Book Publishing – Part 1 of 2

August 28, 2017 at 11:04 pm | Posted in Backup, Books, Design, Online services, Software, Writing | 6 Comments
Tags: , , , , , ,

Many people have thought about writing a book. A small percent of those ever start. An even smaller percent get it written and a still smaller group try to get it published.

Nowadays, the majority of books are self-published. The average book sells fewer than 100 copies. Most published authors also have ideas that never see the page, half-finished works, and works that never went to publication.

Clearly, writing a book requires determination and passion. Self-publishing adds quite a few other hurdles to the equation. Writing turns out to be just the first step. Getting it out there requires many more steps. You can pay to get professional help for almost all of it (called a vanity press) but is that cost-effective for the market you have?

Some steps require help. But many steps can accomplished with a little learning and free or low-cost resources.

I’ve recently been through this process myself. I’ve attended several publishing workshops and writers groups, heard many presentations by people in the industry, and have been researching the software and documenting my process. Other authors have found the tips valuable, so I thought it would be useful to share some of what I’ve learned.

The first thing to understand is that desktop publishing revolutionized book publishing too. The changes are still coming. How-to-publish books from two years ago are no longer current. You can sell your self-published book internationally through dozens of outlets and even get into the catalogs of traditional distributors for libraries and bookstores.

But to get any real uptake requires you create a professional product. While it’s possible to draft a book in Word, upload that into Amazon as an ebook and offer it to the world, the likelihood of that going anywhere is tiny. That’s like putting a lemonade stand on the street and expecting the money to roll in. You’re competing with thousands of others around the world.

Further, if your audience happens to find your book but cringes at the cover or opening pages, that’ll kill sales, lose you money on bookstore returns, and get bad reviews. Unprofessional work lowers the whole market.

Following is a list of some of the stages of a book project. Each requires different skills and often, different tools. Below, I’ll go into each section and suggest tools and tips that may work for you. This article assumes you’ll be producing print and ebook versions of your book to reach the largest number of international readers. Ebooks alone are easier to prepare but you can’t use that for print. You can down-sample your print design into an ebook though. We’ll design for print, then output print and digital editions.

Note that this is an overview. Many of these topics have entire professions and websites dedicated to them. I’ve added numerous links to more information. The software I suggest is Windows-based, although some of it is available for other platforms.

Support
Writing
Layout
Editing
ISBN
Interior Design
Cover Design

Part 2:
File Conversion
Troubleshooting
Web Design
Publishing
Distribution
Marketing

Support

This is a professional project so you need an appropriate place to write, a decent chair, uninterrupted time, and so on.

You’ll want to set up a folder structure on your computer to store your book files in. Just like a filing cabinet. It can be a folder on your desktop but you want to take special care of these files as they’ll contain many hours of work.

If you haven’t already, you also want a backup system. I’ve seen authors loose their entire book in one hiccup. Have an automated backup. Make copies of different versions if you make major changes, like prior to editing. The ideal for creatives is a backup-on-save tool like File Hamster (free after the trial but needs .Net2) or Aomei Backupper Pro. The later has Real-time Sync in the paid version, along with system and data backup tools from the free version.

Its also a solo profession so you’ll find connecting with other writers and sharing tips valuable. Most areas have local writers groups. Just beware of groups where no one is producing work.

There are also on-line groups and sites you may find valuable. Just remember this is networking time, not work.

Finally, if you’re putting in a lot of hours, here’s a site of wellness tips for writers.

Writing

Your primary tool for writing is typically a word processor. Many people just use what they have but there are excellent free alternatives that will work with standard formats, including OpenOffice and LibreOffice. LibreOffice is a branch of OpenOffice that has been further along in development. The interface looks much like Word before the ribbon – many prefer that. Both support open standards.

You also have other choices. Inexpensive tools like Scrivener support the overall writing process. Others use clipping tools like Evernote to gather material. Recent versions of Windows include OneNote or it can be installed free. I paste notes into searchable text files

I’ve been writing on-line for a long time so I migrated to using Notepad++. It’s a text editor with spell check. It keeps me focused on the writing and doesn’t add unnecessary code. I’ve used it for long-form writing as well, migrating to LibreOffice when it’s time for formatting and sharing with the editor.

It’s usually best to stay with the flow of writing and leave the editing for later. Get the ideas down, then organize them. Avoid the temptation to format too soon. Lots more polishing is needed before you make it look pretty.

