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Random Mutations?

An example of simulated data modelled for the ...

CMS particle detector on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN. Two protons collide, producing two jets of hadrons and two electrons. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Ernie Fitzpatrick

I subscribe to the theory that one can now where they are going if they don’t know from whence they have come. I do not accept the theory that the earth was created in seven literal days one October day in 4011 BCE. Not do I embrace the theory that we are the result of some random mutation and therefore going nowhere or having no control over where we might be headed.

As the sage had warned us, “If if don’t stop going where we are headed we will wind up at that place”.

Newtonian and or conventional science tells us that how we got here was from some mysterious BIG BANG that happened 14 billion years ago. The Large Hadron Collider will supply us with the more detailed answers if we can ever keep that project on line and not blow up CERN and the rest of the world before then. But until then, the best that the scientific community can tell us is that through billions of years of gradual evolution driven by random mutations and genetic accidents, we have thus arrived at where we are today.

And people believe this Darwinian dribble?

If evolution of you and I is driven by random events what hope do we have about the future? Can anyone predict the future? But, if Consciousness is more of the answer to life than matter, we have a totally different ball game to be played here on earth and within the universe. We are consciousness and as we become aware and awakened to what that means we increase our ability to change the direction that we are going. We can be far more than we are because in reality we ARE more than we ARE!.

I am not an accident!

We are not here by accident and if there is a message in the Mayan calendar, the Mayans, and other indigenous cultures, it is that they KNEW, that they were CONSCIOUS, and they were privy to more of who they WERE than we today comprehend. It’s not just about technology and intelligence but about the “opening of the head” to the reality of our being. And as more and more come to that awakening, the future now becomes what it is that WE SAY.

The question is will be AWAKEN before we kill ourselves?

About the Author:

As a spiritual-futurist, I have a BA degree majoring in history. One cannot know the future without knowing the past which holds clues to what is on the horizon. The world is in such a rapid expansion of knowledge that we are close to entering a tipping point that will forever change earth as we know it.

Article Source: Random Mutations?

 


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RELIGION/ADAPTATION: God and the Survival of the Human Species

Creation of the Sun and Moon by Michelangelo, ...

Creation of the Sun and Moon by Michelangelo, face detail of God. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Robert DePaolo

A Deistic Conflict

Answering the question of whether God actually exists has always been fraught with complications. Part of the problem lies in the fact that ostensible interactions of God – regardless of the particular faith – have been few and far between. Indeed it is hard to argue with the fact that most of the body of religious doctrine has been purveyed by man. On Sinai only The Ten Commandments were issued in person while the various laws in Deuteronomy seem to have been written by various authors, including  Moses, Joshua and a mysterious set of writers often referred to by biblical scholars as The Yahwist, The Elohist, the Deuteronomist and the Priestly Source.  Thus while a large part of religion is based on conversations of one sort or another between a god and a chosen human being it is the latter’s account that is ultimately used as final purveyor of doctrine.

None of this is necessarily denied by even ardent believers. All Christian scholars know that many of the main tenets of the old and New Testaments  considered divinely conveyed in modern times were in fact decided by various councils during the Middle Ages – including the decision to consider Jesus a God rather than a higher-order profit in the mold of Moses, Isiah or Elijah. The premise behind such decisions was at least derived in part from the teachings of Christ so one could infer the councils were simply relying on an original source. After all he said ‘I am the Way’ in John 14:6. On the other hand, in Luke 18:19 he also said, ‘Why do you call me good when that word applies only to God?’ In that instance Jesus was clearly separating himself from the one true God of the Jews, who after all, viewed themselves as monotheists.

Atheists feed off such inconsistencies, arguing, as Draper (1998) did that since much of religious doctrine is man-made, the idea of a God has little to do with the actual existence of a deity. Some, such as Christopher Hitchens (2007) have argued that the world would be a better place if not for a belief in God, this opinion apparently based on a history of religiously-influenced wars and political tyrannies.

In this opinion that is a rather vacuous argument, not only because it ignores the vast number of altruistic acts that have been conducted in the name of religion but also because most moral concepts regarding peace, adhere to law, fairness, and humaneness adopted by the western world have been heavily influenced by religious mores, particularly those inherent in Judao-Christianity.  Echos of old and new testament laws run throughout the English and American Constitutions…for example the reference in Leviticus 24:19 to an eye for an eye runs parallel to the 8th Amendment in the American Constitution on cruel and unusual punishment. Obviously the same parallels exist between modern law and biblical tenets regarding prohibitions against theft, murder and slander.

