Kamis, 15 November 2012

Interview With Michael D. Sellers, Who Produced

Interview With Michael D. Sellers, Who Produced "Karla" for MovieBank Studios
The following is an interview with Michael D. Sellers, who produced (with the help of intrepid moviebank studios investors) the controversial film "Karla" for MovieBank Studios. The film depicts the crimes of the notorious Canadian husband and wife murder team of Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo. Its release in Canada was met with howls of protest from Canadian politicians and media outlets.

Q: This is undoubtedly one of the most controversial, violent stories in modern Canadian history, and it is essentially still unfolding. Karla Homolka, who was just released from prison a few months ago, was still in prison when you began making this film. Did you ever feel
you were making the film "too soon"?

A: Well, when the idea of doing a project on Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo was first brought to me by director Joel Bender, it was January 2004 and "Monster" was in the theaters. The murders in that movie took place at about the same time that these do so initially, no, we thought plenty of time had passed. Indeed, now, as the film is being released -- the murders themselves are 15 years in the past. But there
are unique aspects to this case which have kept it alive in unusual ways -- Karla's plea bargain and resulting short prison stay, her release this past summer, the court overturning the post-release restrictions. All of these things have kept the story alive and made it seem like the crimes were committed yesterday. But it's been fifteen years, and we think that is a reasonable, and respectful amount of time.

Q: You did research a great deal about the legal ramifications of telling this story, and were in close communication with representatives of the victims' families. Could you discuss that process a bit and what the outcome was of your discussions?

A: From the beginning, Tim Danson--the attorney who represents the victims' families--said that the families respected our right to make the movie and would only oppose it if the film contained depictions of their daughters which could reasonably be construed as either disrespectful or pornographic. Tim defined pornographic as nudity or simulated sex on screen by the actresses portraying the victims. We never intended to include either of those elements in the film, so there was really no problem. When we finished the edit, I took a copy to Toronto and showed it to Tim, and they concurred that it was not pornographic and they would not oppose the release of the film. Misha Collins and Laura Prepon in "Karla"

Q: There were reports that you removed some scenes at the families' request.

A: We removed 8 frames -- 1/3 of one second -- of a long shot across a room because Tim felt that if you played it frame by frame on a DVD you might detect a flash of nudity which was not detectable when played at normal speed. We agreed to do this. That was the only change. You have to remember -- there had been an ongoing and productive dialogue up to the point where we showed the movie, and that dialogue did affect the edit in certain ways--not in the form of demands from the family, but just from dialogue and discussion. So there were some changes, but not as a result of the screening.

Q: What kind of changes?

A: Well, Tim was able to provide additional background on some of the sensitivities of the families, things that really were important to them,
and we took that into consideration. One example would be the issue of Leslie Mahaffey being locked out of her house, and that playing a role in her getting accosted by Bernardo. We downplayed that aspect because it's a sore point for the family and not critical in any way to our story.

Q: What was the point-of-view from which you wanted to present the film?

A: Point of view in this film is interesting, and challenging. On the one hand, it's Karla's story. We meet her at the beginning as she is about to undergo an extended psychiatric evaluation in the fall of 2000, eight years into her 12-year prison term. We see all of the
events in the past--everything from the early scenes with Paul through the crimes and eventually a little bit of the trial--from her point of view. But that point of view is repeatedly challenged by the psychiatrist who is interviewing her. He doesn't "buy into" her story, but rather tries to peel away the layers of the onion, exposing Karla's attempts at "spin", forcing Karla to acknowledge things that she doesn't want to acknowledge.

Q: Did your approach to the story evolve over time?

A: Yes and no. I always felt that it was Karla's story, not Paul's. But I think, as we got deeper into it, we began to understand the ramifications of this on more levels, and that led to some changes.

Q: Such as.?

A: Such as the decision to use the interviews with the psychiatrist as a wraparound. We basically felt that yes, it needs to be Karla's story, but you need a counterpoint--you can't let her just tell it her way without any counter-argument being presented.
It felt like it would be irresponsible and misleading to not create a "dissenting voice" to her story.

Q: What problems -- logistical, legal, ethical -- did you encounter in commencing production?

A: Logistically, we were shooting Los Angeles for Canada, which is a switch since usually it's the other way around. We did find houses which closely matched the actual houses in St. Catherines, but we had to be careful--too much panning around with the camera and palm trees
would be visible. And red tile roofs, things like that. We thought originally that we would go up and shoot some second unit in Canada--but after the filming was complete and we had been editing for awhile, it began to seem less important because the story is so much about this kind of hermetically sealed world in which these two people live. It almost felt like attempt to bring in "local color" from Canada would
just confuse matters, rather than add value.

Legally, there were a number of issues. The most significant one, and the one that affects the story the most, is that we could not depict anyone in the Homolka family other than Karla, a convicted felon, and Tammy, who is deceased. That posed problems but we worked through it, without, I think, compromising the story.

Ethically, it was a matter of constantly remembering, and reminding everyone on the show, that this is not a thriller, this really happened. We felt that this imposed a very strict burden on us to be accurate. No flights of fancy--just try to tell the truth as we understood it.
And that involves a lot more than the simple facts of the story. The simple facts--this happened, and then this happened, and then this happened--are meaningless unless we are able to supply insight into the "why" of these things. Why did Karla let Paul talk her into the
rape of Tammy? Why did she stay with him? Why, when he brought Leslie Mahaffey home, did she join him? Why did she go out on the street and help him abduct Kristin French? Why did she finally turn on him? The film tries, to the very best of our ability, to deliver meaningful insight into these questions. We felt that, ethically, the film would only have value if it did this--that we only had a right to make it if we were doing our best to shed light on these questions.

Q: Among the aspects that seem to have transfixed the media and the public with this case are how ordinary, attractive and wholesome Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo seemed. How did you approach casting these "couple-next-door" killers?

