Unforgiven

Harry Enten over on FiveThirtyEight posted a piece yesterday about how registered Democratic-leaning voters did not vote and therefore cost Clinton the election. And I was like, oh right, I’m pissed at those guys, too. And I am. But who I’m really pissed at is conservative and Republican-leaning voters who should have known better.

I know several of these people. Erstwhile principled conservatives who, early in the electoral process, bemoaned Trump’s progress in the GOP primary but who, by the end, didn’t just decide to vote for him, they advocated others to do the same. These are people who know history. Who have nuanced and interesting political positions. Who claimed to believe in the special role the United States has in the post-WWII world.

And yet, they voted for Donald fucking Trump. A person who is so clearly unsuited for the job. Emotionally, experientially, intellectually — literally in every way. In this case, they didn’t do the principled, ethical thing and vote for Evan McMullin or write in Mickey Mouse or simply leave the box empty for lack of an acceptable choice. They either decided there was something that superseded their responsibility to put a reasonable person in the White House or that it didn’t really matter as long as there was an “R” after the guy’s name in the history books or, most horrifically of all, that they thought he’d be great at the job. That is simple self-delusion fueled by a blind and irrational hatred for his opponent.

There is absolutely nothing that’s happened since the election that has highlighted the complete shitshow Trump is going to be as president that wasn’t perfectly obvious prior to the vote. Not a thing.

So yeah, I’m pissed at feckless Democratic voters with sore fee-fees who sat on their thumbs on election day because they didn’t fall sufficiently in love with Hillary and, at the expense of vulnerable populations all over the country they claim to care about, allowed a monstrous orange manchild to take the highest office in the land. Those who had a reasonable if imperfect choice and decided to follow a course of action those who did not should have. But I am more angry at those who put their higher reasoning skills in neutral so they could check the Trump box. Those who should have fucking known better. Those who are likely now, as they lay in bed at night and the reality of what’s happened really starts to sinks in, feeling a deep and dreadful buyer’s remorse. My God, what have we done?

Voting is an affirmative action. You vote for someone. There should be no such thing as hate-voting. Voting for a person only to vote against someone else. That’s wrong. And because they did that, all of us — not just in America, but around the world — are stuck with the consequences. I’m embarrassed for them. I am ashamed of what they allowed to happen. The damage their affirmative choice has done and will continue to do to this country they claim to love. And I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to forgive them.

Where in the world is Westworld?

Obviously, major Westworld spoilers are discussed below…

I don’t believe any detail or plot point shown on Westworld is thoughtless or throw-away. Everything means something. It’s all designed to give you a clue as to place and time and what’s really happening, not just what appears to be happening.

For example, the scenes from early on where Delores is talking to who we now know is Arnold, not Bernard. The most significant clue that something was not as it seemed was that it wasn’t happening in the same glass-walled super-sleek surroundings as all the other human-host interactions. This was a little concrete room with a visible staircase in the back. That turned out to be a pretty significant clue since it was from a time in which those running the park were just below the surface. So close you could sit down in a confessional booth and, Maxwell Smart-style, enter the park’s “backstage” via a little elevator.

Another example is the naked hosts. In the later timeline (yeah, I think we’re watching multiple timelines), they’re all naked and Ford rules the roost. He actually berates an employee for covering one up as if it’s modest. But Arnold always leaves them clothed. We see that with Delores. The one time Ford interacts with her, she’s naked, but each time Arnold does, she’s clothed. In the ninth episode when Bernard has recruited poor Clementine to keep a gun trained on Ford, she’s covered. That had to be Bernard/Arnold since she was put down there as naked as the rest of them. In that way, you’re shown how Ford regards them as less than human while Arnold thinks of them as, minimally, nearly so.

Finally, we see in episode 9 when the MIB and Teddy are tied up by Wyatt’s henchmen that they’re cutting up and ripping into the dead hosts. They look very lifelike and human inside. But later, after William has flipped out and killed all the ex-Confederates, you see metal joints where knees should be. Showing those details in the same episode is, in my opinion, the clearest signal yet that the MIB and William are the same person (or, minimally, their stories are decades apart).

