Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Brain training?

I'm currently doing a daily dose of Brain Training via Lumiosity.  Whether it can actually be called "brain training" is under discussion after the US Federal Trade Commission earlier this month announced a settlement with Lumosity over charges that advertising its games as "brain training" and that they were designed to improve cognitive skills such as attention and memory and that they were capable of improving an individual's performance on everyday tasks may not be supportable.  Either way, I'm prepared to give it a go after my brother said it was helping him ... and I think there are some games there that do stretch me ... especially with visual memory tasks.  One of the hardest things though is remembering what the rules of the games are ... and yes, mostly I do the traing "daily" but sometimes I don't get to it.  I wonder how much science the FTC would need to see to be convinced that it did support Lumosity's claims.  Maybe it's a matter that the games are "designed" to help with brain training ... and they don't always work. 
Some people don't need to do the training of course ... they just have it.  Like the time my sister and I were peeling potatoes and popping them into a saucepan of water ... and then a potato went in and the water was close to overflowing.  We angsted over how to carry the saucepan to the sink so we could pour some water out until my partner suggest we "take a potato out".  Oh my goodness ... what brilliance!  One of my work colleagues came very close to that level of brilliance yesterday ... we were trying to print out a file which had too long a name - once the directory information was added. We couldn't change the file name, nor copy it, nor get it to do anything really ... every time we tried the name "too long" rewarded our efforts.  Finally, Del solved the problem ... she renamed the folder the file was in!  Bravo! 

No. 1 in shoplifting?

Why are razor blades the most shoplifted item in the world?  What do people do with them ... besides shaving, cutting drugs, eating them?  What else can you do with them.  Artists use them, people use them for cutting things ... but you would have to think there are safer ways where you're not going to risk losing a finger.  And how on earth did they decide blades were the most desirable target for our light-fingered friends?  When we discussed the possibilities at Trivia we considered chocolate and other confectionery, pens, and other things but we didn't give razor blades a single thought.  And how would you best test their answer?  A quick interweb search shows that razor blades (Gillette Quartro or something like that) is on the list, but around 4 or 5.  Gourmet meat and expensive perfume are right up there as well.

Starry starry night

Normal bulbs around the world are being replaced with LED (light emitting diodes) which, while they are energy efficient and much cheaper to run, do generate much more light pollution.  This means that even though astronauts can see Earth, Earth may not be able to see them.  I wonder if it would be different if they gave them a red hue - like the red lighting they use in some centres in the US (and possibly elsewhere) where all the exterior illumination is red, which throws very little light pollution and makes the environment great for star-gazing. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Heavenly bodies

$4 million ... that was what NASA had originally budgetted for Earth defence a few years ago - and while that could be defence against anything (or anyone), I think they meant asteroids and other space bodies.  Well, the good news is that the budget has just been increased to $50 million and there is now a Department at NASA with the responsibility of keeping us all safe from "potential doomsday asteroids".
As the report said: The Planetary Defense Coordination Office will oversee all of the space agency's efforts to detect and track near-earth objects, and coordinate with other federal agencies as well as other nations if and when it becomes necessary. 
It doesn't say more than that ... so people can use their imagination to work out what that might mean.  The Head of the Department, with the title Planetary Defense Officer, would probably know though.
"The formal establishment of the Planetary Defense Coordination Office makes it evident that the agency is committed to perform a leadership role in national and international efforts for detection of these natural impact hazards, and to be engaged in planning if there is a need for planetary defense," Lindley Johnson said in NASA news release.
Word is that, closer to home, there's also a US plan to deal with the Zombie Apocalypse. 

Sounds rough

There was something in one of the media outlets the other day asking why it was that animals make different sounds in different languages.   I've not had the much experience with animals overseas but it does seem like they would make more or less the same sounds the world over ... but apparently you wouldn't think so if you heard "Old McDonald Had a Farm" sung in different languages.  It just makes me want to travel overseas and listen to some animals ... like the cats throughout Rome, some bears in Yosemite, dogs in San Ramon, and some otters in Scotland.  

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Changing times

The only thing constant is change ... isn't that what they say?  One of the cleverest things I think a barista can do is coffee art ... drawing something in the foam on the top of your drink.  I've seen people draw some amazing pictures ... and somewhere deep in my photo archives I have some wonderful shots of those pictures.  But it looks as though this might be a dying art ... according to recent reports coming from the CES in the US, a company has invented a device which will be able to print images on the top of your coffee.  The "stencil" will come in hundreds of designs and will be customisable for company logo, football team emblems, almost anything.  It means the days of the leaf design on the flat white are well and truly numbered.  And while this may be "progress", it does feel as though the world has somehow become a sadder place.

Word/s of the year

Even though it says on social media that any quiz you do on Facebook can lead to your data become less than private, it seems very difficult to resist them.  It was interesting that both a friend of mine and I had obviously both done the same quiz ... what is your word for the year.  I tried my name and came up with "Joy" - which was fair enough; but I wondered if it might be rigged in some way ... so I put in my nickname and the quiz came back with "Innovation" - much better ... but all in all not a bad combination.  When I was telling my friend this, she told me her words of the year were "Beauty" and "Simplicity".  Not bad ... not bad at all ... but then I wondered how she was able to get two words ... had she put in two names as well?  Well, as it turns out she hadn't put in any names.  She had just decided that she would have two areas to focus on this year and there were ... Beauty and Simplicity.  She didn't even know there was a quiz on Facebook!

It can't be true!

Who knew that something on the internet could be false, untrue, even a fib!  I refer of course to the story I read some time ago .. and why would I doubt it ... even question it ... that Winston Churchill's level of anger in the WarRoom could be judged by if his teeth flew out of his mouth while he was shouting - and then smashed against the wall.  The false teeth were of unconventional construction ... they were made of wood.  And I believed that until last night at Trivia when we were trying to work out the baffler - one of the questions was "I used to be made of wood" - and, of course, I trotted out the Winston Churchill story.  St questioned it ... and based on that, I went for another look on the internet ... and what do you know, there was a different story this time ... about the sale of Winston's Churchill dentures ... and they weren't made of wood!  I felt cheated!