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.

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

Promise Me No Promises

At dinner tonight, Caroline wanted us to hear a song she likes (she likes the beat, she says). Turns out it was a song called “No Promises” by a band called Cheat Codes.

She’s right, it does have a very good beat to the song. But I couldn’t get past one line in the song:

“Promise me no promises”

Wha?!?!

How can you promise no promises? The very act of promising no promises breaks the promise that you just got done promising you wouldn’t promise. Hence, you can never make that promise without breaking said promise, and the world ends up folding in upon itself. Now if you kept up with that, maybe you can explain it to me!

And, oh by the way, it fascinates me that she listens to music through Pandora (for random “shuffle”), and YouTube (of all things) for finding a specific song. No iTunes, no Amazon Music. No taking advantage of our extremely large existing iTunes library.

Purchasing music may, in fact, be leaving us. This fact just proves to me that the “latest trend” is passing me by.

And with that, my transformation to my dad is complete.

Nothing Is Forever

I hear the word “forever” used in lots of places as I go through my everyday. “I’ll love you forever”, “I’ll be here forever”, ”that’ll be here forever”, “this will be remembered forever”, or “they’ll rest here forever in peace”. That last one struck me as I drove past a cemetery one Saturday a couple of weeks back. The sad reality is that it’s just not true. Think of some of the things you think about truly being forever:

The idea of you
Your loves
Your relationships
Your “mark”
Your photographs
Your resting place
Even your country

But guess what?

After several generations, you (as an individual person) will be forgotten.
People that you love, and love you, will die.
Your existence will be erased by time.
Pictures fade.
Land will be needed for other purposes.
Countries rise and fall.

It’s hard to think of something, anything, that will truly be here forever. Forever is a really, really long time. The concept of forever is infinite. Is anything really infinite?

I often here the word “eternity” thrown about, especially when it comes to the idea of what’s after death. It’s hard for me to believe that. For many reasons.

There is a sadness that washes over me when I think about the lack of a “forever”. Like something is lost. Something that will never return. And I realize that I, and everything I love, hope for, wish for, will be forgotten at some point. As if it, or I, never existed.

It’s sobering.

So I focus on what I can control. To live and love to the fullest while I am here. While I have time. While I still matter. While I am not forgotten.

Time Flies

This picture was taken just under 5 years ago. Caroline was still a little girl. Brian looks so much like a young child. They are not that now.

They are still my kiddos, yes. And I willl always see them as such. But they are growing up so fast. As Jayme told my sister this morning, it’s only 6 years that we’ll be taking Caroline to college. Brian is about to hit his growth spurt and he’ll be asking for keys to the car before you know it.

I’m just not sure I’m ready for this.