15,560 Days

March 27, 2020

15,560 days ago, Elvis Presley had been dead four days and Groucho Marx for one; Jimmy Carter was into the eighth month of his presidency and serial killer Son of Sam had just been captured. On that day, August 20 1977, Voyager 2 was launched into space.

This morning, 15,560 days later, she is about 17 hours 8 light-minutes away from earth, still heading out. She left the Solar System 508 days ago, heading into the Interstellar Medium, and is still sending us valuable data every day.

Voyager 2 was built in 1976-1977 with tools that we would consider archaic today, and yet these days we have trouble keeping a toaster alive for more than six months!

It has been a glorious and useful and enhancing project and I hope it has many more thousands of days to chat with us.


Big Brother IS Watching #2

February 25, 2020

Do you remember Foursquare? I guess it is still around but I haven’t heard of it for quite a while. It was an app that directed you to stores and restaurants close to where you were physically located based on the GPS data supplied by your mobile phone. I was reminded of it when I read this article from Creative Review called Creativity and Programmatic Advertizing.  The article might be a bit inside-the-beltway for those not in the advertising and marketing business, but it includes some extraordinary insights into the kind of information databanks that corporation compile about you and me.

First of all, the definition of “programmatic advertizing”:

“Programmatic advertising offers the chance to connect with the right consumer at the right place and time … Programmatic allows you to run segmented work that will appeal to all of your audiences – it then optimises the creative to the version that best suits a media channel’s audience.”

There is nothing new about the first sentence.  If you are placing ads on the TV show “Sesame Street” you are no doubt aiming at a different audience than if you place the same ad on “The Batchelor,” for example.  Even the second sentence is unoriginal: the ad you place on “The Batchelor” will (or should be) different than the ad you used on “Sesame Street“.

The difference today is the matter of scale.  Old campaigns may have had half-a-dozen different sets of copy and images for various market segments.  Today, technology has exploded that almost infinitely.

“Unilever’s Axe brand in Brazil … recently used programmatic adverts to serve online viewers with up to 100,000 variations of its Romeo Reboot ad.”

The particular variation you get to see is not random, of course. It is designed to appeal specifically to characteristics about you that the advertiser already knows from your purchase history, demographics, browsing profiles, and a million other data points that you don’t even recognize you are giving away.

I have no doubt that within a few years almost every ad will say something like “Hello Jak, here’s a piece of cookware that we know you’ve been thinking about.”  We already get this from Amazon.

I don’t need or want that kind of omniscience from corporations. And it sure makes me think more fondly of those quaint old Foursquare days.


Vinyl Sounds Better But Kills The Planet

January 29, 2020

I know quite a few people who collect vinyl records.  Some, at least, consider themselves on the green end of the ecological spectrum, I am sure.  I wonder if they’ll continue their hobby after reading this disturbing article about the manufacture of PVC and the pollution that production causes.

“The process of producing PVC compound is complicated. There are numerous phases, a campus of buildings, tall silos, deep vats, busy machines, as well as many workers in hardhats, hairnets and safety glasses.

 

“PVC contains carcinogenic chemicals, and the operation produces toxic wastewater that the [world’s primary PVC production] company has been known to pour into the Chao Phraya River according to Greenpeace, which says TPC has “a history of environmental abuses” going back to the early 1990s.”

As in Thailand, the US has a bad history of PVC production:

“In the 70s, the Keysor-Century Corporation, located north of Los Angeles, supplied about 20m kilos of PVC a year to the US record industry. That amounts to about one-third of the total annual amount used in the country at the time.  Keysor-Century was an illegal polluter. The corporation had been under investigation by the Environmental Protection Agency since 1977. It was revisited by the EPA in the early 2000s, this time with the FBI, which resulted in a $4m fine and public apology for lying about exposing workers to toxic fumes, releasing toxic chemicals into the air and dumping toxic wastewater down the drain …

“During the US sales peaks of the LP, cassette and CD, the US recording industry was using almost 60m kilos of plastic a year. Using contemporary averages on greenhouse gas equivalent releases per pound of plastic production, as well as standard weight figures for each of the formats, that is equivalent to more than 140m kilos of greenhouse gas emissions each year, in the US alone. Music, like pretty much everything else, is caught up in petro-capitalism.”

So, environmentally speaking, streaming seems the better choice.

 


The Smartphone Trap

January 11, 2020

As regular readers will be aware, neither the Everloving nor I have ever had a mobile phone.  We are a disappearing breed, it seems, but we seem to manage our daily lives quite efficiently without being tracked by corporations and governments all day.

The fact that we are a vanishing demographic is shown by recent figures from Visual Capitalist indicating that smart phone ownership has reached saturation point:

 

Moreover, the latest numbers show clearly that the point of mobile phones is not (if ever it was) to enhance people-to-people communication but is rather to encourage you to buy more things:

 

I am sure that having a smart phone could add a degree of convenience to our lives, but the cost, for me, is just too high.


An Old View of The House Today

January 4, 2020

When I was a teenager in the 1960s, one of the must-watch shows on TV for me was Tomorrow’s World on the BBC.  Presented without excess or fanfare, it gave me an enormously useful hand hold on science and technology. So I was pleased to come across today a 4-minute segment they broadcast in 1989 with their predictions for household technology in 2020.  They get a few details wrong but I am impressed with just how much they got right 30 years ago.

Well worth watching.


We Lost The North Pole!

December 2, 2019

The Magnetic North Pole is a moveable object; it travels around the globe.  In a previous post, I mentioned that millennia ago it was positioned far south of where we usually suppose it to be.  Now, it has emigrated away from Canada!

According to an article in Forbes magazine,

“What we’ve seen in the past hundred years is that the location of the magnetic North Pole has moved northward. That migration of the magnetic North Pole was switched into overdrive in the past few years, causing the pole to rapidly move … In the recent past, the magnetic North Pole has moved 34 miles a year toward Russia. Just a half-century ago, the magnetic North Pole was wandering about 7 miles each year.”

 

 

Apart from Canada losing this natural asset, the movement of the pole affects a lot in our technological world:

“The [North Pole] model update ensures the accuracy of work in governmental agencies around the world. Specifically, NASA, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the U.S. Forest Service use the magnetic poles in their daily operations from mapping to air traffic control. On a more individual level, smartphones use the magnetic north for GPS location and compass apps.”

I’m sure if the Pole moves rapidly over to China, much of Canada’s media will blame Trudeau for it.


Living Without Electricity

November 29, 2019

I am sure that most people reading this blog hardly give a thought to electricity, excerpt perhaps when the utility bill arrive or a storm disables a few power lines for a day or two.  Having electricity seems as natural and normal as breathing.  But here we are, well into the 2000s, and more than one billion people still don’t have what the rest of us consider an essential necessity.

Here is a map from Virtual Capitalist showing where — mostly in Africa — the lack of power hits home.

Select the image for a larger view.

As the article notes:

“Between 2009 and 2015, solar PV module prices fell by 80%, ushering in a new era of affordability. Solar powered mini-grids don’t just have the potential to bring electricity to new markets, it can also replace the diesel-powered generators commonly used in Africa.”