Official lies

At some point in the past I gave my email address to the Whitehouse. I didn’t use to get emails from them. Recently things have changed and the database has been turn into a mailing list of self promotion.

This one caught my eye. It starts with the following assertion stated as unqualified fact:

The past 8 years have taken a toll on America’s job force.

A quick Google search on job statistics brings me to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, whose job is to collect precisely this sort of statistics. Here’s the last 10 years, handy chart and all:

Other assertion are very dubious. For example, a clueless reader would think that the new government had something to do with the Intel plant announcement when in fact it’s been in planning since 2011.

But that opening statement? Direct unambiguous lie, and easy to disprove, too. Yet this precise sort of lies (plus a dose of xenophobia) is what propelled Trump to the presidency. It makes no sense to me. And it worries the hell out of me.

Classic Mexican music

Ilán really likes music. Even better: he does not like dumb baby songs but actual good music.

He strongly favors Argentinian rock, but this morning he was in the mood for Mexican classics: Cielito Lindo and La Bikina. And strangely enough, he allowed me to record him singing.

Here it is, with subtitles so you can sing along:

AirPods review

Introduction

AirPods,  Apple’s latest foray into Bluetooth audio.

I’ve had a life long addiction to gadgets. And I’ve had several Bluetooth headsets.

For exercise: a few from the same line as the Motorola S10-HD (pros: they stay put while I run and they don’t break from my sweat; cons: extremely uncomfortable and mediocre sound).

For other things: several different LG neckbuds (pros: decent sound, comfortable; cons: uncomfortable in bed and make you look like an a**hole).

More recently for exercise: cheap TaoTronics (pros: cheap and light; cons: awkward because heavier on one side, need to constantly adjust while running).

So when I saw the AirPods announcement I knew I wanted them, but I didn’t know that I wanted them $160 bad. Regardless, when the preordering system went live, I set up an alarm to place the order… I can always cancel before they ship, right?

A few weeks later, I got an email saying they are about to ship and they’d arrive on… the same day I’m leaving to Mexico for two weeks. I knew I didn’t want them to sitting outside my door for two weeks. I had to cancel even though at this point I did want them. At this point the thing is backordered 3 months.

In Monterrey I went to the local mall. As I’m walking by the MacStore I casually ask if they had them in stock. What do you know? Score! They had 10 units (should have bought more for Craigslisting) at the same price as in the U.S.

First impressions

These things are slick. The case has a nice feel to it with a solid magnetic latch. As expected, the packaging is nice. You first take them out of the box, open the case, and boom! a little popup on my iPhone comes up asking me to pair. I did not have to wait several seconds, press any buttons, go into Bluetooth Settings, look at spinning wheels. Nothing. It just worked.

This is light years ahead compared to any other Bluetooth pairing experience. Someone finally got it right.

Other products

Even cooler, once I paired with my phone, the things just started showing up on my list of Airplay speakers on my iPad, Mac, and even watch.  If I want to switch which device I’m listening to, I just have to select it from the device itself. This compares with my other Bluetooth headsets for which I need to put them in pairing mode and go to Bluetooth Settings and select them every single time. Death by a thousand paper cuts.

Sound

Without doing comprehensive side-by-side testing, they appear to be comparable if not a little better than Apple’s EarPods which I think are perfectly adequate for most uses. They sound better than any of my previous Bluetooth headphones.

The microphone also seems to be very high quality in my limited testing, and it works well in noisy environments.

So, not audiophile quality but perfect for casual listening.

Comfort

One of the worries I had is that they’d keep falling off. They don’t. These things are very light, and since there’s no cable adding weight or tugging, they stay put.

They are very comfortable, but maybe my ears just happened to be perfectly shaped for them. If you like the headphones that came with your recent iPhone, then you’ll like these. Added plus: listening in bed is great. With neckbuds you have the pillow pushing the thing to your neck and the blinking light distracting you in the dark. None of that here.

Another thing I really like is that the case is smaller than expected, so you can keep them in your pocket. This was not really possible with any of the Bluetooth headphones I had before. Yet another little but really useful perk.

