More thoughts on the police riots and protests

It’s never exceedingly wise to pour your half-baked policy and philosophical mode into the public as a place where one can stick his flag on some probably-worthless mole hill to die on, if attackers dare. So I will preface this as I am definitely open to other opinions and really I am seeking those who can, in good faith, propose some legitimate and vetted solutions, points of views, what have you. I don’t have the most open mind but my position is not immutable, and I would rather have a better if not the best opinion. I mean, wouldn’t you?

Given the lax attitude about police brutality from those who can hold them accountable, it is probably out of several or all of these reasons, and including others I missed. First, the laws are tilted one way versus another. That relates to the qualified immunity bit, insurance and what not. Second, police is organized into unions and other organizations that are not directly beholden to the people they serve. This is most notable in the Minnesota situation with the Trumper union chief. Third, there is that “a few good men” thing in which culturally there is a “us and them” that makes “good apple” cops toe the line. This is most notable in the Buffalo NY situation when the one 75yo man’s literal pusher’s firing solicited the boycott of an entire riot squad.

Then there are the systemic (if those weren’t already systemic enough) issues in regards to race relations in the USA. Of course none of it is so simple, and there are plenty interplay between them. The above issues only make sense if we think of it in the right context. That hit me when I read Banksy’s recent IG post earlier today, and it’s basically a rehash of another idea I heard earlier. The purest form of this idea is laid out by Chris Rock some years back. In an interview with the New Yorker he said:

When we talk about race relations in America or racial progress, it’s all nonsense. There are no race relations. White people were crazy. Now they’re not as crazy. To say that black people have made progress would be to say they deserve what happened to them before.[]

So, to say Obama is progress is saying that he’s the first black person that is qualified to be president. That’s not black progress. That’s white progress. There’s been black people qualified to be president for hundreds of years. If you saw Tina Turner and Ike having a lovely breakfast over there, would you say their relationship’s improved? Some people would. But a smart person would go, “Oh, he stopped punching her in the face.” It’s not up to her. Ike and Tina Turner’s relationship has nothing to do with Tina Turner. Nothing. It just doesn’t. The question is, you know, my kids are smart, educated, beautiful, polite children. There have been smart, educated, beautiful, polite black children for hundreds of years. The advantage that my children have is that my children are encountering the nicest white people that America has ever produced. Let’s hope America keeps producing nicer white people.

[For completion, here’s what Banksy said.

At first I thought I should just shut up and listen to black people about this issue. But why would I do that? It’s not their problem. It’s mine.

People of colour are being failed by the system. The white system. Like a broken pipe flooding the apartment of the people living downstairs. The faulty system is making their life a misery, but it’s not their job to fix it. They can’t, no one will let them in the apartment upstairs.

This is a white problem. And if white people don’t fix it, someone will have to come upstairs and kick the door in.

Here goes hoping he doesn’t build a shredder into this one.]

In America, I think it’s fair to say that minorities live and play in a white world. They are our leaders, they are our billionaires, they are our bosses and managers, they are our teachers and cops. They fight our fires, prescribes our medicines, and pretty much set the rules for every position of power, and is also the make up of majority of people in power. They are judges and lawyers, legal scholars and lawmakers, and whites make up even far majority of the members of the press. And in a democracy with a majority white voter base, the country is literally being driven by white people. That is everything working by design. Numbers being what they are, there will always be pockets of exceptions. For example there are more non-Whites than Whites in my town. My dentist is Chinese. My coworkers is half white and half non-white? You get my drift. I suppose there are a lot of Filipino nurses? You think Chinese food chefs are still going to be mostly Chinese people (although there are, uh, an alarming number of hispanics at this job in the US. It’s probably still less alarming than the number of Chinese chefs making Korean and Japanese foods at US restaurants though).

Strictly speaking, black people don’t have a say how things turn out. The only power they have is the power everyone has–the power to disrupt. Of course, individually, each of us is capable of changing the world through what we do or not do, but collectively humanity generally is a brick of stupid. But just because we may be stupid, it doesn’t make collective action less powerful. Maybe think of it as the difference between a screwdriver and a sledgehammer. I believe that is a good analogy for both individual action and collective action. If you want to swap out your old lightswitch with a fancy IOT one that you can talk to, you might want a screwdriver and not a sledgehammer. That is how we affect the changes, say, to fire a police chief. Or get rid of the New York Times Opinions editor. But if you wanna kick down the door upstairs in a hurry, a sledgehammer is going to be slightly better.

