Saturday, October 14, 2017

The New Coach House

The New Coach House

“On July 29 I began to release the amazing new documents from my McLuhan File that have never been heard or seen before. Don't miss them if you’re interested in new territory scoped out in the McLuhan Quadrant …”
Bob Dobbs


Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11
14 October

2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11
7 October

Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11
30 September

Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10
23 September

Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10
16 September

Apologies for the Autoplay Music

Thanks to Julie Smith Dickey for letting me know about the French music that was autoplaying when visiting iON&Bob.

The music was coming from the second video [Restaurant Nicolas Flamel] in the post Bob Dobbs @ Auberge Nicolas Flamel. I did not realize that the video was set to autoplay and have now recoded the video to NOT autoplay. So if you refresh that page and the music is still playing without you clicking the play button in the video, please let me know. You can always email me about any issues with the website. My email is in the “Contact” link in the menubar at the top of iON&BOb.

The reason I did not know that the video was autoplaying was that I am testing the site in Safari and I forgot that the latest version of Safari in the latest Apple OS [High Sierra] stops auto-play videos. So the video was not autoplaying for me and when Julie contacted me I told her that I wasn't sure why the video was autoplaying for her. But last night Bob had the same issue and when I looked at the code for the video, I saw that it was set to autoplay.

Many sites on the web depend on advertising to stay in business and their sites contain ads and sometimes advertising videos that autoplay when you visit their site. The internet community is very displeased with developers coding videos to autoplay which takes away control of the web experience from the user. As a result, browsers like Safari, Chrome, Firefox and others are adding features like stopping videos from autoplaying unless you specifically desire that—such as, in YouTube where you do not want to click the play button every time you go to a video.

Safari is the first browser to stop autoplay but others will soon follow. Here is an article reporting that Chrome will add the feature in January 2018.

Many internet users are also fed up with the proliferation of ads and popups on websites and are using adblockers. In addition to Safari, I'm using a browser called Brave which was started by a group that broke away from Mozilla [Firefox].

Brave blocks ads and stops advertisers from tracking you across the web.

A reason to block ads and tracking is that they add extra time to load webpages—especially important on cellular connections when you are using your smartphone. Below is from the Brave website:

“The average mobile browser user pays as much as $23 month in data charges to download ads and trackers — that’s $276 a year. Brave blocks ads and trackers, so you don’t pay for them.
Even if you have an unlimited mobile data plan or browse exclusively on desktop, you end up paying because your information and time have value.”

To find out more about what Apple is doing in Safari, visit the Safari webpage and scroll down to:

Defending your online privacy and security
Intelligent Tracking Prevention
Sandboxing for websites
Private Browsing &
Protection from harmful sites

Thanks for listening and visiting iON&Bob. ~Ed

Friday, October 13, 2017

Whales Wash Up on Kauai Beach

Several whales beached on Kauai today. Some died and were transported off the beach to undergo necropsies.

The video above mentions the response of officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources, the Kauai Mayor, the US Coast Guard, the Kauai County Fire Department and the Kauai Police department. But long before the officials arrived, local boys took matters into their own hands and pushed the remaining live whales back out to sea. Canoeists also paddled out to steer some of the whales back out to deeper waters.

In this video, you can see the canoeists herding the whales.

Hawaii News Now

The scene on Kalapaki Beach on Friday morning moved bystanders to tears.

Two short fin pilot whales had died after beaching themselves sometime before 7:30 a.m., and several more were struggling in shallow waters.

On Friday afternoon, a third dead whale washed onto the beach.

On the beach Friday morning, several people tried to help whales struggling in the waves.

And farther out, paddlers steered members of the pod back out to deeper waters.

Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr brought Native Hawaiian cultural practitioners to perform a special blessing.

“It’s terrible. It’s emotional,” Carvalho said. “We did our special oli, our blessing for the whales. It’s important to me that we stay connected culturally.”

Kauai County provided heavy machinery to lift the deceased stranded whales off the beach and onto truck trailers provided by DOCARE. The whales were taken to an undisclosed location where autopsies are expected to continue into the night.

Kaiulani Mahuka, a Native Hawaiian cultural practitioner said Native Hawaiian cultural practitioners will be present for the procedures.

"They said we can bury the whales after," she said. "We were very, very conflicted. Very, very hurt. We all agreed we need to know what happened to these whales."

David Schofield, a marine mammal response coordinator with NOAA, said there is a possibility that there could be more mass strandings in the coming days.

"Whales strand for a whole variety of reasons. And it's most often things like natural disease. Parasitic infections, viral infections, bacterial infections," Schofield said.

