Tuesday, October 13, 2015

This Tail-Mounted Sensor Can Tell You What Your Dog Is Feeling

Well hi there! Thanks for clicking by. Great to see you. Coffee's freshly brewed and I made some pumpkin treats for you today. Recipe is below. Segue...to the entirely different topic of wagging doggie tails, okay?

There’s a tale behind every wagging tail, or so believe the founders of New York tech company DogStar Life. They’ve created a wearable device called TailTalk that accurately translates dogs’ emotions by analyzing their ‘tail language’.

The company is currently trying to raise $100,000 through Indiegogo, in order to develop the technology further and also prepare for mass production. “The tail is the dog’s social interface, like a smile for humans,” the campaign page reads. “Understanding the tail means understanding the dog.”

The device is a lightweight sensor that is placed on a dog’s tail to capture movement patterns all day long. “It basically combines an accelerometer and a gyroscope much like the Fitbit, but it’s picking up on the way the tail is moving,” co-founder Mark Karp told Yahoo News. “The idea is to capitalize on all the research that’s been done in the last two to three years on what tail movement means, and translating that into emotion.”

The makers claim that TailTalk is most useful for owners to understand what happens to their pets when they’re not together; like when dogs are alone at home, with dog walkers, or at the dog daycare. 

The device connects to a smartphone app that provides real time information on how the pet is doing.

“TailTalk has a 3-axis accelerometer and a gyroscope, capturing the tail movement as it happens,” the company claims. “Our proprietary algorithm translates tail wagging into emotions the dog is expressing, where pet parents can see their dog’s emotional diary throughout the day.” Pets are assigned a happiness score, and an emotional graph helps interpret their mood swings.

The makers apparently consulted professors at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine in the early stages of product design. They learned that tail wagging could reveal a lot about what dogs were feeling. 

For instance, left wagging indicates negative feelings like fear, aggression, or anxiety, and right wagging could mean positive feelings of happiness, excitement, or satisfaction. They also spent a lot of time talking to pet owners, and most of them seemed concerned about the health and happiness of their dogs.

According to co-founder Yannis Tsampalis, TailTalk is meant to empower pet parents, not make them feel guilty. “If you know that your dog is really unhappy during the day, it’s probably in the best interest of both of you to have a dog walker or dog sitter come over,” he explained. “We feel that pet parents are wonderful, but if they had more data, they can probably make better decisions and create a stronger bond between them and their dog.”

My take... Generally when a dog wags its tail, it is happy (unlike a cat which wags its tail when it is annoyed). But if you don't know the dog, check the eyes, hackles and ear position, too. Wagging can be deceptive.

Does the world really need Tailtalk? It might be more useful as a 'receptability' device in bars, don't you think? Maybe I'll get my research assistant working on that one... Have another virtual pumpkin tart, why don't'cha? Recipe follows...

See ya, eh!


Recipe for Bob's Scrumptious Pumpkin Tarts:

I used the standard pastry recipe found on the back of Crisco shortening. The floured top of a glass cuts out the right sized pastry shells.

I precooked the shells for about 5 minutes @375F/200C or so. Then let them cool.

1 1/2 cups cooked pumpkin or squash. I used acorn squash but don't tell anybody...
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs (though I only used one)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp clove (I didn't put this in)

Tossed everything in a blender and whipped it round then poured it into the cooled muffin shells.

Baked them @375F/200C for 20 + minutes, turning the trays around halfway through.

Once cooled, topped them with whipped cream and they were done!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Extreme Handskating – German Daredevil Skates with His Hands

Guten Tag! How are you doing? Thanks for skating by today. Help yourself to a mug of coffee and a virtual muffin or doughnut. Speaking of skating...

As if rollerblading wasn’t difficult enough, this guy from Germany actually skates on his hands! Mirko Hanßen claims to have invented the sport of ‘handskating’ himself, and he’s currently the best (and only) hand skater in the world. 

Mirko has always loved skating and handstands, and one day at dinner, he thought of combining the two, on a whim. He made his first attempt in his bedroom that night, putting his hands in his rollerblades and attempting a headstand. He hardly managed to prop himself up before he came crashing down on the floor.

