Some deep thoughts on WiFi

Why does the university WiFi suck?

  • Physics: they calculated the predicted field strength using an ideal spherical computer in a vacuum
  • Engineering: they designed the perfect router, but it was confiscated by the Defense Department for research purposes.
  • English: everyone in the building is simultaneously trying to use the internet to read Harry Potter fan fiction
  • Political science: allocated $57 million for WiFi improvements, all of which was spent on replacing half of the building’s three-month-old network wiring
  • Computer science: spent 5 months fiddling with router settings and installing new firmware but didn’t actually fix anything
  • Biology: a mind-controlling fungus has taken over the whole department. Don’t go there.
  • Chemistry: after submerging their router in an experimental superconducting compound, they have no wifi anymore. Sad!
  • Education: tried to use holistic learning methods to teach the router to behave, with mixed results.
  • Art: all of the network equipment was smeared with toxic paint as part of a concept project
  • Administration: did you really think the wifi would suck there? Pfft. They’re not plebeians, come on
  • Music: it’s on the schedule somewhere to fix the wifi but nobody can find the schedule anywhere
  • Dining halls: is this really a priority? IT has better things to do, for crying out loud
  • Medicine: the only approved router costs $35,000 and insurance won’t cover it
  • Accounting and finance: spent all the time developing a giant sprawling excel spreadsheet algorithm to determine the costs of upgrading the wifi system but never actually did anything
  • Business: created 37 nested subcommittees to coordinate wifi upgrades, and all of the work cascaded down the layers to that one guy who actually cares
  • History: If one has the right historical perspective, one realizes that our expectation of fast wifi is trivial compared to the grand tapestry of history.
  • Anthropology: the students carbon-dated the router and decided that, being between 70,000 and 100,000 years old, it was probably too far gone.
  • Gender and sexuality: WIFI IS A SOCIAL CONSTRUCT THAT PERPETUATES THE DISGUSTING WHITE CIS MALE PATRIARCHAL CAPITALIST SYSTEM OF OPPRESSION!!!!!
  • Economics: the opportunity cost of replacing the router is greater than the cost of simply dealing with the slow internet speeds.
  • Philosophy: what if it’s really just our perception of the wifi speed that is slow? Time is a non-objective and arbitrary reference frame!
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What makes me press the button?

The shutter button, that is. This bit originally answered a question on a photography forum, but it’s interesting enough to be posted here.

 

 

What is it that makes me press the button, you say?

 

Same thing that makes me say “wow!”

Same thing that compels me to open my eyes a little wider and drink in the sights, sounds, and smells like life-giving water.

Same thing that can bring me to tears and make me sit down and think for a while.

Same thing that gives me the drive and ambition to get out of bed many mornings.

Same thing that gives me pause when listening to beautiful music.

Same thing, in fact, that makes me want to press the record button and capture that music.

Same thing that makes me try, though I’m not too good at it, to represent what I see with paper and pencil.

Same thing that moves me to exercise what command of my language I have and write words on paper.

 

I believe we were made with an instinctive desire to capture and preserve. Time goes by, second by second, and moments pass fleetingly. Life is full of beautiful things, but few are permanent. They exist as temporary moments of time, quickly coming and fading away as quickly. We were made to love these moments. We love them so much, we want to capture them, preserve them, make them more permanent, create a copy to keep with us forever and carry something of the original with us.

Whether it is Michelangelo carving the beauty of youth into eternal marble, or Ansel Adams capturing a beautiful landscape the particular way it appeared on that particular day, or the recording engineer hitting that button and listening to Miles Davis send cool vibes through the microphone and onto millions of records for generations afterward to enjoy, or Alfred Hitchcock placing some of the greatest acting ever performed on film, or C. S. Lewis putting pen to paper and recording the wonderful stories he discovered in his own mind –

It’s all the same thing.

We’re just capturing the beauty of this world, right things, good things, powerful things, things that make us sit back and say “wow!”

Because we want to be able to go back to that slide, that print, that sculpture, that painting, that audio master tape, that book, that film, so we can say “wow!” again.

And again.

And again.

And this goes even deeper. I believe God made us in his image – if this is true, we are all reflections or “photographs” of God.

And, if that is true, our desire to capture things that make us say “wow!” comes directly from that which we ourselves are reflections of.

 

And that’s pretty darn cool if you ask me.

