Advertising to a Post Consumerist

Determining what I really want is hard.  Advertising tries every day and fails miserably.  It’s even hard for me and thus downright impossible for my close family and friends.  Occasionally, my family members will make an unusually inspired choice.  Sometimes this amounts to an item that I didn’t know I wanted but actually really need.  Other times this amounts to something for which I’ve been pining for some time (either overtly or unconsciously).  Maybe they got it just to shut me up…

Watson on Jeopardy

Watson on Jeopardy

A fair question would be: Do my family and close friends “get” me more than Google and other deep-thinking databases of the Interwebs?  This empirical evidence would suggest that they do.  A win for personal relationships over deep data, I suppose.

In a similar vein, I get really annoyed with most advertising.  I would go so far to say that most advertising makes me feel empathy embarrassment for the creator or object of the advertisement.  Regardless of how I feel, though, advertising takes up time and resources for little practical use, in my case.

How do I find myself in this situation?  I don’t want what “people” apparently want.  I say, “apparently” because I definitely don’t understand what people want and the evidence, given by advertisements directed at me, is that I’m expected to want something else.  There may have been a time when I shared some wants with the masses, but they have definitely left me some time ago.

Personal Luxury Submarine

Personal Luxury Submarine

My wants tend you come from two schemas: the practical and the megalomaniacal.  In practical things, I easily show my divergence from the norm.  I don’t want a “new” car.  I research the crap out of most purchases.  Most of my purchases probably represent a long tail process where I ferret out a fairly unique product from a relatively unique vendor.  In many cases, rightly or wrongly, I conclude that doing it myself is the answer.

For the megalomaniacal, see Personal Luxury Submarine.

So, About Advertising

So what’s this about advertising in the title?  Similar to my family’s dilemma each Christmas, it’s really hard to effectively advertise to me.  I’m just not talking about the ad blockers and “no script” that I run in my browsers… And I’m not just talking about my thumb hovering over the “skip” button or scrolling past the loud animations.  I’m not even directly talking about how googling any saleable product  is nearly useless if you are looking for real information.

Wix YouTube Advertising

Wix YouTube Advertising

I’m not even talking about the complete misfires like YouTube trying to push ‘WIX’ (web site creation website) on me.  That’s just completely ridiculous, although it may have played some part in my decision to write this piece.  I have been telling people they need websites since 1995 — so long that it’s no longer, ironically, true anymore.

I’m talking about the fact that most of the things I want are either not advertised and/or that they will require research to locate.  In either case, a significant portion of my budget is spent on items that are not or can not be advertised.

A Non-Advertising Example

I’m excited to be getting into 3D printing, but this is also a great example of my thesis. If you search for 3D printers or read about 3D printers for awhile and then look at the ads that will be thrown at you, your first take will be that 3D printers cost about $1500 and that there are many more expensive and fancy ones.

Since the initial hype surrounding 3D printing has largely passed, there exist articles and videos that will help you find out that 3D printing can be had on a smaller budget.  You may even find some advertisements regarding 3D printers in the $300 to $600 range and you may even find advertisements for supremely cheap 3D printers now.  That is not to say that cheap is good: but rather to introduce that the advertisements are of little interest to me.  At best they can recommend further research.

Prusa Mendel 3D Printer

Prusa Mendel 3D Printer
No Advertising

Given my stated interest in 3D printers, you might assume that I would then be happy with advertisements of 3D printers in my price range.  In this case, you would be wrong.  More intense research led me to  The idea that 3D printing was about making things: real things; things like 3D printers.  Why can’t 3D printers print themselves?

Largely, they can (and do).  Knowing this can save you money.  Knowing this can lead you to understanding your 3D printer at a deeper level.  In the end, I sourced most of my parts from a local industrial fastener store for $60.  I sourced a number of other items on eBay and the remaining from another somewhat-local 3D printing enthusiast.  Advertising didn’t lead me to any  of these conclusions.