But that still is missing the forest for the trees. We still live in a white person’s house. Yes, maybe now that the lightswitch is no longer an unabashed racist, because we swapped a haunted one that can shock you with one that can pay lip service, but if the rest of the house is still haunted with Nazi ghosts trying to lynch every black person spending the night there, I don’t think it matters much. And that is the problem BLM, MLK, and other Named Historical Things have tried to address in the annals of America’s racist past. All of it is just because the white leadership and the system they have created do not give a damn about other people who might not be the same as them. Yes, we have asked the white landlords to make the house less deadly, and they have, but people are still dying, gassed, whatever. And the whole understanding behind democratic systems and guaranteed human rights, is just to provide the escape hatch in case the lightswitch is trying to kill you again. In some ways, I see it more like, building these levers of balance into the structure is more like building a fire escape for black people so when the ghost of Adolf Hitler comes, we have a way to deal with that.

But that is not the real structural change. The real change comes from, like what Chris Rock puts it, having nicer white people. Fact remains even with massive waves of immigration from Asia, America will remain a white people’s house. And the only way to really deal a fatal blow to systemic racism is to address every level in which racism happens. Thankfully this is just, well, dealing with racist white people. I mean that is the blessing and curse of democracy. In an fascist dictatorship, if the leadership is actually black, maybe we won’t need to go down this route? Well there will be bigger problems than racism at that point.

Just like trying to make a police department not racist means rooting the racists out of the group, trying to make a country not racist means rooting the racists out of the country. That is the ultimate and possibly the only real solution. After all, the Church is not a building but its people, and so is a nation. Although that sounds just as untenable as asking people who disagree with your interpretation of some Americana principle to move to Canada, that is what the ghost of Adolf Hitler is trying to do–get you to leave the house.

Otherwise you are just going to bottle in these in-power racists who, just like black people, are entitled to their voting rights, their speech rights, and they probably have long-established platforms able to reach more white people than black folks and their black platforms, and thus reach more ears in high places. It will never be fair. Sure, we can punish, deplatform, and remove them, but that does not deprive them any of the tools blacks have to affect change in the past 150 years when they were the subjects of censure, indifference, Jim Crow, what have you. If a bunch of slaves (and they were all slaves back when) can change the world, I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you. Let’s be honest here–on average, white people have, to their credit, become less racist and nicer over time. But they are still responsible for the horrors they have done and continue to do.

The road to improved race relationship is on the backs of white people fixing themselves. That is the takeaway. Sadly blacks and minorities are here only as poster children to make the rest of us feel bad–because unless the whites cooperate and listen, only the suffering of minorities will gain traction. I mean, we all felt bad when Floyd was senselessly murdered, and maybe after enough blacks die in the hands of the police, one of the deaths might convince enough white people that this has got to change. Again, white people are the ones who have the power to change, because they are the ones who are responsible for this nonsense. It’s not like we can ban whiteness from America either. Removing the individuals is just going to allow another one to take that place sooner or later, so real systemic change is not just replace the lightswitch or staircase, it’s exorcising the ghost.

Racism is ultimately tied to a set of ethnocentric beliefs that has to be removed from the public consciousness. I am thus all for good racial relationship as a means to improve the kindness of whites and to help whites understand what it means to be non-white in America. That is the only persistent, permanent, and meaingful solution. How we manage this will vary and it is not a matter of sledgehammers, but of screwdrivers. Or maybe both, because you need some way to hammer them into shock and incapcity, and threaten each one individually with something sharp? Joke aside, I think just saying that racism is the problem and not racist is not a helpful distinction. But there you have it. Sometimes it’s nation-wide protests, sometimes it’s better K-12 curriculums, sometimes it’s just being a good person, and sometimes it’s good policy changes implemented by elected officials who the people can hold to account.

It’s like what this video essay says about Ip Man, that racists never think they are the bad guys or are racists. Racists tend to cling to the belief that they are good people. If you are white and you think Chris Rock is full of shit, well, you just proved his point.

And sure, there are blacks and asians and other minorities who are also racist just like white people. But there are two key distinctions–one is that in America, Minorities do not run the country. I mean, they are minorities, by definition in a democratic society this is necessarily the case. Second, in discussion of systemic racism, leaders ultimately have to take responsibility for the success and failure of whatever they are leading. If 44 of 45 US Presidents were white, I would think white people (and 44 people is a pretty large sample size all considered) ultimately need to put the issue of racism in their pocket.

