BIT Studio

September 30, 2015

Complex Adaptive Systems

Filed under: MUSIC — webmaster @ 6:14 am

  Complex Adaptive Systems (CAS) has been applied across many industries to create infrastructures that identify and respond to incremental change in an organized and timely fashion. Used in professional sectors such as manufacturing, stock market, computer algorithms, health care, and economics, it has proven itself successful in identifying and quantifying core values and producing tangible results.

Dr. Sholom Glouberman and Dr. Brenda Zimmerman (recognized expert on Complexity Theory and former Director of the York University Schulich School of Business Health Industry Management Program) identify three categories of problems: simple, complicated, and complex. “In simple problems like cooking by following a recipe, the recipe is essential. …Recipes produce standardized products and the best recipes give good results every time. Complicated problems, like sending a rocket to the moon, are different. …High levels of expertise in a variety of fields are necessary for success. …In some critical ways, rockets are similar to each other and because of this there can be a relatively high degree of certainty of outcome. Raising a child, on the other hand, is a complex problem. …Although expertise can contribute to the process in valuable ways, it provides neither necessary nor sufficient conditions to assure success. …As a result there is always some uncertainty of the outcome.”

The design of Complexity Theory solutions focuses on building a framework based on simple rules. They are not static and they adapt to change through processes built upon simple questions identified at a meta-level. CAS requires an interactive infrastructure. Dr. Zimmerman writes “Complex systems are non-linear and exhibit a great deal of noise, tension and fluctuation as they interact with the rest of the environment.”

The power of reframing a problem within a new paradigm cannot be understated. For many years, international arts and culture conflicts were dealt with as cultural exemptions through GATT agreements and World Trade Organization rulings. Neither of these forums were able to quantify and measure the value of culture and results were typically unfavourable. In 2000, the cultural problem was rebranded as a need for cultural diversity, a strategy that not only by-passed a frontal attack on WTO mandates, but also created a rallying cry for all countries to recognize the importance of their own cultural heritages and to join forces in an international effort (UNESCO Convention 2005) to separate culture from the existing world trade infrastructure.

Another reframing example happened during the AIDS crisis. Brazil chose to address the World Health Organization questionnaire by posing complex questions versus complicated questions. Reframing the problem as being open-ended and flexible (complex) rather than monetized and quantified (complicated) resulted in a 50% improvement over WHO casualty forecasts. In simplistic terms, they did not like the answers so they changed the questions, which ultimately changed the outcome.

Complex Adaptive Systems are able to produce solutions that, through communication, discovery, and continuous adaptation, address problems with a deep level of insight obtained through reworking many of the questions inherent in established systems.


August 28, 2015

Armageddon Lite 1.0

Filed under: Solar — webmaster @ 9:51 am

  Our homegrown electricity backup system is working: six solar panels feed two 100Ah batteries that run a mini-fridge and mini-freezer. It may seem that Armageddon Lite 1.0 is about cold beer and ice, but it is really about heat.

It was the power blackout in Toronto during December 2013 that inspired this nerd adventure. Our natural gas boiler furnace needed 460 watts of electricity to operate and we had no power for three cold sub-zero days. The solar system produces approximately 8 amps of current on sunny days and is backed up by a 110V battery charger on days with grid power and a 110V gas generator on days without grid power. During cold-weather blackouts, the fridge and freezer are unplugged and the furnace is plugged in.

The system framework provides for easy expansion and Armageddon Lite 2.0 will likely include additional solar panels and batteries to reduce the dependency on the battery-charger backup system.


May 24, 2015

Subway Musician

Filed under: MUSIC — webmaster @ 1:45 pm

  Joshua Bell unpacked his $3.5 million 1713 Stradivarius violin in a busy Washington DC subway station at 7:51am on Friday, January 12, 2007. He put on a baseball cap, and he began to play. He performed for 43 minutes music composed by Bach, Ponce, Massenet and Schubert.

Gene Weingarten of the Washington Post, and Pulitzer Prize winner for the subsequent article chronicling the event, wrote: “He’d clearly meant it when he promised not to cheap out this performance: He played with acrobatic enthusiasm, his body leaning into the music and arching on tiptoes at the high notes. The sound was nearly symphonic, carrying to all parts of the homely arcade as the pedestrian traffic filed past.”

