Moral Prevarication

Somewhat belatedly, I noticed over weekend that the CVS drugstore chain has announced they will cease to purvey tobacco. What makes this noteworthy is that this is proclaimed as a morality matter. Which is intriguing since organizations not only don’t have morals, they almost always also don’t have ethics.

The reason given for this withdrawal from the marketplace is that tobacco causes all manner of diseases. So far, accurate. But if they are ceasing to sell tobacco because it causes diseases that kill humans, why are they continuing to sell foodstuffs that are laden with salt, fats, and other ingredients that cause diseases like obesity and heart disease and such? Have they decided these are not fatal or are morally (?) acceptable diseases? And what about homeopathic remedies that don’t cure any diseases? How can they justify such morally since they have discontinued selling tobacco on a moral basis?

I rather suspect that the profit of tobacco is marginal to their business and the demographic askew to their business model. In effect, they don’t want to sell tobacco because it doesn’t make them enough money and the people who buy tobacco don’t spend enough overall in their stores. Which is obviously a quite moral basis of decision. Not enough profit and the wrong clientele has always been fundamental to Amerikan social morality as reasons for exclusion, persecution, and abuse.

Isn’t it nice to know that greed and evil are still rampant among Amerikan corporations?

Shack Sag

I didn’t watch the superbowl, nor am I watching the olympics – vicarious athletics is not my thing; I find them neither entertaining nor educations and hence unworthy of my time and attention span. So I missed the Radio Shack commercials on their reorganization. But I have read about it on-line. And frankly I am bemused.

The dying of Radio Shack is not new. Radio Shack is essentially a child of the great hobby time of the ’50′s and ’60′s. Despite a few Lafayette and Allied stores, who mostly sold kits, Radio Shack was the electronic hobby store, an offshoot of Tandy’s leather working hobby store. It was the place an amateur or small scale professional electronics person, mostly not educated electronics engineers or technicians, went to get parts and the occasional assembly. Except for soldering irons and hand tools they were not a tool store but when you were building an amplifier or a controller of some sort they were the place to go when you suddenly realized that your design was wrong and you needed a major change in componentry.

At this point it should be pretty evident that what made Radio Shack successful was its effective uniqueness. So long as society in Amerika was hobbyist, at least in the hinterland, and there was no competition, Radio Shack was a success. In a sense they were an ideal Amerikan store since most of what they stocked had their name on it and that was the only place you could get it. And the only distance buying was through a store, for something available but not locally stocked.

Sadly the electronics hobbyist thing stuttered. The first strong sign, the first nail in Radio Shack’s coffin, was the transistor radio. That was the first thing wanted by lots of folks that was cheaper to buy built than as a kit or project. By the time that the digital computer became a manufactured thing, and Radio Shack did away with their named line of computers, the lid was hammered down strong. Radio Shack no longer had uniqueness, except for aging electronics hobbyists.

Now, Radio Shack is one among many of electronics retailers who are absent loyalty. Since they no longer warrant the goods they sell – the manufacturer does that – the only loyalty is to the lowest local price. And with the internet and UPS, local is national. At least.

So Radio Shack isn’t going to get well. At least not unless it becomes unique again, and does so where it has no effective competition, and there is no sign that their management knows this or can make it happen.

RIP, Radio Shack.

Lacking Flashlight

Since today is schwarz freitag it seems fitting to discuss an article [Link] I saw the other day on ordering groceries on-line. I should warn that the article is hemistercus. It only applies where it will do harm, not good.

The idea is that while one is waiting for one’s subway connection one can use one’s smartphun to order groceries that will be delivered later.(?)

Based on my (now dated) trips to large cities, never pleasant, I noted that people on the subway will do anything they can to avoid any type of social interaction with anyone else. They apply make-up, read books, abuse themselves, listen to music – until they are knifed or shot by those nearby of differing musical tastes, and eat. The whole idea of the smart phone/tablet as entertainment device is uniquely oriented to this demographic, thus punishing all those people who live not in large cities and ride not subways. Except maybe the Amish and Mennonites? Or do they just not know they’re being punished?

So perhaps using your itty bitty decadent misuse of electronics device to purchase foodstuffs is not orthogonal. But it is a bad idea. It’s MalWart and its job destruction – three for every two created, and at lower pay and worse conditions – writ cosmic. If you go to a large city, in the residential areas, you find lots of dinky small grocery stores. These are never chain businesses. They’re individual. And they are in the business of selling city dwellers, usually on their way home from work, enough groceries for tonight’s supper and tomorrow’s breakfast. And the city dwellers visit these stores every day because they don’t have room in their dinky kitchens to store more food.  And lots of people are employed running these little stores. Because they are labor intensive.