This lead me to think about another thing, which is more in line with what Banksy said. Ultimately, if police brutality ain’t a thing, does it really matter if cops are racist pigs? Maybe the MInneapolis PD would have had a easier time staying in existence. If the pipe isn’t broken, the people living in the basement won’t be up here and trying to kick the door down. It makes you think if we can sufficiently nerf all the sharp, racist edges in the system in order to keep the current order to things. Well, it’s not a line in the sand to say what is the new order and what is the old order. It still comes down to America continue to produce ever-nicer white people. But if I was a fascist, my reaction to civil unrest (say, in HK), is going to come down to a measure of competency over than systemic issues bubbling to the fore. It is an internal weakness to become corrupt to power–different people have different resistance to it. If I was a powerful white man in leadership of a gang, I would probably terminate the goons who screwed things up and made the public pay attention to whatever gang activity. Just like how it is incompetence of Minneapolis PD union/leaders to not fire that dude who already had repeated violations and a prior murder. But as they say, it’s systemic, so fixing bad apples is not going to fix all bad apples, eventually some edge cases will happen that you did not account for. What i could say about this is that corruption and opening doors for incompetent managers into the system (like #3 in the second paragraph, but also, uh, Donald Trump) only accelerates this process.

In a nutshell, the past week we saw both extremes–nationwide (and internationally, thanks errbody) protest and also nationwide police brutality. For some reason nobody realizes unless you are Turkey and China, as countries with fully fascist political and media systems, plain brutality just won’t work. People armed with wireless networks and cell phones will know what is true and what is up, because a troll army can only overpower so many people in so many places in the same 7-day period. There hasn’t been a real count but the amount of protesting done is going to overwhelm any lamebrain 50-cent-army system in Russia or China. Nobody scales humans that fast, at least without being noticed. This is also on top of the mainstream press obviously putting these horrific footage in the mainstream broadcast channels. Zuck-chan from FB may hand-wring about blocking Trump’s post but that is low stakes versus amplifying fake news and trolling to overpower legitimate, organic citizenry signals, which thankfully algorithmically is at least undesirable. Outrage sells both ways and it is really outrageous to see innocent people being screwed over by police in military gear. It is not an over-exaggeration to say that it took a genocide in SEA and multiple homicide in India for FB to learn this lesson.

Which seems to be the kind of price to teach white people anything these days. Sad.

Some thoughts on the George Floyd protest/riots

The current wave of protests and riots are race riots, and police riots. Race riots, because, well, as American history suggests, riots due to the issue of racial oppression (mostly blacks, but hispanics too) happens from time to time. I personally associate with the Rodney King one the best, because that was wild. Look at us now though.

Police riots, however, is the kind of riot the police is mostly doing the instigating. Over this past weekend I have seen this term being thrown around, and people don’t quite realize it is one term, “police riot” and not that the riots involve the police. Well they typically all do in the modern era.

The current protests are occurring across the country, mostly in major cities. This is new and unique because it’s the first one driven mostly by SNS. It’s also organized on SNS. A lot of people are literally on the ground and broadcasting, including the news outlets themselves.

But I think that is also a gap. Older people tend to get their news from TV so it is going to present to them a different view of the situation. One, for example, that includes a lot of Donald Trump theatrics. For most of us, he’s pretty much reduced to a twitter troll in terms of his contribution to the situation. But much like 2016, the news always jump on his coverage, amplifying that stuff, making it worse.

It’s easy to understand why saying all lives matter is, at best, an insensitive statement. But it really feeds well into the underlying condition needed to behave in a racist manner. It would explain why some feel compelled to call out those who do say all lives matter as racist. And in turn, those who do to discredit those who say black lives matter. It is a stupid taking-two-to-tango mechanism.

To further explain, in order to behave in a racist way, you first have to believe you aren’t a racist. And a statement that calls to value all lives qualifies for that condition. Of course, in the BLM context, it is a racist thing because it’s anti-black when you’re not in support of that message. It minimizes the cause and trivializes their systemic suffering. It is a stupid no-brainer, anyway. Or maybe because it is a no-brainer, it is insulting to be saying it to BLM folks. Of course all lives matter. If it was some deeply insightful thing, it probably will be something everyone else repeats, not just apparently right wingers and trolls.

At the same time, all lives matter is a valid issue some whites struggle with. Especially those nice kind of white people who recognize that black lives do matter. You probably can only find them in the church. You probably also have to kindly tell them that, well, antifa probably doesn’t exist as a terrorist group, as it were.

There is this Christian preacher and widely-read author named John Piper. He wrote a pretty decent study book I did back when I was in high school, and while he was also kind of whack it is interesting to see his point of view on this, being based in Minneapolis.

His 2016 discussion on BLM here.

His recent preaching here.

Naive/quaint old preacher he may be, but it is the baby step anyone can accomplish.

Here is a youtuber talking about the qualifying conditions to propel racism, in the context of Ip Man 4… poignant in this day and age.

Pixel 4 One-Month Look

The fourth Pixel that I own is a limited-edition Orange 4 with 128GB storage. I already managed to lightly scratch the display (probably because I put it and a lanyard in the same pocket without thinking). Other than that, it’s pretty nice. I’ve even gotten used to this Spigen case, which is the clear TPU one that is a little thicker than the one I rocked with the 3 (which was black).

