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Mark Mercer
Works at Uruguay Expat Life & Uruguay For Me expat information and referral services http://UruguayExpat.Info
Attended Cornell University
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Mark Mercer

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Happy Labor Day! Because that's what it is, in much of the world, including in the country of Uruguay where I choose to live.

And no, it's not just "communist workers day" or whatever propaganda that USA and "Western" countries folks of my generation and younger had drilled into our heads. It's the REAL "Labour Day" aka International Workers Day, in countries which still pay attention to the rights of working people.

Of course it's also a family holiday, it's a long weekend this year, and here in Uruguay it's one of the relatively few "días feriales" that is also "día non laboral" - an actual work holiday.

The disease of non-stop work, holiday work, mandatory and often unpaid overtime work, mis-categorization of hourly work as fixed-salary work, is slowly spreading from the infection's source, the USA, to the rest of the world. Even here in Uruguay, the biggest stores are open, and some of the local smaller groceries and kiosks were open today too. But many are closed for the day, or even the entire weekend.

Thankfully the disease of "no benefits for workers" can't easily spread here, because there's true universal heatlhcare - which also does have choice of provider organizations at signup, and also is truly affordable.

Respect for workers. Rights. Healthcare benefits. How primitive!

#LabourDay #LaborDay #InternationalWorkersDay #shareall  
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Mark Mercer

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Absolutely tragic. Deep insights and information on new concepts of mental illness. But no new solutions, not yet.

Natalie Fuller's suicide, after having come so far fighting her bipolar and psychotic disorders, is deeply sorrowful. Her mother, Doris Fuller, author of this article and co-author with Natalie of a book over a decade earlier when Natalie was 16, is fighting for better mental health research, treatment, understanding. But there's no "magic bullet" here, no solution yet.  She presents some of the new research that suggests, does not yet prove, that so-called "psychotic breaks" might be long in building rather than abrupt acute crises, and thus might be detectable earlier. Treated earlier.

Suicide destroys families. Trust me, I know, though I won't go into all the details on this public post. Treatment, early intervention, and serious intervention if there's sign of acute crisis, can avert it. I have had reason to know that too, and again, I'm not going to go into all the personal details here. My family and personal stories aren't the point. If there's any point, it's that we as a culture, and as a society individually, and via our governments regulating and educating health services, need to see, understand, research, and treat mental illness every bit as seriously as we do physical illness and injury.

#mentalhealth #shareall  
Six years after being diagnosed with mental illness, just short of her 29th birthday, she took her own life.
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Mark Mercer

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Awesome concept. Google Fi disrupts the US mobile biz "rip off the customer and confuse them while doing it" model.

It's a great concept, and perhaps more than what you might realize from a quick read. Everything in it has been done before, yes, but not in combination, and not by a company with the deep pockets of Google. Here's what's in it:

1. A "Network of Networks". No, not roaming in the sense we normally think of it. Instead, Google Fi mobile voice and broadband data combines the networks of Sprint and T-Mobile, the USA's number 3 and 4 carriers, into one virtual network.

2. WiFi calling right from your smartphone, without having to switch to some other app or service. No going into Skype, Line, Viber, RingTo, GrooveIP, or Google Hangouts. You just dial, or you just answer the call you get.

3. Roaming internationally in 120 countries at no extra cost for data (reduced speed 3G but still faster than 2G/2.5G EDGE speeds). Your bucket of data GB applies whether you're in USA (where you get LTE and HSPA+ 4G speeds) or in other countries (where you get that 3G speed).

4. Roaming internationally for voice at 20 cents per minute, far cheaper than what regular cell plans cost.

5. International calls even cheaper, priced using Google Voice/Hangouts calling rates (which are lower than  what Skype charges to call telephones in the same country) when on WiFi calling.  For example, Google Voice/Hangouts/Fi calls to Uruguay landlines from anywhere are only 7 cents/minute, while Skype used to be 13.5 cents and recently dropped to 9.5 cents.

5. Voice and texts unlimited, no big overages on data. If you bought 1GB of data for $10 and used an extra 350MB, you get charged only the extra $3.50. If you bought 2GB for $20 and used only 1.35, you get credited back the $6.50.

Some companies have done some of these things before.

1. Virtual Network?: America Móvil, in their Bring Your Own Phone plans of their Straight Talk (sold at Walmart) and Net10 (sold everywhere for a few dollars more) have had a "virtual network" of ATT+TMobile (or if you requested a SIM that gave priority to TMobile frequencies and towers for locked-to-Tmo phones, of TMobile+ATT). You don't even know if you're on a T-Mobile or an AT&T Tower, it just shows "Home".