He added, "Pilot whales are some of the most social of the whale species and so if one or two of them are sick the whole pod will come ashore and it's hard to get those other ones to separate and go back out."

"It was very traumatizing because what came to me, watching it, was that they [the whales] weren't going to leave anyone behind," said Mahuka.

Schofield said the stranded whales were about 15 feet long and weighed about 5,000 pounds.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Pharmacist Says He Filled Alzheimer’s Prescriptions for Members of Congress

Photo: Eric Kruszewski


If House Speaker Paul Ryan comes down with the flu this winter, he and his security detail won’t be screeching off toward the closest CVS for his Tamiflu.

Instead, he can just walk downstairs and pick up the pills, part of a little-known perk open to every member of Congress, from Ryan and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell down to the newest freshman Democrat.

Nearly every day for at least two decades pharmaceutical drugs have been brought by the carload to the Capitol — an arrangement so under the radar that even pharmacy lobbyists who regularly pitch Congress on their industry aren’t aware of it.

The deliveries arrive at the secretive Office of the Attending Physician, an elaborate medical clinic where Navy doctors triage medical emergencies and provide basic health care for lawmakers who pay an annual fee of just over $600. Every one comes from Washington’s oldest community pharmacy, Grubb’s.

Mike Kim, the reserved pharmacist-turned-owner of the pharmacy, said he has gotten used to knowing the most sensitive details about some of the most famous people in Washington.

“At first it’s cool, and then you realize, I’m filling some drugs that are for some pretty serious health problems as well. And these are the people that are running the country,” Kim said, listing treatments for conditions like diabetes and Alzheimer’s.

“It makes you kind of sit back and say, ‘Wow, they’re making the highest laws of the land and they might not even remember what happened yesterday.’”

[The current Congress is among the oldest in history, and more than half of the senators running for reelection in 2018 will be over 65. The average age in the House of Representatives is 57, and the average age in the Senate is 61.]

Kim’s tiny pharmacy — which, at its busiest, sends as many as 100 prescriptions to members in a day — is nestled among Capitol Hill’s stateliest row houses, less than four blocks from the Capitol building itself. Founded in 1867 and named for a previous owner, the pharmacy predates penicillin, the American health insurance system, and even the Lincoln Memorial.

The Office of the Attending Physician itself was formed in 1928, after three members of Congress died in their offices within months of one another — more than 50 years after Grubb’s first opened its doors.

But the pharmacy services at the Capitol may go back even further — a 1911 text on senatorial privileges describes an “assortment of drugs and viands, tonics and recuperatives” on hand and “readily accessible” for lawmakers. Back then, reportedly, senators took tablet after tablet and vial after vial of quinine, pepsin, and calomel, “endless supplies of cough drops,” and something described as “dandruff cure.” Continue reading at StatNews

Monday, October 9, 2017

How Media Devices Influence Our Minds

Illustration: Serge Bloch

The Wall Street Journal
by Nicholas Carr

So you bought that new iPhone. If you are like the typical owner, you’ll be pulling your phone out and using it some 80 times a day, according to data Apple collects. That means you’ll be consulting the glossy little rectangle nearly 30,000 times over the coming year. Your new phone, like your old one, will become your constant companion and trusty factotum—your teacher, secretary, confessor, guru. The two of you will be inseparable.

The smartphone is unique in the annals of personal technology. We keep the gadget within reach more or less around the clock, and we use it in countless ways, consulting its apps and checking its messages and heeding its alerts scores of times a day. The smartphone has become a repository of the self, recording and dispensing the words, sounds and images that define what we think, what we experience and who we are. In a 2015 Gallup survey, more than half of iPhone owners said that they couldn’t imagine life without the device.

We love our phones for good reasons. It’s hard to imagine another product that has provided so many useful functions in such a handy form. But while our phones offer convenience and diversion, they also breed anxiety. Their extraordinary usefulness gives them an unprecedented hold on our attention and vast influence over our thinking and behavior.

So what happens to our minds when we allow a single tool such dominion over our perception and cognition?

Scientists have begun exploring that question—and what they’re discovering is both fascinating and troubling. Not only do our phones shape our thoughts in deep and complicated ways, but the effects persist even when we aren’t using the devices. As the brain grows dependent on the technology, the research suggests, the intellect weakens.

Scientists have long known that the brain is a monitoring system as well as a thinking system. Its attention is drawn toward any object that is new, intriguing or otherwise striking—that has, in the psychological jargon, “salience.” Media and communications devices, from telephones to TV sets, have always tapped into this instinct. Whether turned on or switched off, they promise an unending supply of information and experiences. By design, they grab and hold our attention in ways natural objects never could.