I think the 4 remarkably similar to Pixel 3, with even better build quality. After using Pixels 1, 2, 3 and 4 each year, you can begin to tell the improvements. Pixel 2 was definitely kind of the odd child out versus the 1, which remains a solid phone if you can get it cheap (although the 3a probably is the better bet now). Pixel 2 was great more because of its crazy software. Pixel 3 was great because it is more like what Pixel 2 should have been–kind of like the 2 XL was for the 1. So Pixel 4 definitely feels more like a “S cycle” upgrade for the 3.

The 4 is great build-wise. Like this is close to Sammy quality. The display is Sammy quality in fact, and it’s got the 90Hz screen that almost got me to buy a OnePlus 7T. Actually without this I would not have bought the 4, at least as I tell myself. It does justify the price a bit.

The new speakers on the 4 sounds better than the 3, which sounds worse than the 2. The polish on 4 is better than the 3, which, in a way, is what makes 2 XL good. No screen gacha meant it is a phone people can recommend, other than the ludicrous price of $799 (or $899 in my case).

So in a lot of ways the 4 is really what things should have been a year ago. The more I think about stuff to write, the more I feel this is true.

I sold my Black 3 128GB for about $350, which reflects the deep discount I got from the Fi deal that were prevalent when the 3 came out. No such a thing came with 4 unless you sign up with Verizon or another contract-laden tier-1. I’m vaguely tempted actually. Sometimes I think the limited color actually would help the aftermarket price.

In the end, I think it’s still worth it, because the hardware is nice. It’s just not a huge jump. Losing full-size backup of Google Photo is a hit but not too bad of a hit. I would think during BF you can probably do enough of a deal to justify, should you fancy that.

As for the new features? 90Hz is as advertised, it is also not worth that much. You can tell, it is nicer, but it is also not a huge deal. Same with the astrophotography mode–you can make some great pics with it, but not really relevant for most people. The new swipe gesture takes getting used to, because more the lack of easy home screen access. The added memory makes the 4 actually practical versus the 3. Again, build quality type improvements in this phone makes the 4 actually a lot more desirable. Face unlock is overall better than fingerprint, but what Google really should have done is combine radar detect with accel method in the iPhone. As is, there are some edge cases where fingerprint is still better. If you use a pwd manager that supports face unlock (like lastpass) you can seamlessly access your app with face unlock.

It’s just that if you are not already doing the Pixel life the past years, there isn’t much candy on that stick to get you forward.

My Model 3 1-year review

[First impressions here]

I have owned my Tesla Model 3 for just over one year. So now is as good of a time to update this on this dead blog I guess.

In the interest of time and brevity I’ll try to cut the fat.

Key details: I live in NJ and we get all 4 seasons. Last winter had a few brutally cold days (<15F or <-10C). The car is a Long Range RWD, black paint and interior, 19″ wheels, with the EAP package at the time. It’s kind of mind boggling that for the same price of my car, I can basically buy the Dual Motors version today. It’s basically the difference of the Federal incentive.

Those were, basically, what I’m lampshading regarding this car.

There weren’t any real issues at delivery. Panel gaps were on average, average. Other than maybe a couple places things were within tolerances.

Day to Day Stuff:

I love the car in terms of just normal, every-day handling. The range is no problem for normal local driving. It’s fast, and the acceleration is extremely notable at higher speeds. Like a gas car can do just as well 0-60 as electric, but if you are already going 65 on the highway, it is a cinch to get to 85 in my Model 3, where as it’s a downshift and uprev in a gas car. The time it takes to get that 20mph probably is less than the time it takes to shift and for the turbo to ramp for some cars. This aspect I love a lot, mainly because it is a practical performance characteristic, and thrilling to apply.

Engine sound used to be my audio cue to how fast I’m driving on the highway often, so in a car without an engine it means I have to learn again how to not speed. With its fast acceleration even at high speeds it was easy to get to 90, 100mph with just stomping on the accel briefly. Only the wind noise cues me in.

I also kinda love summon, and this is not even the enhanced one Musk shows off with these days. At the base level, it lets me park the car into my small garage without having to mind opening the car door inside the garage. The car can pull in and out on its own. Unfortunately the feature was kind of not reliable in version 9 of the software and earlier, but it’s pretty good now. There are also some tricks. For one you need relatively even lighting to let the camera see your garage versus outdoor lighting. Having a person behind the car while it pulls out is also good, as a marker of sorts. The car technically lets you automate the doors as well if your garage opening system is hooked up to it, but I don’t use it. I think it’s possible to hook Alexa up to it and tell it to open the door and pull out your car, but I didn’t look into this.

