Category Archives: General

Not impressed with the Google Assistant

I’ve had the “Google Assistant” on my phone for a few weeks now. Since I don’t use the always-on voice activation, this means it’s pushing extra notifications based on what it thinks I want/can use. Fortunately it doesn’t do audio alerts, so it’s a lot less intrusive than it could be. I figured I’d give it a try and see if it turned out to be useful (or creepy).

The alerts I’ve gotten fall into the following categories:

  • Estimated commute time based on current traffic. This would be more useful if it wasn’t based on the freeway, which I never use to get to or from work because it’s such a pain. Though on a trip to San Francisco, it popped up transit delays, which would have been helpful if I’d actually been going anywhere beyond walking distance that day.
  • Weather changes. This is kind of useful, but I have a widget to show the same info.
  • Hours and offers for stores I have just left. At least three times, I’ve walked around a grocery store or Target for 30-40 minutes, consulting my shopping list on my phone all the way, and it has popped up with info when I load up the car. What’s the point of that?
  • Potentially useful information for someplace nearby, but that I’m not going to. I work near an airport, and it’s repeatedly sent me the terminal layout. (The one time I actually went to the airport, I was already on a shuttle to the remote terminal — which isn’t on that map, incidentally — before it sent me that one. Better than the return trip, though, when it sent me a map after I’d boarded the plane.) Once it tried to help me with a mall restaurant while I was at a different restaurant. Another time it sent me info about a hotel I had driven past.
  • News articles about Trump. As if they’re hard to find. No further info in the notice, just “There is a new article about President Trump.” (Or something along those lines — I don’t recall the exact phrasing.)
  • Premiere dates for two TV shows that I watch. This one impressed me, since it correctly picked out two of three returning shows that I watch, and has not tried to plug anything else. It makes me wonder what it’s mined to figure that out, but I’m impressed it caught the nuance of which two DC/CW shows I watch. (OK, Flash is easy, but it somehow figured out that I was interested in Supergirl but not Arrow or Legends of Tomorrow.)

At this point, I think the experiment has run its course. The only category that’s been consistently useful is the TV premiere schedule… and that only comes up a couple of times a year.

(Ir)replaceable?

I have a bunch of old coffee mugs from TV shows, art museums, even an apartment complex I used to live. In once sense these aren’t replaceable. If I ever break my Mozilla Coffee mug or the “I’m in the middle of fifteen things, all of them annoying” quote from Cmdr. Ivanova, or if I lose the “Venti Schmenti” travel mug from Diedrich’s (a coffee chain that has since been absorbed by Starbucks), that’s it — I can’t get another one.

But I have plenty of other coffee mugs, and there’s no shortage of mugs I could buy to replace them if I had to.

As memorabilia, they’re irreplaceable. Functionally, they’re almost expendable.

It’s interesting to think that they’re both, depending on how you’re looking at them.

Fireworks All Over LA

We went out to a hill to view last night’s Independence Day fireworks after an afternoon at a family barbecue. Some years we go down to the beach for a closer view. This year the process of getting there, finding a parking space (usually very far away), walking all the way down (and all the way back up) with a small child, finding a viewing spot, and afterward spending over an hour to get out through clogged streets just wasn’t appealing.

So we went to a hill a mile or so away, joining a standing throng of people waiting for the local show to start. To the east and southeast we could see distant fireworks lighting up the horizon from San Pedro to Norwalk. Around the corner we could see a similar view of fireworks to the northeast, including Los Angeles proper.

It’s one thing to see one fireworks show at a time. It’s another to look out and see them all along the horizon. It’s unifying, appropriately enough.

We’d only been there a few minutes when the seaside display started. The next ridge of hills blocked the lower fireworks, but we could see most of them above the hill — without the deafening booms and smoke. The wind was blowing inland off the ocean, a smoke plume trailing sideways. As the finale hit, someone nearby set off their own unsanctioned display, to considerable applause.

After it was all over, we stayed for a few minutes, looking out at the more distant displays still going, then walked down the hill to the car and drove home.

The faint boom-boom-boom continued for hours, punctuated every 15-20 minutes by some closer pop! or shriek as someone set something off nearby. Sometime around midnight, it finally tapered off enough that I drifted off to sleep.

Happy New Year

“What do you mean? Do you wish me a happy new year, or mean that it is a happy new year whether I want it or not; or that it is a new year to be happy on?”

“All of them at once.”

— With apologies to JRR Tolkien. (Though I suspect it’s only going to be the first….)

Anaheim GardenWalk: Reinvented?

The Beat’s offhand mention of Anaheim GardenWalk got me curious and I went looking around for more info on the mall’s current status. The last few times I’ve been there, it’s been practically a ghost town: behind the anchor restaurants out front, there were a handful of stores, then nothing, nothing, more nothing, and finally a movie theater way at the back and a Johnny Rockets that probably only stuck it out because it was so close to the theater. (The mall opened in 2008 — very bad timing — and never recovered.)

Apparently they’re trying to reinvent it as a restaurant/entertainment hub, with House of Blues moving over from Downtown Disney and more luxury hotels. (What is it with the luxury hotels?) Edit: I think I’ve been to the old location a half-dozen times, and it did suffer from sightline issues and crowding. They’re taking over part of the movie theater at Garden Walk to build the new venue, which will be bigger, add some seating areas in addition to the standing room, and have some of the side spaces as well. I think the HoB has a better shot than the rest of the mall, honestly.

So I’m not convinced, but if it works out, it could benefit WonderCon next year. It’s not a super-long walk (except in hot weather), and if they have a shuttle for parking like last year, it would make it even easier to get to.

From a comment at The Beat’s article on the Guardians of the Galaxy ride opening at Disney’s California Adventure.