Usability

The controls are very limited. You can double tap to bring up Siri (configurable to Play/Pause in the iPhone settings). You take one out while listening and it pauses, put it back on and it continues (cool!).

But that’s it. If you want volume control, next/previous, or anything else you need to go to the phone. Or, if you have an Apple Watch you can go to the Now Playing Dock Item. This is actually very convenient and it shows that the more money you sink into the Apple ecosystem, the better things work together… but then you’re bankrupt.

I wish there were better controls, even if they are better voice commands. This is the biggest drawback with AirPods so far.

Exercising

I’ll stick with my cheap TaoTronics. I don’t like the prospects of a $70 tiny AirPod flying off my ear or my pig-like sweat drenching them dead. Maybe one day they can use the little speaker to push water out.

Conclusion

These are the best wireless headphones I’ve owned. That’s good, because they are also the most expensive. I’m taking them to work every day and I don’t look horrendously goofier than usual.

Austin Zoo Review

The mighty Austin Zoo.

I knew it existed, but in 15+ years of living here I never went. I had heard too many times that “it’s just some rescued animals, like goats and stuff”.

It’s true, but the place is a lot nicer than I had pictured. And while there were some goats, they also had some pretty good animals: bears, lions, a senile tiger, wolves, alpacas… and by far the most enourmous, impressive, mutant pig I’ve ever seen. That alone was worth the 45 minute drive (yeah, it’s far from my house).

And for those of you who have two year old kids obsessed with trains: there’s a little train you can ride!

Two thumbs up.

Selfie from the train. The ride is pretty long, as far as little train rides go. About 10-15 minutes.
It’s hard to tell by the photo, but that pig is basically the size of a smallish rhinoceros.
Ilán and Lucas looking for the missing tarantula.
A bear.
Lion (left), myself (middle), Ilán (right).

Early vote

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¡En español!

Yesterday morning I exercised my newly acquired right to participate in the American democratic process.

This year’s choice was especially difficult, since none of the candidates is a demagogue that praises brutal foreign dictators, denigrates women, brags about sexual assault, demonizes immigrants from my country, denies scientific knowledge, nor provides a platform for white supremacists to come to crawl out of their holes.

The process was exceedingly easy. Voting station was in the library by my house. All you had to do is follow about 200 signs like the one below, positioned 12 inches apart, to the polling station. Only two people ahead of me in line.

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There were so many of these signs, that when I arrived I joked out loud: “Is this where we’re supposed to vote?” I thought it was funny. Everyone else disagreed.

You vote on these machines that were probably state-of-the art back in the Bill Clinton vs George H. W. Bush. Not hard to use for me, but definitely something that would confound my mom. Doing a write-in must be especially rough, kind of like typing on a new Apple TV. Good thing “Mickey Mouse” is not that long of a name.

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Conveniently located in a corner outside the library: a taco truck! Delicious!

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To Our Boy on Your Birthday

Happy 2nd birthday to our beautiful little weirdo, who loves cauliflower but hates berries, whose favorite car color is brown, who can seamlessly shift between three languages in the same breath and never mix them, who takes care to translate everything Papi says in Spanish into Hebrew for Mami and vice versa, who runs and plants huge kisses on us out of the blue, who suggests his cheek as a suitable alternative when Papi asks to eat his pulke, who is so insanely intelligent beyond his years that we often shake our heads in wonder at one another, who makes us laugh daily.

We love you so very much, little man. Happy second birthday!

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Separated at Birth? Ken Bone and Señor Barriga

The whole world tuned in to the Second US Presidential Debate and saw their faith in the human race decline steadily for two hours… until Kenneth Bone showed up to save the day.

But here’s my personal conspiracy theory: few realize that Ken Bone is actually a Mexican undercover agent with excellent fashion sense trying to steer the campaign away from crotch grabbing and towards taco trucks on every corner.

Specifically: Ken Bone is secretly Mexican tycoon  El Señor Barriga.

Judge for yourself:

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Kilobytes of fun!