Rochester, New York, and the America of today

I recently read the following article, which appeared on the website of public radio's Marketplace, on the decline of manufacturing and how it affected Rochester, New York, and the people who live there.

Before reading any further, go read it:

Did you read it? OK.

As it happens, I have connections with Rochester, and I shared it with someone who spent a couple of decades living there, working for a local company. He had this to say:

It’s a good article. The real message is that manufacturing as it was – manufacturing that made the middle class – is gone. What manufacturing does come back will not provide enough jobs for everyone.

Too bad they didn’t examine my company too. They would have seen that we not only sent manufacturing offshore, but we also outsourced white-collar engineering and I.T. jobs to India and replaced them with minimum wage call-center jobs.

The lady in the last paragraph of the article hit the nail on the head.

This is the lady he's referring to:

“You didn’t even have to go to college. You got out of high school and went to Kodak, Delco, Rochester Products, Xerox, Bausch and Lomb and you made $20 an hour. Back in the day, you got out of school, and you could be 18 and move off on your own into an apartment.
Today? These kids today? If you don’t have college, those top companies are just not here anymore. My youngest daughter did it the hard way. She found out without college here, there’s only $13-an-hour jobs. If that. She’s still at home, 31, but back to school now to get that degree to get out on her own. There was an article in the paper this past weekend, ‘Oh, middle class America, so many jobs are coming back,’ $12 to $15 an hour. Like, what are you gonna do with $12 to $15 an hour? You cannot live on your own.”

That's hard to argue with. This is the world we've built over the last few decades. And if you want to understand why so many Americans are frustrated, angry, and losing hope, ready to vote for someone like Bernie Sanders, who promised a revolution, or Donald Trump, the Big Man who promises to make everything better (without specifying how), you need look no further.

And pray that somehow, we find a way out of this mess.

How I decide on ballot initiatives

One of the constant joys of living in California is that every two years or so, you're presented with a list of ballot propositions on which to vote. As a lifelong Californian, I have opinions about this.

While the initiative process in California has its origins in the Progressive era (once again: learn your damn history, people) and was intended to give the people a bigger voice against the once-domineering Union Pacific Railroad and Crocker Bank, it's devolved into an excuse in many cases for 1) the legislature to punt controversial issues to the people (because politicians are cowards), 2) crackpots who can't get a hearing any other way to make a big splash, and 3) special interests and big money to do an end run around the legislature.

The question, therefore, is "How do you make decisions on all these things?" Flip a coin? Spend hours poring over research in a dusty library somewhere? If you're a Californian, you quickly get used to making snap decisions about them. While this is not ideal, and can lead to some idiotic laws getting passed, it's how a lot of people do it.

For me, I've narrowed it down to a list of questions:

  • Is it something I feel strongly about? If not, I'm not inclined to pass yet another law.
  • If it's something I feel strongly about, how do I feel about the way it's being set up? I see no reason to amend the state constitution to fund day care. Our state constitution has been amended too many times for too many minor things already.1
  • Who is supporting it? Is it bipartisan?
  • Follow the money--who's bankrolling it?
  • Is it a bond measure? Bonds have to be paid back eventually--how is the payback structured? Is it something that is appropriate or inappropriate for a 30-year bond?
  • Who stands to benefit the most if it passes?
  • How are the ballot arguments written? It sounds silly, but I've seen some egregiously badly written statements, and rightly or wrongly, I do judge people by the quality of their writing when it comes to stuff like this. If you can't take the time to properly structure your argument, why should I think you've thought through your ballot measure? This is our state government. It's important. Have someone proofread it, for God's sake.

And that's about it. Once you reduce it to its essentials, you can get through a fairly big list of propositions pretty quickly. This year, there are seventeen. A little closer to Election Day, I'll be posting my thoughts on this year's crop.

  1. That said, there are times when a constitutional amendment is justified; I'm not completely opposed to doing so.

No longer at

Now that everyone I want to be in touch with is available somewhere else, there's no reason for me to be on I've deleted my apps and won't be checking in there.

If you follow me there and want to keep in touch, I suggest you contact me on Twitter, on 10Centuries, or use my contact form.

New home for the blog

I've completed migrating my blog from Posthaven to 10Centuries. This means two things:

  • Different address formats means old URLs and bookmarks are broken. Sorry.
  • You'll need to update your bookmarks/RSS feeds accordingly.

The DNS has been updated, so the redirection of the root domain is in full effect. The new address for the RSS feed is

The Star Trek metaphor for this election

It just occurred to me that the two scenarios below are the perfect illustration of the difference between the Clinton and Trump campaigns, as well as their supporters' attitudes.

First, Clinton:

Now, Trump:

Personally, I'd rather live in the United Federation of Planets than the Terran Empire in the mirror universe, so…

The last summer night

On the last night of summer, I just walked out my back door and heard the voice of Vin Scully broadcasting a Dodger game.

You probably have to be an Angeleno to truly understand, but it makes me sad that I won't hear that sound for much longer. I'm not even a baseball fan, but his voice has been the soundtrack of summer my whole life.

Somehow, that makes it feel not just like the last night of summer, but the last night of an era.

A special message for the community

Hi, everyone. I wanted to put up a special post just for the ADN community. This is not visible from my blog, only from the link on ADN.1 This one's for you.

Do you remember what was like when it first began? Do you remember the excitement, the sense of community, the friendliness, the respect 2 on all sides?

Do you remember when the founders used to post and interact with us? When they were actively developing the place?

Yeah, I do, too. There hasn't been much of that on ADN lately. There hasn't been much of anything there lately.