Over 1000 people walked by without a second glance. Only 27 people stopped to listen. Total take for the shift was $32.17, excluding a patron who recognized him, engaged with him, and gave him $20.00. “Actually,” Bell said with a laugh, “that’s not so bad, considering. That’s 40 bucks an hour. I could make an okay living doing this, and I wouldn’t have to pay an agent.”  (Weingarten)

It would be easy to dismiss the crowd as uneducated buffoons but it is not that simple; the underlying principles for understanding and appreciating art are complex. Weingarten makes the point that “Plato weighed in on it, and philosophers for two millennia afterward: What is beauty? Is it a measurable fact (Gottfried Leibniz), or merely an opinion (David Hume), or is it a little of each, colored by the immediate state of mind of the observer (Immanuel Kant)?” Weingarten makes a case for Kant’s view –  life is busy and full of distractions, and the contextual view of art will affect the depth of perception. These people cannot be judged on their inability to appreciate beauty.

Of greater significance is Weingarten’s commentary on the pace of life in general. The velocity of our modern-day, wealth-driven world does not allow our priorities to include the appreciation of art, and he raises the point that if we cannot find time to listen to the world’s finest compositions performed by the world’s finest musician, then “what else are we missing?”

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
-from “Leisure,” by W.H. Davies

Like all good articles, Weingarten’s raises more questions than it answers. The subway may not be a source of inspiration for many people, and it is possible that the next subway musician encountered in your travels may not be worthy of too much of your time. But that is Weingarten’s point – how will you know?

Joshua Bell returned to the same Washington subway station in September 2014 and, thanks to a bit of promotion, his performance was well-received.

See Joshua Bell’s subway performance here.

Read Gene Weingarten’s article here.


April 30, 2015

PhD in Music

Filed under: MUSIC — webmaster @ 9:45 am

  The completion of a doctoral program typically involves a commitment of four or five years. The first two years, as a doctoral student, are comprised of taking graduate courses and doing preparatory work for dissertation subject submission and approval. The final two or three years, as a doctoral candidate, are spent researching and writing the dissertation paper and preparing for the ultimate oral defence of the thesis.

I have been accepted into the doctoral program at York University, beginning September 2015, for a PhD, Music.

The Music Department at York is well-known for its ethnomusicology focus as well as having a long and successful international presence in jazz education, composition and performance. The professorial support at York provides many possible areas of study that are simply not available anywhere else. In addition to having access to state-of-the-art musical expertise, the Schulich School of Business is also available for studying aspects of arts administration.

It is an honour and a privilege for me to become a part of the York team. I look forward to working with professors, fellow doctoral students, and undergrad students as a teaching assistant.



March 30, 2015


Filed under: Composts — webmaster @ 1:17 pm

  Apherisis is a medical technology where the blood of a donor or patient is passed through a device that separates out one particular component and returns the remainder to circulation. For Canadian Blood Services, platelets and plasma are spun out of the whole-blood and the remaining components (red cells, white cells, etc.) are returned to the donor’s blood stream.

I completed my 131st blood donation this week. I started giving while in university and continued at 56 day intervals (with the occasional year off) for the next thirty years. Two years ago I switched from standard donations (whole-blood) to platelet donations (apherisis), which allow a 14 day interval between visits, that is, every 2 weeks instead of every 2 months. The platelets are used primarily for cancer patients to kickstart the creation of white blood cells in the marrow after chemotherapy has weakened the immune system.

It is a one-to-one contribution and sometimes the CBS staff lets you know where the donation is headed, for example, to Sunnybrook Hospital (no names, obviously). Knowing that your donation will be helping someone beat cancer, likely that very same day, makes the apherisis procedure extremely personal.

The term bloodletting conjures visions of 14th century torture and leeching procedures designed to drive out illnesses and evil spirits. But its roots are much less sinister and over the centuries it has been associated with curing a wide variety of ailments. An 1862 publication called The Salerne School contained a poem by Professor Liakat Ali Parapia touting its many benefits:

“Of bleeding many profits grow and great,
The spirits and sences are renew’d thereby,
Thogh these mend slowly by the strenghth of meate,
But these with wine restor’d are by-and-by;
By bleeding to the marrow commethe heate,
It maketh cleane your braine, releeves your eie,
It mends your appetite, restorathe sleepe,
Correcting humors that do waking keep:
All inward parts and sences also clearing,
It mends the voice, touch, smell, and taste, and hearing.”

So, in the olden days, with a little help from red meat and wine, bloodletting was known to fix problems associated with our brain, eyes, appetite, sleep, voice, touch, smell, taste and hearing.

People talk about the euphoria experienced after giving blood, and this goes beyond the feelings associated with doing a good deed. Is it the creation of new oxygen-rich blood? Is it the one-pound of weight loss lightening one’s step? I have experienced this many times although it did not happen during my two years of apherisis, possibly a result of the anti-coagulent mix in the returning blood. Regardless, my time spent doing apherisis was enjoyable and it was a pleasure working with the excellent CBS staff at the College/Bay location.

I look forward to my next euphoric adventure in whole-blood bloodletting. It’s in you to give.

Canadian Blood Services - It's in you to give.


February 27, 2015


Filed under: Composts — webmaster @ 10:06 am

  I spent the first twenty years of my life avoiding conversation. It wasn’t that I didn’t like people; I stutter.

School was traumatic (speech classes were ineffective) and although most people were understanding and supportive, there were many awkward moments. French was a challenge (for example, “Il y a une probleme” was a showstopper) and word substitution figured prominently (like swapping “your majesty” for “sir” in a lengthy grade 9 history reading). A simple conversation was a minefield of potential dialectic disasters, all word-options weighed and rated for producing the minimal societal impact. If nothing else, it was certainly a cerebral exercise in organization and creativity.

In non-stuttering normal speech, PET (positron emission tomography) scans show that both hemispheres of the brain are active but that the left hemisphere tends to be more active. By contrast, people who stutter yield more activity on the right hemisphere, suggesting that this activity might be interfering with left-hemisphere speech production. Much evidence from neuroimaging techniques has supported this theory. **

This may be true. The increase in damage-control activity in the “creative” right-brain may overwhelm the “functionality” of the left-brain. I don’t know. I do know that in certain situations, and not all of them public speaking, my delivery of coherent and logical speech can be spontaneously interrupted with an internal electrical storm that overwhelms all of my senses and grinds my thoughts, and any hope of recovery, to a halt.

Stuttering has been compared to the structure of an iceberg, with the visible and audible symptoms of stuttering above the waterline and a broader set of symptoms, such as negative emotions, hidden below. Feelings of embarrassment, shame, fear, anger, and guilt are often a result of the inability to communicate clearly. This, of course, leads to increased frustration, tension and effort, which further exacerbates the stuttering. A common end result is self-imposed isolation. With time, continued exposure to difficult speaking experiences may crystallize into a negative self-concept and self-image. **

Stuttering is sometimes seen as a symptom of anxiety, but there is no correlation in that direction, although the inverse can be true, as social anxiety can develop as a result of stuttering. A person who stutters may subconsciously project their opinions onto others, believing that they think he or she is nervous or stupid, which then feeds a self-fulfilling cycle of self-deprecation. Many perceive stutterers as less intelligent due to their disfluency, however, as a group, individuals who stutter tend to be of above average intelligence. **

I deeply appreciate Brené Brown’s TED Talks on vulnerability ( and shame ( We all have coping mechanisms that help us get through our lives and each of us is different and saddled with our own perceived shortcomings.

All of us, as individuals, are not alone; we are not victims and are not any better or worse off than anyone else. Rest assured that everyone is insecure and needs support. Regardless of our own turmoil and personal battles, it is up to each of us to suck-it-up, get out there, and do the best we can.

Brene Brown

Brené Brown

** Quoted shamelessly from Wikipedia

January 1, 2015


Filed under: MUSIC — webmaster @ 11:52 am

Musicking, Science and Health

Andrus, Calvin, D. Toward a Complex Adaptive Intelligence Community: The Wiki and the Blog. Accessed April 3, 2016.

Berger, Dorita S. 2015. Eurhythmics for Autism and Other Neurophysiologic Diagnoses: A Sensorimotor Music-Based Treatment Approach. pp. 177. Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Campbell, Pat, and Higgins, Lee. 2015. Intersections between ethnomusicology, music education, and community music. Pettan, Svanibor, and Titon, Jeff Todd, (eds.) The Oxford Handbook of Applied Ethnomusicology. New York, Oxford University Press, pp. 638-688.