But an even stronger argument against atheistic thought can be presented by simply considering the history of religion and its historically adaptive value to our species.

In the Beginning

The first modern humans were nomads (Marlowe 2005). Until roughly 8,000 years ago climatic conditions, lack of knowledge, the lack of availability of certain grains (which had to evolve into more resilient form themselves before being arable) ruled out the possibility of agricultural settlements. During that time man wandered the earth, settling into temporary make-shift homes, periodically following herds. Permanence, and all the cognitive and emotional by-products and potentials of that were yet impossible. The nomadic human tribes had limited capacity to carry objects in their travels, thus left most of their tools behind. In effect they were forced to re-make them, which led to a great deal of behavioral redundancy. That left little time to contemplate possibilities, anxieties, and meaning in general despite their having enough cortical brain mass to do so.  As Bronowski (1973) has pointed out, nomadic life allowed little in the way of existential concerns.

Since value is based on necessity, material possessions were not cherished in the nomadic world. Since travel was essential to survival those who, for one reason or other could not press on were left to die – and likely did so without protest. Life for these groups was moment to moment and confined to the immediacy of their circumstances and needs.

Still, the early humans worshipped gods (Narr 2008). The reasons why were probably myriad. First and foremost was probably the size and construction of their brains – which had reached 1500 centimeters. A brain like that, with delineated speech centers, and a capacity to categorize, memorize and communicate socially, would have attributed events to causes and sources (King, 2007), (Gould, 2007) Since large brains tend to correlate with intense social concerns, these attributors would have caste the causes and sources in at least quasi-personal forms – thus the personification of God.

At the root of what might be called a cognitive-God function are the needs to control, reduce uncertainty and press onward.  While many social scientists have discussed the advantage of evolutionary human brain expansion with respect to increased language capacities, cognitive abilities, tool making, art and creativity in general they miss one very salient disadvantage of having a large brain. While a brain with billions of inter-neuronal connections provides a capacity to think and communicate it also creates a greater potential for ‘noise,’ existential uncertainty and consequently a greater need for ongoing resolution. The large brains bestowed on mankind by nature (and God, if you will) thus set in motion the very need for a God-concept. This process likely began with climatic change during the tail end of the Pleistocene (glaciation) era when resources dried up, travel became both more possible but also more treacherous during migrations across frozen tundra.

A small-brained creature would not contemplate such duress, merely experience it in the moment. Its fate would be either to adapt or die. There would be neither any possibility nor any point in hoping, fretting, worrying about ‘what if.’ Conversely, an animal with a brain of 1500 or so centimeters would. Since uncertainty-fostered duress can lead to avoidance behaviors, some sort of endurance-enhancing cognitive capacity would have had to kick in to rein in all that angst. In that time period the adaptive value of God might have been to sustain human motivation through supra-environmental (i.e. spiritual) cognitions and emotions, so that persistence would increase the likelihood of finding food, water and climatic support. In the aftermath of such discovery, the need of a large brain for closure might lead the nomads to thank/appease an overseer to reinforce his investment in the tribe and express gratitude for his or her concern for their well-being.

The combination of attributional and personifying tendencies probably forced a belief in God for the first humans. In that instance religion was not a symbolic, spiritual mindset but a necessary, adaptive form of cognition facilitating persistence and thus aiding in survival. It was conceivably both necessary and inevitable.

Genesis II.

A second God-adaptation possibly arose with the advent of agricultural societies. When people are able to renew a supply of plant foods without necessarily understanding the biology behind the process, they will perhaps view their good fortune as a function of some sort of outside control. That in turn will lead to gratitude and a need to pay homage to the purveyor of this good fortune. Thus the transition from a nomadic to agricultural/urban life style did not require a cognitive/religious transformation. The settlers hoped for crops to grow, had to wait for seasonal and climatically favorable circumstances and when things turned out well they acknowledged the agent responsible and continued to express their gratitude in the hope that the bounty would continue. (Wilkins 2000). Both nomadic and early agricultural religious practices were adaptive because they facilitated persistence and provided uncertainty reduction.

The continued development and expansion of agriculture societies obviously led to profound social changes, including a more sedentary life style and greater social permanence.  Family members could live together for longer periods of time and all inhabitants had more down time to ponder existential questions. A brain previously driven by movement, faced with moment to moment concerns about geography. resources and destinations was now able to look beyond immediate experience. A distinction between concrete experience and ‘meaning’ was drawn. Ideas on the value and importance of life and the trauma of death became more common and more vivid (Erlich 2000), (Gould, McGarr et. al 2007). A greater capacity for suffering was a consequence of that as the inherent tough-mindedness of the nomad morphed into the more tender and sensitive mindset of the permanent settlers.  To cope with internally-driven angst, to persist despite the specter of death, failure, and the potential loss of new-found prosperity required a continued reliance on the cognition/religion paradigm.