I've missed it. It just hasn't been as much fun. And ever since the State of the Union post, the membership has been quietly slipping away. It's now common for an hour or three to slip by without anything new in my stream. It's weird.

And then there's the slowdown in the entire service. Cracks are starting to appear, things are slowing down, and while Berg is fixing stuff when it breaks, there's a difference between proactive maintenance and fixing stuff after the fact. This place is still alive, but it's anything but healthy.

Seems like we've all been looking for the new A few people have declared their intention to build it.

One of them has succeeded.

Right now, there's a small and growing community of ADNers (current and former) at, built by our very own @matigo. It's based on the same principles that ADN was--no advertising, paid membership available, mutual respect, and owning your own data. This time, there are no VCs involved to pressure the owner into compromising the service. If you check it out, I think you'll find it impressive. And you can blog and do podcasts there, too.

I like it so much I'm spending most of my social media time there, which brings me to the reason for this post.

There's not much keeping me on these days, and while I'm not deleting my account, I won't be around as much. I'll be checking in periodically, but irregularly. I've already turned off notifications and PMs. At some point, I'll probably delete Riposte and Chimp.

ADN will always be special to me, because it's where I met so many of you wonderful and fascinating people. There comes a time, though, when you have to acknowledge that once was is no more. And that's OK--that's how life works. And this is a part of my life--a bigger one than I ever thought a social network could be.

I hope you'll join me over at the new place. I think you'll like it. If you'd like an invite code, just ask--you can reach me at

Thanks for listening.

All the best,



  1. This was true of the original post on Posthaven, but the copy here is visible globally.

  2. For the most part, certain individuals who shall remain nameless notwithstanding.

Communicating securely with me

This is not something that comes up a lot, but it does come up occasionally, and it seems time to clarify how you can communicate with me securely, if that's something you're concerned about.

First off, I'm of the opinion that Internet privacy is a fiction. That's why I don't normally use PGP encryption--that, and because normals don't know what to do with it. And frankly, it's a pain in the butt that I'd rather not deal with, as well.

That said, if you have a need to communicate with me securely, the following options are available:


I do have an account on Keybase, which I use primarily on the desktop. I deal with almost all my email on mobile, so this makes it a pain if you send me encrypted email. It's your job to make it easy for me to read what you send, so don't be surprised if I don't respond in a timely fashion. Or at all.

For ProtonMail, it's easiest if you have a ProtonMail account yourself--then the encryption/decryption happens behind the scenes and takes no effort on my part. And it's readable on mobile that way, too.

For WhatsApp and Telegram, you'll need to know my phone number or my username.

To find those out, or for anything else, you can send me an email via my contact form at

My view on the Apple jackectomy

(Originally posted as a social post on 10Centuries)

Removing the headphone jack is the right thing to do for a certain subset of people. That subset happens to make one hell of an overlapping Venn diagram with the most loyal and biggest-spending Apple customers. If you're big into tech, and have lots of disposable income, and always buy whatever comes out, chances are you're already happily using Bluetooth headsets and CarPlay, and removing the jack isn't a problem for you. And that's fine.

Removing the headphone jack is also the wrong thing to do for another subset of people. These folks have older cars without Bluetooth, or have spouses/kids/etc. who use Android phones, or do a lot of charging while using headphones, or have budgetary concerns. I happen to fit into this group.

Belkin has already announced an adapter that will allow you to both charge and listen on your shiny new iPhone, but that's both 1) one more goddamn expense and 2) something to lose. Just like the AirPods. But people who don't rely on using it will see it as just fine.

At the end of the day, Apple's gonna do what Apple's gonna do, and they won't go back, and their customers will adapt. But there is a point at which I have to ask myself whether I'm going to continue to be an Apple customer, and that question is not one that I'm prepared to answer just yet. I still have a year to go before I have to.

The problem with store payment apps

When I was a young man, back before the dawn of time when dinosaurs roamed the Earth and Americans weren't afraid of Muslims, I had a wallet full of gasoline credit cards. Union 76, Shell, Texaco, Exxon, Chevron, Mobil…all in the name of being able to buy gas at whatever gas station happened to be convenient.

Then the oil companies got with the program and joined the 20th century, and started to accept Visa, Mastercard, and others. Now I've replaced the stack of proprietary credit cards in my wallet with a single card that I can use anywhere. It's better.

Unfortunately, as we enter the era of contactless payments and smartphone apps, not everyone wants to accept Apple Pay or Android Pay/Google Wallet. So now, when I want to buy aspirin at CVS (or shirts at Walmart), I have to download and install their proprietary app and register my credit card, or else pull out my physical wallet and pay cash (or use a plastic card).

That's not particularly difficult, but it does negate the biggest advantage of using Apple Pay or the equivalent: security.

You see, it's not just a convenience thing. When you pay with Apple Pay (or equivalent), the merchant never sees your actual card number. Apple generates a special number that only works with your phone. Anyone who was a victim of the Target hack will appreciate the importance of this.

Meanwhile, if you're using the CVS app or the Walmart Pay app, you don't have that advantage. The merchant gets your actual card number and keeps it on file. If they're hacked, you're screwed.

So no, Walmart and CVS, I won't be using your special proprietary payment apps. Maybe they make it easier for you to track purchases, or maybe you've negotiated a special lower per-transaction fee with the banks. I could certainly understand how it might work to your advantage. But neither of those is a compelling reason for me to downgrade my own security.

And one last thing to keep in mind: The consumer still has choices. You both have competitors who will accept Apple Pay, and they'll be the ones getting my business.

And if/when you reconsider your policy, so will I.