Monthly Archives: January 2009

clockwatching

1/29/09

Yeah, um, are we still dating? It’s just that I haven’t heard from you in a while, and, you know, I was wondering where you were at, with things.

I mean, if you don’t want to date anymore, that’s totally cool with me. I’m not saying I wanna stop, it’s just that if you’ve changed your mind or whatever, it’d be good to know.

If I’m reading too much into this, and things are cool, TOTALLY COMPLETELY ignore this message. I know we went into this with pretty low expectations, and I’m SO not into ownership, and I know you aren’t either, so if that’s what’s up, I’m totally chill.

So, like, drop me a line when you get a chance, OK? I’m SO NOT obsessing over this, just touching base. Oh yeah, later? There’s the thing, and then that other thing, which I know are going to be pretty lame, but if there’s nothing else to do, maybe we can meet up?

Oh shit. They’re checking homework. Gotta go. bye.

-Me

pssst… it’s est, not pst

1/28/09

I am writing this at 11:32pm on Wednesday night, and I still do not know the outcome of the UNC/Florida State game. I have not looked at my emails from GFWD, nor any of my Heels listservs, nor any other friends, nor have I checked online. I promised my daughter we’d watch it together in the morning, one of the special things we do together.

I forgot about the 3-hour time difference from NC and didn’t set the TiVo. After beating my head against a tree in rage, I tried to search everywhere on the internet – with our still-disastrously-slow connection – for a place to watch the game, download it, pay $40 for it, ANYTHING.

As if to prove yesterday’s blog, I CANNOT FIND IT.

So I put it to you, fair readers: if any of you can find a place where I can download or stream last night’s game of the North Carolina Tar Heels @ Florida State Seminoles by 5pm PST today, I WILL GIVE YOU THAT FORTY DOLLARS and a personal video thanks posted here from me and Lucy. Even if the solution is burning a DVD and sending to me via my Fedex account. I’m serious.

Please insert a rant here about how modern technology doesn’t give people what they actually want. Or comment below on how it does if you know where to look. Either way, MY OFFER STANDS!

Your most humble servants,

Ian (and Lucy).

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and now… th….e…..nex….t big th….in……….g

1/27/09

Okay, this is infuriating. Here are some predictions of what will happen over the next few years:

1. Google will introduce the G-drive this year, which means terabytes and terabytes of storage for each and every one of you. With their software – versions of Word and Excel and Powerpoint and iTunes – your entire computer experience will take place in the “cloud” of information and you won’t even need a hard drive in your home, ever again.

2. Television is going to die, because we’ll be able to download anything we want and watch it on our computer. We’ll be able to stream HD movies straight onto our plasma screens, even the stolen ones.

3. Telephones will be all like Vonage, and exist entirely on our internet line, and the old way of making telephone calls will fossilize.

4. Our smartphones – Blackberries, iPhones, Palms, and even the cheaper brands – will connect to our “cloud” of information at all times, meaning we’ll never have to use a USB cord again (except to recharge the batteries, which may also become wireless).

5. It’s all going to work great.

To which I call BULLSHIT. You know why? Because I have rested my head in four different places over the last month: upstate New York, Washington DC, Denver and Los Angeles – and THE INTERNET FUCKING SUCKS.

I tested our download speeds in each place:

Upstate NY: 132K per second. Which, in the real world, means about 10K a second. We pay for the super-fast DSL, but they can’t seem to figure it out. Barely faster than dial-up. Downloading a song? I hope you have an hour.

Washington DC: Cable modem at an apartment complex. 8MB a second, then nothing for 30 seconds, Then 8MB a second, and then nothing for another 30 seconds. You had to reload a FUCKING WEB PAGE FIVE TIMES before you could read it.

Denver: “Broadband” wireless at a nice hotel. 300K download (aka 30K a second) – goddamn pathetic. Couldn’t talk with my daughter on the webcam – she wouldn’t be able to see us, we wouldn’t be able to see her. Sending email took two minutes each time.

Los Angeles: Now I’m back home, and some fucking squirrel has chewed through our internet line somewhere in Santa Monica, and we’re getting 232K per second download speeds, which means about 20K. Eerily similar to the internet we had at the Purple House in 1994. You know those links I put in above? I CAN’T EVEN CLICK ON THEM.

