My phone is going on three years-old now. My Lumia 920 has served me extremely well, but these days the battery can be a little inconsistent. Yes, I still have a Windows Phone. Microsoft has totally failed to make a replacement I wanted, and I really like the camera. I'm not an app person, so as long as I can send and receive messages, look at a few web pages, and post photos to Facebook, I'm good. I know I'm not characteristic of most people (but especially gadget loving nerdy people).
An interesting thing has happened since I bought that phone three years ago. Subsidized phones are a thing of the past. Now, you can buy them outright or get on a payment plan that's above the cost of the service, which is a step in the right direction. This works to the advantage of a lot of people who aren't interested in being stuck in a two-year contract. It makes a lot of sense.
Earlier this year, I started to think about jumping ship to something new, just out of curiosity, and partly because I want to experiment with developing software on the other platforms. I hate the fact that everyone wants things to be an app instead of the open web, but I've gotta think about new things from a career standpoint. While I love my live tiles, I'm not above having more than one phone. I know a lot of friends who already roll that way.
Apple still makes nice phones, though iOS still isn't what I wish it was, specifically something other than an icon grid when I turn it on. But now that we're no longer in the world of contract pricing, what really gets me is the starting price for an iPhone. It's $649 for the lowly 16 gig model, and that's insane. They want another $100 for the 32 gigs, which is a minimum. Sorry, but there are too many decent phones that cost way less. Heck, Diana's Lumia 640 was $80, and while it feels a little light, it's a really solid phone. She loves it. (And by the way, it has 72 gigs of storage, because it has an SD card slot.)
I have been intrigued by the range of Android phones out there, because there is a ton of nice hardware. The fragmentation of the operating system versions annoys me to no end, but I guess there isn't much one can do about that. I have resolved, however, that I kind of want one to play with. If I do pull the trigger, it won't likely be a super cheap one, since if I'm going to carry one, I want a decent camera.
Next week, Microsoft will formally announce the Lumia 950 and 950XL, the worst kept secrets ever. That will be my primary phone, I'm sure. Like I said, I love my live tiles. As long as they go at a decent price point, I'll be sure to order as soon as possible.
I've been crazy busy at work the last few weeks, and I'm starting to come up for air. I totally forgot that yesterday was the launch date for the Tesla Model X, the SUV that's more or less based on the Model S. While the first cars were delivered yesterday, getting on the waiting list today will require you to wait almost a year.
The initial reservations are going to people who were content to spend a ton of money and get essentially all of the options, north of $130k. That's as "ludicrous" as the speed is, but I suppose if you're back logged almost a year, you can charge whatever you want. The going math is that the Model X will have the same pricing tiers and options as the Model S, for $5k more and without having a non-all-wheel-drive option. In theory, that means a starting price of $85k for a 70D, which is expensive, but not unreasonable for something that nice and technologically advanced.
The press is gushing about the damn falcon wing doors, which is fine I guess, but I think the bigger story here is simpler than that. They took the Model S and made more room inside, for 7 people, and now you can tow stuff. It's the safest SUV ever made, as in, no one else is even close. Oh, and it's still electric, which is Tesla's way of driving toward "sustainable transport." In the short term that means not burning fossil fuels in the car, in the long term it means being powered by the sun.
It's hard to see this car as something other than a toy for rich people, but keeping perspective, none of the people I know with the Model S are rich people. Sure, rich people buy these things, but there's a lot of enthusiasm for electric cars across a lot of segments of the population. The crazy stuff in the Model S and X is a blueprint for the future.
It's kind of funny to see Simon's perception of all this. At age 5, he lives in a house with a garage that has no tail pipes. Plugging in the car when you get home is his normal. He thinks a giant touch screen in the car is normal too (he keeps calling it the iPad). It's completely realistic that his first car will be electric.
The fun thing for me is that all of this technological excitement is also a great excuse for flag waving that we desperately need. The United States is anything but united, and people are living in fear and want to be victims of... something. But here we have a great American company changing the world. It almost doesn't matter if they're successful in the long run, with the future Model 3 and such. It's already clear they're pushing Detroit and the Germans in the right direction. Everyone wins.
