The birth of Geotrumpism – Guardian (blog)

Since the advent of the current American President, Donald Trump in January this year, there has been a new level of irritability in living things, especially humans called Trumpism. I shall add the prefix geo to make it compatible with what obtains. And so, we now have Geotrumpism, which is movement of the earth towards Tump. It is a reverse order because instead of the earth creating the stimulus, it is the earth itself that is reacting to an external stimulus called Trump.

In a different lesson and under a different subject, my geography teacher, Mr. Ononibe told me that the features of the earth are not constant and that over time, sometimes millions or even billions of years, movements occur in the crust of the earth that recreate the continental boundaries, global vegetation and topography such that mountains, valleys, rivers, lakes, oceans, deserts and the entire ecosystems will be reformatted and possibly relocated and the American continent for instance could be relocated from its current location to the Sahara Desert or into the Pacific Ocean.

Aah! It sounded like a fairy tale; too strange to be true! Did it therefore mean that the network of streams in my community had not always been there? I prayed to God that night to allow one of such earth movements to happen in my life time so that I could witness the relocation of America into the Pacific.

In the university, my sociology teacher told me that sociology as a discipline evolved effectively after the industrial revolution in England, which redefined the production process with dire consequences on the human condition. Machine started doing what humans were doing. The soil was no more as attractive as the machines and the migration to cities to seek livelihood in the emerging industrial economy generated new set of challenges that changed society and a whole field of learning had to be created to study these changes and proffer methods to maintain conducive social order.

Truly in life, there is no condition that is permanent. It is the reason I do not accept this end-time position of Christendom and I ask for forgiveness. The current global strife cannot be a fulfillment of the scriptures in the book of Revelation that the end-time will be preceded by tribulations of a scale that is already manifesting. Recorded history tells us that the world has never enjoyed absolute tranquility. The world had been troubled long before Christ and has remained so since Christ left more than 2000 years ago.

The history of Europe is also the history of wars. Twice, in 1917 and 1939, Europe had made its own wars become World War 1 and 2. In pre-colonial Africa, greatness was determined by military conquest. The great empires of Western Sudan and the tropics were great because their armies plundered, killed and brought others into subjugation in an uncontrolled reign of territorial expansionism.

Man prides himself (and I guess it was how God purposed it) as the height of Gods creation. But how it is so difficult for man, with all his intellectual and spiritual advantages to be at peace with himself is difficult to fathom. I will say here that man, in spite of himself, has so much to learn from the jungle where life is essentially predatory with the lion and other big cats at the top of the brutal order.

And the lesson is this. In all my observations, I have not witnessed where the lion or other predators engage in willful annihilation as man does. The lion kills to eat not to conserve and when it is filled it can fellowship with preys without posing any danger to them. Man on the other hand is propelled by vanity not necessity to disrupt and destroy the creation of God.

How can this be adequately explained? Not even Darwinism offers a complete answer because mans propensity to destroy just to feel cool is a narrow, if not wrong interpretation, of Charles Darwins theory of Origin of Species and its derivative concept of the Survival of the Fittest or Natural Selection. In the jungle and in Charles Darwins mind, survival does not mean absolute destruction or even territorialism but adaptation to changing natural and social conditions to ensure sustainability.

Man has failed in this regard. Europe, which prides itself as a super race divinely ordained to dominate the universe equates destruction with dominance. The race had maintained an order of unceasing strife in search of dominance until the end of World War II in 1945 and when the United Nations was formed through mainly the instrumentality of the United States to create a new order for Europe and the World.

That order has run for 72 years and paradoxically, Mr. Donald Trump, the new American president is calling for its review or more appropriately, for a return to pre-1945 status quo when might was a national duty and stronger nations could arm themselves to the teeth to inflict maximum pain on weaker nations. This is just one interpretation of Geotrumpism.

Another is the enormous effort at racial profiling to place the peoples of the world in geo-political compartments such that the Caucasians, Mongoloids, Arabs, Africans, etc., do no cohabit to achieve a common human purpose. The resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), neo-Nazism and supremacist sentiments generally in American politics since the coming of Donald Trump explains this. Humanity is no longer a common denominator under Trump and the Whites genuinely have a responsibility to protect their own against others. It is left for others to protect theirs against the Whites. The consequence of this racial protectionism/exclusivity is a divided world where God Who offers all the connections will be disconnected and pushed to the background.

It is a frightening prospect but that is where we are or going with the Trump presidency. Why then should the world fight to put down ISIS if all they ask is a protected caliphate they can call theirs? How is the ISIS revolt different from the event in the last one week in Charlottesville in the State of Virginia, United States?

If Trump can say America and Americans first and heavens are not falling, why should heavens fall if Kim Jong-Un says the same thing regarding North Korean and its people? Blind nationalism was never an exclusive right of the Germans under Adolf Hitler neither is it going to be of Americans under Donald Trump. The North Koreans are equally entitled, same as the ISIS. That should be the true meaning of a Free World which the Americans love to talk about.

I return to my teachers. The earth, perhaps, was not created by God to remain constant or uniform. There are contentions that force a mutation of the physical, social and anthropological elements of earth now and again. I suspect we are at one of such points with Geotrumpism.

But God is still good all the time. That is why the devil is offered all the time to retrace and be good before Armageddon. I am saying it is not too late to create a fresh stimulus and pull back from Geotrumpism onto a more beneficial path and save the world from imminent cataclysm. We can also choose to remain in the direction of Trump if this generation has finally agreed that there is nothing to learn from the lessons of history.

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Originally posted here:

The birth of Geotrumpism – Guardian (blog)

The matter with memes – The GUIDON

Features

by Mikaela T. Bona and Joma M. Roble Published 20 August, 2017 at 1:01 AM from the April 2017 print issue

A meme is both the picture that is worth a thousand words and the few words that can make a thousand picturesor not.

Like hungry brigands waiting by the side of busy trade route, memes ambush and bombard many of us in our own journeys across the Internet, particularly when we travel by social media. They can strike our newsfeeds unexpectedly and boldly. However, unlike bandits out for bounty, Internet memes are seemingly a much more pleasant sight to encounter.

In her 2008 TED talk, memeticist Susan Blackmore explained that memes are bits of information that replicate themselves from person to person through imitation. Memeticists study memetics, a field which explores how ideas propagate among people. Blackmore then continued to say that we human beings have created a new meme: what she calls the technological meme, or the teme for short, which is a meme disseminated via technology. The teme is what is commonly known to be the meme with a comical picture and text shared on social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter.

This merry friend of ours still has much to share with us. As it acts as a mirror that can reflect our joys and sorrows in an instant, memes have also become a mouthpiece of a generation in constant flux.

To define it is to kill it

Ethologist and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins is the first to coin the term meme in his bestselling book, The Selfish Gene. Deriving from the Greek mimemes and the French mme which mean imitated thing and memory, respectively, he defines the traditional meme as a living structure that transfers from brain to brain in the process of imitation.

According to Dawkins, memes could be tunes, ideas, catch-phrases, clothes, fashions, ways of making pots, or [even ways] of building the arches. He states further that memes and genes are both meant to sustain as well as change humans, but while genes exist for biological evolution, memes, on the other hand, are replicators that allow for cultural transmission throughout generations.

Interestingly, Dawkins did not lay down specificities as to why memes proliferated. Internet memes are steadily reproduced for an unknownand possibly nonexistentreason. As The Atlantic writer Venkatesh Rao puts it, the Internet meme is a meme in the original sense intended by Richard Dawkins: a cultural signifier that spreads simply because it is good at spreading. It pertains to something that is necessarily vague for it to be universally understood.

While a picture is often described to speak a thousand words, the meme goes beyond interrelated ideas and event. A photo of a smirking man with his right index finger pointing on the right side of his forehead, for instance, would mean hes thinking of something clever. What that thing is though is uncannily up to all of us, making us not just observers, but active participants in the meme experience.

When you speak of memes, you just feel that its a meme. It takes its own being of being a meme in your mind and it can become as weird or not weird as your imagination wants. Its just what it is for you, shares Vince Nieva, of the meme page Ageless Ateneo Memes, in his talk for Arete 2017: Hayo held last April 5.

The ambiguous quality of Internet memes have been subject to research since 2011. This is what paves the way for a designation of new meanings that creates a sense of flexibility. With every user that is able to add a new twist or plot to the meme, it becomes more amorphous and far-reaching that it connects seemingly disparate ideas into relational entities.

A language of its own

Rao believes that memes are an effect of the post-everything world we live in. He explains the complex intertwinement of ideas in our fast-paced world by emphasizing that there is a distinction between the Harambe meme and the actual slain zoo gorilla. This is an age wherein stories are captured while they are still unfolding.

Rapid media technology is going faster than humans can process, which can warp and stunt the emotional reactions to current news. The shock caused by the 2016 American election results led to the creation of many Donald Trump memes pre- and post-elections, which have since been correlated with other memes. In a world freer than ever before, we are both repressed by our technological creations and freed by them.

The universality of meme sharing on social media platforms has made it difficult to continue a single train of thought. In his contribution to the book The Social Media Reader, Patrick Davison states that viewing and linking…is part of the meme, as is saving and reposting. Ironically, the ability of anyone to take part in the dialogue, by a multitude of means through memes, has orchestrated cacophonies. However, genuine relationships can still be formed in the ruckus.

Memes can prove to be a global inside joke amongst ourselves. They can be a way for us to make [some] sense [out] of confusing events and perhaps even cope with personal lost-ness. Memes are a way to get people to connect, says Alfred Marasigan, an Ateneo Fine Arts lecturer, during his talk in Arete 2017: Hayo.

The practice of meme creation draws up a vague sense of community among those who partake in meme sharing; this creates a mutual understanding of what the meme isand principally, what it can be. People partake in the definition production that sustains the meme vogue for as long as possible until a new one comes along to dominate the cyber sphere, while the former eventually dies out.

As old memes die, strong emotions from people who share the same experience come together to form a new meme. Interestingly, it has also been a medium for cultural and socio-political critique. According to Know Your Meme, which tracks the origin of memes, the Evil Kermit meme is an image of Kermit and his nemesis Constantine, who is dressed like a Star Wars Sith lord and instructs Kermit to perform various indulgent, lazy, selfish and unethical acts.

The meme has been used to point out religions underlying crusade tendencies and even question meme culture itself. Other examples include the nut button, which evolved from having sexual implications to anything that can trigger one to act strongly, Arthurs Fista reaction to situations that are frustrating or infuriating, and many more.

Show and tell

In the technologically-forward society we live in, the way culture is transferred from person to person is changing. Internet memes have revolutionized communication by their nature of transmuting meaning as it spreads. As expressions of our alienation from what our traditional memes can normally keep up with, it is vital to note that we are satirizing something that we cannot fully understand. The world is perpetually moving and memes are constantly angled towards a multitude of narratives.

Memes are like junk food, says Andrew Ty, a lecturer at the Ateneo Department of Communication. Their gratification is immediate and not long-lasting and you end up waiting for the next one very quickly. In the end, [memes] are just one part of this overall tendency nowadays towards viral communication.

A study conducted at the University of Bonn in Germany provided mathematical models to explain the temporality of memes. Internet memes are just fads, but they are ones that persist by coming back with the same vague appeal and rhetoricalbeit in different forms. Their vogue is infectious to the generation as of now. Soon, however, theyll be images of the past.

It may seem hard to see memes as something akin to Edo Japans The Floating World of Ukiyo-e, or even Victorian era post-mortem photographs, but they might just be one of our eras most distinguishing and awestriking depictions. After all, the meme is representative of a world moving faster than we can understand. As its uncanniness pulls us in, it is likely for memes to one day be an iconic portrayal of our generation.

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The matter with memes – The GUIDON

Why We Should Be Compassionate Toward Atheists | ncregister.com – National Catholic Register (blog)

Blogs | Aug. 18, 2017

Atheism is gaining converts every day, and we have a rather daunting job of evangelizing those who would rather God did not exist.

Dr. Thomas Nagel, professor of philosophy at New York University, wrote in his 1997 book, The Last Word:

I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-formed people I know are religious believers. It isnt just that I dont believe in God and, naturally, hope that Im right in my belief. Its that I hope there is no God! I dont want there to be a God; I dont want the universe to be like that.

Whether or not Dr. Nagel intended to speak for anyone other than himself, I suspect his sentiments are shared by many atheists who not only dont believe there is a God, but dont want there to be a God.

From the standpoint of Christianity, this prompts this question: Why would anyone not want a loving God to exist? This is a question that all apologistsindeed, all Christians who seek to evangelize atheistsmust ask and attempt to answer. Because if we dont know the answer to that question, we can have all the other answers to all the other questions, and it wont matter. For instance, we can talk about the inexplicable characteristics of the Shroud of Turin, the tilma of Guadalupe, the sun dancing at Fatima, the incorruptibles, and the Eucharistic miracle in Lanciano, but we may not have addressed the real issue for those who wish atheism to be true.