Chan, Serena. 2001. Complex Adaptive Systems (PDF). Research Seminar in Engineering Systems. Accessed February 2, 2016.

Daykin, Norma. 2012. Developing Social Models for Research and Practice in Music, Arts, and Health: A Case Study of Research in a Mental Health Setting, Chapter 5. Music, Health, and Wellbeing. Oxford University Press.

Elliott, David James. 1995. Music Matters: A New Philosophy of Music Education. New York: Oxford University Press.

Elliott, David James, and Silverman, Marissa. 2012. Why Music Matters: Philosophical and Cultural Foundations. Music, Health and Wellbeing. Oxford University Press.

Elliott, David James, and Silverman, Marissa. 2015. Music Matters: A Philosophy of Music Education. Oxford University Press, (Second edition).

Florida, Richard. (2002). The Rise of the Creative Class: And How its transforming work, leisure, community and everyday life. New York: Perseus Book Group.

Fractal Foundation: Chaos Theory. Accessed September 15, 2015.

Free Dictionary. Accessed January 10, 2016.

Grant, Peter. 2011. The UNESCO Convention on Cultural Diversity: Cultural Policy and International Trade in Cultural Products, Chapter 21. The Handbook of Global Media and Communications Policy. Blackwell Publishing Ltd. (First Edition).

Habron, J. (2014). ‘Through music and into music’ – through music and into wellbeing: Dalcroze Eurhythmics as Music Therapy’. The Journal for Transdisciplinary Research in Southern Africa.

Harrison, Klisala. 2014. The Second Wave of Applied Ethnomusicology. MUSICultures41.2 (2014): 15-XIV.

Higgins, Lee. 2012. Community Music: In Theory and In Practice. New York: Oxford University Press.

Institute of Social Research, York University. Accessed April 10, 2016.

Karim, Karim H. 2005. The Elusiveness of Full Citizenship: Accounting for Cultural Capital, Cultural Competencies and Cultural Pluralism, Chapter 10. Accounting for Culture: Thinking through Cultural Citizenship. University of Ottawa Press.

MacDonald, Raymond A.R., and Kreutz , Gunter, and Mitchell, Laura. 2012. What is Music, Health, and Wellbeing and Why is it Important?. Music, Health, and Wellbeing. Oxford University Press.

McElroy, Mark W. 2000. Integrating complexity theory, knowledge management and organizational learning. Journal of Knowledge Management (2000), Vol. 4 Iss 3 pp. 195 – 203.

Neil, Garry. 2007. The Status of Status. A Neil Craig Associates Report commissioned by the Canadian Conference of the Arts: Update on initiatives to improve the socio-economic status of Canadian artists. Accessed December 15, 2015.

Ockelford, Adam. 2012. Applied Musicology: Using Zygonic Theory to Inform Music Education, Therapy and Psychology Research. Oxford University Press. Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2013

Rice, Timothy. 2014. A Very Short Introduction to Ethnomusicology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Rice, Timothy. 2014. Ethnomusicology in Times of Trouble. Yearbook for Traditional Music: 191-209.

Secker, J., Hacking, S., Spandler, H., Kent, L., and Shenton, J. 2007. Mental Health, Social Inclusion and Arts: Developing the evidence base Final Report. Chelmsford: Anglia Ruskin University, Department of Health

Sheehy, Daniel. 1992. A Few Notions about Philosophy and Strategy in Applied Ethnomusicology. Ethnomusicology 36 (3): 323-36.

Sirman, Robert. 2014. What would Massey see today? The Massey Commission and its Legacy. Speaking Notes for Robert Sirman, Director and CEO Canada Council for the Arts; Walter Gordon Symposium; Massey College, University of Toronto; March 27, 2014.

Small, Christopher. 1998. Musicking: The Meanings of Performing and Listening. Hanover: Wesleyan.

Titon, Jeff Todd, and Pettan, Svanibor. 2015. Applied Ethnomusicology: A Descriptive and Historical Account. Oxford Handbook of Applied Ethnomusicology. Oxford University Press.