So anyway, time and again we’re led to believe that Westworld is very far away. Employees stay for months at a time and go home on leave for equally lengthy periods. Communication requires going to a special room where others are calling home at the same time. We’re told it’s hard to get a line out to the rest of the world. It’s so hard to get data out of the park, one needs to rig up weird satellite transmission schemes and hide them in hosts who then need to find a tall peak to transmit from. Even in this futuristic world, we’re to believe and think that Westworld is very much an island of a thing. Removed and remote.

But it’s in the future, right? And the one thing we know is, as time progresses, the world gets virtually smaller. It takes less time to get places and being removed from civilization gets harder and harder. Cell signals are in more and more places, GPS is everywhere, satellites are all overhead looking down at nearly every square inch of the planet. How can Westworld feel so far away in the distant future? Where on Earth could be so far away?

When Elsie and the Lesser Hemsworth are looking for the stray host (who was trying to transmit data), she notes that every blade of grass is designed and placed. It all looks like the American Southwest, but it’s absolutely not. It’s designed and built and fake, just like a real theme park. In a way, the park is like a host. It appears to be what it purports to be. Looks right and sounds right, but it’s all artificial. It’s a massive version of Disneyland’s Frontierland. So there’s no reason to think it’s where it looks to be. The show all but tells you it’s not.

And what’s supposed to happen when the hosts inevitably revolt or take over? If they’re simply on a very large plot of land in the Southwest, what’s to keep the army or Delos security or whatever from coming in and putting them down? What’s the point of telling the story as if the hosts can gain sentience and perhaps “freedom” if they’re essentially on very large Disneyland? Penned in like peacocks at the LA Arboretum?

It appears as though every time they need to add on to the backstage of Westworld, they dig down. The very early parts (like the ruined backstage installation they show at the end of the ninth episode) are directly under the surface, but by the time we’re in the MIB timeline, they’re like 80 levels down or more. Each successive version of the park is buried another layer down. Think of the cold storage room where they keep old hosts. It looks like a bombed out shopping mall and is level 83. Clearly, this was at one point a place guests would be, but not anymore. And the older parts of the backstage we see are apparently just left as they are when they’re done using them. The area Delores found under the church, the disused offices Bernard accessed when trying to find the GPS data from the old computer system. All that just left as-is. Why would they do that? Why not repurpose? And why go down?

Finally, I think there’s a clue right in the name of the show. Westworld.

I think Westworld is on Mars. The color of the landscape on the red planet would match the Southwest’s rusty mesas. Digging down under the park might make sense if the park itself has been terraformed under a big dome. It would make a robot uprising more tenable from a story perspective if it was happening off-planet. Harder to put them down. More plausible to think they could exist on their own. Even if there are other habitable areas on Mars, the difficulty getting from one to another on a planet without a breathable atmosphere makes the island feeling of the park more sensible.

This clicks for me because I recall reading an interview with the showrunners (which, of course, I cannot find now) in which they say they’ll explore host physiology more in the second season. Like, specifically, how they don’t actually need air to live.

So yeah, that’s my theory. Westworld is a literal word. A red one. It’s on Mars. But I’m probably wrong.

Our test

The way I see it, last night’s debate gave us a pretty clear choice. On one side of the stage, a person who was prepared and briefed, who understood the issues and had a point of view of how to proceed. On the other, we saw a bombastic, misogynistic, xenophobic racist who seems to revel in his lack of knowledge and preparedness. You know, the same two we’ve seen over the course of this entire election, except now they were face to face and lots of people who have otherwise been distracting themselves with The Voice started to pay attention.

There have been a metric shitton of pieces written about the debate and a healthy percentage of them have asked the question as to whether or not last night’s performance will make any difference in the election’s outcome. Yes, the notion that she won the debate is nearly universal. Yes, all his warts and shortcomings were apparent. Yes, she was her usually driven and hyper-prepared self. But will it matter to people who have already made up their minds?

The other day, I saw a meme on Facebook comparing Trump to Hitler. I think that’s ridiculous inasmuch as it seems very unfair to Hitler. Adolf had a plan. He had a consistent (and very much fucked up) point of view. He knew what the problem was, he knew how he thought it should be fixed, and he drove towards that every single day, even from prison. Everything he did, he did towards a singular purpose: Take over Germany, throw out or destroy the Jews and other sub-races, restore the German people to their rightful place atop the world. Ambitious and horrible, but executed with precision.