It's an exciting time in automotive history.
I was all ready to write a sappy post about how much I love life right now, and how generally amazing most of the last seven or eight years has been. Then I saw this.
That's a screenshot from Facebook. Note the numbers at the bottom: 114,000 likes, 58,000 comments (most of them "Amen") and 1,700 shares. What is this?
It's a screenshot from the 1990 movie Total Recall, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. It's about industrial corruption in a settlement on Mars, among other things, and a bunch of characters are all deformed and mutated because of bad air or something like that. Oh, and Sharon Stone is super hot in it too (spoiler: before she gets killed, anyway). And by the way, the girl grew up to be very pretty.
The Internet has empowered people in amazing ways. I think it can be argued that it has literally helped along revolutions. For the most part, it's an amazingly good thing.
And yet, this incredible power that we all have at our disposal inspires a new kind of stupid as well. People squander the power to live in willful ignorance, to indulge in their fears and mostly hold back humanity from advancement. Honestly, if it weren't for the fact that the opposite moves at the same velocity, and with just slightly more people, humanity would be screwed.
Oh, and chalk this up as another example of "Facebook activism," which in the larger scope of things doesn't mean anything.
One of the things that stuck with me more than anything about my post-divorce therapy was the suggestion that your parents are your first teachers about relationships. My parents split when I was very young, and my mom and step-dad honestly never really exhibited a lot of relationship behavior toward each other in front of me, positive or negative. I suppose I didn't have a lot to go on. That said, it has been remarkable to see the impact of those teachers on the women with whom I've had relationships.
Fascinating as this exercise is in terms of self-awareness or armchair shrinking your mate, I recently had the horrifying realization that this is now a responsibility I have for my child. There are a great many ways you want to set a good example for your kid, but setting a blueprint for working in an intimate relationship is one I suppose I haven't thought much about.
This might be something that ordinarily you wouldn't over-think, but Simon has a way of taking things too literally. Maybe it's the ASD, but he generally has no use for hierarchy or the context of authority. When we correct him for misbehaving, he corrects us for "making him sad." To be sure, this isn't him trying to induce guilt. Diana and I do not play guilt games (we're very self-aware about this), and frankly I don't think he has the capacity to understand guilt yet. So any kind of toxic behavior that we might exhibit toward each other, he's likely to accept as protocol.
I think we're generally good to each other. We hug and kiss, kind of check-in with each other periodically, hold hands (when Simon doesn't insist on cutting in), help each other out, etc. But I do find myself being impatient or short with Diana when I'm stressed out or otherwise spent for some reason (work, Simon, home maintenance), and I know he's seen that. I have to be careful about that.
I still don't know how people have kids in their 20's. There are days when I barely feel like I have my shit together now, let alone in my 20's. I would definitely not have qualified as any kind of role model then.
I've often described how music very much serves as a soundtrack to my life. Hearing certain songs brings back memories in the most vivid way, sometimes complete with smells and sounds to go with the visuals. I don't know if everyone's brain works that way, but even though I've always been that way, it still seems freakish and surprises me.
From the time I really started listening to music, probably around age 10, when Thriller was all the rage, I've been one to intensely listen to stuff, and then for the most part file it away and move on to the next thing. Right now I'm listening to Metric, Muse, CHVRCHES and Elle King. I know that I'm not typical in that sense, especially for someone approaching midlife.
So is it because the idea of listening to Def Leppard and Debbie Gibson makes me want to harm myself or others, or is it because of the history association? OK, maybe the high school era isn't a good example. Even though parts of college were a little difficult, I do think fondly of the R.E.M., Pearl Jam and Smashing Pumpkins of that time. Right after college came Garbage, and their debut is still one of my favorite albums ever.
Because we now live in a world of playlists, mix tapes without all the work, I have yearly curated lists going back to the 90's, but I almost never listen to the older ones. I also have one called the best songs ever, with about 20 songs, but I only listen to that one when I need a pick-me-up.