So, once again, God came to the rescue, insulating humans against the existential suffering and enabling mankind to adapt to still newer social and environmental circumstances.

Genesis III

Religious evolution did not end there, for another profound change occurred in human society. While agriculture provided stability and control, not all habitable places on earth were equally arable. Some places lacked water resources, others were too cold or mountainous, still others had agricultural potential but residents lacked knowledge of farming techniques. Yet tribal outsiders traveled about – after all, many were still entrenched in the nomadic life style. They were aware of the existence of milk and honey settlements and wanted in on that. As a result another ironic byproduct of societal advancement occurred in the form of tribal invasion. War became all the rage.

The genes of a primate are very parochial. Somehow, in some way these microscopic bio-conglomerates influence behavior in such a way as to serve the local gene pool. Family ties tend to promote loyalty while the presence of strangers tends to invoke hostility. Up the point of tribal invasions, family ties were not only strong but historically crucial. As evidenced in the Old Testament people in the Middle East/North African settlements were well aware of and arguably obsessed with lineage. One reason for this concern with lineage was to prevent contamination of the local gene pool by outsiders. Religious thought favored that mindset, as seen in the long reference list of progenitors and offspring in Genesis. That cognitive-religious mindset was adaptive because it reinforced altruism within the ranks and consequently the survival of all members of the tribal family. That model persisted down through the epochs depicted in the Bible. Indeed without that, Jesus of Nazareth (being ostensibly from the line of David and born by mandate in David’s town of Bethlehem) could not have risen in the ranks.

Yet even extended families are small in number and insufficient to ward off hordes of invaders. A conflict arose. Consanguine groups had to decide between keeping the family intact at the risk of being overrun by vast armies or increasing their numbers and territorial defensive capabilities by assimilating para-familial members into their community. The solution was discovered at some cost. It was that strangers somehow had to be incorporated and welcomed into an extra-familial socio-political structure

In order to achieve these first forays into social integration required nothing less than a socio-political miracle. For this to occur, the behavioral impetus arising from the most basic elements of life  – the genes – had to be overridden. In effect, nurture had to over-take nature. It was not an easy task, which is why a new religious adaptation was needed and why it did occur.

The newest cognitive/religious adaptation was found in the idea of integration and it was exemplified by Judao-Christian, Buddhist and other religious models.  The God of Abraham accepted Ishmael as future leader of a great nation, despite his biological mother (Hagar) being an Egyptian maid. Moses began as an Egyptian prince before ultimately leading the Hebrews. David united the conflicted twelve tribes to form the state of Israel. The story of the Good Samaritan rose above parochial protest. Jesus reached out to the Roman centurion to heal his servant, and included tax collectors and other outsiders into a more compassionate world view, while Buddha traveled about, espousing not just tribal integration but unity among all life forms. All these integrative ideas heralded at different times, in different places the advent of a new model. It was a credo that met with considerable resistance – and still does, but, just as the industrial growth of the western nations (most notably the U.S.A.) occurred through assimilation of immigrant foreigners, so were the urban settlements in the Middle East ultimately sustained in ancient times. In fact the human race was able to adapt as a result of a religiously-driven idea of overriding both genetic and tribal differences.

Protection from invasion was not the only reason for integrative thought but it conceivably originated in the need to survive against enemy attack and it worked.  In that context, God evolved from a parochial figure to one more concerned with the family of man. He taught us, through the prism of human cognition how to get along when it was absolutely necessary to do so.

Throughout history the cognitive and behavioral byproducts of belief in God have enabled us to adapt, persist and deal with changing pressures, threats and trends. In one sense that would seem to render God flexible, adaptable and perhaps even anthropocentrically utilitarian. And of course a belief in God has led to violent, destructive behavior in the course of time. Still, the overall effect of religion has kept Homo sapiens alive and well through thick and thin, in times when the genes, habits and instincts of mankind would not have been nearly enough – and indeed could have led to our downfall. As to the question of God’s existence: it is hard to resolve such a question in our post-Cartesian, empirically-tinged world. Perhaps a better question has to do with God’s legitimacy. In that context, even if religious belief is not genetically hardwired into the human brain as Hamer (2005) suggested, one could argue that since religion has been an inevitable byproduct of human neurology and human need and since it has enabled our species to persist, adapt and survive, it is virtually built into human experience and perhaps into mind as well. Like our penchant for analyzing nature through the medium of mathematics it seems very much within us – just as the prophets insisted.

