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Dear Samsung,

I have owned a Samsung S6 smartphone for several years. Permit me to offer an appraisal of this device.

Satisfactory Attributes

  1. Satisfactory reliability
  2. Appearance, size, and weight.
  3. Fits in most shirt pockets for maximum personal utility.
  4. Several useful functions and features.
  5. A QWERTY keyboard for faster texting.
  6. Takes video and stills.
  7. Sends video and jpeg files.

Unsatisfactory Attributes

  1. Bad, bad ergonomics overall.
  2. Silicone protective cases prevent easy insertion into shirt pockets.
  3. No inactive margin on screen side by which to hold the phone without activating some feature.
  4. In general the worst ergonomics possible for a camera. It would be difficult to worsen the design.
  5. Subject to mandatory creeping featurism. This is a type of cancer.
  6. Screen difficult or impossible to see in outdoor daylight.
  7. Too many features. In this regard it resembles a universal kitchen tool. Eventually you realize that all you really wanted was to dice the potatoes.
  8. I frequently lose photographic opportunities because the f*cking camera was inadvertently toggled into some other mode, preventing activation of the “shutter”. See #3, this section. !%#@*&@#*&!

What do I really want?

  1. A flip phone that has a QWERTY keyboard, or
  2. A good purpose-built camera that offers basic telephony.

Why do I continue to use it?

  1. Expectation of accessibility by family, friends, and employer.
  2. Connection with friends and distant family via facebook.

Summation

Samsung, I pity you because you are stuck on the endless treadmill of ever increasing novelty. Because of this users are forced to adapt to updates of the Système du jour. I only wish that S6 purchase transactions would change in like manner. Listening to Samsung bitch about having to alter their enterprise system annually to accommodate the hidden needs of unknown organizations would bring a bit of cheer in a sadistic kind of way.

 

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Much as I would like to indulge in witty and ironic commentary about the results of the 2016 general election, it would be yet another steaming load of pathetic word paste gumming up the internet. There are no words or sentences you could construct that would make a meaningful difference in the direction our wobbling American culture seems headed for.

I’m left with the conclusion that only civil disobedience can disrupt the unholy congress of corporate media, banking, energy and the foetid red-light district of governmental-industrial conjugation. After all, aren’t the B-school gurus always going on about disruption? It’s good, right?

Could it be that donors and lobbyists amount to a 3rd house of Congress?

Enormous corporations, it seems, no longer have need of our democratic republic. Fortunes are stashed abroad, sheltered in tax havens lest a slice finds its way into public kitty. Thanks for the use of American infrastructure- you know, public education, Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Border Patrol, FBI, FDA, NIH, NASA, NSF, public highways, airways, NOAA, etc., etc. Deregulation is creeping forward. We live in a period of reconstruction. Neoliberal doctrines have taken hold and may be near a critical mass in state legislatures, perhaps to bring a modern constitutional convention.

America has become a big barrel of fish, stunned by the high voltage of short life-cycle electronic marvels and easily harvested. We’ve become increasingly compliant with the tightening harness of ever advancing complexity and the cloying whispers of big data.

Neoliberalism has its flying leathers on and wants to take flight. There are minerals to extract, civic institutions to suffocate and public lands to privatize. Like the quivering desire of a lusty 18 year old, capitalism knows only one thing- that it wants more. Always more and in bigger gulps. The second derivative dollars over time must be greater than zero in perpetuity. Our brains soon grow tired of static luxury and comfort. Satisfaction, like our lives, is only transient.

The invisible hand of the market, we’re told, will surely trickle down a baptism of unexpected benefits to the masses, if only the rotten buggers would let the acquisitive have their way. After all, if your taxes are lower, the first thing a business owner will do is to add hirelings. Yes?

Wait a minute … if business is flat, why add staff? Why not keep the premium handed to you by the 99%?  Hmmm.

The gospel of laissez-faire is practically physics, you know. A force of nature both inevitable and irreducible.

Taking to the streets is a form of persuasion that has rewarded many movements here and abroad. In thermodynamics, power is the rate at which work is done through the transfer of energy resources. Anthropological power lies in the ability to allocate and focus resources on a need or desire. Money is power because for a price, you can persuade someone to get most anything done. There is no shortage of those who would step up to the challenge or sell their souls or accept any spiritual disfigurement for the hefty feel of lucre in their hands.