Indeed the 3D printer I have chosen has no advertising.  I could be due to the fact that the plans for the printer are available on github.  I could be do to the fact that besides a few 3D printed parts, all the parts required are available from sources that have little or nothing to do with 3D printing — and for a fraction of the price of retail.

Advertising, I Fart in Your General Direction

There exists much crap in the world. We buy crap because it’s made to look nice and it’s continually pushed in our faces.  Like corporate political donations, advertising is largely a negative influence on the world.  Both exist due to the psychopathic disposition of the modern corporation.  Both will continue to exist until we beat them into submission.

The vast majority of people are not well served by advertising: they just don’t know or realize it.  Advertising, is, of course, in the interests of the advertiser.  We even have laws that appear to force the advertiser to “tell the truth.”  Somehow in this madness we call capitalism, though, consumers have lost their powers.  So few of us now research our purchases properly or we assume that the advertising is largely true.  So few of us actually act in our own interests.

The EU, as a counter example, has recently proposed that durable goods be manufactured such that they are repairable and last much longer. This new item, along with many others I’ve heard in the last few months regarding the EU give me hope that some people are rejecting some advertising.  In general, the peoples of the EU are exposed to fewer hours of advertising than those of us living in North America.  This is healthy for people and, in turn, it will be healthy for the planet.

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Factorio Nuclear Reactor Thoughts

Factorio Nuclear Reactors

Factorio Nuclear Reactors

Factorio Nuclear Reactors are a new power source in Factorio 0.15.  For those that have played Factorio, late game setups have included either thousands of steam engines or tens of thousands of solar panels.  This ends up taking both significant production and significant game world space.  While mass production is part of the game, the space taken by the power system often dwarfs by orders of magnitude the other game activity.

With 2 offshore pumps,20 steam boilers, and 40 steam engines, and a big belt of coal you can get neigh 60 megawatts. As you can see on the left, here, It’s a pretty large setup. It’s enough, generally, for the first stage of the game… upto making all the potions, but it starts getting dicey at that point. You certainly want to also be using coal for smelting as this will not provide that level of power.

Factorio Max 2 Pump Steam Setup

Factorio Max 2 Pump Steam Setup

A similar setup with Solar Panels would already be several times larger (and would consume batteries and steel to a much greater extent).

My simple Factorio Nuclear Reactor setup (shown above) provides 40 MW with one Reactor, 160 MW with two, 280 MW with three and 480 MW with four Reactors configured.  I recommend shooting for the two reactor setup to start because the bonuses are just so high.

But… I’m jumping ahead of myself.  You need to get there from the start of your game.  You can’t even mine Uranium until you have a source of Sulfuric Acid.

In the last few attempts at 0.15 Factorio, I’ve found that one trick is to start mining uranium as soon as you have Sulphuric Acid.  There is often a patch that will be covered by one or two miners near your spawn and I run that into a chest. Continue reading

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The Social Inequity of Keurig and Other Cartridge Systems

I’ve been trying to decide what it is that so annoys me about the Keurig and other Cartridge Systems.  At first, one could easily decry the Keurig for environmental waste.  Given their market, however, it was inevitable that they would mitigate this problem.  Too many crunchy-granola types like their fancy coffee or tea.

Social Coffee

Social Coffee

The problem with Keurig has been hovering around the periphery of my  mind for ages… just out of reach.  I saw a cartridge based bread maker for sale in a flyer some time ago, and still draw upon it as an example of what is wrong with society.  I see restaurants serving Keurig and I further decry the demise of life as we know it.

But what is wrong here.  At first blush, it seems to be a solution looking for a problem.  It’s certainly not difficult to make coffee.  Even the difference between making bread, operating a traditional bread-maker and using the cartridge-based bread maker are not that large.

Cartridge based coffee systems were becoming popular in offices more than 10 years ago.  If anything, Keurig took it’s sweet time to appear as a consumer product.  Even before that, coffee machines manufactured swill to order.  If anything, the cartridge-based systems should be hailed as a step up from those efforts.

