28 Feb 2017
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I am perpetually assaulted by dead trees. Not the kind that fall on one while out in a storm, not the kind that block my path while I'm galumphing on a trail of Nature. Rather, and notwithstanding the decades of prediction of a "paperless office" much less a paperless life, these are the more genteel form of dead tree, chipped, ground, chemically treated, pressed and eventually turned into a surface for writing. They bear some similarity to the screen on which you're undoubtedly reading this, but create contrast by being contaminated with molecules of ink in the form of pictures and writing.

Two exemplars recently came my way. Each in its own way tacitly advocates for dead trees to be put to more valuable use. One also coincidentally shows why Apple (the Most Valuable Company in the World™) is doing so well.

Apple's Wealth

Apple Air Pod manual page with unreadably light text

I recently bought a pair of Apple Air Pods. Quick RIKL Review:

  • They sound great!
  • They work with my Android cell phone, albeit with greatly reduced features.
  • They're useless - I can't put my phone in my back pocket because the signal cuts out.

But that's not what this blog section is about. Rather, it's about gratuitous irritation. And paper. Look at the photo of a page from the Air Pod "manual." Can you read the headings? Yes! Can you read the text? No! What's the point of even providing a manual other than to annoy me? Let me speculate:

Apple has calculated how much money they will save, ink molecule by ink molecule, by providing "manuals" like this. (They seem to come with all their products.) True, ink is not likely to be their largest expense* but in addition to the savings, they are conditioning customers to hate their documentation so much that they will demand manuals be omitted in the future. I know I'm not much of a conspiracy theorist, but this is a start.

* I just saw a documentary at the Sedona Film Festival entitled "Death by Design." It focused in part on how miserable and unhappy and underpaid the people who assemble iPhones in China are. It also mentioned, incredibly, that only 1% of the cost of the iPhone is labor. Although I don't for an instant believe that statistic, I suggested at the Q&A that they wouldn't have so many miserable workers if they could just eliminate that 1%. I do love Q&As; I have yet to get an answer that doesn't involve rolling eyes.

Subscription Renewal

Physics Today is pretty much my favorite magazine. It's written for science people who aren't necessarily practicing physicists, and it's much more accessible than professional journals with more equations than words. I've been reading it for about a decade, and would no sooner not renew my subscription than find myself 100% life-free. (If you ever want to check up on me, just find out if I'm still subscribed.) I was therefore pleased to receive in the post a half-price, advance-renewal offer. I was also pleased to receive the document below. Until I actually read it.

Physics Today email exhortation

What's wrong with this document? Actually, you can only guess two out of three, so I'll save you the trouble.

  • They didn't give me their email address! Pretty silly considering the purpose of the document.
  • Although they want me to renew on the web, they didn't give me the web address for renewal.
  • And: The renewal form accompanying this DID have my email address! Are we a silly Physics Today or what?

I console myself knowing that the magazine itself is many people and, probably, many miles divorced from the circulation department.

Did I bother to notify them of their silliness? Of course I did; if I don't meddle, who will? Of course when I spoke to them I mentioned the waste of paper - where am I going to find a stamp of all things? I'm still waiting to receive the renewal URL...


If you are a regular reader of this blog, you don't exist. I have been both lazy and inept for the past few years, and nobody is foolish or optimistic/pessimistic enough to hope for/dread its return. If it hadn't been for my 10th blogging anniversary almost a year ago I probably would have skipped more than just an almost-year. The reasons are twofold: I remain lazy and inept, but also I've also been in software hell, at least as far as blogging is concerned. My WYSIWIG editor (Front Page) has gone obsolete, and is no longer compatible with the computer on which it would reside if it, too, weren't obsolete. Not to mention the server, which I changed when it went off support. So, in an extended spasm of zeal, I have written this blog with new software on a new computer, uploaded it to the new server with new and torturously learned techniques. Hopefully the few thousand millireaders I previously accumulated will eventually find that I'm updating at least a bit more regularly. (If I do - remember lazy and inept.)

"30 Poplar"




This shirt was printed almost before my eyes. At the Consumer Electronic Show this year the company Anajet had a T-shirt printer and samples of its output on an adjacent table. This is an eagle. Of course there were cats, too. 

AnaJet eagle print-on-demand T-Shirt
Richard Factor

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