Religion & Politics

I’ve been reading the Fivethirtyeight a lot this election cycle. It’s a handy site that aggregates at least all the poll results. As we just move past the first Presidential debate it is definitely a daily stop if to just see how the numbers move every day.

So they wrote this article. And I feel it’s time to rant a bit. As divisive as Trump was during the Republican primary, a lot of Christians (Evangelicals or not) have rallied back under the party banner. This just boggles the mind though. How can one possibly continue to support the same monster they despised merely 4 months ago?

They may cite the Supreme Court thing, but I guess my take on it is different than the typical full-ticket Republican. I think it’s hubris and a continuation of the failure of the Republican party to not take the Obama nominee, who is by all means going to be way more centrist than a HRC nominee. What kind of sane person would put it off, knowing Trump is likely going to win the Republican ticket? I mean, underneath the Supreme Court debate is that dereliction of Congressional Republican’s constitutional duty to keep the Court full is karmic retribution when the likely Democrat winner takes office next year? If I was God, this seems like the perfect conclusion to an election season where the Republican party, the party which the mainstream American Christians vote for, got stuck with its best representative.

It’s party politics and perhaps the year-in, year-out, public display of dysfunction is what’s driving the Democratic party forward this year, possibly electing one of the least popular Presidential candidate ever. I guess when they go low, the Republicans go even lower. We can only elect Baby Boomers for so much longer, guys. When Millennials get into their 30s there will be a reckoning, and I feel Evangelicals are at least labeled as people who can take a stand against the continuing crumbling of the Republican Party, as that does nobody, even Democrats, any good.

And while I don’t ask this from my Christian friends, but how can anyone who actually believes in this stuff, and not your casual Easter/Christmas Churchgoer, support your Republican Congress? The GOP has huge problems, and maybe some time as a minority party is the opportunity for it to recover.

#Donglephobia or the video-audio future is yet again split

The past 17 years I felt I saw the law and business on digital consumer video go a different way than the law and busiess on digital consumer audio. By this I mean not only the hardware prosumers buy, but the way we watch media or listen to media as well. Before Spotify there has been a series of market leaders, where as when it comes to movies and TV shows in the USA, it was really a format war until we went digital pretty much wholesale.

I read this review of the iPhone 7 and I can’t help but to think of two things:

  1. Lack of a headphone jack is no big deal; and
  2. This is a great illustration where we are at when it comes to digital mobile experience for sound versus the digital mobile experience for photography/videography

Nilay is right that the mobile photography world has been so boosted by these powerful phone cameras that it has been truly revolutionary. And it wouldn’t be fair to give Apple all the credit; tons of people have been shooting with their flip phones well before 2008, but the backend of the ecosystem have matured enough (maybe) between first media-oriented sites but now social networks with good video/audio support.

The audio world, not so much. Which is well-symbolized by some high end tech dude reviewing the latest electronics lamenting about a connector older than the floppy drive. Nilay recognizes this in this review as well, but I guess he’s not taken to this conclusion.

Because, as someone who has made two major switches in his life (one to go wireless, one to go to usb-to-go to a portable DAC…so even more wired?) when it comes to listening to music/audio on his phone (and I’ve been doing this since like 2003), the headphone jack is not really all that useful on your phone. At least that’s my opinion.

Where are all the whiners that complained about the lack of a S-video port or whatever? RCA jacks? Display port over HDMI? I don’t get it.

I guess when ethernet jacks left the building so did common sense. [Read Mossberg’s rant on this, it’s utmost stupid.]

I’m not going to get into why I feel this way, besides as someone who has been using bluetooth wireless headsets for like 8+ years. Who knows where the pain point is (it’s not sound quality or batt life, far from it). And I believe most people just don’t know/care about audio enough to justify their whine. To be fair Apple is complicit in the media blowback somewhat with their nonsense audio standard and their usual play to sell more junk that doesn’t really do anything. Maybe it’s a good reminder that an iPhone is a closed ecosystem and you’re going to hit those drawbacks. But seriously, bluetooth is plenty good. It works well. It’s not the greatest, but odds are your  come-with-iPhone headsets are worse than the one you now need to shell out for to fully enjoy that Bluetooth experience.