But Hanßen would not give up. With more practice, he was able to stand on his hands and even glide forward. He soon took his sport outdoors to the streets, practicing on bike lanes but when motorists proved to distracting, he moved to more obscure locations, like back alleys, which also ensured no one could copy his unique sport. “I’ve always made sure that nobody is filming me with their smartphone,” he said. Eventually, he got pretty good at handskating and started posting videos of himself online. He’s able to do backflips, skate on ramps, and even skate on just one hand.

As you can imagine, handskating requires impeccable physical fitness, and Mirko admits he works out three to four hours a day to keep in shape, but mainly using his own body weight, instead of hitting the gym. He’s also constantly working on new tricks and techniques and is now working on combining handskating with other sports, of which he has so far mentioned football and skydiving. I have to say, that sounds intriguing.

Now, Hanßen ’s videos are gaining a lot of attention and he’s even appeared on TV shows in his native Germany. The 20-year-old has decided to drop out from school and try making a living out of the bizarre sport. If it does not work, he plans to go back to studying again. Talk about a big commitment…

Hey, can't you see it down the road...Hand Hockey! Who knows...just what we need...another league sport. Pretty hard to carry a stick though...

Happy Thanksgiving to you!

See ya, eh!



Sunday, October 11, 2015

Santa Claus Runs for North Pole City Council

Merry... what? No...It's way too early to talk about Christm... isn't it? Not according to some stores around here. The leaves are barely turning and some shelves are already stocked with Christmas ornaments. Yikes! Hey...wonderful to see you. Fetch yourself a mug of coffee and a virtual treat while I fill you in...

Turns out Santa Claus is real, and he actually lives in North Pole! Don’t get too excited though – North Pole is a suburb in Fairbanks, Alaska, and Santa Claus is the legal name of one of its residents, although he definitely looks the part. 

At North Pole, the atmosphere is festive all year. The streets are always decorated in holiday spirit, the light posts look like candy canes and the streets have names like ‘Snowman Lane’ and ‘St. Nicholas Drive’. So it’s only befitting to have a ‘Santa Claus’ live there. According to his Facebook page, Claus is “the only man legally named Santa Claus ever to live in North Pole, Alaska.”

And now Claus in the news for recently running for a city council seat. His profile picture shows him sporting a bushy white beard and red clothes, but unlike his namesake, he seems to be quite a serious guy. “Please do not send me requests for presents,” he posted in the page description.

“Please note that I only reply to business enquiries,” he added on his website. “I do not respond to messages, calls, emails, or letters from children.”
Although he doesn’t hand out gifts, Claus does work for child welfare. “For more than a decade, I have been a volunteer advocate for millions of children who have been abused, neglected, exploited, abandoned, homeless, and institutionalised,” he wrote. “I support organizations and agencies that provide for the health, safety, and welfare of vulnerable children in dire straits.”

Interestingly enough, Mr. Claus also ran for President of the United States in the 2012 elections, but pulled back early in the race, due to lack of support. If only children were allowed to vote, I bet he would have had a real shot. 

Ah well...for my money, stay where you are, Santa. I am sure your life is less hectic than being the Pres. More fun too by the sound of it.

See ya, eh! Ho! Ho! Ho!


Saturday, October 10, 2015

A Fashion Trend That is 'For the Pits"!

G'day to you! How are you doing? Can't complain? Good. Me, neither. I suppose I could but nobody listens anyway. Compain to my doctor and she give me a prescription for more pills and sends me for another test. Coffee's perked; virtual treats are tempting, so dig in, why don't'cha? Say, do you follow the fashion trends? I don't unless I happen upon one that catches my eye while scanning the news from a number of sources each day. Well here's one for you...

In a "manifesto" to celebrate "personal choice and expression" in the standard of beauty "in a society that already places too many harmful standards on women," according to a July New York Times report, some now are dyeing their armpit hair. 

At the Free Your Pits website, and events like "pit-ins" in Seattle and Pensacola, Florida, envelope-pushing women offer justifications ranging from political resistance to, according to one, "want(ing) to freak out (her) in-laws." 

Preferred colors are turquoise, hot pink, purple and neon yellow (for the ladies). 

Okay guys...it's time we fought back. Men have a lot more hair that most women so forget the emasculating 'manscaping', crap! Stick out your hairy chest and dye it the colours of your favourite sports team, eh! Me? Golly gee. I would but I don't really have a favourite sports team...not after last night and the Blue Jays dropped their second post-season game in a row. They now need to win three in a row to keep going.