REFERENCES

Cauvin, C. Watkins T. The Birth of the Gods and the Origin of Agriculture. Cambridge University Press

Draper, P. (1998) Evolution and the Problem of Evil. In Philosophy of Religion. Ed. Louis Pojman. Wadsworth Publishing. P. 200

Erlich, P. (2000) Human Nature,Genes, Culture and the Human Prospect. Washington, DC Island Press

Gould, S.J. McGarr, P. Steven, P, Russell, R (2007) Challenges to Neo-Darwinism and its Meaning for a Revised View of Human Consciousness. W.W.Norton & Co.

Hamer, D. (2005) The God Gene: How Faith is Hardwired into our Genes. Anchor Books

Hitchens, C. (2007) God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. Twelve/Hachette Book Group, USA Warner Books

Jesus reference re; I am the Way. In John 14:6

Jesus reference re:  Why do you call me good? In Luke 18:19

King, B (2007) Evolving God; A Provocative View on the Origin of Religion. Doubleday Publishing

Lieberman, P. (1984) The Biology and Evolution of Language. Cambridge, Harvard University Press.

Marlowe, F.W. (2005) Hunter-Gatherers and Human Evolution. Evolutionary Anthropology: Issues, News and Reviews. 14 (2) 54-67

Narr, K.J. (2008) Prehistoric Religion. Britannica On-Line Encyclopedia

Wilkins, j. (Aug 2000) Agriculture and the Rise of Religion. Evolving Thought. Science Blog.

Article Source: http://www.articlesbase.com/religion-articles/religionadaptation-god-and-the-survival-of-the-human-species-7193824.html

About the Author

Robert DePaolo, MS Clinical Psychology, former Professor of Psychology NH University System, author of five books and many articles on science, religion, politics, psychology and music.

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The Greenman, The Empress, Little John and Indy Jones: Untying a Celtic Knotwork

Originally posted on Shamagaia:

celtic-animal-ornament

illum_recently I experienced some very vivid psychic impressions during a lucid dreaming experience. One in particular had me receiving images of the Celtic symbolSerpiente_alquimica of the Greenman, and leading a Druidic prayer ritual in a stunning forest grove. I suspect that it might have been a peek through the eyes of ancestral memory, or perhaps a hint of things to come. Cyclically speaking, it might even be one and the same event: a past and future imposed upon one another, linked acausally by reoccurring astrological conditions of the sort expressed Alchemically by the Ouroboros snake eating it’s own tail. One things for sure, I will be doing a lot more research into Celtic lore!
The timing of this experience was telling. It was the night before my dear, departed Grandad’s RWS_Tarot_03_Empressbirthday and the week previously, I had recieved a very clear psychic image of a Tarot card with a…

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Transcendent warfare: Human consciousness the key?

Water War by Mark Rain via Flickr

By Steve Hammons (originally posted at Joint Recon Study Group 9/11/2008)

The term “transcendent warfare” was used by a U.S. Navy SEAL officer several years ago to describe the use of leading-edge knowledge and methods that could be helpful in achieving many important objectives.

The SEAL officer, L.R. Bremseth, indicated in a graduate-level research paper for the Marine Corps War College that transcendent warfare includes not only the deployment of certain methods, but also the understanding of underlying concepts.

He noted a significant range of opportunities for the utilization of leading-edge transcendent activities in U.S. national defense efforts.

People sometimes ask, “Is transcendent warfare a way to conduct war more successfully, or is it a way to transcend actual warfare and accomplish objectives in other ways?”

Transcendent warfare may be both … and more.

Transcendent concepts may help average people around the world understand ways to improve their lives and develop constructive solutions to the challenges they may face. In other words, transcendent understanding may enhance human development and change human consciousness.

NATIONAL SECURITY ACTIVITIES

In his paper, Bremseth summarized activities related to facilitating robust psychological and perceptual functioning of U.S. military and intelligence personnel.

He noted that research into human behavior and thinking processes is ever-expanding and that these developments can provide very useful insight and significant assets.

One aspect of transcendent warfare is establishing a perspective from which transcendent concepts can be understood. This is the formation of a certain perspective, viewpoint and understanding.

Another element is translating this understanding into activities can be deployed to accomplish worthwhile missions and tasks.