There may be lots of reasons for atheisms recent prevalence, but it is clear that the rise in atheism has taken place alongside the fall of the family. Is there a connection between the two? In his book Faith of the Fatherless: The Psychology of Atheism, psychologist Dr. Paul Vitz answers in the affirmative.

Specifically, Vitz argues that a father often exerts a powerful influence on his childs concept of God. (Since his original book was published in 1999, other studies have provided support for this point.) Dr. Vitz takes a biographical tour of modern atheists and discovers a relatively consistent thread: Looking back at our thirteen major historical rejecters of a personal God, we find a weak, dead, or abusive father in every case. Of course, it is not true, nor is Vitz making the case, that every atheist had a bad fatheror that the mere absence of a father must propel one to atheism. It would also be a fallacy to claim that each atheists fundamental reason for embracing atheism is his paternal relationship. But to Vitzs point (and consistent with the findings of other studies), it is legitimate to argue that some persons may be predisposed to atheism because of their family circumstances.

In his book, Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict XVI makes an interesting point along the same lines, alluding to the connection between fatherhood and faith. Pointing out that the Our Father is a great prayer of consolation, insofar as it recognizes and professes God as our Father with Whom we have a personal relationship, Pope Benedict XVI notes that consolation is not experienced by everyone:

It is true, of course, that contemporary men and women have difficulty experiencing the great consolation of the word father immediately, since the experience of the father is in many cases either completely absent or is obscured by inadequate examples of fatherhood.

As Pope Benedict suggests, the idea of God as a father can be a painful reminder that their own father did not, could not, or would not love them. Thus, the idea of spending fifteen minutes, much less eternity, with a father is remarkably unpleasant.

Where does that leave those who are sincerely and charitably trying to convey Gods love to those who are so desperate to disbelieve? Perhaps it starts by recognizing that they are hurt, and what we should do is act with compassion instead of trying to win a debate with them. If you convince someone that their best hope is to spend eternity with a Being they equate with someone who has been abusive to them, you have done them no favors. You may do well to first explain to them who God is, and what Gods love means to you. Along with true knowledge, love and mercy are the essential qualities of a Catholic apologist.

Try to explain Gods love to them, and ask the Holy Spirit for the right words. Sad though it may be, its entirely possible that no one has ever triednever talked about Gods love to them. Its entirely possible that no one has ever told them that God wants them to be happy.

Patience is also critical. Some might seem obstinate in their refusal to believe, or in their inability to admit the possibility that they might be wrong. Respond with patience, and remember that though the argument at hand might be Saint Thomas Aquinas five proofs for Gods existence or the Shroud of Turin, for instance, that may not be what they are actually arguing about. They might be really arguing about their parents, the past, and their pain. Thus, for them, the Shroud of Turin serves as a spiritual Rorschach test in which they dont see Gods pain, but their own. Explain to them that no one wants to ease their pain more than God. It sometimes helps to explain to them how God has eased your own. Dont forget that comforting the afflicted is a spiritual work of mercy not just for other Christians, and it very often must precede instructing the ignorant.

Atheism is gaining converts every day, and we have a rather daunting job of evangelizing those who would rather God did not exist. Many people have had difficult and painful family experiences, and they deserved better. We need to help people understand that God is better. Scripture does not assure us that our own parents will love us; quite the contrary, God warns us that some parents will not love their own children. Thats terribly sad, but its connected with an overwhelming promise that we need to remind people again and again and again: God will never stop loving you. This message is made many times in Scripture, but perhaps most explicitly in passage that must be in our hearts and on our lips going forward in our discussions. It is Isaiah 49:15, and it reads: Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you.

Original post:

Why We Should Be Compassionate Toward Atheists | ncregister.com – National Catholic Register (blog)

What is the Future of the Human Resource Function …

From time to time we respond to questions about the future sent in via email by readers. We dont have a lot of time for this, but when a question seems especially interesting we offer our thoughts.

I am Manager in the Human Resources Function in a large Indian Pharmaceutical company. My question is what is the future of the Human Resource Function? Regards,

Gaurav Gupta Manager-HRD Ranbaxy Laboratories

Response by Richard Wilkinson, 2001

Glen Hiemstra asked me to respond to your inquiry. I think you have asked a simple but powerful and important question. My view is the future of HR appears contradictory.

On the one hand, the view of HR as a marginal contributor to organizational success seems to persist. Periodically the HR function is excoriated in the business press for its alleged irrelevancy to customer satisfaction, business profits, and increasing shareholder or stakeholder value. In this view HR is, at best, a collection of well-meaning but out-of-touch corporate bureaucrats who present barriers for employees and managers to hurdle as these real workers strive to deliver quality and value for the customer. Looked at this way, HR will become even more marginal as the strategic decisions and focus of organizational leaders are directed elsewhere.

Heres the contradictory part: Never before has it been so clear that effective human resource management practices lie at the heart of organizational success. Dr. Jeffrey Pfeffer of Stanford University makes a compelling case for high performance people strategies in his 1998 book The Human Equation (Boston: Harvard University Press). Here are four pertinent citations from this book:

A number of studies spanning different organizations operating in various service industries provide evidence for a positive relationship between employee attitudes and customer service and satisfaction and, moreover, a relationship between employee attitudes, customer attitudes, and profits. p. 55

[C]ustomer satisfaction and perceptions of service quality were significantly related to measures of employee attitudes about fairness of pay, whether management was concerned about employee welfare and treated people fairly, and whether supervisors encouraged an open and participative work environment. Ibid

Better service and higher employee satisfaction do, however, frequently produce higher profits. [N]umerous firms, such as Singapore Airlines, have succeeded financially by emphasizing employee well-being and customer service. p. 56

The existing research clearly shows that: prior empirical work has consistently found that use of effective human resource management practices enhances firm performance. p. 60

My view is that it is HRs job, though not HRs job alone, to champion and shepherd effective human resource management practices at both the strategic and day-to-day levels. That is, to be effective, human resource management practices must be grounded in two ways. First, they must reflect company wide commitments as to how it will manage and relate to its employees. Second, HR must follow-through on such commitments in the moment so that the words of the enterprise and deeds of its agents are congruent.

Although I see a different emphasis for HR in the future, I see HRs fundamental purpose-to build a positive, productive workplace-remaining unchanged. With this in mind, I see a successful future of HR revolving around three complementary and overlapping roles. I believe in fulfilling these roles HR will prove itself an important and legitimate contributor to organizational achievement. The heart underpinning these roles is less control, more learning. Here are the roles:

Facilitating the employee/employer connection, principally through empowering technologies (both digital and procedural) that emphasize employee self-service and managerial independence.

The corollary to this role is consistent striving to minimize dependent relationships between employees/managers and HR through transferring knowledge and expertise from HR to HRs clients. This is accomplished in part by using computer technologies enabling employees and managers to handle transactions online that they formerly needed HR to administer. Through employee and manager self-service features, such technologies also put greater access and control over information in the hands of employees and managers, thus increasing personal mastery and independence.

HRs task here may best be conceived as a help desk function: Set-up the systems, teach others to use them, and then get out of the way, answering questions from the field only as these arise.

Designing and helping implement high performance people strategies in partnership with line staff. The scope of such efforts could be quite narrow-at the team level-or system wide. As in #1, the focus is on developing employee and manager self-reliance through the skillful sharing of expertise by HR. The focus, though, is on applying that expertise in ways that are explicitly tied to priorities of line staffs.

What are high performance people strategies? Dr. Pfeffer identifies, seven dimensions that seem to characterize most if not all of the systems producing profits through people.

Serving as a catalyst for learning and communication. As educator HR has three jobs: (A) Introduce fresh thinking and new ideas to promote creativity, innovation and successful adaptation within the enterprise; (B) Persist in developing mastery of adopted organizational practices and process improvement methodologies by employees and managers; and, (C) Communicate extensively whats happening within the organization and why, especially as these relate to the seven high performance people strategies identified above.

What will such a function be called? I doubt it will be called human resources. While the new name eludes me, I believe it will be along the lines of Center for Organizational Effectiveness; not a department that is separate and apart from other departments, but a Center people are drawn to for nourishment, insight and understanding.

I hope this assessment of the future of HR has some appeal to you. Since I am a strong believer in designing the futures we prefer, the Facilitator/Designer/Educator role may be more reflective of the kind of HR function I want to create, as opposed to where the field is heading generally. Nonetheless, I hope you find the ideas useful as you consider the future human resources function that will best serve your organization.

Best of luck!

Originally posted here:

What is the Future of the Human Resource Function …

Going native helps ecosystem and animals – Evening Observer

The sky swings gently above me as I rest in the hammock my kids bought me on a long ago Fathers Day. The tree that is shading me swings back and forth as well, coming in and out of focus with the swaying of the hammock. This is one of the best places to spend time on these hot days, in a hammock with a cold drink and a few minutes of quiet.

The tree above me is a Red Maple. From where I lay, holes in the leaf appear and disappear as dots of blue sky shining through. The tree was carefully chosen to grow fast and shade my children as they grew and, surprisingly, the hammock swaying gently under me. It was also chosen to be eaten by insects.

That may seem like a weird choice to some people, but this choice was based on a book that changed how I looked at landscaping right when I had land to scape. The book was Bringing Nature Home, by Douglas Tallamy.

The core of the book is simple. Animals eat bugs. Many bugs eat plants. If plants from other continents are planted, few native bugs eat them. This means fewer bugs, but also fewer other animals. It takes 6,000 to 9,000 insects, mostly caterpillars, to raise one family of chickadees.

Think about that for a second. Young chickadees leave the nest at around two weeks old. That means that the parents have to find 400 to 600 caterpillars EVERY day. That is a lot of caterpillars to find, especially since the parents rarely travel much more than 50 yards looking for food.

This fact was brought home by Doug Tallamy in person, when he spoke at the Wild America Festival at Panama Rocks a few weeks ago. His program really brought home the value of planting natives. What trees support the caterpillars that feed the birds? Which ones support no insect life?

His book made the concept of my yard evaporate. It is not just a yard now, but one piece of green in a quilted neighborhood of green spaces required by animals to survive. Those animals need native plants to support the insects that they catch to raise their young. Most of these insects are more protein-rich than beef and provide huge amounts of food for birds. This new way of thinking about the yard is called ecosystem gardening.

An ecosystem is a community of interacting organisms and their environment. Ecosystem gardening is using native plants to make the yard one part of the larger habitat throughout the neighborhood.

Which brings us back to the hammock. The Red Maple over the hammock was chosen because it provides a home to insects and provides shade. Native maples can support almost 300 species of caterpillar. A Red Oak in the corner is almost as tall and was planted by my daughter when she was a year and a half old. Native oaks can support over 400 different caterpillars.

Native plantings along the back of the lot have started to go wild and need to be tamed, but there are great plants there for insects to eat. A variety of milkweeds had Monarch eggs on them last night. The Joe Pye Weed has trails through the leaves from insects that ate them. Black Eyed Susans and coneflowers attract birds, bees and insects to eat the flowers, seeds, and leaves. Towering over all of them is Ironweed, an eight-foot-tall plant with bright purple flowers that attracts all kinds of insects.

The yard has some thought behind it. The yard is full of violets for fritillary caterpillars. Virginia Creeper climbs an old metal pole and provides food for several kinds of caterpillars. A row of Spicebush sports snakelike Spicebush Swallowtail caterpillars. The blueberry bushes not only provide yumminess for me, but also insects that eat the leaves.

More and more bird nests are found in my yard each year. At peak nesting time in June, there were Blue Jays, Mourning Doves, robins, Song Sparrows, cardinals and two pairs of chickadees nesting in the yard. Since then, several more robin families, another cardinal family, two more sets of Mourning Doves and two families of House Wrens were also raised there.

My yard doesnt have enough food for all those young. That is literally 35,000 to 50,000 or more caterpillars coming out of the area. My neighborhood is full of big old native trees, from beautiful oaks and Black Walnuts to huge Silver Maples and Black Cherry trees.

Some of the biggest trees have been there the longest, but provide little to no food for the birds. An ancient Norway Maple that may be older than my house towers nearby, but few to no insects dine on the leaves. Bradford Pears are equally unpalatable to local insects. Both are non-natives, but often planted in city and suburban landscapes.

In some ways, planting trees and plants from another country is like filling a salad bar with Poison Ivy. It may look pretty and green, but there is no way that Im filling my plate. Many insects will starve before they recognize those plants as food.

My yard is not a well-manicured paradise. It is a wild ramble of plants, trees, raspberries and wildflowers with overgrown grass in the middle. That, however, has less to do with my plant choices than my personality. It is easy and possible to add a few well-manicured native plants into the landscape and keep a neat aesthetic. It is not hard when planting a new tree to find one that is native to the area and plant it. Some neighborhood trees have been transplanted from the forest or grown by kids from seeds.