Trump has no plan. He just says things. Sometimes, he says things that are clearly contradictory to things he’s said in the past. Usually they’re at odds with facts and reality. Words stream from his mouth in a sometimes random assortment. When he does make a point, it’s often counter to what the very voters he supposedly represents think is important. He calls into question obligations to our allies in Southeast Asia and Europe and, despite his endorsement by the NRA, is the only candidate who’s called for police to randomly stop people and confiscate their firearms (just to name a few). But he just pushes on like a hog rooting for a truffle.

Hitler’s supporters looked to him to amplify and hone their hateful rhetoric. Trumps supports are often looking past his gaffs and pronouncements and decide to support him anyway.

When it became clear Trump was going to obtain the Republican nomination, I thought it was good news for Democrats and the country. Trump didn’t represent any of the ideals or values of the Republican voters I knew well. I assumed they’d either not vote in the race or vote for someone else (write-in a name or go for Gary Johnson or something). But I was wrong. What I’ve seen instead is a gradual and inexorable alignment towards him. To a person, they seem prepared to exercise their franchise in support of someone so obviously unfit for the job. Someone so obviously out of step with their own viewpoint on the world. All because, presumably, he’s not her.

There’s another large group of voters who seem to view Trump as a thumb in the eye of everyone else who cares about who inhabits the White House. Perhaps they’ve never cared about the presidency because they never saw how it affected their lives, but now they have a champion willing to tell everyone to fuck off. When Trump said he could literally shoot someone on the street and not lose any votes, he demonstrated a keen understanding of his appeal. When these people vote for him, they’re consciously choosing the side of the schoolyard bully over the four-eyes know-it-alls who look down upon them.

So no, Trump is no Hitler. Not even close. But his voters might be like those who brought Hitler to power. The people whose blood pumps harder when they hear his hateful rhetoric. Who feel they cannot get ahead if anyone else is. Along with the ones who have tricked themselves into believing literally anyone is better than Clinton and, besides, how much trouble can he get in with the courts and Congress and 200-some years of established tradition standing in his way? The unthinkable has become normal. The walking internet comment section has become mainstream. And people like it. At least something just under half of them do.

So will the debate end up mattering? That he was awful and bombastic and clearly out of his league? None of these things has been in question up to now. Nothing happened last night but a confirmation of all that came before. For me, it comes down to a test of the basic goodness and fairness of the American people. Will they come back to earth? Regain their sense? Realize we’re playing with the kind of fire we’ve never come close to before? Or will they turn their backs on all that and choose the ignorant bully because he’s the ignorant bully? Will they demonize Hillary so perfectly as to assuage their guilt for voting for an ignorant fool?

This is our test. I think we’ll pass. But I don’t know for sure.

Ditching jack

I’m starting to buy the logic of ditching the 3.5 mm traditional headphone jack from the iPhone 7 and using the single lightning port for headphones instead. I’m not saying I’d have voted to do it, but there’s at least a defensible argument to be made.

Before I get into that, though, let’s just stop and marvel at the totally tone-deaf claim by Phil Schiller that dropping the port was an act of “courage.” Not only is that borderline offensive in a world where real people are doing real courageous acts every day, saying it in that venue and with that attitude does nothing but perpetuate every negative stereotype of Apple being run by elite, out-of-touch individuals with an over-inflated sense of their own importance. It will end up immortalized along with “you’re holding it wrong” atop the list of inartful Apple quotes. It’s far worse than “you’re holding it wrong” because that comment was off the cuff and arguably misconstrued while “courage” was written into a presentation that’s been weeks or months in the making. It was intentional. And it was just plain dumb. Like, a flinch-when-you-hear-it kind of dumb.