Breaking News

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (AP) — Apple Computer Inc. announced Saturday that the next iteration of their iPhone line of smartphones, known as the iPhone 8, would no longer include its primary camera built into the phone, instead requiring users to purchase a separate camera device.

A spokesperson for the company stated, “Here at Apple we know so much better than the consumers that we’ve decided to go a completely different direction. We’re calling it a “progressive imaging solution” and we’re pleased to announce our upcoming partnership with Kodak to provide the external camera unit.”

This external camera – called “iQuickTake” in a nostalgic reference to an early Apple digital model – is made by Kodak, once the unchallenged king of everything photography before the digital revolution sunk them into bankruptcy in 2012. But in a move that surprised investors, Apple announced that the camera would not be digital – that, instead, it would use photographic film, a technology which, though long thought replaced by digital methods, has made a surprise comeback in recent years.

Kodak – known since emerging from bankruptcy as Kodak Alaris – generated buzz in January when they announced the reintroduction of Ektachrome, a much-beloved color slide film which was discontinued in 2013. But they may not be directly providing film for this new camera – as a Kodak representative stated, “We have been in talks with Lomography to provide the film for this camera, which will be in the cute little 110 format and probably also expired and smeared with random dirt. This is all part of our sustainability initiative.” Kodak also stated that the design of the new camera will be evocative of early 2000’s point-and-shoot digital cameras made for children. “We’re thinking bubbly molded bright yellow plastic with your choice of Disney characters painted on it,” the representative said.

The camera is also expected to have “some kind of proprietary self-developing system, so expect to have to buy chemicals for it. As usual, they will only be available directly from Apple. It will also have a deliciously lo-fi 300 dpi scanner built-in, which will send scans over bluetooth directly to the iPhone,” according to the Apple spokesperson.

A few investors have expressed concern at the change, but the effect on Apple’s stock remains to be seen.

The announcement, however, elicited a negative response from President Donald Trump, who tweeted soon afterward: “Bad move from Apple. Kodak FAILED company. Probably sent jobs to Mexico – BAD! That will change SOON.”

Having fun with old cameras: Loading a 1920’s Kodak Brownie with film

So I’ve been meaning to update this fortnightly rag for some time, and I came up with the absolutely brilliant idea of inflicting my weird obsession with old cameras and film photography upon the 3 people who actually care about what I say.

A word on film

You probably think I’m just plain nuts! Why would you still take pictures on film when you can just pull out your phone and get something that looks just as good?

Well, there’s more to it than just taking good pictures. There’s something about the tangible experience of using a physical medium such as classic photographic film that appeals to me. It’s the same reason a great many people are now buying vinyl records – digital files just seem artificial and ephemeral in comparison. Plus, you only get so many pictures per roll, which often forces me to be a better photographer because I don’t want to waste my shots.

Also, it’s a myth that digital always produces better pictures than film. Even cheap black and white film in a cardboard box camera in the hands of a skilled photographer can produce some pretty cool shots.

Now let’s get down to business: The Camera

OK, enough mushy talk about how much fun film is. Here’s the camera I’m going to be using this time:fullsizerender

This is a Kodak Brownie No. 0 box camera, made in about 1920. It’s a very simple device; you can see the shutter lever on the side there, which is pretty much all you have to touch to take a picture. There are two viewfinders, one for portrait and one for landscape photos. When you’ve taken a photo, you use the crank to advance the film to the next frame, looking in the window in the back to check the little numbers as they go by.

The Film

The film I’m using is an old roll of Kodak Tri-X, which is a pretty sensitive (or “fast”) black and white film. This roll is from about 1964, judging by the expiry date! (Also, notice how much it cost in 1964: 45 cents! The same film costs upwards of five bucks today.) Fortunately the images I get from it will probably just have a lot more graininess than if the film was new. Expired film often produces fun effects like that.

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This is “127” format film – much different from the 35mm film we’re used to. It’s part of the medium format roll film family, which includes the larger and much more popular “120” format.

127 film actually isn’t still in production, unless you want to pay an arm and a leg to some obscure Japanese company for it. So that’s why I scoured eBay for an old roll of the stuff. Hopefully it doesn’t let me down.

Let’s open it up.

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It’s so cute!

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AND it comes with a nifty little instruction booklet! I was surprised to find out that the film is actually rated at 400 ISO. This was a very fast film for 1964. I guess I’d forgotten that the speed of Tri-X was one of its main selling points when Kodak first introduced it. Normally this high sensitivity would be a problem, since with such a simple camera I can’t decrease the exposure, and the images would be overexposed. But since the film is so old, its sensitivity has most likely deteriorated to the point where I can take normal snapshots and expect just fine results.

