Android App Recommendations, In Which I Tell You How To Live Your Life

Let’s go over which applications are essential and why. At the moment I use the Motorola Moto G, model XT1045, using Android 4.4.4.

Essential List (without Pete Tong)

LastPass

This is a full-featured password manager. It is the first thing you get on any new device, including work computers, smart phones, public computers, et cetera. Sign up for LastPass Premium service for $1 USD per month and BAM, you will never forget a password ever again. Store notes, financial information like credit and debit cards, application credentials, network passwords, and anything else you can put into text. Retrieve this info efficiently with their browser add-ons, mobile applications, standalone applications, website, or bookmarklets. Auto-fill most web forms, create secure passwords that can be as long and complex as you wish since you don’t have to remember or even type them, easily change your passwords, auto-complete credit card information for online purchases, get through site registrations in seconds without typing a word. Ensure you disable browsers’ sub-par password synchronization and auto-complete features. Recommending LastPass is more like recommending exercise, healthy eating, and regular sleep schedules as a way to improve your daily life than it is an app recommendation. Just do it – first.

Swype (+ Dragon)

This keyboard lets you graduate from grade school, thumb mashing tiny on-screen keyboards, to join the big boys with Swype technology. You just drag your finger over the letters et voila, your mind-stream appears. Just get it. It’ll be a pain and you’ll complain for a week. Suck it up. You’ll be able to type faster than any Neanderthalic finger tapper with little relative experience.

Watchdog Task Manager Lite

I have used Advanced Task Killer until recently, but have since seen the light – since Android 4.0 came out with their stock application manager, that is. Why shouldn’t you use a task killer? As explained in a howtogeek.com article, background applications mostly behave properly, and shutting them down with these programs is so heavy handed that it may end up increasing battery use and slowing down your overall experience.

Use Watchdog Task Manager Lite instead. It identifies misbehaving applications and shuts them down individually.

Battery Mix

Tracks power statistics more accurately than the stock tracker. Identify gluttonous apps and wimpy chargers, and give yourself an actual number for remaining battery.

 My Data Manager – Data Usage

Track data statistics more accurately than the stock tracker. Ration your data use to daily amounts, set warnings and caps, and even track shared data plan usage. Learn which activities burn through data and which are light. Answer important questions like ‘How many times can I watch this cat video this month?’ (Answer: none.)

G Cloud Backup

Automatic backup services for the things you don’t normally think to backup, like contacts, call logs, text messages, and other documents. It can backup photos, videos, and music, but let’s use something else for that. Google keeps some data on their servers, allowing you to swap devices and retain contacts if stored properly, but there’s more to it than that.

Google DriveDropboxOneDrive, Copy, …

The plethora of available cloud storage solutions overwhelm the consumer, and we end up going with whatever is most popular and easiest. This isn’t a terrible strategy, as those at the top of the list are actually great! CNet has the full breakdown if you follow this finely crafted hyperlink. Get both Dropbox and Google DriveDropbox is best for general file sharing between environments; Google Drive is best for seamless integration in the Android and Google+ environment, and allows unlimited storage of photos less than 2048 pixels square (the Moto G camera is 2592 by 1944 pixels). Don’t like some things about these? Use them all at the same time, then keep that which you like best after a few weeks. Just make sure you use something with automatic uploads.

File Expert

We’ll always need a full-fledged file explorer, and the one that comes stock doesn’t cut it. This one does. Internal storage and external SD operations, wireless (Wi-Fi) file transfers, cloud support, etc. It’s complicated – it’s supposed to be. Get it.

Improve The Quality Of Your Life And Get These Apps

Amazon Kindle

You don’t need a Kindle to enjoy the benefits of ebooks. It’s better than other ebook readers. Get over it, Nook.

Google Goggles

Use this to analyze QR and bar codes. Also does reverse image searches, image to text searching, translates text, and a whack of other stuff.

Maps

Google Maps isn’t perfect, but it’s pretty damn good. Alternatives all have downsides which, when encountered, you solve by loading up Google Maps. Go straight to the solution and save yourself the hassle.