If the tin ear of corporate media are deaf to the reasoned voices of those who don’t buy advertising, then what is left for us to do? Elect a businessmen? This general election cycle a species of disrupter was elected president. This charismatic fellow can work a crowd like Castro or Hugo Chavez or Mussolini or (add your own dictator)? A large crowd in the spell of a colorful and grandiose orator seeking high office meets the show business definition of “compelling.” If the event results in fisticuffs or tempers flaring like Roman candles, so much the better.

Electronic news broadcasting is really just show business. A key element of a good story is conflict. Look at any movie. The writers take a sympathetic character and do terrible things to them. There is a chase, violence and intrigue, reconciliation and a twisty ending. Sound familiar? TV is made to do this and they are good at it. And it sells. Watch Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent.

Civil disobedience, as opposed to picketing, makes meaty footage because there is the possibility of imminent violent conflict. It is compelling. As an exercise in power, though, immediate resolution rarely happens. The power aspect comes to play when and if the establishment is forced to confront awkward questions. Often establishment authority is refractory to public scrutiny. Other times it folds like a lawn chair.

 

 

 

So Tejas governor Rick Perry is going to throw his hat into the ring for the republican nomination. Really, people?  Are you kidding me? A smarmy, neo-confederate, evangelical Texican praying for a resolution to the debt crisis? I have no doubt that Jesus Christ himself would tell us in lilting Aramaic to pull our thumbs out of our asses and reach for a settlement, not stand around in a stadium groveling for forgiveness of our sins with outstretched arms. Fix the bloody thing and save your wishes prayers for grandma’s recovery from hip surgery.

Christians should be grateful for the concept of sin. The whole religion is built on it. Sin is the denominator of Christianity- if it collapses to zero the whole religion becomes undefined. Without sin, our cherished fraternal hatreds would resolve to mere anthropology and lose that zesty cosmic fizz that we so enjoy.

Here is a link to a great review of Anthony Bourdains latest book, Medium Raw. If you have the chance, read Kitchen Confidential.

The University of California system is pushing back on price increases by publishers of periodicals. Let’s hope they have some success. Why do researchers just hand over copyright of their work, anyway? The public finances the work and then the public has to pay to read the results.

Think the internet is giving you a short attention span? Steven Pinker doesn’t think so.

Why are the British so rude? Are they naughty by nature? I have my own views on that, thank you.

Looking to upgrade your collection of Soviet Posters?

I’m glad to hear that the US and Russia have decided, in principle anyway, to dial in another notch of reduction in nuclear arms. I think it is hard for people to fathom the magnitude of the effects of nuclear weapons or to estimate how many are really necessary to bring an adversary to submission. You don’t have to knock down every city, crater every underground installation, or bounce every bit of rubble to rattle an enemy state to the point where they sue for peace.

But enough of this heady atomic theatre. I have my own nuclear policy. You see, I’m generally in favor of the extreme reduction of nuclear warheads to maybe less than 100. But I must insist that a few be kept aside for the purposes of bringing the hammer down on those who would devise computer viruses.

Yes, individuals or groups who devise malicious code to infect computers should live in fear that tactical nuclear hellfire could rain down upon their greasy, pointed heads at any moment. People who initiate malicious code should be regarded as international combatants-against-humanity with bounties on their heads.

Microsoft should be required to post a kind of bond for the purposes of reimbursing society for the countless hours of time lost waiting for anti-virus software to come out of scan-mode so your computer can function in the manner it is designed to work.

The dark collusion between Microsoft and the plurality of organizations thriving on the weakness of MS products should be brought to the surface for all to see. Apparently, nobody really wants to see a virus-proof OS dominate the market. It would bring too many vendors to ruin. And, too many 20-somethings holed-up in the dark, fetid recesses of the internet would have to find honest work with their skills.

As I lay reclined in the chair looking up at the blue sky and the palm tree,  I found myself wincing at the tugging at my head. Cool water splashed my face and ran past my ears and down my neck. A face came into view and peered intently at me.  Against the hushed conversation in the background a sound track played a vocal piece by Cher, no doubt the one in which she appeared in some black gauze and tape outfit while lip synching on a navy battleship.

For me this Cher video remains high on the list of most convincing bits of evidence that there is no God in heaven. Surely no master plan for the universe can include this performance.

Suddenly a shrill, piercing whine zinged into my consciousness and resonated in my skull. The sonic waves seemed to converge to a focus on my auditory apparatus. As bad as it was, it did  block the Cher sound track and for that I was grateful.

I looked away from the illuminated image of the palm tree in the ceiling light panel and focused on the looming snout of the dental hygienist. Sitting over two coal black nasal passages I could see twin distorted reflections in her glasses.  A gaping oral cavity ringed with teeth and filled with fingers and tools. The ultrasonic device that she was using conducted mind numbing vibrations into my head all the while irrigating my face.

Just another day.

Over at CNN.com there is an excellent post by the security expert Bruce Schneier. Finally, somebody has spoken what must be said. Schneier, by the way, was the one who invented the Blowfish encryption algorithm.

“Security theater” refers to security measures that make people feel more secure without doing anything to actually improve their security. An example: the photo ID checks that have sprung up in office buildings. No one has ever explained why verifying that someone has a photo ID provides any actual security, but it looks like security to have a uniformed guard-for-hire looking at ID cards …

Despite fearful rhetoric to the contrary, terrorism is not a transcendent threat. A terrorist attack cannot possibly destroy a country’s way of life; it’s only our reaction to that attack that can do that kind of damage. The more we undermine our own laws, the more we convert our buildings into fortresses, the more we reduce the freedoms and liberties at the foundation of our societies, the more we’re doing the terrorists’ job for them. –Bruce Schneier

My take on Schneier’s thesis is that the public, i.e., the teeming masses, must not allow the many arms of government to further tighten its grip on our liberties. Liberties once taken are hard to recover. The combination of media sensationalism, advanced information gathering, and authoritarian reflex is driving the USA into a permanent security state. A mature and thinking public must buffer the exaggerations and sensationalism that is broadcast into our homes every minute of every day.

Counterterrorism is also hard, especially when we’re psychologically prone to muck it up. Since 9/11, we’ve embarked on strategies of defending specific targets against specific tactics, overreacting to every terrorist video, stoking fear, demonizing ethnic groups, and treating the terrorists as if they were legitimate military opponents who could actually destroy a country or a way of life — all of this plays into the hands of terrorists. –Bruce Schneier

By closely following the exploits of a handful of radicals as though they could bring down our civilization, we legitimize their efforts as being worthy of our sustained attention. These are low frequency high visibility events.  Unfortunately, lingering and repeated gawking at sensational events against a constant buzz of soaring narrative is what television does best.

The play opens in two weeks so rehearsal is getting intense. My brain has some kind of grip on the lines, but it is a delicate grasp and subject to fumbling. Rote memorization is not my strength.

The play was made into a movie by RKO in 1938 and starred the Marx Brothers. They made it look easy. The madcap and rapidfire banter is really quite difficult for a drudge like me. I have to work at it. Luckily, I have minor roles and only 10 minutes of stage time.

There is a big difference between doing voices for a reading and actually acting out the role with 3 or 4 other actors on stage. My previous two plays have only gotten me to the point where I do not faint or wet myself on stage. But realistically, I suppose, the last two weeks are when a play shapes up in rehearsal.  Maybe there is hope.

After an insane week in the lab a road trip to the cool meadows of the nearby mountain range was just what the doctor called for. It was the last weekend before the family- one teacher and one kid-  return to school. Summer break 2009 is history.

We piled in the car and pointed it uphill towards Leadville, Colorado. The planetary atmosphere thinly blankets this insanely high mountain city. It was just what I needed to clear my scrambled mind. Nothing like blinding sunshine and mild oxygen starvation to reset a brain in chronic spasm from sensory overload. 

Leadville sits at 10,152 feet above sea level.  If you doubt the effect on your stamina, just take a short sprint in any direction. Or just plod up the stairs of your hotel. Lordy.  All of those business dinners- all that lovely Cabernet and creme brulee- and years of driving a desk have caught up with me.

Leadville is located in the Colorado mineral belt and began to populate with fortune seakers about the time of the Colorado gold rush in 1859. Some placer gold was found in the streams, particularly in what was then called California Gulch, but for the most part Leadville became a silver camp.

In 1874, two investors with metallurgical training, Alvinius B. Woods and William H. Stevens arrived in Leadville and analyzed the muds found in the local sluicing operations. According to A Companion to the American West, edited by William Francis Deverell, (2004, Blackwell Publishing, ISBN 0-631-21357-0, p. 319)  Woods and Stevens found the heavy black mud so problematic for gold sluicing was in fact composed of lead carbonate with high levels of silver.  Woods and Stevens invested $50,000, quietly buying as many claims as they could and began hydraulic mining operations immediately.

By 1890 there were nearly 90 mines in operation employing 6000 miners. At its peak there were 14 smelter operations supporting the mines. Leadville was a genuine boom town with the expected mix of characters.

A mine is a hole in the ground with a liar standing at the top.

All mining towns have characters who go on to dominate local legends and stories. Among the well-known-for-being-famous rags to riches to rags players in Leadville are Horace and Agusta Tabor, along with Horace’s mistress and 2nd wife, Elizabeth “Baby Doe”.

To make a long story short, Horace was a struggling shop keeper who invested in a mine east of Leadville. Though it was salted by the previous owner to entice buyers, Tabor dug 25 ft further down the shaft and struck a rich and extensive vein of silver ore.  The operation was called the Matchless Mine, after Tabor’s favorite brand of chewing tobacco.

According to the tour operators, Tabor operated the Matchless Mine 24/7 for 13 years, pulling an average of $2000/day of silver out of it. At its peak, the mine is said to have employed 100 people. Miners were paid the common rate of $3.00 per day to climb 365 ft to the bottom of the shaft for 12 hour shifts.

Matchless Mine Surface Workings

Matchless Mine Surface Workings

Gangue Dump Detail

Tailings Dump Detail

The underground workings of the mine followed the vein structure and focused on sending concentrated ore to the surface. Buckets carrying approximately one ton of ore per load (my estimate) were tipped into ore carts and rolled into the ore house for hand sorting. The most highly concentrated and valuable ore was dumped down a chute for loading into a rail car and the gangue (or tailings) was dumped into the gulch.  

An assay building (not shown) was on site to provide a continuous assay and accounting of silver sent to the smelter in Pueblo, Colorado. Unlike many other mine operators, Tabor owned a rail operation and had a spur at the mine for pickup and delivery of ore. Many mine operators had to employ mule-skinners to cart wagon loads of ore to a rail siding for transport to the nearest smelter.

In 1893 the repeal of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act and the collapse of the railroad industry bubble were part of a panic that lead to a crash in silver prices. Tabor lost everything and, as a respected public figure, was appointed postmaster of Denver for a short time. Eventually Tabor died at age 69 in 1899. Ex-wife Agusta had invested her divorce settlement wisely in Denver and lived comfortably. Widow Baby Doe Tabor was found frozen stiff in her shack at the Matchless Mine in 1935.

Matchless Mine Shack

Matchless Mine Shack

All of the digging from the boom time of Leadville has left an enduring legacy for those who live in the watershed. Much of the mining activity occurred uphill, east of the city and as a result, that area is pock marked with many large colorful tailings heaps. While the colors are interesting to ponder and sample, the ground and surface waters are greatly affected by aqueous extraction of metals from these piles.

If you stand next to one of these heaps, you can’t help but notice the smell of sulfur. The ore and tailings are enriched in sulfides and once exposed to air and water, oxidation occurs to make corrosive runoff. This is a kind of heap leaching phenomenon that will eventually exhaust itself, but only at the cost of water quality.

Boomtown Legacy

Boomtown Legacy (Copyright 2009 All rights reserved)

I’ve been too busy inserting Mg into R-X bonds to pay attention to the www. The DSC is on the fritz and the ethernet is playing games with my TGA.  I need to run an FTNMR and a GCMS of my cpd ASAP. Luckily the HPLC is still spewing out results. I treated my headache with NSAID’s but my ADD is flaring up. The Jeep is in the shop, DOA, and I’m PO’d.  I need to gin up a procedure for the ARC and RC-1 tests. And, worst of all, I’m out of concentrated givashit. SSDD.

So there.

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