Fall is a great time to plant new things in the yard. Trees and shrubs plant well in the fall, as do many seeds and seedlings. Take a few moments, right now, to picture your yard as an animal sees it. Is it a smorgasbord of plants that provide insects with food so the birds love it? Or is it a green desert full of plants that are pretty, but serve little to no purpose for local wildlife? Is there room out there for a few milkweeds or a native oak that can help provide food for nesting birds? If we each plant just a few things, it could make all the difference.

Jeff Tome is a naturalist at the Audubon Community Nature Center.

Audubon Community Nature Center builds and nurtures connections between people and nature. ACNC is located just east of Route 62 between Warren and Jamestown. The trails are open from dawn to dusk as is Liberty, the Bald Eagle. The Nature Center is open from 10 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. daily except Sunday when it opens at 1 p.m. More information can be found online at auduboncnc.org or by calling (716) 569-2345

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Going native helps ecosystem and animals – Evening Observer

18 space suits from science fiction, from worst to best – The Verge

Space suits are cool and complicated. Earlier this week, my colleague Loren Grush launched her new series Space Craft by seeing what wearing one is like. The answer? Exhausting. Unsurprisingly, science fiction writers, movie directors, and prop-makers also love space suits youll find them everywhere from Robert A. Heinleins novel Have Space Suit Will Travel, to the latest Alien movie. But not everybody does their homework: for every fictional space suit thats more than just a fancy costume, theres one thats impractical and nonsensical even in a fictional world.

Theres no such thing as an ideal space suit, because you need specific features for different environments. But we can answer a few basic questions. Is a fictional space suit safe and wearable for its characters? Does it perform its task well? And does it realistically look like it could perform that task? With that in mind, here are some of the greatest and most cringeworthy depictions, arranged from worst to best.

I love Titan A.E. to death, but even I have to admit that its space suit is a bit wonky. Years after the destruction of Earth, Cale ends up working salvage on a space station, which seems like a risky job we even see him get smacked with a huge section of a ship thats being dismantled.

But although the armored suit superficially looks designed for this work, this one seems pretty dangerous. That huge bubble helmet would provide amazing visibility, but it also looks like it could be easily broken. Those wires or tubes hanging off the back could snag on salvage. And as for the weird series of lights on the chest… what do those even do?

Where to start with Star Trek? The upcoming show Star Trek Discovery features a badass suit that looks like an entire miniature spaceship. But there are also some bizarre, cringeworthy depictions, like these from The Original Series. Theyre sparkly! They have weird, seemingly useless colored attachments, the wearer can really only see right in front of them, and the visor extends to the back of their head for some reason.

Fortunately, the show went with some marginally better (but still science fictional) versions for The Motion Picture, and some really plausible ones in Enterprise. But although the latest series suits look cool, they dont seem that realistic either, with an emphasis on armor and propulsion over anything else. Well have to wait until later this year to know just what theyre used for.

One of my absolute favorite space suits appeared long before real humans went into space: its in the 1950s Tintin comics (and later cartoons) Destination Moon and Explorers on the Moon. These suits arent what we ended up using: theyre hard armor with a bubble helmet rather than lighter cloth, and seem cumbersome to wear and walk around in, not to mention specifically fitted to each person (and dog!)

But, theyre still a beautiful, iconic design that did draw on some real concepts. While they certainly predate the space age, and Herg does depict the suits in use on the Moon, as well as a couple of points where theyre being constructed and fixed, which means that he did put some thought into how these theoretical space suits might have functioned.

The 1950 film Destination Moon is another classic that predates the space age, like Explorers on the Moon. But its one of the first to deal with space travel in a somewhat realistic way, almost two decades before astronauts landed on the Moon, and even before the first rockets brought the first satellites into orbit.

The suits used in the film look pretty cool. Theyre not exactly what we ended up using for Lunar EVAs, but they get all the basics: flexible joints, detachable helmets, life support, and so forth. They even color-coded each astronaut so that the audience could tell each character apart. NASA only figured that out after Apollo 11, when people couldnt tell the astronauts apart on the television broadcasts, and slapped some stripes onto the mission commanders suit.

The Stargate franchise has used its share of space suits, ranging from plausibly realistic to downright strange. The last series, Stargate Universe, is definitely the latter. When an expedition is stranded on a distant starship, they discover several of these outfits and use them to explore a couple of hostile planets. But the suits look extremely cumbersome, with a lot of armor that will restrict ones movement, not to mention corners and edges that could snag on their surrounding. To be fair, they were designed by a long-lost, advanced human race, so maybe we just dont know what they were going for.

When I first watched Firefly, I was struck by an early scene where protagonist Captain Mal Reynolds is floating through space in a distinctly patched-together suit from repurposed parts, like his old combat helmet. Like lots of things in the series, these suits look like they could be used for any activity, whether thats stealing cargo, working on exterior repairs, or just moving around outside. But while it fits thematically, these activities are all pretty specific tasks, and I just cant quite buy that a suit made up of random parts is going to be safe or effective at any of them in the long run.

For a space show, we dont actually see many space suits in the SCIFI channels revival of Battlestar Galactica. On the rare occasions people head into space, its usually pilots flying combat or patrol missions, where they wear suits designed to keep a pilot alive after being ejected, which look closer to high-altitude fighter pilot uniforms than your traditional space suit. That said, these suits can keep someone alive on a planets surface, as we saw early in the show when Kara Starbuck Thrace is shot down on an uninhabitable moon.

These suits do have great helmets that afford quite a bit of visibility and can be pressurized, but theres still some sci-fi artistic license. They look improbably easy to move around in, and dont appear to have a whole lot of life-support options. If youre shot out, youve better hope for a quick rescue.

The 2000 film Mission to Mars is an exercise in exasperation, and the space suits that its characters use are no exception. These suits are used interchangeably between surface and space expeditions, and the helmets look as though they limit ones vision quite a bit.

But there are some good things here too: the suits piggyback off the design of real space suits, and include some realistic details like backpacks, chest controls, flexible joints, and color-coded suits.

Interstellar calls back to past cinematic space suits, which certainly look plausible and realistic, with details like color-coding for different characters. These appear mainly to be used for ground excursions, or for when theyre performing maneuvers in the Endurance. They do have some neat features, like thrusters mounted on the arms that dont seem all that practical for long-term use.

But ultimately, these suits just look … kind of boring, which is a shame, given that most of the films design is really distinctive.

Weeks before Michael Bay started filming his 1998 blockbuster Armageddon, he apparently went to the props department and was dismayed at the space suits that he saw. It looked like an Adidas jogging suit on a rack, he complained. And if you dont have cool space suits, your entire movie is screwed.

The film actually does use some realistic suits. The characters train in a dive tank at NASA, and theyre later seen in the Advanced Crew Escape Suit that real shuttle crews wore during launches. But the suits they wear on the asteroid are fictional next-generation designs. They look a bit complicated, and are designed specifically for ground missions, carrying thrusters to keep someone on the ground in a low gravity environment. Props for specific purposes there.

Incidentally, the same years other blow-up-the-asteroid-before-it-strikes-the-Earth movie Deep Impact also featured astronauts at work in space. But that production used some suits that looked quite a bit more like the ones that are really used by astronauts.

An underrated sci-fi classic is the 1981 film Outland, which featured Sean Connery as a Federal Marshal working on a mining colony on Jupiters moon Io. The film features a fairly iconic suit, with a massive helmet with lights designed to show off the actors face.

The suits look pretty basic: theyre color coded, have a life support system and a couple of tubes that look as though theyll get caught on things, but they look fairly rugged and easy to use for their wearers. Those interior lights would probably get annoying though: I can imagine that theyd reflect off the helmets inner surface and be really distracting.

Sam Bell, the sole occupant of a mining facility in Duncan Jones debut film Moon, uses a really fantastic-looking space suit. Bells suit draws some inspiration from NASAs astronauts, as well as some classic science fiction films, like Alien.

This space suit is designed for excursions out onto the lunar surface or driving a rover, and its simple enough for one person to don. (Good when youre the only person there.) The helmet pops off easily enough, and there are plenty of lights for a worker to use while out and about, but the props department didnt add extras just for show. Another nice touch: Sams suit even appears visibly well-used when the film begins.

Its hard to find a space suit design thats more iconic than the one from Stanley Kubricks 2001: A Space Odyssey. These suits appear a couple of times in the film in a couple of different environments: first when the characters go into Tycho Crater to explore an anomaly, and later, on the ship Discovery One.

These suits are designed with a good dose of cool 1960s futurism, but they also get a lot of details right, thanks to designers who worked in the space and tech industry. They have control panels and life support, and seem to perform their jobs well, at least when you have your helmet on. Chris Hadfield later noted that the production even captured things like the sound of breathing while suited up. The production was even good enough to make people think Kubrick faked the Moon landings a year later.

The Alien franchise is loaded with cool space suits, some better than others. Alien leads the way with the suits the crew of the Nostromos uses for surface EVAs. These look appropriately designed for use in a harsh environment, while the space ship comes equipped with another space EVA suit stashed away in its shuttle. The suits in Alien: Covenant, which Adam Savage geeked out over at San Diego Comic-Con, are also dedicated-purpose designs, meant for light EVA and surface work. And then theres the hard suit thats used for more heavy lifting, and has a completely different design.

But there are also some misses, like the surface suit used in Prometheus. These suits are beautiful: skintight, lightly armored, with a fantastic bubble helmet. But as cool as they look, they dont seem very functional for serious or unexpected work and theyre not good at all at keeping alien acid vomit at bay.

The Expanse is set in a plausibly-realistic future in which much of humanity lives and works around the solar system, and a result, the shows characters use a variety space suits. In most cases, what we see are really utilitarian garments, used by blue collar workers on space ships or space stations.

These suits look as though they are designed with an eye towards practicality, and theyre not overly large or cumbersome. The helmets provide protection and some visibility, with lots of interchangeable parts or attachments for specific needs, such as working on depressurized parts of a spaceship, or out on an asteroid. Like Fireflys suits, they appear to be well-worn and patched, but these look like theyre quite a bit more durable than those ones.

There are high-tech suits in the show as well: the Martian military uses some heavily armored designs for their soldiers and Marines, who appear to be right at home in space, or on the surface of uninhabitable planets and moons. These suits are not only designed to protect a wearer from outer space, but also to wage war in a vacuum or on the ground.

Of all the films on this list, Gravity draws the most from the real world, so it naturally takes its cues from real equipment. The characters also use a couple of different suits, which is a nice touch: at one point, Dr. Ryan Stone dons a Russian space suit when she escapes into a Soyuz lander.

The film does take some liberties, though. Stone gets in and out of these suits really easily, and doesnt wear a cooling garment, whereas in real life, these are suits that are quite complicated to put on. But their appearance is as close as we can realistically expect in a big-budget Hollywood film.

In most cases, a film space suit is a film space suit. Sometimes, however, film designers recognize that they need something really specific. Case in point is the EVA suit used in Danny Boyles movie Sunshine. What really makes this suit really stand apart is its golden exterior, and the fact that it isnt designed for any sort of multi-purpose use. Its intended only for the Icarus and its mission to go close to the sun, and allow the astronauts onboard to go outside if needed in an environment of intense light.

This one is incredibly beautiful: its got a golden-reflective surface to protect its wearer from the intense rays from the sun, and was inspired by some unlikely sources, such as Samurai armor and deep-sea diving suits.

The Martian (both the book and the movie) is a story thats a realistic and plausible take on a future mission to Mars, and Mark Watneys space suit is probably one of the most important environments in the story. After being stranded on Mars, he spends a considerable amount of time in one.

The EVA suit used in The Martian certainly doesnt look anything like what the real Apollo astronauts used on the Moon. However, its designed with an eye towards of realism for what a Martian mission might require. The helmet is designed to impart as much visibility to the wearer as possible, and provides plenty of critical information. It also looks like parts can be worked on or switched out if needed, useful when youre far from home. Another bonus comes from the book: theyre each tailored for an individual astronaut, and they arent a one-size-fits-all garment.

The film also goes above and beyond by showing that space suits arent multi-purpose: theres one for the ground operations, but also an EVA suit for use in space, which looks really close to modern suits that NASA currently uses.

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18 space suits from science fiction, from worst to best – The Verge

Authors believe gender gap in veterinary medicine is fixable – Purdue Exponent

Women make up 55 percent of active veterinarians and nearly 80 percent of the students in veterinary medicine. Despite this, women only make up 25 percent of leadership roles, and average salaries in the profession have dropped.

The book Leaders of the Pack: Women and the Future of Veterinary Medicine, published by Purdue University Press, was written by Julie Kumble M.Ed. and the late Dr. Donald Smith, dean emeritus of Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, to address the gender gap between men and women in leadership.

Kumble, a researcher and writer whose career focused on empowering women, said that the gender gap isnt unique to veterinary medicine but can be found in every other field.

I just want to stress that every profession has a gender gap at the top of every single profession, Kumble said. The people at the top echelons of nursing, the CEOs and CFOs, those tend to be more men. Look at our Congress, its 20 percent women. If you look at who the partners are in law firms, only 20 percent are women, so its across the board. Veterinary medicine isnt unique.

