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“.

The Connected Universe

November 11, 2016 at 4:46 pm | Posted in Media, Movies, Science, Space, Technology | Leave a comment

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.

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.

Syncing Thunderbird to Android with MyPhoneExplorer

September 28, 2016 at 8:03 pm | Posted in Computers, Internet, Software, Technology | 7 Comments
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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. You’ll find it in the Program directory of #1 above. (called “mpe-addin.xpi”) 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:
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.

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.

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.

Kiva’s History

June 12, 2016 at 12:26 pm | Posted in Economoney, History, Internet, Online services | Leave a comment

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

Windows 10 Upgrade & Tweaks

May 13, 2016 at 9:02 pm | Posted in Computers, Internet, Software | 14 Comments
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If you’re using Windows 8, the free upgrade to Windows 10 is an obvious choice. Some describe it as what Win8 should have been in the first place. Windows 7 is a bigger jump but unless your hardware isn’t up for it, upgrading while it’s free may be a good idea. I waited for the dust to settle and the bugs to be fixed. But now, the end of the free upgrade period is coming July 29. Experts say it’s unlikely to be extended. If you’re considering it, it’s time to make your move and avoid a last-minute crunch.

If you’ve already upgraded, you may find the Protection section and below worth reviewing.

Usually, I install a fresh version of a new operating system so I’m starting from a clean slate without historical problems. But this requires reinstalling all the software and making all the settings changes from scratch. Because Win10 is a smaller change and my Win8 installs are newer, I opted for the free upgrade.

You first want to update Windows fully.

And update your major software to ensure it’s current & compatible with Win10. You may find PSI useful. I had a problem with several things hanging after the upgrade. Turns out I needed to install a new version of my Antivirus tool. I had thought it’s version was current but it turned out not to be.

Next create a full image of your operating system – the update gives you the choice to revert but if something goes wrong, you want to be able to get back to where you started. I had trouble with Windows backup on my tablet. It wouldn’t accept any of the media options that where available. Macrium Reflect (free) allowed me to choose a large thumb drive and get the job done.

For Windows upgrade, you can download the tool to start the upgrade process here. This is preferable to using the “Get Windows 10” tool Microsoft has pushed on many computers.

If you’d like a fresh install, you can get the media creation tool here. It has DVD and thumb-drive options. But you’ll need a prior Win10 activation. To get that, you first have to Upgrade to Win10, then Activate, and then you can wipe the drive and install fresh. When you come to activate that, Microsoft will recognize a valid install on the same system. Fred Langa goes into details here. (paid content)

The install software first spends time checking your system and downloading the upgrade files. This can be done while you continue to work. When the time comes for the actual upgrade, a lunch break would be optimum.

I upgraded a hybrid tablet and a custom desktop system. Both went smoothly and retained most of my customization and settings.

As the install is completing, it will ask you to log in to your Microsoft account. If you had been using a PIN or similar, be sure to have your original password ready.

Next you get the “Get Going Fast” screen – don’t. Click the tiny Customize link in the lower left and review some of the default settings. If you want some privacy, you’ll want to turn a lot of the initial settings off. Also the default apps if you already have programs you prefer.

After more processing, it will bring you to the desktop. Most of it should look about the same.

If you were using a third-party start menu, it will probably have been turned off. Microsoft told me twice Classic Shell had been “removed” but it wasn’t uninstalled, just tuned off.

For some reason, System Protection is turned off by default. In Control Panel, System, System Protection, turn on System Protection for your boot drive, set the space at about 2% and create a Restore point. Details. This gives you the ability to roll back if an update causes trouble. Windows Updates are now only automatic so this is important.

Windows key-X will give you a quick menu to access various admin functions, including Control Panel. Or right-click the Start menu icon.

Three areas that need attention are the new variation of the Start menu, Search, and Settings. We’ll look at Settings first.

