When I Say “Grandpa”, You Say “Bot”

I love technology, but I don’t like the idea of using it as a cure for loneliness. But a lot of people are getting this idea, and designing gadgets for people who spend too much time alone, like seniors and young single people, but especially seniors.

First up is Hasbro’s companion robot golden retriever. They have also made a robot cat, which…damn it all, makes me think of this song.

Anyway, back to the dog. It makes cute puppy sounds, has a life-like fur coat and mimics the soft breathing and heartbeat of a dog when you pet it. That does sound kind of adorable, and I can see the appeal of all the fun of a dog without the feeding and picking up of poop, but there’s another problem. This robot dog can’t move on its own, so you have to go get it.

So, if you’re a senior whose mobility is so poor that you can’t get out much, hence the whole loneliness problem, wouldn’t it be terrible to have a cuddly puppy-like thing that you’d just love to hold, but you can’t reach it? Couldn’t you at least make it so the thing comes when you say its name? I mean, it costs over $100. That’s an expensive stuffed animal.

Next up is Kirobo, made by Toyota. It is supposed to be a 10-inch doll-like robot thing that responds to speech and chatters mindlessly at you. But again, you have to carry it around, and it can’t do anything useful. I mean, at least the robot dog mimics the heartbeat and breathing of an animal, which might produce the health effects of petting a dog. Sure, you could say that talking to a lonely person is useful, but it won’t be if the conversation is meaningless. I imagine it will do one of two things: frustrate the heck out of the person trying to talk to this thing, and diminish the person’s social skills so that when they actually talk to another human, they won’t be able to do it. And you can have all of this for the low low price of $500. Hey! Wasn’t Jibo about that much? Oh, he was a little more. As much as he was creepy, at least he could be useful.

I guess I’m not the only person who doesnt like this trend. The Society of Saint-Vincent-de-Paul commissioned an ad predicting what the future would be if we went all robot caregivers. Sure, their main job is supplying folks in need of support with volunteers, but I can see their point.

I included the link and embedded the video because some of the stuff in the video is described in the article.

A robot doesn’t understand the finer points of human interaction. Everything the robot does makes perfect logical sense, but it doesn’t work at all because humans aren’t always logical.

After talking about lonely seniors, I have this overwhelming need to call Grandma. Maybe I’ll do that now.

I Take On This Same Train Every Week

I saw this a few months ago but kept forgetting to post it…which is a terrible oversight since it has two themes we looove: people having close calls with trains, and the idea that something crazy happened to a person again, and it’s mentioned in the headline.

It says here that at the beginning of May, a woman drove through a railway crossing outside Garner, North Carolina, while the arm was down and the lights and bells were doing what lights and bells do when the arm is down. She got through the crossing, but slammed into a tree to avoid getting hit by the train. She was lucky enough to only suffer some damage to the front of her car.

That would have been mildly weird and kind of disturbing since how the heck did she miss the arm being down, the lights flashing and the bells dinging. But I guess I could chalk that up to some really good luck, and hope she would have a renewed healthy respect for railway crossings.

That’s not what happened here. Two weeks later, the same woman took a gamble at the same railway crossing. Although she didn’t do as well, she still wound up pretty lucky. I will stress that again, the arm was down and the lights and bells were working properly and she drove through anyway, or tried to. But this time, she got stuck and got lambasted by the train, giving her a new bunch of damage to the back end of the car to match the tree damage at the front which, I might add, was still there when she had accident no. 2.

Miraculously, she only suffered minor injuries, and tried to refuse medical attention but was taken to hospital anyway.

In my younger days I would have laughed uproariously and called her a moron. Now, I just wonder what was or is wrong with her. Hopefully she will steer clear of railway crossings for the foreseeable future…but that’s probably too much to hope for. Maybe I can hope that she will need some time to get a new car, so will be driven around by others who have more sense for a while.

GM Just Launched A Car Sharing Service In Kitchener Waterloo

I won’t be using this on a regular basis myself since the world still hasn’t come around to the idea of giving driver’s licenses to blind people, but I can absolutely imagine giving it a go when we have far away visitors who can drive but don’t have a car or can’t bring it with them. Car-sharing service Maven makes its Canadian debut in Waterloo Region

Maven is a keyless system. Users reserve a car using their Apple or Android phone and the app both unlocks and starts the vehicle via Bluetooth connection. A gas card is kept inside each vehicle. Prices start at $7 per hour for a Chevrolet Spark and range up to $15 per hour for a GMC Yukon.
“The beauty of Maven is it’s a completely keyless operation,” said Hassani. “We’ve got brand new vehicles. We’ve got the best vehicles you can imagine.
“All our cars have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. There is a free Wi-Fi hotspot in each vehicle with unlimited data. [There are] OnStar safety features that nobody else can touch. So, it’s a premium product, a premium offering, nobody else comes close to it, and with really strong price points.”

The company currently has five vehicles — a Chevy Spark, Malibu and Cruze, a GMC Yukon and a Buick Encore — stationed at its Waterloo Region outpost, located in downtown Kitchener off Charles Street West, just across the street from Communitech.