According to Kumble, the gender gap is the result of many factors and there isnt one gleaming answer. One factor is that men were traditionally in the profession longer than women and own specialty practices like orthopedics or dentistry; these specialty practices pay higher salaries. Kumble encourages women to own their own practices.

Another factor is the linear trajectory of a career that doesnt accommodate women with children.

Women are the ones bearing children and raising children so how are we going to build into our system ways for them to get back to work when theyre ready and not miss out on salary and not miss out on promotions, Kumble said.

Kumble cited the Scandinavian countries as a source for solutions, which include policies on family leave or requiring minimum percentages of women on directory boards.

In the book, she gives advice on how women can close the gender gap. One thing she would say to a new student studying veterinary medicine is to be open-minded to the vast opportunities in the profession, from research to the government.

The second is to find mentors during all stages of your career who can offer advice and shine light on your path, (and) then to do the same for others, Kumble said.

Willie Reed, the Purdue dean of veterinary medicine, acknowledges the gender gap and hopes to be a mentor for his students.

Encouraging women to consider leadership positions and providing training for them is something we have fostered here in the college, Reed said.

Reed nominates women for a training program through the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges, and the senior administration in Purdues college has more women than men, unlike most colleges.

One of the women who went through the program is Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Ann Weil, a clinical professor of anesthesiology.

I think my dean has done a lot to help me personally in terms of improving my leadership skills, Weil said. The AAVMC sponsors leadership training, and I had the privilege of being asked to participate in the program. You learn media training, conflict resolution, team building, and listening skills. Its a pretty intense program.

Reed believes leadership development is important not just for the faculty but also the students in his college, who are predominately women.

Leadership is something that is needed and is expected, Reed said. Its like many things, you have to study leadership and be trained and thats part of what were doing here in the curriculum of veterinary medicine.

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Authors believe gender gap in veterinary medicine is fixable – Purdue Exponent

Freedom to read – Fairfield Daily Republic

By Kevin Lowe

It was a pleasure to burn, starts off Ray Bradburys landmark novel, Fahrenheit 451. What a hook.

It certainly worked on me, at any rate. Set in a near-future America, this 1953 novel paints a dreary picture of a country consumed with shallow media and skittish of ideas. A world where books are banned, firemen have become ironic caricatures and thought beyond only the most shallow musings is nearly unheard of.

When I read it, I was too young to be aware of any of that really. But I was old enough to know that the book had flamethrowers and eight-legged robot dogs, and that was enough for me. At the time, I didnt understand a lot of what was happening. I didnt understand why Guy Montag was so upset when confronted with an opposing idea, I didnt understand why a woman would go down in flames for her books, and by the end, I didnt understand why human beings would ever willingly trap themselves in cycles of violence, and whether or not knowledge and the imagination of the human spirit could free us from it.

I started asking questions. It might be a stretch to say that Fahrenheit 451 made me who I am, but I never forgot the lesson it taught me about the importance of ideas and expression. Censorship and restriction of freedom of speech are real threats, and often come in much subtler packages than book burnings these days. True, sometimes it comes in the form of shouting matches. Sometimes, rarely, they come in funny packages like the Scunthorpe Problem, wherein overzealous automated word filters change articles to read Abraham Lincoln was buttbuttinated, or other such nonsense. But most often, the war on books and freedom of speech happens behind the scenes at schools and libraries, as people try to remove them from the source.

This September, specifically Sept. 24-30, is bringing around one of my favorite times of year. I am, of course, talking about Banned Books Week. It seems weird to get so excited about what seems like such a dour time; it is after all, a yearly wake-up call toward the ever-present dangers of censorship. But I suppose I like to treat it as a time to count my blessings. After all, here in the United States, no books are truly banned, and our streets remain mercifully flamethrower free. I think thats why I get so excited about Banned Books Week. It often gives exposure to books with important ideas that might otherwise be buried. The fact that we get to see these books at all is in some ways something of a celebration.

After all, a victory for a banned book is a victory for everyone. As Charles Brownstein, chair of the Banned Books Week Coalition said, Our free society depends on the right to access, evaluate and voice a wide range of ideas. Book bans chill that right and increase division in the communities where they occur. This Banned Books Week, were asking people of all political persuasions to come together and celebrate Our Right to Read. Whether its Ayn Rands The Fountainhead or David Levithans Two Boys Kissing, its important we come together and appreciate we live in a place where each of us can find the books and ideas that are important to us, and each other.

Which isnt to say that were out of the woods yet. Censorship is a constant threat, if not outright bans. In fact, according to the American Library Associations Office for Intellectual Freedom, there was a 17 percent increase in challenges across public libraries, classrooms and school libraries last year, with a number of them being successful on the local level. Whats perhaps most tragic is that half of the top 10 banned books this year were selected due to LGBTQ themes and characters. Previous books that made the top 10 list include Toni Morrisons The Bluest Eye, E.L. James 50 Shades of Grey and the Bible.

We clearly still have a lot of work to do. Banned books week isnt until Sept. 24, but you can check out 2016s top 10 list of banned books at http://www.ala.org/advocacy/bbooks/NLW-Top10 and start reading now. After all, their freedom to be read, is your freedom to read!

Kevin Lowe is alibrary assistantat the Suisun City Library.

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Freedom to read – Fairfield Daily Republic

Curricula on Intelligent Design Are Urgently Needed And Here They Are! – Discovery Institute

Editors note: We are delighted to welcome a new contributor to Evolution News,our colleague Daniel Reeves,Educational Outreach Assistant with Discovery Institutes Center for Science & Culture.

Representing Discovery Institute as an educational outreach assistant often means sitting at a conference book table and offering a selection of materials related to intelligent design readings that range from a brief overview of the corrosive social impacts of neo-Darwinism to 600-page technical breakdowns of complex biochemical systems. Ive watched, time after time, as students and professionals alike approach the table with visible enthusiasm only to leave feeling overwhelmed by the vast array and sheer quantity of information available on the subject. I can fully relate.

My own journey to learning about intelligent design began in high school, where I became particularly interested in the biodiversity of life and the glaring inadequacy of natural selection as an explanation for it all. A friend handed me a copy of Darwins Black Box, by Michael Behe, and I was hooked.

Soon, I learned of other titles and was knee-deep in Signature in the Cell an argument for design from the complex digital codes observed in DNA. By the time I had finished an undergraduate degree in biology and was getting acquainted with Discovery Institute, I had read another dozen or so books on the subject. My head was swimming with so many ideas that I didnt know where to turn next.

I wondered: How does this all fit together? What other arguments are out there for intelligent design? What are the counterarguments? What I wish I had to start with was a comprehensive curriculum providing a basic framework for all of the technical books and papers I would go on to read in the years to follow. Such a thing, to my knowledge, did not exist. But now it does.

Regardless of your level of study on the subject, there are now invaluable resources available to help make the multitude of current ID arguments accessible to you. Two are of special interest. Each is organized much like a textbook and comes with supplemental materials including workbooks and/or DVDs. Online companion courses are also offered for each of these, free of charge, to help the reader work through the material at her own pace. I trust that one or both of these resources will prove helpful in your own intellectual journey.

Published recently by Discovery Institute Press, Discovering Intelligent Design is a comprehensive curriculum presenting the biological and cosmological evidence in support of the scientific theory of intelligent design, as well as challenges to neo-Darwinism. Designed for readers ranging from middle-school students (in private or home schools, not public) to adults, this is a perfect place to begin your studies or to gain an overview of the arguments to date. Topics include the fine-tuning of the universe, solar system, and planet Earth, the irreducible complexity of biochemical systems, challenges to the traditional tree of life, and even strategies for engaging in the larger debate. With plenty of images, discussion questions, and accompanying videos, this curriculum stands to captivate students, professionals, families, youth groups, and more.

Or are you already comfortable with the basic framework of ID arguments? Delve deeper with The Design of Life, a beautifully illustrated college-level textbook that covers topics related to human origins, genetics, and macroevolution, the fossil record, the origin of species, irreducible complexity, and much more! Written by mathematician William Dembski and biologist Jonathan Wells, this book presents a compelling scientific case for the intelligent design of biological systems using critical analysis, clear explanations, and brilliant analogies. It will engage every reader, from trained scientist to curious layperson.

The textbooks are available for sale at the Center for Science & Culture bookstore. I hope these resources will serve you as they have me.

Photo: Daniel Reeves, via Discovery Institutes Center for Science & Culture.

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Curricula on Intelligent Design Are Urgently Needed And Here They Are! – Discovery Institute

Ashes to Ashes, Dust to … Interactive Biodegradable Funerary Urns? – WUWM

Earlier this summer, a modest little startup in Barcelona, Spain, unveiled its newest product a biodegradable, Internet-connected funeral urn that turns the ashes of departed loved ones into an indoor tree. Just mix the cremains with soil and seedlings, and the digital-age urn will automatically water and care for your memorial sapling, sending constant updates to an app on your smartphone.

At first glance, the concept seems gimmicky evidently, we’re running out of ideas for smart appliances. But the Bios Incube system can also be seen as the latest example of a gradual transformation in modern culture.

Technology is fundamentally changing how we deal with death and its attendant issues of funerals, memorials and human remains. Much of this change is for the good. Some developments are a little spooky. But one thing is for sure: You can do a lot of cool things with ashes these days.

The Bios Incube system, which went on sale in June after a successful crowdfunding campaign, is the latest iteration of a much older idea in which ashes are essentially used as compost for a memorial tree or plant. But the Incube system adds some high-tech twists. The biodegradable urn is placed within a 5-gallon planter with an elegant, off-white, minimalist design vibe call it the iUrn.

Actually, that’s the Incube. Fill it with water and an internal irrigation system kicks in while separate sensors monitor the progress of your plant, taking constant readings on temperature, humidity and soil conditions. This information is wirelessly beamed to the included smartphone app, allowing the bereaved user to better care for and nurture the seedling as it grows into a tree.

Roger Molin, co-founder of Bios Urn, says the company offers two versions of its system. One provides the basic biodegradable urn and planter at $145. The more expensive version if you want all the high-tech bells, whistles, atmosphere sensors and smartphone apps tops out at $695.

“Interestingly enough, we have found so far that most have opted voluntarily for the high-tech option,” Molin says.

He has a theory on that.

“Most of us are connected to the digital world, and we have become used to it,” he says. “Perhaps by tying together this process with technology, there can be a sense of comfort that comes from using a familiar process with a new experience. We hope that it will push people in a new direction and perhaps make this process easier for those experiencing loss.”

The Bios Urn concept is indeed part of a larger transformation in which technology is changing how we think about death and dying, says Candi Cann, author of the book Virtual Afterlives: Grieving the Dead in the Twenty-first Century.

“Their approach implies a different sort of afterlife than the religious one an afterlife that theoretically we can partake in,” says Cann, who teaches religion and world culture at Baylor University.

“Recent theories on mourning reveal that having continued bonds with the deceased allow us to navigate everyday life while renegotiating our relationships with loved ones who are no longer present,” she says. “So in this way, the Bios Urn might actually foster a healthy type of mourning that allows us to look after the dead in an active, daily way.”

Caring for the dead via a smartphone app may seem strange, Cann says, but it makes perfect sense for those of us living in a perpetually connected world: “The generation today has grown up with online spaces and smartphones, so this is their medium.”

Cann has done extensive research on modern mourning rituals around the planet, and the various ways that technology is impacting how we deal with death and dying. The Internet has certainly changed the way we do things. Obituaries are posted online, funeral arrangements are sent by email or text, and social media platforms like Facebook now offer a range of memorial pages and legacy contact options.

In general, this is all good healthy progress, Cann says. “Smartphones and social media spaces have forced a decline in the importance of a controlled obituary narrative, as more people can contribute to the communal memory of a person and the meaning of their life,” she says.

A recurring theme in Cann’s work concerns an odd and abiding reticence in mainstream Western attitudes toward death: In short, we just don’t like to talk about it. Our aversion leads to a lot of unhealthy sublimation in the culture. “I would argue that the reason we see so much death in the media and in video games is precisely because we are not having real conversations about death,” Cann says.

Technology is helping in that arena, too. Cann points to online communities like Death Cafe, which use Internet forums to arrange local meetups for people wanting to talk about death.

Then there is the issue of what to do with the remains. We humans have been navigating this dilemma since the dawn of civilization, but recent technological advances have opened up some options. You can have ashes incorporated into jewelry, blended into oil paintings, mixed into tattoo ink, submerged into coral reefs or even pressed into vinyl records. And don’t forget about the festive fireworks option.

While developing the Bios Urn system, Molin explored how other cultures are processing cremains, like Tokyo’s unique Ruriden columbarium, which utilizes LED Buddha statues and digital smart cards.

“I’ve seen some interesting things in China and Japan,” he says. “Both have run of out burial space in larger cities and have created interesting ways of commemorating those who have passed.”

Cann says that these new modern rituals, facilitated by various technologies, can help us get a little friendlier with death.