Mint

Automatically tracks your finances. Sign up at mint.com and start making smart budgeting decisions. Speeds up bill payment, especially credit cards, and gives you an excellent overview of all of your finances, including trends over various periods.

YouTube

User experience is much better with this app than a web browser.

AudioTagger

Make your music easier to find, identify, and group.

Xmarks

The best bookmark manager, and it integrates with LastPass. Sign up and get your browser add-ons at their website xmarks.com. Ensure you disable your browsers’ bookmark synchronization.

Dolphin Browser For Android

I like this browser more than the stock one, Firefox, or Chrome. It’s just light and easy. Get Dolphin Premium to get rid of ads; get Dolphin Jetpack to speed it up; get LastPass for Dolphin and Xmarks for Dolphin for obvious reasons.

Pushbullet

Push notifications are shared between your devices, often allowing you to follow up on them with whichever you happen to be using. For example, replying to a WhatsApp conversation on your cell phone with your Chrome browser on your laptop, sending a webpage from one browser to another, or pushing screen-caps from a movie you’re watching on your tablet to your phone.

MX Player

This is the best video player available. Supports a wide range of formats, with intuitive controls. It’s better than VLC.

Poweramp Music Player

This is the best music player available.

Sleep as Android

Are you getting enough sleep? Of course not, hardly anyone does. Well, it’s important. Start tracking your sleep habits so you can make informed decisions about it. Also, get the plug-in apps Sleepcloud Backup and tie it in with whichever cloud services you have so you can’t lose your data.

Plume for Twitter

Access your Twitter feed using this app, with a full-page widget for updates at a glance. Don’t use Twitter? Get off my lawn.

Podcast Addict

Use this app to search for, subscribe to, download, organize, and play podcasts. Sign up for RadioLab and Stuff You Should Know, turn off the popcrap radio and tune in to knowledge.

VPN by Private Internet Access

Government agencies and large corporations are using our own technology against our interests, building data profiles and making decisions about our freedoms based on them. While not a solution to this glaring problem, it gets you out of the problem: subscribe to a virtual private network (VPN) service that encrypts all data and obfuscates your location by changing your IP. One of the best providers is Private Internet Access. This may slow your data connection, use more battery than without, and use some processor time, but it’s worth it. Connect all of your machines through their servers. Upgrade yourself from pawn to queen. Check out this LifeHacker article: Why You Should Start Using a VPN.

Have some suggestions for this list? Of course you do, everyone does. Submit it to the comments and maybe someone will listen.

Hey, check out my cool new smartphone!

Ice Bucket Challenge Donations

Yeah, the family jewels have returned from whence they came.

The ice bucket challenges have great effects. Let’s make those effects count by researching which charities use donations responsibly and are in the greatest need. Sound daunting? I’ve got you covered, as I’ve already done the work. Donate to one or more of the following charities. Their causes are some of the most needed in our society today, and they are some of the most efficient with regards to funds not going directly to their projects (administerial, advertising, etc.).

Institute of International Education
http://www.iie.org/
DONATE
Founded in 1919, the Institute of International Education (IIE) is among the world’s largest and most experienced international education and training organizations. We are committed to delivering program excellence to a diverse range of participants, sponsors, and donors. Our mission is to promote closer educational relations between the people of the United States and those of other countries; strengthen and link institutions of higher learning globally; rescue threatened scholars and advance academic freedom; and to build leadership skills and enhance the capacity of individuals and organizations to address local and global challenges.
charitynavigator.org review of IIE

International Rescue Committee
http://www.rescue.org/
DONATE
Founded in 1933, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) is a global leader in emergency relief, rehabilitation, protection of human rights, post-conflict development, resettlement services and advocacy for those uprooted or affected by violent conflict and oppression. The IRC is a critical global network of first responders, humanitarian relief workers, healthcare providers, educators, community leaders, activists, and volunteers. Working together, we provide access to safety, sanctuary, and sustainable change for millions of people whose lives have been shattered by violence and oppression. The IRC is on the ground in 42 countries, providing emergency relief, relocating refugees, and rebuilding lives in the wake of disaster.
charitynavigator.org review of IRC

