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Privacy: How to Browse the Internet Anonymously

Internet Service Providers are notorious for snooping on their customers, using automated monitoring of what you do online. They are more than happy to rat you out to law enforcement, government, and other corporations without search warrants because privacy laws have evaporated. Your search queries, browsing patterns, chat logs, and other online activity are tapped and used to build a profile of you, to assess your potential threat level and where you will be should you ever need to be taken in. Most of this monitoring happens at a local/regional level, therefore bypassing that level is the most effective way of restoring some of your privacy.

To do that, your computer must be connected to a remote trusted server via an encrypted connection (a ‘tunnel’) and from that point on everything you do, every site you visit, will appear as though it were coming from that server. Since lots of others are likewise using that server, it’s very difficult to sort what traffic comes from which specific individual. Your IP address (which identifies you on the net) remains hidden, and that server’s address is used instead. This is an oversimplification but it’s basically what happens.

One of the fastest, easiest, and cheapest privacy services is NordVPN, which for $5 per month (on a year plan) will accomplish precisely this. It lets you bypass firewalls, web filters, and prevents your local ISP from logging your online activities (logs that are otherwise forwarded to snoops). So check out NordVPN and see if it fits your needs.

One note, however. If you want even greater anonymity you must disable IPv6 (which is like a new secondary IP address) because Google uses your IPv6 address, and not just your regular IP (such as 123.456.7.8), to identify you and your location. For example, go to news.google.com and see if your location shows up on the right column as local news stories. IPv6 cloaking by NordVPN will be implemented in 2015. For now, if you are on OSX you can disable iPV6 via these instructions. Even if you don’t, you can still gain much from using a VPN service.

Low Glycemic Carb Trick for those Going Low Carb or are pre-Diabetic

If you get tired after eating meals, you may be experiencing a sugar crash from too much glucose being dumped into your blood stream by fast-digesting carbohydrates. Common culprits include bread, potatoes, rice, mushy pasta, and sugary drinks. These convert into blood sugar too quickly, and if you eat too much of them at once it will wreak havoc on your body.

The sugar spike causes your pancreas to manufacture insulin at an alarming pace to get rid of this sugar by turning it into fat, which not only makes you fatter but stresses the pancreas. This quickly converts the sugar, but overcompensates when afterwards there is too much insulin remaining and not enough sugar to fuel your muscles and brain, hence you get tired and crash.

This spike and crash is incredibly dangerous. Every sugar crash is a step closer to diabetes, accelerated aging, cancer, and death. When the pancreas is stressed too often for too long, it ceases to function properly and can no longer produce enough insulin to keep blood sugar levels in check. Either that, or the body loses its ability to respond to insulin properly. Either way, the result is that meals will cause blood sugar to be too high for too long.

When sugar (fructose or glucose, which are the building blocks of most carbohydrates) circulates in the blood, under ordinary balanced conditions it provides fuel for the body. But when it is elevated, it has a much higher chance of accidentally “cross-linking” with proteins in your blood vessel walls, skin, muscles, and other tissues. This has the effect of hardening, scarring, and effectively burning those tissues. This is known as glycation and is one of the main contributors to aging. The chemical reaction behind glycation is the same one that turns meat brown when you cook it. Thus sugar literally causes your tissues to brown as if they were being cooked, just more slowly. Therefore a sugar spike will damage tissues and for the most part this cannot be reversed.

So for all these reasons, it’s important to avoid spiking your blood sugar. The way to do this is by eating foods that have a lower glycemic index, which is a measure of how quickly they digest, and more importantly ones with low glycemic load, which takes both the portion size and glycemic index into account.

Mainly it is fiber, fat, dryness, toughness, and protein that slow down the digestion of carbs. So a big bowl of rice porridge is about one of the worst things humans can eat because in being so mushy and having no fiber it digests very quickly. Meanwhile, pinto beans and green plantains are low glycemic because they are loaded with fiber.

Take a look at this list of foods and their Glycemic Index (GI): health.harvard.edu/newsweek/Glycemic_index_and_glycemic_load_for_100_foods.htm

For example, brown rice has a lower GI than white rice, hence why health advocates recommend it. However, brown rice is also higher in toxic metals such as arsenic and in the anti-nutrient phytic acid. To reduce phytic acid, brown rice is typically sprouted but even that still leaves much behind. White rice meanwhile has very little phytic acid, but it’s also low in nutrition and has virtually no fiber.

So if you were to eat rice, there is another solution, which is combine white rice with a nutritious, high fiber, low-phytic-acid carb. Now, in South and Central America as well as the Caribbean, it’s common for beans and rice to be eaten or cooked together, for this has the effect of combining a high GI food with a low GI one, creating a nicely balanced combination carb that give sustained energy without a sugar crash. However, the anti nutrients in beans are strong, and this kind of diet can exacerbate tooth decay and bone demineralization. Phytic acid binds with zinc and iron, and diets rich in phytic acid will lead to deficiencies in those, which can lead to stunted growth in children, which is why people from those regions tend to be short.

So if not beans, what else can be combined with rice? Well, one possibility is plantains. If you eat plantains by themselves, especially green plantains which taste more like potatoes, their GI is so low that your body may still think it’s starving even though having just eaten some.

Thus what you can do is obtain some plantains, cook them, and eat them with your meal. Aside from adding nutrients like vitamin A, C, potassium, and folic acid, the plantains serve to buffer the higher GI of rice or whatever carb you’re eating.

There are two ways to do this. One is to cook plantain together with the rice, the other is to just have the plantain as a side dish.

First the first method, take say two large or three medium green and firm plantains, peel and cut them up into little cubes. Combine with an equal amount of raw white rice and 1.5x as much water as the rice packet indicates. Add coconut oil and pinch of salt if you wish, and cook everything together per the rice instructions. The plantains must be green or at least firm, otherwise they’re so mushy that they keep the steam from passing between the rice grains and make a half-cooked bubbly mess.

The result is a bit tribal tasting, but from a nutrient and GI context it’s actually quite effective. You can thus custom taylor the GI of this dish by varying the rice to plantain ratio. Note, however, that this doesn’t work well with bananas because bananas have less fiber and even the green bananas are too mushy to shred. Green plantains taste like potatoes when cooked, so in effect you have a potato-ish rice dish this way. I consider this a superior alternative to beans-n-rice and brown rice, as far as carbs go. However beans are higher in protein, so there’s that trade-off.

In the second method, cut off the ends of plantains, then slice them into 3/4 inch wide discs, peel on. Lay the discs sideways (like hay bales) in a pan with shallow water, cover with lid, and steam for 10 minutes. You can add more layers in a pot if you want to cook a bunch at once. Yellow or soft plantains work well for this method. The skin peels off easily after cooking, versus green ones where it’s not as easy. Yellow/black plantains taste like bananas but have more substance. I prefer them for this method. Then with a meal, I eat three of these discs interspersed throughout the meal. They balance out the GI of the meal.

Another good balanced GI carb to eat by itself (without need for rice) is butternut squash, which is a pain to peel and cube and boil but I have never had a sugar crash with it no matter how much I ate.

If you are okay with the phytates and oxalic acid in beans, then they do offer copper, manganese, protein, and other important minerals that aren’t as present in plantains, whereas plantains have vitamin C, vitamin A, folic acid, and extra potassium. The purpose of the white rice, then, is merely to provide a base of calories that can be augmented and moderated in their digestion speed by the beans or plantains.

Electric Guitar Preamp Buffer Circuits

The tone of passive pickups is very sensitive to what cables, pedals, and amps you plug into. The longer the cable, for example, the more the guitar tone tends toward dull and honky. That is because longer cables have greater capacitance, which together with the inductance of the pickup coil creates a resonant filter that rolls off the highs but boosts the mids or high mids just before the roll off. Some musicians love this tone because it’s like having a wah pedal halfway up, while others loathe it.

The difference between 20, 10, 5, and 1 foot cords is pretty noticeable if you record into an audio interface and listen to the clean signal. Therefore choosing the correct cable length when recording into an audio interface or amp is important; the cable length acts like a tone control. Many recording musicians change strings before every song or two to get the clearest sound, but neglect to use a better or shorter guitar cable.

Active pickups don’t suffer from this problem as much because they have a preamp built in that isolates the pickup from the cable. Passive pickups can be given similar isolation through a buffer circuit. This is a little circuit wired into the guitar that takes the pickup signal without placing a load on the pickup, thereby preserving its tone. It’s like using a 1 inch guitar cable direct into an amp or interface.

The disadvantage to a simple buffer circuit is that you lose the warm highs and boosted mids, thus you get a more hi-fi scooped sound. That is great for cleans and maybe blues, but for hi gain metal it can potentially be too bassy without enough mid-gain grind. While it removes a middy kind of ‘haze’ and ‘dullness’ it also takes away the cut and push of the tone. The more bass goes into a hi gain guitar amp, the more fuzzy and farty the distortion. A pedal like a tube screamer cuts the lows, boosts the mids, and compresses the signal so that a loose mushy amp (like a mesa rectifier on neutral settings) becomes really tight and cutting. So a buffer will have the opposite effect of a tube screamer, as it reduces honk and increases the highs and low lows.

That said, there are three buffers on the net that are easy to build if you have soldering skills:

The Tillman Buffer – This is one of the earliest and most famous. It uses the Fairchild Semiconductors J201 JFET transistor which nowadays which has very low power drain (under 1 mA) and runs on a 9V battery. However that JFET is out of production and hard to find. It can still be bought on eBay. Due to inconsistencies in manufacturing, some J201s will work fine and some won’t therefore buying a half dozen or more and using the one that works and sounds best is necessary. The downside of this circuit is that it doesn’t have much head room, and it also adds gain to your signal so if your pickups are already hot then you may easily overload/clip your audio interface. For single coils it’s fine, but high output hum buckers probably not unless you are using a DI box. Without high headroom, however, the signal will compress and clip in this circuit, which does make for a heavier hi gain sound but overall I wouldn’t recommend it for high gain or high output use.

The Hawes Buffer – This is an improved version of the Tillman Buffer that uses the MPF102 JFET instead of the J201. The MPF102 is also out of production but cheaper/more common than the J201 today on eBay. It draws more power (2 to 5 times more than the J2010) however, but also has more head room. The circuit additionally includes two zener diodes (optional) to prevent the JFET from getting fried by static electricity at the inputs. When the voltage at the input goes above 5.1, it’s shunted through the zeners automatically and therefore acts as a safety mechanism. I recommend this one over the Tillman Buffer. There is still an issue of the output being too hot for an audio interface though.

The Orman Buffer – Fourth diagram at that page. Even simpler, this one uses the MPF102 (or similar JFETs) with a virtual ground formed via two 1M (or 2M) resistors used as a voltage divider. This one has both high head room and gain of about .9 — thus no chance of clipping your interface. Current draw is around 1.75 mA which for a typical 9V battery should last about 300 hours.

I have compared the Orman buffer using the MPF102, to the Tillman circuit using the J201. The latter is definitely louder and has less head room (it starts internally distorting and compressing sooner). However, when volume compensated via interface gain adjustment, and when staying underneath the headroom limit by not strumming too hard, the tone is indistinguishable. Therefore I see no reason to go with the Tillman/Hawes buffer unless you need more gain, like if you had a basic tube amp and wanted to push it into overdrive sooner.

Now, to avoid modifying your guitar, these circuits can be installed in an Altoids tin complete with 9V battery, male 1/4 instrument input plug (yes the plug not the jack) chassis mounted, and 1/4 stereo stereo output jack. The output jack is used as as switch to cut power to the battery when a cable is not plugged in. This is done by connecting the negative of the 9V to the ring, circuit ground to the sleeve, and circuit output to the tip.

This tin can be plugged directly into the guitar (looks stupid but it works) and the guitar cable plugged into the jack. Cable length then won’t matter. If you’re good with EQ, you simulate an idea cable response, which will likely be a resonant high cut filter brought low into the 1k to 4k range. I don’t have a passive bass, but I would imagine that for a bass with passive pickups this buffer should work pretty well because a hi-fi scooped sound is what we typically EQ into bass anyway.

Myself, I will be using the Orman Altoids Buffer for all my cleans because it makes it natural, even, sparkly, and full (though it lacks that vintage 70s cleans vibe that only a crappy cable can bring. It’s said that Jimmy Hendrix used the cheapest longest curly guitar cables he could find because they had the greatest capacitance and gave him that vocal-like wah sound).

Boil Cabbage Like a Pro

When you think of boiled cabbage, you probably think of a drab soggy mess fed to ruddy little Irish kids after a hard day’s work digging for potatoes or shoveling coal. At least that comes to my mind.

But wait, there’s a pot of gold at the end of that rainbow. There’s a secret way to prepare cabbage that turns it into a goldmine of nutrients that you’ll feel lucky to be charmed by.

1. First, buy a small fresh head of green cabbage. Just like Brussels sprouts, small ones are more tender and less bitter than large ones.

2. Then, start at the top and cut off a couple disc-shaped slices about 1 cm (third of an inch) thick each. Break it up slightly and throw this into water and bring to a boil. Boil for 2-3 minutes and drain well.

3. Put a little salted butter on there and give it a try.

What you should get is a neon-green, slightly translucent, velvety, non-bitter Irish sensation. This is not the mushy stuff grandma fed you back at the cottage during the famine. This is the cabbage of the gods.

Indeed, you get a hearty mouthful of dense vegetation with every bite. You get vitamin K, vitamin C, and B6 for starters. Also, fiber and some minerals. And purported anti-cancer properties not found in long-cooked cabbage. And cabbage is relatively cheap.

The cabbage head can be kept in the fridge until the next scalping, and it keeps well. And cabbage leaves don’t screw around being all inefficient and taking up space; behold! they are perfectly compacted into concentric layers.

What else needs to be said? They’re magically delicious!

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