“In Brazil, I went to a public crematorium that cremates a body every 15 minutes, and is an actively used public park and picnic space,” he says. “Families were playing and picnicking among the ashes. If we see deathscapes as friendly places, rather than where the dead are banished, we might be able to utilize them in healthier and more creative ways.”

Looking to the future, however, Cann addresses more worrisome technologies.

“One of the areas I’m thinking more about is the use of artificial intelligence and digital avatars,” Cann said. “These are people intending to upload themselves, via AI, into digital avatars.”

Proponents of this idea contend that uploading the mind into a computer is entirely plausible. But science fiction has some cautionary tales in this area any technology that promises to defy death is usually nothing but trouble. Ask Dr. Frankenstein. Even speculating on this sci-fi scenario can get a bit dodgy, Cann says.

“Whenever people focus more on extending life rather than examining its quality, death loses its importance,” Cann says. “If we are spending more time trying to deny death or prolong dying, then I think we are not living well.”

In this light, the Bios Urn seems like a fairly gentle step forward. Technology can’t yet provide us with digital immortality, but it can help us grow a memorial tree in our living room. What’s not to like?

Glenn McDonald is a freelance writer, editor and game designer based in Chapel Hill, N.C. You can follow him @glennmcdonald1.

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Ashes to Ashes, Dust to … Interactive Biodegradable Funerary Urns? – WUWM

Doomsday Desperation – Southern Poverty Law Center

According to the girlfriend, Mineo requested her to shoot him in the forehead at point-blank range. Police say Mineo and his girlfriend, both conspiracy theorists and doomsday preppers, were ostracized by an alien conspiracy cult that embraced apocalyptic biblical themes from the Book of Revelation. Fearing the coming end of the world, Mineo was overcome with despondency leading up to his death wish.

Last summer, fearing the end times, another prepper killed three men near his fortified compound in Great Cacapon, West Virginia. Erick Shute, who was also a sovereign citizen, says he shot the men with a .223-caliber rifle because they were cutting wood and trespassing on his land. Doomsday preppers often emphasize living off the land or off the grid and in isolation. Investigators found the tell-tale signs of a doomsday prepper when they searched Shutes property stockpiles of food, a cache of guns, and ammunition hoarding. There was also concern that Shute had placed land-mines on the property to protect its perimeter.

The murders in Pennsylvania and West Virginia are just the latest in a long string of brutal murders and suicides among those prepping for the end times. A year earlier, Michael Augustine Bournes murdered his wife and three children at their cabin in a remote Montana forest. Bournes, then set his house on fire and committed suicide. Neighbors describe him as a survivalist who lived off the grid.

On January 17, 2015, David Crowley, an aspiring conspiracy filmmaker and screenwriter, shot and killed his wife and daughter in their home in Apple Valley, Minnesota. He then committed suicide. Crowley had been working on a feature film project called Gray State, with a storyline that revolved around a coming police state after societal breakdown.

In September 2014, Benjamin and Kristi Strack of Springville, Utah, murdered three of their four children, with a poisonous cocktail of cold medicines laced with dextrorphan and doxylamine. They then killed themselves. Authorities later learned that the parents were worried about the evil in the world and wanted to escape a pending apocalypse. Family and friends reported the Stracks wanted to move somewhere far off the grid.

A few months later, Veronica Dunnachie was charged with the shooting deaths of her estranged husband and stepdaughter during a domestic dispute in Arlington, Texas. Both Veronica and her husband were members of the 3%ers Texas, a militia group, and had an affinity for prepping and learning survival skills. There are other murder/suicide cases (ie, Shane Franklin Miller, Jimmy Lee Dykes, and Peter Keller) that demonstrate the dark side of doomsday prepping.

Doomsday prepping has been an American subculture since the 1950s. During the 20th century, preppers fed on American fears in the aftermath of World War II, the nuclear arms race, civil unrest, and economic volatility. Similarly, the 21st century has brought new uncertainties, including Y2K, weather disasters, the Mayan end calendar, global terrorism, and more civil unrest. In light of these disastrous events and predictions, doomsday preppers emphasis on preparedness appears to make sense. Family preparedness may even be advisable. Nevertheless, beyond a few legitimate reasons, doomsday prepping, for the most part, represents a dark worldview that combines, to varying degrees, end-times apocalyptic views, an obsession with firearms (and other weaponry), conspiracy theories and too often an anti-government sentiment. When combined, these radical views become toxic and lead unsuspecting followers down a funnel of despair, which perpetuates fear, paranoia and extremism.

Preppers are best known for stockpiling supplies (e.g. food, water, medicine, fuel, etc.) and building bunkers in anticipation of an impending catastrophic event, such as a war, terrorist attack or disastrous natural occurrence. Prepping can be embraced both by individuals, who emphasize surviving alone, and groups which emphasize communal living. Examples of prepper communities include the Citadel project in Benewah County, Idaho; the Trident Lakes subdivision in Ector, Texas; and Ft. Igloo in Falls River, South Dakota.

Since the 1950s, Preppers, also known as survivalists, have spread their ideology and tradecraft through preparedness expositions, gun shows, literature, and religious institutions such as Mormons, Baptists, and cults. These trends continue today. Since 2008, the Prepper Movement has steadily increased membership and grown in both sophistication and creativity. Companies specializing in making bulk emergency supplies, like ready-made meals and water purification systems, have attested to this steady rise in popularity due to sales increases. Much like the 1990s, preparedness conventions continue to attract thousands of people at each event throughout the country.

The 2008 Presidential Election, coupled with the 2008 stock market crash, marked the beginning of the prepper renaissance. However, new factors have emerged that have influenced the recent popularity growth of doomsday prepping. In 2016, Donald Trumps election further stoked the fires of fear and paranoia within the Prepper community and far right extremists with his rhetoric concerning Muslim terrorist threats in the Homeland, nuclear threats from North Korea, criminal threats from immigrants and other security issues. As a result, the Prepper Movement remains popular and supply companies within the U.S. continue to report growing sales. For example, an Idaho-based emergency supplies company, called My Patriot Supply, doubled its online sales during the week of Inauguration Day compared to the same week in 2016. Georgia-based Doomsday Prep also noticed sales spikes on both Election Day and Inauguration Day. Since the 2016 election, it has seen more than a 15% growth.

Cable television shows, such as National Geographics Doomsday Preppers, Discoverys The Colony and Survivorman, have mainstreamed, and even glorified, survivalism and end times prepping. The advent of the Internet has also given preppers a new tool to recruit members and supporters, teach tradecraft using YouTube videos, as well as create entire online marketplaces for purchasing and selling prepper-related gear and other supplies. While there are various theories about what causes the world to end, Preppers are unified on the core beliefs that society is on the verge of collapse and the last days are near.

Besides spreading fear and paranoia and preparing for the end times, the Prepper Movement provides a gateway to more radical ideologies and extremist movements, such as militia groups, white supremacists, and sovereign citizens. Of particular concern, the Prepper Movement has experienced a disturbing trend of murders and suicide over the past four years.

As prepper deaths continue to mount, rumors have circulated on survivalist forums and other far right extremist websites about secret government hit lists or death lists targeting them. They claim that this trend of murder/suicides within the Prepper Movement is the work of a sinister government plot to get rid of them. They falsely believe these deaths are evidence of the Illuminatis existence and its activation of the New World Order plan to take over the world. In reality, these violent incidents are manifestations of how mounting anxiety, fear, and paranoia can lead to deepening depression and acts of desperation that, too often, leads to violence and lawlessness. Sadly, there are even more criminal incidents and arrests related to doomsday preppers.

Rex Features via AP Images

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Doomsday Desperation – Southern Poverty Law Center

The architecture of censorship – The Hindu

Independence Day is an occasion to celebrate freedom from a colonial regime that not only cast chains of economic and political bondage upon Indians, but also fettered their freedom to think, dissent, and express themselves without fear. Demands for a right to free speech, and for an end to political, cultural and artistic censorship, were at the heart of our freedom struggle, and which culminated in the celebrated Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution. Last week, however, two events revealed that 70 years after Independence, the freedom of speech still occupies a fragile and tenuous place in the Republic, especially when it is pitted against the authority of the State. The first was the Jharkhand governments decision to ban the Sahitya Akademi awardee Hansda Sowvendra Shekhars 2015 book, The Adivasi Will Not Dance, for portraying the Santhal community in bad light. And the second was an order of a civil judge at Delhis Karkardooma Court, restraining the sale of Priyanka Pathak-Narains new book on Baba Ramdev, titled Godman to Tycoon.

Neither the ban on The Adivasi Will Not Dance, nor the injunction on Godman to Tycoon, are the last words on the issue. They are, rather, familiar opening moves in what is typically a prolonged and often tortuous battle over free speech, with an uncertain outcome. Nevertheless, they reveal something important: censorship exists in India to the extent it does because it is both easy and efficient to accomplish. This is for two allied reasons. First, the Indian legal system is structured in a manner that achieving censorship through law is an almost costless enterprise for anyone inclined to try; and second, the only thing that could effectively counteract this a strong, judicial commitment to free speech, at all levels of the judiciary does not exist. Together, these two elements create an environment in which the freedom of speech is in almost constant peril, with writers, artists, and publishers perpetually occupied with firefighting fresh threats and defending slippery ground, rather than spending their time and energy to transgress, challenge and dissent from the dominant social and cultural norms of the day.

The Jharkhand governments ban on The Adivasi Will Not Dance followed public protests against the writer, with MLAs calling for a ban on the book on the ground that it insulted Santhal women. The legal authority of the government to ban books flows from Section 95 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (which, in turn, was based upon a similarly worded colonial provision). Section 95 authorises State governments to forfeit copies of any newspaper, book, or document that appears to violate certain provisions of the Indian Penal Code, such as Section 124A (sedition), Sections 153A or B (communal or class disharmony), Section 292 (obscenity), or Section 295A (insulting religious beliefs). Under Section 96 of the CrPC, any person aggrieved by the governments order has the right to challenge it before the high court of that State.

The key element of Section 95 is that it allows governments to ban publications without having to prove, before a court of law, that any law has been broken. All that Section 95 requires is that it appear to the government that some law has been violated. Once the publication has been banned, it is then up to the writer or publisher to rush to court and try and get the ban lifted.

The CrPC is therefore structured in a manner that is severely detrimental to the interests of free speech. By giving the government the power to ban publications with the stroke of a pen (through a simple notification), the law provides a recipe for overregulation and even abuse: faced with political pressure from influential constituencies, the easiest way out for any government is to accede and ban a book, and then let the law take its own course. Furthermore, litigation is both expensive and time-consuming. Section 95 ensures that the economic burden of a ban falls upon the writer or the publisher, who must approach the court. It also ensures that while the court deliberates and decides the matter, the default position remains that of the ban, ensuring that the publication cannot enter the marketplace of ideas during the course of the (often prolonged and protracted) legal proceedings.

The most noteworthy thing about the Karkardooma civil judges injunction on Godman to Tycoon is that it was granted without hearing the writer or the publisher (Juggernaut Books). In an 11-page order, the civil judge stated that he had given the book a cursory reading, and examined the specific portion produced by Baba Ramdevs lawyers in court which he found to be potentially defamatory. On this basis, he restrained the publication and sale of the book.

In this case, it is the judicial order of injunction that is performing the work of Section 95 of the CrPC. Effectively, a book is banned without a hearing. The book then stays banned until the case is completed (unless the writer or publisher manages to persuade the court to lift the injunction in the meantime). Once again, the presumption is against the rights of writers, and against the freedom of speech and expression.

In fact, the Karkardooma civil judges injunction order is contrary to well-established principles of free speech and defamation law. Under English common law which is the basis of the Indian law of defamation it is recognised that injunctions, which effectively amount to a judicial ban on books, have a serious impact upon the freedom of speech, and are almost never to be granted. The only situation in which a court ought to grant an injunction is if, after hearing both sides in a preliminary enquiry, it is virtually clear that there could be no possible defence advanced by the writer or publisher. The correct remedy, in a defamation case, is not to injunct the book from publication on the first hearing itself, but to have a full-blown, proper trial, and if it is finally proven that defamation has been committed, to award monetary damages to the plaintiff.

In 2011, the High Court of Delhi held that this basic common law rule acquired even greater force in the context of Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution, and reiterated that injunctions did not serve the balance between freedom of speech and a persons right to reputation. The high court reaffirmed the basic principle of our Constitution: that the presumption always ought to be in favour of the freedom of speech and expression. In this context, the Karkardooma civil judges order granting an injunction before even hearing the writer and publisher is particularly unfortunate.

While the banning of The Adivasi Will Not Dance reflects the structural flaws in our criminal law that undermine the freedom of speech, the injunction on Godman to Tycoon reveals a different pathology: even where the law is relatively protective of free speech, it will not help if judges who are tasked with implementing the law have not themselves internalised the importance of free speech in a democracy.