The Trump Incident: Far More Worrisome Than The Sweden Incident

This post would have a perfect soundtrack if only it was available in a form I could embed. But since it’s not, go here and listen. It says it’s playable somewhere there, I couldn’t get it to play…but you could always go buy it. You can see by the lyrics why it fits so perfectly…except for the part where Abe Vigoda has actually died now.

The other day, someone tweeted a question asking why do all the front pages of mainstream media look like the front page of the Onion. I can see why they asked that, with stories like this one.

In the span of a single sentence, President Trump managed to flummox a nation.
“We’ve got to keep our country safe,” Trump said at a campaign-style rally Saturday in Melbourne, Fla. “You look at what’s happening in Germany, you look at what’s happening last night in Sweden — Sweden, who would believe this?”
Swedes, in turn, answered Trump’s question with a question of their own: “Wait — what?”

Yup, we have yet another Bowling Green massacre.

You can’t make this stuff up. In an attempt to justify all his anti-immigration policies, Trump tried to say that Sweden had brought in more refugees than anyone else, and had a terrorist attack on Friday night. Sure, they’ve brought in lots of refugees, but that terrorist attack bit never happened. There have been lots of theories as to what he was talking about…perhaps a report on Fox News about Sweden having high levels of immigration and higher crime than previously…or maybe he mixed up Sweden with the Pakistani town of Sehwan…nobody really knows.

You know Trump has no credibility when the former Swedish prime minister writes “Sweden? Terror attack? What has he been smoking? Questions abound.”

Yup, this totally reads like an Onion story…except for the part where it actually happened. *headdesk* this is going to be a long four years…if he can actually keep the presidency for that long.

Today In Whatever You Say, Buddy: It’s Possible To Kiss A Kid By Accident Three Times. I Know Because I Did It

I’ve heard a lot of terrible excuses for things, and this one’s definitely way up there on that list.

Former Houston substitute teacher Pete Garcia Hernandez, 49, has been charged with three counts of indecency with a child, which is why he is former Houston substitute teacher Pete Garcia Hernandez and not current Houston substitute teacher Pete Garcia Hernandez. But if he’s looking for a new career path, I think he may have found one assuming he can sort out how to make a living by being mercilessly ridiculed. Why? Because when confronted with the allegations made against him by the students in question, he offered the following defense.

According to court documents, three girls in the suspect’s class reported to investigators that Hernandez had kissed them on the mouth, touched their chests and sat them on his lap. When asked about the allegations, Hernandez reportedly told investigators that the kissing happened on accident and that “he was speaking close with them and his tongue accidentally went in their mouth.”

Oopsidaisy!

Well, to be fair, I can’t count the number of times that’s happened to me. My best guess is 0, but I’ve been around a while and my memory sometimes isn’t the greatest. Let me think. … … … … … Yeah, still going with 0.

Just for fun though, let’s pretend for a second that he’s not brimming with excrement and this is actually what happened. Sure would make life interesting, wouldn’t it? Imagine getting into a bar fight. One minute you’re all up in some dude’s area wanting to tear him apart, and the next thing you know you’re planning a wedding and living happily ever after.

But in a sign that even he knew how ridiculous that sounds, Hernandez did later admit that while the children were on his lap he did have some sexual thoughts. This is a huge improvement, since based on his earlier statement the idea that he has thoughts at all seems a bit of a stretch.

I Wanna Get a Gita!

As I sit here, and my arm slightly protests from carrying home a few bags of groceries yesterday, I am reminded again of this Gita helper robot thing I read about the other day, and how I kinda sorta want one.

The team’s first product is Gita, a round rolling robot that can carry up to 40 pounds of cargo for miles at a time. Rather than get you from A to B as fast as possible, it’s meant to get you there more easily.

Can have? Mine?

I can’t count the number of times I have gone out to get dog food for example, dog food that comes in a 30-pound bag, and because it’s too heavy for little ol’ me to carry home, and because I’m a disaster trying to pull a cart and use a cane or dog, I’ve had to cab an otherwise walkable distance to bring the heavy stuff home. If this little robo dude could just toddle along behind me and carry the dog food, I could walk both ways! Yes!

I also like the idea that I don’t have to drive it by using some kind of controller, I just walk, wear a little doo dad and it just does what I do. Admittedly, I would like it to have a slight bit of navigation so it wouldn’t accidentally run over a squirrel \I’m not aware of, or mow down a pack of children running this way and that when I’m not sure where I myself should go, or topple head over wheels down a curb into the street if I don’t direct it exactly to the ramp since it seems to not be able to do stairs, but damn is that ever a good idea!

Now, for the questions. How big is this thing? Does it store easily? How long of a charge does it have? How big is its little cargo hold thingamadoodle where you put stuff? How expensive will it be when it’s available for regular consumers? How heavy is it in case, god forbid, you have to help it over uneven terrain or its charge runs out when you’re not quite home?

Duuuude. I so want to at least play with one of these.