And this scheme wants to put those people out of business. To save those subway riders ten minutes. On a path they have to take anyway from the subway station to home. And eliminate their safety net by destroying those little stores on individual’s blocks. And that’s only part of the evil.

They will only implement this in the big cities. And maybe the dense suburbs. But not out in the sparse hinterland where people have to drive a whole day, getting there and back, to get to a grocery store. I live in a relatively dense area and I have to drive an hour plus to get to Nawth Alibam’s Shining City on the Hill so I can buy the groceries I need. I can’t buy many groceries in Greater Metropolitan Arab. No tofu, no TVP, no granola, or bagels – not that Huntsville’s bagels are all that good, no fresh meat, especially unbrined dinosaur descendants. Just beer and salt laden snack foods and bog stuffers in Greater Metropolitan Arab. Ask for No Salt Added in WalMart and they call the constabulary and have your charged as a domestic terrorist. It’s un-MalWart to net consume five grams of sodium per diem.

But there is a hope. The grocery business is paper thin overhead. So they have cutthroat competition and are continually introducing new products. And advertising isn’t enough to sell new products, at least to all but the slime moldest of bogs. You have to let the consumers touch it on the shelf to enable a purchase. So maybe this thing will be localized. And make living in big cities even more unhealthy. And dangerous.

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Corporate Bubble

Cowardice. That’s me. After yesterday, and the temperature lower today, I did not assay forth to the park for morning constitutional. Instead I sneaked an ansatz on the stationary bicycle in my study here at Castellum SCP. In the process I save a few minutes not enwrapping myself in clothes of the exterior and motoring across and back. Not much but enough to do a bit of Solstice Holiday shopping.

And then I snuck a few emails in and came to a rather startling epiphany: focused advertising is a social fiction!

 You know of what I speak, the promised benefit (????????) of internet civilization that merchants will know what you want to buy – even when you don’t know it yet – and only offer you advertisements of resonant and relevant things and services. You know, all those ‘especially for you’ sliders on Amazon? And it’s all a prevarication!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

My realization started with Amazon, who can’t separate out the occasional – few – things I order for FD SCP from the vast majority that I order for myself and always offers me more in the FD SCP bin than the SCP bin. An artifact of my eclectic tastes and the sparsity of the marketplace, I thought. But the precipice obtruded courtesy of on-line shoe stores that are continually sending me eAdvertisements for shoes that are not available in my size. And if there is anything these merchants should know, it is my size since there is ZERO variance in their records!!!

But then looking at emails from merchants proclaiming that these goods are “special” for me pushed me into the abyss and realization. The whole thing is an elaborate maskarovka! (And yes, that may be redundant, my Russian isn’t that social.) Yes, they do some analysis on what I have bought before, even just looked at, but it isn’t very good analysis – which puts me in mind of the pompous asses who run INFORMS these days. Simply put, all the vast data processing and mining and analysis that is supposed to personalize internet society is largely a fiction, especially once you get a standard deviation out from the mode. It probably only looks convincing to bogs whose cognitive faculties rival slime mold’s. But certainly not that of rational people like geeks and nerds.

In one sense this is quite comforting. All that spying by corporations is obviously superficial, low hanging fruit, and propagandistic. In other words, its advertising and hence utter overt falsehood. Deliberate, evil, inaccuracy. So what they tell you they know is far from any actual semblance of what you are.

But that is also scary because it indicates that if they decide you’re a borderline terrorist or schule berserker then the decision will almost certainly be a false positive. Which means a massive inflation of the phase know as “Punishment of the Innocent” that is part of any project. The epitome of this, right now, is the O’BamaCare web site. The politicians vertically copulated it but that is being covered over with histrionics over STEM malfeasance. It’s an old management trick: keep sacrificing virgins until the people quit looking at the priest.

Enough. Gotta see if there’s a frost or not.

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I can’t feel my nose

A most challenging morning thus far. The temperature is in the 30’s (degF) this morning for the first time since last winter, and the weather beavers are foretelling that tomorrow we may be below the phase change from liquid to solid dihydrogen oxide.

I was off this morning, trying to take my constitutional in the park but I became rather chilled and had to abandon the effort about half-way through. I fear Antarctica is not for me.