Having to charge at home means I never need to get “gas” unless I am on a road trip. One less thing to do, but as someone who don’t normally drive this is not a big deal. If you drive everyday this is a huge deal I imagine.

The UI took getting used to but I was over it pretty early, maybe a month in owning? There were some tips that I learned on youtube which were helpful. The most helpful one is, how to stay awake when Autopilot nags you to keep your hands on the wheel. To do that, just rotate any of the dials on the wheel, and it will go away.

I do have EAP package, so I use Autopilot on the highway more often than not. It is extremely helpful for long drives on the highway, and makes things much less tired if just not having to center the car the whole time. A month ago I was driving around all day in a Honda Fit rental in Japan and it made me miss Autopilot a lot. I can totally attest how driving while tired is actually not going to kill you in this car.

Navigate on Autopilot is neat but it isn’t very good, so I don’t use it often. Mainly two reasons: it is not great at lane changes, and it is not great at adjusting speed (it doesn’t, but it ought to). You can manually change lanes to avoid NoA from doing stupid things, but why bother with Navigate on Autopilot at that point.

Issues:

The only trouble I have encountered purely as a matter of the car was the frozen charging cable latch. I was unable to engage it once on a road trip (thus could not charge my car when it needed charging), and I was unable to disengage it once when it was parked in my (detached) garage. Both times, the temperature on average was 17F or less. This is not a deal breaker but a major issue since you can get stranded (in the first-mentioned case).

The solution is to heat up the trunk of the car, so the charging latch defrosts. It is a mechanical device that comes up from the bottom of the charging port and locks in the charging cable. There is a manual release for it, but when it’s frozen it does squat. Really it’s just a proxy for the electronic release available from the dash or your app.

I have contacted Tesla roadside assist the one time it locked up on my road trip, who told me about the workaround: turn heat up, lower back seats, let air in. Their preferred method is a hair dryer (and maybe heat gun but they don’t wanna melt anything).

I also visited the local service center (about 40 minutes away) twice. Once to address my front right wheel which was slowly leaking–that turned out to be a bent wheel due to jumping a curb (don’t ask). I was immediately given a loaner wheel that day when they sent me home with a large bill (~700) so to wait for the replacement wheel to come in. It turned out I actually did not have to pay for it. Long story–about 6 weeks after the visit, I was contacted to make a follow up appointment to do the replacement. I was also quoted a price about half as much (all by a separate dude). I’m like, well ok. So the week before the appointment another guy called and said if they can do the mobile service thing at an even later date. I said OK as it sure beats driving 40 minutes back and forth on a Saturday that I had free, at any rate. Then on the day before the appointment I got a reminder call. On the day of, I left my car in my driveway the day of, and when I got back I got a bill of zero and the work was done. It’s hard to complain about 2 months late service if I didn’t get billed for it. Plus it was not a pressing problem due to the loaner wheel that I had.

So yes, service can be very slow, but if your issue has to do with, say, a leaking wheel, that is high priority and you can just go to the service center, they have to send you out in driving shape. YMMV I guess.

As for damage, my car had some curb rash on one of the wheel (I am all too familiar with this as my Miata had the same proclivities, both having low profile tires) and the front bumper has some minor scratch on the bottom, just because sometimes I can’t see the curb and drive just over it.

As they say, the black interior is not the best for hiding dirt. I haven’t had much time spent wiping down the interior. The center console can look grimy. It fogs easily inside the windshield but I solved this by applying an anti-fog spray/cleaner.

Road trip:

I don’t drive regularly, but I did drive to Toronto twice, Baltimore twice, DC/NoVA once, and just normally on weekends around the area.

Autopilot definitely is great on long drives. I guess part of the difference here is my last car, a MX-5, is pretty intense even on long trips. LIke, I don’t fall asleep because it’s such a responsive car, even when driving at highway speeds it feels really exciting, just going straight (or around traffic or what have you). But I am very much not tired out by driving anymore with the Tesla.

Navigate on Autopilot is a different bag. I think it’s mostly useful on simple use cases, but it still has a lot to make up when it’s going through a ramp or interchange. For one, it does not automatically change speed well. Some ramps have also no posted speeds but the map says 5 or 15mph, which is ridiculously slow. And once you’re out of the ramp the speed autopilot is on is sometime stuck at the low speed. Likewise, when you are about to exit the highway it doesn’t really slow you down more than it has to, which can be going from 75 to 45 to 25 while you’re making a really tight corner.

The other issue is how it sometimes does not know when not to change lanes. You could let it run the course but it isn’t always making lane changes at the best time.

