Her Name In Crimson Flame

Well, depending on how you count, that’s either number 9 or number 14.  On the one hand, I think Alabama’s claim to a title in 1941 is risible at best, but on the other hand, it’s the acme of ridiculous to assert that somehow college football had no champions in almost seven decades before the AP poll got going.  Either way, the team of my childhood now has a pretty solid claim to being the most decorated school of all time with national championships.

And it should have been pretty obvious where this was headed.  The underdog always seems to have an advantage in BCS bowls, making better use of the six-to-eight-week layoff – consider how Utah defenestrated Alabama three years ago – but there’s also the small consideration that Alabama hasn’t lost a 1-vs-2 bowl game with title implications since round about Watergate.  If you were betting on history, Alabama was the bet – and if you saw the 41 point line in Vegas and took the over, you don’t deserve to have that money.  That wasn’t a wager, that was an IQ test.

It felt weird to have no rooting interest in the game.  I was so nervous about the 2009 matchup that I couldn’t watch it live – but that was different: it was Texas, it was Pasadena, it was Rose-Bowl-by-proxy for the first time in sixty years plus, it was having a Heisman winner on the Bama bench and Keith Jackson tossing the coin.  Or as I said then…

No shit-talking here. It would be intellectually dishonest of me to present as some sort of born-again Alabama fan now, after all these years of dissociating myself from the state and the fandom. If I’m honest, the Crimson Tide have been my fourth football team at best since about 2000, behind the Redskins and Vandy and Cal. So as much as it does mean to me to beat Tennessee and Auburn, as much as this would have meant to me fifteen years ago – I can’t lie: I will be DVR’ing the game and attending a theology class on Thursday night.

And there we go.

For a Cal follower, there were some nasty flashbacks watching LSU, as Les Miles inexplicably stuck with a quarterback who was plainly not fit for purpose – only to watch him get ground into powder by an inexorable force.  For a connoisseur of defense, there was the pleasure of watching maybe the best Bama defense of all time – barring neither 1961, 1979 nor 1992 – shut out a team that had averaged forty points a game against the best schedule in the country and finish #1 in all four categories (rushing, passing, scoring and total defense).  For most neutral observers, watching after years of Big XII pinball offense and Oregon hurry-up, a game with five field goals and a missed PAT on the lone touchdown was too dull for words – which says more about the nature of the ESPN hype machine than anything, and the World Wide Leader’s de facto ownership of the sports has done more than even the BCS to bring down the quality of the game.

The one bright point for folks outside the Yellowhammer State is that other conferences will probably be more amenable than ever to considering the SEC’s oft-tabled proposal for a plus-one system.  1 vs 4 and 2 vs 3 on New Years Day, in existing bowls, the winners to face off a week later in a title game.  This, to me, is the best option – the “least sufficient privilege” as an Apple developer would put it.  For one thing, it explicitly doesn’t provide a seat on the starship for every conference champion; the ACC and Big East have done a good job of proving the fallacy that winning your league entitles you to a prize bowl.  For another, it’s sufficient – when was the last time a team from outside the top five had a legit claim to a national championship?  Not to a BCS bowl berth, mind – if you’re top-10, you probably ought to be there, although 9 and 10 should probably be restricted to the Fiesta Bowl only and leave the Rose, Sugar, Cotton and Orange for the big boys.  But if you have to argue that you should be the #4 team in the country, you probably don’t have a very good argument that you should be #1.

So where does that leave us this year?  LSU-Stanford and Bama-OkieLite.  I have to think that we wind up with the same matchup as last night, albeit with the yapping muted – bar perhaps Oregon fans arguing that they beat Stanford head-to-head and deserve the shot.  At which point the usual suspects will crank up again, and no one will stop carping until there’s a 16-team tournament and the Sun Belt winner is free-rolled in, and even after that some people won’t be pleased until Boise State gets a national championship…

It’s college football.  If you need an epitaph for this horrible season just brought to a close, make it this: nobody deserves anything.

My Morning Jacket

I drove to work today.  Partly because I’m the only one covering the office today and needed to be there as the doors opened, partly to accommodate a run to a meeting offsite (which itself got cancelled thanks to being the only one covering the office today), and partly because I was carrying one metric shit-ton of stuff to work (two laptops and a replenishment of my morning oatmeal supply).  And the key to that loadout was the fact that it was 43 degrees when I left home this morning – but it’ll be about 60 when I get back and damn near 70 at lunchtime.

See, the problem is that 15-degree delta between Leaving Home and Returning Home, which is generally more of a 20-degree delta between Leaving Home and Going To Lunch.  Thing is, when I lived in DC, that was less of an issue – in winter the delta was usually between 25 and 40 degrees, or else between 75 and 90 degrees.  You either need no coat at all or a heavy coat all the time – only in spring and a tiny mid-autumn window did you have the problem of mid-40s to mid-60s.