The first problem is a problem of legal reform. The solution is obvious: to repeal Sections 95 and 96, take the power of banning books out of the hands of the government, and stipulate that if indeed the government wants to ban a book, it must approach a court and demonstrate, with clear and cogent evidence, what laws have been broken that warrant a ban. The second problem, however, is a problem of legal culture, and therefore, a problem of our public culture. It can only be addressed through continuing and unapologetic affirmation of free speech as a core, foundational, and non-negotiable value of our Republic and our Constitution.

Gautam Bhatia, a Delhi-based lawyer, is the author of Offend, Shock, or Disturb: Free Speech Under the Indian Constitution

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The architecture of censorship – The Hindu

Cybersecurity Profits Are Hiding in the Shadows – Investorplace.com

I was really stuffed for time, and my big pipe data connection at home seemed like it had all the bandwidth of a straw. What was going on? Ah, the hell with it, I thought. I called my colleague, who was waiting for me to email an important file.

cobain86 / Pixabay

Hey, my connections a little slow. Ill send you the link via Google Docs, and you can upload the file yourself.

Little did I know that I was about to commit an act of potential corporate sabotage.

Its called shadow IT and its a key reason why cybersecurity companies will keep growing for years to come

Using an innocuous cloud service like Google Docs is just one example.

What if you regularly bring your own personal tablet to work to do company business? Or maybe youre plugging in a little thumb drive into your workstations USB port to informally transfer files in and out of your office network?

Or in a large business, someone forgets to tell the IT department about that big, new Wi-Fi printer/scanner that was installed a few months back?

Those are just a few examples of shadow IT. The more people who use a network (and the more devices and systems attached to it), the bigger the vulnerabilities.

For instance, a recent survey found that the average hospital was running more than 900 cloud services alone!

No wonder health care firms seem to fare the worst whenever a new virus or computer attack arises. As just one example among hundreds, the recent ransomware attacks that swept across Europe, Asia and the U.S. back in June disabled the digital dictation service used by hospitals in San Antonio, Texas bringing consultations, referrals and, most importantly, billing to an abrupt halt.

In another example a few years ago, Chinese hackers broke into the computer networks of one of the nations largest hospital groups, Community Health Systems, and stole the personal data records for more than 4 million patients.

Its no wonder then that in a recent survey by Beckers Hospital Review, 73% of hospitals said they would increase their spending on cybersecurity.

If we do a little math, an average hospitals yearly revenue is around $160 million. Of that, a hospital will spend roughly 2.5%, or $4 million, on IT. Multiply that figure by the 5,000 or so hospitals in the United States, and it soon adds up to a wave of new spending on cybersecurity products and services.

And bear in mind, thats only one part of the U.S. economy.

Thats why experts believe cybersecurity is on track to be a $1 trillion business by 2021. A major uptick in spending is coming down the line to the tune of 12% to 15% year-over-year growth through 2021, according to analysts.

Its also the reason why Im making cybersecurity one of the cornerstones of my Total Wealth Insider service. Our next stock picks are designed to ride the massive spending wave coming to this critical part of the global economy.

Kind regards,

Jeff L. Yastine

Editor, Total Wealth Insider

Editors Note: Bob Baumans Passport Book contains secrets for keeping your personal information safe such as the one nation that offers the highest level of personal and business privacy in the world. The essential knowledge in this book can save you from incarceration and could even save your life! To order your copy today, click here.

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Cybersecurity Profits Are Hiding in the Shadows – Investorplace.com

Check It Out: Eclipse party to cover the basics of astronomy – The Advocate

On Monday, the Slidell Branch of the St. Tammany Parish Library will be the place to be for astronomy lovers of all ages with a solar eclipse viewing party from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and a virtual trip through the galaxy at Armchair Astronomy at 6 p.m.

The viewing party will be held in the Herb Garden of the Slidell branch, 555 Robert Blvd., and will include crafts and an astronomy presentation before the eclipse begins. Eclipse glasses will be handed out for safe viewing. Participants should bring blankets and chairs to enjoy Mother Natures show.

Armchair astronomers can watch beautiful images of galaxies, planets and stars while learning about library resources that can help amateur astronomers on their learning journey.

For information about these programs, call (985) 646-6470.

LIT WITS BOOK CLUB: The club will discuss Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at the Abita Springs Library, 71683 Leveson St. For information about the club, call (985) 893-6285.

INTERMEDIATE INTERNET: Adults who already know the basics of using the internet can build on their skills at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Covington Library, 310 W. 21st Ave. For information, call (985) 893-6280.

CHAPTER CHAT BOOK CLUB: The club will discuss Oleander Girl by Chitra Divakaruni at 2 p.m. Thursday at the Slidell Library, 555 Robert Blvd. For information about the club, call librarian Noelle Williams at (985) 646-6470.

COLLEGE FINANCIAL PLANNING: Teens and their parents can learn the ins and outs of college financial aid at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Causeway Library, 3457 U.S. 190, Mandeville. For information, call (985) 626-9779.

TRUTH BE TOLD BOOK CLUB: The club will discuss Lab Girl by Hope Jahren at 1 p.m. Tuesday at the Covington Library, 310 W. 21st Ave. For information about the club, call branch manager Sue Ryan at (985) 893-6280.

BAYOU BOOKMARKERS BOOK CLUB: The club will discuss The Tigers Wife by Tea Obreht at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Lacombe Library, 28027 U.S. 190. For information about the club, call branch manager Rhonda Spiess at (985) 882-7858.

DROP-IN TECH HELP: Adults can get one-on-one help with downloading the librarys free apps at noon Wednesday at the Madisonville Library, 1123 Main St. For information, call (985) 845-4819.

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Check It Out: Eclipse party to cover the basics of astronomy – The Advocate

Local astronomy club leader counts down to eclipse – Casper Star-Tribune Online

The 12-year-old peered at the sun through the airport window as the moons shape slowly carved into the suns light.

Alan Corey and his family had brought cards with pinholes to cast the image of the disappearing sun, since looking directly at the sun damages eyes and can cause blindness.

But Coreys gaze kept returning to the sky to watch the 1991 annular eclipse when the moon partially blocks the sun. Though incredible, its nowhere near the experience expected to draw at least 35,000 to Casper for the total eclipse Monday, he said.

Corey doesnt remember seeing the peak of the annular eclipse, probably because it became too cloudy, he recalled last week. But he does remember the half-moon shape of the sun glowing against the shadow, the way the defined outline of a light bulb appears when you look at it long enough. The sky darkened a little, like it was a rainy day.

I clearly remember it being a phenomenal sight, Corey said.

He was so entranced by the view that he continued to look at the eclipse without eye protection, eventually burning a white circle into the center of his vision. An eye doctor later confirmed scar tissue on his corneas. Alhough eye exams sill reveal damage, he was lucky: The spot eventually went away.

But his eclipse-fueled enthusiasm for astronomy didnt.

Now Corey is president of the Central Wyoming Astronomical Society, which is preparing for the total solar eclipse and the expected influx of tens of thousands of visitors.

The societys members are planning day and night telescope viewings for the public the weekend before the eclipse. He said he looks forward to sharing astronomy with other aficionados and those exploring the science for the first time.

Its the precision found throughout the universe thats always intrigued him about astronomy, he said. Many might describe the universe as chaotic. That may be partially true, especially when thinking of the explosions on the suns surface and its geomagnetic storms that can wreak havoc on satellites.

But a closer look at how the suns fine-tuned physical system works and rules that govern nuclear fusion show its anything but chaos, he said. The movements of planets and moons are so predictable that we know down to fractions of a second how long it takes the Earth to orbit the sun in a year.

I think the same could be applied to the eclipse, Corey said. Scientists have predicted this eclipse down to the second. And while you could say thats just good mathematics, those calculations wouldnt work if the exact distance from the Earth the to moon wasnt known, nor would it be possible if the exact distance from earth to the sun wasnt known.

About seven years ago, Corey discovered in an astronomy book that the eclipses path of totality would pass through Casper. Even then before the hotels sold out and the events were scheduled he knew it would be a big deal.

People spend all their lives chasing total eclipses, Corey said.

Hes thought about chasing them himself. They happen all the time, but theyre often in the middle of the ocean and require expensive travel. However, he does plan on chasing the next total solar eclipse crossing North America in 2024, perhaps catching it in Newfoundland. He also hopes to see the 2035 eclipse in Japan.

But Coreys first total solar eclipse is coming to his front door.

Corey has researched, read hundreds of first-hand accounts, given viewing advice, planned events to prepare for the experience.

Corey looks forward to fostering the fascination with astronomy that he experienced as a child during the public telescope viewings. Participants will have chances to peer at planets, nebulae, moons and other sights in space. Saturn always is a big hit, and the planet this year is tilted to display all its rings, he said.

It impresses me every time, whenever a kid sees Saturn, Corey said. They kind of look at you, and they think youre messing with them. And then they look again and realize they really are seeing Saturn. Their eyes just light up.

After the weekend of astronomy activities, Corey plans to stay home for the eclipse. His house is close to the center line, which offers the maximum amount of time of totality in the area.

Hell watch with his wife and children, ages 4 and 6, along with other members of his family. Hes thought about heading directly to the center line a few miles away for an extra three seconds of totality. Then again, he has a perfect spot at home, on a street surrounded by prairie and eagles nests on the North Platte River.

Corey also plans to set up three telescopes outside his house the night before the eclipse to start tracking the sun and moon. He hopes to capture photos with cameras attached to the telescopes, using a shutter release cord to snap the photos so he wont have the distraction of looking through the telescopes.

He may glance into the telescopes a few times before or after totality, but the main show will be in the darkening sky.

Viewers are expecting a spectacular show as the sun glints through peaks and valleys in the moons surface as totality nears, he said. A black hole appears in the sky during totality, allowing earth in twilight to see the suns outer layer, called the corona, flowing into space in wispy-looking streams. The corona can only be seen during a total eclipse, Corey said.

That is the main event, he said. Thats what people are coming here for.

This time, hell be ready with eye protection to watch the moons shadow start to overtake the sun. But during the nearly two and a half minutes of totality, people can safely take off their eclipse glasses.

Corey will be able to look straight at the eclipse in wonder, just like he did 26 years ago.

After his years of planning, the excitement and restlessness is setting as he counts down the days.

If a total solar eclipse is what everyone says it will be, Monday will feature one of the most awe-inspiring sights hell ever see.

Coreys also determined not to be disappointed by weather this time. If theres any chance of clouds, hell be gone before sunrise to a backup location.

There is no force on this Earth that will keep me from seeing the eclipse, he said.

Follow reporter Elysia Conner on Twitter @erconner

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Local astronomy club leader counts down to eclipse – Casper Star-Tribune Online

Welcome to Charlottesville – proof that political correctness is wrecking America – RT

Robert Bridge is an American writer and journalist. He is author of the book on corporate power, Midnight in the American Empire,” released in 2013. robertvbridge@yahoo.com

The events that just rocked Charlottesville, Virginia are symptomatic of every ailment now infecting the US political body – extreme political correctness, intolerance of free speech, and a police presence that seems designed to promote violence rather than curb it.

If ever there was a lightning rod for attracting the disciples of Liberalism and political correctness, the new creed that is destroying honest debate and discourse in the Land of the Free, you could do no worse than a bronze statue of Robert E. Lee in the town square. For those who never heard of the man, Lee was a very skilled general who led the South’s Confederate forces against Lincoln’s Union during the Civil War, the bloodiest US military conflict to date.

Lee also proved irresistible to the alternative right (‘alt-right’), an increasingly vocal group of predominantly frustrated white men who, in this latest convulsion to rattle the US, view the removal of the Southern general’s statue as an appropriate metaphor for the endangered white male. The Anti-Defamation League defines the alt-right as individuals who want to preserve the white majority in the US, over fears that descendants of white Europeans are losing their majority status, which will eventually result in white genocide.

Although there is a big temptation to connect this latest bout of left-right strife with the rise of Donald Trump, and the epic fall of Hillary Clinton, that explanation falls wide of the mark. As witnessed by the Tea Party and other right-wing movements, such as Unite the Right, Oath Keepers and the 3 Percenters, these groups were itching for a fight long before the mogul of Manhattan crashed the political scene. But the left has been equally guilty of kicking up its share of dirt.

The great schism in American politics began shortly after the attacks of 9/11 when George W. Bush initiated an opportunistic crackdown on civil liberties through the Patriot Act, a veritable tome that few legislators had a chance to read, yet signed it into law anyways. This slide towards totalitarianism continued under Barack Obama, the first president to carry out extrajudicial killings of US citizens outside of war zones, oversee a vast surveillance network courtesy of the NSA, and speak openly about ‘updating’ the Second Amendment right to bear firearms. These constitutionally-challenged moves made a lot of conservative-minded folks, and certainly some Liberals, very nervous.

However, what seems to have really triggered the right was Obamas raft of culturally explosive legislation, which turned traditional American values on their head. From the legalization of marijuana, to endorsing same-sex marriages, to opening the door, quite literally, to transgenders using the bathroom and changing facilities of their choice, it seems Obama punched every hot-button issue before leaving office.