These may include “hard power” methods as well as “soft power” efforts. They may be applied to special operations missions and humanitarian activities. They may assist “public diplomacy” and constructive psychological operations. They may involve open source intelligence (OSINT) platforms and educational/sociological outreach.

Transcendent concepts and activities can provide additional resources and tools for many kinds of situations … situations that are of importance to us now.

HUMAN DEVELOPMENT

When we hear a term like transcendent warfare, the ideas of improving the state of the human race and solving the myriad of problems facing humanity might not immediately come to mind.

However, a study of the theories and activities on which the idea of transcendent warfare is based clearly indicates a potential for far-reaching positive changes for the human race and our planet.

Why? At the heart of transcendent concepts is human psychology and human consciousness. Most problems facing the human race are based on these fundamental elements. Many solutions lie in those same basic platforms too.

Enhancing human perception and understanding are keys to the transcendent perspective. Some of the research and activities conducted regarding discoveries in the area of human consciousness clearly indicate great potential for short-term and long-term human development.

How will these discoveries in consciousness and transcendent perspectives help us? It may not be completely clear. Important progress has already been made in integrating some of these leading-edge discoveries into the mass media and our everyday lives.

Social, educational, cultural, spiritual, medical, public safety, governmental, defense and other components of human societies can make greater use of transcendent viewpoints.

As they do, we may see a new paradigm, tipping point or breakthrough in the ways the human race solves problems and makes progress.

About the Author

Steve Hammons is the author of two novels about a U.S. Government and military joint-service research team investigating unusual phenomena. MISSION INTO LIGHT and the sequel LIGHT’S HAND introduce readers to the ten women and men of the “Joint Reconnaissance Study Group” and their exciting adventures exploring the unknown.

 


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Proof God’s Universe Is Filled with Life Comes Closer

Kepler mission Delta II liftoff

Kepler mission Delta II liftoff (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Rabbi Allen S. Maller

During Medieval times almost all Christian theologians accepted the Ptolemaic earth centered Greek view of the universe as an absolute universal truth. The Catholic Inquisition punished those who dared to voice other ideas.

I do not know why Catholic theologians believed that the rarity of life in our universe proves that God must have created life only on this planet. Perhaps they believed that if intelligent life were found to exist on other planets; it would diminish the miracle of God’s creation of Human Beings.

For me the opposite is true. That God’s universal creation is filled with life is simply the result of God’s love of living beings.

The Qur’an and the Hebrew Bible teach that the Living God created the whole universe to be conducive to the universal evolution of life. The Qur’an says, “We have not sent you but as a blessing for all the worlds.” (Al-Anbiya 107) Many commentators say “this refers to the 18.000 worlds created by Allah. Our world is one of them”. (Mir’at-e-Kainat, vol.1, p.77).

The Hebrew Bible says in the Zabur of Prophet David, King of Israel; “ Your kingdom is a kingdom of all the worlds; and Your dominion is for all generations.” (Psalms 145:13)

In January 2013, astronomers estimated that there could be at least 17 billion Earth-sized exoplanets in just our galaxy; the Milky Way. They also said that one in six stars could host an Earth-sized planet in a close orbit.

Now, two years later, proof that God’s Universe is filled with life is coming closer. NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope has discovered a star with three planets only slightly larger than Earth. The outermost planet, which is 50% larger than planet earth, orbits in the zone where surface temperatures could be moderate enough for liquid water and perhaps life to exist.

The star ranks among the top 10 nearest stars known to have transiting planets. The star is close enough for astronomers to study the planet’s atmospheres to determine if it has oxygen could possibly be conducive to multicellular life forms.

The star is a cool red M-dwarf about half the size and mass of our own sun. At a distance of 150 light years, the star ranks among the top 10 nearest stars known to have transiting planets. The star’s proximity means it’s bright enough for astronomers to study the planets’ atmospheres to determine whether they are like Earth’s atmosphere and possibly conducive to life.

For those who believe in the One God of all the inhabitable worlds, these two new scientific studies are not shocking. For unlike the Roman inquisition’s condemnation of Galileo, no Muslim or Jewish astronomer was ever condemned by a Muslim or Jewish inquisition, because Jews and Muslims never had an institution like the inquisition.

Also, because both Muslims and Jews had many philosophers who were critics of Aristotle’s and Ptolemy’s science, most medieval Jewish and Muslim religious leaders did not feel they had to prevent new science from disagreeing with Greek science.