I Had No Idea That All This Stuff Was On Spotify

I’m a big Spotify fan, though sometimes I don’t use it as much as I’d like. It’s already more than worth the subscription price based on the huge selection of music and comedy, but it just got a little better now that I’ve discovered that you can also use it to stream classic novels, short stories, poetry, basic language lessons, classic speeches, meditation exercises and coolest of all for me personally, old radio shows.

Before TV, there was radio drama, and it was glorious. Fortunately, a lot of old radio shows have been saved and are still available for your listening pleasure. You can listen to some sci-fi greats like George Orwell’s radio version of 1984, multiple volumes of the Twilight Zone radio show, and some of Isaac Asimov’s best radio works, like Hostess and Pebble In the Sky. You can also find some great mystery shows like Dragnet, and some vintage superhero stories from the likes of the Blue Beetle. If you’re looking to laugh, I personally recommend the Baby Snooks show.

I wonder how much of that stuff you’d have to listen to before it starts messing with your Discover Weekly or if whatever magic is responsible for features like that filters it out.

If The News And Social Media Are Driving You Bonkers, Maybe Some Of This’ll Help

The news is terrifying. What a shitty place the world is. I’m afraid to go online or turn on the TV. I can’t take it anymore.

I’m hearing these things more and more from people lately and with every mass shooting, bombing, racist incident, protest, Brexit and whatever the fuck is going on in the United States it only gets worse. I’m not sure there’s a one size fits all approach to staying absolutely sane in these times, but there’s some good, common sense advice here that some of you probably need to see.

I have been getting very emotionally caught up in the Internet lately. It hasn’t helped that there has been terrible tragic news on a regular basis and everyone seems to have a strong opinion about it. It also doesn’t help that our country’s election cycle is a circus and someone affiliated with a candidate who is about to lead our country says something stupid or wrong. I’ve felt this trickle down to the point where I’ve started to dislike people I actually like… because of the way they respond to the news cycle online. It’s making me depressed. I know I should “unplug” and be the smarter, patient, understanding person that I want to see in the world, but as a coach and parent, it is also my job to be able to respond to what my kids ask me about the news cycle, and the opinions that they hear. How do I balance this without letting it get to me? Is there any way to be plugged into the world without getting incredibly overwhelmed and saddened by it?
Who isn’t feeling this way lately? Without even clicking through to read articles, the headlines on the front page of CNN.com can feel like an assault. Add in all of the unsolicited (crazy) opinions about these “news” items from people you love on Facebook, and it can be a heroic feat to even look at the internet most days. So, first of all, you’re not wrong to feel this way. This is a very normal, universal response to the current state of things. Here’s how to manage it.

You should read the whole thing if you need it, but the TLDR version basically goes like this:

  • Just because somebody posts it doesn’t mean it’s news. We get information faster than ever before, and an awful lot of it is garbage. It’s perfectly fine to not make time to read it all.
  • Along that same line, pick a non-garbage source or two, get what you need to stay reasonably informed from them and don’t bother with everything else.
  • It’s ok to not know everything about everything all the time, even if you’re the person people tend to come to with questions. Saying you don’t know now and then isn’t a crime.
  • Twitter and Facebook have mute and block functions for a reason. Use ’em.
  • Find comfort in your like-minded friends. Bitch to each other, complain to each other, make fun of the stupid imbeciles that have driven you to this point together.
  • Be a little selfish. It’s ok to unplug and focus on yourself now and then, especially if the alternative is hating everyone.

Like I said, it won’t solve all of the problems (Trump is probably still gonna be here when you come back), but something is certainly better than nothing.

Good luck.

A Scientist Discovered A New Moth Species And Named It After Donald Trump

Pretty sure this is the most pleasant piece of Trump related news I’ve seen since he won the damn election. I doubt I’ll see a better one until the day he’s impeached.

The new species was initially discovered through dissection of Gnorimoschemini material borrowed from the Bohart Museum of Entomology, University of California, Davis (UCBME). Two males and one female from Algodones dunes in Imperial County, California, showed a unique genitalia and wing pattern that did not match known species of Gnorimoschemini. Based on similarities in genitalia of both sexes I associated these with Neopalpa, and this identification was further supported by DNA barcoding.
The scientific name for the new moth species, Nazari determined, would be Neopalpa donaldtrumpi:
The new species can be easily distinguished from N. neonata by its external appearance, the yellowish-white scales covering the frons of the adult head, and the distinctive orange-yellow coloration on the forewing dorsum. In the male genitalia, the valvae are strongly curved, the saccus has an acute tip, and the highly-developed bilobed processes of the vinculum, characteristic of N. neonata [an existing species within this genus], are absent.

If you’re like me and don’t know what the hell most of that means, don’t worry. Snopes has you covered.

And if you’re wondering why we’re naming moths after Donald Trump now, there are two main reasons. One is to raise a little environmental awareness, and the other is because dude’s got some weird damn hair.

The new species is named in honor of Donald J. Trump, to be installed as the 45th President of the United States on January 20, 2017. The reason for this choice of name is to bring wider public attention to the need to continue protecting fragile habitats in the US that still contain many undescribed species. The specific epithet is selected because of the resemblance of the scales on the frons (head) of the moth to Mr. Trump’s hairstyle.