At the same time, the left, well before Trump was considered hot political property, was also manning the trenches. On Sept. 17, 2011, a group called Occupy Wall Street took over Zuccotti Park in the heart of New Yorks financial district, where they held protests against economic inequality. The protesters were forced to leave their site on November 15, 2011, but their message continues to resonate to this day.

Two years later, following the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of African-American teenager Trayvon Martin, the Black Lives Matter hashtag became a social media phenomenon. The tag went from the world of virtual reality to the streets, where thousands of protesters condemned a reported rise in police brutality against blacks.

Finally, and most disturbingly, a group called Antifa arrived on the scene, espousing anti-fascist rhetoric against far-right groups. This militant group, which has been declared a domestic terrorist group by the New Jersey Department of Homeland Security, resorts to violent tactics that mirror the very fascist ideology it purports to be challenging. At Berkeley, black-masked Antifa members reportedly left behind property damage and started fires, while the group is believed to have violently disrupted the March 4 Trump event. This thuggish tendency, which seems to be strangely prevalent on the left, to resort to outright violence every time somebody attempts to challenge an idea sets a disastrous precedent. It also leads directly to outbreaks of violence.

Now, with the arrival of Donald Trump on the scene, all of this accumulated political firewood, as it were, has paved the way for round one of a conflagration that won’t be resolved anytime soon.

In considering the violent events that shook Charlottesville, where actual fatalities and numerous injuries occurred, it is important to consider what sparked this event, and that was the decision to remove Robert E. Lee’s statue from the city center. It seems a reasonable case could be made for both sides of the debate, yet that is exactly what is missing in America these days – healthy debate.

First, it must be said the Confederate cause that Lee defended – that is, an agrarian system based on slavery – is obviously noxious and indefensible. Hundreds of thousands of Africans were physically removed from their homeland and delivered to American shores, forced to till the fields of their ‘masters’ from morning til night. Not until the emergence of Abraham Lincoln and the North’s hard-fought victory in the Civil War did African Americans secure their full-fledged membership in US society. Thus, many Americans find it distasteful that a statue of Lee, gallantly astride his horse, sits in a park that bears his namesake.

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Yet the question remains. Will removing Lee’s statue eliminate the stain of slavery from American history books? No, it won’t. So what is it exactly that we wish to accomplish by its removal? Should Americans be expected to tear down every physical reminder of those historical figures whose ultimate legacy was being on the wrong side of history? Should we be prepared to close down Gettysburg Military Park in Pennsylvania, for example, the sprawling site of the Battle of Gettysburg, the Civil War’s bloodiest battle that precipitated the final defeat of Lee’s army? It was on the basis of that victory, after all, that lent inspiration to Lincoln’s famous ‘Gettysburg Address.’

“To forget history is to repeat it” is not some silly cliche, but sound advice that we ignore at our own peril.

The willingness to remove statues from our main squares is just one step away, I believe, from demanding history books be purged from any reference to such events for fear of offending somebody. In both cases, we wish to remove the physical content because we find it morally offensive. Thanks to the toxic atmosphere of political correctness that has sanitized all debate and discussion, we already see the first signs of such extremism. It’s a sad day in America when university campuses, the very fountain of free thought, resort to violence every time a controversial guest speaker is invited to address a group of students.

So deeply entrenched are the roots of political correctness that Americans, who can barely pronounce the words ‘male’ and ‘female’ these days without facing a lawsuit, are now willing to remove not only stone representations of dead historical figures who still have hard lessons to teach, but living, breathing individuals carrying messages that some may find unsettling, yet that have a right to be spoken nevertheless.

As a nation, we’ve traveled light years away from the sound advice given by the English writer, Beatrice Hall, who said, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

Meanwhile, the right of assembly by all participants should have been protected by the authorities in Charlottesville since the idea of allowing these two groups, which exist at extreme ends on the political spectrum, to mingle in the proximity of tiny Emancipation Park (formerly called ‘Lee Park’) was simply insane.

It should be noted that Unite the Right (UtR) had secured the necessary permits to assemble to hear various speakers discuss the decision to remove the historical Lee statue. They also had the blessing of the American Civil Liberties Union (Yet this did not stop “Unite The Right” organizer Jason Kessler from being attacked by protesters while attempting to hold a news conference). This decision naturally led to counter groups, notably from Antifa, to also secure permits to hold counter rallies. Thus, this quaint Virginia town had collected together enough combustible material to have given the authorities enough incentive to ensure public safety, yet once again the police failed spectacularly on that point.

Reminiscent of the violence that left Berkeley campus resembling a war zone over a scheduled talk by Milo Yiannopoulos, a British commentator associated with the so-called alt-right, the Charlottesville police fueled the tension by driving the conflicting sides into something resembling a mosh pit. Indeed, by all outside appearances, it looked as if the police were willfully inciting violence between the leftist and rightist camps.

Are the local police forces really so inept as to force two opposing groups together during a protest? According to various accounts I have heard, that is exactly what happened. While I will leave the question of police measures to other commentators, it needs to be emphasized that if Americans are to retain their constitutionally protected freedom of speech and assembly, then the authorities must be expected to create the safe spaces for such events.

When Americans are being physically denied the right to express themselves due to an oppressive atmosphere of political correctness, then the authorities must take the necessary steps to protect them, otherwise the natural result will be more violence.

It’s sad that the national state of debate in America has reached the point when such measures are required, but without open debate and discussion on all issues, America will be stuck in a Civil War mindset.

@Robert_Bridge

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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Welcome to Charlottesville – proof that political correctness is wrecking America – RT

Peter Funt: Is Football’s Future a Virtual Reality? – Noozhawk

By Peter Funt | August 14, 2017 | 3:30 p.m.

Will football someday become the worlds first virtual professional sport?

With the NFLs preseason underway, high school and college players back on the practice fields, and tens of thousands of fantasy leagues conducting their annual drafts, lets put the question another way:

Which will happen first: the collapse of the NFL due to a shortage of players willing to risk injury? Or the development of computer-based football so compelling and unpredictable that it actually replaces the pro game loved by millions of fans?

For now, both scenarios seem far fetched but somethings gotta give. Football is being jolted as never before by both scientific and anecdotal evidence about the effects of repeated blows to the head.

What could the long-term future possibly be for a sport in which, for example, 40 former pros conduct a charity golf tournament (in California this summer) to raise money for research on traumatic brain injuries?

For a game in which more than 2,000 women turn to a Facebook page devoted to the health consequences faced by their loved ones employed as pro players?

The Federation of State High School Associations tabulates that participation in football has fallen for the fourth straight year with the latest seasonal drop totaling roughly 26,000 players. If the pipeline of human pro players eventually dries up, perhaps replacements will emerge from computer labs.

In fact, pro football has been inching toward virtual status for more than three decades. The crude computer efforts of the early 1980s, developed by companies such as Nintendo, have evolved into modern, high-definition versions so life-like that they are played by many NFL pros in their spare time.

The NFL has enthusiastically supported this in large part because of the license fees, but also, I believe, with an eye toward the future. The league also backs fantasy football, which continues to grow in popularity as more and more fans create and manage their own teams in computer-based leagues.

The problem, of course, is that computer games and fantasy leagues depend, at least for now, on real players and real on-field results. But that might someday change.

Consider what two of my acquaintances one a former pro player, the other an armchair fanatic say when asked about the state of football today.

The fan explains that he never goes to games anymore theyre too expensive, too rowdy and, moreover, not as enjoyable as watching on a large-screen, high-def television. He prefers a comfy chair, with reasonably priced snacks at hand and a computer propped on his lap to track multiple fantasy squads.

The former pro explains that if the average fan were ever to stand on the field during an NFL game he would be so sickened by the sounds of collisions and screams of pain that he would cease loving the sport. What you see on TV, he adds, are guys in helmets and pads looking very much like avatars in a video game.

Football is the only sport in which you can watch a player for several seasons yet very possibly have no clue whatsoever about what he looks like in person.

To my mind, these two insightful fellows are describing the foundation for totally virtual football. The NFL could control it, the networks would cover it, and gamblers might even support it.

Given the pace at which computer science is advancing, a truly equivalent virtual game can likely be crafted in a decades time.

Personally, Im finding it increasingly difficult to rationalize my passion for a sport that is so clearly proving to cause lifelong suffering for its participants. Im tired of all the dirty looks from my wife as she wonders why I so stubbornly support this game.

Ive grown used to getting the scores and stats from Siri and Alexa. I suppose Id be willing to have their colleagues play the game as well.

Peter Funt is a writer, speaker and author of the book, Cautiously Optimistic. He is syndicated by Cagle Cartoons and can be contacted at http://www.candidcamera.com. Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

More here:

Peter Funt: Is Football’s Future a Virtual Reality? – Noozhawk

‘I worked as a prosecutor. Then I was arrested. The experience made a man out of me. It made a black man out of me’ – The Guardian

Paul Butler: First you have to try to ask: how did American criminal justice become so inhumane? Photograph: Sam Hollenshead

Paul Butler, author of the new book Chokehold: Policing Black Men, argues the US criminal justice system is institutionally constructed to control African American men. But, he says, that is merely one facet of a pervasive chokehold over black men that can be observed in numerous social and political arenas.

The work has been described by the New York Times as the most readable and provocative account of the war on drugs since Michelle Alexanders The New Jim Crow.

Here, Butler answers questions on some of the books main arguments and grapples with how its series of radical solutions stands in stark contrast to the agenda of Donald Trump.

If you mention the use of a chokehold in the context of modern American policing, the first thing that springs to mind is the 2014 death of Eric Garner in New York. How does that case encapsulate the extended chokehold metaphor you use throughout the book?

The chokehold is a literal mechanism for police use of force. But in the Garner case, it was evocative of so many ills in the criminal justice system: the fact he was arrested for simply selling a tobacco cigarette in the street, the fact he had been harassed by police many times before, the fact the police interpreted his polite conduct as resisting arrest, and the chokehold itself, which was against NYPD regulations. Then, of course, the officer who did it has not been charged with a crime and remains a sworn officer, despite the fact his actions went against NYPD regulations.

So the case, and the chokehold itself, seemed a metaphor for not only how the law fails black people but is also a form of oppression itself.

As a lawyer who went to law school with a goal of helping black people and using my legal skills to make things better, the realization that the law itself was a mechanism to keep African American people down was frightening.

Your prior experience as a criminal prosecutor in Washington DC informs much of your critique of the criminal justice system in the book, and yet you write that you once enjoyed the process of sending other black men to jail. How did you reconcile that on the job?

I had a number of unpleasant experiences with the police as a black kid growing up in Chicago and I was the last person my friends from law school thought would be a prosecutor. But I heard that prosecutors had all this power and so I went to try to change the system from the inside. But I was overwhelmed with the workplace culture, so rather than change the system, the system changed me. I became a hardcore prosecutor in part because the incentives in the prosecutors office are to lock people up for as long as you can.

Lawyers are competitive and ambitious, and the way that manifests itself in a prosecutors office is you want to get tough sentences. I got caught up in that world. You feel like youre doing the Lords work you tell yourselves that youre helping the community.

So how did your perspective change?

There were a few experiences that changed me.

I remember a trial I had in the 1990s where the defendant basically had no defense. He was found with drugs and said he simply didnt know how they had got in his pocket. The majority-black jury found him not guilty. After verdict, I went running after them to find out why. None would talk to me except for the lone white woman, and she said: We knew he was guilty, but he was just so young.

Right there I was forced to reconcile this enormous respect that I gained for the jurors of the district of Columbia with this reality that in some cases they were saying not guilty when they knew otherwise.

You never saw this in cases of violent crime, or even large-scale drug selling, but in drug possession and in low-level sales it was commonplace. And it made me start to think: maybe what theyre doing is right, keeping nonviolent kids out of prison.

Later that decade, I myself was arrested and went to trial over false allegations of [a] misdemeanour assault. A neighbour of mine accused me of pushing her during an argument about a parking space. I was taken to a courthouse with around 150 other black men that day. I thought: Oh my God, what if the judge recognises me? But I dont even think she looked at me. I was just another anonymous, African American man on the lockup list that day.

During the trial, I experienced for myself a lot of things that defendants Id prosecuted said were evidence of how unfair the system was: police lied, witnesses who knew what happened didnt come forward. Now I was forced to confront them myself.

But things were dealt well for me at the trial because I could afford the best lawyer in the city, had legal skills and social standing, and because I was innocent.

The jury took less than 10 minutes to acquit me. But the experience made a man out of me. It made a black man out of me.

The book seems to point to black mens fatal encounters with police as the apex of this chokehold metaphor, but deadly police violence cuts across so many other issues in American society, including mental illness and gun ownership do you think its possible to reconcile them?

I think theyre related in a couple of ways. But first you have to try to ask: how did [the] American criminal justice become so draconian and so inhumane? The answer is, as a way of controlling African American men. So if we think about why we have harsh sentences, why we have a surveillance state, why we have violent policing, why we have 95% of cases settled by plea bargain due to the extraordinary power of prosecutors those were all designed with the idea of controlling black men.

