Tag Archives: computers

3-D Food Printers: A Delicious Solution


“Imports by airplane have a substantial impact on global warming pollution. In 2005, the import of fruits, nuts, and vegetables into California by airplane released more than 70,000 tons of CO2, which is equivalent to more than 12,000 cars on the road.” according to Food Hub. Rather than reducing the impacts of food transportation, with 3-D printing we could eliminate them.

“Imagine being able to essentially ‘grow’, ‘cook’ or prepare foods without the negative industrial impact – everything from fertilizers to saute pans and even packaging,” says Homaro Cantu, chef and owner of the Moto Restaurant in Chicago, Illinois, who has printed sushi using an ink jet printer. “You can imagine a 3D printer making homemade apple pie without the need for farming the apples, fertilizing, transporting, refrigerating, packaging, fabricating, cooking, serving and the need for all of the materials in these processes like cars, trucks, pans, coolers, etc,” he adds.

Continue reading 3-D Food Printers: A Delicious Solution

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Lessons in Business from South Park


South Park is a well-known comedy program on Comedy Central intended for mature audiences. The creators of South Park, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, use dark humor, crude language, and a wide-variety of satire in their show which is based off of the adventures of four fourth grade boys who live in a small Colorado town called South Park.

Stone and Parker take pride in their fearlessness to poke fun at any sort of popular topic whether it is a person, place, organization, religion, etc. They have invited disapproval and sometimes courses of legal action from countless entities including the Church of Scientology, the NCAA, the Roman Catholic Church, Canada, Tom Cruise, Martha Stewart, PETA, and the list goes on.

Episode 09 of season 08 is titled “Something Wall Mart This Way Comes.” The “target” of this episode is not surprisingly the multinational retail giant, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. Stone and Parker have done multiple episodes about corporate America including taking the pro-corporation stance in Season 02, which is controversial considering their studio is located in the overwhelmingly anti-corporation area of Hollywood, California. This episode, however, shows the giant retailer in a more negative light.

The episode begins with excited anticipation from South Park’s citizens as their new Wall Mart is about to open for business. One character says, “It’s like we’re a real town now.” I find this to be one of the most truthful lines of the episode. I have personally measured a town’s “relativity” by how far away they are from the nearest Wal-Mart. I spent my summer playing baseball in a very small town in upstate New York. The town is literally called Boonville. Their nearest Wal-Mart was about 40 miles away which is the first example I would use when trying to convey the middle-of-nowhere-ness to other people.

Continuing with the episode, the people of South Park cannot stop shopping at Wall Mart because of its incredible bargains. One character boasts about having, “Enough bulk Ramen to last 1,000 winters.” One of the boys, Stan Marsh, asks his father, Randy, how Wall Mart is able to sell things for much less than South Park’s local stores. Randy replies, “It’s simple economics son, I don’t understand it at all.” This symbolizes how the average American consumer really does not understand the ins and outs of the corporations at which they shop every day.

Eventually the main street in South Park becomes a ghost-town. All of the local businesses have been forced to close because they cannot compete with the low prices of Wall Mart. The people of South Park, although hopelessly addicted to shopping at the Wall Mart which is now being portrayed with dark, ominous clouds and flashes of lightning combined with typical evil-sounding music, realize that the store needs to be stopped. They have a town meeting and agree to discontinue shopping at Wall Mart; however they cannot resist the calling of wondrous bargains from the Wall Mart which has seemed to develop its own eerie persona. Follow the link to view the clip from the episode to see how the people of South Park just cannot resist shopping at Wall Mart (could not embed video).

“Well where else was I supposed to get a napkin dispenser at 9:30 at night?” This line perfectly sums up how people think of Wal-Mart as well as how Wal-Mart wants to be thought of by people. After the town burns down the Wall Mart, another one is rebuilt and opened the very next day. The boys are determined to stop the powerful retailer and embark on an adventure to Wall Mart’s headquarters in Arkansas. Meanwhile, Randy quit his job as a geologist to become a store clerk at Wall Mart in order to receive the 10% employee discount.

The boys learn from a disheveled and regretful Wall Mart President that only way the Wall Mart can be stopped is to destroy its heart. Many have attempted this feat but no one has ever been able to restrain themselves from the amazing deals long enough to accomplish the task. Determined more than ever, the boys set out to destroy the Wall Mart in South Park. In their journey to find the heart of Wall Mart, they are ambushed with slashed prices and unbelievable deals. Miraculously, the boys find the location of the heart which is just past a huge sale for plasma screen TVs. In a dramatic unveiling process, it is revealed that the heart of the Wall Mart is simply a mirror. The true heart of the Wall Mart is the consumer. It is desire. The Wall Mart can take many forms, whether it be Target, K-mart, or even Amazon, but it is the consumer who ultimately breaths life into the giant retailer.