If normal autopilot is like “co-pilot” or as I say, driving with a new system, NoA is like babysitting an AI and you really need to work with it or work around it to drive smoothly.

Range isn’t a problem. Supercharging location is kind of a problem. Going from where I live to Toronto requires 2 stops, maybe 3 if I don’t have destination charging or I don’t stop for the full time. That’s not too bad, other than I kind of have to stop 30min each or more every time.

DC Metro area is really not bad at all. It’s just one stop and maybe zero if I have destination charging, maybe 2 if I don’t. In my prior trips I did 2 and 3 for each round trip, depending. By the way NY State needs more going up to Toronto. I have really 1 route due to the way things are laid out. But it isn’t far at any time, between you and the next Supercharger.

Range anxeity:

Range anxiety is definitely a thing, especially in winter and you have no power left, LOL. Also for long trips you have to plan your stops, at least if you want to be efficient and stop at places that are more optimal (schedule, distance, amenities).

You also get used to it. I don’t fret much at all now.

Supercharging is also not really cheap but it’s not much. Maybe half the price than gas, on a per-miles basis?

The other issue with managing range is that speed matters a ton. If you are driving fast your range will go down. I like to drive between 75-80 on road trips so I get maybe 230 miles for each full tank. Not great. It’s also one of those conceits of ICE cars–highway is more efficient than city, and it’s the opposite for electric cars. Just something to be aware of–you’re more likely to not get your full range unless you are driving close to the limit.

Another anxiety-inducing thing is the range calculation in the Tesla does not take into account elevation. Going up hill will suck way more juice than down. Real-time energy measurements will adjust to that eventually, which means the car will tell you you might not make it to your destination before needing charging, but it’s not taken into account on the navigation level.

When I go to superchargers, sometimes I want to blog about them. There is probably such a thing…

Accessories:

The Model 3 barely had any accessories when I bought it. Now it has a ChaDeMo adapter, roof rack, floor mats, and even a wireless charging pad, all from Tesla. I obviously did not buy any of them–I got 3rd party floor liners…and that’s pretty much it. Air freshener? But the floor liners are holding up and are of decent quality. I thought about a trunk mat, but I barely use the frunk (and it’s small as it is), and the trunk mat would block the underneath compartment that I actually use quite often.

I might go buy that center console liner at some point and ask my dad to put it in. Oh, I tried buying some 3rd party USB-C L-head cable but it doesn’t really fit. Not sure if I want first-party ones, because too often I pick up the phone. Usually I leave it in the cup holder.

So more as a to-do for me: I’d like that ChaDeMo charger especially when Walmarts roll out their fast charging. Maybe a tow package in the future? A better charging situation would be nice too, which I will detail below.

The third-party stuff nowadays is plentiful and if you have any great tips please let me know. Of course a lot of things that you’d put on a luxury sedan will work well on a Tesla, just note that it is fairly low maint.

Sound System Nitpicks:

I want to talk about the sound system a bit. It is definitely very good. I would say it is audiophile level. When you’re on the road, since there is no engine noise setting the floor, you hear more of it. The dual-edge-sword of all that though, is that you also hear more road and wind noise in your music, let alone the quality of the audio source showing.

The best way to get high quality audio in the car is from streaming directly via Slack or Tunein, or by the USB drive feature. The car supports bluetooth audio over AAC, which is pretty okay but not the best. Depends on your perspective, that is already above average, or not good enough. I want LDAC or at least AptX support, which all Android phones support since version 7, but I don’t think Tesla is interested in adding these features. They just want to port more unity games, I guess.

I’ve tested highres flacs in the system and they work fine usually, maybe 9 out of 10 times. On the road, sometimes the USB connection skips due to vibration or something, and the cache is not enough. I wish there was more tweaks to this.

Another headache in USB audio mode is how the system will order your music basic on tags. It displays and order the tracks by the ID3 title field. So you have no way to play albums by track order unless you also rename the title field. This is a major problem for people like me, as it basically relegates playback to random play or single track play or a playlist. Supposedly if you use album view it does order by track order? If you google this stuff the internet is full of people who is frustrated by Tesla neglecting the lame-o media playback aspect, and it has been the same complaints for years.

[Sort of an aside, in order to set up the dash cam and sentry cam features, you have to use a USB drive (usually usb stick of sorts) and format it to FAT for the car’s system, and create a “TeslaCam” folder. This happens to clash with the car audio part, as there are only 2 USB ports and you don’t want to use up both of them for data and leave none for charging. To get around it some folks use a hub (lol a USB hub for your car), or you can partition the dash cam/sentry stick to put music on it by doing it a certain way. All of which is PITA at first but now there are some guides for. Forget about racing games, how about some DOCUMENTATION, huh?]