This control has two steps. The first step is the legal construction of every black man as a thug. And the second part is the legal and social response to put down the thug. The supreme court gives the police all this power to control, and of course it doesnt say this power was designed specifically for black men, although its understood thats who the power will be wielded against. But the point about this power is that it is not only used against black men it can be used against others. So all of these practices end up impacting other people, too.

Like many on the left, youre critical of the Obama administrations record on racial justice issues. But do you think, given who has assumed the presidency, that history could look relatively favourably on Obama given his administrations moves to abandon federal private prisons, record number of sentence commutations and consent decrees with major police departments?

Compared to who came next, I think Obama will be remembered extremely favourably by history on almost every front. But I think sometimes Obama himself seemed to suffer from racial fatigue. He didnt have that same swag and confidence when he talked about race as when he talked about other issues of national importance, like healthcare and LGBT equality.

His signature racial justice program, My Brothers Keeper [a public-private mentoring initiative aimed at young men of colour], just missed the mark. He says that he got the idea after Trayvon Martin was killed. You know, Trayvon Martin was killed by a racist neighbourhood watchman, he was basically racially profiled and then hunted down and shot. One wonders how a program about black male achievement is responsive to what happened to Trayvon Martin.

The book devotes a lot of energy to criticising stop-and-frisk policing, a practice that was eventually reformed in New York due evidence of racial bias. But its a policy that Donald Trump has advocated for nationally why you think Trump has been such a vocal proponent?

The point of stop-and-frisk is to humiliate black and brown men. Humiliate them in a way that allows the police to dominate them. And I think thats consistent with Trumps views on the purpose of law and order.

With the Russia collusion investigation, we see Trump and his cronies bemoaning heavy-handed investigations, how much power law enforcement has, how much power prosecutors have, and Trump being very concerned when prosecutors focus on one select group of people. He gets these concerns when they apply to rich white dudes, but hes all for that police power and prosecutor power when it comes to policing black men.

Part of the way that white supremacists like Steve Bannon have championed Trump is because hes always been prejudiced against black people, from the way he operated his real estate business and was accused of not renting to black folks, to his calling for the execution of the Central Park Five [the wrongfully convicted teenagers in an infamous New York City rape case] hes always had this white supremacist baggage that he used as part of his platform.

That said, the book calls for a radical overhaul of the entire criminal justice system, including the abolition of prisons and more direct action protest. Do you think any of that is practically realisable under Trump?

When we think about racial justice for people in America, its always been about abolition: abolition of slavery, then the abolition of formal segregation, the old Jim Crow, and now we need abolition of the new Jim Crow.

The prison experiment has been a failure. We need to start being creative about other ways to do what we think prison does. What we hope prison does is to keep us safe and make people accountable for the harm theyve caused. But those of us who have experience working in the system know that prison doesnt do either one of those well.

I wrote the final chapter in October 2016 thinking Hillary Clinton would be president. Obviously, she lost, and I rewrote the chapter based on Trump. But in some ways, I think his victory motivated activists because it shows the importance of resisting and how much we have to resist. If Clinton had won, people would have been more patient, wanting to give reform a chance. I think Trump has inspired a productive apocalypse. Things are extraordinarily bad, and theyre not going to get better without major agitation.

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‘I worked as a prosecutor. Then I was arrested. The experience made a man out of me. It made a black man out of me’ – The Guardian

The Political Spectrum, book review: How wireless deregulation gave us the iPhone – ZDNet

The Political Spectrum: The Tumultuous Liberation of Wireless Technology, from Herbert Hoover to the Smartphone By Thomas Winslow Hazlett Yale University Press 401 pages 978-0-300-21050-7 $35

Fred (Alfred E) Kahn kept fretting about the size of his fake nose. It was the 1973 Cornell Savoyards production of Gilbert & Sullivan’s Iolanthe, and he was playing the Lord Chancellor — the little man who prances around and sings the ‘Nightmare Song’. A few years later, he championed airline industry deregulation as part of the Carter administration.

In The Political Spectrum, Thomas Winslow Hazlett — a professor at Clemson University and a frequent contributor to the libertarian magazine Reason — reminds us that the job Kahn really wanted was chair of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). If he’d gotten that job rather than one on the Civil Aeronautics Board, Hazlett says, we’d have cheaper and better wireless service — but airfares on the “government-protected cartel of carriers” would be really expensive. One could retort: Dr David Dao. However.

This particular ‘what-if’ is a vignette in Hazlett’s history of wireless spectrum regulation, which covers American telecommunications regulation from the Radio Act of 1912 to the present. Hazlett’s basic argument is that government-regulated spectrum rights are slowly allocated (over six to 13 years) and endemically and wastefully underused.

The focus is mainly on the US, although Hazlett regards the story as having broader applicability. As he told an audience at the Adam Smith Institute in June: “Every country has its own story, but they tend to have patterns.” One of these, and the one that perhaps annoys Hazlett the most, is ‘technical reasons’ — the excuse that’s always given for not changing how things are done.

Deregulation, Hazlett argues, gave us FM radio, HBO, wi-fi, and the iPhone. Regulation was meant to provide TV services in the public interest — news, education, and so on. Instead, it gave us a TV landscape that FCC chair Newton N Minow, in a famous 1961 speech to broadcasters in Las Vegas, called a “vast wasteland”. Anyone in Britain might say: ‘But the BBC!’ Hazlett mentions it three times: once as a censor, once as a public utility studied by the economist Ronald Coase, and once (as BBC America) as one of the diverse news and information sources enabled by deregulating cable and ending the “artificial scarcity” of TV channels.

If the book has a hero, it may be Coase. In 1960, he proposed an idea, now known as the Coase theorem, that regulating the airwaves to avoid interference was unnecessary, because as long as property rights in the frequencies were well-defined, the broadcaster to whom the rights were most valuable would pay competitors not to interfere. The market, in other words, would find the most efficient frequency allocation for itself.

Coase, then 50, was much derided for this idea at the time, but lived long enough to receive the Nobel Prize in economics in 1991 and enjoy two decades of vindication before he died in 2013 at the age of 102.

Obviously this is a book that anyone involved with spectrum policy would want as a reference. What’s unexpected is that, whether or not you agree with Hazlett’s conclusions, it’s also reasonably entertaining to read — no small feat with a subject as esoteric as this.

Risk, film review: Access all Assange areas, to incoherent effectOver six years of filming, Laura Poitras follows the elusive and distant Wikileaks founder from a friend’s Norfolk estate to his Ecuadorian Embassy bolt-hole.

Move Fast and Break Things, book review: Where did the internet go wrong?Jonathan Taplin’s book examines how a handful of Silicon Valley libertarians came to dominate the internet via giant companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon.

To Be a Machine, book review: Disrupting life itselfMark O’Connell explores the drive to transcend biology using technology, examining ideas like the Singularity, mind uploading, cryonics, whole-brain emulation and cyborgs.

Thinking Machines, book review: AI, past, present and futureAdvances in recent decades have seen artificial intelligence develop apace, and AI now pervades our lives. Yet, as this book explains, true machine intelligence is still a work in progress.

Link:

The Political Spectrum, book review: How wireless deregulation gave us the iPhone – ZDNet

Ashes to ashes, dust to … interactive biodegradable funerary urns? – Minnesota Public Radio News

Earlier this summer, a modest little startup in Barcelona, Spain, unveiled its newest product a biodegradable, internet-connected funeral urn that turns the ashes of departed loved ones into an indoor tree. Just mix the cremains with soil and seedlings, and the digital-age urn will automatically water and care for your memorial sapling, sending constant updates to an app on your smartphone.

At first glance, the concept seems gimmicky evidently, we’re running out of ideas for smart appliances. But the Bios Incube system can also be seen as the latest example of a gradual transformation in modern culture.

Technology is fundamentally changing how we deal with death and its attendant issues of funerals, memorials and human remains. Much of this change is for the good. Some developments are a little spooky. But one thing is for sure: You can do a lot of cool things with ashes these days.

The Bios Incube system, which went on sale in June after a successful crowdfunding campaign, is the latest iteration of a much older idea in which ashes are essentially used as compost for a memorial tree or plant. But the Incube system adds some high-tech twists. The biodegradable urn is placed within a 5-gallon planter with an elegant, off-white, minimalist design vibe call it the iUrn.

Actually, that’s the Incube. Fill it with water and an internal irrigation system kicks in while separate sensors monitor the progress of your plant, taking constant readings on temperature, humidity and soil conditions. This information is wirelessly beamed to the included smartphone app, allowing the bereaved user to better care for and nurture the seedling as it grows into a tree.

Roger Moline, co-founder of Bios Urn, says the company offers two versions of its system. One provides the basic biodegradable urn and planter at $145. The more expensive version if you want all the high-tech bells, whistles, atmosphere sensors and smartphone apps tops out at $695.

“Interestingly enough, we have found so far that most have opted voluntarily for the high-tech option,” Moline says.

He has a theory on that.

“Most of us are connected to the digital world, and we have become used to it,” he says. “Perhaps by tying together this process with technology, there can be a sense of comfort that comes from using a familiar process with a new experience. We hope that it will push people in a new direction and perhaps make this process easier for those experiencing loss.”

The Bios Urn concept is indeed part of a larger transformation in which technology is changing how we think about death and dying, says Candi Cann, author of the book “Virtual Afterlives: Grieving the Dead in the Twenty-first Century.”

“Their approach implies a different sort of afterlife than the religious one an afterlife that theoretically we can partake in,” says Cann, who teaches religion and world culture at Baylor University.

“Recent theories on mourning reveal that having continued bonds with the deceased allow us to navigate everyday life while renegotiating our relationships with loved ones who are no longer present,” she says. “So in this way, the Bios Urn might actually foster a healthy type of mourning that allows us to look after the dead in an active, daily way.”

Caring for the dead via a smartphone app may seem strange, Cann says, but it makes perfect sense for those of us living in a perpetually connected world: “The generation today has grown up with online spaces and smartphones, so this is their medium.”

Cann has done extensive research on modern mourning rituals around the planet, and the various ways that technology is impacting how we deal with death and dying. The Internet has certainly changed the way we do things. Obituaries are posted online, funeral arrangements are sent by email or text, and social media platforms like Facebook now offer a range of memorial pages and legacy contact options.

In general, this is all good healthy progress, Cann says. “Smartphones and social media spaces have forced a decline in the importance of a controlled obituary narrative, as more people can contribute to the communal memory of a person and the meaning of their life,” she says.

A recurring theme in Cann’s work concerns an odd and abiding reticence in mainstream Western attitudes toward death: In short, we just don’t like to talk about it. Our aversion leads to a lot of unhealthy sublimation in the culture. “I would argue that the reason we see so much death in the media and in video games is precisely because we are not having real conversations about death,” Cann says.

Technology is helping in that arena, too. Cann points to online communities like Death Cafe, which use internet forums to arrange local meetups for the recently bereaved.

Then there is the issue of what to do with the remains. We humans have been navigating this dilemma since the dawn of civilization, but recent technological advances have opened up some options. You can have ashes incorporated into jewelry, blended into oil paintings, mixed into tattoo ink, submerged into coral reefs or even pressed into vinyl records. And don’t forget about the festive fireworks option.

While developing the Bios Urn system, Moline explored how other cultures are processing cremains, like Tokyo’s unique Ruriden columbarium, which utilizes LED Buddha statues and digital smart cards.

“I’ve seen some interesting things in China and Japan,” he says. “Both have run of out burial space in larger cities and have created interesting ways of commemorating those who have passed.”

Cann says that these new modern rituals, facilitated by various technologies, can help us get a little friendlier with death.

“In Brazil, I went to a public crematorium that cremates a body every 15 minutes, and is an actively used public park and picnic space,” he says. “Families were playing and picnicking among the ashes. If we see deathscapes as friendly places, rather than where the dead are banished, we might be able to utilize them in healthier and more creative ways.”

Looking to the future, however, Cann addresses more worrisome technologies.

“One of the areas I’m thinking more about is the use of artificial intelligence and digital avatars,” Cann said. “These are people intending to upload themselves, via AI, into digital avatars.”

Proponents of this idea contend that uploading the mind into a computer is entirely plausible. But science fiction has some cautionary tales in this area any technology that promises to defy death is usually nothing but trouble. Ask Dr. Frankenstein. Even speculating on this sci-fi scenario can get a bit dodgy, Cann says.

“Whenever people focus more on extending life rather than examining its quality, death loses its importance,” Cann says. “If we are spending more time trying to deny death or prolong dying, then I think we are not living well.”

In this light, the Bios Urn seems like a fairly gentle step forward. Technology can’t yet provide us with digital immortality, but it can help us grow a memorial tree in our living room. What’s not to like?

See the article here:

Ashes to ashes, dust to … interactive biodegradable funerary urns? – Minnesota Public Radio News