Once you get the content on the page and into some kind of structure, then you can go back over the words and begin smoothing.

Most authors benefit from a little planning, like an outline and structure so they can organize rough chapters and place the content. You may find a writing workshop valuable, perhaps one for your genre. Be forewarned that many publishing workshops are designed as sales fronts for vanity presses. They can still be valuable but only if it isn’t all about their sales channel – if they actually help you structure your book.

Ever notice how Google often finds the same articles on multiple blogs without credit? When you’re charging for a book, you copy at your peril. Plagiarism is easy to check. In fact, some editing tools include plagiarism checkers so you can insure you’re not wording things too much like another source.

Quoting is fine but give valid credit and use valid sources. There are a lot of badly attributed quotes out there, especially for people like Mandela and Einstein. If it doesn’t say where they said it, it’s not a valid source as it can’t be verified. Sites like WikiQuotes can help ensure you’re using legitimate ones.

Layout

Once you have a rough draft, you need to formalize the book structure more. Chapters, subsections, footnotes and so forth. Also roughly placing images and tables.

Here’s an article that talks about the front and back parts to plan, especially for non-fiction books.

If you’re not using a word-processor, it’s time to migrate your copy there. Just roughed in layout though – like bolding titles. Detailed formatting and design will be done in other tools after a lot more editing.

Editing

This is the step that requires professional help. It’s the step that will give your book a professional polish and readability. Even professional editors will hire another editor for their own writing.

However, before you head to an editor, you can save a great deal by first using one of the better editing tools like ProWritingAid. Then you’re not paying someone to fix your basic typos and glitches. ProWritingAid has a free on-line tool you can try but for a book-sized project, you’ll want more. They have several options including a Word plugin and a stand-along program. To give you a sense of how thorough it is, the tool has 25 reports. As you get to know it, you’ll find your writing has typical weaknesses best addressed with certain reports. For example, if you’re prone to over-use words or use clichés, use those reports. But if not, you might skip them.

One author wrote that she uses EditMinion, a free online tool, first. Then she uses ProWritingAid.

With that level of polish, you’re ready for a professional editor. Hopefully what you need is line and copy editing and not a rewrite. (there are many types of editing)

Your best source for an editor can be other authors recommendations. I’ve seen people without even an English degree let alone experience put up an editor shingle as a work-at-home project. Don’t shortcut. You can also solicit bids from sites like Reedsy.

Typically, you’ll send a sample and they’ll let you know how much work it needs. Then you’ll have an estimate of cost and time. The editors I’ve worked with requested Word docs, turned on Edit/ Track Changes, and marked up the files. You can then accept or reject their recommendations. Much easier than retyping although some of that will be called for too.

Be prepared for lots of changes. The object here is clear communication, not saving your little gems. A good editor fixes issues with clarity, grammar, and flow. They don’t change your voice or influence your story (unless it needs a reworking). If they do, look elsewhere. This is your book, not theirs.

If you’re making use of real-world or historical facts, this is a good time to verify your sources.

If you’re writing non-fiction, you also want to be building a Bibliography and references. Here’s an easy, free on-line citation generator for your Bibliography. (choose the style you want: Chicago, APA, etc) Just copy and paste them in alphabetically.

Once the whole thing is put together, it’s useful to have a few readers go over the text to make sure everything is clear to them. You want to be sure readers don’t get lost or stuck somewhere.

Then you run the entirety through a final proofreading aka a re-edit. Resist the urge to tweak the text after this stage as you can add new errors. Consider the content done.

ISBN

Every published book and every format of that book (soft cover, hard cover, epub, kindle, pdf, etc.) requires its own ISBN number. It will be on your printed back cover, your Copyright page, and on the book sales web page.

While you can pay for ISBN’s when uploading through Amazon and other distributors, that will tie your book to them as the “publisher.” You may have to get a new ISBN for other outlets. This will split up your sales data and lower your books presence and thus sales.

A similar thing will happen if your book is later picked up by a publisher but in that case, you’d only migrate to the lower take of a publishing deal if there are expectations of higher sales. As a publisher would normally re-edit and design a new cover, it would be a new edition, anyway.

Your better bet in self-publishing is to create an “imprint.” Essentially you make up the name of a publishing entity that represents your books and ties into your “brand.” Then you order your own ISBN numbers under this. This becomes your “publishing company.” (some charge for this tidbit) Mine, for example, is Davidya Publishing. If there’s tax advantages, you can formalize the company later. In the US, the government farmed out the sale of ISBN’s through Bowker. In Canada, you can get ISBN’s from the government for free. For other countries just search “ISBN CountryName.” Each varies.

