Cowspiracy – The Sustainability Secret

November 8, 2015 at 6:42 pm | Posted in Economoney, Health, Media, Movies, Science | 3 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…

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.

Dolphin’s are Non-Human Persons

June 24, 2014 at 2:30 pm | Posted in Economoney, Media, Movies, Nature, Science | Leave a comment

An interesting article on news that India has declared dolphin’s to be non-human persons. They’re banning the “import, capture of cetacean species… for commercial entertainment, private or public exhibition and interaction purposes whatsoever.

Whereas cetaceans [marine mammals] in general are highly intelligent and sensitive, and various scientists who have researched dolphin behavior have suggested that the unusually high intelligence; as compared to other animals means that dolphins should be seen as ‘non-human persons’ and as such should have their own specific rights and is morally unacceptable to keep them captive for entertainment purpose…

This does not mean human rights but rather “Unlike… positive rights, such as the ‘right’ to education or health care, the animal right is, at bottom, a right to be left alone… It only requires us to stop killing them and making them suffer.

This comes out of a 2011 meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science gathering support for the 2010 Declaration of Rights for Cetaceans:

1. Every individual cetacean has the right to life.
2. No cetacean should be held in captivity or servitude; be subject to cruel treatment; or be removed from their natural environment.
3. All cetaceans have the right to freedom of movement and residence within their natural environment.
4. No cetacean is the property of any State, corporation, human group or individual.
5. Cetaceans have the right to the protection of their natural environment.
6. Cetaceans have the right not to be subject to the disruption of their cultures.
7. The rights, freedoms and norms set forth in this Declaration should be protected under international and domestic law.
8. Cetaceans are entitled to an international order in which these rights, freedoms and norms can be fully realized.
9. No State, corporation, human group or individual should engage in any activity that undermines these rights, freedoms and norms.
10. Nothing in this Declaration shall prevent a State from enacting stricter provisions for the protection of cetacean rights.

(the linked article is missing the last 3)

In my local community, Orcas have been removed from the local aquarium but they still have dolphins and belugas, so there is a move to ban all cetaceans from display for entertainment purposes. What makes it messy is they present as a “research aquarium” and consider that work critical. While I certainly agree marine research is very important, tying it to funding by using research subjects for public entertainment is highly questionable and an inherent conflict of interest.

Waterproof IMAX cameras are far less expensive and invasive to use in exposing us to marine life.

The article closes with this question: “Once we give rights to some animals how do we justify our continued exploitation of others?” Another recent local controversy is violent abuse of dairy cows. But as one article commented, the entire treatment of animals as a commodity on factory farms is abuse. Films like Food Inc. have spoken to this.

The Ultimate Mindbomb

January 23, 2014 at 9:43 pm | Posted in Events, History, Internet, Media, Movies | Leave a comment

At a TEDx talk in Victoria, Ian MacKenzie explores the history of the mask that came to be used by Anonymous, then the Occupy movement. Then he looks at the Occupy movement itself. Then how to Occupy the Noosphere with Memes via Mindbombs.

What is the ultimate Mindbomb we could release?

Ian MacKenzie

Ian was also involved in Velcrow Ripper’s film, Occupy Love. While not as far reaching as the 2 previous films in his trilogy, it does better explain the Occupy phenomena than anything else I’ve seen.

Tools for Going Digital

November 2, 2012 at 5:03 pm | Posted in Backup, Computers, Hardware, Media, Movies, Music, Software | 1 Comment

Gradually over the last few years, I’ve been digitizing my stuff. It takes less space, it’s easier to find, it can travel with me, and I can work and play with it immediately. I can also re-purpose it, like turning photos into a screen-saver, music into a play-list, and school notes into a reference library. Files are all one style, not stored by media (records, tapes, etc.) or misfiled or needing yet another device to play or piece of furniture to store. The computer becomes a repository of my life.

After getting a digital camera, photos were the first to migrate. Mostly I used an HP scanner with a photo feeder. If you have the option, a quick programmed action in Photoshop to colour balance, despeckle (dust), and sharpen left a polished  job reasonably quickly. All is now sorted in folders by year, month and event.

I found a film projector at a garage sale for the old super8 films and videotaped that. A little klutzy but the films were in rough shape and many edits had broken. Home videos I then turned into DVDs using a DVR. The Panasonic model had a built in hard drive so they could be digitized then sorted onto DVD’s. That model DVR died prematurely but fortunately after conversions were done.