Similarly, I note [Link] that the new iPhun 5C is not selling at all well. In fact, it appears to be a bomb or whatever the bogs are calling a failed product this week. That is singularly unintriguing however. What is intriguing is that the reason (?) cited is that the phone is so “cheap” and slime moldish that

“You can’t use the iPhone 5C to make your friends feel bad about themselves”

There is a certain fit to this argument. After all, Apple has established itself as being an elitist product and has developed a rather vacuous clientele – in the main – that have (or are willing to spend) overmuch money for questionable functionality and seem – again, in the main – to lack adequate mental faculties. This represents a rather considerable fraction of bogs and some geeks, who display symptoms of a disease that may be best characterized as hurtful and me-ish. Think ‘valley girl’ but absent the genderism.

I have to admit that I do not fully comprehend the Apple phenomena. I suspect it is like swimming; it cannot be comprehended unless one does it. Successfully. More appropriately, the same can be said for urinary tract infections and that may be a more valid analogy. But it does raise the question of whether the Apple infection can be cured short of nuking the Apple campus?

On a related note, I found an article [Link] – rather splashy and misleading – about some work by Jawgah Tech wonks who had determined that the bladder evacuation time of mammals has a mean of 21 seconds. The catch is: plus or minus 13 seconds. A fact unmentioned in the article. I had to go to ArXiV to read the actual paper, which is only an extended abstract. Dull, but somehow it seems to counterpoint the Apple iPhun thing.

I have to admit to conducting some personal experiments after finding this article. Mostly when FD SCP is out of the area. The 21 seconds seems to be right on for normal daily urinations, but I have found that some urinations greatly exceed the findings of the learned Oglethorpians. Morning urinations upon arising from slumber are considerably longer, greater than a minute in all cases. And urinations after motoring to/from Huntsville are over 40 seconds. I wonder if I should contact the authors? I wonder if I should contact Apple?Of course I should only do the latter if it would make them feel bad.

Not that I consider Apple a friend. Friends have to be human, ofter all, which is something that bogs evidently don’t understand these days. But anyone who is in the business of hurting humans, even bogs, needs to feel bad about it.

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Cold Bashing

OK, it’s pseudo-shabat and the back edge of week out. I have just returned from a moderate constitutional in the park and am mulling the idea of an early cup of warmth. And it is time to cull some tabs.

I start with an inforgraphic [Link] about smart cellular telephone usage and users. It is rather discordant with little apparent organization other than facade – Yea Potemkin! – but it does rather effectively indicate that users of iPhuns are not only whacked but distressingly so. One could almost conclude from this that all iPhun users should immediately be examined for incarceration in a fool farm. Not to say that all iPhun users are such; I know a couple who do have some redeeming social value but the  modalities do suggest that such an examination could increase the sanity fraction of “free” citizenry significantly.

Next, a delightful damnation of MegaHard WORD. [Link] I was infused with warm joy as I read the article, courtesy of a furrin (British, i.e.) author who managed to cover several rather relevant points in a properly corrosive fashion reaching crescendo with

“Its proofing tools and change tracking mechanisms are baroque, buggy, and inadequate for true collaborative document preparation; its outlining and tagging facilities are piteously primitive compared to those required by a novelist or thesis author: and the procrustean dictates of its grammar checker would merely be funny if the ploddingly sophomoric business writing style it mandates were not so widespread.”

I am not sure that the writing style imposed by WORD isn’t a great improvement for the majority of bogs (and a few geeks) whose composition knowledge is somewhere between quantum and microscopic.

I can readily see why I had to read this in a furrin news service. After all, no Amerikan journalist would risk the displeasure of MegaHard by such a cogent critique. With Winders sinking faster than the Titanic after the iceberg of 8, Office is all that MegaHard still has to bring in cash. While I would have made some less pithy comment about the distraction effect of WORD’s controls, there is so much just flat BAD about WORD that it is impossible to write a coherent article covering all its faults. Such an article would be more like one of those tomes documenting the numeric value of pi to a “zillion” decimal places, or enumerating a “gazillion” random numbers.

I was also pleased that the author did not dilute his vitriol with any mention of open source (or even closed source, like WORDPERFECT) alternatives, nor of LaTeX. Of course, one has one’s doubts that a writer of fiction would use the latter since serious academics in the fuzzy disciplines – if that isn’t a contradiction – do not, ostensibly because it is too hard for them to learn. One has to doubt this when one notes the number of different, and bitterly competing, citation systems these folks use. In fact, the only value that this diversity contributes, so far as I can ascertain, is to provide discussion at faculty tea sessions.

On which note, I cry Selah! and cease this blot to add heat to a dihydrogen oxide solution.

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Not ? a Failure

The heat returneth. Yesterday was passable but the weather beavers claim that this week will be an August week and not a May week or an October week. For one, I fear for the sanity of the boggerate when the weather beavers cannot distinguish calendar from weather. Ask them not about climate.