See ya, eh!


Source: [New York Times, 7-16-2015]

Friday, October 9, 2015

Tuk-Tuk Dress for Miss Universe Thailand

Sawatdee, krap! How's it going today, krap? Glad you could glide by on your daily cyber flightpath. Coffee's hot, virtual treats are hot and Miss Universe Thailand is hot! Though her costume, well...

Seriously, how awesomely tacky is this?

Thai architecture? That's been done. Muay Thai? Done. Thai puppets? Done. What inspirations for national costumes do we have left? Right, our iconic tuk tuk.

Thais have high hopes the country will win the best national costume at the Miss Universe competition this year after the announcement today that Miss Thailand, Aniporn Chalermburanawong, will represent the nation in the 'Tuk Tuk Thailand' dress.

The dress was designed by Hirankrit Paipibulkul, a cultural scholar, and will be made with chromium and real lights.

Feedback about the dress has so far been positive. Pageant fans are beyond happy with this weird-yet-wonderful costume because it will definitely make Aniporn stand out, especially if there was a horn for her to honk when she screams out “Thailand!!!!” when she introduces herself at the Miss Universe contest.

Yeah! More coffee, please...and a couple Thai doughnuts (patong-go-go-go!).

See ya, eh!


Source: http://bangkok.coconuts.co/2015/10/07/tuk-tuk-dress-wins-national-costume-contest-miss-universe-thailand

Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Vernissage

Well hi there! Thanks for clicking by. Coffee's brewed and the virtual treats are fresh out of the oven so help yourself. Say, you know I have two of my paintings in the Art Show at Cornwall's Public Library, right? Well last night was the 'vernissage'...

A vernissage (varnishing, from French) is a term used for a preview of an art exhibition, which may be private, before the formal opening. If the vernissage is not open to the public, but only for invited guests, it is often called a private view.

The Exhibition was organized by Focus Art... the association to which I belong and I attended both to support the organization and also because I had two paintings on display. I am glad I went. It was a chance to talk with fellow artists I don't often see. Note my 'Moonlight Walk' top left in the picture...

There was a good turnout and awards were handed out to many deserving artists. I didn't expect to win a first or second award in either category in which I had a painting because there are so many more talented artists than I am. However, I did pick up an 'Honourable Mention' from the judge for my 'Urban Garden' acrylic painting....note the red ribbon.

The exhibition runs until the 28th of October so if you are in the area, get yourself and your family downtown and browse the art show. Without art, this world would be a terribly dull place, don't you think?

So now, it is time to get back to the blank canvas sitting on my easel, apply what I learned from the judge; work on improving my drawing ability and create some new pieces.

See ya, eh!



Wednesday, October 7, 2015

India’s Lake of Toxic Foam

Well gracious day! Look who dropped out of the cyber sky and landed right next to the coffeepot! Great to see you. Don't get too much froth on your coffee. Help yourself to a delectable virtual treat as well, why don't'cha? Speaking of froth, you're not going to believe this...

Despite its tropical climate, parts of Bangalore city in southern India have been experiencing what looks like snow. Except, it’s not actually snow, but a toxic foam from a severely polluted lake!

The 9,000-acre Bellandur lake is the largest one in the city, and also the most polluted. Decades’ worth of untreated chemical waste and sewage in the lake get churned into a white froth that’s as thick as shaving foam, every time it rains. This froth contains effluents like grease, oil, and detergents that sometimes catch fire, leading to one of the rarest sights in the world – a flaming lake.  

Many local residents are unnerved by the unnatural phenomenon. “Every time it rains and the water flows, the froth raises and navigating this stretch becomes risky,” said Visruth, who lives 30 meters away from the lake. “Due to the froth, visibility is reduced and the area also smells bad. Cars and bikes that pass this area get covered with froth.”

And for Mohammed Attaulla Khan, who grew up around the lake, the sight of it burning in May this year was unforgettable. “It’s not every day that a lake catches fire,” he said. “This should make people wake up and realise that we have a serious problem.”