Another project was all the various music media, including old albums and cassettes. The free Exact Audio Copy is best for CD’s (add Lame for MP3 output). Audacity has the pop & noise removal and editing tools for older media. If you have music you own that you don’t have the device to play to digitize it, use the power of Google to find replacement files. Google allows you to search for file-types using specific search commands. Tools like Gooload and GoogleMusicSearch make this easier. Read what the second has to say about the technique and spam sites. You’re looking for plain directories of stored files, not graphical promotion and spam sites. And you’ll also want to check the conversion quality (bit-rate) of the source. (R-click file, Properties, Details, Audio Bit-rate)

I also tackled the family photo albums, some hand-tinted going back 100 years. As the photos and memorabilia were glued to the pages, this required a large format scanner.

There are now 2 types of scanner lights. Traditional bulb scanners like Epson’s are great for art and professional uses where there is some depth of field (focus range) and colour precise imaging is required. Newer LED scanners don’t have the depth of field but are fine for the flat stuff and much less costly. You’ll see reviews are stratified for LED scanners as some are caught unawares by this difference.

I got a Scanexpress A3 1200 for this project. Now, many family members have copies of the old family albums and we don’t have to worry about where to eventually store the big pile of crumbling, fading albums.

Slides, I thinned out. The slide attachment for my HP scanner illustrated how the dust on slides is massively magnified and way to much labour to fix. The old travel slides were mostly scenery and had bleached out. Some of the best had been printed anyway. I picked out the very best of the rest and had a photo lab handle the conversion. The cost can add up but a pro shop has the gear to clear dust and do it well.

The last big project was all the paper. Binders of school & course notes, workshops, family records, business cards, writing, recipes, references, correspondence, and on and on. Very little of it needed to be kept in paper form, filing boxes and file cabinets. And some of it would be much more useful if it was searchable.

Enter yet another scanner. This one, the Fujitsu ScanSnap S1300i. While the above could do the scanning, it would take far too long. My old company uses Fujitsu scanners to scan thousands of pages of documents every day. They’re a real workhorse but not inexpensive. I was pleased to see this one at a reasonable cost but remarkably full-featured and smaller than a loaf of bread. Just flip open the lid and it turns on. Stick in the paper – from business card size to 8.5″ x 14″ – and push start.

In one pass it will:
– scan both sides of the page if they have content
– straighten the image if its sideways or a bit crocked
– determine if it’s B&W, gray-scale or colour content
– determine the page size
– combine each batch into a PDF
– and more.
The unit will also scan to email or on-line storage which can be synced to smartphones. The list goes on and on.  (see the above link for more)

That PDF can then be made searchable with the built-in Abbyy Finereader OCR (Optical Character (text) Recognition) tool. You can set it to do this automatically but I’d recommend this be a second step after scanning. You can start OCR and scan more at the same time. Also you can skip messy handwritten documents, images and other files unsuitable for OCR.

In addition to being searchable (quick find), an OCRed scan can be used to cut and paste quotes, though the quality of OCR text will depend on the quality of the original. Expect a few typos.

Documents that have been bound or hole-punched together may be prone to stick together. In this case, load a page, then the next, and the next a little ahead of the feeder. This ensures they don’t bind and the scan is complete. I’ve done hundreds of pages in a single file this way.

PDF editing tools may be useful after if you need to combine or separate  PDFs or insert pages. You can find free recommendations through here. Note to OCR first. Some tools will change the Meta source info of the PDF. ScanSnap Abbyy will not OCR files identified as from other sources. (that’s a more expensive product)

Now that I’m caught up, it’s easy to convert new documents. Just flip open the top, stick in the pages and press start. By default, the file-name is the scan date & time so I rename and file it after. No boxes of archives and a mostly empty filing cabinet. I can also use it to scan photos so it’s become my day-to-day digitizer.

And of course, order your statements and such digitally rather than in paper. Then you have less wasted paper to scan. I get little postal mail now.

You do want to learn to organize files on a computer. A heap of dated scans really doesn’t serve you well long term, though you can use Search to find content. Give the folders and important documents names with dates for faster finding. File them in a sensible folder structure. See more in Digital Filing Cabinet.

Of course, if you go digital, make sure you have an automated backup system. For myself, I copy off the assembled scans to DVD for archive and have an automatic daily backup to an external hard drive. If it’s important to you, store those DVD archives in another building.

For Windows 7, the imaging tool included works well. For an extra data backup tool, I use the free Cobain Backup. Both to an external hard drive and both scheduled.

Hope the suggestions are useful.

Batch Downloading YouTube Videos

July 14, 2012 at 5:18 pm | Posted in Internet, Media, Movies, Online services, Software | 2 Comments

If I run into a YouTube video I’d like to watch again, I enjoy saving the file for future viewing. It’s also valuable if you plan to use the clip as a source reference or it’s hidden or hard to find. Playing a downloaded clip is much smoother too – none of those buffer delays. Browser Add-ins like DownloadHelper and FlashGot make the job simple.