So, I put it to you, O Evolving World: how the MONKEY FUCK am I supposed to stream “The Dark Knight” in HD when I CAN’T EVEN CHECK MY EMAIL? How am I supposed to connect to my “cloud” of frickin’ Powerpoint presentations, when America’s internet is slower than a drunk carrier pigeon?

Take it from me: I’m pretty tech savvy. I know my way around the back of an Ethernet switcher, and I’ve wired many houses to peak performance. If I’m having problems, you can bet your sweet ass that 90% of Exhausted America is going to give up on this shit and go back to reading by the campfire. Most people just want to come home from a soul-crushing day at work and watch “30 Rock” on a machine that requires two buttons and a cold beer.

So stop telling me that the entire world is going virtual. Stop talking about the applications I’ll be manipulating from 3000 miles away. Fuck off with your streaming Web television. When I can reliably watch a YouTube video of some guy getting hit in the nuts with a football – without waiting 20 seconds for it to buffer – then we’ll talk.

meme me in st. louis

1/26/09

I have recently been “tagged”, as it were, by two upstanding gentlemen: Chris “Chip” Chapman and Steven Garrity forwarded their wish to hear a List of Things about Yourself. Their own lists were very entertaining, but as for me, what could I possibly put on here that you don’t already know? Or, for that matter, what could I say that you still give a shit about?

That I can write in both Gothic and traditional calligraphy? That I can decipher Morse Code up to 35 words a minute? That Vince Guaraldi used to sleep under our piano when I was a toddler? That I believe Jason Torchinsky to be correct: cheese is the best ingredient in any dish that contains cheese? That I hate Dook like God hated Gomorrah?

No, fair readers, I will attempt to start my own internet meme. A meme so oddly random and uncompelling that you will all rush out and do the same. Let’s call it “26/52”. I put it to you, Chip and Steve, and all the rest of you: who are the 26th and 52nd entries in your address book?

Yes, you heard right. Your computer’s address book, your Blackberry, your Palm, your Rolodex, or even your ratty, hand-scrawled Jonathan Taylor Thomas Tiger Beat datebook calendar. You want me to go first? Fine.

Number 26 in my Address Book: Ricky Bell.  Ricky is one of my favorite people on God’s green earth; infinitely affable and always fun on any trip. If he’s quiet, yes, he’s judging you, but that’s because you’re doing something stupid. Loves the Heels, seems to love his adopted town of Chicago, and damned if it ain’t been too long since I’ve seen him.

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with Ricky, flying a kite in Kitty Hawk, September ’89

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lining up a pool shot in our barn, 2002

Number 52 in my Address Book: Anthony M. Calogero.  Anthony was the best friend I had at That Internet Job back in the salad days of 2000-2001, when we were the last of the original boom companies still breathing oxygen. We gossiped, griped, laughed, sent each other those early internet forwards (Korean kickboxers breaking their shins, etc.) and if it weren’t for him, I would have self-destructed in that job way sooner than I actually did. Anthony, I hope your dream of the Perfect Stereo Sound System has come true, dude!

RIGHT. So what’s your 26/52?!?

’twas the pump handle

1/25/09

Okay, it’s Monday, so let’s take care of a few things, shall we?

1. Kirsten Gillibrand – There’s been a lot of hand-wringing and rending of garments in liberal blogland about the bona fides of our Congresswoman Gillibrand now that she’ll be appointed to the Senate. I think most of the problem was the media circus surrounding Governor Patterson’s selection process – it was messy and silly, precisely the kind of drama we were supposed to denounce in the Obamanian era of politics.

That said, I understand why people are upset about elements of her voting record. The whole gun thing is problematic, mostly because the NRA are such assholes. Honestly, the NRA would have a lot more sway with those not in the wingnuttery if they’d drop the “cold, dead hands” bullshit, which is just cruel and infantile.

Her other votes seem prescient (“no” on TARP) or are the same as Obama himself (FISA). But here’s the thing: she won NY-20 as a Democrat. Unless you’ve perused the woods of Oswego County, you don’t know how Republican this place used to be. She was celebrated by liberals for turning our District blue after 75 years, yet is denounced as a “Blue Dog” now that she’ll be in the Senate.