The problem with Northern California is that its climate is basically Late April In Alabama twelve months a year.  Which is to say it can be hot as balls, unseasonably cold (without snow!), or like it is now: cold as a brass brassiere in the morning and warm enough for no coat and short sleeves by lunchtime.

Because my shoulder has been playing up in recent weeks (and it’s a little disturbing to consider that I’ve been working on this shoulder off and on for over two years now), I have reverted from my Timbuk2 messenger to an older backpack suitable for putting over both shoulders and carrying my entire office in.  (This was twelve and a half pounds until this weekend; with the switch to the MacBook Air it’s down under ten.)  Said backpack is patently unsuitable to go over almost all my heavier apparel – the ridiculous suede jean-jacket, the peacoat – but my lighter outerwear isn’t really solid enough to hold up to walking to work in 42 degrees of a January morning.  More to the point, nothing that can stand up to 42 degrees in the morning will stuff INTO the backpack for the 65 degree walk home at 5 PM.

So today I went with something lightweight since I didn’t actually have to wear the backpack. In days to come…maybe not.  I still have yet to deploy the new Rickshaw X-Pac super-light messenger, which might well shave off another three pounds or so, and that would go over just about any jacket – but then we’re back to the problem of “any coat that’s warm enough in the morning is ridiculous in the afternoon.”

The obvious solution here – or so the natives tell me – is “layers layers layers.” However, there are a couple of problems with this.  For one, when you work in an overly-warm building, you’re going to be shedding just as many layers as if you’d worn one big coat, and for another, what the layers get you is more things to stuff in the backpack, tie around the waist, etc etc – especially once precipitation comes into the equation.  Not that it’s been a problem this winter, more’s the pity (rain in January = flush in August) but it’s something to keep in mind.

Nevertheless, it may be the only way to go.  The heavy stuff which was far more suitable in Eastern winters pretty much has to go by the boards for workdays, barring a serious cold snap,* and the move has to be toward light weight and presentability, most likely with an increased use of T-shirts under the nice work shirt. In the long run, I think the move will be to go to the messenger bag over the good shoulder (I am assured that as long as it comes in under ten pounds, it’s not going to be a significant stressor) and most likely go with the old reliable black rain shell doubled with my WWDC hipster warmup thingy.  Yep, layers.  At least the WWDC piece crams up tiny and could get stuffed in the bag in a way that a wet shell couldn’t…










It’s real. The One Laptop Per Child foundation has skipped right past the much-debated, long-delayed dual-display second-gen laptop and is apparently ready to deliver the tablet.

And at first glance, it’s amazing.  8-inch display on what looks like an original OLPC XO-1 with the keyboard half ripped off, able to run either Sugar or (!!) Android.  Bear in mind that the original XO-1 did have a touchable screen, so the idea of running Sugar on a tablet isn’t utterly insane, but a bare-bones install of Android might be a better idea if you want to keep the “open source” idea and still run the kind of things you’d want in a first world non-education setting.

Which I do, believe me.  At $100 – and they think the production cost may come in even lower – this is as bare bones as you can get, but it’s a ruggedized 8-inch tablet that you could take out in the woods and recharge with a hand crank (literally), or take on a trip and not sweat it if you drop it into the Thames.  It’s probably too big to go in a coat pocket, but it’s proof of concept that you can build a tablet for a hundred bucks that brings a value proposition to the table.

Gizmodo aptly points out that the XO-1 was basically the existence proof of the netbook, which Asus brought to market and everyone else jumped on.  The XO-3 may be the existence proof of the cheap-and-cheerful Android tablet, quite possibly the first way ever to get computing into a household for under a hundred bucks.

All I can say is – the day they announce a Give One Get One for these things, the credit card is shooting out of the wallet all by itself.

Hanging Out Saturday’s Wash

* 30-point win today for Vandy men, holding Auburn to the lowest output of any Commodore opponent since the shot clock came into effect in college ball.  If that kind of defense stands up the rest of the way, we may pull out of this slide after all.

* By way of celebration, I got my slice of Big Sur at Pizza My Heart with two servings from the Coca Cola Freestyle machine.  Most soda I’ve had all year.

* I have come to realize that I can watch time-lapse photography of particulate matter pretty much anywhere, any time. This U-Verse Showcase channel is showing clouds and fog and mist off a pond and I cannot turn away.  I might need to check that pizza for weed next time.

* It’s 67 degrees and sunny today.  Spring is here!

* I think I have finally ironed out the last bits of trouble migrating away from my MacBook Pro and changing the setup to Mac mini for home and MacBook Air for work (and using ARD and Screen Sharing to get at my upstairs computer).  I’m a little surprised that with everything installed and configured, I still have 196 GB of free space – guess that’s the side benefit of not having my iTunes content on this machine.  What’s going to be really interesting is whether the combination of this machine, the iPhone and the Kindle are enough to obviate the need for even an iPad 3.

