Our Seed Heritage is Our Food Supply

March 8, 2017 at 6:13 pm | Posted in Economoney, Health, Justice, Movies, Science | Leave a comment
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Recently I saw the film Seed: The Untold Story. While I was familiar with the presented issues, I wasn’t aware of just how extensive they were.

For example, did you know that 94% of seed diversity was lost in the last century? Some countries have made it illegal to collect heritage seeds, saying they need to “maintain the quality” (monopoly) of commercial stocks. And yet history has repeatedly shown us the hazards of widespread use of the same crop. Mono-crops can be compromised or wiped out by easily spread disease.

A more recent development is seed patents. Make a few small changes and you can own the seed stock. Farmers are not allowed to collect seeds or the seeds produce only one crop, obliging them to buy seeds again every year. Those seeds are often dependent on chemical sprays and again encourage mono-crops.

Thousands of farmers in India were convinced to borrow to buy seed they formerly harvested themselves. They got a crop they couldn’t renew and often failed, bankrupting them and causing over 250,000 suicides.

Thousands of small seed companies have been bought up by chemical companies which now control 2/3 of the global market. In other words, our food supply has become very dependent on international chemical corporations. The same ones who are patenting seeds.

The “small changes” that allow patenting seeds often take the form of genetic modification. Unlike our long history of culturing plant qualities through selective breeding, Genetically Modified (GMO) foods have directly altered DNA, often by adding features from other species. They’ve added fish DNA into tomatoes, for example. Those foods are then put on the market, untested. Some crops like corn and soy are almost all GMO, both of which are widely used in packaged food.

Scientific research is beginning to show correlations between GMO food consumption, cancer, and other health issues. Our dinner tables have become a laboratory for testing GMO. Unlike the also present pesticide residues, GMO cannot be washed off.

As pollination doesn’t recognize farm boundaries, nearby fields get contaminated. The seed owners can successfully sue farmers for using patented plants they didn’t plant. And the supply of non-GMO seeds gets further compromised, again moving towards mono-crops.

Yet the film is not dominated by a doomsday message. They also cover solutions and highlight people who are saving seed diversity for future generations. And happily, governments are slowly legislating GMO labeling so consumers can make informed choices.

Western Canada has a well-developed seed-sharing community.
David

Johnny Appleseed

December 24, 2016 at 2:55 pm | Posted in History | Leave a comment

When I was young, we used to sing grace before family meals. To engage us more, our mother had my sisters and I take turns leading grace. We each got to choose ours and I chose Johnny Appleseed. It was lively and brief.

“Oooooh, the Lord is good to me, and so I thank the Lord, for giving me the things I need, the sun and the rain and the apple seed. The Lord is good to me.”

This turns out to be called the Johnny Appleseed Traveling Song or the Swedenborgian hymn. Johnny Appleseed’s real name was John Chapman. He was an eccentric orchardist and Swedenborgian missionary. While he planted many apple trees, he did so in nursery’s. He didn’t plant apple trees everywhere he went as told in the legends, nor was his story like The Man Who Planted Trees. He encouraged planting apple trees and his plantings were spread widely. But his barefoot traveling was mostly as a missionary. He evidently didn’t believe in grafting, growing only native species suitable for cider and applesauce. More.

Certainly a character though, and the stories probably contributed to the popularity of apples in North America.  And yeah, a little off-season but recent events brought him to mind.
David

Quoting Shakespeare

November 28, 2016 at 12:31 pm | Posted in History | Leave a comment

Have you ever said “for goodness sake”? What about “rant” or “a wild goose chase”? You may not think you quote Shakespeare on a regular basis but a surprising number of phrases can be traced back to his plays. “Zany”, eh? We don’t know which phrases where common at the time and which where original Shakespeare witticisms, but his plays have ensured they’ve lasted hundreds of years.

Here’s a list of 50 phrases from the Bard. It will leave you “Bedazzled”.
David

The Hidden Life of Trees

November 21, 2016 at 10:55 pm | Posted in Media, Nature, Science | 2 Comments
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My father was a forest scientist, professor, and conservationist with an expertise in tree disease. While I didn’t follow in his footsteps, I’ve maintained a love of the forest.

Forest science has evolved considerably in recent years in ways that many people are unaware of.

The Hidden Life of Trees is the best-selling book by forester Peter Wohlleben. Here, the author, Dr. Suzanne Simard, and Dr Teresa Smhayetsk talk about how trees support each other, including other species, but know friends and family.
(from a longer DVD Intelligent Trees)

On YouTube

Dr. Suzanne Simard is a western Canadian forest scientist who explains in a TED talk how trees communicate. This includes an underground network for transporting signals and sharing nutrients.

On YouTube

And here the author Wohlleben is interviewed, also mentioning the “wood wide web” and wheat “talking” at about 220 Hz.

On YouTube

And if you’ve not seen it, The Man Who Planted Trees. An old favorite.

On YouTube
Enjoy!
David

Web Bias

November 14, 2016 at 6:59 pm | Posted in Computers, Economoney, Internet, Online services, Web Apps | 1 Comment
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As people shift more and more to getting news and information from the web, there’s an important detail we might overlook. While we may know a paper is conservative or a station is alternative, the web behaves differently. Many of the larger sites automatically filter content to favour our apparent interests. For example, you’ve probably noticed that if you watch a cat video on YouTube, it will automatically “recommend” more of the same. Many large sites do much the same.

While this may be convenient and help keep us on the site (and seeing ads), it narrows our view of the world by creating a bubble of information. A few years back, I posted a TED talk on the subject.

The recent US election has brought the subject to the fore, along with issues of “fake” news. Facebook is denying it’s news feed had an influence on the election. But the Wall Street Journal has done an interesting mock-up that illustrates the issue in action. You can see how very different the 2 feeds are for a subject. Keep in mind this is not just true of Facebook.

Friends have tested search engines similarly. Test the same search on 2 different computers – one in the financial district and the other in a poor part of town. Completely different results. Multiply this across many sites and it can affect your sense of the world.

The key – diversify your sources and pay attention to reputable international news sites that bring an out-of-country perspective. You can also use a tool like DuckDuckGo to search Google while reducing some of the tracking.

To take this further, what we see of the world will reinforce Cognitive Bias. If you’re unfamiliar, here’s a summary of 12 types. And Facebook has their own page on “Managing Bias“.
David

The Connected Universe

November 11, 2016 at 4:46 pm | Posted in Media, Movies, Science, Space, Technology | Leave a comment
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For some years, I’ve been watching the work of self-taught physicist Nassim Haramein. He’s given many seminars on his ideas and released video of them, including the 6-hour Beyond the Event Horizon. Many people have studied how to explain his ideas and more recently they’ve launched an on-line “academy” to take it further. He’s also shown up in various works like the film Thrive.

Some of his ideas have been wildly speculative, like the grave of Jesus or the meaning of a comet. But the unfolding physics has been quite fascinating. As with Einstein and Buckminster Fuller, the physics is driven by his experiences.

While my physics isn’t strong enough to test his work, he has been working with several traditional physicists and has had his work published – peer-review is the key screening for  science.

His model proposes a solution for Unified Field Theory but it comes out of left field, dropping the standard model of 4 forces into 2 and placing a black hole inside every proton. Key also is reintroducing spin into Einstein’s Field equations (also related to that black hole) and a universal scaling law. The results of his formulas are more accurate than the Standard model.

Meanwhile, he’s been working on a film to bring the ideas to a larger audience. In the summer of 2014, I saw clips at the Vancouver production studio of the in-progress work. Some of the film was also shot in Vancouver and Whistler. The project ended up being the most successful Indigogo fund-raising campaign and first into a new Vimeo distribution product.

The film is called The Connected Universe and has now been released. It can be watched on-line for about $7. The trailer.

While the film talks about his work and how it developed, Nassim stays very general on science, focusing more on the broader ideas and the potential impact they could have on our world-view.

He talks about how we’ve been looking at matter to define space but it’s actually space that defines matter. At about the halfway point, he explores how important an information feedback mechanism is for the universe. This is the source of the self-organizing systems that surround us. Without it, form would never have arisen in the first place let alone evolved over billions of years. However, he goes on to suggest that the feedback mechanism is what makes space conscious and able to learn about itself. This is a subtle form of materialism.

I would suggest space arises in self-referral consciousness, so consciousness defines space. Awareness automatically creates a feedback mechanism by being aware of what arises in space (itself). In other words, consciousness provides a built-in feedback mechanism that is present in space and in matter.

As we mature as people, we notice progressively more subtle layers of our own nature. That awareness brings a more alert feedback mechanism which is self-enhancing.

But I fully agree that the universe is one massive feedback mechanism.

The film is full of gorgeous graphics although much of it is artist expression rather than an accurate illustration of the dynamics.

At several points, they come back to the importance of our attention.

Nothing would be the same if we weren’t there. We’re actually participating in this incredible, complex, will-works of nature. [the] communication of all the things in it is occurring through this imprint that we leave on the structure of space-time as we go along, as we interpret what we see and how we feel. So we have a responsibility in our interpretations, in our feelings, in our behaviors, in what we are feeding the universe.
— Nassim Haramein

The film does touch on the importance of spin, forces, and the universality of black holes as I mentioned prior. But I was disappointed they skimmed over it and didn’t display a model of the dual torus and the inner dynamics that create the 2 fundamental forces – attractive and repulsive. It’s also absent any test results.

By comparison, here’s a TEDx talk he did with a little more of the science.

Many people think technology alone holds the key to creating a better future for humanity. But there is more to it than that. It is the consciousness with which we create and wield that technology that will significantly impact our world.
— Patrick Stewart, narrator

Primarily, the film talks about the broader ideas and possible consequences of vacuum energy devices and a new world-view of being intimately connected. We could say a film of vision rather than application.
David

Gut Health

October 26, 2016 at 7:28 pm | Posted in Health, Science | 8 Comments
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All disease begins in the gut.
–- Hippocrates

An average-sized human body comprises over 37 trillion cells. Most of them specialize and work in groups, like as skin, muscle or organ, for the common good. Our digestive system breaks food down into proteins and nutrients that cells need to function and communicate. However, good digestion requires the support of a wide range of microbes that live in our gut. They estimate there is 10x more microbes living in our gut than cells in the body.

‘Gut health’ is a term increasingly used in the medical literature and by the food industry. It covers multiple positive aspects of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, such as the effective digestion and absorption of food, the absence of GI illness, normal and stable intestinal microbiota, effective immune status and a state of well-being.
research paper

Our gut has turned out to have more neurons that our brain, leading to the term “gut brain”. The gut is also a central part of our immune system.

The microbes help us and we support them. But if some of them get carried away and overpopulate, we need to bring them back into balance.

For example, if we have too much sugar (including low quality carbs) in our diet, microbes like yeast (candida) become excessive. The yeast signals a demand for more sugar and we crave it. But anything in excess overwhelms the other microbes and throws the gut balance off. What we need to properly digest other foods is reduced.

This is chronic for some people. Too far out of balance and GI issues migrate to other parts of the body causing skin problems (thrush, age spots, rashes, adult acne), yeast infections, bloating, food and chemical sensitivities, bad breath, chronic fatigue, allergies, reduced immune function, stubborn gut fat, reduced serotonin (happiness), and so forth. Every piece of research I looked at had still more that could be added to this list.

This process can lead to the gut barrier being compromised, leaking particles into the blood stream and on into places they don’t belong. Known as “leaky gut”, this leads to increased infections, inflammatory problems, metabolic disorders and intestinal diseases. Research suggests gut imbalance can have a key role in autoimmune diseases.

Our modern diet has a few foods said to cause the most trouble with gut health.

1 – azodicarbonamide – an additive to whiten flour that is banned in the EU and other places but legal in N. America. It’s widely used in fast food buns.
2 – diet soda – the artificial sweeteners. Yeast loves all sweeteners.
3 – coffee – due to its acidity. Even worse with added sugar, especially found in fancy coffees.
4 – alcohol – kills friendly microbes

You may recognize some of these from the cancer risk list too.

A lean chicken burger and diet soda isn’t as healthy as you might think. More so if this is your regular diet.

Another thing to mess with gut health is antibiotics. They are very useful for bringing problem microbes under control but do this by cutting a wide swath. It’s thus important to restore our microbiome after taking antibiotics. NSAIDs like aspirin and Advil can also cause trouble.

The effect of ciprofloxacin [an antibiotic] on the gut microbiota was profound and rapid, with a loss of diversity and a shift in community composition occurring within 3–4 d[oses] of drug initiation. By 1 wk after the end of each course, communities began to return to their initial state, but the return was often incomplete.
research paper

If we restore gut balance, the many symptoms subside. However, starving the sugar-loving yeast can take several months. Even if we fast for a few days and break the sugar craving, until gut balance is restored, there will be a much greater tendency to “fall off the wagon” on diets, etc.

To restore gut health, you need sources of healthy microbes like:
1) Kefir
2) fermented veggies like Sauerkraut or Kimchi
3) probiotic supplements

Probiotic yogurt is a popular solution these days but commercial yogurt is usually pasteurized for longevity, killing the microbes. Most also have added sugar.

Ironically, if you have a yeast issue, fermented foods like sauerkraut may cause more bloating. They become more suitable after some balance is restored for maintaining balance.

Thus, a supplement is a good idea to restore gut health. You want one with billions of microbes and a number of strains. Somewhat like a good multivitamin.

(Unless you have a specific issue like Crohn’s that is better served by very specific strains.)

My local health food store recommended a more expensive one with more strains and numbers for post-antibiotics but a regular one for general restoration.

These probiotic supplements don’t last for more than a couple of weeks in the gut but they “elbow out” the bad guys and give the chance for beneficial microbes to get reestablished.

When you begin a supplement, it’s common to notice quick changes with digestion and elimination. Even with a colicky baby for a supplementing nursing mother.

Foods recommended to feed your gut flora (called prebiotic) included whole oranges, bananas, artichokes, yams, lentils and garlic. Overall, you want a diet emphasizing whole foods with a plant base for optimum health.
David

Syncing Thunderbird to Android with MyPhoneExplorer

September 28, 2016 at 8:03 pm | Posted in Computers, Internet, Software, Technology | 1 Comment
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Perhaps you’re a little old school like me – you prefer to use an email client like Thunderbird to manage your mail, contacts and schedule rather than using web tools. While webmail is great for traveling, it has serious limitations if you’re managing several email accounts and a lot of traffic.

You may also not be a fan of sharing your entire life with web tools that browse your information for marketing hooks. Yet it would be nice to have your Contacts and Calendar synced with your Android phone. While Google and similar tools make doing that easy, it’s always under their watchful eye.

The solution is to sync your computer and phone directly. Recently I ran into a nifty little tool called MyPhoneExplorer. Originally developed for Ericsson phones, they added Android support.

It allows syncing your address books with your phones, includes a Calendar view for various desktop calendars, and allows browsing your text messages, call logs, file system and various other more geeky things. It also allows syncing to multiple phones. (feature summary)

The focus of this article is syncing Thunderbird Contacts and Lightning Calendar with your Android phone Contacts and Calendar.

You can connect with your phone via USB, WiFi or Bluetooth.
My Desktop doesn’t have bluetooth.

I routinely connect my G4 via USB to download pictures. However, this requires 2 extra things:
– An ABD driver but these have signing issues with recent versions of Windows.
– turn on Developer Options in Android. This is now somewhat hidden. For example, on the G4, it’s Settings, General, About Phone, Software info. Tap Build Number 5-6 times (it offers a countdown). This turns on Developer Options in the General Menu. Theres a switch to turn it off again inside the above. The FJSoft forum has links for other phones, drivers, etc.

Thus, in my case, the easy choice was Wireless.

I didn’t find detailed instructions for this Setup so I thought it worth going over what I did here.

Best to back up your phones contacts and Thunderbird before you do this, in case anything goes awry.

1) Download and install MyPhoneExplorer for your PC.
(There’s a portable option during setup but this doesn’t have the desired sync abilities)

2) In Play Store, install MyPhoneExplorer Client on your phone. The maker mentions it may install with first use of the desktop software, but I’d recommend this approach.

3) In Thunderbird, install the MyPhoneExplorer extension in Tools, Add-ons.
It has one setting, if you use Event Categories.

4) On Android, connect to WiFi (with the same router and subnet as your PC)

5) Start the client app on Android. Add a wifi pin # when prompted.
review Settings for syncing (turn off Google sync, for example)

6) Start the desktop app on you PC. Enter the PIN when prompted (it asked once). Review File, Settings. Autodetect worked fine for me.

Review Settings, esp in Sync:
Contacts:
For Contacts, set to Thunderbird, then click Advanced. Select the Address Books you want synced. For example, you may NOT want Collected Addresses on your phone.
The => symbol marks the default Address Book where new Phone Contacts will be added to Thunderbird. You may want a new address book for that purpose.

The program automatically loaded some Contacts from Thunderbird right away but not always what I wanted. Thus I set it to Sync Thunderbird > Phone only at first. After setting which address books and resyncing, it cleaned up the ones I didn’t want. Before it syncs, review the changes being made. Don’t let it delete phone contacts you want, etc. Select the contact to see the 2 options.

After it synced the right Address Books, I changed it back to sync both ways. I found there was a little cleaning up to do. A few of my Thunderbird Contacts didn’t have First & Last Names, for example, so didn’t display right on the phone. And I use Groups in Android Contacts. Not all of those where set per the Thunderbird Address books. Finally, Android has a Main phone number setting not used by Thunderbird, so that doesn’t sync. Change those to Work or whatever and all will be well. After a little back and forth and resyncing, I had them matching and synced.

Calendar:
Again, set Thunderbird and click Advanced. You can sync Events and/or Tasks. Again as a test, I synced to phone only at first, then both ways.

Tune the sync range. You probably don’t need years of events on your phone. Time Period allows you to control it. You can also set if private events are synced.

Thereafter, Connect & Disconnect the phone using F1 on the Desktop
Then select Contacts or Calendar and click the Sync button. Review the changes and OK.

Now you have your Contacts matching and have your Calendar with you.

You’ll find the best results by entering most data in Thunderbird and syncing. Android apps are simplified, so will do things like put the entire street address on one line. But it’s still handy to save new phone numbers and sync those with the desktop.
David

Changing Profit

August 29, 2016 at 9:04 pm | Posted in Books, Economoney | Leave a comment
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A standard corporation is structured to be bottom-line driven. Ethics or environmental concern can only be engaged if it can be showed to improve profit. Often, they are purely marketing efforts. But if consumers demand healthier products, the corporations will comply. If consumers demand cheapest, that drives out most all other concerns. Some markets become a race to the bottom.

As corporate businesses have grown larger and become more ubiquitous, they’re having a disastrous effect on local economies, the environment, ethics, employment, and the long-term viability of social structures. Civilizations have not historically lasted when the income ratio (highest to lowest) becomes as great as it is now.

Add in the effects of technological revolution and you lose the need for full employment. Without work in our culture, you loose your role in society. This is especially difficult for youths if they cannot get established. They can become alienated and without motivation to support the community. Other social forms like gangs and protest become prominent.

But more recently, new models for business have arisen. One is B-Corps, corporations that can have built-in ethical or environmental principles. Business that can act in the interests of society along with profit generation.

A Canadian variation is the Community Contribution Company (C3) which caps profits and channels the surplus into social causes.

But what about designing a business that is not for profit at all? Non-profits have been around for as long as for-profits, but the not-for-profit style of enterprise is distinct from charities.

As the authors of a new book on the subject (How on Earth: Flourishing in a Not-for-Profit World by 2050) note “A successful not-for-profit enterprise includes paying employees, managers and CEOs fair salaries. This idea is not a sacrificial business model.

why don’t you just advocate for social enterprise or for Benefit (B) corps? We think those business terms don’t tell us about what happens to the profit, and they don’t tell us about the ownership of the company.

Not-for-profits can be purely purpose driven, and not distracted by any need to maximize profit.

Many of us may not be fully aware of how these pressures of profit generation guide our lives. The ubiquitous marketing and the culture of consumerism are core pieces of the for-profit system because for-profit companies have to grow every year.

This pressure leads industries to always work at creating new markets and new needs. We see a broader trend of “manufacturing needs” through marketing, convincing us that we’re not good enough and that we need to buy more. In a world of mostly not-for-profit companies, all businesses would be purpose driven and wouldn’t have the same pressure to constantly expand their bottom line to compensate for extracted value.

It’s a fascinating idea – companies and thus jobs driven by meaning and purpose. Business that supports community rather than preying on it. A massive reduction in junk. A winding down of massive companies that have more influence than elected governments.

We’ll see.
David

Kiva’s History

June 12, 2016 at 12:26 pm | Posted in Economoney, History, Internet, Online services | Leave a comment
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I began micro-loaning with Kiva in 2008 and have written various articles on the subject. I’ve now given 24 loans in 17 countries. In one case, the local lending organization failed, impacting the loan repayment. In another, there was a small loss due to currency exchange values. But the rest of the loans have been doing fine – farmers, students, grocers, groups, and more. A small infusion has kept the process going and slightly expanded the number of loans I can make. The cost for me has been tiny compared to the impact. As the funds are repaid, I reloan them.

Kiva has recently released a video showing their history. It also gives a sense of it’s impact. This is a better repayment rate than in the west.

On YouTube

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