Do I know how she’ll vote? Will she drift inexorably left, now that she represents a very liberal state? I can’t say I know for sure, but this I know: she’s super smart, actually cares about her constituents, is religious about transparency in government, and she will take all these criticisms to heart. In the long run, that’s awesome for New York, but in the short run… well, I hope her cute boy Theo isn’t reading Daily Kos.

2. The Purple Tunnel of Doom – This drives me crazy. Why do the police always lowball the numbers in a crowd? The day of the Inauguration, when we were shut out of the celebration (even though we had a ticket), the official line was “due to unprecedented interest, about 1,000 people did not make it into the ceremony.”

That’s disingenuous on several levels. Unprecedented or not, they should have had their best crowd control teams testing every scenario, weeks before the event. Anything else is a goddamn security breach, and they were very lucky nobody expired, especially in that weather.

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Secondly… “1,000 people”? Even when they upped the number to 4,000 on Wednesday, those of us who were there knew they were on crack. By our eyeballing estimate, no fewer than 15,000 people got stuck in that tunnel, and even more were crammed against the gate outside. There’s a Facebook group dedicated to this, but seriously – why can’t people just admit they fucked up, and be honest about the numbers? Anything else just invokes fury among those who gave the most to be there.

3. Gratuitous pictures of our balls – The Texas Black Tie & Boots Ball was oddly corporate and depressing. I don’t think I need to add anything to this photo op:

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In stark contrast was the Staff Ball, which frothed with youthful fervor. We missed Obama by about an hour (I was getting the flu I’m battling right now) but dined on some great fixins and saw the relaxed joy of our niece (on T’s side) and nephew (on my side) as they truly realized, along with everyone else, what they’d done.

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You see that picture? That’s Gen Y, and they largely made it happen. Our Generation X sure as hell didn’t – we’ll be on our deathbeds, still choking on snark and sarcasm – but it’s not all our fault. As Salem and I were remarking the other day, it’s all about timing, and we didn’t have a chance. A glorious idealist born in 1970 would have been trampled into the ground by Reagan, given false hope by Clinton, and then destroyed for good by Bush. A glorious idealist born in 1985? Well, that’s them above.

I take it on the chin, I understand my place in the 20th and 21st century timeline. 2004 was my last gasp of trying too hard, and as I’ve said before, something in me broke. Never again will I trust Americans to do the right thing; the revelation of that disgusting, pockmarked underbelly is all I care to take, thank you very much.

Does that mean I miss out on the joy of this moment? A little, yes. I appreciate it intellectually, and I did cry with joy a few times this year. But that’s a fever I had once before, and like every virus, it’s very hard to catch again.

austerlitz, coxsackie, starbuckville

1/22/09

Now, I’m writing this at 7:15pm on the West Coast, Thursday night – so we can’t say anything for sure, yet – but it’s looking like our brilliant Congresswoman and friend Kirsten Gillibrand will be the next junior Senator from the Great State of New York. [midnight update: it’s her! -ed.]

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our billboard outside the farm for KG’s 2006 campaign

Kirsten is exactly the same age as us, started a family the same year as us, went through the heartache of the early Bush years as we did, and all through it, remained steadfast in her convictions. In 2006, she took our Congressional district – which had voted deeply Republican since Julius Caesar won the Battle of Pharsalus – and turned it blue with a little bit of luck and a lot of plain, open honesty.

Once in office, she started publically publishing her schedule on the Web (unheard of!) and made every decision a matter of easy open record. Because of our district, she has had to make choices I hate – FISA, the NRA, and the like – but she was truly representing her constituency. I have no doubt she’ll move to the center (or even center-left) of the party when she represents the whole of New York.

We picked up our Inaugural tickets from Kirsten on Tuesday, and they took a picture of her with me, Tessa and our friend Kelly. While we’re beyond excited to have Rep. Gillibrand picked for the Senate, I think we can all agree on this: my hair ought to be considered as well.

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¡obamanos!

1/20/09

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I’m writing this around 4pm on Monday afternoon, having just got back from the Inaugural celebrations and skirting the parade route, and WHAT A DAY! Just a few thoughts about being here during this event, so I don’t forget – and if any of you were here, I’d love to hear what you think as well.