2. WiFi calling?: T-Mobile did it on their locked cells since 2010 when I got the 3rd-ever Android model, the T-Mobile G2 (HTC Desire Z variant). Republic Wireless' entire business model has been based on WiFi-primary calling, and the customizable no-contract Moto X phone (now owned by Lenovo but the entire Moto X concept created while Motorola was owned by Google) is the cheapest of all the no-contract Moto X phones. Google clearly worked out some WiFi vs cell calling plan concepts with Republic's experience.

3. International Roaming Data at non-punitive costs? T-Mobile has done this in some plans.

4. Really cheap international cell roaming costs? Been done by various "International roaming SIM" services, and as add-on paid plans to some of the big cell-companies.

5. Even cheaper international calling rates? Google themselves, on Google Voice ever since they acquired it years ago (and pretty much hid it for half a decade until merging it into Hangouts). I've been using it for years, including as how I make paid calls from outside of Uruguay back to Uruguay (an expensive destination compared to some) when I'm back in the USA. Made even easier due to Hangouts Dialer but do-able since around 2010 via calling into your GV number. Now with Google Fi smartphone plans, it just works without any of that.

Yes, each item has been done before. Nobody has put all this together into one plan, ever before. That's the disruption.

1. You need an invitation to get the service.
2. You likely need to be in a Sprint-native- or TMoble-native-coverage area for your service address. Which excludes a lot of US rural and some suburban areas.
3. You can only use Google's ridiculously over-sized and over-priced (compared to prior Nexus models) Nexus 6 "phablet" - sized phone. Built by Motorola, and in many ways the 2015 model successor to the normally-large Moto X.

They say that restriction is because of unique features in the Nexus 6. That's actually pretty unlikely as the real reason. Any phone that has the LTE bands of both Sprint and T-Mobile USA would likely work technically. Which is not by any means most LTE phones, as there is ridiculous fragmentation of LTE frequency allocations in the USA: But there are still quite a few upscale, but cheaper than Nexus 6, smartphones that have at least most of the required bands.

Certainly the Moto X should have worked, because it's really the same phone in a smaller size, and as I mentioned earlier, there's already a model that does seamless cellular/wifi calling, the one they sell for Republic Wireless. They have the technology, they just don't own the brand anymore so probably don't want to use it.

It's more likely that Google wants to control the rollout on only its own-design own-brand hardware, initially. In a very Apple-esque move.  Also, the Google Nexus 6 has totally bombed in the market, unlike the prior Nexus phones, especially the well-received Nexus 5 and Nexus 4 of prior years. The 6 is considered both too darn big to be Google's flagship phone (given Google only has one Nexus phone at a time), and too expensive at 700 bucks, compared to the older Nexus pricing model of well-below unlocked top-end non-contract phones.

Remember, USA folks, your free or $99 or $199 smartphone really IS a $400-800 smartphone and you're paying for it in high contract rates! Rest of world, you can laugh now at those silly Americans!

So Google has stopped being disruptive in cell phone hardware pricing. But only months after doing that, they've become disruptive in cellphone plan pricing and features, combining what was never before combined. Now, if only they could combine both plan and device pricing disruptively at the same time!

But well worth looking into, if you want a high-end, and large, non-contract smartphone and a non-evil plan. Let's hope this is just the start!

#cellphones #GoogleFi #smartphones #shareall #Nexus6  
It's a pretty good deal for consumers, but also a way for Google to prod other mobile operators to lower prices and get more people on the Internet.
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Mark Mercer

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A rare win against crony capitalism - Comcast/TimeWarnerCable merger from hell dead.

Remember, Time Warner Cable has nothing to do with Time Warner, Warner Brothers, Time, or any other part of the TimeWarner entity. It's an independent company spun off years ago, that simply has a licensing deal still in effect for the name and some other intellectual property ("beep-beep") when used for a cable company.

Clinton the First and Bush the Younger did allow TimeWarner, once AOL Time Warner, to congeal into that onetime mega-monster, but it's been falling apart over the years. Obama happily allowed Comcast to buy NBC Universal, which had already built up with Universal that in earlier turn had glommed onto many cable channels during the Clinton-Bush years.

But once in a while, the continued crony capitalist corporatocracy Clinton-Bush-Obama-(Clinton-or-Bush?) Administration blocks a particularly noxious uber-merger, while getting their payoffs in more subtle ways later. That way the naive believe "They're fighting for the people" and the laughable "My party is better than the other party" falsehoods.

The &u0024;45 billion deal, one of the largest to come before regulators, collapses after federal concerns.
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Mark Mercer

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I gotta admit it, I'm liking what Disney is doing with the Star Wars universe. Despite myself.