Continuing in the trend of Win8, Windows 10 has settings in 2 places – Control Panel and the Settings app. The second is accessed by the Gear icon in the Start menu. You’ll want to review each area as some of the default settings are less than desirable.

If you travel a lot and want to share settings across devices, want to use mostly MS products, and want to share everything with Microsoft and the world, you may be happy with the default settings. If not, spend a bit of time reviewing them. This will also give you a better sense of what Win10 offers and what you can control.

Most in here are fine. You may want to review Notifications.
Offline Maps may be useful for you if you need map access where Internet service is lacking. But the maps are large files. If they don’t finish downloading before you reboot, you have to start again.

By default, it has Windows manage your default printer, based on the one you used last. I turned that off. My printer was off during the update and was not on the list. When I turned it on and asked it to search for new printers, it said there was none but added the printer meantime.

It’s notable Windows now tracks your data usage like a cell phone.
If you have wireless, in WiFi, Manage WiFi settings, turn off the automated connection options. You want to manage what hotspots you connect to, not your Contacts, etc. And why would you want where you connect being shared like this?

I found that Windows retained my prior settings but the accent colour didn’t look as good.
You may want to tweak the Local Screen settings.
Start is where you adjust the Start menu. If you use default Windows locations for your music and such, you can control which folders are displayed.

If you don’t plan to sync settings on multiple devices, turn off Sync. Key to understand here is it’s all synced through your Microsoft account on-line. That’s not exactly privacy.

You will need to keep your MS account but can add and use a Local account so you’re not obliged to sign in to Microsoft (and be connected to the Internet) whenever you’re using your computer. Of course, the later is required for some features.

To create a Local account, go to Family and Other Users: look for ‘I don’t have this persons sign-in’ and add a User without a MS account.

For security, it’s not recommended you do regular computing in an Admin account. One way to avoid loosing your personalizations is to create a new Admin user, then log into it and change the original account to Regular. You’ll need the Admin password to make changes but it prevents malware from running accidentally.

It was also recommended to create a 2nd Admin account as backup, in case the first gets corrupted.

Time and Ease
Worth browsing to see what’s here.

This is the big one. Your Advertising ID? There are a series of sections to go over, including which apps can access your personal data. If you don’t use the App, you can turn it off.

Updates are always automatic in Windows 10 Home. In Windows Update, Advanced options, change the setting to Notify. Otherwise it may reboot your computer to update while you’re working.

Some have suggested you can control updates by setting your connection to Metered. But that’s canceled whenever you connect to a new network.

Click Cortana in the Taskbar (by the Start menu), then the Settings icon and turn off online. Otherwise, everything you search for on your computer is also searched on Bing and tracked. Don’t know about you, but I don’t expect to find my work files on the Internet. I also find it more useful to use a browser to search on-line. I can also then use the search engine of my choice. You may want to turn off Cortana reminders at the top too.

You can also change the space it takes – an icon may be fine. For that, right-click the Taskbar, select Search, and then box, icon, or hidden.

Start Menu
As usual, there’s some junk in the Start menu to unpin. I prefer desktop programs over almost any of the apps. Once you clean out the “Get Office” etc, the right side is more manageable. You may also find you can make the tiles smaller. If you’re not on a touchscreen, the big tiles just take up space.

I find the lack of a Programs folder view annoying. The All Apps alphabetical view is much less useful as I group related programs in folders. But I was happy to see you can right click and Uninstall the undesirables.

At first I found some weird things on the list, like program Help links rather than just executables. But that seems to have sorted itself out. However, if you open folders, it shows everything in all the sub-folders together, including files like “legal” & “readme”. It doesn’t show which program they’re associated with. They apparently assumed no one organizes their Start Menu.

You can browse the alpha list and Pin your more commonly used programs, or create a folder with shortcuts for them and make that a new Toolbar (from the Taskbar). Woody shares many other tricks here.