I got to thinking about this today, because of a specific song I've had stuck in my head from 1990. It's even worse with music that's older than I am. I totally get why a lot of classic rock is important, and I like some of it, but I just don't have any interest in listening to it most of the time. I'm a pretty devoted listener to AltNation on SiriusXM. I guess some people love to get shiny new things, but I'm all about shiny new music.
I'm a little relentless about relishing the suffering people endure in winter, what with the cold and the snow and gray skies. It probably makes me kind of a dick, and I'm probably too proud of myself for deciding to move to a place that doesn't have real winter.
This is our third summer in Orange County, or technically, second and a half since we moved in July. The truth is, I have to agree with some of my friends who have lived here longer, that summer can be a little brutal. I mean, it's kind of relative, because certainly Northeast Ohio gets stupid hot and humid too, though at least we have the subtropical air currents keeping us from going too high. It just lasts longer, with daily 90's starting in June and ending mid-September. That's about four months of consistent, 90+ weather, with a whole lot of rain. You tend to not be in a hurry to spend lots of time outside, but we do it anyway. Maybe that's the core thing to remember: It's hot, but it doesn't prevent you from being outside.
So it isn't suffering, but it is the season you want to get through faster. By the time Halloween rolls in, you're topping out in the mid-80's with cool sub-70 evenings. Christmas is full on jacket weather, with highs in the 70's and downright chilly evenings below 50. (And tourists still show up in shorts, as if there is no Internet to check the forecast.) Regular 80's don't start again until April.
Half of our year is hot, the other half is perfect. Compared to 1/4 hot, less than half perfect-ish, and 1/3 too cold, I'll take the Central Florida arrangement, thank you.
It has been about a month and 1,500 miles since we drove home the new car, a Tesla Model S 70D. It has been a pretty huge adjustment for me, being the guy who has always viewed cars as a necessary but purely functional thing. And I have to admit that my friend Gonch was right when he suggested that every time I sit behind the wheel I would smile.
We are not generally people who want or need nice things. We do have nice tools for our work and hobbies (sewing machines, computers, cameras), but we don't buy stupid huge TV's, expensive clothes or have an excessively large house. But we were motivated to buy this expensive car for science, and it also happens to be really nice. A part of me still feels a little guilty about that, knowing that it was money we could have spent on travel, philanthropy or investment. It's a little incompatible with humility. Whatever. This is my midlife thing, and it beats seeking out hookers and blow. And it's really fun to drive.
Not being a car guy, I don't really know what makes a performance car a performance car. My Tesla fetish comes from the fact that it's electric, and my electric lust started two and a half years ago when I rented a Nissan Leaf. But electric cars have some advantages when it comes to performance, starting with the instant gratification that comes from electric motors. Even the best combustion engine has the slightest hesitation when it comes to acceleration, but electric motors do not. The torque comes instantly, and it comes at any speed. Yes, the launch from a dead stop is like a launched roller coaster, and if I'm first up at a red light, you can bet I'll do it. I giggle every time. The 0-60 in 5.2 seconds is no joke (I can only imagine the 2.8 seconds of the ludicrous mode P90D). But even when you're passing on the freeway, already going over 60, the ability to make the car go, instantly, is ridiculous. That precision is just as obvious when slowly maneuvering into a parking space. Everything about moving the car feels precise and smooth.
One minor complaint: I'm not a fan of the arrangement of the control stalks on the steering column. They're just not as well arranged as those on a Japanese car. My understanding is that these are actually Mercedes parts. I have pushed the park button on the end of the shifter a few times, meaning to squirt the wipers. Fortunately, the car isn't dumb enough to put it in park at speed (or put it in reverse, which I've also done).
While the frame and body panels are aluminum, it's still a heavyish car at 4,800 pounds, more than 50% heavier than the Prius V we were driving. I hate big cars, even if they have big engines, because they don't feel particularly nimble. That's certainly not the issue with this car. As I said, the acceleration is nuts. Also consider that the battery is in the floor of the car, putting its center of gravity 18 inches from the ground, while motors on both axels turn the wheels, and you can honestly say that it "corners like it's on rails." It does what you ask, without so much a lean or tire squeal. The one thing you have to get used to is having the regenerative braking on (it does have a setting to turn it off, but I wouldn't). Instead of coasting, the car starts to reclaim energy when you pull your foot off of the accelerator, and you really only need to use the brakes in the last 5 or 6 mph of speed. Legend has it that Tesla has never replaced the brakes on a Model S.