First, not getting locked into any one director for overall vision, even on the mainline 3rd trilogy.

Second, coming out with standalone films telling other stories in that universe. (Hey, Paramount / CBS, you ever think about that for Star Trek? - we fans certainly have!)

Third, envisioning those standalone films as being informed by different genres, such as this first one, "Rogue One", being "a no-holds-barred war picture." That's similar to what Marvel Studios (also owned by Disney) has done in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, where, for example, the "Thor" films are SF&F while "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" had the feel of a 1970s political conspiracy thriller, and the "Iron Man" films are "20 minutes into the future" (thanks, Max!) technothriller SF. Yet all connected.

Though I am old enough to have seen Star Wars (the original, not some later release called "A New Hope") in a Times Square movie theater the summer of '77, I've never been a huge fan of the franchise, of the universe, and certainly not of the massive expansion of it and the horrible Lucas-dominated prequel trilogy. I thought I was perfectly happy to see "Star Wars" as a fictional entity just die off into irrelevancy.

I was wrong. Star Wars under Disney is looking to be awesome, is reinvigorated, and seems respectful of its wide audience. I'm now totally psyched to see both the 3rd trilogy films, and the standalone "Star Wars Anthology" movies like "Rogue One".

If this keeps up, I might even have to stop hating Disney!

#StarWars #Disney #Marvel #SFF #shareall  
Our first details on Rogue One are here!
Fans here at Star Wars Celebration continue to get new nuggets of information, and today we got a glimpse of Gareth Edwards' Rogue One and the first description of the plot. During a panel, Edwards...
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Mark Mercer

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What a gender bigot. And also full of the same idiocy about how the world works, as several prominent (unlike you, Cheryl Rios) people have foolishly said in the past about candidates for US President they don't like: "If 'X' wins, I'm moving to Canada."

One does not simply move to Canada. They have standards and rules. It's actually darn hard to move to Canada. The application processes takes years, almost as long as a full US presidential term. Idiots of the Left as well as idiots of the Right have bleated out this "moving to Canada" nonsense before - wasn't Alec Baldwin supposed to get the hell out when Bush won?

#USPolitics #g2fb  
The internet is upset with a Dallas CEO who took to social media and later the TV news to say women shouldn't be president because of their hormones. Interestingly, the CEO was a woman.
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Mark Mercer

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This guy might have the right ideas about confronting corruption and crony capitalism, revolving-door government corruption, and general dysfunction.

But deciding to deliver his message by flying 535 individual letters of his manifesto to Congress in a gyrocopter? This guy is definitely Gyro Gearlose (look it up) and he's lucky he wasn't shot out of the air, or gunned down by trigger-happy federal police when he landed.

#GyroGearlose #shareall  
UPDATE 3:30 p.m.: The Capitol Police bomb squad searched and cleared the gyrocopter, saying "nothing hazardous found.
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Have him in circles
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Mark Mercer

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Sorry, not buying it. Wanted to "do something for children" is why he took the gig? Did he read what the scripts were? And he left because of a clash at the top?

Still smells like Christopher Eccleston thinking he's too good for Who. So  right after that he does a recurring role in "Heroes" as Claude the invisible man? Years later he does Malekith, badly, in "Thor: The Dark World", arguably one of the worst Marvel movies? (Seriously - even Iron Man 2 was better than Thor 2.)

And he doesn't even touch on his utter dickery of refusing to be in the 50th Anniversary Special. If he had any concern for the fans, and for the legacy of that show, he would have done it.

Eccleston's run as The Doctor was indeed awesomely acted. But his obvious dripping disdain for it as a beloved property with millions of fans and with a long term legacy, is obvious.

#DoctorWho #NinthDoctor #Eccleston #g2fb #TimeyWimey  
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+Mark Mercer I don't think he ever thought he was too good for Who. He doesn't specifically mention it in this interview, but one of the reasons he was interested is because it was being written and produced by Russell T. Davies. He'd worked with RTD before and admired his writing. So if RTD was writing a show for all ages, he knew it was going to be a good one.

And yes, he read two or three of the scripts before deciding to take the role.
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Mark Mercer

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GM losing money in South America. Maybe my neighbors are just as tired of GM crap quality and recalls as back in the US. Uruguay newspapers have been full of Chevrolet recalls on the same flaws as the infamous USA ones, plus other problems. Despite GM's Chevrolet brand being number one here, the Chinese brands are extremely popular and in the lesser cost, market-appropriate price and size range, are better cars.