Charging at home:

At home, I have not installed a 14-50 NEMA. I use 120V wall. I barely drive, as said. As of this writing there’s like not even 7000 miles on it. And it works fine. Part of it is also since my garage is kind of far from the house, I will have to pay to wire it out there and all, so it’s a hefty cost (~1500).

I mention this also because 120V charging is only like 70% efficient, where as you get about 90% with the other methods. Still, since I have residential solar now, there are times when I basically can charge my car for free.

Most of my charging costs are at superchargers, which runs me somewhere between $15-18 at a time. Maybe half as much as gasoline? But it’s a lot versus charging at home, or at a free charging station that you can occasionally find.

Conclusion:

It’s a good car. It is about average at this price range in terms of build quality (taking into account the 7500 tax incentive). Performs above average at this price range (love that acceleration), and the low body roll is the kind of trade off I would take in exchange with the rougher ride (especially in terms of road noise).

The best description of buying the Model 3, in my estimate, is that you are buying an American luxury car. This is a foreign concept to someone like me, because, like, American luxury cars kinda…are not great? This is just a market phenomena–people generally do not buy American luxury cars when they do buy a luxury car. No matter how good the CTS-V may be–and it is a fine car–how does it hold up to the likes of Lexus and Mercedes Benz? And I don’t mean “on the track” or “list of specs” but in terms of cultural cache, in refinement, in residual value, and in practicality.

Turns out the Model 3 has very good residual value for a luxury sedan. It has well-below-average maintenance costs (which is an area of research I’ve done more after I bought it LOL). It has obviously above-excellent fuel economy, and probably will beat most of said cars on a track. It wins on paper and does at least as good as a push in reality.

Culturally…it’s a car that’s in the news regularly. Nothing really needs to be said, at least, because it’s been said by all the news outlets.

It’s quite practical, if you put aside the electric aspect–that can be argued as making the car more practical or less practical. It has more cargo space than a lot of other comparable cars thanks to the frunk, and it is about average in terms of creature comfort features, considering the trim I got was more or less the “standard” at the time. The “Partial Premium” interior that is available today isn’t even that different. There are interesting and useful features like autopilot and the OTA updates, which are definitely practical to me.

So the only real improvement the Model 3 needs to make is in terms of refinement. And that is not just panel gaps or whatever, but also the overall quality of ride and just some of the attention to details that is missing during Tesla’s rush to market.

Which is to say, even having the experience of sitting in a Model S and Model X for some time, Tesla has a long ways to go in that generally. Maybe it’s not a priority today because, it is not like the ride isn’t fine, it just isn’t as fine as their European competitors. And even the CTS-V. But owning and living with the Model 3 really feels like owning and living with American luxury. It just isn’t quite as fine.

But if you think that is a good tradeoff versus the features you get in a Tesla–the OTA updates, the self-driving features, the fact that it’s the only electric car worth buying (supercharging network, range, overall value)–then this is probably the car to buy for you. Since I took ownership of the car, I got free dash cam upgrades, games, stupid easter eggs that are worth a few laughs, and bug fixes. It’s definitely worth that crushing depreciation as luxury cars does.

Now if Elon comes through with that robotaxi stuff and if indeed, as George says, Tesla will win it, well.

Pixel 3 128GB First Impressions

I’ve had the phone for 4 days, cheeky me.

The original plan was to not upgrade this year. My Pixel 2 had a failure in the camera in September (2 days before I left for Taipei and Hokkaido for family vacation). Google sent a replacement while I was away, and basically when the Pixel 3 was announced I had a 3-week old refurb Pixel 2 128GB Black. The phone has a 2-year warranty and that means I will be set even for the next Pixel.

From the keynote and marketing material, it was clear that the Pixel 3 was an incremental improvement over the 2. What’s more, all the cool software features, most of them were slated to be released on the 1 and 2 anyway. I didn’t have much of a reason to upgrade.

Then the sales hit. BOGO on Fi and Verizon? I decided to go in with my sister on Fi and reap that $800 credit. She was going to jump from a Nexus 6P, so it’s a huge jump. We ordered the day it was announced. Reselling the refurb plus the credits would basically pay for 90% of a new Pixel 3.

The downside was switching to Fi. I’m not entirely sure if I have signal inside the river crossing tunnel. I have not personally checked, it is spotty as is on Verizon, and half the time I was still clinging to the work VZW hotspot. At times it feels like I have signal in there, though… The other issue was losing my Google Voice capability. It’s forwarding to my work phone (which is VOIP software anyway). I used that number for work and I definitely can’t lose it, and I also can’t lose my personal number that I use for everything else.