The message(s) in this episode could not be clearer. Many people do not support large corporations like Wal-Mart because they force smaller local shops out of business. But Wal-Mart could not have become the super power that it is without the average consumer. If they have grown from one store to become the largest retailer in the world, and people continue to flood the store, then they must be doing something right. After all, the true heart of Wal-Mart is the consumer. Their goal is not to bankrupt small businesses across the country. They simply give the consumer what they want which is an opportunity to consume while also being able to stretch their income. At the end of the episode, Randy says, “The Wall Mart is us. If we like our small-town charm more than the big corporate bullies, we all have to be willing to pay a little bit more.” This is essentially a play on Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand as the town is not suggesting government intervention; rather they suggest letting the free market system work and guide itself.

If you are like me and enjoy comedic satire then I strongly suggest watching this episode of South Park if you have not already. For another take on American capitalism, I suggest “Gnomes” which is season 02 episode 17. In this episode, Stone and Parker defend capitalism when a large coffee chain called Harbucks enters the town and threatens to put the local Tweak Bros. coffee shop out of business. For more on the actual application of South Park lessons, visit this link which is an article written by Paul A. Cantor, an English professor at the University of Virginia, who uses South Park in his lectures.

The clip from the episode can be found here

The featured image can be found here

Here is an actual embedded clip (Jordi)

China Working Conditions Podcast


After listening to the podcast by NPR, I was surprised and somewhat appalled by the conditions Chinese workers manufacture technology products in. Though the speaker, Mike Daisey, certainly had a bias, the working environment and dormitories sound challenging and detrimental to living a happy life. During the speaking portion, where Daisey talks about his findings during his visit to FoxConn, the fact I found most horrific was the installation of suicide nets. Though it seems the suicide rates at Foxconn are about the same as the suicide rate across all of China, it speaks to a serious problem that suicide nets needed to be installed. Continue reading China Working Conditions Podcast

Individuals


While this podcast was not the first I have heard of the harsh working conditions in less developed countries, it did paint a much more vivid picture of what happens there. First, I struggled to conceptualize just how big these factories are. The sheer volume of people who enter/exit (and eat!) in that space is truly astonishing. Even though the original 10,000 people in each of 20 cafeterias was later corrected, it still stands to show just how enormous the factories in Shenzhen are.

Continue reading Individuals

1984


1984.

For George Orwell, it was the year symbolic of an oncoming communist future.

For Apple, it was a year in which they were still the underdog.

Had Apple’s famous 1984 Superbowl commercial ran this year, the reaction would’ve been entirely different. In 1894, Apple was a fledgling company who made cheerful computers with monitors rounded to mirror the human face. Today, Apple is a giant whose products we have become completely reliant on and whose secrecy masks user data misuse and child labor in China.

Today’s Big Brother isn’t Microsoft–it’s Apple.

All Apple products are manufactured in China. We know this. We know that they’re probably made by people that are overworked and underpaid, but we don’t really know to what extent.  The company that manufactures all Apple products is called FoxCon. Mike Daisey went to FoxCon and reported a portion of what he saw on the podcast, This American Life. He went undercover and was able to observe FoxCon at work. From the floor, the most startling thing he reported was silence. 30,000 people work at FoxCon. 30,000 silent people, not allowed to talk on the line. 30,000 people who create no noise. No whirring machines sound because when human labor costs next to nothing, whatever can be done by hand–is.

Your iPhones are handmade in China.

Chinese people working 16 hour days without breaks handmade your Mac.

The precision that Apple is renowned for is made at the cost of 30,000 people’s fine motor skills.

1984 is here.

The True Cost of our Tech Products


I wish I could say that this podcast really opened my eyes, but the unfortunate truth is that I was aware of much of this information before tuning in. Sure, Mike painted a more colorful picture, but I think many of us (meaning American users of these sweat shop products) already know about the long hours, cramped quarters, repetitive motions, and even suicide nets. So why is it so easy for us to look the other way? Why is it so easy for us to just see what we want to see?

I do not really have an answer to these questions. Even trying to rationalize it makes me disappointed in not only myself but everyone else like me who hears these gruesome stories and is ready to completely denounce the use of products from companies like Apple, but somehow find themselves putting their iPhones back in their pockets and moving on with their days.

Maybe it has something to do with the distance. These horrible working condition stories are happening halfway around the world. It is easy to put these images in the back of our minds when we are in our local Verizon stores excitedly picking out which new iPhone we want because our 2-year upgrade is finally due.  Maybe we don’t have a choice. We almost have to have a functioning smart phone in order to keep up in present day America, right? Are the other companies doing things much better? We almost have to assume that Samsung and HTC are doing the same thing. And plus, that is a lot of independent research for us to formulize the entire supply chain of every major tech company. We’re busy; let someone else handle that. When everyone else decides to change, that’s when we will too.