Thus, even as new discoveries always change the scientific understanding of God’s universe; the religious belief that the whole universe exalts God and reveals God’s glory remains the same.

As it is written in the Zabur of Prophet David, King of Israel; “The heavens declare the glory of God.” (Zabur of David-Psalm 19:2)

Rabbi Maller’s web site is: rabbimaller.com

Julius Wellhausen and the history of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam

A name on the map

The Tanakh and the Talmidim of Yeshua

Christian: if New Testament is false, why not Hebrew Bible too?

Kepler Breaks The 1,000-Planet Barrier With More Confirmed Discoveries

Three nearly Earth-size planets found orbiting nearby star


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Freeware and Freebies

Image via Flickr

I tend to update this page whenever I find something really good. Today’s find is a video converter that makes it pretty easy to watch videos across several devices. Just be careful when installing if you don’t want any of the extra offers that come with it. A clean install is possible. You just have to pay attention when going through the wizard. And if you don’t know what to do when faced with multiple options, ask someone before guessing.

http://www.freemake.com/free_video_converter/

There are a host of other free products by this company that I recommend trying. I especially like the jukebox that searches and organizes YouTube videos. However, same word of caution as above. Unwanted extra programs can be a drag. But they can be avoided.

http://www.freemake.com/free_music_box/

Well, that’s about it for now. Happy computing! :-)

And remember, Earthpages.org is not affiliated with any the companies, organizations or projects mentioned in this blog entry.

Media Players

  • VideoLAN – VLC media player Ever wanted to capture a still image from a video? Most free media players won’t do it. After searching the web and reading all sorts of complicated do’s and don’ts, I stumbled upon this free program, which does it effortlessly. VLC also formats DVD playback in a variety of aspect ratios, which can be nice. And, it plays FLAC audio files.

Video Search

  • Freemake – Jukebox that searches and organizes YouTube videos.
  • Blinkx Not really freeware because there’s nothing to download. But it’s free and a good alternative to YouTube and Google video searches.

Video Conversion

  • Freemake – Awesome and fast
  • Handbrake – Does some formats that Freemake can’t. But can be slow.
  • Bink Video (RAD Video Tools) Converts digital video files into different formats. Especially useful if your digital camera writes Quicktime .MOV files. Bink/RAD will convert them into .AVI files, which Windows Movie Maker can import!

Image Editing/Digital Painting

  • Krita – Someone just recently tipped me off about this. I don’t see any text function. But it might be in there somewhere. Digital artists should give this a try. I can’t draw my way out of a wet paper bag. So this one isn’t too useful for me.
  • Pixlr – This has three versions, each different. I like it way better than Instagram.
  • PhotoFiltre One of my favorite free photo editors with plug-ins, highlighting and “fade last effect” feature, much like Photoshop version 4. PF doesn’t handle multiple layers like the GIMP but it’s light and tasteful. Don’t confuse this with PhotoFiltre Studio, which is not freeware.
  • PhotoScape This is a fantastic program with some great filters, fun photo stuff and useful text effects. I use this to rotate/level photos as I find it’s faster, easier and does a better job than anything else I’ve tried.
  • The GIMP GIMP stands for “GNU Image Manipulation Program.” The GIMP just keeps getting better and better; features include text, drop shadow, bevels, layers, color replacement and lots of fine filters.
  • Gimphelp.org Some cool filters for the Gimp. While Photoshop 8bf filters may still be the industry standard, I find that using freeware opens me up to different graphics and artistic approaches that I’d otherwise never try. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to install these filters. Just read the instructions and enjoy!
  • Virtual Photographer This is a great program for enhancing photos, compatible with the GIMP and other commercial software.
  • Picasa IMHO the strongest thing about this photo editor is the excellent color, lightness and contrast fixing. And it’s very user friendly. Photo rotation is a bit blurry. I use PhotoScape for that.
  • Photo Pos Pro Visually nice to look at, has some good effects and handles layers.
  • Photobie I don’t use this one too much but it has some good filters and is under steady development. Like anything else, software preference is a pretty personal thing. Definitely worth a try.
  • LightBox Solid performer. Free version touches up pics nicely with minimum of effort.
  • UnFREEz Creates animated gifs almost effortlessly, preserves transparency, and does a much better job (in terms of image quality) than MS gif animator.
  • Easy Thumbnails This easily creates good, sharp thumbnails.
  • Vector Magic Not free but you can evaluate for free with saving disabled.
  • Inkscape Good for making banners, working with fonts and converting bitmap to vector graphics.