Direct Relief
http://www.directrelief.org/
DONATE
Founded in 1948, Direct Relief International is California’s largest international humanitarian nonprofit organization. Direct Relief provides medical assistance to improve the health and lives of people affected by poverty and disaster – at home and throughout the world. Since 2000, Direct Relief has responded to a wide range of urgent and ongoing health emergencies, by providing more than $1.6 billion in essential material resources – medicines, supplies and equipment, including more than $250 million in assistance in the United States.
charitynavigator.org review of Direct Relief

Project C.U.R.E.‏
http://projectcure.org/
DONATE
Project C.U.R.E. was founded in 1987 to help bridge staggering health resource gaps in the developing world by matching medical supplies and modern equipment with facilities in need to empower doctors and nurses with the tools they need to treat disease, deliver vaccines, perform life-changing surgeries and ensure safe childbirth. Project C.U.R.E. operates distribution centers in Colorado, Tennessee, Texas and Arizona and collects excess supplies and specialized equipment from hundreds of U.S. hospitals and medical manufacturers, giving them the opportunity to redirect their surplus in an environmentally-friendly way. Thanks to the dedication of thousands of volunteers nationwide, two to three cargo containers of life-saving aid leave Project C.U.R.E.’s warehouses every week. Today, Project C.U.R.E. is the world’s largest distributor of donated medical supplies and equipment to healthcare facilities in resource-limited communities in 130 countries.
charitynavigator.org review of Project C.U.R.E.

Heart to Heart International
http://www.hearttoheart.org/
DONATE
Heart to Heart International is improving global health through humanitarian initiatives that connect people and resources to a world in need. We have a global mission to create a healthier world. Every year, we make a positive impact in the lives of millions of people in more than 60 countries, including the United States. We develop humanitarian programs that promote health and wellness. We deliver results in these programs using two key strategies – the energy of volunteers and equity of strategic partners. We help volunteers and partners alike make a quality humanitarian connection to a world in need.
charitynavigator.org review of HtHI

Highlights From Wandering Through Central America

I spent 9 months wandering between Guatemala and Panama, on my way from Canada to South America, and will share my highlights with ya. Keep in mind that I didn’t go everywhere. I won’t attempt to cover that which I didn’t do myself.


Guatemala

Quetzaltenango (Xela)

Known to the locals as Xela (pronounced /ˈʃela/), this mid size city is a gritty bustling example of Guatemala. The few tourists in town are mostly there to climb the large volcano Santa Maria and take Spanish lessons.

Lago Atitlan

A beautiful crater lake set between two dormant volcanoes. San Pedro la Laguna is the touristy town, and is it ever touristy, making it easy to find a place to stay. I never visited San Marcos, on the other side of the lake, but it’s supposed to be a smaller, more tranquillo hippy town.
Lago Atitlan

Antigua

The old capital, now a small tourist town done right. With a large market area open every day, a perimeter of large active and dormant volcanoes, and a plethora of nearby outdoor activities, this is one of my favourite places. Hike the dormant volcano Acatenango on schedule to peer down into the active maw of Fuego, though you can sometimes see the action even from the town at night. Do the coffee farm tour at the Centro Cultura la Azotea, within cheap taxi distance.

Semuc Champey

Set in the rain forest. Check the weather, though the warm rains of Central America don’t bother me. Nearest large town is Cobán, nearest small town is Lanquín, nearest small village is… well I can’t remember, but the Q’eqchi’ kids from there gave me terrible directions on purpose, those runts! Stay at the Utopia Eco Hostel. Go caving with a small group, wading through an underground stream by candlelight. Hike the park trails, including a high viewpoint of the turquoise pools above the underground river Cahabón. Take a dip in them, too — the water is usually very clear.
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El Salvador

If you’ve been to Guatemala or done more than a few hikes in your travels, don’t bother with the “Ruta de las Flores”, a hyped tour along cute towns in northern Salvador. Suchitoto was alright, but, really, there’s better things to see. The beaches however, are second to none.

Sunzal and El Tunco

Surf, or at least try to, at these gorgeous beaches. The gentle point breaks give everything from perfect half meter swells for beginners to small barrels. These gringo surf villages are within walking distance of each other, north of La Libertad. Hang out and relax.