And I feel, it really comes down to that most people just don’t care about audio that much, and those who do are stuck in their irrational ways to really offer good, rational criticism. Verge included.

Evaluating Teixeira’s Yankee Tenure versus Contract, and Luck

MLB first baseman Mark Teixeira today announced that he will retire from pro baseball at the end of the season. This is his last year on the Yankee’s contract, which will run for 8 years and $180 million dollars after all is said and done. The local state rag ran a poll and it seems most people valued the contract favorably in hindsight.

Statistically, Mark was a quality defensive player throughout the years he played. The past 4 years he was plagued by injuries, especially in 2014 and 2016. The freakish thing was he played maybe 2/3 of the games in 2015 with an OPS+ of 146, which is freakish given he was clearly on a declining state athletically speaking, as he last cracked OPS+ 140 in the 2009 world-series-winning year at 141 OPS+.

But 180M/8 years is a lot of cash. Granted it would be tough to sign a top free agent in their prime without committing to a long contract that covered their declining years as well, but in Mark’s case he could have had his best post-Yankee years in 2015, if not for a foul ball that fractured his tibia. I mean, this is not the kind of injury that you can truly prevent while performing at an All-Star level.

The prudent and sensible way to evaluate the contract is to compare this 8-year contract with other similar-length contracts of position players who signed at around their late 20s. But I think I’m more interested to see how hindsight bias overwrites the factor of luck that plays into these long-term contract evaluations.

Injury is a part of MLB. People get hurt, especially the more they play and the older they got–two factors that are also correlated. The fact is you can guess how much a player is likely to get hurt only based on fairly poorly-explored medical knowledge. Injury due to hit-by-pitch or hit-by-foul-balls are as freakish as anything.

How did luck play a role in how we evaluate Tex’s contract? In hindsight, Tex was just good, not great, during his healthy years, outside of 2015 and 2009. He was great in 2015 and 2009. He was effectively out of commission for 2 seasons (but you take that over the situation he’s in today, as a Yankee fan). So not counting the injuries, the Tex contract was just OK. It definitely worked out in a way that you could have foresaw back in 2008 (minus, again, 2015).

It’s similar to that you can’t really expect David Ortiz to be the best hitter in the Majors at age 40, I suppose. Luck is a skill in these things.

 

I’m okay with no more headphone jacks

On smartphones, at least.

There is this nonsense driven by fear of change. Yeah, there are billions of 3.5mm jacks headphones, but who cares about the quality because all billions of those are the $0.02 variety pooped out in China that might as well go straight to a landfill? Wouldn’t an equally lame $0.02 variety adapter work just fine?

I speak out of personal experience, and I know I am just one person with one set of experiences, but a wireless headphone/earbud experience significantly trumps a wired one, when the smartphone is the basis of your sound. Let’s skip the at-home use cases for now (in which you probably want to stream to a receiver or a google cast client of some sort anyway), and focus on the on-the-go and traveling-stationary cases.

In the former I’ve spent enough money replacing wired headphones to know that if this is my use case for a lot of the time, wireless will be the cost-sensitive solution because you will be spending $$ replacing cables all the time. I think my rate was like $20 a year at least. Now I suck it up with an average bluetooth headphone that has no cables, over the ear, because cables always will break if used on a mobile use cases, for prolong (12+ months) periods. To be specific, all I use my headphones for are my ~2hr commutes daily, and sometimes trips and excursions.

There are some times when I’m using my phone for audio and I plug it into an external DAC. I have to use a USB to Go cable, then plug the DAC into that. No headphone jack is involved. And why any self-respecting audiophile doesn’t use a portable DAC for phone audio is beyond me. In this case you have no use for a 3.5mm jack anyway. OK, maybe your favorite amp doesn’t have a DAC, and it’s annoying to have a DAC and an amp, as portable devices, I hear you. But I think in this case you can excuse a wimpy adapter, right? Or even buy a better one than the one out of the box? No bigs.

All this whining and focusing on the losing of the jack is standard, textbook, resistance to change without looking at what you gain out of it. For most people, nobody uses the headphone jack. My folks don’t use it, and my mom uses a headphone all the time on her iPad to watch dramas anyway. So yeah, keep that on a tablet, where size is not a problem. On phones where device component size is a lot more important, the jack takes up a good 5% on the total footprint of the device. Does anyone uses the jack 5% of their phone’s overall lifetime?