Let’s start with some pros and cons…

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sharpshooters near the Capitol

CONS:

– Absolutely disastrous crowd control. If it weren’t for the unbelievable goodwill emanating from the mass, and the singular dedication to being “team players”, there would have been big problems. Any other event might have spawned riots.

We had Purple tickets provided by our Congresswoman, evidently some of the best seats to see Obama being sworn in. I thought we were pretty frickin’ cool, until we got to the gate, and saw just how special we were:

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That’s about 5% of the people there, and yep, every single person in front of Tessa had Purple tickets… and they had randomly closed the gate 1/2 hour before the Inauguration was to begin. Rumors swirled there had been a “security breach”, and hope flagged, none of us moving a centimeter with time ticking away. The people next to us had been there since 6:30am, and the people next to them had been there five minutes.

In other words, there was no right way to have participated. These throngs had given sweat and tears to help elect their leaders, traveled thousands of miles, and were frozen out of the ceremony, unable to move. Our brother-in-law suffered a back injury from the crush and had to leave.

Tessa stood up on top of a parking meter and gave news to the crowd: the gates were opening, but the pace was impossibly slow, and you still had to go through the magnetic security clearance. We made a personal decision: Lucy was at the Intercontinental Hotel with Laura, and while we might have made it in, we decided to jog through the freezing streets back to our daughter.

So… we saw the Inauguration the same way everyone else did: on TV!

– Zero centralized communication. There was no website, no pamphlets… hell, there wasn’t even a guy with a bullhorn shouting basic information. Would it be too much to ask, in this day and age, to have a central data feed somewhere? Maybe a text blast to everyone who wants to know, with messages like “PURPLE GATE CLOSED, PLEASE USE SILVER GATE ON PENN AVE” or “PARADE DELAYED 50 MIN, STILL OPEN SPOTS BY E STREET”.

Policemen had no idea what was going on, nor did the “Secret Service Police” with army fatigues and SECRET SERVICE POLICE emblazoned on their backs, nor did anybody running the Metro stations. They counted on our exaggerated sense of anti-boat-rocking, but as you might have heard, it made a lot of people miserable.

– Constant, blood-curdling sirens. I get it, there are a lot of dignitaries with motorcades, sure, some people were collapsing from the cold, but seriously: thirty straight hours of sirens on every street? I’ve lived in Manhattan, and I’ve spent a depressing number of hours on the road in Los Angeles – but this was ridiculous. The sirens were so bad that people started ignoring them out of frustration, thus walking in front of ambulances anyway.

Instead of driving a pen-knife into our bleeding eardrums all day long, couldn’t they have just driven normally, and occasionally used that special Get The Fuck Out of My Way horn when needed? Babies crying, kids cowering – OISH! Not to say “won’t somebody please think about the children,” but won’t somebody, um, please, um, think about, y’know, the children?

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– No toddler shirts. Speaking o’ which, there were MILLIONS of homemade and silkscreened Obama T-shirts, but they all came in two sizes: XXXL and XXXXL. Lucy wanted a shirt that had Obama’s forehead/eyes with Martin Luther King’s mouth saying “My Dream Is Come” (not exactly my favorite) but it was bigger than her bedroom.

PROS:

– Who gives a fuck about any of that? WE GOT OURSELVES A REAL PRESIDENT, EVERYBODY!!! The Media Frenzy has been trying to sell our own emotions back to ourselves for weeks now, but it didn’t matter, it was still magical and utterly fantastic. Ikea couldn’t ruin it:

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Budweiser couldn’t ruin it:

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Pepsi couldn’t ruin it:

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Even the guy selling Obama Hot Sauce on 10th Street couldn’t ruin it. The whole day was like the end of A Charlie Brown Christmas, when the pathetic little tree comes to life, and everyone sings together. No amount of commercialism can take any of that away.

– Nicest gathering of Americans in history. It was like Mardi Gras without the boobs, and none of the wanton drunkenness. More like a National Championship celebration, but longer-lasting. People from all walks of life, no matter what social strata, had no problem striking up conversations with absolute strangers.