With your ISBN, you’re ready to design your book. You can start the book design before getting your ISBN but you’ll need it for the print cover.

Interior Design

Your first decision before you begin design is to choose a book size. Unless you have a great reason, I’d strongly recommend a standard size.

Most recommend you get a book designer to design your book professionally. Interior Design is the look of the inside of your book – the fonts, headings, icons, page numbering, spacing, gutter, and so forth. This may seem simple but a poorly designed book is harder to read and will turn people off. Your book is not a school essay but a product you’ll be offering for sale. Does it look like it’s a commercial product?

You can ask other authors for recommendations or get bids for a book designer at 99designs.

If you have design skills and you’re going to tackle your own design, take a look at how others have designed their books, especially in your genre. Even if you do plan to hire a pro, you may find reading this over will help you understand what you’ll need from them.

Several experienced authors strongly recommended Adobe InDesign, saying it was worth the cost and learning curve long term. I’m happy I took their advice. You don’t need the latest version but your printers are set up to work with InDesign output. Consider the cost relative to a designer over several books. You’ll also be using it for the Cover design, if you’re tackling that too. It has a learning curve, but that’s easier if you’ve used other Adobe products like PhotoShop or InDesign’s predecessor PageMaker. And there’s lots of on-line help.

A free alternative that runs on many platforms is Scribus. I understand there can be some problems with uploading its output to printers but that these can be fixed in Acrobat. But if you need Acrobat, why not just get InDesign?

In InDesign, create a file for each section and chapter (don’t skip this), copy the content from your polished work into the files, then assemble the files as a Book. For chapter file names, start them with numbers to help organize them and avoid spaces in the file names – this will cause a hassle later in ebook world.

Also recognize that a bound book has specific layout requirements. You want to start right.

Choose your fonts. Make sure you can use the fonts commercially. Some downloaded fonts don’t authorize commercial use, for example.

Remember your basic design principles:
– fonts and other design elements should be the same or different, not similar. Similar looks like a mistake.
– traditionally, body text is serif fonts while titles are sans serif.
– make sure the cover is legible. It won’t help you if the title is hard to read or can be misread.
– paragraphs can be indented or not. You don’t need double spaces after a period. (these are old typewriter rules)

Set up pagination. File/ Document Setup to adjust. Usually all chapters will be an even number of pages to ensure new chapters start on the right side.

Design one of the early chapters first as a design template, adding the styles for titles, sub-sections, quotes, paragraphs, footnotes, etc.. Then set this file as the default Style Source (left side of the Book list) and copy the styles out to the other chapters. You may also want to edit the default paragraph in InDesign, or replace it in each file. Then you just go through your text and apply the styles.

Images should be at least 300 dpi so they print clearly. Only use images you have the rights to and give credit in the book. Again, you’re selling the product so using others work without rights is theft. You don’t want your distributor to delete your book due to a complaint.

Here’s a few articles that go over setting up your book in InDesign. Once you get the basics working, it comes together quickly.

One weakness of InDesign is it does footnotes but not endnotes. If you want endnotes, set footnotes then convert them to end-of-chapter notes or end-of-book notes. I used these scripts. You can rerun scripts to update changes but it’s easiest to do this once when the content is stable.

You’re also adding the opening and closing sections like the title and copyright page, dedication, index and so on. (see link in Layout above) InDesign has a tool for creating an Index from words you mark. (see the Index panel) It will also create a Table of Contents (TOC) from the titles and sub-sections you’ve styled. You can also use the table of contents tool to create a list of illustrations or tables in a similar way. Style the related text appropriately and distinctly, then use that to structure your TOC.

You had to polish every bit of text over and over. Now you have to polish every bit of the design over and over. Random things that happened during writing and editing can create little layout bugs. Like having two line breaks instead of one hard return can create different spacing. There will be things that are hard to find in InDesign. A quick search on-line usually finds the solution.

When you output the ebook version later, it will strip some of this formatting for you, like page numbers. They’re of no use when the text reflows to the device screen size. But you must be fussy about this step for the print version.

For the final print version, you’ll want to be adding some custom spacing to ensure subtitles are not at the bottom of pages and so forth. But leave these edits out for now as you don’t want to mess up your ebook version.