But if you run into something long, posted in parts, this can be a tedious process. DownloadThemAll helps batch downloading a big page of links or images but YouTube Channels and similar don’t serve links directly.

When I Googled for this, I was offered several links and videos that recommended a product that includes a spyware tool-bar installer. It comes up as a safe site in site safety markers but ESET Anti-virus blocked the download. Avoid

BulkYoutubeDownloader (BYtubeD) to the rescue. It can easily suss out YouTube links on a Channel. While it’s capable of batch downloading a number of files, it doesn’t manage this part as well. As their help files suggest, use BYtubeD to produce the links and DownloadThemAll to download the links. DTA is very efficient at batch downloading files.

(These instructions are for Firefox or Waterfox. Other browsers will be similar)

How To
1 – install the DownloadThemAll & BYtubeD add-ins and restart the browser
2 – navigate to the Channel in YouTube and Right click, select BYtubeD
3 – set the download destination, quality, etc, check ‘select all’ and set to Generate Links.
(Use the Enqueue (download) option for downloading up to 5 only – it tries them all at once)
4 – click Start
5 – a web page of file links is produced and opens in your browser, with video quality levels.
(Note this page is just temporary links so prepare links and start download one channel page at a time)
6 – with the page selected, go to Tools, DownloadThemAll Tools, DownloadThemAll.
7 – Select Links, set download location, and click Start.
DownloadThemAll will bring them down in name sequence, 4 at a time. Roll your mouse over a downland to watch how it efficiently downloads multiple parts at once. This can be faster than a straight download.

If you have a large batch, run this process at the end of the day and have it run overnight. You can add more pages to DownloadThemAll to create a larger batch. Just repeat the above process. Note that BYtubeD will overwrite the previous temporary links page you added to DTA previously so add them to DTA first, then make the next page.

Alternatively, you can use AntiContainer. It adds greater link capability to DownloadThemAll so you can use just the one tool. However, you have to go through the links and select the right ones, avoiding menu and other bits on the list. You may find it more useful on other sites though as it’s not YouTube specific.

And remember – this is for personal use. Using it to steal or infringe copyright can get you in trouble. And if you think you surf anonymously, you’d be mistaken. The web server has to know your computer address to send you the files.

UPDATE: It’s worth noting that YouTube plays Flash video. However, most posted videos are uploaded in another format like MP4 and converted by Youtube to Flash format (and various resolutions (quality levels)). When you download them, the best option is usually the original as it has the highest resolution. BYtubeD will download the highest resolution up to what you set. DownloadHelper will give you a choice. Typically “[Medium]” indicates the MP4 file. The extra advantage of MP4 is that all media players support it while only some support playing Flash FLV files.

UPDATE 2: Recently I ran into some content that was “unavailable” for download as MP4 via BYtubeD or DownloadHelper. Flash Video Downloader could download the MP4 though so it pays to have a few tools in the kit. FVD supports many sites and formats and is also a good choice for mobile uses. It has a slightly less obvious tool for searching for videos across many sites. (Note that some videos may only be posted in FLV so MP4 would require a post-download conversion. In this case it was present but hampered.)

Sacred Economics

April 4, 2012 at 3:00 pm | Posted in Books, Economoney, History, Movies | Leave a comment

A local filmmaker has made a short film to highlight the book Sacred Economics.

I’ve not yet read the book but enjoyed the film. As a number of historians have observed, when the spread between rich and poor gets as great as it is now, it’s usually the downfall of the civilization. And we certainly need a better understanding of economics and alternative solutions if we’re going to create a more equitable and sustainable culture.

The book is available in print, ePub, and as a “gift” on-line through the site.

“Sacred Economics traces the history of money from ancient gift economies to modern capitalism, revealing how the money system has contributed to alienation, competition, and scarcity, destroyed community, and necessitated endless growth. Today, these trends have reached their extreme but in the wake of their collapse, we may find great opportunity to transition to a more connected, ecological, and sustainable way of being.

This book is about how the money system will have to change and is already changing to embody this transition. A broadly integrated synthesis of theory, policy, and practice, Sacred Economics explores avant-garde concepts of the New Economics, including negative-interest currencies, local currencies, resource-based economics, gift economies, and the restoration of the commons. Author Charles Eisenstein also considers the personal dimensions of this transition, speaking to those concerned with “right livelihood” and how to live according to their ideals in a world seemingly ruled by money. Tapping into a rich lineage of conventional and unconventional economic thought, Sacred Economics presents a vision that is original yet commonsense, radical yet gentle, and increasingly relevant as the crises of our civilization deepen.”