Does this rationalization sound familiar?  If a stranger came up to you and said, “I will give you a brand new iPhone for $1.00. The only catch is that a few Chinese workers will suffer over the labor required to make it for you.” Most of us would immediately decline the offer as it puts other human beings through direct suffering and pain. So why is it that we not only pay $1.00 but several hundreds of dollars for new accessories at the expense of not only a few workers but a few hundred thousand? How can we still be so eager to buy our next iPhone when we know the true cost?

Who cares what Foxconn does? Not Americans.


I had to pause the podcast less than a minute in to unlock my phone. Normally I would be doing this to check a text message or read an email, but this time it was to have a conversation with Siri. I almost never use Siri but I really wanted to know what her response would be to a question about Foxconn. As it turns out, the people have Apple have also listened to this podcast. She now only responds, “Like it says on the box…I was designed by Apple in California.” I had never thought about asking Siri a question about this, which shows how little the typical American thinks about the source of their goods. Continue reading Who cares what Foxconn does? Not Americans.

The Irony of “AppleCare”


The following headline appears on apple’s homepage about AppleCare:

“Service and Support from the People that Know your Apple Product Best”

Apple knows its products. It knows everything that goes into them and every little last spec about each and every product. As a company that is obsessed with detail and perfection, there is no doubt that they have their manufacturing process under a microscope. Apple knows every last detail about the manufacturing process and are aware of the conditions of the factories in China. “Siri” lets us know that. It knows exactly how and where it was manufactured however it chooses not to tell us. In fact “she” slams that “she” cannot tell us. Apple does not want to tell us what is going on behind the curtains. The workers in their factories are dying to have their voices heard and share their experiences, however, Apple and its manufacturers remain silent to the world. Apple has extremely high profit margins on its products. iPhones retail for $400-600 dollars while they only cost a fraction of that to make. iPhone 6 profit margins have been estimated around 70% by some sources. How can a company ethically charge this much to customers while it knows the conditions of its factories?

As much blame as we should put on Apple, we are also part of the problem. We let Apple do this by not caring either. Simply put, we have become unethical consumers because we are ignorant. In the modern world where so much information is available, we should be asking to see more of it. Where was this made? How much did this cost to make? What are the impacts that this product has on the world? What materials are in this? Who made this? – This are all questions we should ask every time we purchase something. We could be just as amazed by these answers just as Mr Daisy was about Apple. We as consumers have the greatest power to change the way many corporations work because we have the freedom to make choices. This power is only effective if we have the information to make a good choice. Without the information, we are blind consumers making bad choices everyday- and letting companies get away with it. We should be demanding a lot more of these answers and asking for companies to become more transparent. Just like the FDA requires food items to have nutrition facts, the government should at least explore extending this idea to show not only how products effects the environment, but also how they affect society. For example, an iPhone could be forced to say how many man hours it took to assemble this product and where it was manufactured. I have no idea how this can actually be measured but I think it is something that would help me be more aware of the impacts some products I buy have.

Having this information we can then make the right choice. We can ask ourselves if the iPhone or iPad we are about to take off the shelf is really worth the $599. Is it okay to have things such as iPads and iPhones at the expense of a persons mistreatment across the world? You are taking something away freedoms and rights from someone to give to me this product. Is that fair? I might be less likely to buy the product knowing this information. Or I could not care – like most people will. We usually don’t feel responsible as individual consumers for the negative impacts of these products. This is what needs to change. If everyone we start refusing to buy apple products (like that will ever happen), then maybe we as consumers can force apple to care about their manufacturing process.

I also want to point out that its not just Apple- Mr. Daisy listed close to half a dozen companies that also have their devices built in the same factory. Just a thought that we shouldn’t just be attacking Apple.

Apple


While looking through the past blogs, I was struck by this one titled, “My Life: Apple,” likely due to my interest in the company and the unique connection it shares with its customers (myself included). As I read about the writer’s experiences with the brand and its products over the years, I was reminded of my own interactions with such devices. My first iPod, the later iPod Nano, and eventual iPhone and Macbook are bookmarked in my memory forever… but why?

The best explanation I have for this phenomenon is the amount of trust that humans can share with these machines. As opposed to a PC or flip-phone, which I then thought of as a gadget, a Mac is a seemingly intelligent and beautiful ‘sidekick’ that helps accomplish tasks, endlessly entertain, and effortlessly organize our lives. Rather than just a nice camera or large keyboard, Apple products offer unique methods of communication, productivity, and interaction though simplistic design.

This blog specifically interested me due to the many memories I shared with the reader.  For instance, I remember seeing that kid on the bus with the new iPod and later seeing that kid in class with the new Macbook. That said, as we enter a new age where technology will continue to integrate into our daily lives, I think we should be aware of these obsessions and not blindly follow trends.  At the end of the day, we are still humans and the machines we use and create must not take that aspect away from us.