Train rides, bus rides, lines – of which there were many – instantly became shared experiences with lots of laughter. Very little whining (although I always do my best). This may seem like a cliché, and perhaps temporary, but the usual big-city apprehension between blacks and whites seemed totally non-existent. It’s not easy to put this kind of gossamer dynamic into words, but it was as if the African American population possessed a kind of subconscious forgiveness for the whites around them. Something had slightly changed. It was remarked upon by a few people who dared say it, and god knows if any of us are right about it.

Does it exist? Is it widespread? Is it only temporary? It was one of those days that didn’t punish you for dreaming.

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the moment Obama raised his right hand

history demands good shoes

1/15/09

There have been far too many low-flying planes off-course in New York City this decade, but at least this one had a fantastic ending – worthy of This Here’s How You Do It training videos for the next fifty years.

This one also hit close to home – the USAir LGA-CLT flight is one I’ve taken myself many times, and no doubt many of you have too. In that vein, I asked old friend and longtime reader Chuck Price (and by proxy, his brilliant wife Kathleen) to write tonight’s blog. As you’ll see, they were intimately involved with today’s news on several levels. Here’s Chuck:

***

How much is that worth?

I spent the better part of my day today watching the stock price of the company I work for. You see, my company has lost billions upon billions of market value in the last twelve months as the financial system has tanked, and given that my wife also works there – and has for 15 years – we lost a nice chunk of personal market value along the way.

What chaps me are the articles about all the Wall Street titans, the geniuses who thought up all the crap that cratered the global economy, and how they were paid millions upon millions to do it. They say you can’t make something out of nothing, but that’s not true. They managed to turn nothing – i.e. no value, no income, no assets – into a stinking pile of crap that they then littered around the global financial landscape like toxic confetti, a complete and total mess that you and me and every other taxpayer is now ponying up to fix. And they got paid to do it. Now tell me, how much is that worth?

But this isn’t just an ordinary rant on the selfish bastards of Wall Street and the huge hole they blew into the pockets of ordinary people. No, this is a different commentary altogether, because of what happened this afternoon.

You see, as another incomprehensible day on the stock market wound down toward the final bell, I picked up my phone. It was my wife calling from the trading floor. She said something about a plane crashing into the Hudson River. And then everything about the day changed. Because that plane was leaving LaGuardia bound for Charlotte, and any time you get on a plane out of LaGuardia headed for Charlotte, there is somebody you know on that plane. And this time was no different.

This time it was a guy I work with, the guy who has a five-month-old baby. A guy who sits 20 feet away and laments the current state of UNC basketball and other mundane things with me. This time it was our neighbor two doors down – Molly, our good friend and co-worker, a wife, a mother of two small girls that our girls count as their closest friends. She had recently taken a job on the “transition team”, a euphemism for “the team that climbs through the intricate maze that is a merger of two large corporations”.

It required her to fly a lot, be gone a lot, be away from her girls more than she would like. And now it had just landed her in the Hudson River with 154 other people. How much is that worth?

Details are starting to emerge about the guy behind the wheel. And unlike some other stories you have heard lately about the train conductor who was drunk when the trains collided, or the athlete who was juiced, or even the douchebag who ran the biggest Ponzi scheme in history and defrauded charities out of entire endowments, the guy flying Flight 1549 today is actually one of the good guys.

He’s an ex-Air Force F-4 fighter pilot and he’s been doing this job at USAirways for almost 30 years – when he’s not teaching other pilots how to fly safe or investigating other crashes to learn how to prevent the next one. So when his push came to shove, he calmly turned the plane away from the city and out over the water, told the passengers to “prepare for impact” and set a freaking Airbus down in the icy waters of the Hudson River like a mother laying her newborn baby down for a nap.

In less than two minutes, all the passengers were outside the plane, either on the wings or in rafts (or in the case of our friend Molly, in the hypothermia-inducing 41 degree water). They were watching what must have been a glorious sight – every type and size of boat streaming toward that sinking metal tube. Ferry boats, tug boats, big red boats with FDNY emblazoned on the side. I heard a newscaster tonight comment something along the lines of “Thank God for New Yorkers. We know from past experience that when they see disaster, they rush toward it to help.” How much is that worth?