AntiVirus, Junk and Spyware Removal

  • AntiVir A nice antivirus program from Germany with frequent free updates.
  • AdAware A ‘too good to be true’ program for detecting and cleaning invasive ads and malware that can slow down your computer. With free updates and lots of options.
  • Advanced SystemCare This was recommended by a visitor and it seems very powerful. But some may find it too aggressive and Gizmo’s Freeware says some have reported errors after using. I’ve tested this out and so far have had no probs with WinXP. It gets stuff CCleaner doesn’t, and vice versa.
  • CCleaner Fantastic program for cleaning junk files from your hard drive with frequent updates. Also useful for fixing registry integrity and blocking unwanted Windows startup programs. Use with extreme caution and don’t even think about going past the default settings unless you know what you’re doing!
  • Glary Utilities Recommended by a visitor; still testing…
  • Malwarebytes This is handy if by chance the other stuff listed here can’t help you.
  • Panda Cloud Antivirus Antivirus is available in cloud format, so say goodbye to those irritating virus definition updates.
  • Revo Uninstaller Uninstalling programs with Windows uninstaller can be like having a traveling salesman or woman leave muddy footprints on your carpet. Meaning… all sorts of junk remains in your system. Revo seems to do a very good job at overcoming that. Scans deep to get the junk that normally is left behind.

FTP

  • FileZilla FTP freeware. This is another “too good to be true” program with frequent updates. It just seems to be getting better and better.

Making Web Pages

  • Free Gifs and Animations Lots of good stuff.
  • KomPozer Apparently some techies didn’t like the fact that the buggy but very promising Nvu went into stasis. So they continued where Nvu left off. Great job! From my preliminary test it seems this might be the best totally free WYSIWYG editor around.
  • Amaya A free WYSIWYG html editor. It’s a good, straightforward product that would probably fit the needs of basic to intermediate users. Also has some cool special characters.
  • Evrsoft First Page is a free WYSIWYG editor (with a 5 sec. nag screen). It has advanced features but, as others have said, the last version I tested was a touch slow and, on my computer, a bit buggy. Still, I’ve used it with great results. (And it might have been updated since I wrote this particular entry in May 2008).

Making Music / Audio Production

  • Kristal Audio Engine This is a great program for sound recording in a multi-track format. It’s like a software version of the old Fostex and Tascam cassette recorders. Handles up to 16 audio tracks with effects, copy/cut and paste, bouncing and room for expansion. Although Kristal has been criticized for tracks not being in sync, spending a bit of time at the friendly user forum solved the issue for me.
  • Audacity – This is THE program for freeware sound recording. Check it out.
  • Reaper Reaper isn’t free but is a 60 day demo. After that, a nagscreen reminds you that it’s not free. But it continues uncrippled because the developers believe that crippling their demo is not the best way to go. This is a great program for music producers if you are willing to look elsewhere for VST plugins (like KVR, Vst4Free or the very helpful Bedroom Producer’s Blog).
  • FL Studio Somewhat like Reaper, FL Studio isn’t free but some features continue to work in the demo version. The cool guitar plugin Slayer, for instance, seems to work without limitation in the free demo version. Other plugins cut in and out. Last I heard, Avicii uses FLS. So it’s gotta have something going for it!
  • LMMS This seems really promising. It used to only work on Linux (which is beyond me). But it’s now Windows-friendly. LMMS is mostly about midi, but you can import recorded audio files as samples. So vocalists might want to try Audacity first, or something like that. This program is fairly basic but has its own charm. I did a really quick, silly thing (posted here) while learning it. I never got much further than that!
  • Asio4All So you’re new to audio production and your tracks are out of sync, or there’s way too much delay between hitting your MIDI keyboard and hearing a sound (called “latency”). Enter Asio4All. The genuine Asio driver is made, I believe, by Steinberg and is copyright material. But many people seem to use Asio4All, which I guess is some kind of approximation of the real thing. Perhaps it’s like generic drugs vs. name brands. It comes bundled with the FL Studio demo and is at CNET, so it’s got to be okay.
  • Synthmaster Player I mention this by itself because it really stands out. It’s free, uncrippled, and great. You may not like my freaky music or limited ability. But I used this synth for the bubbly “Berlin Bass” in the tune On a Star.
  • VST Resources There are a lot of really good sites out there telling about great free VST plugins. If you really want to find them all, try Google.  But the three sites I use most are KVR, Vst4Free, and Bedroom Producer’s Blog. BPB narrows down many plugins to his favorites. And I usually agree with his point of view. He’s also open to new suggestions. So it’s a “must visit” site.