Yeah, the only ones that would use it are the people selling stuff using a card reader (Square, etc), and I think those guys will be okay to live with an adaptor so the rest of the society can enjoy the benefit of that extra real estate on their smartphones.

There are other “hardware” ecosystems attached to the smartphone headphone jack, but none of them has to do with your audio experience, nor should it. Get some bluetooth cans and move on to a better future.

Apple vs FBI Nonsense

I feel the debate about unlocking that San Bernardino attackers’ phone is another one the press don’t get the technical stuff right, at least enough.

First of all it is not a balance between privacy and security or safety. In Fourth Amendment jurisprudence, the heart of the matter is that safety and freedom come hand-in-hand. More privacy and security means more freedom and better and safer society more often than not. Safety and privacy only conflicts at the edge case. We should not frame this debate as a zero-sum game.

This is the central paradigm of liberty. If we don’t have a shitty government, people aren’t going to behave like criminal as often. I’ve seen a few OP-EDs to this extent and it’s worth pointing out, at least in one instance, where the Snowden leaks revealed the massive government betrayal of trust in not so much just the surveillance, but the lack of oversight and the abuse of gag orders and other quieting devices to keep things dark. If the government didn’t screw this up and we had a robust system to check abuses in this regard, the public might not be as pissy about building a governmental-access-only backdoor or whatever ballyhoo they’re trying to say.

And an extension of this argument is whenever anyone brings up China or Russia and slippery slope of precedence that can lead to those countries getting master keys to iPhones. If China and Russia are trustworthy countries for Americans, I don’t think we would be using this argument. In other words, shitty national governments are directly the reason why shitty situations like this even exists. Or TL;DR, we need strong encryption because safety against government is a thing!

But that’s not even what I find troubling about the coverage on why this is bad. What’s bad is what Tim Cook says about the master key. In this case, the master key isn’t some rogue version of iOS so much. It’s two things together: the necessary keys to decrypt or “backdoorize” iOS, and the engineer needed to make the hack. I mean there’s no reason to assume FBI don’t have coders who can likewise build a backdoor if given Apple’s auth keys to sign the code that you can then sideload into that iPhone Of Interest. But of course Apple will not give out those keys, so this means some Apple engineer is required to produce the hack.

If I run a mid-size company selling smartphones do I really want to spend engineers on FBI requests and other law enforcement requests just so they can investigate crime that are not as dire as international terrorism? But I’m busy shipping code. Maybe a big company like Apple, this ain’t a thang, even if they may get hundreds/thousands of requests a year. But if I was, say, Motorola or something, do I even give a damn? Will I get laid off tomorrow because nobody is buying my perfectly okay phones? Or replace Motorola with OnePlus, and replace “buying” with “can buy” from the previous sentence.

This is obviously why MS, Google, and even Verizon signs on. Because it’s not like the FBI can’t hire people who can code, so why bother these companies? It’s disruptive, it’s intrusive, it doesn’t do their respective bottom lines any good. It’s arguably even bad for security, and bad for all their customers. It is not even a zero-sum outcome. It makes sense for all those tech companies to resist.

The alternative is to fight it out in courts. Okay, you don’t need lawyers to ship code, maybe, but that’s expensive and a piece-meal way to deal with the situation. So yeah, of course you want Congress to make the call just so we can be done with it.

As to the master key itself, I don’t quite buy it that it may be leaked by making it existing in the first place, in that the same danger has always existed before and even today. All the needed ingredient to make that key already exists. Nobody except Apple may know how to put the key together, but it’s not significantly more likely that just by writing it down as to how to put it together makes leaking the components of the master key AND the key more likely. It’s quite possible that a big enough of a security leak at Apple will cause this to happen, if hackers wo obtained certain source codes and the key were able to engineer out the ingredients and put it together.

But this is all just fancy talk that we don’t even want to deal with, and I agree. I’m all for companies helping law enforcement, but the key distinction has to be the amount of work. Shipping a new version of iOS is way overreach and it’s unfair to compel any company for doing it.

Now maybe you can shame Apple into doing it. That seems like a fair approach.