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Honduras

Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula, the two largest cities, are supposed to be some of the most dangerous in the world, and I’m not one to argue with statistics (I will argue vehemently on conclusions drawn from them, however). Try to book your beds and arrange transport ahead of time and arrive in daylight. They are gritty, confusing, and interesting enough for a half-day wander, but no more. (I stayed for about a week in each for other reasons, and that was too long.)

Copán Ruinas

The main highlight is the Mayan ruins, the most important one south of Tikal. The tourist town, though, is itself a highlight. I stayed for 3 weeks waiting for a package and was seldom bored, wandering every day with my camera. Have the best beer within 2000 km at Sol de Copán, a tiny german brewery.

Lago Yojoa

There are four draws to this swampy lake: the local wildlife, the sunsets from the east side of the lake, the Pulhapanzak waterfalls, and the small brewery and hostel D&D Brewery. You’ll figure it out. Worth two or three days.

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Gracias

Cute little town, but not worth more than overnight. I was there a week and did ‘the grid’ of the town more times than I want to remember.


Nicaragua

Cañon de Somoto

Hike, wade, jump, and swim down the stream, exploring the deep valley faces. Stay at Hacienda Somoto, an out-of-town animal farm and bed & breakfast.

Granada

A popular tourist town. Walk around, take a boat tour of the small islands (Las Isletas), and party. Then get out, ’cause you’ve got better places to be! You can visit the crowded Apoyo Lagoon as a day trip or overnight, nearby art town of Catarina, and peer through the sulfur clouds into the Masaya volcano (it’s not that impressive, see photo).

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San Juan del Sur

The biggest surf town I’ve ever been to, with all the amenities. Albeit chilly but bearable water with decent waves, great hot beaches, some free, some not, and a relaxing pace set the tone during the day. Parties, babes, drugs, and a fun crowd set the tone at night. Get your own quiet room at Casa de Olas or live it up in a dorm at neighboring Naked Tiger, both just outside of town with the best view around. Get away from most of it by staying on Maderas beach, a few kilometers away. Have a good time!


Costa Rica

This country is known among travelers as an expensive one. My budget didn’t change from Nicaragua, one of the cheapest. Expensive and tempting options are available where they usually are not in other countries, yes, but you don’t have to spend your money. You don’t have to do that zip lining, hire the private van, stay in expensive places. Cheap to free options are always available.

Montezuma

A hippy town that sometimes gets some surfing swells. Visit the waterfalls. Jump into the top two! Love the local monkeys, especially when the howlers wake you up at 5:30 in the morning.

Monteverde

A cloud forest park. Yep, there’s clouds, trees, ferns, and the occasional weird bird. I didn’t get to take part as I had a motorcycle, but one can travel to nearby La Fortuna by taking a shortcut in a 4×4 to the lake, a boat across, then another 4×4 to town. There isn’t much of a road, this way, hence the 4×4’s.

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La Fortuna

At the base of a volcano and near a big lake, this place is more hype than value, but you can still have a good time for little. You’re not allowed to approach the volcano but you can hike some set trails in the national park, going through the not-so-old enormous lava flow paths. There are many costly waterfalls, swimming holes, and thermal pools nearby, and just a few free ones.

Cahuita

Tranquillo to the point of being a bit boring, fill the day by exploring the small free park and laying on its beach. Really, there’s better, and it’s next. I never went to Puerto Viejo, just 15 km down the road, but, from what I know of it, Cahuita would be a welcome respite for a day.