Peace, if You want it.

September 27, 2011 at 8:20 pm | Posted in Events, Health, History, Internet, Media, Movies | Leave a comment

There’s an old saying: Peace begins within. But peace is also something we have to choose. It doesn’t begin if we don’t start. After we stop, that is. ;-)

As Velcrow Ripper, the maker of the film Fierce Light observed, activism alone will not bring peace. But nor will meditating alone. Find peace within, then bring it into the world.

As John Lennon famously put it, “If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set, then there’d be peace.

Did you know of Peace Day? That in 2001, the UN unanimously adopted a global ceasefire and non-violence day every Sept. 21? It’s been building for over a decade. With remarkable accomplishments the world over.

It’s called Peace One Day and it has quite a story.

Now they’re targeting a Global Truce for Sept 21, 2012.

Imagine all the people living life in peace.
You may say I’m a dreamer,
but I’m not the only one.
I hope someday you’ll join us,
and the world will live as one.
— John Lennon, Imagine

Will you join us?

Food, Inc.

July 25, 2009 at 4:22 pm | Posted in Economoney, Health, Media, Movies, Nature | 5 Comments

Last night, I saw the film Food, Inc. It opens with that statement that “the way we eat has changed more in the last 50 years than in the previous 10,000.”

They illustrate the imbalance in our modern food system where a few players are so dominant, they effect the majority of available food. It becomes cheaper to buy cheeseburgers for your family than vegetables.

They review the unexpectedly vast dominance of corn byproducts in our diet. The dangers of concentrating on just a few crops (monoculture). The way mass production of food can spread disease. And how agricultural seed production has become concentrated in a single chemical company who is suing farmers to prevent them from saving seeds. This is pushing agriculture into only pesticide friendly, genetically modified crops.  These elements are a considerable threat to biodiversity and our health.

The film was unexpectedly balanced considering the potential for going attack. They talk of unintended consequences rather than throwing around blame. They skim over a wide number of aspects of the issue, interviewing a range of farmers and a few of the other players.

They also highlight a very key point. When we buy stuff, we’re voting with our purchases. We often completely miss how our economy is supply and demand driven. If we buy it, they’ll make more. If they see demand, they’ll make it. This is driving such change as organics going mainstream and corporations buying up the major players in what was once a minor market.

(recently read an article that observed that the original breakfast cereals were introduced as health products)

This article on How Does Your Money Work? explores how our money grows whatever we put it into. Mindful spending we could say. The power of your wallet.

The film closes with lots of solutions.

The Food Inc. Trailer:

The Food Inc. web site

Rotten Tomatoes gives it a rare 97% “Fresh”.

It’s certainly worth a look. While familiar with the subject, it held some real eye openers for me.

Peace through Music

June 24, 2009 at 9:57 pm | Posted in Media, Movies, Music | Leave a comment

Music has a remarkable ability to cut through barriers of language, religion, nationality, and race. It speaks to the heart, to the soul, to the song of our life itself.

Last fall, I was sent a link to a song “Stand By Me” posted on YouTube. Starting with a street musician in California, through the magic of multitrack recording they gradually add musicians from New Orleans, Amsterdam, Toulouse, Rio, Caracas, Congo, and so on. That original low res clip got about 2 million hits. The official high res is approaching 12 million today.

While it’s not the miracle of live concurrent performance from several locations at once, it is a beautiful thing. It blends a vast array of styles and instruments not normally heard together.

It’s a great story too. Starting with the inspiration of hearing one street musician (who opens the above), he sought other musicians to add to the recording. They ended up traveling the world, recording over 100 musicians, often found on the street and through word of mouth. Recordings are often little rehearsed and outdoors.

There’s an interview with Bill Moyers. Awards for an original documentary. The Irish youth choir brought Bono into the act.

Today when I was shopping, I ran into their “Playing for Change” CD/DVD release in a local store. They were playing it to demo the latest sound and video gear. It’s playing in the background as I write this. The web site has some of the clips, plus a few newer ones.

Talkin’ Bout a Revolution” is about a music revolution. A foundation to give back was formed. Some of the musicians gathered a band and are doing benefit concerts for refugee centers and arts facilities. And it continues to grow…

The idea for this project arose from a common belief that music has the power to break down boundaries and overcome distances between people. No matter whether people come from different geographic, political, economic, spiritual or ideological backgrounds, music has the universal power to transcend and unite us as one human race.

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