But even in the history of captivating media, the smartphone stands out. It is an attention magnet unlike any our minds have had to grapple with before. Because the phone is packed with so many forms of information and so many useful and entertaining functions, it acts as what Dr. Ward, a cognitive psychologist and marketing professor at the University of Texas at Austin, calls a “supernormal stimulus,” one that can “hijack” attention whenever it is part of our surroundings—which it always is. Imagine combining a mailbox, a newspaper, a TV, a radio, a photo album, a public library and a boisterous party attended by everyone you know, and then compressing them all into a single, small, radiant object. That is what a smartphone represents to us. No wonder we can’t take our minds off it.

The irony of the smartphone is that the qualities we find most appealing—its constant connection to the net, its multiplicity of apps, its responsiveness, its portability—are the very ones that give it such sway over our minds. Phone makers like Apple and Samsung and app writers like Facebook and Google design their products to consume as much of our attention as possible during every one of our waking hours, and we thank them by buying millions of the gadgets and downloading billions of the apps every year.

A quarter-century ago, when we first started going online, we took it on faith that the web would make us smarter: More information would breed sharper thinking. We now know it isn’t that simple. The way a media device is designed and used exerts at least as much influence over our minds as does the information that the device unlocks.

Now that our phones have made it so easy to gather information online, our brains are likely offloading even more of the work of remembering to technology. If the only thing at stake were memories of trivial facts, that might not matter. But, as the pioneering psychologist and philosopher William James said in an 1892 lecture, “the art of remembering is the art of thinking.” Only by encoding information in our biological memory can we weave the rich intellectual associations that form the essence of personal knowledge and give rise to critical and conceptual thinking. No matter how much information swirls around us, the less well-stocked our memory, the less we have to think with.

This story has a twist. It turns out that we aren’t very good at distinguishing the knowledge we keep in our heads from the information we find on our phones or computers. As Dr. Wegner and Dr. Ward explained in a 2013 Scientific American article, when people call up information through their devices, they often end up suffering from delusions of intelligence. They feel as though “their own mental capacities” had generated the information, not their devices. “The advent of the ‘information age’ seems to have created a generation of people who feel they know more than ever before,” the scholars concluded, even though “they may know ever less about the world around them.”

That insight sheds light on our society’s current gullibility crisis, in which people are all too quick to credit lies and half-truths spread through social media by Russian agents and other bad actors. If your phone has sapped your powers of discernment, you’ll believe anything it tells you.

Data, the novelist and critic Cynthia Ozick once wrote, is “memory without history.” Her observation points to the problem with allowing smartphones to commandeer our brains. When we constrict our capacity for reasoning and recall or transfer those skills to a gadget, we sacrifice our ability to turn information into knowledge. We get the data but lose the meaning. Upgrading our gadgets won’t solve the problem. We need to give our minds more room to think. And that means putting some distance between ourselves and our phones. Read the entire article at The Wall Street Journal

Bob Dobbs @ Auberge Nicolas Flamel

Audrey Flowers, Roxana Flores, Bob Dobbs, Carolyn Dean & Audrey Siobhain Larrainzar at Auberge Nicolas Flamel, 2016.

Nicolas Flamel, born in Pontoise in 1330, moved to Paris where he worked as a copyist, notary and bookseller.

Everything changed when a stranger sold him a book for two florins. It is this Manuscript of Abraham the Jew, supposed to contain the secret of the making of the Philosopher's Stone that would change his life and that of his rich wife, Lady Perennial. He then transformed himself into an alchemist and devoted his life to the deciphering of the spellbook.

His search was motivated not by greed but by a spiritual impulse. After three years of unremitting labor, he at last reached his goal. According to one of his wills, he succeeded in discovering the secret of the Philosopher's Stone, a pledge of eternity, and the means of transmuting gold into lead, on April 25, 1382. According to his own words, Nicolas Flamel created gold only three times. He and Pernelle lived modestly and used their wealth to help their neighbor. Nicolas Flamel financed fourteen hospitals and built three chapels, seven churches and a few houses.

In 1407, Flamel and his wife, Dame Pernelle, built a three-storey house on rue de Montmorency which is now the oldest stone house in Paris. It’s here where Flamel is said to have carried out his experiments in alchemy. Flamel and his wife set it up as an inn for the poor to serve as a refuge for the homeless of the time. In exchange, they only asked them to say a few prayers, as evidenced by the inscription on the cornice, restored at the beginning of the 20th century.