Saturday, May 21, 2016

Pasckie The Dude talks about what they're talking about

NOTICE this. Whether it is a photo of a college prom queen in green thong underwear or a cat napping on top of a Labrador—it doesn't really matter. Or what about a slew of whiny drama about a constantly famished heart or a sweet row of delectable gluten-free culinary delights? These will elicit dozens of likes for sure, and some may even post very encouraging comments and funny retorts. That feedback loop of generally positive reinforcement is the most addictive element of social media. This keeps us coming back... Zeynep Tufekci, a professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, says the vast amplification of the potential audience a single person can reach has raised the stakes for all online activity. She parallels this to graffiti, “it's performative.” 
Part of our increasing looseness with what we post on the Web has to do with the realization that one raunchy photo is just a single data point among hundreds. But Coye Cheshire, a professor of information sciences at the University of California, Berkeley, who studies how we interact online, thinks there might be something more complex at play. In his research, he has highlighted the power of social approval. Interesting, isn't it? I just hope that this is all virtual—and one day, we'd take the initiative to come out of this box and at least say hello over latte or beer...

THE baby market is essentially a commodity market... In this business, the challenge is persuading parents that a product has a unique feature worthy of a price premium. A glance at the shelves indicates just how narrowly baby-product companies have divided parents into subgroups. Some will pay extra for conveniences like a light, easy-to-fold stroller; others want aesthetic luxuries, like leather trim. Many respond to fear (is my child safer in Baby Trend’s Inertia car seat for $179.99 or with Safety 1st’s Air Protect+ system, which costs $189.99?) Viviana Zelizer, a Princeton sociologist, infers in “Pricing the Priceless Child,” that parents' response to the baby commodity market comes along with “an increasingly sentimentalized view of children.” For the first time in human history, having a child in the United States is a net financial cost for a parent. This, of course, has been a huge boon to child-product manufacturers. Companies profit from people's sentiment with extraneous features. The whole process is prone to produce absurdities like the $4,495 Roddler custom stroller... Well, why not spend more time with your kids instead—in the woods, beside a river, or at home? Your child needs your warmth, up front and close—is all.

ARE you old enough (like me) but who isn't that senile and absent-minded to remember simpler things at work—like when you were talking, whether in person or on the phone, was the main way to communicate? Then suddenly, in the 1990s, when e-mails came, things were never the same. Besides delivering a serious blow to the sellers of those pieces of paper, e-mail made communicating with people incredibly and delightfully — easy. Really? An article in The Ergonomics says, electronic communication tools can demand constant switching, which contributes to a feeling of “discontinuity” in the workplace. On the other hand, people sometimes deliberately introduce interruptions into their day as a way to reduce boredom and to socialize, the article said. We’re only beginning to understand the workplace impact of new communication tools. The use of such technology in the office is “less rational than we would like to think,” said Steve Whittaker a professor at the Univ of California, Santa Cruz. Or is it what Alvin Toffler defined as Future Shock? “Too much change in too short a period of time.”

THIS is what we already know: China's combination of strength and aggressiveness, plus the economic stagnation in Europe and America is making the West increasingly bothered. While China is not taking over the world militarily, it seems to be steadily taking it over commercially. Of late, Chinese companies and investors have sought to buy two Western companies, Smithfield Foods, the American pork producer, and Club Med, the French resort company. Europeans and Americans tend to fret over Beijing’s assertiveness in the South China Sea, its territorial disputes with Japan, and cyberattacks on Western firms, but all of this is much less important than a phenomenon that is less visible but more disturbing: the aggressive worldwide push of Chinese state capitalism. 
By buying companies, exploiting natural resources, building infrastructure and giving loans all over the world, China is pursuing a soft but unstoppable form of economic domination. Beijing’s essentially unlimited financial resources allow the country to be a game-changing force in both the developed and developing world, one that threatens to obliterate the competitive edge of the West, kill jobs in Europe and America and blunt criticism of human rights abuses in China.
But do we have to whine and heap blames on China, instead of working things out our way? You see, Spain, France and Britain marched to global mercantilism many generations ago, with a sword and cross afront their ships and forced the “savages” and “indios” to submit... The Chinese did not. They sold us shit and we bought them, while we allowed the 1 percent capitalist to hook up with them, while we are so busy finding ways to disengage us from the collective, community or comradeship due to obsession with privacy and techno-madnesses.

THE United States has the world’s best basketball players, fighter jets, lakeside camps, and dreadlocked ladies. But hardly anyone would ever boast that the US has the world’s best retirement system. Fifty-eight percent of American workers are not even in a pension or 401(k) plan. The Social Security system faces the threat of a huge shortfall. One-third of America’s retirees get at least 90 percent of their retirement income from Social Security, with annual benefits averaging a modest $15,000 for an individual. In Australia, there is nearly universal participation among workers in a 401(k)-type retirement plan. In the Netherlands, pension laws require that workers’ 401(k)-like plans be converted into lifetime annuities to ensure they do not spend down all their savings before they turn 70. In Britain, the government has pressed retirement fund managers to keep administrative fees on many plans to less than half the average in the US. A recent report by the Australian Center for Financial Services, gives the US a C rating on retirement systems, worse than the A received by Denmark and the B-plus given to the Netherlands and Australia.

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