Safe or sorry?

“He left his car window open!” he says to the guy the next to him in the line behind me at Starbucks. He’s talking about me, so I turn around and, assuming he believes I did it by accident, tell him “don’t live in fear my friend!” He doesn’t get it….he says it again “He left his car window open!” Mind you, we’re in Sherman Oaks, where I’ve lived for 16 years now, certainly not a place in which one has to worry about what happens to a car which isn’t hermetically sealed… 11:30AM in the parking lot of one of the busiest Starbucks around.  This guy isn’t even a native, he strikes me as Middle Eastern, perhaps Iranian. I tell him again “don’t live in fear my friend!” I can see him thinking, puzzled, but he’s not buying it. Fault of the ‘main-stream media’? I don’t think so…

When old becomes new

Another win for Windows 10!  My good friend Brad Rabuchin’s machine we put together in 2010 stopped booting up properly; he hadn’t done a proper backup in a while (?!?#@?#@?) so the first thing to do was to save the data. Because it’s a desktop, it was easy to remove the drives, hook them up to my machine, and then pick and choose what to move over to an external 2.5″ USB disk. We were able to get everything, so the pressure was off. Now how do we move forward? Windows repair wasn’t working and neither was doing a system restore to an older point in time. At this point a fresh reinstall on a new drive (thus keeping the old OS install intact just in case) is what I like to do.

Seven years ago SSDs were first becoming ‘affordable’, but at $200 for a 64GB drive we chose to use a spinner, a 750GB Hitachi, hooked up to a 1st generation i3-530, 4GB of DDR3 and an Echo Gina 3G PCI audio card with Windows 7. You know what? Those specs are more than enough to run Windows 10, so we just bought a 500GB Samsung 850 EVO and installed the OS fresh, everything worked perfectly and just incredibly smoothly, booting from off to usable in mere seconds, just like a modern machine. Even that old Gina was purring along, with rock solid performance at 64 samples by the way for running Sonar at full real-time input monitoring.

After making sure all the data was there in under Windows 10, and having seen that the BIOS was set to IDE instead of AHCI for the SATA ports, I figured that perhaps that was keeping Windows 7 from booting. Sure enough, it now booted just fine from the old OS drive. But, what a difference in performance! All because of the SSD, it’s now a whole new computer! Microsoft was kind enough to let us install 10 with the old serial from 7 and Brad is ready for another at least 5 years with this thing. If needed, he can pop in an i5 or i7 and double the CPU performance, there’s room for another 2 DIMMS to go to 8GB of RAM for $50 or so, but even as it is, it’s a totally modern feeling machine…… seven years later!

The Way You Look Tonight

When my ole friend Johan went to St. Maarten to help install the upgrades he designed and built for a friend’s house, he actually did the manual labor with the local crew, all locals. Interestingly, they were very surprised to see a white dude working with his hands,  but funnily, in true Island spirit, Johan told me every time a bus would arrive at the stop right out front, they would all drop what they were doing to see if any pretty girls were coming out! As a matter of fact, a large percentage of human men is quite obsessed with the ‘hotness’ of women.  See, there’s acknowledging a female’s beauty, there’s the desire to be inside her, the hunt to get the highest number of attractive ones and then there’s picking the one based mostly on what she looks like. Even though the Holland I grew up in made no secret of the human body (boobs in all their bouncy glory in Fa commercials in my distant memory) it’s actually one of the least  over-sexed places I remember, and accordingly the place where looks are not quite as important as others.

So, is it bad to pick your mate based on the way she appears? In my experience the way your partners looks matters less the longer you are together; the most gorgeous face gets old pretty fast when the words coming out rub you the wrong way, and the most hideous defect becomes one of those constants our brains are so amazingly designed to tune out, to free up bandwidth for the things you were hoping to hear. At the same time, we cannot deny that a healthy person has a certain leg up, and that for the strength of the herd more intercourse between healthy specimens is a positive. It most places in the world, it keeps a population from becoming obese. And for that very reason, our desire for beauty is hard-wired; it can be tempered, but should not be denied, because it can be, and in my opinion is being, exploited; to our detriment!

When combined with our biggest Achilles heel (that humans are vulnerable to picking an ideology and following its mantras without questioning them) exploiting our desire for beauty has become the tool of choice in marketing. Perhaps with cars most do take a test drive, but more and more products are bought purely on the way they look. I’m not gonna name names, but we all know it’s true. Problem is, unlike with humans, the ‘beauty’ of products has literally nothing to do with its functionality. We’ve just disconnected the benefit of our vulnerability from the mechanism by which it works.

iPhone X

Can you believe it? It’s only been ten years since the release of the first iPhone and mankind, at least around here, has been turned into an army of Zombies staring down at a tiny screen most of the day. To be precise, not everybody is addicted, and even though most of us, me included, have bought a smartphone, there are even some left, interestingly in my experience with far above average intelligence by the way,  with the dumb variety. For the last few years Apple has not really been a technology leader anymore in this field, hopelessly behind in screen quality, resolution and even physical design, only ahead in pure processing power of its SOC. Still, diehard fans keep touting that the ecosystem “just works”, contrary to empirical evidence by the way, found online and in my personal experience.  I’ve discussed all of this extensively on these pages so I won’t get into it again, but listening to Howard Stern today it became even more painfully obvious.

Here’s a guy who can buy anything he wants; the incredible $1000 starting price of the iPhone X means absolutely nothing to him. Except: he doesn’t tell it that way! In describing the built-in planned obsolescence of Apple products he sounds genuinely irked. The discussion gets most interesting when he discusses FaceId, the “improved” replacement for TouchId. Now let me tell you, perhaps my favorite part of my ($250!!!) Nexus 5X is the fingerprint reader! As long as my finger is dry, it works almost flawlessly, more than 95% of the time unlocking my phone before it’s out of my pocket. Stern is worried that the facial recognition of the iPhone X is worse than the fingerprint reader on his current model, which he says fails at least half the time. Robin, his sidekick, concurs. Wait…what? You’re paying top dollar, for a device with less than stellar specs, and one of its main features works 50% of the time? I’m not making this up, or exaggerating, this discussion really took place. A little research on the interwebs reveals that as a matter of fact TouchId hasn’t worked all that well for a significant number of people, although it works perfectly for many.

So what else does this most amazing iPhone ever do: wireless charging (Samsung introduced this years ago), an Amoled screen of lower resolution than what’s been available for years, 3GB RAM (a little over half of what the Note 8 has)….. oh yeah, and animated poop emoji that follow your facial expression. Most people I know who keep their iPhones on the table during dinner and ready to pounce at all times, use that fingerprint reader to incessantly wake up their device without picking it up; how will that work with a facial scanner? Only time will tell…

Galaxy Note 8

Did anybody out there watch Samsung’s presentation of the Note 8 today? I’m betting not very many of you! I’m sure it’s gonna be quite a nice piece of kit, but it’ll set you back $1000. That’s right, as much as a touch screen XPS 13! The event was surely cringe-worthy, as the Korean giant’s have been in the past, but there really isn’t that much innovation here. Bigger screen? Of course, 6.2″ but with a super tall 18.5 to 1 aspect ratio; 6GB of RAM, 64GB of flash, but still with an microSD slot and a regular 1/8″ headphone jack! So did Apple not want you to be able to connect your favorite cans without a dongle? Dual cameras? Of course, what is a phone that can’t blur the background behind that glorious shot of your tasteless gluten-free dinner?

And then there’s Bixby, yet another personal assistant waiting to become your best friend. I must say that Google’s has become better and better and that I hear iPhone users bitch about Siri as much as ever. Cortana is really good too, but how many of them do we need? When it comes to security, Google is head and shoulders above everyone else, and its ecosystem is available from many manufacturers. Tying your world of productivity to one brand is not smart, especially in this time of accelerating change.

All in all, unless you have money to burn, I think it’s not a smart buy, no matter how nice. Other than the S-pen, it offers nothing of consequential difference over a $200 phone. If we look at the screen size for instance, the new “6.3 inch” display is an interesting one: because of the extra tall aspect ratio (18.5:9) it ends up being exactly as wide as the Note 2 (!!!!!) screen, just a little taller. That means that for 16:9 content it will literally have the exact same image size as a 5.5″ phone. That’s right, it might be a better quality display, but my $200 Zenfone from 2 years ago already allowed for that size.

Mostly I don’t understand why one would want to watch videos on a tiny screen anyway; buy a Moto G and a decent 10″ tablet, and you still spend less than half. The idea that spending a lot now and then use it for many years is wise? Who knows what will be available even 2 years from now. Trust me, at that time Samsung, just like Apple, will be doing lots of things to subtly convince you to buy the next BIG THING.

Clear me

Nobody likes to wait in line. As a matter of fact, I think we’re getting more and more impatient collectively. As a traveling musician, twiddling your thumbs gets more time than playing your instrument, especially in airports, and standing in security checkpoint lines is a big part of it. Pre-check is a time-saver, but as more and more of us sign up for it, and the TSA randomly assigns access to non-members, even its lines can be long at times. A possible solution: Clear, a privately run system that makes sure you are who you say you are, through background checks and biometric identification. For no less than $179 per year, you get the privilege being personally escorted right to the metal detector, bypassing the need to show your boarding pass and ID to a TSA agent. There are ways of getting it cheaper, with some credit cards giving discounts and Delta going all the way to making it free for Diamond elites. It does save time, but how about the company running it? Mind you, this is a private business!

It always blows my mind how little concern most show for their digital security, especially in this land of scaredy cats. The fear around here is hardcore, everything locked at all times; I literally have to constantly tell people to NOT close the door when they come into my apartment, their default behavior clearly to pull the door shut and lock it immediately, even when I live in a gated apartment building and the door was wide open when they show up! And I’m talking about people who’ve been coming to my place for many years! But when it comes to the digital world just about everyone lives recklessly; if I got a dollar for every iPhone user I’ve heard desiring a way for his phone to stop ‘bugging’ him about security updates…. You see, the inconvenience that possible changes in the OS could cause trumps the increase of protection.

So, let’s talk about Clear again. When you sign up, they get your fingerprints and an iris scan. But who are they? Obviously their machines are linked to some kind of database. Is it safe? Properly protected?  Right now the damage of that data being stolen is probably pretty limited, but let’s not forget that digital things can be stolen without us knowing and stored for later use. Who knows what kind of security we’ll have and for what in this crazy future that lies ahead. Who knows if the company behind Clear will be around, what will happen to its assets! The last iteration didn’t last very long….. in my opinion we’re setting ourselves up for some pretty serious trouble.

A cookie of your own dough

Here we go again: yet another musicians needs money, had a stroke, crowdfunding started. But wait, didn’t he just buy a brand new Samsung Galaxy S8? More importantly, he has not been shy about supporting Trump, and that means every man for himself right? Safety net? NO: personal responsibility is the Republican mantra, right? On top of that, this guy was always boasting that he didn’t pay taxes, never paid taxes. He couldn’t sign up for the evil Obamacare because he didn’t pay taxes. So, he chose to give a big fuck you to all around him, from my perspective, chose to think only about himself and now he’s fucked. Should there not be a consequence for that?

It’s a very very hard situation; at what point does that kind of mentality and condition become an illness? We can’t hold a crazy person responsible for not fitting in to society, can we? Collectively we’ve created the system, but nobody signed up to live in it. This is exactly why modern humans have designed and created a social safety net. The guy in question  does have some family, but what if you don’t? A compassionate person believes in not letting people become homeless, in my opinion. Even someone like the guy in question, who’s so fat he can barely stand anymore, has not taken care of himself, and has proven to be quite selfish in his view of the world; even though he probably didn’t vote, he’s responsible for helping spread the nonsense about Hillary, in order to promote the Donald he likes, directly resulting in breaking down the relatively small safety net this country has. In a literal translation from on old Dutch saying: he got a cookie of his own dough.

Surface meet Sonar

With the latest update, it’s quite amazing how well Sonar Platinum runs on my 2GB/64GB Microsoft Surface 3…really, after properly calibrating the pen (duh!), it’s just so cool to be able to draw in the “piano roll”. Fingers to move the canvas, pinch to zoom, pen draws notes, moves notes, eraser button works, even pressure sensitivity to determine velocity!

Listen, I bought this machine for $250, with a dock with ethernet, HDMI and extra USB ports, with the pen and the type cover. Used, but in excellent condition. After monkeying with some drivers I decided to do a fresh reinstall from a Windows 10 USB stick. It certainly made a difference, although there are still areas in which the system is noticeably slower than my i3 based XPS 13. Firefox is weirdly sluggish, sometimes in unexpected things like typing this blog. Pleasantly surprised!

Southern California

The following is a true story; one that I have a hard time believing could happen in most places on this big planet of ours, as common as the situation in which it took place is.

Just like I do most days when I’m not working, I came to the same Starbucks here in my hometown of Sherman Oaks, the one where all the baristas know my name! There are three types of seating here: low tables with seats, high tables with stools, and a big ‘community’ table with seating for 8. During busy times, like today, I have no problems sitting at the latter. Today, right across from me is an older gentleman with a computer making phone calls in an appropriately subdued tone, right next to me a little girl with her mom, who are joined a little later by a little boy with who I assume is the dad. The girl is playing with a phone with the sound off for a little while, then turns it on, a cartoon screaming through the tiny speaker. I let it go for 5 minutes, try to give the mom a look like “hey, will you please….?” but she’s completely uninterested in anyone around her. These are obviously pretty well off people, iPhones, nice clothes from the mall; you know, typical Southern California upper middle class. I give it another 5 minutes, trying to tune it out, but the kid starts yelling “I can’t hear it! I can’t hear it!”, to which the dad says “it’s loud in here!”. At this point I turn to him and ask if he can please turn the sound off, or give the kid some headphones. Immediately the war is ON.

I kid you not, the guy gives me a look like he’s gonna kill me. At this point I don’t even realize the girl is about to start screaming and crying! Mind you, I did NOT talk to the child, didn’t even look at her, I’m smart enough to address the parent, but the dad isn’t having it. He ask why I’m complaining when there are already so many sounds going on. I try to reason with him, explaining that it’s exactly because there are already so many different sources of sound, but before I can get to the point that others talking is one thing, Muzak in the background another, but a tiny cellphone speaker screaming kids’ cartoons something else, the girl erupts. “You’re an asshole” the guy says to me, “Winning!” the mom says like a fucking Kardashian as she picks up her out-of-control spawn. “See what you did?”….. you’ve got to be kidding me!

At this point, the family is getting up, and the dude is still talking to me. He says we can go outside to discuss this further, I kid you not. He’s tall, but a giant pussy, apparently used to bullying others around, but he’s lucky I’m a pacifist. And here it comes, again this is 100% a TRUE story: he calls me a CHILD MOLESTER! Again, I never talked to the child, didn’t look at it, I addressed only its parents! He said it so loudly that after they split, other customers asked me if he really said that!

Newport Beach

“You’re gonna love playing with us!” the drummer I just met says. He assures me he’s studied all styles, starts doing the Indian rhythmic solfege thing: “Taka taka da taka da du di”…. he keeps going and going, I just stand there. “You know, when I play I really make it sound like a full band” he explains; my buddy Freddy, whose gig it is, plays mostly by himself with loopers and tracks, but here at La Vida Cantina in Newport Beach, CA, he added this guy.  I had already sat in at this place and didn’t care for it very much. Nobody gives a flying hoot about the music, every single chick has the exact same hairstyle and the word “like” is used at a frequency that makes the space-time continuum bend. When I explain to the drummer I came to listen and have some food, he doesn’t want to believe me; “Trust me, you’re gonna love it!”

He introduces me to his buddy sitting at a table next to where they’re setting up: “He’s the mayor!” The dude is obviously an alcoholic, prolly in his late fifties, with a lot of miles on him. Born and raised in Newport Beach it turns out; never lived anywhere else! Blah blah blah, “money is not my God” he says, only to proceed to talk of nothing but material possessions and fine things. “I cut my monthly nut by $10,000!” he brags; it’s nice to live cheaply I respond. “Oh no! It’s not cheap he says!”,  renting this place in San Juan Capistrano that costs $850,000, but would cost 5 million in Newport! There’s a picture of him with a Lamborghini, shots with supposedly important folks I’ve never heard of. It goes on and on and on. In the beginning I ask some questions, like a civilized person does, but he never asks any back, just keeps going.

In the meantime I’m trying to get a server’s attention, without success. The girl who Freddy had in mind to take my order had no room in her section on this busy Taco Tuesday. I ask two different employees whizzing by to get someone to take my order. Nobody comes. All the while the dude keeps bragging….blah blah blah…..and then there it is: he has a question for me! “So….are you married?” I tell him no, and that’s it! He waits about 2 minutes, probably for me to ask him if he is, so he can proceed to talk for another 20 about his ex(es), but I’m not going to! And there he goes, he’s gone. At this point the table next to me has has finished, and the people left; a bus boy is cleaning up the table. I ask him if he could get a server, and he literally laughs out loud in my face, doesn’t say a word. I’m not sure if he even speaks English, but it was one of the most bizarre experiences of my life. Time to leave Newport Beach……