A: In a way, it would have been much easier to cast a "killer couple" who were in some way overtly creepy. Finding people to play that kind of role is relatively easy. But we had to find actors who could be convincing--as Paul and Karla were--as "regular, normal" people, and who could also be convincing as the killers that they ultimately became. I had known Misha Collins from his previous work and asked him to read
for the part -- which he did, along with hundreds of others. In the end, he was the hands-down choice purely based on the merit of his audition. Laura Prepon was another story. I don't think any of us would have thought of red-headed Donna from "That 70's Show" as the choice for Karla -- but her manager saw the script and sent it to her, and she liked it and came in to read for it. As soon as she came in and we talked, then
read a little bit, I knew we had our Karla. She had a tremendous grasp of the character and an ability to bring out all sides of Karla.

Q: Some members of the Canadian government have called for a ban or boycott of the film. Your response?

A: The Canadian government, particularly the Ontario government, are viewed by many as having dropped the ball in the matter of achieving justice in this situation, and they clearly have a deeply felt (and politically understandable) need to show continued concern and vigilance. I'm not a Canadian so I don't really want to comment on what crosses the line between legitimate vigilance and intrusive "big brother"-ness. That's for Canadians to sort out. But I do understand where they are coming from. My only real complaint is that they made these calls without
having seen the film -- or without even having read any legitimate reviews of the film. I would note that all of these calls that you're referring to happened before any of the reviews came out. Since the first reviews did appear in August -- there have been no more such calls from government figures, and the families have also publicly stated that while they do not endorse any movie about the crimes, they will not
oppose the release of this one.

Q: You've said -- to paraphrase -- that this film is not a referendum on Karla's guilt or innocence, but rather an exploration of her character.
Could you please elaborate?

A: I think there may be a tendency in Canada for people, when considering Karla, to be overwhelmed by the notion of what she became--Paul's killer accomplice--and to forget that this is, indeed, what she became--not what she was when they met. When they met, he was already the Scarborough rapist but she didn't know that, and she was a high school senior with no history of illegal activities whatsoever. So how did this girl, a high school senior from a responsible, working family, fall in with Paul, and how and why did she make one decision after another that took her down a very dark road. We really felt that exploring that journey, rather than overtly judging Karla, was what the story was about. Everyone, even killers, have a point of view. They don't' start out as killers--they become killers. It is this "becoming" part of it that fascinated me. It seemed to me at the time we were studying and writing the story, that Karla started from what was for her a "normal" place, then made once decision after another, each one of which created a "new normal", and which made it easier for the next bad decision to happen. If you look at it in totality it's incomprehensible --but if you break it down into each step, each decision -- then we, the film-makers, have a chance to deliver meaningful insight about it. That's our job -- to deliver meaningful insight. Audiences will judge KARLA, the film, but I really believe they will do so, after watching it, from a position of much greater understanding of the
factors involved as a result of having seen the movie.

Rabu, 14 November 2012

So You Wanna be a GayTrucker?

Let me start off by saying that I love my job. The life that I lead is meant for me. I do what I do for many reasons, but the most important one is that I love what I do! So if this sounds like I am complaining, I am not, this is just the way it is.

To me there is nothing better than a full moon night, with some heat lightning off in the distance on a road that is all to myself. On a night like this I will sit back and listen to the rhythm of the tires on the road, solve a few problems in my mind, write a song, and really just enjoy what I do. To me this is why I drive a truck, and nothing more! Sound romantic? I guess it does, but there is a lot more to it than this. .
My average time out on the road is six weeks. When I do come home, I will take a week off and then go back out again. Now not all drivers drive this way, some are home once a week. The common practice is to be out about three weeks and then come home for a couple of days. The industry standard is that you get one day off for each week out on the road. A workweek consists of seventy hours. There is no overtime, and once you figure in all the hours that you don’t get paid for, or manage to hide, your average workweek is more like ninety to one hundred hours a week! This is just working time, but remember you don’t get to go home every night, you get to eat, sleep, and be trucking! The hours are long and very irregular. One day you will be trucking through the day, the next the night. You may deliver at 3:00AM or 10:00 PM. There is no such thing as a set schedule when you are a cross-country truck driver.

A lot of people think that we put freight in the trailer and go, we have a nice trip across country and deliver our goods. Well, the reality is that all pickups and deliveries are by appointments that we as drivers don’t set. There have been times where I have gone from LA to North Carolina in 42 hours. That leaves no time for sleep, and before you ask — NO I do not take drugs to stay awake!!! I drink a lot of coffee, smoke too much and take 15-minute power naps to keep going! Not all trips are like that, but if you are not getting as many miles in as you can, and you are not keeping your dispatcher happy, you are not going to make a living. If you sit down and figure out what you make with the hours involved, you make less then minimum wage! That is not to say that I don’t make good money, I do. But time worked that is not paid, plus the time spent away from home brings your average way down.

This is not a vacation; I have seen all 48 states of the continental USA, every province of Canada, The Northern Territories, Alaska, and the Border of Mexico, all through the windshield of a truck. I have seen a lot. However, I very rarely get to go sightseeing. Try pulling an 18 wheeler into a national park, and see what you are told, or try taking a truck into downtown and find a show to park at, in most cases it ain’t going to happen. Unless you have friends that are willing to come pick you up, most of your time off is spent in your truck at a truck stop, or terminal. Even personal time out on the road is limited. You would think that we could drop our trailer and take the truck only to get around. Well, in today’s trucking you are now tracked by satellite, every move you make is recorded, and your dispatcher can tell where you are at right down to the block number. This is not as much of a problem if you own your own truck, however as an owner-operator you have to report every mile the truck runs to the government for road tax reasons, so you really don’t want to go running around to much!

Most of America thinks that their products come from the storeroom in the back of the store; they don’t think any farther then that. If you can think of one thing that is not delivered by a truck driver please let me know, but I doubt that you can. At some point a piece of everything ends up on a truck, and people like me are there to get it where it needs to go. Birthdays and holidays are nothing when you drive a truck. In 1997 I spent Christmas day driving through Utah and Colorado, and Christmas dinner was at a truck stop. The morning after Christmas I delivered my load, the receiver asked where I lived; I told him, he said "Gee, too bad you were not home for Christmas, but we really needed this product for an after Christmas sale." So there you go, they need it, your life is put on hold. I did get home on New Years, and that was when I got to celebrate my Christmas. This is not something that is uncommon, its more common then anything.

Being out on the highway is normally the best part about this job. Once the freight is on the trailer, and you have made your way out of the city into open country, you can relax and enjoy what you do. Then there are times when you have to fight just to keep rolling. Last November I got caught up in a Midwest winter storm. I only had 10,000 lbs. in the trailer (I can haul 47,000 lbs.) After spending a good part of the night fighting snow and ice, trying my best to keep the trailer behind me, I decided to call it a night. After about 4 hours of sleep I got back up and pointed west. The winds had picked up. Blowing out of the north at about 70mph. I played Hell trying to keep the truck on the road. About 40 miles from Cedar Rapids, Iowa the wind gusts where close to 100mph, with a 70mph steady. There where 4 of us running together for some moral support if nothing else. As we all came around a sweeping corner to the right, a gust hit us all hard. The truck in front of me was blown over, the two trucks behind me where blown over, I went up on 9 wheels and came back down on all 18 just in time to swerve and miss the truck that was in front of me. I pulled over and made sure everybody was OK, and called the cops, then made my way to the next truck stop. I called my dispatcher and told him what had happened and that I was shutting down. I sat for 13 hours until the wind died enough to go again. The customer had begged me to try and make it on time, or their assembly line would come to a stop. It is hard to make up 13 hours of driving time, and all I will admit to is that I made my appointment time with 5 minutes to spare! This is one of many stories that can be told about fighting and beating the elements. The other trucks that I was running with were not so lucky! There have also been times when I wasn’t so lucky myself, one night a drunk driver caused me to roll my truck. I was lucky in the sense that I am here to tell you about it, and I should not have been!

You would think that shippers and receivers would be glad to see you. Not true! In most cases you are treated like shit! If you happen to be at a grocery warehouse you will end up unloading your own load, taking it off of the pallets that it was shipped on, and putting it on theirs according to the way they want it stacked. Then you will pallet jack it down an aisle where they will count and put it away. Ask for a bathroom, you are not allowed to use it, ask for a phone, again you are not allowed to use it. The only thing you are allowed to do there is work for them. If you are 5 minutes late for an appointment, you are told to come back the next day. If you are on time, you will end up waiting for a couple of hours just to get a door to back into. If you are more than 30 minutes early, you are not allowed on the property. You are nothing more than cheap labor! Again this is more common than not, and the whole time you are there you have to keep a smile on your face and put up with it.

You are also a target for a lot of states. You are a great revenue source. If you get a ticket you are not likely to come back and fight it, so you are most likely to get a bogus ticket. Tickets for truck drivers are 3 times as much as for other drivers. The average speeding ticket starts around $200.00 and they go up from there. If you happen to be in California, they start at around $1500.00. Truck scales in some states can be the same way. That is not to say that there are not nice cops out there. I have gotten out of more tickets then I would care to admit.

Should you still decide that you want to drive a truck, truck-driving schools are about the only way to learn. There was a time when the only way you could learn was from another driver, and to be honest with you, I wish it where still that way. However, trucking companies will not hire inexperienced drivers unless they have some kind of school behind them. I don’t recommend schools, I have never had to deal with them, only their product, and in most cases I do not get close enough to find out where they went to school. So let me instead give you some suggestions. You can not learn what you need to know in a week, two weeks, or even three weeks. The longer you are in school, the better. Look for a school that gives you as much driving time as they do book time. The book knowledge is great to know, but a book does not drive a truck, and in most cases the writer of the book never has either. Once you have completed school, and get hired on with a company you will end up with a trainer for a month or so. After that you are on your own. At that point I recommend that you open up your eyes and shut your mouth. When you don’t know something, admit it; then ask. If you think it is a stupid question, ask anyhow. If the driver you asked thinks it a stupid question, ask another driver. If you cant back up a trailer very good, have somebody spot you. I was watching a driver who was new try to back into a very tight dock at a Safeway Warehouse in Portland. After almost an hour at it, he still was not backed into the dock. I asked him if he would like me to put it in there for him. His Answer “I have to learn sometime, might as well be now.” Great Answer; I spotted him to make sure he wouldn’t hit anything, and he eventually got it in the dock. In the winter never drive above your comfort zone. If other drivers are passing you, let them pass. They either know what they are doing, or will end up in a ditch. If the drivers on the CB are telling you to go faster, and the only reason they give you is that they need to go, shut off the CB. When you are in a truck stop, there is always some story being told. As I said, shut up and listen. Don’t tell your own, you will look like a fool. I have been at this game for 22 years. The stories stay the same, only the people telling them change. There are some good lessons in those stories, but there is a lot of crap as well. You need a good ear to sort it out. I can’t know it all. I learn something new all the time; I’m just not as stupid as I once was.

You can play the part of a truck driver really easy — get a chain drive wallet, some cowboy boots, western shirts, and a big buckle that says Peterbilt or something like that, and a cowboy hat or ball cap. But to be a truck driver is a lot different then what you see in the movies. It is hard work that takes a lot of commitment, with very little respect.

Why do I drive a truck? It was a dream. Why do I stay with it? I love what I do! Do I recommend it? Hmmm, I would have to talk to you to find out what makes you tick. It takes a special breed of person to be out here. Part Nomad, part Gypsy, and mostly Loner. You have way too much time to think, so you need to be comfortable with your thoughts. You have very little time to do, so again you need to be comfortable with your thoughts. What I do out on the road is not a game, nor is it a big adventure. What I do is my life, my highway, and most of all, my Dream! I drive for no other reason then that!

Selasa, 13 November 2012

Memory Research Misses The Obvious

The search to reveal a mystery

Research laboratories around the world sought the location of human memory. The research had followed diverse leads. One clue related to the branched inputs of nerve cells, called dendrites. Branch growth was assisted by a protein called cypin. Some memory disabilities were related to deficits in cypin. So, one possibility was that nerve cells grew new branches to store memory. New branches could represent added memory. But, human memory was immense. People were reported to be able to recognize, with 99.5% accuracy, any one of 2,500 images shown to them at one second intervals. Each of those images contained millions of pixels of specific information. When the size and scale of human memory was considered, the idea of branches, however microscopic, growing to add memories sounded perilously cancerous.

More hints

LTP was another possibility. High frequency stimulation of the dendrites of a neuron were known to improve the sensitivity of the synaptic nerve junctions. Such activity was seen to be "remembered" by the cell through greater sensitivity at specific inputs. Neurochemicals at the synaptic junctions were also known to increase such sensitivity. But, while the process enhanced memory, LTP failed to offer a global hypothesis about how memory could be stored.

Without answers

The hippocampus was also mentioned in connection with memory research. Damage to this organ, a component of a region of the brain called the limbic system, was known to cause patients to forget ongoing events within a few seconds. But, incidents from childhood and early adult life were still remembered. Memory had faded from a couple of years prior to the event that caused damage to the hippocampus. Older memories were still retained by the patient even without the hippocampus. Evidently, the organ did not store such memories. It could play a role, but the actual storage of memory remained enigmatic. In the end, all science did know was that memory resided all over the system and that one particular organ helped the formation of memories.

Combinatorial coding

Yet, the answer to the memory enigma had been staring them in the face for years. That happened, when science acknowledged the use of combinatorial coding by nerve cells in the olfactory system. Combinatorial coding sounded confusing and complex. But, in the context of nerve cells, combinatorial coding only meant that a nerve cell recognized combinations. If a nerve cell had dendritic inputs, identified as A, B, C and so on to Z, it could then fire, when it received inputs at ABD, ABP, or XYZ. It recognized those combinations. ABD, ABP, or XYZ. The cell could identify ABD from ABP. Subtle differences. Such codes were extensively used by nature. The four "letters" in the genetic code – A, C, G and T – were used in combinations for the creation of a nearly infinite number of genetic sequences.

Highly developed skill

It was combinatorial coding, which enabled nerve cells of reptilian nosebrains to recognize smells and make crucial life decisions since the beginnings of history. Such sensory power had been developed in animals to a remarkable degree. Research showed that dogs could register the parameters of a smell and then pick it out from millions of competing smells. The animals could detect a human scent on a glass slide that had been lightly fingerprinted and left outdoors for as much as two weeks. They could quickly sniff a few footprints of a person and determine accurately which way the person was walking. The animal's nose could detect the relative odor strength difference between footprints only a few feet apart, to determine the direction of a trail. Recording and recognizing ABD and DEF enabled animals to record and recall a single smell to differentiate it from millions of other smells. Inherited memories of millions of smells decided whether food was edible, or inedible, or whether a spoor was life threatening. The system had both newly recorded and inherited memories, which enabled them to recognize smells in the environment.

Inherited and acquired memories

While such remarkable odor recognition skills were known for ages, it was only in the late nineties that science discovered combinatorial coding. A Nobel Prize was awarded for the discovery of the use combinatorial coding by the olfactory system in 2004. The olfactory system used the coding to enable a relatively small number of olfactory receptors to recognize different odors. Science discovered that particular combinations could fire to trigger recognition. In the experiment scientists reported that even slight changes in chemical structure activated different combinations of receptors. Thus, octanol smelled like oranges, but the similar compound octanoic acid smelled like sweat. We remembered the smell of oranges. Even the smell of sweat. Which meant that the system remembered those combinations. But science failed to recognize the true significance of combinatorial coding when they searched for the location of human memory. Millions of combinations were possible for the nerve cell with inputs from A to Z. But nerve cells had thousands of inputs. If nerve cells remembered combinations, then that could be the location of a galactic nervous system memory.

Global applications

Combinatorial coding could provide immense intelligence to the nervous system. The wonder of nature was the enormous scale, scope and sensitivity of its reporting systems. The mind had this vast army of scouts, reporting back on millions of tiny sensations - the heat of sun and the hardness of rock. Pain on the skin too was a report. When their impulses were received in the cortex, you felt pain. In the earlier example, with combinatorial coding, a cell could fire for ABD and be inhibited for ABP. If the pain reporting nerve cell recognized inputs from its neighbours, it could also respond to neighbouring pain and fire to report sympathetic pain. It could respond to touch and inhibit its own sympathetic pain message. The cell could respond to context.

Pattern recognition

Nerve cells didn't receive just a few inputs. They received thousands. So, pain could be sensitive to context. Inherited memories in combinatorial codes could enable the system to recognize and respond to patterns in context. Combinatorial coding could explain the mind as a pattern recognition engine. But science worked on the assumption that the neurons in the brain did not recognize, but did computations. The search for a mathematical formula which could simulate the computations of the mind goes on. But, if you assumed pattern recognition, you just stepped out of the mathematical maze. Unfortunately, the recognition of patterns was too formidable a task for computers. The diagnosis of diseases was a typical pattern recognition problem.

The pattern recognition difficulty

The obstacle was that many shared symptoms were presented by different diseases. Pain, or fever were present for many diseases. Each symptom pointed to several diseases. In the customary search, the first selected disease with the first presented symptom could lack the second symptom. So the back and forth searches followed an exponentially expanding trajectory as the database increased in size. That made the process absurdly long drawn – theoretically, even years, when searching extensive databases. In the light of such an impregnable problem, science did not evaluate pattern recognition as a practical process for the nervous system.

An instant pattern recognition process

There is an Intuitive Algorithm (IA), which follows a logical process to achieve real time pattern recognition. IA was unique. In a feat never achieved by computers before, IA could almost instantly diagnose diseases. IA used elimination to narrow down possibilities to reach the correct answer. In essence, IA did not calculate, but used elimination to recognize patterns. IA acted with the speed of a simple recalculation on a spreadsheet, to recognize a disease, identify a case law or diagnose the problems of a complex machine. It did this holistically and almost instantly, through simple, logical steps. IA proved that holistic, instant, real time pattern recognition was practical. IA provided a clue to the secret of intuition. The website intuition.co.in and the book explain IA in detail.

Seamless pattern recognition

The mind was a recognition machine, which instantly recognized the context of its ever changing environment. The system triggered feelings when particular classes of events were recognized. The process was achieved by inherited nerve cell memories accumulated across millions of years. The memories enabled the mind to recognize events. Similar inherited memories in nerve cells enabled the mind to trigger feelings, when events were recognized. And further cell memories caused feelings to trigger actions. Actions were sequences of muscle movements. Even drive sequences could be remembered by nerve cells. That was how we were driven. So the circuit closed. Half a second for a 100 billion nerve cells to use context to eliminate irrelevance and deliver motor output. The time between the shadow and the scream. So, from input to output, the mind was a seamless pattern recognition machine.

Intuition and memory

Walter Freeman the famous neurobiologist defined the critical difficulty for science in understanding the mind. “The cognitive guys think it's just impossible to keep throwing everything you've got into the computation every time. But, that is exactly what the brain does. Consciousness is about bringing your entire history to bear on your next step, your next breath, your next moment.” The mind was holistic. It evaluated all its knowledge for the next activity. However large its database, the logic of IA could yield instant pattern recognition. Since that logic was robust and practical, intuition could also be such an instant pattern recognition process. Intuition could then power the mind to instantly recognize an infinite variety of objects and events to trigger motor responses. Each living moment, it could evaluate the context of a dynamic multi-sensory world and its own vast memories. Those memories could be stored in the combinatorial codes of nerve cells. The Nobel Prize should have been awarded not for the discovery of combinatorial coding, but for the discovery of human memory.

Senin, 12 November 2012

Superstitions of Indonesia

In this article we present a collection of local "superstitions" in Indonesia regarding everyday life and the meanings of the omens of Nature.

Avoid sweeping the house at night as this would make it difficult to attract luck.

Avoid sewing a button on your shirt while wearing it as this would cause a serious illness not long after that would last for about a month and you woud always fail in your efforts in making a living.

Avoid combimg your hair while walking as you will find youself in an embarassing situation.

Avoid being in the bathroom too long as this would make your face appear old.

Avoid taking a bath or shower during afternoon hours as this would accelerate the aging process.

An unmarried woman should avoid washing her hair on a Saturday as this would cause her to marry a man difficult to please.

If you come across a piece of cayene chili in a pan for no apparent reason, this is a sign that a disaster is about to occur.

If someone cooks a meal that is too salty, this is a sign that the person is in love and wishes to marry.

Avoid eating rice from a small plate as this would cause your close relations to spurn you.

Avoid eating from the corner of a table as this would cause problems with the in-laws and your marriage will be in a wreck.

Avoid eating in front of the door as this would cause one difficulty in finding a marriage partner.

Children should avoid moving places at the table during a meal as this would cause them to have a step-father or mother.

Children should eat alot of chicken wings if they wish to eventually visit overseas.

If you have a bad feeling when you are about to leave the house--then don't! As this is a sign that something disastrous might occur while out.

Avoid building a house facing north as this would cause the owner to fail to acquire riches.

Avoid building a house facing an open field as this would cause the owner to become spendrift.

Avoid building a kitchen facing the front door as this would cause sorrows and sufferings because of money.

Avoid building a garage at the back of the house as this would always cause unfortunate circumstances.

Avoid building a wall fence as high as 2-3 meters around the home as this would cause bankrupcy and to be stranded by one's business partners.

Avoid building a pool inside the house as this would cause bad luck and the members of the family will alternately be stricken with illnesses.

Avoid building a house with no back door as the dwellers will always be physically ill.

While moving house it is advisable to take along some soil from the garden of the old home and sprinkle it in the vicinity of the new so as to perpetuate the harmony established.

Avoid scratching one's head while being sexually intimate as this would result in bad luck and slander from people.

Avoid looking at the sexual organs of your spouse while intercourse as this would result in bad luck for a week.

Avoid intercourse commencing from the seventh-month pregnency as this would cause the child to be unfaithful and disrespectful towards the parents.

Avoid slaughtering an animal when your wife is pregnent as this would cause the child to be born with a scar on its neck.

Avoid hunting or torturing an animal when your wife is pregnent as this would cause your child to resemble the animal.

Avoid disliking someone intensely while pregnent as this would cause your child to adopt the features of the disliked person.

Avoid mocking at a handicapped person during pregnency as this would cause your child to be born disabled.

Avoid keeping a spoon with the salt container during pregnency as this would cause difficulties during labor.

Avoid standing at the front door in the evenings during pregnancy as this would cause negative spirits to attack the fetus.

Avoid wearing earings commencing from the third month of pregnency as this would cause you to dream of being intimate with your husband whereas in reality it is an incubus impersonating him.

A man should avoid eating while lying down as this would cause his wife to have difficulties during labor.

It is unfortunate if a guest suddenly gives birth in your home as this causes bad luck. It is advisable to move house quickly.

It is advisable to open the doors and windows of your home so that your wife will give birth without complications.

It is advisable to bury the placenta of the new-born child somwhere in the ground at the backdoor of the house so that the child will never be in want.

It is advisable to drink coconut water during the latter stage of pregnancy so that the child will be born fair of face.

It is advisable not to look at a coffin when it is being lowered into the ground as this could result in a serious illness.

It is advisable not to look at a coffin being closed and nailed as this could cause bad luck for a year.

It isa advisable to wash one's face after escorting a coffin to its grave so as to avoid being followed by the ghost of the deceased.

If a lamp goes off in a room where the deceased is kept prior to burial, indicates that another member of the family will soon face death.

It isa advisable for a pregnant mother to look at beautiful pictures so that her baby would be born beautiful as well.

It is advisable for a pregnant mother not to be sad during pregnancy as this would cause the child to be born to become a whiner.

Avoid habitually biting the lower lip as this causes bad luck.

Avoid habitually biting the upper lip as this would cause lots of monetary debts in life.

Avoid pretending to cry as this would cause one's parents to be quickly deceased.

Avoid mistreating one's daughter as this would cause her to be mistreated later on by her husband.

Avoid singing or whistling while at a meal as this causes failures in one's endeavours.

Avoid beating one's daughter at her buttocks as this would cause her later on to become sexually hyperactive and would cause much domestic problems.

Avoid making payments at night as this would result in bad luck and bankrupcy.

Women should avoid pulling the hairs of their eyebrows as this would result in frgidity and difficulty in acquiring sexual satisfaction.

Avoid cleaning the ears at night as this would result in bad luck.

One should avoid whistling often in one's home as this would attract negative entities.

One should avoid giving handkerchiefs to one's lover as this would result in a break in the relationship.

Avoid taking pictures with odd-numbers of people present as this would result in the quick death of one of them.

Avoid opening umbrellas in the home as this would result in difficulties in life.

Avoid wiping one's face with a shirt as this would result in the indifference of others towards oneself.

Avoid looking at onseself in the mirror too often as this would result in others being bored and repulsed with one.

Avoid peeping at others bathing as this would cause one's eyes to swell.

Avoid eating a meal before the elders have done so as this would result in bad luck.

Avoid cutting one's hair in one's home at night as this would attract negative entities that would appear in one's dreams.

Avoid wearing red or green swimwear at beaches as this would result in the wearer becoming a bride or bridegroom to spirit entities (incubus, succubus).

Avoid shouting or using vulgar words while in the woods or wilderness as this would cause oneself to be possessed by negative entities.

If you begin menstruating on a Sunday you will meet an old friend.

If you begin menstruating on a Monday you will soon acquire luck.

If you begin menstruating on a Tuesday you will soon be enjoying yourself in the following days.

If you begin menstruating on a Wednesday you will soon clash with someone.

If you begin menstruating on a Thursday you will soon experience unfortunate incidents and be in much sorrow.

If you begin menstruating on a Friday you will soon have fun.

If you begin menstruating on a Saturday you will soon have a pleasant surprise.

If a dog howls at midnight signifies a visit from ancestral spirits.

If a dog howls as though weeping at midnight signifies death in the family

If a dog howls past midnight signifies a wandering earthbound spirit in the premises.

It is said that the blood of a black dog is capable of exorcising possessing spirits.

It is advisable for pregnant women to place a pair of scissors underneath the pillow while sleeping to protect against psychic attack and black magick.

Avoid urinating at the foot of big trees as this would inflame the tree-spirits and cause them to possess oneself.

Avoid keeping the dust or soil from a grave as this would cause the spirit related to the grave to haunt the place where the soil is kept.

Placing red onions, chillis and turmeric in a bag and hung above the front door protects the house and family against black magick and negative entities.

If a cat licks one's foot signifies that someone close to us will acquire a windfall within one month.
If a sparrow finds its way in one's home signifies a marriage in one's family.

If a butterfly finds its way in one'shome signifies a visit from an important visitor.

Avoid giving a cat a bath as this would result in storms and hurricanes.

Carry the rare hollowless piece of bamboo to ward-off black magick.

It is advisable to state one's wishes during a falling star so that it would come true.

It is advisable to swim in a lake during full moon as this would cause one to become highly attractive.

It is advisable to sleep beyond midnight to avoid psychic attacks.

It is advisable to sleep on the floor to avoid psychic attacks.

It is advisable to keep sacred objects in the home to protect one's family.

Copyright © 2006 Luxamore

Minggu, 11 November 2012

Immigration Research

Probably the most important question and possibly the hardest to answer is “is this the right thing to do”? This, of course, is the question only YOU can answer and it depends a lot on your family. If you’re single then there are your parents, siblings, and other close family and friends you may miss who have to be informed. If your married (or separated) with a family then it’s a totally different scenario. If your kids are old enough to understand then they have to be fully informed and you have to listen to them. Both partners need to be 100% committed to the idea – a half hearted attempt or negative attitude will make the transition even harder.

This is a deeply personal subject and we experienced it first hand. Before we had kids we had visited Canada and I wanted to go for it – my wife wasn’t sure and didn’t want to leave her parents. About 3 years later after another visit to a different part of the country everything changed, we had a son and the town that was visited was everything we had dreamed of to raise our kids. The lifestyle available was vastly superior to the way we were living and obtainable by ordinary people. My wife came back to the UK and announced that she was 100% behind a move and we set the ball rolling straight away – the rest they say is history!!!!

So, once you are all in agreement, then you are past the first step. The real “fun” starts here!!

You need to consider your options very carefully -which Visa class do you qualify to apply for and if there is more than one that fits, which is the best for you? In Canada there are 6 standard classes of visa and then a seventh separate class if you are applying to live in Quebec. All of the main 6 visa types are administered by the Citizen and Immigration Canada (CIC) department which was established in 1994 to handle all the Citizenship and Immigration procedures. Quebec runs its own immigration system!

Read each of the types of visa and go through them in great detail – always err on the side of caution and be conservative in your assessment of your case. I was applying for the skilled worker class under the old system (70 points – the latest system is a pass mark of 67) and assumed that with my wife’s sister living in Canada (married to a Canadian) I would score an extra 5 points and bring my total to 74. After several months of assumptions I checked it and found that I wouldn’t be entitled to the points and so failed to meet the pass mark. Then we hired Kerry Martin of Access Migration to act on our behalf and she eventually secured the permanent residency for us.

The skilled worker class is by far the most popular choice of application and is currently taking 18 – 24 months for applications to be processed. (This is always changing so check www. For the up to date info) The CIC site has an excellent self assessment tool for you to use – if you pass easily then you shouldn’t have a problem with the application. If you don’t reach the pass mark or are close/don’t want to do it on your own; then I would recommend hiring an Immigration professional (Lawyer or consultant). Do ensure they are registered with the CSIC AND in good standing before you hire anybody to represent you. Both Kerry Martin and Phil Mooney offer free, no obligation assessments and are qualified consultants registered with the CSIC. Kerry can only represent UK nationals and Phil offers his services to clients worldwide.

If you are short of points there are several ways of earning more – learning second language skills (English or French) is possibly the quickest method. Gaining work experience will take the appropriate number of years as will any educational improvements you may need. Definitely don’t submit your application until it is complete and check it over several times to avoid submitting an application with mistakes. They will most likely be found and will then delay your application while they are sorted out. Always give EVERYTHING that you are asked to provide and to be honest try to give more – extra evidence of work history, personal character references, other qualifications or skills – to give too much info shouldn’t affect the application, not enough definitely will!!

Okay, you have chosen the visa, compiled the application and submitted it – what next? Well, depending upon the type of visa you have applied for you can check the CIC website for the approximate processing times and see how long you have to wait. This time could be several years so you can spend it very proactively and improve your chances of a successful resettlement.

If your educational levels are in need of a boost you would be able to complete some fairly high level courses in 2 years. The major problem is that whatever course you do – make sure it can be transferred to Canada. The chances are the process will be lengthy with a fair chance it won’t work. The best option would be to enroll on internet courses with Canadian colleges – then the resulting qualification is Canadian.

Another option is to learn new skills (typing. Welding, electrics, auto maintenance) most skilled trades are in very short supply in Canada and even if it isn’t your chosen career, they pay well and would give you an excellent start in the Canadian workforce. It is always easier to find the career you want from a well paid job. It is most unlikely that your trade skills will transfer directly across to the Canadian system as there are separate legislative/licensing agencies for most trades across each Province so expect to have to retrain and/or sit exams prior to be allowed to work in that profession.

A huge step forward is to identify the area you wish to settle in and then tie in your (and your partners) skills to see if any of the local industry is likely to hire you. You can easily research any of the local companies by using the yellow pages (link), town/city chamber of commerce and the main job searching sites and see who is in commutable distance and whether they are likely to be hiring. If the area of your dreams does not have the industry that applies to your skills is there anything you can offer the companies that are there or do you need to change your plans and move to where the work is?

To be honest, we moved to the area of our dreams and now I have a lengthy commute to work – this becomes an issue in the winter and provides a longer work day. Would I change it? No, but I think plenty of other people would.

All this is in YOUR control before you move and forewarned is forearmed as they say. It is always better to know what lies ahead, if your qualifications transfer (do you have to retrain) will there be a chance of work in my chosen profession. Etc. so you can plan for it. Once you have moved, you are at the mercy of the local job market and if your settling funds diminish as fast as ours did then it won’t take long for the panic to set in!!

Another vital aspect of your move is the budget – the chances are you will be selling most of your possessions and moving with your life savings. Choose a conservative exchange rate to work out your settling funds and make sure you account for all of your expenses to move (legal fees for house sales/purchases, shipping/storage, house deposits, replacement of goods you sold to move, flights, hotels, pet shipping costs, rented accommodation, insurance.)

This is where your research will pay extra dividends. If you know the area you want to settle in, housing costs, local taxes, which are the most likely employers and what they are paying, then you can fairly accurately forecast your budget. The following table demonstrates our average monthly outgoings for an 1800 square foot family house:

Life insurance ($250,000 on each parent) = $60
Pet Insurance (for a Dog) = $30
Local taxes (approx 1% of house value) = $215
Cell Phone (family plan 2 phones) = $55
Local town bill (water, recycling, sewage) = $65
Gas (heating + hot water) = $75
Electric (power and cooking) = $70
House phone (long distance + features) = $80
Cable TV and high speed internet = $110.00
Total monthly = $760.00

Then add your mortgage/rent (allow $1,000 for a family house) and living costs (family of four about $250 per week) and it soon adds up. Your wages will see the Canadian Pension Plan, EI and federal/Provincial taxes deducted along with any Provincial healthcare premium that may be applicable. Total deductions will be around 45% of your salary (depending upon the Province you move to) so always bear that in mind too. This is a conservative estimate with everything rounded up but is an honest picture of the level of outgoings you can expect to see. Add in activity costs if you have kids - hockey equipment is expensive with the season ice fees normally in excess of $500.00 and you see the picture.

This is an illustration based upon our experience and will be different for each area – believe me, the effort involved with this research will pay you back and then some!!!

More detailed information and links to great resources can be found at http://www.onestopimmigration-canada.com/immigration.html

Kamis, 08 November 2012

Ten Tips for Smarter Shopping During the Holiday Season

Well, it is definitely that time of year again, the time of year when we are all being forced to think about the holiday shopping season even before Halloween has come and gone. It's still warm outside and the store displays are now featuring Santa Claus and the newest glittering Christmas ornaments for your Christmas tree. So, I suppose then it would be wise of us to begin thinking about how to approach our shopping techniques for the new holiday season. We simply must make a commitment to not making the same mistakes we made last year - standing in the long lines, fighting the crowds, spending more than we budgeted, waiting until the absolute last minute or being the first in line on "Black Friday" (the day after Thanksgiving which traditionally marks the start of the holiday shopping season) and ultimately getting trampled over as we fight to get that discounted digital camera or flat screen tv.

Instead, we are going to take the "Smarter Shopper Holiday Pledge" (for printing and sharing).

"Smarter Shopper Holiday Pledge"

I, (insert your name here), pledge to adhere to the ten holiday shopping tips outlined below. I realize that by not doing so, I may suffer the consequences of holiday shopper's remorse which include but are not limited to: loss of cash reserves, higher credit card debt, and near insanity from overexposure to large crowds, outrageous lines, and low product inventory.

1. I will use cash.
Using cash makes it easier to stay within the budget. I don't even mean using your debit card because you're able to justify going over just a bit on a particular gift if there's money available in your checking account. I say set limits, use cash, and when the cash is gone, there's no more gift buying. Now, this is going to take some self-control and I struggle with it myself at the holiday season, but if you've got $100 for gifts, then don't push the budget and spend $101. No matter how wrapped up you get into the Christmas lights, music, and other smiling holiday shoppers carrying their large shopping bags, stay within your budget…cash will help you do that!

2. I will keep track of my credit card spending.
Ok, if you absolutely must use a credit card, use the one with the lowest interest and know how you are going to pay off the credit card balance. Carrying balances obviously costs more than the item itself. So, that bargain that we got at the holidays is no longer a bargain 90 - 120 days later. Have a plan to pay off the holiday purchases. Additionally and just as important, know how much you are spending on those credit cards. You still need to set limits.

3. I will be patient.
There's nothing like waiting in a long check out line and have to endure price check after price check or a declined credit card holder arguing with the cashier, or even a shift change just as you approach the register. However, we all know these things happen. Calm down and be patient. Should you need a small book or magazine to bring along with you, do so. If leaving the kids at home is an option because they'll add additional stress to your trip, do so. Maybe just taking a deep breath will help. Just calm down and be patient.

4. I will start shopping early in the season and get it out of the way.
I've never understood why people wait until the very last minute to do their holiday shopping when they know it drives them nuts. Start shopping now. The malls aren't overcrowded yet. No one else is really thinking about holiday shopping for now. You could be the first one.

5. I will give less expensive but creative gifts instead.
Now, I'm not necessarily suggesting arts and crafts here unless of course that's what you want to do. But, all of us are not creative minds. However, for example, if you think of one gift that would work an entire family, you'll definitely save money. My family loves old movies. A great creative gift basket consisting of a few old movies, popcorn and candy, and maybe a blanket would definitely be less expensive than trying to get us all individual gifts. Think outside the box to say money!

6. I will have a game plan.
In order to get those must have items or those hard to find popular items, you have to create a game plan. That game plan has to take in consideration the availability of the items, the budget, and when you can go get the items. Don't leave your house without a game plan outlining where you're going, what you're going to purchase, how much you are going to purchase it for, and what your alternate gift selections are. Yes, you should at least have in mind what the alternate gift item will be should you not be able to find the gift or if you are on the loosing end of an in-store battle with another determined mom.

7. I will shop safely.
Safer is better. Watch your personal belongings at all times including handbags, purchases, and children. Pay particular attention at the register when you can be distracted by the particulars of the transaction or outside in the parking lot or waiting on public transportation. Last holiday season I was out late with other shoppers on Chicago's Magnificent Mile, where you might feel a false sense of security. A team of purse-snatchers was out looking for their next victim. They spotted her, with her children, completely distracted, purse wide open, while crossing busy Michigan Avenue. Luckily, someone else saw how the situation was about to unfold and warned her before her holiday shopping season was be ruined. Be a safe shopper!

8. I will get enough rest.
There's nothing like going out during the holiday shopping season and running out of steam. An important part of your shopping game plan should be to get plenty of rest the night before. Get a great start in the morning with a good breakfast and wear comfortable shoes. You should be all set to go. These type of shopping trips can sometimes go all day and night, especially if you're like a friend of mine who likes to literally shop until the stores close down, grabbing that last bargain on the rack as the last call announcement goes out over the intercom. Be prepared and get some rest.

9. I will not forget the bargains at the outlet malls.
If you are in downtown Chicago and looking for a change, one of the outlet malls for holiday bargains. You'll need a car but the prices can be well worth the drive. When we make a list of things to do in Chicago, we often overlook the feasibility of the outlet malls. There are bargains on upscale merchandise from designers such as Kate Spade, Giorgio Armani, and Coach at Chicago Premium Outlet Mall and Lighthouse Place Premium Outlet (in nearby Michigan City, Indiana). Gurnee Mills Outlet Mall features retailers for the whole family, a huge Cineplex, as well as, a reptile zoo…just in case the kids need a break. And if you go to Gurnee Mills Outlet Mall, then you might as well stop by Prime Outlets Pleasant Prairie Mall which is just a few miles away just across the Wisconsin border. Or, you might choose to visit the Prime Outlet Mall in Huntley, Illinois which is located just west of Chicago along the Northwest toll way. Visiting the Prime Outlet Mall in Huntley would give you the added opportunity to visit the IKEA store and The Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg, Illinois.

10. I will attempt to avoid the crowds at all costs.
Shopping earlier during the day or first thing Saturday morning will help avoid some of the crowd during the week and those late risers on Saturday or Sunday. Or if you like shop later in the evening, most stores will have extended holiday hours. Most people like to be at home by this time. This can work in your favor. There are fewer crowds in the evening. But remember to be safe.

Note: You, could of course, just do your shopping online but then that takes all of the "fun" out of the whole holiday shopping experience.

Kamis, 06 September 2012

Break-Ups And Doubts

Shall I break-up? Am I right? Or my thinking is wrong somewhere? What if I hurt my partner with the break-up? What if I cannot live normally after break-up? Shall I recover from it? Should I break-up? I am having doubts about the reasons. I am doubtful about the consequences. I am confused. What shall I do? After life reaches a stage where living together becomes very painful, one begins thinking of break-up. But the doubts can be overwhelming sometimes. They can mar the judgment. They confuse the thinking. This makes life further trouble some. What is the way out? The first step should be giving your mind little rest. A tense mind tends to lose the way. Relax and let go of these thoughts for few days. Involve yourself in other activities. Relaxing your mind will give you some peace and help you think well. After you begin feeling peaceful, begin writing down your reasons for breaking up. Don’t miss anything. Write down all the reasons clearly and write explanations wherever needed. This will give you further insight into why you want to break-up. Pluses and Minuses - write down both pluses and minuses of the break-up. Read them carefully and weigh them. If necessary, consult a close friend. After you become sure that you must break-up and that will be in your interest and in the interest of your partner, go ahead.