One of my colleagues, Magnetic Inductance Force, was relating how he had taken some of the weather beavers to task for their cavalier misrepresentation of atmospheric optical conditions. It is well known, at least among physicists who have studied or researched atmospheric optics, and Magnetic Inductance Force is certainly one such of these since he has both an absorption line shape and a phase function expansion named for him, that the distinction between haze and fog is visibility – in essence, optical depth. If the optical depth for a distance of one kilometer (for the bogs, approximately 0.62 Amerikan miles – we used to say English miles but the English have exceeded us in unitary intelligence and smarts and adopted the metric system,) is greater than one, then the aerosol condition is considered to be a fog, if less, a haze. The weather beavers seem unable to express this distinction and exhibit, blaringly, no inclination to learn.

One rather conjectures that they are more worried about dentition than professional excellence.

Along such azimuth, we noted this week, [Link] that the tyrant Mark Shuttleworth and his corporate sandbox, Canonical, were unsuccessful in gathering monetary support to market an Ubuntu cellular telephone. Shuttleworth has publicly rationalized this as obtaining publicity and thus not the failure it seems. To quote the great philosopher and comedian, Dr. William Cosby, “Right! How much is a cubit?” Identifying the source is left to the reader as an exercise.

I have been unshy about my dislike for Unity, the almost latest of Shuttleworth’s autarchic opressions. As a desktop environment – GUI – I find it wanting and counter-productive. Intensive study has indicated that this is the result of being a cumulative rather than a sequential worker. But I will concede that Unity might work on a cellular telephone or a tablet. Maybe. But do I want one?

That depends on the choices. I currently have an Android cellular telephone and it is adequate. Also exasperating at times. It requires entirely too much attention focus to operate for what it is intended as – a portable telephone. I realize that this is a tertiary – at best – use for many GEN Y, but for me the primary use is to conduct vocal communications beyond hearing distance. It does have the singular merit of being large enough that I can hear what is transmitted to me and be intelligible to the microphone to transmit to my communicant. This is rare among cellular telephones. Only my first, a Motorola folding brick, also had this necessary geometry/functionality. All the other phones were too small, having to be shifted down to talk and up to hear.

But otherwise, the size is an inconvenience that I can abide so long as someone continues to manufacture belt holsters for me to carry the thing.

Would I swap it for a Unity cellular telephone? I assume that it will also be a touch beast so that convenience/annoyance will not be changed. And I have no illusions of running Libre Office or any other meaningful client on it, or on a tablet. Neither are work platforms. So the question, IMHO, comes down to choices among phone OS.

Would I swap my Android phone for a Unity phone? Probably not. If the choice were an iPhone or a Unity phone I would grab the Unity phone as rapidly as I could without exceeding the speed of light. If the choice were a Unity phone or a Firefox phone, I would almost certainly select the Firefox phone, purely based on the utility of Firefox compared to Unity. Completely one-sided comparison.

So was the Unity phone venture a failure. Not to me, I can assure myself. I suspect Mr. Shuttleworth’s dream of a common OS/GUI for all (bog) electronics is already realized and it is either Chrome/Android or a browser. No good data yet, but I am watching. And enjoying him get punished for his arrogance towards those who have helped him in past.

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What does Amerika have in common with Egypt? As the joke goes, “denial”. From what I can observe, bog are maths denialists and politicians are reality denialists.

What do the two have in common? Obamacare.

To understand this we have to consider an area of maths called catastrophe theory. And no, this doesn’t have to do with sink holes in the Floridas or airplanes crashing in Birmingham or New Yawk. What they have to do is describe relatively rapid changes in conditions. Usually on a localized level. If we put that infunctional terms, a small change in one of the independent variables makes a big – catastrophic – change in the dependent variable.

I know the last paragraph is likely unintelligible to both bogs and pols, no commentary there on intelligence, so we’ll proceed to the case in point.

Obamacare mandates that (for most businesses,) any employee who works 30 or more hours per week gets health insurance coverage. And what the journalists are making big grrr brrr about is how many businesses are cutting employees back to 29 hours per week. There seems to be great surprise. And all the pols are denying any impact or importance.

Now let us consider this from the standpoint of catastrophe theory. There are two stable states for the employers when confronted with increased overhead cost (as applicable to this situation:) they can hire more people and cut everyone back to 29 or fewer hours per week; or they can fire some people and make the other work overtime. And the independent variable that determines which state is relevant? The unemployment fraction.

If unemployment is high and it’s easy to find employees the first state applies. If unemployment is low and it’s hard to find employees the second state applies. And even though the administration says the recover is going it’s still not enough to make it economically preferable to not hire new employees to avoid the cost of Obamacare.


And the NSA is more than welcome to read this blot.

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