Cover Design

This is the #2 place where professional help is most recommended. Your cover design will determine if someone even looks at your book. If it screams amateur, they’ll assume the content is too. (Yes, people judge a book by its cover.)

Sure, you can auto-generate a cover in Calibre (in Part 2) using your ebooks metadata but it looks the part. You can also create a cover in CreateSpace for Amazon. But again, generic parts make for a generic look.

As above, you can use 99Designs to find a cover designer or talk with fellow authors for recommendations. Some designers will do both interior and cover at a slightly reduced rate. If you’re doing an ebook as well, you’ll also want the digital front cover. 99Designs also has a deal for IngramSpark customers.

If you happen to have graphic design skills, you can study how professional book covers are designed in your genre, then use design software of your choice. But note that the output of that software is what you’ll be uploading to the printers. They’ll reject files that don’t meet professional standards. They don’t accept JPGs for print, for example. Again, InDesign is recommended.

Remember that the cover will be printed so the colours have to be in the CMYK gamut or your cover can look quite different printed than you expected.

Again, use at least 300 dpi images and only use images you have the rights to and give credit in the book.

In the distribution section, I’ll be recommending you upload directly to Amazon as it’s the largest bookstore in the world. And I’ll recommend you upload to Ingram to get in their catalog plus get distribution through the worlds other ebook stores. This covers most everyone else including libraries and bookstores.

To build your cover correctly, you need a template set to the right size – both the cover size and the spine. The spine is determined by the number of pages. Your print book cover will be printed as a “spread” of the front, spine and back so everything has to be exactly the right size.

You also have to build the cover with “bleed.” This means having extra image around all the edges so the cutting of the cover doesn’t leave any unprinted trim. Usually .125″ on all sides but your printer may vary this.

While there are formulas for calculating all this, it’s easier to download templates from the suppliers. Ingrams will include your ISBN barcode too. If you plan to sell your print book internationally, I’d recommend not including the price in the barcode. It will be set in the particular sales channel.

Again, the print cover will be CMYK and the ebook cover is RGB. But it’s easier to stick with one version until you get to the conversion stage.

Getting an IngramSpark template

CreateSpace (Amazon) template

This completes the Design phase of your books production.

In Part 2 on ForNow, we’ll convert the book to the final formats and prepare the book for uploading and distribution.

David

DNA testing – Part 3 – Follow-up

June 5, 2017 at 10:27 pm | Posted in Health, History, Online services, Science | 2 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I’ve written before on DNA testing. In the first article in 2015, I compared the 4 prominent services for personal DNA testing. I chose 23andme. I then reported the broader results. Now I have some updates to that discussion.

It’s turned out the Y chromosome has had a lot more mutation than the maternal line so they had to update the haplogroup naming conventions last year. The original paternal haplogroup name is no longer current and the tree more complex. In my case, the guys wandered further too.

A few terms for the major testing:
Autosomal is the 22 pairs of chromosomes in the cells nucleus, excluding the pair of sex chromosomes. It’s the broad overview and allows you to match to other family members, etc.

Y-DNA is the Y or male sex chromosome. It traces your male line back: fathers, fathers, father, etc. You need to be a male or have a male member of the family tested for this one.

mtDNA – mitochondrial DNA comes from the mitochondria. It is passed down from mothers to both sons and daughters. It traces the mothers line back: mothers, mothers, mothers, etc.

Haplogroup – those that share a common ancestor based on haplotypes, groups of genes inherited from a single parent. We all have a paternal and maternal haplogroup. Haplogroups can be viewed in a tree structure of sequential mutations.

They can trace these 2 lines back roughly 100,000 years now for well-tested populations.

23andMe
Skip forward 2 years and 23andMe has finally upgraded my data to their new site format as promised. For a while, they were offering health results only to Canada and the UK due to US restrictions on “diagnosis.” With the site redesign, they’ve removed a lot of the more detailed health analysis and focus now on general markers like lactose intolerance, sleep depth, and so forth. Gone are more diagnostic things like Celiac and Parkinson’s markers.

Reporting is more centralized and distributed to tabs to support smaller screens. It surprised me to discover printing the reports (for me to PDF) gave a more complete view.

A new report on the Maternal line (haplogroups) goes back as far as the National Geographic’s “Deep Ancestry” report (below) although the second has slightly more detail.

