Umm, is she wrong?

I was perusing Facebook after all of the Florida shooting stories. Shocking that none of the normal gun freaks were speaking up in the aftermath.

Anyway, not the point here.

I came across the post above, and was struck by something. Number one, my aunt left a comment on the post that said “Thank you, Mr. Vice President.” Sigh. Number two, Joy Behar is not altogether wrong for saying what she said.

Think about it. If I publicly ran for office and said I discuss my issues and problems with my imaginary friend named Alan, people would say I was crazy.

“No, no, he’s my spiral advisor,” I would say.

And they’d call me even crazier.

And you know what, they’d be right. Because I’d be talking to someone (or something) THAT’S NOT REAL. There is no Alan. Just like there is no Jesus listening to you or talking to you.

It’s not there. It’s not real.

So, I would question my aunt. Why do you say “Thank you, Mr. Vice President”? Because you talk to imaginary friends, too? Is that ok? And if it is, I would presume you’d support any candidate or leader that talks to an imaginary bunny rabbit, right? Or a robot? Or what about an alien?

Those things are just as “real” as Jesus. (Oh, and by the way, there are “religions” that don’t believe in Jesus either, so it’s not just coming from this atheist.)

FFS

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Talking Into the Air


Apple HomePod
Photo by Rene Ritchie on Instagram

A lot has been written (and spoken) about a new(ish) technology called Voice Assistants. Don’t know what that is? I bet you actually do. Ever said “Hey Siri, what’s the weather like?” to your phone or “Alexa, play Bruno Mars”? If you have, you’ve interacted with a real-life virtual voice assistant. (See what I did there?)

Amazon has one (Alexa). Apple has one (Siri). Google has one (“Hey Google”). And even Samsung has one (Bixby). With all of these high-profile companies, you’d think we don’t do anything but sit around the house or car all day speaking into the air to no one in particular.

Luckily, we don’t. Because we’d probably be put away in some looney bin if we did.

But these are around, and they seem to be gaining steam in broader popular culture. No longer existing only in tech nerd environments, these devices (and services) have made their way into mainstream households. Amazon’s Alexa, arguably the most popular service out there, was adopted by my mother-in-law before me. Seems strange, doesn’t it it?

Well, yes and no. I must admit, I don’t particularly like them (at least as they are currently implemented). My holdback is not so much a curmudgeonly, get-off-my-lawn resistance. Nor is it a nervous apprehension about privacy and allowing a multi-billion dollar corporation to put a dingus in my house whose sole purpose is to listen to me. (Ok, let’s be fair, a large part of it is the privacy angle. But let’s not get bogged down in that right this particular minute.)

I actually love the idea of a computer being able to interact with me in the same manner that another human being would. What’s unfortunate is that, right now, we’re still in the really early days with this technology. “Conversations” and true human-like interactions are not real with any one of these things. I do want this technology to work. And I want it to be as good as they advertise.

No, my largest hold-up comes from an apprehension that most people would never think about. It comes from the “voice” portion of the phrase “voice assistant”. That part where you have to say, out loud, what you want the assistant to do.

Out. Loud.

That always works out great for stutterers.

A device can now hear me stutter. Hell, it even records it. In its own way, it can even judge me. You see, the built-in functionality has a threshold of silence at the end of your query to know when to stop listening, which is how it knows when to proceed with its response. There is literally a timer counting down until it’s done waiting for you. In a stutterer’s mind, there is ALWAYS a timer going in your head. I feel it when I speak to other people, and I see it in their anticipation of what’s coming next as they listen to me. To give you an idea, this is what goes through my head:

When will it ding at me and cut me off because I blocked and can’t get the next syllable out?
Will it ding now?
Now?
What about now?

Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Ad Infinitum.

The pressure is ever-present. That pressure just adds more pressure to get it out, which adds even more pressure to do it quickly. “Now. Quickly. They’re waiting. It’s going to ding any second now. Do it. Get it out. Say it. Say it, you moron.”

That inner dialogue never stops. And it leads to a self-fulfilling prophecy. A vicious cycle.

Now, not only can I not speak normally to another human being, I can’t even speak normally to a frickin’ machine. Fuck.

In my own life, the version of this technology I use the most comes from Apple’s Siri. And most of that comes from the Messages app in the CarPlay system in my car. (I’ve been meaning to write something on how I use Siri more in my car by a factor of 10 than I ever do from my phone.) It reads my messages to me, and I can formulate my response by simply speaking into the air.

It’s a great piece of technology. Specifically in the car, as it frees your hands from fiddling with the phone. At the same time, it’s so frustrating when I get to a block in my speech pattern, and Siri will stop and begin to repeat what I just said. Unfinished, broken sentence and all. And I have to either send the sentence fragment, thus clueing in the person on the other end of the message that I have fucked up in speaking to the dingus, or I have to start over and say all of it again. And what if I fuck that one up, too? Start again? Send the fragment and send a follow-up message? What about the next time? And the next time?

See where this goes…

It’s enough to make me WANT to pick up my phone and just let my fingers do the talking for me. Lord knows, it’ll be quicker, sharper, and more concise.

Oh yeah, and less humiliating.