In addition to the regenerative braking setting, there are some other things you can tweak as well, though Diana and I have left the defaults on. You can turn on the "creep mode," which causes the car to roll forward a bit when you have your foot off of the brake, similar to a gas car. I don't like the idea of that, as it's inefficient and lacks the precision I was talking about. You can change the steering to make it easier or more stiff, but we use the middle. There's also an energy conserving range mode that you can turn on to keep you from doing nutty acceleration and blasting the air conditioning, but I don't imagine it would be needed very often.
The basic features that come with the autopilot hardware are a little gimmicky, but still pretty neat. It uses a combination of a camera behind the rearview mirror and a bunch of radar sensors to know what's around the car. It reads speed limit signs and puts a notch on the speedometer to remind you if you're speeding, along with a picture of a speed limit sign. When someone is sitting in your blindspot, a visual indicator appears around the speedometer, and it turns red if they get way too close. If you drift out of your lane, the steering wheel vibrates and there's a chime. When you're moving slowly, it warns you of stuff near the car, and visually shows the proximity with the number of inches and a phantom wall that goes from white, to orange, to red (then it shows a big STOP). For an extra $2,500, or $3,000 after the fact, they'll give you the autopilot software, which keeps you in your lane, does adaptive cruise control, parks the car, etc. That seemed a little unnecessary.
Indeed, this is a fly-by-wire car, and everything you can do with it you do with the touch screen. I worried that this meant lots of screen tapping, but the things you use the most are actually all on one screen that you can easily tap to and from by pushing the bottom left corner at any time. It's where you find the sunroof control, door locks, trunk popping, etc. There are further tabs for things you'll set less often, like the child door locks, door locking behavior in terms of your proximity with a key, etc. I like physical buttons and knobs and things, but in this case the very simple controls on the steering wheel do most of the things you want, and muscle memory gets you there. The right scroll wheel, for example, can do a lot of things like open the sun roof, but mostly we just use it to change the climate fan speed.
The different "apps" available on the touch screen vary in quality, though we tend to leave the navigation on top and the rear view camera on the bottom. I suspect I'll leave up the energy on the bottom for long trips, because it gives you estimated range instead of rated range. Starting with the media app, you use that for music. It's kind of clunky, and I'm not a huge fan. Fortunately, we mostly just keep it on XM, and can use the steering wheel to cycle through presets. We did have to buy the upgraded audio to get XM, which is not a good deal at all, but I admit it's the best sounding car audio I've ever had. It's actually a little embarrassing to have a subwoofer. Matt & Kim's "Get It" comes on and we sound like the kid down the street you can't stand.
The calendar app isn't useful without an iOS or Android phone, not to mention giving a shit about your calendar while you're driving. The energy app will do some cool things about estimating your energy use when you have trips set up, but we haven't done that. The web browser is, well, a web browser (Tesla pays for your cellular connection). The phone app isn't something I've used much either, though we do pair our phones for calls.
The navigation is where this computer-in-a-car shines. It's Google Maps, so for one, it's probably not outdated like the average GPS. You hold down the button, say, "Navigate to Fun Spot," and it shows you where to go. It will even let you know if you have adequate power left to go round-trip. Sometimes it picks some strange routes, but as soon as you go the "right" way, it finds the better route. It will route you to Superchargers, and indeed any place that you've plugged in. What I really like about it though is that while you have the big map on the touch screen, "north up" if you prefer, the turn-by-turn 3D view appears up on the dash next to the speedometer. That is completely badass.
The touchscreen also is where you can bring up the battery screen, where you can set the charging limit (Tesla recommends a 90% cap for daily use). It has the driver profiles too, which remember where you like the seat, steering wheel, mirrors and the various driving settings. That includes a valet mode, that PIN-locks the glove box and frunk, and restricts the car to 70 mph. There's a drop-down for activating HomeLink devices like garage door openers and gates (if you live in one of those communities), and it actually appears when the GPS detects you're close to it. So on approach to our house, it appears, eager to be touched and open the garage. You can name your car, view the release notes, and connect to your home WiFi up there as well (it downloads updates via WiFi).