* I had something to blog about that had nothing to do with technology, politics or Vanderbilt sports, and now I’ve clean forgotten what it was.  However I am sure it will rate a full post when I get back to remembering it.

Claim Chowder

Four years ago, I looked dubiously at the brand new MacBook Air and declared it ideal for the CxO wanting to look slick in the first class lounge, and said  that Apple was trying to create “an entirely new market segment for mid-life crisis computers.”

Today I took over a 13″ MacBook Air, one generation from new, and was delighted to get it.

The revised form factor helped, obviously – two USB ports and no flap to wrangle with – but the use of current processors and solid state drives helped make the leap possible, as did the battery changes. Now, the 13″ Air is arguably Apple’s de facto Macintosh, the machine they have in mind when designing the likes of Lion.

Me, I’m just happy to slice a quarter of the weight out of my daily commute bag, possibly with more to come yet.

You Really Ought To Give Iowa A Try

Eight votes. Eight lousy votes. That’s all that separates Willard “Multiple-Choice Mitt” Romney, the presumptive nominee-in-waiting, the guy who’s been running for a half-decade or so, from a former Senator who was an afterthought for most of the last year and who polled somewhere in the low single-digits until Christmas.

Santorum, on paper, can’t be the guy. Not enough money, not enough organization, and a track record that strongly suggests he’s running in favor of a pre-Vatican II Catholic theocracy, plus a Google problem (courtesy of Dan Savage) that is going to be embarrassing to talk about for most of the national press. But elections aren’t run on paper. With the functional elimination (de facto if not de jure) of Bachmann and Perry, the roster of surviving candidates has been winnowed to four, and the GOP establishment – much as they might be ambivalent about Romney – have already declared that Newt Gingrich is persona non grata. Which won’t keep him from sticking around chucking bombs for a while, because that’s all Newt knows how to do and he won’t be able to resist the media spotlight until it turns elsewhere. Put it this way: Newt won’t ever decide to quit. Somebody will have to force-quit him.

More interesting to me is that Ron Paul finished third. I would have bet sure that he would win or as close as makes no difference, and the drumbeat of revelation about his old leanings in the 80s and 90s might have had some impact, but it’s still a poorer finish than I anticipated. He does have his loyalists and they aren’t going anywhere, but he has yet to ever make a substantive splash outside his pre-existing circle. He apparently polls well with the kids, though, which is just one more sign that we’re headed for a generational showdown in the GOP between the aging Teabagger right and a younger cohort which honestly isn’t that bothered about the gays and the demon weed and a political message that’s been largely stuck in the same groove since well before they were born.

Everyone seems to think this is bad for Mitt Romney, because a winnowed field means that the “Anybody-But-Mitt” forces can line up behind one guy. But the problem is the same as it’s always been, which is that there’s no one guy out there. Trust me, Mitt polled worse in Iowa this year than he did in 2008, and if there were a known-good viable alternative, that person would have trounced Romney last night. The mass of the GOP faithful is not going to drop into line behind Santorum, Paul or Gingrich – they’ve had a year to do that. It’s not going to happen, because if it were, it would have already. Harold Hill isn’t going to march in and rally everybody and form a boys’ band and have the whole town marching behind his baton.

And if you think this whole post wasn’t just an excuse to wedge in some awkward The Music Man shtick, well, welcome to 2012. Broadway musical comedy is probably the best genre for this season. Well, either that or post-apocalyptic doom drama.

Socked in

Winter fog this morning, heavier than it’s been in months.  It was down to the building tops as late as 10 AM – I haven’t been back out since, but I doubt it’s sunny at all.  Just cool-to-cold gray mist in all directions.

And that’s fine.  In fact, it’s great.  The fog is a blanket, a shield, something that makes it easy to bundle up and cocoon and get away from it all.  Sometimes, you just need distraction and you’re better off without too much brightness.

I’ll be interested to see how things go this year – I do intend to keep up the shutdown nights, since I more or less succeeded with it in 2011.  Odds are that Tuesday and Thursday will probably be nights to go to the YMCA and work out and run, although that may have to wait for next week to start in earnest.

No soda yet today, impressively enough – I have found and consumed water once my morning coffee ran out.  Next step: get up in enough time to make the coffee in the morning.  May have to run out for that new cup sooner than I thought if I’m going to transport the stuff.

I think that’s it for resolution updates for January 3, except to say that I’m trying to figure out when to go to Trials or O’Flaherty’s again.  Trying to make that a thing and failing has been a January tradition for quite some time now, but I think the 5-time would be good.  When I was thinking about why I have this vision of an empty street at night with dim light coming out of the window of one place, I’m pretty sure I was remembering being outside Trials and not realizing what I was remembering.  So maybe Sunday night, or the Sunday night after, or…sometime.