Toronto Arts Foundation – Creative City: Block by Block. 2014. Accessed December 15, 2015.

Toronto Arts Foundation – Transforming Communities Through the Arts. 2013. Accessed December 15, 2015.

Turino, Thomas. 2008. Chapter 2: Participatory and Presentational Performance. Music as Social Life: The Politics of Participation. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.

Vaananen, A., Murray, M., Koshinen, A., Vahtera, J., Kouvonen, M. 2009. Engagement in cultural activities and cause-specific mortality: prospective cohort study. Preventative Medicine, 49, 142-7.

Veblen, Kari K, and Messenger, Stephen J, and Silverman, Marissa. 2013. Community Music Today. Rowman & Littlefield Education.

Young, Nora. 2016. Waking up the brain with sound, CBC Radio. Accessed May 25, 2016.

Zimmerman, Brenda, and Glouberman, Sholom. 2002. Complicated and Complex Systems: What Would Successful Reform of Medicare Look Like? Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada. Discussion Paper #8. Accessed September 21, 2015.


December 22, 2014

Armageddon Lite

Filed under: Solar — webmaster @ 9:53 pm

  Phase 1 of Armageddon Lite is complete!

This nerd adventure began as a result of being without electricity for three days in sub-zero weather during Christmas 2013 in Toronto. The other utilities (water and gas) survived and it was determined that if we had had power backup sufficient to run the furnace, we could have stayed in our house for quite a while.

The furnace, a natural gas boiler with rads, requires 460 watts to run a PLC, thermostat and two motors – one motor for the blower and another for the circulating pump. Running non-stop, the furnace would consume approximately 4 amps of electricity per hour (watts = amps x volts, that is, 460 = amps x 120). In very cold weather, the furnace might run for up to 30 minutes per hour, which would consume 2 amps of electricity per hour. The design of the backup system would, at the very least, need to be able to sustain this requirement.

Battery Backup System:
-2 batteries (12V DC, 100Ah, deep cycle, sealed)
-1 inverter (DC to AC, pure sine wave, 2500 watt)
-1 generator (gas powered, 1200 watt)
-1 battery charger (12 amp, AC to DC)
-1 55 watt solar array (3′ x 3′ panel, trickle charger)
-1 battery charge controller (DC to DC, 7 amp)

In the event of a power outage, the furnace is unplugged from the house outlet and plugged into the inverter. The 2500 watt inverter is larger than necessary, but in less extreme temperatures, it is very likely that other appliances (such as, a fridge, a water heater, cellphone chargers) could be plugged into the system. Based on a consumption of 2 amps per hour, the 200 Ah battery bank would drop less than 15% of capacity over a 12 hour period (24 amps / 200 Ah), which is well within battery operating specifications. Using this model, the gas generator could be run one hour in the morning and one hour in the evening to top up the battery charge. Assuming that natural gas (for the furnace) and gasoline (for the generator) are available, this infrastructure is sustainable for a very long time. The trickle charger keeps the batteries healthy during long periods of inactivity.

Phase 2 of Armageddon Lite involves installing and connecting a rooftop solar panel array to the existing system. Four 250 watt panels (1 Kw) would provide sufficient electricity to support a mini-fridge and mini-freezer throughout the year without generator support. As a green yet somewhat shallow solution for cold beer and ice, Phase 2 isn’t quite part of an armageddon scenario. It does, however, build upon an existing framework for expansion into an autonomous, off-grid solution.

December 5, 2014

All That Glitters

Filed under: BIT Financial — webmaster @ 4:07 pm

  Countries print unsubstantiated paper money to lower the value of their currency and stimulate exports. Other country’s currencies rise in relative value, which affects their own ability to export pushing them to print more of their own money. And so it goes with currency wars. Without the accountability of a quantifiable and measureable hard-asset base for valuation, the cycle continues unabated.

Stock market manipulation has diverted attention away from the world’s economic problems. When inflation is high, governments are obligated to raise interest rates, which then slows the economy, which can lead to recession if the economy is not healthy. Quantitative easing (QE) plus market manipulation hides the problem. Inflation, which is the inevitable result of race-to-the-bottom currency wars, has been redirected to create record-setting stock market valuations.