Climate control is along the bottom, and always there, along with the controls button I mentioned and the volume control (you'll likely use the steering wheel instead). It does driver and passenger temperatures separate, plus seat heaters. You can do a full auto, but I don't like it. I'd rather just control the fan speed manually.
The interior of the car is very minimalist, but I love the simplicity. The headliner is made of Alcantara, which is kind of a fake suede. I like it. The trim is a matte obeche wood, which we chose over the default piano black (dust and fingerprint prone), glossy wood (looks fake) and carbon fiber (too expensive). I really like the way that turned out. The floor and mats are a durable black material. The seats are black leather, but not the superawesome seat option. I think they're pretty comfortable. It just seems very roomy on the inside.
We do have a couple of complaints though. There just isn't any significant storage inside beyond the small glove box and a small cubby under the touch screen. There is a big trough in the middle with rubber rails in it, so you can put stuff there, but I like to hide stuff. There are only two cupholders, both in a somewhat awkward position in the center console, revealed by pushing back the armrests. Also, in order to use Simon's booster seat, we need to put the belt into the center buckle, meaning the button is on the inside. It's awkward. Oh, and the seatbelt height isn't adjustable, which is a weird oversight. I've found a sweet spot finally, but it was by moving the seat around to a good position.
The exterior of the car is beautiful. I'm really glad we did the pearl white, as it looks amazing in the sun, and not like every other black Model S. I've had black and white cars, and unless you go for really long periods without washing, I happen to think white is better. It's a pretty car, and I've noticed that people look at it. (Attention I would rather not have.) For what is essentially the ultimate family sedan, it's low and aggressive looking. The recessing door handles might be a gimmick, but it sure looks cool. I like that the mirrors close in automatically, but it does detract from the appearance a little.
I'm not entirely crazy about the size. Like I said, I don't like big cars. It looks lovely, but it's long and wide. It's a tight fit in the garage, and I still can't really park it very well. On the plus side, the trunk is flipping huge, and with only the rear motor and inverter under it, there's an even deeper well. If that weren't enough, you can put stuff in the "frunk" as well. Because this is a dual-motor car, the front trunk loses some space to the front motor. Still, the front of the car is mostly crumple zone, thus has the best crash rating ever.
Charging and range are completely a non-issue. I mean, range almost doesn't matter in our Nissan Leaf, for 95% of our driving. Regardless, I think the perception of electric cars by most people is completely wrong. Having to charge a car isn't an inconvenience, it's the biggest win of EV's. You leave the house every day, completely ready to go, with the most range possible. You never have to stop at a gas station, ever. The 70D is rated for 240 miles, and my observation is that real life, when it's mostly highway miles, would be about 225 if I'm to believe the energy app.
We had a 240v, 50 amp NEMA 14-50 outlet installed in our garage, and it charges at 40 amps to put about 30 miles of range on per hour, though it runs slower in the last 10% of charge. We set our charging limit at 80% (about 191 miles), unless we're going to one of the coasts or to see my mom in The Villages. Public "level 2" chargers put on about 20 miles per hour. The Tesla Superchargers, which are free, do some insane 100 amps and when ramped up add 300+ miles of charge per hour. They do slow down in the last 10% as well. The distance between superchargers tends to be around 170 miles, so depending on the load at a typical station, getting up to 200 or so miles of range, around 85%, should take somewhere between 20 and 40 minutes. That should make road tripping practical, as one tends to make stops every three hours or less anyway. I'll write when we've done it.
Again, in practical terms, the car has more than enough range for most driving scenarios. There is no anxiety for us to drive to Port Canaveral, Tampa, The Villages, and I look forward to doing some longer trips. And by the way, the cost per mile for us has been around 3.8 cents per mile (averaging 13 cents per kWh between home, public charging and free at the supercharger). Even if your gas car gets 30 mpg and gas is $2/gallon, that's still 6.6 cents per mile. EV's are stupid cheap for energy. Heck, the Leaf costs 2.8 cents per mile to drive!