I’ll have to decide how I will organize the Start menu – break programs out of groups? That will make the list vastly longer and require I remember the right name (Office? Microsoft Office?). Or use a third-party Start menu? The free Classic Shell still works for Windows 10 and is great for hierarchical menus. The exploration continues.

The Great Bear Rainforest – Coastal Revival

May 3, 2016 at 9:41 pm | Posted in Nature, Science | 2 Comments
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The Great Bear Rainforest is a temperate rain forest along the NW coast of North America on the Pacific Ocean. It runs from the Discovery Islands (across from Campbell River*, BC) up to the Alaskan panhandle border. Much of it is mountainous and intersected by fiords. (a map)

First named by environmental groups, a large section became protected earlier this year (years after an agreement was reached) with other areas under some protection. Most old growth forest within is now protected.

A ban on the trophy hunting of bears was also negotiated, but a changed government brought the hunt back. Ironic they allow bear hunting in a place with this name.

A rather creative solution has been to buy area hunting rights and manage them as if they were being used for hunting. But instead, they’re used for eco-tourism – the bears are shot with cameras instead of guns. They even have to go through all the motions and procedures to behave like hunters: firearms handling, hunting licenses, and so forth. It’s rather ridiculous they have to go to such lengths to protect a single species of wildlife. The first videos below describe more.

The area is also highlighted due to an attempt to build an oil pipeline from the tar sands of Alberta to the coast, dramatically increasing tanker traffic on a stormy, complex coast. Many remember the Exxon Valdez spill in the area. But tar sands oil is worse and much harder to clean up.

It’s a remarkable area, rich with wildlife. But it’s also remote. The most likely way you’d see it is on a cruise ship to Alaska while it travels up the coast. The area includes the world’s largest population of Spirit bears, also called kermode. A series of short videos have been produced speaking about the area and some healthy approaches to sustaining it.

1 – Raincoast’s Fight


2 – Banning The Trophy Hunt


3 – The Spirit Bear (Kermode or white)


4 – Revival of the Humpback Whales


5 – The Marine Detective


* about a half hours drive north of me. I live on the more moderate and populated SW coast on sheltered waters.


April 20, 2016 at 9:07 pm | Posted in Online services, Psychology | 12 Comments
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Understanding who and how you are and what you have to offer is a big part of finding a fulfilling life and a place in society. Yet we often discover such things by happenstance or difficult experience. Most of what we’re given is generic rules and training that rarely suits us.

Often, we don’t entirely recognize our own abilities and temperament because they’re innate and we assume our experience is similar to others. Yet how we’re distinct points to what we have to offer.

This is where aptitude and related testing can shine a light for us. But testing without temperament can put you on the wrong track. I spent some decades taking pokes at a desired and recommended career goal before I finally realized it required a specific temperament I didn’t have.

The psychologist Carl Jung observed 3 personality polarities in the 1920’s, then his daughter added the 4th. The Myers-Briggs mother-daughter team extrapolated that into the Myers-Briggs test (MBTI). Various versions of mixed quality have shown up over the years and on-line.

Jung went on to develop the Jungian Archetypes from his research, a more symbolic approach to the memes underlying traits.

MBTI is essentially our preferences in how we see the world and make decisions. Some polarities can be quite strong and others less so, though we tend to moderate with age. The results also tend to evolve over time. While not seen as entirely reliable, many find them quite insightful.

MyersBriggsTypes(click the image to see a larger version)
It’s worth noting that the personality types are not evenly distributed in the population.

The full MBTI test is a 6 hour affair where you not only get to know your own type but your contrast with others of each of the opposite polarities. You can also get tested personally by certified testers.

Over the years, I’ve taken the full test and tried a few free on-line tests. One’s I found insightful:

Humanmetrics has a Jungian version.

Keirsey developed a variant based more on behavior and shifted the emphasis a bit. That has a test here.

And recently, I ran into another variant “16 Personalities” that adds a 5th polarity: Assertive/Turbulent.