The paternal haplogroup name was updated but there’s a gap between the tree map in the paternal section and the specific haplogroup named. As I discovered on FTDNA below, it’s also less specific.

Genographic
Meantime, I had also decided to take advantage of a sale on National Geographic’s Genographic Project. I wanted to support their work, and it offers more of a deep ancestry approach.

Here a deviation has taken place. Family Tree DNA used to do all their testing, allowing you to load your DNA test results into FTDNA (below) afterwards for free. However, for US customers, Helix is now doing their testing. They’re using a newer system that is not compatible with FTDNA. If you get the Helix test (white box, spit not swab), you can’t download the genome after either.

But as I’m Canadian, I still got the black, cheek swab kit to send to FTDNA in Texas.

My first impression of the Genographic results wasn’t positive – they didn’t notify me when the results were up. And the first presented report is “Genius” matches. It displayed famous people (not geniuses) who had some unmentioned genetic match. Essentially a pointless report.

The Regional Ancestry report had quite different percents from 23andMe but I suspect was less accurate due to the much smaller testing population.

What I did enjoy was the Deep Ancestry reports. This showed the maternal and paternal lines over thousands of years, migrating across vast distances as the ages changed.

There is also a Hominin report for the percent of Neanderthal DNA. This varied substantially from the 23andMe result as well.

Another disappointment was printing. The reports didn’t print well and the official printable report that summarized much of the above was missing all the maps even though the reports refer to them. I had to use screen captures for the maps and assemble them with the reports myself.

Given that 23andMe now includes very similar reports and has a great deal more other ones, it’s certainly preferable. It’s possible the Helix testing for Americans offers more reports or detail but that’s unclear. I suspect 23andMe would still be superior.

Family Tree DNA
Because I got the old Genographic kit, I could transfer the results to Family Tree DNA for free. This allowed downloading the Genome file and offered a few basic reports.

One of note though was the Y-DNA haplotree. This went much further than 23andMe, offering a Haplogroup that was 15 steps more detailed. And there they offered a further test (at a cost) to take it a few steps further.

From this, I discovered the links between the 23andMe paternal map and their designation of my haplogroup plus further steps that FTDNA named.

One of the bigger differences with FTDNA is their a la carte approach to ordering tests. You send in or transfer one sample and then pay just for the tests you want when you want them. Where the others above include autosomal, mtDNA, and Y-DNA, FTDNA lets you choose. Y-DNA is of no use for women, for example, as they don’t have the Y chromosome.

You can also choose the degree of testing for the mt and Y reports. If you’re a male and test all 3 at the basic level, it will cost you more than these others. But for serious researchers, there is a level of detail available you don’t see in the one-size services.

The site has many “projects” where members discuss details of their research. The one’s I looked at required the Y67 test to join as they were specific to certain haplogroups.

FTDNA offered me a significant autosomal discount, so I ordered the Family Finder test to connect with a few relatives on the system. This gave me the Matches section and Chromosome browser, similar to what 23andMe has. The Origins reports where too general to be of much use. They did not match known family regions either.

Also note they’re using the oldest technology now.

Conclusions
I’d still recommend 23andMe for the overview. Their reports are broader and bring a more complete perspective. They use newer tech and have a larger customer base which increases accuracy and matches.

Family Tree DNA is superior if you want to explore genealogy in greater detail. They have more detailed test options but use older tech and are more expensive. Just understanding the value of their options requires a serious exploration.

National Geographic Genographic Project loses much of it’s advantage as others begin to include deep ancestry reporting. With their migration to the newer tech, it can’t be uploaded to FTDNA nor the genome downloaded for other services.

Ancestry also includes a DNA testing service but this would only be helpful if you use their services already. The family tree building software is sophisticated but is an ongoing expense.

From some of the commentary I’ve read on-line, serious researchers use several of the services for different features and to connect with different populations. As the number tested grows, the detail levels will increase. Added features will make going back in and taking a look around again useful, even for the casually curious.
David

What3Words Global Addressing

May 14, 2017 at 10:11 pm | Posted in Internet, Online services, Software, Technology, Web Apps | Leave a comment
Tags: , ,

You may be familiar with the domain name system for the Internet. By using domain name servers, the human-friendly domain name is converted into the actual numerical IP address of the web server. For example, you can type Google.com into your browser and it will look up the real address of the server, then load the site. This is much easier than remembering something like 216.58.194.78. And this is even more true of the coming IPv6 that will have much longer numbers.

This issue is greater still for mapping the world. Street addressing is somewhat random and in older cities like London or Tokyo, is rather a maze. And what of meeting someone in a large space like a stadium parking lot or a busy monument? And what about all the places that don’t have an address, like a park or forest?

The US Air Force developed the space-based Navstar Global Positioning System (now just called GPS) in 1973. It was fully rolled out by 1995 but only low level resolution was available to the public then. It has been progressively upgraded since and other overlapping systems have been added by other governments. With a GPS receiver, we can locate ourselves quite specifically on the earth. Most modern cell phones include one.

But once again, we have the same issue as with a server IP address. How human-friendly is a latitude & longitude like 49.303371, -123.136826? What about telling someone to meet you at marching.commented.priced instead?

Huh?

This is where What3Words (w3w) comes in. This is a tool that converts the GPS of a 3 sq meter (about 9′ square) space into 3 random words. 57 trillion human-relatable spaces on the globe and each can be addressed with 3 simple dictionary words. The words are randomized to avoid confusing similar words nearby. Thus, unlike street addresses or postal codes that are usually sequential, w3w is not.

Youtube

Where are you now? You can do a search, then drag the map to place the pointer at your exact location. Simple.

You can search by street address or by w3w address. If searching by street address, be careful with mapping accuracy. Google Maps addressing isn’t perfect. I’ve reported errors to them a few times.

In the free smartphone w3w app, Compass will tell you where you are. Its accuracy depends on if you have GPS turned on in your phone. With it off, my cell phone had a 21m radius of accuracy. Surprisingly close but not precise. With GPS on, it dropped to 7-12m – a big improvement but not the 3m accuracy of the grid. To give an exact address, you can drag the marker to the precise location first. And that depends on the quality of the map – w3w does offer several map options.

The key is giving an accurate reference point to the recipient, then it’s easy for them to find it.

There is no intuitive way of cross-checking accuracy if the map is vague or your GPS is imprecise. Also, the location entirely depends on their system as there is no real-world reference points for w3w, like an address on a building. But I can certainly see the advantages for sharing a point when there isn’t good street address references. Or you want someone to come to a side or back door. The above ‘marching.commented.priced‘ example is on a trail in a large park in western Canada. Want to go to Beaver Lake?

As the technology in use gets more refined, this will automatically become more precise.

w3w is an interesting idea that is evidently being used by transport and delivery companies in parts of the world where addressing has been an issue. If you have trouble getting people to the right place, it may be useful for you too.
David

Our Seed Heritage is Our Food Supply

March 8, 2017 at 6:13 pm | Posted in Economoney, Health, Justice, Movies, Science | Leave a comment
Tags: , , ,

Recently I saw the film Seed: The Untold Story. While I was familiar with the presented issues, I wasn’t aware of just how extensive they were.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Johnny Appleseed

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

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

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

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

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

Quoting Shakespeare

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

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

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

The Hidden Life of Trees

November 21, 2016 at 10:55 pm | Posted in Media, Nature, Science | 5 Comments
Tags: ,

My father was a forest scientist, professor, and conservationist with an expertise in tree disease. While I didn’t follow in his footsteps, I’ve maintained a love of the forest.

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

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

On YouTube

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

On YouTube

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

On YouTube

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

On YouTube
Enjoy!
David

Web Bias

November 14, 2016 at 6:59 pm | Posted in Computers, Economoney, Internet, Online services, Web Apps | 2 Comments
Tags: , ,

As people shift more and more to getting news and information from the web, there’s an important detail we might overlook. While we may know a paper is conservative or a station is alternative, the web behaves differently. Many of the larger sites automatically filter content to favour our apparent interests. For example, you’ve probably noticed that if you watch a cat video on YouTube, it will automatically “recommend” more of the same. Many large sites do much the same.

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

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

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

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

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

The Connected Universe

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

For some years, I’ve been watching the work of self-taught physicist Nassim Haramein. He’s given many seminars on his ideas and released video of them, including the 6-hour Beyond the Event Horizon. Many people have studied how to explain his ideas and more recently they’ve launched an on-line “academy” to take it further. He’s also shown up in various works like the film Thrive.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gut Health

October 26, 2016 at 7:28 pm | Posted in Health, Science | 8 Comments
Tags: ,

All disease begins in the gut.
–- Hippocrates

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

« Previous PageNext Page »

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.
Entries and comments feeds.