I just got back from watching Molly and Jason’s kids while Jason went to pick up Molly from the airport. To further my point about every LaGuardia-to-Charlotte flight: two of Jason’s co-workers were on that plane today (Jason’s CEO chartered a jet to fly up there and bring all three home). By pure happenstance one of Jason’s co-workers was actually sitting in the window seat of an exit row… next to Molly.

She said that during the final seconds of the descent, while everyone was bracing for the crash with hands over heads, Jason’s co-worker – her seatmate – was sitting there intently scanning the directions on the emergency exit door. Once the plane splashed down and came to a stop, he immediately unbuckled, stood up, and threw open the door. How much is that worth?

They say teachers don’t get paid enough, and that is absolutely true. Today has proven beyond a doubt that airline pilots don’t get paid enough either. Or firefighters or police officers or nurses or social workers. Every day they go to work and do their jobs, and each and every one of them holds lives in their hands, whole lives, lives that have meaning and depth and importance to somebody else.

In a split second, that pilot made a decision based on experience, knowledge, years of doing, learning, teaching, just being someone who is dedicated to his job and who works hard and has a certain level of integrity and accountability. And that decision saved the lives of 154 people, and how many other countless people whose lives would be forever altered if he made a different decision. How much is that worth?

Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger, III. Let’s give this guy some of the TARP money.

***

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cell phone pic on Twitter by user jkrums

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“The Gulf Stream” by Winslow Homer,, who also painted the Hudson – when I saw the pic above, it reminded me of this… -ian

knocked me off my axis mundi

1/14/09

I thought I’d give some of our far-flung relatives some pictures of our fam’s holiday season. If you’re bored to tears with this sort of thing, or you’re on dialup, all I can say is – wait, why the hell are you on dialup?

First, we have the mighty huntress, who, along with her trusted fierce mountain dog, found the perfect Christmas tree and asked her sherpa to cut it with an axe:

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Back home, Tessa and Lucy discuss whether or not Martha Stewart Living “still has it”:

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On one of the shortest days of the year, the sunset spends three seconds blazing across the birch trees before going pitch black:

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Filed under “Absolutely Worth It”, the Santa at Macy’s on 34th Street was pretty damned convincing. Lucy asked for “hard guys in pajamas”, which became a mantra for weeks – after a while, Tessa finally figured out she meant a little Playmobil set of two kids and their bedroom bunk beds. They were “hard guys” as compared to the usual fluffy dolls. You just gotta pay attention, and Santa did:

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With kids and new boyfriends, we are running out of staircase real estate, which is fine by me:

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Ben, Lucy, Esme and Hank. The first time with the Grinch is always a bit rough:

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For Christmas, Tessa got the little itty bitty computer she’s wanted for five years, and for Lucy, I had something more elaborate. One of the storage rooms in the back of our barn – with troughs where the horses once ate hay – had become derelict and moldy. So I cleaned it out and turned this:

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…into this:

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She can keep her art supplies in the old trough, and there’s a pull-down table for kid projects, but best of all, the local guys cut me a break on basic wall mirror, and two banisters made a double-barre:

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And nothing’s better than to see her light up when the Trepak from the Nutcracker comes on:

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Speaking of which, she’d been waiting all three-and-a-half years of her life to go, so we took her to the City Ballet’s Nutcracker at Lincoln Center:

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In other performance news, my sister Michelle was attending her first Carolina game with my old roommate Jon, and needless to say, I had to attend. I’m pleased to report Michelle asked very intelligent questions and by the end, knew when Tyler was being fouled:

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Back in NY, an ice storm absolutely obliterated the Hudson Valley. My pictures on the Taconic don’t do it justice, but the local roads looked worse than Charlotte when Hurricane Fran came through. 150-year-old trees, diamond-hard white with ice, sitting in the middle of every road. When the sun came back out, it had a certain celestial quality:

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We had amazing guests this year. And Scotty introduced us to Rayman Raving Rabbids on the Wii:

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And if you’re ever upstate and wondering why your sinuses have turned to dry, bloody parchment, it might be because it’s -0.9 degrees outside, with 19% humidity:

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A few hours later, we’re all back in LA – sunny and 85 degrees. *snooze*

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