T.V. Ramachandra, one of the city’s leading environmental scientists, submitted a report to authorities in June, following the bizarre fire. His report explained how “sustained inflow of untreated sewage and effluents” were being churned into froth during heavy rainfall and winds. And he described how something small like a burning cigarette tossed into the lake could cause the foam to ignite.

Unfortunately, local authorities haven’t been able to do much about the situation. With the population swelling at insane rates (nearly doubling to 10 million in the past two decades), local agencies haven’t been able to manage the pollution that came along with the growth. “Because regulatory agencies are weak and don’t have much power or staff, all the polluters are taking advantage,” Ramachandra said. “For the last four decades, we are paying the price.”

Bangalore, once hailed as the ‘City of a Thousand Lakes’, is now being referred to as ‘a land of a thousand sewage tanks’. And Bellandur lake is at a greater disadvantage, lying at the southern end of a chain of lakes. It is said to receive over 130 million gallons of untreated or partially treated sewage from homes and industries all over the city, per day. The foam on the lake this monsoon was reported to be thicker and smellier than previous years. When the winds blew the froth into the streets, obstructing visibility and the flow of traffic.

The foam is also affecting the health of those who come into contact with it. When Ramachandra and his students from the Indian Institute of Science spent an afternoon collecting samples of the foam, they came away with severe rashes. Locals who live close to the lake report headaches, dizziness, and stomach ailments – all of which can be traced back to the polluted waters of the lake.

According to State environment officer Siddaramaiah, the government has issued notices to the concerned municipal agencies to develop an action plan to combat the issue of the chemical froth. And Mayor N Manjunatha Reddy said he’s summoned stormwater drains engineers to visit the area to come up with a solution. “We will ask them about the process of setting up sewage treatment plants to divert sewage from these stormwater drains,” he said.

Wonderful! Just bl**dy wonderful! I think they need to do a little more than issue notices to the concerned municipal agencies to develop an action plan, don't you?

See ya, eh!



Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Japan Is All Set to Introduce Robot Taxis Next Year

Hail! Hail! Hail a cab! How's it going today? Got a doozie for you today so pour yourself a mugful of coffee and snag a virtual treat or two while I bend your ear. I am sure you are current on the row between taxi drivers and Uber, right? Well, it may not be that long before Uber becomes the least of the cabbies worries...

Robot Taxi Inc., a Tokyo-based company, is gearing up to bring self-driving robot taxis to Japan’s roads early next year. They’ve invited residents to try out the taxi service in Fujisawa, in Kanagawa Prefecture. 50 people are all set to take part in the experiment. 

According to Robot Taxi, the new cabs will take residents to pre-decided supermarkets about three kilometers from their homes. A company attendant will be present in the driver’s seat for safety reasons. The self-driving cars will be equipped with GPS, millimeter-wave radar, stereo vision cameras, and image analysis technologies. 

The local government is fully supportive of the firm’s initiative, given that they’ve already tested automated cars on expressways before. But this will be the first time on local roads with residents. “This time, the robot taxi experiment will be conducted on actual city streets,” said government official Yuji Kuroiwa.

Robot Taxi president Hiroshi Nakajima said that this will probably be the first test in the world to offer automated cars to actual residents for shopping trips. If the test run next year is successful, it will pave the way for a broader launch of automated taxis in Japan in 2020. Nakajima also revealed that the firm plans on testing other applications of the car, like how it can be used during natural disasters.

“There are a lot of people who say it’s impossible,” said Shinjiro Koizumi, son of former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi. “But I think this will happen faster than people expect.”

Robot Taxi is a joint venture between DeNA Co., a maker of video games – go figure – and ZMP Inc., a developer of automated driving technologies.

So, like, how do you flag one of these robo-cabs down, eh? Someone should invent an app for smartphones that robo-cabs can recognize and respond to assuming they are empty. But...if they are empty, will they be cruising the streets? Another question to resolve. 

Personally, I would be quite happy to see robot taxies. I have had my share of smelly cabs full of cigarette or cigar odours, cabbie and former passenger B.O. and / or overly perfumed cars, haven't you?

Reminiscing: I recall being in New York City once and staying at the then hotel attached to the then World Trade Center. I had a luncheon appointment uptown at the Waldorf Hotel with a friend and hotelier. When I got in a cab in front of the hotel and said "The Waldorf, please!", the cabbie had no idea what I was talking about. The Waldorf is one of the most famous landmarks in the city, already! The cabbie was an immigrant from Haiti so I helped him, in French, to wend his way up through NYC traffic and we eventually made it...though a tad late.