If you haven’t yet guess from the title, my thesis is that the real cost is social, not environmental.  Coffee is a social beverage.  If I put on a pot of coffee, I am providing a service to the rest of the office while fulfilling my own need.  From the pot, I can pour several cups of coffee and enjoy a moment with other people sharing coffee.  Even those who drink tea are coming to the same area.  I don’t live in England, but I suspect some better work establishments must have a communal pot of tea around.

But the Keurig would have me selfishly make my own cup of coffee — to not share with anyone.  The time it takes the Keurig to brew, while short, precludes the interaction over the fresh hot beverage as I will move on after getting my cup of joe — not wanting to appear lazy by waiting for a coworker’s cup to brew.  Most importantly, Keurig denies me the simple pleasure of making a pot of coffee for other people.

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Seats, Feet and Righteous Indignation — Judgemental Treatment of Others is Unjust

I haven’t been compelled to write something in awhile, but this picture and the accompanying story at the star motivated me. From the article, it seems it’s gone quite viral.  It seems topical in reference to my last article “Life is not Fair.”  Here we have a woman (the article further points out a “white” woman) imposing her views on shared etiquette on a man (the article points out a man of non-white skin) with righteous indignation.  This is ever-so-exactly the type of Fairness Nazi that I was annoyed with.

Feet On Her Seat, Righteous Indignation

Feet On Her Seat, Righteous Indignation

To both inform and save you from the details, the article and attendant viral video, so a young man with his feet on the seat of a apparently mostly empty subway car in Toronto.  Enter a woman who sees this and decides to “teach him a lesson” by sitting on his feet.  Then this all escalates.  He pushes, she presses the panic stop for the train, security comes.  Entertainment for the masses and apparently validation of righteous indignation and judgement for some who view it.

It’s not that she may not have a point (she may).  It’s also not that the power dynamic maybe skewed (it may).  There’s a principle here.  Taking from my Christian background (and I”m not well versed enough to know how ubiquitous this concept is, but I choose to believe that it is shared), Jesus teaches that it is not our place to judge. Continue reading

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Life is not Fair

Life is Not Fair

Life is Not Fair

Humans have a strong sense of fairness. To be fair is to be in balance with one’s fellow humans. Like any metric involving humans, however, fairness suffers from having too much just as much as having too little.

To little real fairness exists in the world at large. Protests, violence, injury and death mark the chasm between black and white, rich and poor, man and woman, privileged and common. It can accurately be said that life, taken in aggregate, is more unfair now than at any time in human history.

But this article aims to talk about the issue of too much fairness or being fair when it is uncalled-for.  This is the point where people look at their fellow human and want to take an action to make things incrementally more fair between them.  Said this way, it seems like meddling.

In defense of my thesis, I’m not writing about a protest to change a company’s policies towards groups of people.  We must protest for fairness among large groups of people.  It is fundamental to our health as a society that we continue to correct these issues.  Rather I’m considering the urge, in humans, to change singular other humans’ behavior. Continue reading

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Day Break Mill: Searching for Red Fife Wheat…

Day Break Mill

Day Break Mill

I’ve been searching online for places to buy Red Fife flour and my search lead me to the page of Day Break Mill.  I immediately hit the “contact us” button so that I could determine where they were.  While I get the picture: it’s in Saskatchewan, still.. did someone think this was a good configuration for the google widget?

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SlowCooker: Pulled Pork: Sauce Made of Sauces.

Pulled Pork Almost Done

Pulled Pork Almost Done

I was leafing through recipe ideas the other day and came across Pulled Pork for the SlowCooker.  The slowcooker is great for soups and stews and I always enjoy finding another recipe for it.  Pulled pork is traditionally a southern barbeque dish where an otherwise tough cut of pork is slowly cooked in various juices until tender and then ripped apart or “pulled.”

In our case, we had a pork loin (not normally a candidate) that was moderately freezer burnt (perfect).  The long cooking and hydration of the sauce compensated perfectly for the freezer burn. Continue reading

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Truthiness: of Rights and Wrongs

Truthiness feels good

Truthiness feels good!