GM should have gone under. Even with bailouts from the USA, Canada, and Germany, they still can't run a good business and make quality cars. Plenty of better companies that can and will fill the void and hire the good workers.

#GM #shareall
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Mark Mercer

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Twitter makes itself even worse - now anyone can send a Direct Message to anyone, even if not following.

Twitter is already notorious for harassment, and for doing little-to-nothing about it, even less than Facebook (if that's even possible!) This move, aimed to please Wall Street speculators (please, they're not "investors" anymore) might get more activity from sinking Twitter, but isn't going to make most Twitter users happy.

I like Twitter well enough, but compared to either Google+ or to Facebook I find it disposable and easy to ignore for days at a time. The recent-years additions of "sponsored Tweets" (aka Spam) and noisy, hard-to-disable (oddly-named settings) email and app push notifications of irrelevant accounts and tweets, has made it even worse.

Yes, as a news aggregator with pointers to headlines, Twitter is of value. But so is my "News Orgs" Circle I created of about 100 news organizations on Google+. So are my customized Google News and Bing News pages on those competing web portals. And in all of them, and even on the relatively few news/comment pages I follow on Facebook, I get more than just 118 characters of the story. (118 being all that's left to a 140-max Tweet after the 22-char/link taken out for even 1 link to a story. Double if another link or a picture.)

If I had to sacrifice one social/infosharing network, it'd be Twitter. If DM Spam takes off ( "If?" ) It'll be going. Bad enough their Android App is the biggest pig I've seen, worse even than the Facebook and Google+ apps (themselves rather porky), but if the stream gets polluted there's no point to it.

What do you think? Does the ability to receive Direct Messages from people/companies who you don't follow, sound good to you? Does the ability for you to send Direct Messages to people who don't know who you are, and don't follow you, sound like a good idea? Is this what you want? Is this what will make you finally use Twitter more?

#Twitter #DMspam #shareall  
Users now have the option to receive direct messages from anyone, if they choose.
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ML Hart
Twitter is my favorite SM platform for its immediacy and personal engagement. It's crazy at times, and I like that.
But I'll look for the opt-in or -out control, just because... generally, though, I just ignore DMs from those I don't know.
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Mark Mercer

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Best.Astronaut.Ever. #TheresCoffeeInThatSpaceship +Samantha Cristoforetti does selfie in Trek uniform, pointing to coffee, in SPACE!!

Appropriately wearing the uniform first created for on-station use in DS9, later worn by the crew of coffee-addict Captain Janeway's USS Voyager. On the day the "ISSpresso" Lavazza Italian espresso maker arrives in the Dragon so that astronauts, including Italian astronaut Captain Cristoforetti, can finally get a good cup of coffee.
An ISS astronaut took what might be the most epic 'Star Trek' selfie ever.
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Mark Mercer

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The uncreative control freak without artistry that George Lucas became, doesn't want you to see or be able to buy what the creative artist George Lucas created in 1977, the original "Star Wars"

The name of that film was, "Star Wars" - not "A New Hope" and not subtitled "Episode IV". Just "Star Wars, nothing but Star Wars". (Geek cred points to anybody who gets that reference.) It's not just that Han shot first (of course he did, he's Han!), but that it is just, "Star Wars".  That's a decision worthy of a Sith Lord.

George Lucas wants that locked away forever. Even though, as this article from +The Atlantic notes and quotes, he himself was once outraged that films were not preserved for posterity in their original versions, and cried out against later tampering.

Hypocritical jerk you are, the art of the Force not you feel.

I rarely have good things to say about The Walt Disney Company, as I think they are one  of the worst offenders in destroying our shared history of humans as storytellers, by their political manipulations and donations to ensure that politicians continue to pass "The Mickey Mouse Infinite Copyright Extension Act". ("Hey kids, what time is it? It's Mickey Needs Another Century Time!") But I've been damned impressed by the trailers for the now-Disney-owned new "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" film, and Star Wars is in better hands with Disney than it has been for the last two decades under its original creator.

Disney has not released the original version of the film on DVD/Blu-Ray/Streaming. But I believe +Disney is more likely to do so that Lucas himself ever would. Meanwhile, thank you to the obsessed fans who have created high-quality "De-specialized Editions" to return Star Wars to the movie that some of us saw in theaters in 1977, others saw as children or adults later.

#StarWars #GeorgeLucas #HanShotFirst #shareall  
The original 1977 version of the saga is nearly impossible to find, so these fans made their own. 
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Fuzzy Wanderer, Corporatism Critic, Former Corporate Tool. Uruguay Immigrant rather than US Expat.
Aging former ski-bum technogeek former corporate tool now a resident of the free country of Uruguay.
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