Time to check myself

On Episode 278 of “Roderick on the Line”, Merlin (Mann) encapsulates exactly something that a friend of mine said about 2 years ago, well ahead of the 2016 election. Merlin said:

There’s so much reckoning going on about strangers. There’s so much reckoning going on about millions of people who are disadvantaged culturally in a way that so many of that 32%-36% are not. And yet they have found some way to find agrievement in every cultural improvement in the last 50 years, Every time somebody who’s not them gets something, it’s a zero sum game. Everything that somebody who has always been treated like shit for their entire life gets is necessarily one less thing that they get, in their mind.

I can’t tell you how right he is, how right my friend was back then, and how wrong I was to write it off as something of an ignorant opinion. On a car trip to/from Seattle, we were having a discussion on the phenomenon that was candidate Trump at the time. Speaking for myself, I just didn’t understand how he was still in the race, much less leading it. During the course of that discussion, it was pointed out that there was a certain group of people that felt disenfranchised because of the cultural changes that had been happening (especially in the past 7 years of the Obama presidency). And that this group of people felt left behind, or left out, of the benefits that were now coming to the historically disenfranchised. And that was pissing them off. So much so, that they would absolutely invite into their house this loud-mouth, boastful, pussy-grabbing-and-proud-of-it shitbag for a possible president.

At the time, I thought that was ridiculous. I thought that people would surely be smart enough, informed enough, to see him for what he was. And the danger he imposed to a civilized notion of government, norms, and order. I believed in the basis of a morality, and believed that these people would ultimately end up siding on the basis of that morality and not on the idea of “anything but (her/establishment)”.

I have to say that I didn’t believe my friend then. Didn’t want to believe that narrative. But I believe it now. And I realize that, even now, I still have some thinking outside the box to do.

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Shameless

So, every time we got a new car, Sirius XM is always an option on the car’s entertainment system. It’s also signed up (automatically) for a 3-month trial. Sounds great, right?

Well, The calendar just ticked over to month 4, day 1 for my new-ish A4, and sure enough, the XM Preview channel is screaming at me (yet again) to subscribe.

“Never miss the great music of yesterday and today!”

“Want to take your music everywhere you are? Subscribe to SiriusXM!”

“Follow your favorite team for every goal, touchdown, and home run!”

Umm, no. I’m good. And that’s when I reach for the iPhone cord and plug in my phone to use CarPlay.

Ahh, back to normal.

But, yesterday, I was in the process of getting out of my car to walk in the grocery store. And right before I open the door, I hear a terrible, terrible noise. Imagine the sound a grinder makes on bare metal mixed with TV static. A screeching, ear-splitting sound at top volume. Horrible on so many levels. Surely this is a mistake, right?

Nope.

It was a commercial that went something like this: “Hate this sound? (Sound plays for 5 seconds) Yeah, who wouldn’t?! (Sound plays again for 5 seconds) Subscribe to SiriusXM to make sure you never hear it again!”

Are you fucking kidding me?!?!

Just shameless. And pathetic.

Guess what you’ve successfully done, Sirius? You’ve ensured I will never, ever again subscribe to your service.

Job well done.

I have a confession to make…

      

Ok, this is probably going to be an unpopular sentiment. So, I’ll just go ahead and get it out of the way. Rip off the band-aid. Here it goes:

“Hamilton” was not the best live musical theater experience I’e ever had.

There.

I said it.

Please don’t get me wrong. “Hamilton” was amazing. Like, really, really amazing. Even my son, who is not normally a musical theater fan, found it enthralling. Myself, Jayme, and the kids were all about the soundtrack both before and after the show.

Every bit of credit and respect goes to Lin Manuel Miranda and crew for creating such a cultural phenomenon. The songs were amazing. The story was gripping. It’s everything you could ask for in a musical.

(Side note: Angelica and her masterpiece “Satisfied” was my favorite part of the entire show!)

But…

In my mind, seeing “Les Miserables” on stage in London in 2003 was and is the hallmark of my theater-going lifetime. Maybe it was because I grew up with “Les Mis”. It was *the* musical that everyone knew and sang. Hell, we even sang a good bit of it in our high school chorus concert(s). Or maybe it was listening to the songs over and over and over again and finally seeing it live and in the flesh in front of me. Valjean with the soaring voice. The powerful ensemble pieces. The heart-wrenching ballads about love and loss.

It was mesmerizing. It also came at a turning point in my life. I was 23, married, had my first job, and really hitting a stride in my new-found adulthood. We were in London, living in Paris, and so many miles from our home in Georgia. We were living our life. There was an independence running throughout the whole experience.

That performance and that experience has stuck with me for these past 15 years, and is the barometer by which everything is judged.

My confession laid bare.

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

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.

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

Maybe it’s the battery

For many years, I’ve heard the (now) old adage of “Apple must be sabotaging my (current) iPhone because they want me to buy the new one”. I’ve always rolled my eyes at this, because it’s a classic consumer whine; the world (big company) is against me (playing the role of David in their own David and Goliath story).

I mean, come on. Yes, Apple must have written code specifically to jack up your special snowflake iPhone at exactly the time a new phone is coming out. Yeah, that’s plausible.

If that were true, a) there have been plenty of generations of these things by now and they’d have been caught at some point, and b) that’s just fucking preposterous.

Anyway,…

Having had almost every model of iPhone ever produced, I do know that as the years go on, they do become more randomly buggy. Again, I code for a living. And there’s no more frustrating than troubleshooting an issue or problem brought from a user that says “it’s random”.

Has anyone ever thought it might be a consequence of the batteries? And to that end, a consequence of the underlying battery technology in use in modern-day phones?

We use these batteries constantly. 24/7. 365. Batteries were never intended to last forever. And given the usage and charging habits we all have (I’ve never been able to keep up with the “right way” to charge a lithium ion battery), have we ever considered that the randomness of a failing battery might be the actual issue in random bugs and crashes as these devices age?

Just a thought…

Update: Maybe I was more right than I thought: Geekbench Results Visualize Possible Link Between iPhone Slowdowns and Degraded Batteries