Historically, gold has been used by investors as a hedge against inflation. For the past three years, the price of gold has been manipulated. Bank stocks go up; gold goes down. Bank stocks go down; gold goes down. Oil stocks go up; gold goes down. Oil stocks go down; gold goes down. QE starts; gold goes down. QE stops; gold goes down. The contradictory explanations proffered by the financial services industry are ridiculous, yet confidently presented.

Aggressive gold purchases by China, Russia and India have outstripped the actual supply of gold being produced by 150% – that is, 400 tons per month of demand versus 260 tons per month of supply. This can only mean that world inventories of gold kept in ETF reserves, bank reserves and country vaults (in particular, the U.S.) must be in massive, and very illegitimate, decline.

Well over a year ago, Germany requested that their 300 tons of gold being held in U.S. Fed vaults in New York be repatriated. They have received only 5 tons to date. Switzerland recently voted against increasing their gold reserves to 20% from 7%, which would have required purchasing the equivalent of one half year of the entire world’s production of gold. The population was originally in favour of the proposal, but the Swiss National Bank mounted an aggressive campaign against it, which unbelievably included a ban on all Paypal donations directed toward causes aligned with the yes vote.

Conspiracy theories regarding the empty (gold-less) vaults at the Federal Reserve in New York are gaining momentum. Another conspiracy theory taking root is in regard to the datestamp reference on the gold bars themselves (each bar is numbered). Bars made in 1960 are showing up on the open market, indicating that old and dusty inventory, i.e. scrape-the-bottom-of-the-barrel reserves, are being tapped. The message here, of course, is that even though the well is running dry, the global economy cannot be given any reason to believe that demand is not being met.

As the hard-asset of gold moves from west to east, banks, governments and everyone in the financial services sector are well-motivated to tell the same rose-coloured story of all being well. Unfortunately, after three years of orchestrated deception, the western stock of gold is severely depleted. The Federal Reserve began this charade in the hope that the QE program would get the economy back on its feet before anyone noticed. But their double-down strategy took too long and failed to produce the robust economy needed to hide the carnage. Time is running out.

What will it take for a correction to happen?

A simple failure to meet delivery will disrupt the system. Germany is motivated to be content with a 5 ton delivery because, as Europe’s financial saviour, they need stability to reign. But Switzerland, France and others are queuing up to demand their gold back from the Fed as well. And please understand that this isn’t new gold; this is balance sheet gold that is supposedly being held for them in inventory in U.S. vaults. They will not be pleased if their gold has disappeared.

The government would like us to believe that inflation is stable and manageable at their target of 2% or so. This is impossible. A far more likely scenario is that the printing rampage has masked the deep state of deflation already upon us. The stock market manipulation has gone on for far too long and, inevitably, the landing will not be pretty.

December 1, 2014

iThink Funding

Filed under: MUSIC — webmaster @ 2:55 pm

  In a recent blog, Marissa Silvermann suggests that the proliferation of misleading claims in support of music education may do more damage than good, undermining the true value of the arts in education. Advocacy in the form of anecdotal and qualitative stories tend to limit the impact of more meaningful studies.

The importance of the arts in education, especially music, is enormous. The justification for music education programs must be objective and tangible leaving no doubt that society and business require the thought processes developed through music study as fundamental tools for building a better world.

Integrative Thinking (iThink) is the foundation of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto (rated in the top ten business schools in the world) and is one of the first methodologies to tackle leadership and creativity in an academic business setting. Since its introduction in 2000, it has steadily gained credibility and is now promoted worldwide as a creative learning method under the iThink canopy.

Music education has implemented the basic concepts of the iThink method for over 40 years. It is no coincidence that musicians have gone on in their lives to become successful leaders and innovators. The big-picture approach to music (iThink: salience, causality, architecture) and its subjective nature (iThink: abductive reasoning) develop the leadership skills and creativity that are often missed in the study of sciences alone.

The infrastructure and curriculum for iThink-based music education programs are already in place and ready for expansion. Governments are constantly searching for ways to improve the urban landscape of their communities (e.g. the Creative Class, Richard Florida) as well as foster an environment of entrepreneurship and business innovation. Their most efficient path to success may be as simple as increasing investment and support for music education.

Integrative Thinking provides a tangible link between music education and government-friendly business initiatives.

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