Music Listening / Audio Conversion

  • Songza There are lots of services out there. This one is my favorite. I like it so much, I made several playlists for all to enjoy! (shameless plug) ;-)
  • iTunes You don’t have to purchase media with this software. iTunes comes with fantastic, free streaming radio and a 10-band equalizer and preamp with great presets. Travel the world through talk and music!
  • Winamp Music and video player with a 10-band equalizer and preamp to make music come alive. I don’t know what’s going on with Winamp these days. But I used to like it.
  • Live 365.com No download streaming radio portal. Impressive selection of genres.
  • RadioTime Provides links to many streaming radio stations.
  • AudioGrabber Handles WAV and MP3 formats. Audiophiles will probably know that WAV files sound better but are huge. MP3’s are “sonically acceptable” and take up less space for iPods, etc. There are several free grabbers out there but I find this one sounds bigger and fatter than the others I’ve tested. Some audiophiles may like that, others may not.
  • Xrecode This is great for converting to FLAC (a “lossless” format that sounds just as good as WAV with about 45% smaller file size) and many other formats, including Mp3.
  • Freemake – Nice user interface but flac to mp3 conversion test took 5 to 6 times longer than xrecode (which was listed here way before it caught on at CNET, etc).

Create RSS Feeds

  • FeedSpring Web publishers can use this to generate their own RSS feeds.

Get News with RSS

  • RSS Reader Get news stories from all over the web. This is a super program. But a while back I tested a beta version requiring net framework 2.0 and wasn’t impressed. About a third of my RSS feeds didn’t work. So I reverted to version 1.0.88.0 with net framework 1.1 and everything works great.
  • Feedreader Google Reader is no more. I never liked it much anyhow. Doing RSS online is too slow for me. But here’s a program that I use sometimes. It has a good “lookup” feature for specialized articles.

Bandwidth Monitoring

  • FreeMeter Since I’m a regular web cam user, I wanted to know which web cam software is most efficient. Enter FreeMeter.

Scanning, File Conversion, PDF

  • Bullzip This easily converts Windows documents to pdf. Lots of options. Fantastic.
  • Scan2PDF – scan documents to PDF format Scan anything and convert to .pdf (for Acrobat Reader). Also open image files from your hard drive and convert to .pdf. I found that it works best if in “options” you enable the scanner interface to be seen. That way you can adjust the resolution and get really good results.
  • Open Office I tested out the word processor on this suite in 2008 and found it satisfactory, although the English thesaurus was weak, and downloading/installing more dictionaries was a hassle. It was also a bit slow to load and felt heavier on my machine than commercial products. Open Office easily converts to pdf, however, and supports a wide number of languages. And I believe there’s a more recent version.
  • Primo PDF Primo converts Windows documents to pdf.

Multitasking

  • Always on Top I use this with WinXP to keep an application window visible while working with other applications. Examples could be keeping MS Word or maybe a Google chat contact visible while surfing or blogging. This program is very light and works great.

iOS Related

  • Syncios Transfers media files (including video) directly from PC to iPad and other iOS devices—without having to jailbreak. I couldn’t get it to work on Windows 7 64 at first. But after following the help steps and my own good sense, it works fine. The joy of this is that you can transfer media to your iOS device without having to waste bandwidth (and time) thru iTunes (which was a hassle to instal on Windows 7 64) or dropbox.

The software and online content mentioned in this post may be incompatible with your hardware and/or software. By clicking on any of the links mentioned in this post, you agree that Earthpages.org | Earthpages.ca is not liable for any damages that may be incurred from visiting these links or downloading the software.

—MC


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Afterlife with Archie: Issue #4 (Oedipal Archie)

Originally posted on Stuff Jeff Reads:

AfterlifeArchie_04

This comic is graphic, scary, and now I can add intellectually engaging. I have nothing but praise for this.

This issue begins with a flashback to when Archie is young and his parents took him to adopt a puppy. Archie’s mom, Mary, is struck with sadness as she remembers having a dog as a child, and when the dog died, having to face the realization that death is an inevitable part of life, something her own young son must one day learn.

Mary: …I’m just remembering the dog I had, when I was a girl. Spotty. How overjoyed I was when I got him, and how utterly devastated I was when… when…

Fred: Spotty was a good dog.

Mary: He was, and it was the most awful feeling, Fred, and I can’t bear the thought of Archie going through it.

Fred: Yes, but that’s years from now, Mary. And sad…

View original 230 more words

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