Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Failure of Education: Another Example

Get yours today!
photo by Oliver Wright
I just had a robo-call from some local organization promoting the adoption of pets.

But what they promoted instead was an adoption event for big pets.

That's the difference between a "mega-pet adoption event" and a "pet-adoption mega-event."

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Something Important That I Read

Some time back, a New Yorker book reviewer recommended a book called The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires, by Tim Wu. Wu is a professor at Columbia University. The book is largely a history of such communications businesses as AT&T and the television networks, but that last chapter deals largely with the Internet and technology businesses. It's a pretty well-written and interesting book, though with rather a few too many editing shortfalls, like his constant use of continuity devices that might be appropriate in a classroom, spread over a semester, but get tedious when crammed together in such numbers in the space of 300 pages.

But this isn't really a book review; this blog post is intended to reiterate a point he makes near the end of his book. I think it's important, and want as many people as possible to consider it, think about it, and, after deciding its merits for themselves, bring their actions into conformity with their own beliefs.

Writing about the iPod, the iPhone, and the iPad, he says the following, which I quote in full:

Lest these examples be taken amiss, let me speak plainly: These are amazing machines. They make available an incredible variety of content — video, music, technology — with an intuitive interface that is a pleasure to use. But they are also machines whose soul is profoundly different from that of any other personal computer, let alone [Steve] Wozniak's Apple II. For all their glamour, these appliances are a betrayal of the inspiration behind that pathbreaking device, which was fundamentally meant to empower its users, not control them. That proposition may appeal to geeks more than to the average person, but anyone can appreciate the sentiment behind putting enormous power at the discretion of any individual. The owner of an iPod or iPad is in a fundamentally different position: his machine may have far more computational power than a PC of a decade ago, but it is designed for consumption, not creation. Or, as [Popular Science writer Tom] Conlon declared vehemently, "Once we replace the personal computer with a closed-platform device such as the iPad, we replace freedom, choice and the free market with oppression, censorship and monopoly.

(at pp. 292-93).

Think about it.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Kill Your Dog For (Their) Profit

It's not that long ago — less than five years — that pet owners around the country were upset because a few thousand tainted pet products from China got into the market here, and some dogs died. Chinese manufacturers have a pretty poor reputation for meeting our safety standards in general, and that reputation was acquired largely as a result of the poisoned chew-sticks and toothpaste and lead paint that made the news all around the same time.

Why I care.
One result of the flap was that China suddenly started enforcing the standards that it supposedly had been enforcing all along. (And how long did that last?) Another result was that some pet owners — me, for example — refuse to buy chewsticks made in China.

So how does our government, which exists to "promote the general Welfare," respond to the problem of untrustworthy products?

It changes the package-labelling rules, so that pet products no longer have to state the country of manufacture.

Who does that help?

Complain. Complain to your pet-shop manager, and to the grocer that sells pet products. Complain to your senators and representatives. Complain to the FDA, which regulates the pet-food industry in this country. Complain to NestlĂ©, which now owns Purina; complain to Del Monte, which now owns Heinz; complain to MasterFoods, which owns Mars, Inc., and manufactures a number of pet-supply lines; complain to Procter and Gamble, which makes Iams, and to Colgate-Palmolive, which makes Science Diet; and complain to the other manufacturers of pet supplies. Complain often.

Here's a list of dog-food manufacturers; most of them make cat food, too.