Truthiness.  I love this word.  It encapsulates all that is wrong with the American Religious Right.  I’ve been thinking around how to talk about this scourge and received insight from a common (for me) source: The Economist has a book review of “The Battle for Yellowstone” by Justin Farrell. The essence of this book, according to the review (I really need to read the book), is to talk about the problems with politics in America without actually talking about politics in America.

It is absolutely true that the best ways to talk about a difficult topic is by talking about something else entirely.  I’m not just talking about avoidance (a viable strategy — a head in the sand is worth two in the bush), but about the substitution inherent in most good fiction and especially science fiction.

The book, according to the economist, discusses how each group in the variety of disputes surrounding Yellowstone frame their argument as truth against falsehoods while they are really arguing moral right versus moral wrong.  The Wikipedia article on Truthiness echos this point where Colbert (widely considered to have coined the term in common usage) discusses the way each faction desires to bring it’s own facts to the political debate, rather than all factions arguing the correct action against an accepted set of facts.

I had actually chosen the word Truthiness before I had read the Colbert quotes and cogitated on how they meshed with the theme.  I’ve been cogitating for some time on the inappropriateness of Truthiness.  I see the problems: that things have become complex enough; so far beyond most people’s education and experience that they are easily duped by those who would manipulate their views.  The problem is not that some people will attempt to manipulate other people — that will always be true.  The problem is that so few people in society as a whole have any quality of horsehockey filter.

The stated goal of public education is to prepare each child for the life of a citizen.  In generally avoiding classes in civics, they have failed this task. The Huffington Post has a good primer on the subject of public school policy.

How did we get here, or more pertinently, how do we get out.  For good or for ill, large groups of politicians and voters distrust scientists.  Has the daily barrage of issues become to fierce for saner heads prevailing in investigation and debate?  How did it come that arguing about right and wrong was not enough for some to invent new “facts” so as to be able to argue about what is truth?

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Rack of Lamb: Moroccan Spice

Moroccan Rack of Lamb on Plate

Moroccan Rack of Lamb on Plate

A little cooking diversion: A Moroccan Spiced Rack of Lamb.  I have some more stand-mixer baking to do, but my most recent attempt was lack-luster.  More about that when I get it right.  This article is about our new year’s eve meal.  I wanted to do something fairly special withtout being too expensive.  As these “french cut” rack-of-lambs were on special, they fit the bill.

A stock attempt at lamb … rosemary, maybe some dill, olive oil … it seemed below these wonderful cuts.  I spent some time talking with my sister about this and she google-texted me a recipe from somewhere — I can’t exactly tell, but it sounded wonderful.  However, it was new years eve and it wanted pomegranate juice.  I don’t keep that around.  Looking at the recipe, I decided that the juice was used for it’s sweetness.  I decided to substitute “Waterloo Dark” … which is a Canadian beer with a sweet almost candy-like taste.  I also had some “Mad Tom IPA” that I’ve been trying to find recipes to get rid of it in — but it has a decidedly bitter finish, so I expected it wouldn’t be appropriate here.  While I don’t like Mad Tom, Muskoka Cream Ale is the definitive Cream Ale for me. Continue reading

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Stand-Mixer #2 White Bread

Stand-Mixer White Bread

Stand-Mixer White Bread

Since the stand-mixer cheese biscuits were such an unqualified success, we managed to pick up some yeast to facilitate some bread making.  First up is some “plain old” white bread.  Besides the fact that I am actually white, ango-saxon and (somewhat) protestant (depending on who you ask), I really enjoy fresh white bread.  It’s like sugar or a good light beer; melt butter on hot fresh white bread and it’s an experience.

Right after I removed the bread from the oven, I cut off the crust, buttered it and cut it in half to share with my wife.  In part, this cements the usefulness of the stand-mixer in the kitchen; and it part it also cements it useful that I use it to make yummy things.  The crust on a freshly hot loaf is crunchy and wonderful.  You should try it when you make it! Continue reading

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