Got a good taxi story to share?  Email me and I'll share it later in my blog.

See ya, eh!


Monday, October 5, 2015

8 Smart Tips For Brain Health You Need to Know

Hi there! Great to see you. Got a few minutes for a mug of Arabica juice and a virtual treat? It’s pumpkin muffin with cream cheese season so help yourself. Bit of a long post today so better take 2! Careful though, make sure that what you eat is on the ‘Mind Diet’. Following that is one of the 8 brain tips today. Read on...

1. Follow the MIND diet

A new diet could lower the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by over 50%, a study finds.
It is known as the ‘MIND diet’, which stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay.
It is a combination of a Mediterranean diet and a diet developed for cardiovascular health (DASH: Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension).
Here are the ten “brain-healthy food groups”:
  • Green leafy vegetables,
  • other vegetables,
  • nuts,
  • berries,
  • beans,
  • whole grains,
  • fish,
  • poultry,
  • olive oil
  • and wine.(Yeah!)
More details of the diet are here.

2. Avoid air pollution

Living further away from major roadways has been linked to better brain health by new research.
Long-term exposure to even moderate levels of air pollution, the study found, is bad for the brain.
Air pollution may cause poor cognitive function and ‘silent strokes’, which have been linked to dementia.
The study also found that people exposed to more air pollution had smaller brains.

3. Drink some alcohol…but not too much

For people over 60, light or moderate alcohol intake is associated with better recall of past events, according to a recent study.
Links were also found between increased size of the hippocampus — the area of the brain crucial to memory — and moderate alcohol consumption.

4. Get enough vitamin D

Low levels of Vitamin D are substantially associated with developing Alzheimer’s and dementia in older people, according to the best study conducted so far.
An international team of scientists used data from 1,685 elderly Americans who were followed for around five years (Littlejohns et al., 2014).
Those low in Vitamin D were 53% more likely to develop dementia.
Amongst those who were severely deficient, the risk increased by 125%.
Similar increases in risk were seen for Alzheimer’s disease: low levels of vitamin D increased risk by 69% and severe deficiency by 122%.

5. Remain calm

Anxiety, jealousy and moodiness in middle age are associated with doubling the risk of developing Alzheimer’s, a recent study found.
The study followed 800 women for 38 years and looked at the effects of their neuroticism on the chance of developing dementia.
Neuroticism is a personality trait that includes moodiness, worrying and anxiety.
In general, people who are neurotic are more likely to be anxious, depressed, jealous or envious.
More neurotic women who were under high levels of stress were more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.

6. Sleep well…

Poor sleep is a channel through which Alzheimer’s disease can be triggered, a new study finds.
Professor Matthew Walker, one of the neuroscientist who authored the study, said:
“Sleep is helping wash away toxic proteins at night, preventing them from building up and from potentially destroying brain cells.
It’s providing a power cleanse for the brain.
Sleep could be a novel therapeutic target for fighting back against memory impairment in older adults and even those with dementia.”

7. …and get slow-wave sleep

Spending less time in slow-wave or deep sleep is linked to the loss of brain cells that can lead to dementia, a new study finds.
Slow-wave sleep, which occurs mostly in the first three hours of the night, is when the brain processes thoughts and memories.
The results also showed that those who got the most slow-wave or deep sleep performed better on tests of both thinking and memory.

8. Small amount of exercise

A relatively small increase in exercise is enough to boost brain function in older adults, a new study finds.
The amount of exercise that’s beneficial is equivalent to a brisk 25-minute walk several times a week.
Healthy over-65s who exercised more had better attention and ability to focus, the research found.
Professor Jeffrey Burns, co-director of the Kansas University Alzheimer’s Disease Center, said:
“Basically, the more exercise you did, the more benefit to the brain you saw.
Any aerobic exercise was good, and more is better.”

Okay, well, let’s see...two things I need to do to adjust my diet. Right now, I don’t drink any alcohol and I don’t drink wine (I know...wine is alcohol but let’s pretend it’s a separate issue for the sake of the above, okay?) Obviously these are the ones I need to change.  I do have a new doctor so there's hope there...


See ya, eh!