The upside to Fi was it’s a lot cheaper, and it has high speed data overseas included. It’s a major savings, as I pay 4500JPY for 7gb in Japan for 30 days (including voice and text). That’s a big fat zero on my next trip, now that I’ve paid the cost to verify my JP number (which means I still have to activate it once a year).

Swappa gave me about $410 in actual cash after the sale of the Pixel 2 (didn’t even took 24 hours to sell). The fees were 15 from Swappa, 15 for shipping (and insurance), and 13 from Paypal. This is nuts. The Pixel 3 128GB is 955 or so after tax. So I’m still on the hook for 145, or 15% of the cost. Maybe I should have held out for a better deal.

Onto the phone. Oh, just to detail the activation process, I followed first the invite email from my sister to set up the porting info. Then when it’s time to load the phone, I followed the on-screen prompts. It would let stuff run in the background while the rest of the phone is being set.

Basically after I got to the home screen, there was a notification waiting for me telling me there was an issue porting. Going to the notif takes me to th Fi app, and tells me what was wrong. Seems like invalid pin? I was suppose to put in my last 4 digits of social for Verizon porting, but I just set a pin on the Verizon account anyways and used that, and it worked minutes later.

In short, the phone is a refined Pixel 2, or what Pixel 2 really should have been. You can say that the Pixel line is a bit behind the release cadence. OnePlus for example, do 2 phones a year (6T looks good!). The next gen Galaxy phone is due in a few months. iPhone news comes out in September or early October. I would say the overall package of the Pixel 3 matches what is really, a better than-iPhone X.

That is great really, except we live in a world with the iPhone XS/Max. So on paper the Pixel 3 is not leading in any category besides its still class-leading camera powers, and other things that people who live inside Google’s ecosystem would enjoy. Thankfully that describes me to a tee.

I say with no irony that this is the most iPhone-y experience I’ve had yet on Android. It’s not a knock as a copycat, but it provides finally that fit and finish matching post-iPhone 8 hardware, with a visual presentation to match. I didn’t know how much of that edge-to-edge look added to this phone. I had it side by side with the Pixel 2, and despite similar displays, the Pixel 3 knocks things out of the park just because the angle my eyes see the edges of the screen, making it “float” towards the top like an iPhone X does.

As for features, it’s similar to the Pixel 2 on Pie. The only quirk is the tall screen makes pulling down the notification shade harder than the 2, and the wider aspect makes my full screen games look slightly different.

Besides the screen, there are major improvement in the speakers–they have a lot more depth and reverb and makes it sound way more solid than the Pixel 2’s. The buttons feel much better with better flex and feedback, where as the Pixel 2’s feels like they could get stuck. The haptic engine is improved, but I normally don’t use it anyway. These 3 points are in the order of decreasing importance, if you didn’t notice.

Wireless charging is something I can actually live without, but I splurged for a Pixel Stand. I can use one for my desk, and I still haven’t messed around it enough to give a proper review. So far it’s mainly just to fast charge, show the time and notification, and do the sunrise alarm thing. I think I am staying clear of a wireless charging pad on the Tesla Model 3, but I can see the appeal if the wiring situation is squared away (long story). Maybe in the future when they’re cheaper (the cheapest one I would buy is $50).

Not much to say otherwise. There are some integration in the Pixel 3 that makes sense which hasn’t rolled out to the Pixel 2 yet. Putting a photo scan link in the photo app makes sense, but I think this might be in Pixel 2 already. New nav for camera makes more sense than before, and it’s easier to use. I sideloaded the night mode beta and it is definitely as jaw-dropping as they say. Sample photos here and here.

In conclusion? This is the phone the Pixel 2 should have been. I don’t want to mention the XL line here because the 2 XL is a much closer presentation to the 3 XL than 2 was to 3. In a way, the Pixel 3 is actually the non-notched answer to our burning need for a modern, iPhone X-y device. LOL. Too bad the iPhone X is going to be a year old in December.

As for the rest of the competition… if you are looking at this phone and not, say, a 1+ 6T or Galaxy Note 9 or Huawei Mate 20 Pro, then nothing more needs to be said. Software superiority is something real. Integration matters. This is still the heart of the Pixel experience, where you get real-time chat and support over the web, your phone (as in not voice, but app), as well as traditional telephone service. It still has a long ways to go to catch Apple in terms of physical stores supporting users, but it’s slowly getting there. At least it needs to solve my Pixel 2 camera problem with less lead time than 48 hours!

I think I see clearly where Google is trying to catch up, and it’s a lot of stuff difficult to market. It doesn’t show up on a spec sheet. But for Americans it matters… So I think I will continue to use a Pixel phone in the future, and let Google take care of my personal info in exchange for services it provides.