(I didn’t have any trouble with any of these sites abusing my contact info)

After testing, I’ve also found these profiles useful.

Have fun with it.

Music Sequencing

April 16, 2016 at 2:44 pm | Posted in Computers, Hardware, History, Music, Software | 1 Comment
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If you’re not a musician, you may be unaware of one trend in modern music –  sequencing.

Many years ago, sequencing software first arose in tools like Cakewalk. You added a track for each instrument and placed “notes” that used MIDI data. MIDI is a digital language for music data that allowed various devices, instruments and computers to talk. It could produce synthetic notes from pre-defined instruments. Computer sound cards of the day added MIDI instruments to their repertoire.

Old Cakewalk
(the software looks complex but is mainly a series of modules. Tracks, sequencing, notation, mixer, etc.)

You could compose complex songs in such software, or just use it for background tracks like drums and bass.

Over time, the ability to add pre-recorded sample sounds of live instruments was added, greatly expanding the quality and flexibility.

You sometimes hear sequencing software used in live performances to duplicate studio techniques that can’t be easily reproduced on stage – like a backup orchestra. It may sound like prerecorded content – which might also be used – but sequencing software allows adjusting the tempo and changing other details live that can’t be done with recorded content.

A friend of mine, who is not a musician, composes entire songs with samples in sequencing software. He markets the resulting albums on-line and makes a small income from his hobby. Such software now has thousands of instruments available and more can be added.

A parallel development was in instruments like drum pads where rubber pads could be used to trigger pre-programmed drum sets. This allowed drummers to expand their available drums but also to practice much more quietly.

drum pad
Similarly, piano keyboard controllers came out that were used to trigger software or other keyboards (via MIDI) rather than having built-in sounds. They were just a keyboard – like another form of your computer keyboard.

Over time, “pad controllers” were added to other instruments like keyboards as it was easier to play drums or trigger events with pads than keys. Then the controllers became instruments in themselves. They’re used to trigger digital events in computer software – either an individual sound sample (like playing an instrument) or an entire pre-programmed sequence.

This shifted sequencing from a software process into a performance process. Recorded as a sequence, any errors can be easily corrected, samples upgraded, and so forth before recording a final song.

Unlike a typical instrument where this key is middle C, and that one is C5; pad controllers are entirely programmable. Any given pad can be anything. And then be something else for the next song. Better controllers have pads that are both touch and pressure sensitive so they can be quite expressive, giving contours to the programmed sound.

Controllers are also inexpensive compared to traditional instruments as the basics are simple. They’re a group of fancy buttons. All the sounds and intelligence are in the software. That’s where you do the programming, assigning sounds to keys. Then you can record the result – as a song or as a sequence to further polish.

In this example, notice how even voice is used as an “instrument” via pre-recorded samples. Also notice the sound samples being played have various lengths – some short, some longer. This is different from a normal instrument.

You have to have good spatial memory for this.
Here’s someone with 2:

A basic 16 pad unit with “lite” versions of the needed software is only about $30. It also works with pretty much any sequencing software like the free Hydrogen drums. (a dedicated drum sequencer, what might be called a software drum machine)

At first, people used pads for programming sequences. But pretty quickly, they began using them in live performance too. I saw a single live musician with a digital drum pad lay down the bass drum beat, then the next drum, then the next, building up over a dozen instruments, then jamming over the top. It has an interesting crescendo effect. One musician playing multiple parts in a kind of time dilation.

A related example:

The next stage of that was recording acoustic instrument samples live into a sequencer and then having that play back while they added other layers. The lines between live and recorded, acoustic and digital all blur.

Here’s an example – watch them use the foot pedal to mark the end of a sample recording. The pedal is carefully triggered so the sequence repeats from that point. (this is called looping) Notice a pad controller also being used but they’re using various triggers.

You don’t see pad instrumentalists on mainstream radio much yet. It’s a new style of musician – but they’re quite common on the net. It will be fascinating to see where this evolves.

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