Now it’s time to load the film in the camera. Here you see the insides of the camera taken out in order to load the film. The film spool goes on top, and the take-up spool, also shown here, goes below.

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Here I have the film all loaded up and in the camera, ready to close the lid. There’s a pretty good length of paper on the roll before the film starts, so I don’t have to worry about having to load it in the dark! That’s why they marketed this stuff as “daylight loading”.

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And now the lid is closed, and I’ve advanced the film with the crank enough so that the number “1” shows in the little window. I’m ready for the first shot!

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I don’t know what I’ll photograph with this thing, or even if the pictures will turn out. But I do know that I’ll have a lot of fun with it. I think I get about eight frames per roll, so I’ll be sure to spend them well!

Keep tuned for when I finish the roll, and develop this film by hand, the old fashioned way!

Let’s talk about trade policy

What is protectionism, what is free trade, and which is the better policy for America?

For much of the past century, trade policy around the world has tended towards “free trade” – that is, low tariffs and small or nonexistent barriers to trade between countries. One of the biggest indicators of this is the North American Free Trade Agreement, which established a trade bloc between Canada, the United States, and Mexico.

President-elect Trump has criticized these policies in much the same way that two-time independent candidate Ross Perot did, famously declaring that NAFTA would cause a “giant sucking sound”, drawing American jobs south to Mexico. However, proponents of free trade often point out the advantages of this: because American companies can off-source manufacturing to Mexico, where labor is cheaper and regulation is much less burdensome, they can offer their products at much lower prices than if they manufactured domestically. This benefits the American consumer.

But is this really the best situation for America?

Think about exactly why these American companies are so quick to move to Mexico (or China, for that matter).  Labor is less expensive. Regulations are less burdensome. Taxes are lower. Overall, it’s much cheaper for a company to make its widgets in Mexico or overseas than here in the U.S., where the marginal corporate income tax rate is 39% and regulation and red tape provide significant obstacles to business. Furthermore, labor costs in the U.S. are significantly higher than in other countries. American workers expect high wages, benefits, easy work weeks, etc. The minimum wage means that it’s impossible to hire very unskilled workers who are only worth less than the minimum wage. Think about this. If you run a company manufacturing your widgets in the United States, and you’re given the opportunity to move to Mexico and make much more money, why would you not move unless you were insane? I would also note that this effect is exaggerated by the fact that many trade agreements do indeed favor other countries over the United States.

Trump wants to prevent these companies from moving out of the States, or bring them back if they’re already gone. But his main way of doing this seems to be moving the United States away from a free trade policy. He’s said the following several times: “Every car and every part manufactured in this plant that comes across the border, we’re going to charge you a 35% tax, and that tax is going to be paid simultaneously with the transaction.” This is effectively a massive tariff charged on imported goods. Does he plan to couple this tariff with a business-friendly tax plan and a corresponding massive decrease in regulation? He had better, because otherwise these companies are simply stuck between a rock and a hard place and they will just die.

Now let’s check out the history of protectionist policies such as what Trump said above. In 1930, the Depression was in full swing. Americans were losing their jobs left and right. Congress got together and basically came to the same conclusion as Trump: “We need to force economic development to stay in America by placing huge tariffs on imported goods.” The result was the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act, which, according to Wikipedia, raised tariffs on over 20,000 imported goods to unprecedented levels. The “dutiable tariff rate” was raised to about 60% by 1932. The result? This, coupled with the Keynesian high-tax, high-spend, high-regulation policies of the Roosevelt administration, combined to yank the U.S. further into depression by choking American business to death on all sides.

I don’t think the Trump administration wants to raise taxes or increase regulation – in fact, Mr. Trump has repeatedly stated that his policy will be to decrease taxes and halt regulation. Republican control of the Congress will, hopefully, ensure that highly protectionist policies will be shut down.

Let us hope that Trump and the GOP do not repeat the mistakes of the 1930’s.

And now for something completely different.

Well, hello, everyone, I’m Collin and I’m currently a student at the University of Colorado. In this blog I will post my seemingly random thoughts about anything and everything in the universe. Stay tuned for exciting insights that really are not just me spouting off from ignorance, I promise! Really!

Comment with your favorite obsolete word.

Well, I’ll start with a video full of deep thoughts and high-level thinking: