A Vegan Challenge

December 10, 2015 at 4:36 pm | Posted in Economoney, Health | Leave a comment
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Recently, I’ve talked about the CHIP program and a shift to a more whole foods, plant based diet, otherwise known as a Vegan diet.

I’ve concluded that this body isn’t going to go that far but I will favour a mostly vegetarian approach. I learned a great deal from the CHIP program to support good lifestyle choices.

When I watched the film Cowspiracy, I discovered their web site had an offer for a free 30-Day Vegan Challenge by vegan author Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. There are a lot of reasons to make dietary changes but the motivation on the site was to reduce meat consumption so we reduce our impact on climate change*. Even eating one less hamburger makes a surprising difference. Colleen also speaks about the compassionate treatment of animals, something modern factory farms have left by the wayside.

I decided to take her program – not to become vegan but to enhance my healthy choices and options.

I quite enjoyed the program and have picked up some great tips. Much like the CHIP program, she broke through some myths and went into some detail on key nutrients. She even covered a few details CHIP had not.

The program is designed for those with a typical North American diet, so there was a lot of recommendations for what I’d call “faux food” – foods designed to mimic meat and dairy products. That is – replacing one processed food with another possibly even more processed. Now I certainly enjoy a good veggie burger but am more interested in yummy dishes than eating foods pretending to be something else. I can see where such products might have a transitional role until we have more menu diversity but long-term use of heavily processed foods is not a great idea, vegan or not.

I also cringed when she got into calorie counting for weight loss. It’s very true that weight changes come by shifting the balance of intake and output in calories but tracking that is not something I’ll ever do well.

But the program is full of recipes and healthy food choices, shopping tips, and food knowledge. Leaning veggie is not as difficult as it might seem. Many of the foods we already eat are vegan and there are many very tasty options. We just need a little knowledge and a few new habits and choices.

I would describe the CHIP program as superior but it’s not available everywhere and is not cheap. This program is free and can serve as a good introduction to making some healthy changes. Healthy for all of us. And she can help you save money too.

*research indicates meat production produces vastly more greenhouse gases than all forms of transportation combined. See the article with links.

Eating for Life

December 10, 2015 at 4:27 pm | Posted in Economoney, Health, Science | 1 Comment
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Eating based on beliefs or special diets that are not designed for your specific body can have unintended consequences. Variety is what makes food interesting and ensures we get the diversity of nutrients required.

Readers of this blog know I did a series on the CHIP program. This included some of the science for shifting to a more plant-based diet, minimizing cancer risk, and overall self care. The program was originally designed for heart patients but was expanded to the whole population.

I quite liked the approach as it looked at how and what we eat, fitness, emotional health, and more. CHIP recommends a primarily plant-based diet but suggests you move in that direction rather than mandating anything.

The weakness however is not differentiating recommendations by body type. For myself I’ve found Ayurveda adds some useful extras. For a start, they begin with your body type and make dietary recommendations accordingly. They recognize that not all of us will respond to the same vegetables or other foods in the same way. Each of us needs a certain emphasis or balance of food types.

Ayurveda favours a vegetarian diet that includes dairy, but they allow for the full range and can recommend some occasional fish or white meat. They have a food as medicine approach. Dairy is also prepared in specific ways. Clarified butter, soft cheeses, and boiled milk, for example.

Ideally, we begin with initial recommendations and then experiment. Pay attention to how foods make you feel afterwards. But be very careful where sugar is involved. Sugar confuses the bodies intelligence so it messes up the signals and creates craving. Also, you may find dietary needs change with age and life, so we may need to tune up choices periodically.

But if we can learn to take the bodies lead in our eating choices rather than some dietary rules or beliefs, we’ll do much better and enjoy life more.

Science is beginning to catch on to this. Programs are being developed (as yet far too expensive) that make science-based diet and exercise recommendations that are specific to your body. By combining DNA, blood, and other tests, we’ll soon be offered more personalized recommendations.

Meantime, enjoy the experiment.

Cowspiracy – The Sustainability Secret

November 8, 2015 at 6:42 pm | Posted in Economoney, Health, Media, Movies, Science | 4 Comments
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I’ve written several articles on this blog on the CHIP program and the many health benefits of shifting to a more plant-based diet – including reduced cancer risks. Recently, the World Health Organization announced that processed meats are carcinogenic and red meat probably also is. This is based on hundreds of studies.

A friend recommended the film Cowspiracy, a surprising documentary about the meat industry. Not only is excess meat a health issue but it’s also the number one cause of global warming. Simply because of volume, cows and their processing produce well over twice the greenhouses gases than all forms of transportation. Really?

“Livestock and their byproducts account for at least 32,000 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year, or 51% of all worldwide greenhouse gas emissions.”
Goodland, R Anhang, J. “Livestock and Climate Change: What if the key actors in climate change were pigs, chickens and cows?”

“Livestock is responsible for 65% of all human-related emissions of nitrous oxide – a greenhouse gas with 296 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide, and which stays in the atmosphere for 150 years.”
“Livestock’s Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options.” 2006.

“Even without fossil fuels, we will exceed our 565 gigatonnes CO2e limit by 2030, all from raising animals.”
Oppenlander, Richard A.

“Agriculture is responsible for 80-90% of US water consumption.”
US Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service, 2013.  54% is for growing feed crops.

Conservatively, 2,500 gallons of water are needed to produce 1 pound of beef. Eating a single hamburger will negate any individual efforts you can make to conserve water.

“Animal agriculture is responsible for up to 91% of Amazon destruction.”
World Bank, 2003

“Today, humans and the animals that we raise as food make up 98% of the zoomass.” (animal biomass on earth)
Vaclav Smil, Harvesting the Biosphere, 2011

“We are currently growing enough food to feed 10 billion people.” But half of it goes to feed animals, even in countries with starving children.

much more, with references      An infographic

Meat production is the largest cause of deforestation, water consumption, ocean pollution, and desertification. A third of the planet is now desert. And yet the film-maker found that most environmental organizations refused to talk about it. His primary funder suddenly backed out over the “controversy”.

Turns out it’s illegal in the US to speak against the meat production industry. There is now an “Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act”. In other words, speaking about this in the US can be considered a terrorist act. In South America, people are shot for protesting against agribusiness.

Yet – on a given land area, we can produce 15x the protein with plants rather than animals.

“A person who follows a vegan diet produces the equivalent of 50% less carbon dioxide, uses 1/11th oil, 1/13th water, and 1/18th land compared to a meat-lover.” Just with diet.

A little more effective than a low-flow shower head, biking to work, and turning out a few lights. And if we’re actually serious about addressing climate change, we need to address the elephant in the room…

Lorem Ipsum

September 30, 2015 at 5:53 pm | Posted in Online services, Software, Writing | Leave a comment
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You may have occasionally run into a web site containing nonsense text that looks sort of Latin. Like this:

“Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.”

This is known as “Lorem Ipsum” or dummy text. It’s used to test page formatting without the distraction of real words with meaning. In fact, it’s been used since the 1500’s when an unknown printer scrambled type to make a type sample book. Remarkably, it has survived throughout the centuries of publishing, into Letraset and on into desktop publishing software and web design tools.

A surprise to me, it’s not completely random text but is actually derived from a Latin work by Cicero from 45 BC – a text on  ethics and good & evil. In other words – it does have Latin roots. However, some of the modern editions have humour and other inappropriate edits mixed in, so be careful of your source.

Here’s is a handy site that discusses the above, shows the original source text, and offers a tool to create randomized dummy text as required. You can choose to start it with the original first sentence but the rest is randomized each time.

Imagine – one could create a large blog, full of articles that contain entirely random text. Ah, the possibilities.  :-)

On-line Editors

September 20, 2015 at 3:44 pm | Posted in Books, Internet, Online services, Software, Web Apps | 8 Comments
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Writing a book or other long form project isn’t just the writing. It’s also the editing, the publishing and the marketing. Few who start a book project ever produce a complete manuscript. And fewer of those get through the next hurdles. There’s a good reason why many never get it out there.

In these days of self-publishing and ebooks, many more have the chance to get their works published in some form. But without a publisher, too many are skipping some of the steps. Too many titles have gotten into distribution channels without decent editing. That brings down the whole market.

While word processing software has spell and grammar checking built in, this is not “editing”. It only handles some basic kinds of typos.

Traditional publishers will take a manuscript through 4 or more rounds of editing specialists. But you at least want a Substantive Editor to look at the structure, flow, and the coherence of the work and a Copy Editor to take a closer look at word use and proofread the niggly details. You may also need fact checking.

Recently, more advanced editing software has become available that can help with copy editing. You have to go through each suggested edit to make sure it’s valid, but it can cover a lot of the worst mistakes before you have real eyes on the work. That can make the copy editor’s job much easier.

Most of these tools are web services with a subscription model – you pay annually for access via the web. Sometimes, the tools have Word or other add-ins that bring the interface into your software. Some work only with Word.

A few also offer plagiarism services that check if you’ve copied off outside sources. In other words – a really bad idea. Checking has become easy and cheap so always quote your sources. It can also flag if you have potential sections where you might run into similarity problems later. Plus, the tool may help source your quotes.

I looked at various articles and reviews. Many pointed to a batch of similarly priced tools.

Grammarly often topped the pack but there was sometimes overt advertising influence. Personal reviews were more mixed and there were a lot of reports of unresolved over-billing or being billed for the free trial. Plagiarism checking is included.

WhiteSmoke seemed decent but the setup wasn’t as useful for me. Their web site looks to be infected, so I’m not linking them. One reviewer linked instead to another supplier, suggesting a long term problem.

CorrectEnglish looked decent. But all of these tools are over $100. That can become competitive with a copy editors rates if your primary need is one work.

Then I found a couple of writers blogs like Karen’s that suggested others. Further research showed all where positive about them.

The key one: ProWritingAid – you can actually use their on-line tool for free for a batch of smaller works but you have to manually make the suggested edits in your work. I ran a recently posted article though it and was surprised how many  mistakes it found. Doh! For $35 a year, you can do longer works and edit right in the text, then transfer the updates back. If you use Word or Google Docs, they have an add-in to edit right in the doc. WordPress too. For $5 more you get plagiarism checking.

They also have a decent blog talking about the industry, even inviting comparisons with similar products. And their Twitter feed is full related links, author articles, etc. They’re clearly into it.

Karen’s link above also mentioned the free (in beta) EditMinion. It only does small parts but does catch slightly different things. She suggested you use this first, then ProWritingAid.

She also mentioned a great tool if you’re writing non-fiction. WritingHouse gives you a free tool for assembling a Bibliography in the right format with all the little details.

Note that you have to resist the urge to get into fancy formatting of your work prematurely. That can get butchered by the editing process. Formatting comes after you have a polished draft. Plus the style of formatting will depend on your eventual publishing medium. Default word processing format is usually for 8.5 x 11″ paper. That’s useful for a PDF at best. Book formatting is quite distinct and digital ebooks and web publishing are each their own worlds. A carefully formatted print PDF looks terrible on an ebook reader, for example. Ebooks have to be able to flow into their viewing container.

When you get to this point, I’ve found the book Zero Cost Self Publishing by Stephen Norton useful. It’s a step-by-step how-to for print and the primary ebook distributors. And then there is the exploding world market for ebooks in other languages. Why stick with N. America when you can be a best-seller in China?

Long form writing, whatever the final output, is quite the process. We can all use a little help at different parts of the journey.

How the Solar System Actually Moves

August 27, 2015 at 7:29 pm | Posted in Science, Space | 2 Comments
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You may have seen those animations of the planets circling the sun. Maybe even one of those mechanical devices illustrating it. However, this leaves us with the erroneous impression that the sun is standing still.

As I noted on Quite Enough, “the sun is moving at about 810,000 kph. The earth is not orbiting, it’s spiralling through space, following the sun. We’re not only matching the suns speed to keep up, but spinning and going around as well. So we’re going even faster…”  We also never return to the same point in space in our annual orbit.

I saw a decent animation of the process but it had the plane of the ecliptic (planetary orbits) perpendicular to the sun’s movement, which is incorrect. This one is more accurate. However, it’s also worth noting that the sun is not moving in a straight line either. We’re moving relative to other area stars, and orbiting the galaxy which is moving with our galactic cluster, and so forth.


The Collection

August 26, 2015 at 3:58 pm | Posted in Computers, Media, Movies, Online services, Software | Leave a comment
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Movie Buffs come in many forms. There are those who like movies only in the theatres – perhaps at a favoured cinema or an art house. Others like to manage their own schedule and subscribe to various on-line services like Netflix to stream what and when. And still others like the physical media so they are independent. Or maybe they just like to collect. And of course there are mixtures – those who collect just fav films but go to the cinema for the big screen spectacles and stream others. And so on.

Over time, those collections can get to be large. We can start loosing track of what we have, what we’ve watched, what we’ve loaned and so forth. Myself, I began a simple spreadsheet. When that got too large, I migrated to a simple database. I looked at available free cataloging software like I use for my archive discs but didn’t find what I needed. I also recognized the benefit of storing the data external to the database, something most home office apps don’t do (Access, Base, etc). Good databases store their data externally, so I set up a jdbc database. That worked well for a year and then Java updated in a way that my office software didn’t. Broken.

Time for a new solution. After doing some online research and going over Gizmo and Lifehacker, I narrowed my choices down to 4 programs. DVD collection software has come a long ways. After trying several out, I found Eric’s Movie Database best met my needs.

It took a bit of fiddling to get the data out of the old broken database, then convert to csv format, then to add a couple of custom fields to EMDB (easy). It’s also good to review your old data to make sure its in a standardized format. Some of mine like dates was in shorthand that another database wouldn’t recognize. Then I was able to import a large collection into Eric’s. You can then run a batch update through IMDB and it downloaded a great deal more info than I ever tracked. So much easier than all that typing and now I had visual references too. A quick review allowed me to correct a few identification errors plus load TV episodes for those items.

EMDB is a vast improvement over my little custom database. I just enter the name and a couple of details and it collects all the rest. It’s packed with customization options. It has both manual and automatic backups. You can easily add another database for a different collection and cut and paste those titles over. And you can make the whole thing portable. I’m still discovering features.

If your collection is digital, such as on a NAS or media server, EMDB includes a file Location field. You can index an entire digital collection by file name (if you have good naming habits). And you can also launch the movie from within the software, if that works for your setup. Adding a new file, it will index it without even having to type the movies name.

For a small donation, Eric will send you a file to rename the program in your name.

3D Doodling

July 26, 2015 at 3:52 pm | Posted in uncategorized | Leave a comment

Ever wished you could make something with silly string? Have more control over the spray? Or a glue gun? How about a pen with a controlled output? That allows you to draw in the air. This video illustrates:

Note that it’s not wireless. And like a glue gun, you put the coloured plastic in the back that the pen melts for you to form as you choose. They currently offer 3 kinds of plastic to use for different kinds of projects. For example, plastic that sticks to a surface like glass and plastic that doesn’t, for making panels. You can trace structural drawings and them assemble them. You can even use it on clothing or to make clothing & wearables.

This is similar in concept to a 3D printer only it’s pen style – a little less precise but also less expensive and more creative.

The sticks are about .40 each (depending on type) so cheap for a little fun but could add up for a larger project. They also have additional nozzles and a pedal control. The site has lots of video tutorials including using the tool, getting started, welding plastics, etc.

I notice there are some online sites offering an earlier version or the plastic refills for quite a bit more $. So it pays to compare prices.

Natural Justice

June 22, 2015 at 5:44 pm | Posted in Justice | Leave a comment
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A friend of mine sent me an article on the recently founded International Tribunal for Natural Justice (ITNJ). While I don’t have a background in the field, I found the introduction a pretty interesting read. It was launched this month to coincide with the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta. Here are a few quotes:

What is Justice? What is fairness? What is the rule of law? When in the course of our lives we discover that we have been harmed by another, by what process do we seek to correct this harm, and ensure no other is also harmed? Justice is the answer to these questions, but what is Justice?

The fundamental ‘rules’ of the Universe are known by many names, written in many books, but all are reflections of objective Truth. The ITNJ is founded on the recognition of a logical or causal consequence of Natural Laws, present everywhere in existence and experience – moving from higher to lower. In order to understand why Justice is objective, and not the arbitrary whim of ‘authorities’ and government, we must understand the fundamental aspects of reality itself.

They list 8 fundamental principles or laws.

The International Tribunal for Natural Justice is a body of knowledgeable, active and committed individuals seeking to act in harmony with the fundamental laws of the Universe. These laws are inherent, meaning they existed before humanity, and will continue to do so now and into the future. By seeking for, and gaining knowledge of these fundamental laws from experience itself, an awareness of objective morality is developed, and a duty is placed on such individuals to become an agent for Natural Justice; the ITNJ seeks to be one of these agents. As we are living on a planet ravaged by deception, coercion and piracy, only the people themselves can take up their creative prerogatives to correct tyranny and injustice when it is discovered.

Natural Justice is based on the premise of honor and trust, as such a harm incurred by one cannot be corrected by incurring harm back on them; ‘an eye for an eye. The cause of harm is incomplete knowledge and/or an unwillingness to honor the rights of others, as such the solution must be an attempt to offer the truth to such individuals, an establishment of trust.

When we see injustice being done (violence) and take actions to stop the harm and disclose this to the violating party (full disclosure); we offer them a chance to address the harm honorably. Natural Justice always seeks to honor others even when they seek to dishonor us.

ITNJ can serve as a grand venue to hear the grievances of all the people who have been harmed by corporations, governments or any other. Court cases will be transparent and public, freely available to all. Judgements will be presented to any guilty party by Attorney Generals who will issue notices, and begin the process of redress.

This reminds me of the local First Nations court where the goal is community and healing rather than further harm. It is a profound rethinking of justice, especially in light of how it is performing in the present day.

Please follow the opening links to read more.

A Flourishing Life

June 7, 2015 at 11:29 am | Posted in Health, Psychology | 2 Comments
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As the CHIP program is a Complete Health Improvement Program, the last classes have covered emotional health and changing your environment to better support your improved health. The same principles of eating nutritiously and getting enough exercise come up over and over again. Good sleep habits and exposure to natural environments also help life balance and health.

Class 16 covered stress relief, including the Relaxation Response. This is a technique that was developed in the 1970’s after early research on Transcendental Meditation at Harvard. In a broader technique context, it would be classed as a body-awareness technique. This can be very handy for simple relaxation. It’s also used in classical meditation as a way to handle strong purification events. However, it’s not recommended as a long term practice because too much tends to dull the mind. A good first step, but I’d suggest graduating to an effortless meditation practice to get the best long term benefits.

In the last class, we explored the results of research on happiness. They outlined 5 domains, each of which bring us progressively deeper and more sustained happiness.

1 – Positive emotions – favouring the positive can be developed as a habit. But the positive always ends.
2 – Engagement – having something in our life we enjoy where we get focused and immersed.
3 – Achievement – paying attention to what we have accomplished brings greater satisfaction.
4 – Relationships – bring deeper connection to our lives. We become like those around us, so choose our social relationships well.
5 – Meaning – the feeling of belonging to something bigger than ourselves brings the most lasting contribution to our happiness.

To this list I would add self-knowledge. Not just superficial details but a deeper sense of our larger Self within. This connects us to a deep well of inner happiness. Like the above, an effortless meditation can be a key way to connect to our deeper values. This also has the advantage of supporting all of the prior domains, like bringing that greater-then-self meaning, more positive emotions, and so forth.

I’ve made good progress with the recommendations of the program. My doctor has been impressed and I’ve avoided the need for the medications he expected to have to prescribe. There is still more to come, but the approach to make lifestyle changes rather than temporary fixes like diets is clearly superior.

To your health!

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