So me, the non-car guy, really likes driving all of a sudden. We don't have flying cars, but electric cars are definitely close enough. The Leaf already made it fun, but the Model S makes driving super fun. It's a ridiculous indulgence, sure, but I think it's exciting to be a part of this revolution. Electric cars are where we're headed, I can guarantee it. I find it exciting that an American company, a new company that's not in Detroit, is pushing the technology and getting us there. I look forward to many years with the space car!
I've noticed in the last few years that it's getting harder for me to write code in my spare time, as a hobby. Yeah, I have this hobby "business" that I've been at for closing in on two decades, and I've always enjoyed it. There have been those fun instances of finishing up a new feature after several hours of work, then a late night deployment, and the satisfaction of seeing it all out in front of tens of thousands of people.
I still enjoy that process, but it has been harder and harder the last few years to really engage in it. Parenthood is a huge part of that, of course, and it has in some ways become harder. When Simon was tiny, sure, I was physically tired, but the challenges he faces these days result in more emotional and mental exhaustion. Throw in cycles at work where I am very much in the weeds of complex software (this varies a lot because of my career stage and differences in scope of the various projects I'm involved in), and it gets harder to have anything left over for the hobby.
There isn't really a lot to give. I just try to squeak stuff in where I can, because I don't know that I can really realign priorities much. I don't think I'm complaining exactly, I just wish I could figure it out.
Simon just wrapped up his second week of kindergarten. I think we were all very much ready for him to start, and he definitely needed the stimulation and experiences because it's hard keeping that kid entertained when he's not entertaining himself!
At this point, we're pretty confident that he'll be off the charts great academically, which is what his teachers last year expected. The list of sight words he's supposed to know, by quarter, he can already read. He's a smart kid, and we've observed this a great deal in the last year.
However, we do have some concerns, not the least of which is his inability to consistently eat his lunch. The first day, he came home with all of it except the cheese poofs. The second day, Diana gave him fewer choices and numbers things, and he ate it all. Then he came home with everything. After spying on him, she found that he spaces out, which he does at home, and he also just up and went to the restroom and disappeared there for a bit. We're working on that.
I'm concerned about his writing ability, but he'll get a lot more practice in kindergarten. His social skills seem like they could go either way. He's got a lot of personality, and kids seem to like him. At his age he can be a little different without necessarily standing out.
Maybe the hardest thing for us is that we don't get nearly as much feedback as we did with his previous teachers, especially in his "special" class. That's obviously how things will go forward, so it's an adjustment. His teacher and the school staffing specialist have been pretty good about keeping us in the loop. It's just different.
I'm sure he'll do well, and I'm sure there will be challenges, but I'm excited for our little guy.
No one seems to care about context. This is especially true if the context makes them uncomfortable, maybe doubly so if it's about race. Look, sometimes there are real problems that may put white, heterosexual Christians at the wrong end of history, but it doesn't mean that you, as a white, heterosexual Christian are the problem. You aren't obligated to feel guilty or bad about it, but at the same time, it doesn't mean there is no problem.
For example, a popular response to #blacklivesmatter is to suggest that all lives matter. Well yeah, of course, but that response completely trivializes the fact that there is a real socioeconomic problem that puts a large population at risk. "All lives matter" suggests that the problems don't need to be addressed or don't exist. Objectively, with data, we can logically conclude that a million different factors put people in a cycle of poverty, poor education and violence that is difficult to break.
This doesn't mean that people are at war. No one is suggesting that a pattern of abuse and racism on the part of some police departments means all police are evil. I've known a lot of police, and all were professional, excellent people. These are not mutually exclusive categories of people: Both can exist.
So yes, I get it. It is vitally important that we partner with and support our law enforcement. But as soon as you view that support as a side that is diametrically opposed to bringing up the real problems that many communities face with their local police departments, you're sweeping a civil rights problem under the rug. More division gets us nowhere. Two centuries of racial inequality is a very real, unsolved problem. Don't trivialize it.