Uvita

The best place in Costa Rica. I had planned on staying for 2 days, ended up staying for 32. Sleep at the Flutterby House. Rent a surfboard for the next day, get some groceries in the nearby village (there isn’t much, where you’re staying), make some dinner, and get to bed as you’ve got a big day ahead. Get up early and surf by yourself as the sun rises on the easy beach breaks. Make yourself a big breakfast because you’ve earned it. Nap in the morning heat, on the beach in one of the many hammocks. Head off to Cascada Verde when you get too hot. It’s a bit over an hour walk, so taxi or borrow a bicycle. You can slide down the main falls like a waterslide. Try not to think about it too much. Get some lunch on your way back to the beach, as it’s time to try the waves again. You have the surfboard all day, anyway. You’re exhausted, so paddle out past the foamy surf one last time and just chill; watch the sun set as you bob in the ocean. Get back to the hostel, make dinner in the bustling communal kitchen, and remember that you can’t cook in a group without a few drinks. If there is little moon, have another few drinks then gather a few adverturesomes to dip in the sea, as it is often spectacularly bioluminescent. Try not to sleep in your salty wet bathing suit. Repeat.

Parque Nacional Corcovado

“The most biologically intense place on Earth in terms of biodiversity” — National Geographic

Stay outside of the closest town, Puerto Jimenez, at Bello Horizonte Jungle Hostel. Book and pay for your stay in the park the day before, I recommend 3 days, more if you can carry in (and out!) enough food and are up to the challenge. Here’s an edited transcript of a story I was telling someone.

There’s this wilderness park in Costa Rica, dubbed the “most biodense place on the planet”. The jungle grows thick. Real jungle, not the pansy rain forest most people call jungle; dense vegetation, not even stopping at the beach. Palms litter the water, ferns pattern the sand, like the forest grows outwards, constantly pushing them into the sea. There are no roads. You can’t even walk along the beach most of the time and only at low tide at that. No camping spots. Bugs, everywhere.

Millions of leaf-cutter ants march during every daylight hour along super highways 6 inches wide that split in to freeways 2 inches wide that split into local arterial roads less than an inch wide, but still flow with more than 100 ants per second, in both directions. Unladen streams pour towards the unfortunate destinations, criss-crossing the jungle floor, over logs, up the 50 ft tree, onto the dieing branch where they nibble away little bits for their business. Then all the way back. It must take hours to make a single lap. Millions of ant-hours, every colony, every day.

Mosquitos so thick you can see clouds of them obscure your view several meters away, giving you just enough time to start running. The rain took away your repellant hours ago, hopefully it took enough of your body heat that the skeeters will have trouble locking in on you. This area is the way it is partly because of the rain: there’s a bunch of it.

After a three hour ride from the 2-bit nearest town along a mud trail, crossing two streams the hard way, you get to hike 8-9 hours, 20 km — it’s slow going, even when there is a trail — to the first ranger station. It’s a gorgeous site, that station.

There is a point, hopefully, to all of this. Jungle animals! That weird mini elephant-pig thing, and those pointy-nose raccoon-things, loads of Scarlet Macaws, 4 types of monkeys, and whatever else is supposed to be there. Did I mention mosquitos?

So you get to the ranger station, pray to your God, and inspect your bloody feet. Because you’re a huge wimp, your blisters have worn down the the bone and you just wanna cut them off at the ankle and be done with it. But you can’t. You have to walk out the same way you limped in. And you can’t look like a pansy in front of the 70-year old couple and the prissy class of teenage girls already at the ranger station.

The next day is supposed to be full of exploring, and you do your best. Luckily you’re alone so you can complain all you want. Hey look, a family of prairie chickens! Didn’t even know they lived in the jungle. More sproingy springy mini pigs. Cool.

Play time is over. Your camp spot at the ranger station was for one night only, unfortunately, and there’s a long way to go. It’ll be even longer, as now the rain is sustained and your ankles are pulped. Plus, everyone was talking about all those crocodiles in the rivers you waded across on the way here, none of which you saw. Best to cross in daylight, you think.

You start cursing at the Scarlet Macaws. They have the ugliest call in the jungle, a true banshee screech, like a Janis Joplin death curdle. You laugh at the hermit crabs eating each other in great piles on the edge of the beach. Trudge, trudge, rain, kick hermit crab, trudge trudge. Another hour. Another.

As you wade across the final stream — no, it’s a proper river now, after two days of downpour — a surge of water rushes through. You barely make it to the other side, both banks falling in and washing to the open sea. You don’t really care. Trudge, rain, trudge… gravel? Nature doesn’t normally make gravel. So you’ve made it. You sit on a wooden bench.