Anyway, I’ve been paying a lot of attention to how I use my iPhone since the rumors started getting serious about the headphone jack going away. The design of anything (from a phone to a car to a camera app), is about tradeoffs. And those tradeoffs are about balancing the possible against use case scenarios. As in, what does the designer think the user of the product will need it to do and how is any given use case prioritized over others? In my personal experience, over the past several months, the number of times I needed to listen to my phone over its headphone jack and charge it at the same time have been zero. That was surprising to me, but it’s true. Most of the time, I listen to my phone over Bluetooth. At home, in the car, at work. Either Bluetooth or Sonos via wifi. When I use headphones, it’s in scenarios when I wouldn’t be charging it anyway (shopping, exercising, etc.). So, for me, losing the ability to charge and use headphones at the same time is will lead to essentially no impact whatsoever to my enjoyment of the product.

My bet is, I’m not unique. My bet is Apple knows exactly how many users are like me. Not a company to live and die based on focus groups, they nonetheless are very much aware of how people are using their stuff. This is probably not the very earliest time they could have dumped the jack, but it’s the earliest time they could do it where the majority of their customers wouldn’t be radically inconvenienced.

Phil said in an email to a customer that there’s a $39 fix for those who are in need of using headphones while charging. It’s the Lightning Dock. It’s probably the case that most of the use cases for needing both ports at once outside an automobile involve a stationary fixed position like sitting at a desk or laying in bed. In those cases, the dock is a good solution. I can see the need for sitting somewhere where a dock doesn’t work, like a plane or on a train, when one would want to listen to their phone and plug it into a charger at the same time. I bet in a matter of weeks (if not sooner) there will at least be announcements of if not actual releases of external battery chargers with headphones jacks on them.

The car is interesting since older models don’t have Bluetooth and are a great place to top off a charge while listening through the speakers while driving around. That’s done with a cheap cassette adapter that plugs into the headphone jack. Those folks, too, have an option, though, in that there are Bluetooth versions of cassette adapters on the market already and they’re also pretty darn cheap (under $20).

Many will lament having expensive headphones that now will require a dongle to use. I get that. I’m in the same boat. How much of a bummer that is depends a lot on what the dongle is like. Does it bend easily? Does it stay on the headphones well? Well enough that leaving them together all the time is no big deal? But the bigger question from a product design standpoint is what am I getting in exchange for this inconvenience? Here’s my list based on their presentation:

  • Longer-lasting battery. The iPhone 7’s battery lasts, on average, two hours longer than the iPhone 6s, according to Apple. Some of that is probably optimization in iOS 10, but I’m guessing a bit more space for extra ions is also contributory.
  • Non-mechanical Home button. This is a big deal in that the Home button is used, like, a zillion times on my iPhone and is often the component to fail if something does. iPhone 7 has a taptic Home button like the new MacBook’s trackpad. It’s solid. No clicker. It just feels like it clicks. The room they needed for that taptic engine is at least partially where the headphone jack used to be.
  • Water and dust resistance. No hole for a Home button or headphone jack means no access points for water and dust. This is a major new feature for the phone and one Apple is heavily promoting. It is the case that other smartphone manufacturers have made water resistance phones with headphone jacks but it’s also possible Apple’s phone is more resistant for not having that port. I don’t know for sure.

They also added a much better camera, a brighter more colorful display, and stereo speakers. None of those are in the vicinity of the headphone jack, but every open space in that case is utilized so a gain on one end probably means more space for something else in another spot.

Apple will always (always always) choose the pain of transition over holding on to “the way things have always been done” if the tradeoffs are good enough in their estimation. Apple is usually really good at timing these transitions so that the benefit of the transition makes sense to consumers once they see it in action. That list is long and goes all the way back to dropping the SCSI interface, the ADB port, or the floppy drive.

People are really pissed about this though. I’ve never seen more shitshows being thrown on social media from people I know, let alone the press, over any other decision Apple has ever made. I’m not entirely certain this will be one of those things people get over in the near term, but I do think that the idea of losing the port is more troubling to people than not having it will ultimately end up being.

What I do know is the Apple haters out there will hate Apple all that much more if, in six months, this kerfuffle goes the way of “antennagate” (i.e., nowhere). Chances are, that’s what will happen. Folks will grumble and upgrade when they need to anyway and then forget what they were complaining about once they adapt. Whatever the case, Apple should focus on selling the logic of the move and not invoking bullshit platitudes.

But yeah. Not saying I would have ditched the jack.