In my tech nerd circles, mostly on podcasts that I listen to, these voice assistants are lauded as the way our devices should be interacting with us. Getting the smartphone or laptop out of the way seems to be viewed as “better” in the long run. And maybe they’re right, for most people.

I’d just ask them to realize that some of us on the other end of the microphone don’t necessarily see this as a good thing. We either can’t speak to these things, or would honestly rather not.

And you know what, that should be ok, too.

River

River (with Ed Sheeran)
Performed by: Eminem
Written by: Marshall Mathers / Edward Christopher Sheeran / Emile Haynie

I can’t keep my lies straight, what I made you
Terminate my baby
This love triangle, left us in a rectangle
What else can I say? It was fun for a while
That I really woulda’ loved your smile
Didn’t really want to abort
But fuck it, what’s one more lie to tell an unborn child?

I mean…wow

The search for Jackie Wallace

The search for Jackie Wallace
by Ted Jackson

Only a half-mile more and it would all be over. One hundred and 50 feet below, the powerful currents of the Mississippi River would swallow his soul and his wretched life. He dodged another car. But why did it matter? Getting hit by a car would serve his purposes just as well as jumping.

Read this. It is a roller coaster ride of hope and sorrow, redemption and desperation. This is what happens in a society of living in (and caring about) only the now. We so often forget what happens after the spotlight is turned off.

(PDF) The search for Jackie Wallace – NOLA.com

Flight

Flight
Performed by: Lifehouse
Written by: Jason Wade

It’s no secret that music means a great deal to me. It’s soothing when nothing else will soothe me. On the flip slide, it can also tear at me like nothing else can. When I come across “new” music, I usually grab hold of it and just let it wash over me by playing it again and again and again. The band Lifehouse is particularly special to me. They encompass almost the entirety of my relationship with Jayme. One of their earliest songs “Everything” is our wedding song. (Granted, a very long wedding song.)

So when I came across this song while listening to a varied mix of Lifehouse, I realized it was new to me. It was on an album from several years ago that I will admit I hadn’t listed to a lot. But I was in a particularly Lifehouse kind of mood, and I let them all play. The song that caught my ear was called “Flight”.

It is a gorgeous song. A heart-wrenching song. One that is filled with so much emotion. And what I love about it is that you can hear it in the way Jason (Wade) sings it. The music swells. It builds. The feeling is building to something. Building to a resolution. Building to freedom.

These lyrics just slay me:

No more running, no more hiding
No more hurting, no more crying
No more trouble, no more sighing
No more falling, no more striving
No more heartache, no more fighting
No more fears, only flying

Listen to Jason sing them. If that doesn’t engender resolve and purpose in your own soul, I’m not sure what will.

Do yourself a favor, listen in the video below:

Apple CEO Tim Cook Learned to Code in College

Apple CEO Tim Cook Learned to Code in College

In October of 2017, Cook shared additional details on his coding experience in an interview with The Sun. Back when he was attending Auburn University, Cook built a system to improve the traffic lights near the university. He aimed to optimize traffic to reduce wait times while maintaining the safety of the lights. His work was a success and it was implemented by the local police force.

So there’s one way Tim Cook and I are alike. I, too, took my first programming course at Auburn University. Granted, mine was almost 20 yers later in the fall of 1998. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my career. I happened to register for a C class and realized I had a knack for it. Even better than that, I really enjoyed it. That class led to a second class, which led to a co-op opportunity with Georgia Tech Research Institute, which led to a transfer to Georgia Tech, which led to my first job at GTRI, which led to my current job of 12 years at Romanoff.

You could say that that one programming class at Auburn almost 20 years has led to who I am today.

I may not have programmed traffic lights, or (you know) have been promoted to CEO of the most profitable company in the world, but it’s paid off for me pretty well.

Aghast

I sit here in utter shock and complete despair that it’s come to this…

The sad thing it’s not the first time I’ve seen a forum like this, and I fear it won’t be the last.

I don’t know how to deal with this. It’s one of those situations where I watch this, and the desire to weep and rage at the same time overwhelms me. It’s heartbreaking that there are people who can utterly get lost in the Fox News-ification of life.

As Frank pointed out in the video, they are “absolutely” willing to believe that all 9 of these women are lying because they’ve been paid off. All of them. No thought to giving even one of them the benefit of the doubt.

Like I said, weeping and raging. All at the same time.

I have a 13 year old daughter right now, and I am scared to death at the lack of compassion for the women who are victims of sexual assault. What kind of world are we leading these children into? How can I teach her (hell, convince her) to speak up when it’s being proven day after day to her that people will NOT believe her? That people will blame HER? That people will look at her like she was asking for it? That she should be flattered, and I as a parent should be grateful and proud, that a prominent man is interested in her…while she tries to get through the 8th grade?

Because, after all, clothes were still on. Sickening.

Even other women. That’s what floors me. In the video above, other women flat-out say that it’s the accusers’ fault. (By the way, someone should share with the lady in the video that “I blame both of them” really does mean YOU ARE BLAMING HER.)

Apparently, being a sexual predator is perfectly fine as long as you (purportedly) stand for good Christian, Conservative values.

Whatever the fuck that means anymore.

#partyoverhumanity