Panama

Boquete

A mountain town surrounded by old retirees in huge houses. Climb volcano Baru.

Bocas del Toro

Diving is pretty cheap and pretty cool, here. The best beach is Red Frog Beach on Bastimentos island. Party in the main town or chill on any of the various islands.

Santa Catalina

A cute crap town (yeah, both) with great surf and diving. A travel friend went diving around Coiba island for the day while I went surfing. The surf was good, a rocky point break. Apparently the diving was better.

Panama City

Cool town, in a period of growth. The tourist area is fun.

San Blas Islands

Perfect Caribbean islands. Perfect. Take a multiple day trip on a sailboat to these islands. I recommend Blue Sailing. Many leave from Portobelo. Travel to Colombia this way.

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What does blue feel like? The consciousness conundrum

We may soon be able to say what is happening in the brain as a result of and to cause specific feelings and actions, such as what would make someone feel shame and what neurons fire to make that happen. No scientific paper will soon describe this process such that the reader can embody this feeling, however. “[We may be able to tell] that you are looking at a painting of sunflowers, but then, if I thwacked your shin with a hammer, your screams would tell me you were in pain. Neither lets me know what pain or sunflowers feel like for you, or how those feelings come about. In fact, they don’t even tell us whether you really have feelings at all.”

Even if we can describe in perfect detail every wheel and cog in the brain, how they are connected and how they work, we still wouldn’t know how consciousness works. Just as our mathematical language was not yet capable of describing solutions to some questions in the past, our thoughts are not yet capable of abstractly describing consciousness. “The question of how the brain produces the feeling of subjective experience, the so-called ‘hard problem’, is a conundrum so intractable that one scientist I know refuses even to discuss it at the dinner table.”

To make matters more complicated, our description of reality may need an update before we can proceed. From James Hopwood Jeans speculating in 1930 that “the Universe begins to look more like a great thought than like a great machine” to philosophical extrapolations on the existance of quantum observer effects, the idea that consciousness creates reality around us rather than the other way around keeps injecting itself into modern science.

Michael Hanlon expands on these thoughts and questions in the article ‘The mental block: Can we get our heads around consciousness?’
http://www.aeonmagazine.com/being-human/will-we-ever-get-our-heads-round-consciousness/

Country Driving Lessons

Seeing a friend’s photo of his daughter zipping around in a mini ATV reminded me of my first driving lesson. A stretch, you’ll find, but that’s the way brains work y’know.

Dad and I were bombing around the country gravel roads in early fall, following flocks of ducks and geese to find an optimal hunting spot for the evening. Windows all the way down and eyes straining for specks of movement on the neverending horizons. Hundreds and thousands floated just beyond our vision, wisps of imagination.

Suddenly a flock of ducks zipped out from behind us, coming up off of a nearby pond with a crescendo of calls. They would surely pass directly in front of us, quite low. “Grab the wheel!” dad shouted, diving across the cab and tossing me into the driver’s seat. I’m 11 years old and just learned to ride my bike. Terrified and not able to reach the gas and steering wheel at the same time, I was nonetheless doing my best to control this 70 kmph Nissan pickup.

Meanwhile, dad had crawled two-thirds the way out of the passenger window to snatched his pump-action 12-gauge shotgun out of the box. Having unsheathed and loaded the boomstick in record time, he sat in the open window, gun swiveling. We were then going about 30 kmph (as I couldn’t reach the gas pedal).

Ducks and geese aren’t stupid nor do their instincts often let them down. This flock, like so many hundreds of others before and after, saw and heard our ruckus bumbling down the road and shouting at each other and made a quick course change to stay clear. ‘CRACK!’ Dad took a shot across the top of the cab. Futile for they were well out of range, but I can attest that it makes you feel better regardless.

We rolled to a stop and I made my dad get back in the driver’s seat, vowing to never drive ever again.

Open-access scientific journals not so scientific

In the past the public was duped by advertisements showing actors in scientists’ and doctors’ lab coats. Today, the wool being pulled over our eyes comes in the form of unscrupulous scientific journals with no peer review. Our trust of publications by well-known journals is being abused, as well as leveraged against those submitting for underserved profit.

John Bohannon had a (purposefully) glaringly flawed paper accepted, indicating no peer review, to 157 of 255 open-access journals. Of those that did perform a review, for 16 of 36 whose reviews recognized the problems with the paper, the editors accepted them anyway. Failures include big names: Elsevier, Wolters Kluwer, Sage and Kobe University.

Open-access scientific publication journals are good for the scientific community and therefor society. “The question is how to achieve it. The most basic obligation of a scientific journal is to perform peer review, arXiv founder Ginsparg says.”

Skepticism is healthy. The next time you come across conclusions based on or from an online scientific journal, look a bit closer. What are their methods? Are the conclusions irrefutably supported by the observations? What is missing? What is being hidden? Nowadays we are all scientists with a trove of information and processing ability at our disposal. Let’s use it.

Who’s Afraid of Peer Review? by John Bohannon
http://www.sciencemag.org/content/342/6154/60.full

How much control are we allowed to have?

The movie Gattaca describes a discriminatory world where high class society conceives in vitro preceded by rigorous phenotypic selection [and explores the social ramifications]. We cannot yet select for specific phenotypes like intelligence, creativity or beauty, but if we could, we would. Such is the state of in vitro fertilization as Scott Carney describes it in this article.

The question is not about where the line should be drawn in regards to newborn engineering, but the ethical issues that arise from selecting and farming women around the globe for their eggs. The issue is one other than financial parity; one other than exploitation. The fact that an educated American woman can sell her eggs for $50’000 while “an uneducated Ukrainian” would get “a few hundred dollars” is still alarming, but arises from a separate unfortunate facet of modern society. The question comes from the other end, that of the chooser. Should we have the ability to choose phenotypes? To what degree, to what precision?

Surely we can agree that selecting for disease and disorder prevention is ethical. Isn’t it? What defines a disorder, exactly? Should all forms of autism be screened out in the future, or do people who exhibit these traits add to their experience and our society regardless of popular or “scientific opinion” on their net effect? Who gets to decide, and who must obey?

Unpacking the Global Human Egg Trade, by Scott Carney
http://www.fastcompany.com/1676895/unpacking-global-human-egg-trade

Choose Your Own Philosophy

Can you spare an hour for an interesting journey within your mind?

‘Castle, Forest, Island, Sea’ is a choose-your-own-adventure story that explores key questions in philosophy. There are nine chapters exploring key questions in philosophy and it will take approximately 30-60 minutes to complete your adventure. As you navigate through the story, the game will build up an idea of how you feel about these questions, and at the end of the game you’ll receive an analysis of your choices and a map of how your opinions compare to different philosophers through the ages.

Choose your own philosophy adventure by Carolyn Price of the philosophy department at The Open University
http://www.open.edu/openlearn/history-the-arts/culture/philosophy/choose-your-own-philosophy-adventure

Do you live in a cage or a park?

What if the difference between not being addicted and being addicted was the difference between seeing the world as your park and seeing the world as your cage?

Rat Park drug experiment cartoon, by Stuart McMillen
http://www.stuartmcmillen.com/comics_en/rat-park/

It’s not the morphine, it’s the size of the cage: Rat Park experiment upturns conventional wisdom about addiction, by Garry Tan
Original scientific paper, “The effect of housing and gender on morphine self-administration in rats” (non-free).

Global Storytelling

Empathy can expand your consciousness and experiences far beyond your self, and can effect great positive change in groups of people. We cry when Forrest Gump’s wife Jenny dies, we cheer when our sister graduates, we feel compassion after volunteering to work coffee fields with small children. We don’t feel much for strangers, especially those very far away. What can fill this gap in order to create a better space? Maptia says that good storytelling can do it. The world shrinks every day as we crawl towards a future for all.

The only true voyage, the only bath in the fountain of youth, would be not to visit strange lands but to possess other eyes, to see the universe through the eyes of another, of a hundred others, to see the hundred universes that each of them sees. That each of them is…

The Age of Outrospection, by Jonny Miller
http://blog.maptia.com/posts/the-age-of-outrospection