

Well, let’s look at the because of why I’m wearing some of these things in the current rotation.

The Kangol is only really suitable for cold weather, but my father had one (which I also have) and I never found it until years after he was gone. Mine is darker and made in the US rather than the UK, but it’s very suitable for the times and places you need a hat to take off when you go inside.

There’s a Birmingham Black Barons cap that I ordered from the stadium in Alabama. Flex-fit, little more snug than I’m used to, Willie Mays’ first team and the only major league ball team in the history of Birmingham. The sort of thing that lets people know you aren’t the wrong sort of 50 year old white guy with a goatee, Oakleys and a Southern accent. And by people, I mostly mean me.

The San Jose Churros hat has been alternated with the San Jose Beer Batter hat. Both have more orange than I’d like, but they are both relevant to the nearest professional team, and to aspects of that team with which I am well familiar (and which speak to the local connection and traditions more than a block SJ does).

Lately, the current hat is an XXL fitted New York Giants replica, which is the pro hat Willie Mays wore between the Black Barons and San Francisco. It feels as old and out of place as a Brooklyn Dodgers hat, a reference to an era when the Giants were a glamour team in New York that counted Frank Sinatra and Tallulah Bankhead as fans, a team that had Mel Ott and Carl Hubbell in the age between McGraw and Mays. It reflects the team I’ve settled on as my major league team, while still reflecting a certain East Coast loyalty and sensibility which I will probably never shake. Now if only I could do something about the damned orange…

Which brings up another point. There isn’t really a Vanderbilt hat in the rotation at the moment. I don’t exactly know why that is, especially when they just had two pitchers drafted in the top ten and finished national runner-up again. Maybe it’s to do with the current nightmare unfolding around the SEC (of which more later), but it’s just as likely that once you take away the sidewalk fandom, it’s the school I washed out of after trying to launder my degree and which I primarily cling to now in order to hold it up against Shallow Alto the way you hold up a cross to a vampire. If that particular burden on my life were alleviated, would I still need Vanderbilt in my life as badly, as dissociated as I am from college football (like I say, of which) and as little connection as I feel with the alumni in town any longer?

Ultimately, I think the hat has become another one of those things where I end up with a dozen that are 80% right trying to find the one that’s 100% right. I need the hat that feels like it’s been missing from my head, and I don’t know what that is. And if I had to guess, that’s a symptom of something else. Of which, again, more later.