How Snapchat’s clever Filters Work Science, Technology & Curiosity 01 JUL 2016

It’s pretty cool to see just how many of the then in their infancy fields from Computer Science back when I was doing my B.BusSc at the University of Cape Town have matured and now find themselves commonplace in general society today.

snapchat face filter rainbow vomit from a pretty girl

Take the extremely clever Snapchat video filters for example. The app basically runs facial recognition combined with mesh building algorithms in real time, with the end result being a frightfully good, augmented reality system… on a smartphone!

The always informative Vox takes a closer look:

That is some seriously clever algorithm work in action!

Related Link: Vox | YouTube

Seeker Daily asks “How Corrupt is South Africa?” Science, Technology & Curiosity 30 JUN 2016

When it comes to YouTube, the majority of clips that I choose watch are informative, and so channels like DNews, It’s Okay to Be Smart, Last Week Tonight and Vox et al. all make a strong showing on my YouTube front page. I particularly enjoy Seeker Daily (formerly known as TestTube Network), which, as they themselves state, is a channel “is committed to answering the smart, inquisitive questions people have about life, society, politics and anything else happening in the news. It’s a place where curiosity rules and together we’ll get a clearer understanding of this crazy world we live in.”

So I was rather pleased this week when my beloved country South Africa popped onto their radar for a bit.

nelson mandela statue in front of the union buildings in pretoria, south africa

Sadly though, it was for all the wrong reasons, because the question they were tackling for the day was “How Corrupt is South Africa?”.

It is of course not the whole or even an completely informed version of the story, but it is perhaps an excellent representation of how South Africa does currently look in the eyes of the West.

Which is a bit of a pity to be honest.

This isn’t a fair picture. The country as a whole is not corrupt, just certain aspects – and those are almost entirely at the points where business meets government. In other words, the exact same problem that occurs all over the world, to both rich and poor countries alike!

Related Link: Seeker Daily | YouTube

Visit South Korea’s saucy Loveland Theme Park with Episode 3 of East West Travel Attractions 29 JUN 2016

East West, the documentary style travel show that follows South Africans from all walks of life around globe and depicts their daily lives against the backdrop of their adopted culture, returns for episode 3 with an interview with English teacher Chantal Terblanche in her South Korean surroundings, followed by a look around Busan and then a trip to the popular Jeju Island.

Naturally, a trip to Jeju Island isn’t complete without mention or view of the saucy naughty erotic theme park Loveland… which is exactly what hosts Retha and Miguel do!

Episode 4 of this great web series should be out pretty soon, with the team moving on from South Korea and scouting out South Africans in Thailand next…

Related Link: East West | YouTube

Things to See in USA: The USS Midway Museum in San Diego Travel Attractions 28 JUN 2016

If you are down in California, paying a visit to San Diego, and perhaps have just the slightest of interest in all things military, then it would be particularly foolish to skip out on making a trip down to the USS Midway Museum!

uss midway museum aircraft carrier naval museum in san diego, usa 1

The massive decommissioned aircraft carrier USS Midway, previously America’s longest-serving aircraft carrier (1945-1992) is now a dedicated museum ship, housing an extensive collection of naval aircraft and over 60 ship exhibits brought to live by a self-guided audio tour.

Exhibits range from the crew’s sleeping quarters to a massive galley, engine room, the ship’s jail, officer’s country, post office, machine shops, and pilots’ ready rooms, as well as primary flight control and the bridge high in the island over the flight deck.

uss midway museum aircraft carrier naval museum in san diego, usa 3

Included in the ships restored aircraft inventory is a cornucopia of naval fighters stretching from World War II to Operation Desert Storm. Expect to view planes like the SBD Dauntless dive bomber, the TBM Avenger, F9F Panther, F-4 Phantom, A-6 Intruder and F/A-18 Hornet just to name but a few!

The museum is berthed at Navy Pier which has more than 300 parking spaces. It also is within walking distance of public transportation and other downtown San Diego waterfront attractions.

uss midway museum aircraft carrier naval museum in san diego, usa 5

Opened on 7 June 2004,d by 2012 the USS Midway Museum’s annual visitation exceeded 1 million visitors. As of 2015, Midway now also boasts the tag of being the most popular naval warship museum in the United States!

In other words, a massively popular attraction.

uss midway museum aircraft carrier naval museum in san diego, usa 6

uss midway museum aircraft carrier naval museum in san diego, usa 7

Related Link: USS Midway Museum | Wikipedia

Milk, Tetra Pak and #MilkForChange
[Partner Content] 27 JUN 2016

The beginning of this month saw the roll out of the #MilkForChange campaign which saw Tetra Pak and Feed SA team up to fight undernourishment among South Africa’s larger communities and educate consumers about the nutritional benefits of long life milk.

Outside of the long life milk donations made by Tetra Pak and the other participants like Clover, Parmalat and Woodlands, consumers like you and I were encouraged to buy and donate boxes of long life milk during the week of May 26 to June 1 – which just so happens to have been World Milk Day!

Feed SA then collected the donated milk, audited the volumes and started the process of delivering this nutritious gift to communities in need – a worthy campaign indeed.

bty

As we all already know, milk and dairy products in general are more than just a little good for us. Nutrient dense, milk provides high quality protein and micronutrients that are easily absorbed, plus it also happens to be an ideal source of protein and calcium – not to mention a source of some essential vitamins and minerals.

Long life milk is fresh milk that undergoes UHT (Ultra-High Temperature, or Ultra Heat Temperature), a process whereby the milk is pasteurised at a high temperature but for a shorter time, thus preserving both taste and nutrition. UHT is a key ingredient to producing fresh milk that lasts long without resorting to the use of any preservatives.

Combine this with the sterile, multi layer Tetra Pak carton that locks in all the goodness, and you get a nourishing product that requires no refrigeration until the package is opened – in other words perfect for stockpiling and thus conveniently completely load shedding proof! ;)

To learn more about Tetra Pak and Milk, check out their informative website here, and for more information on the Milk for Change campaign, click here.

dairy cows in a green field

As that long running American ad campaign used to say, “Got Milk?”

Related Link: Milk for Change Campaign

How does a Baby Nappy (Disposable Diaper) Work? Science, Technology & Curiosity 26 JUN 2016

A disposable baby nappy is actually quite a cleverly designed product, the current iterations consisting of five different layers, each with its own specialized role to play. Furthermore, the superabsorbent polymer in the diaper’s core is unbelievable in terms of its ability to soak up massive amounts of liquid!

hand changing a baby nappy

EngineerGuy, otherwise known as engineering professor Bill Hammack, is a well known science and technology documentarian who has gone ahead and put together this very informative video on what is quite an… absorbing topic:

As much as I moan about the cost of nappies, these brilliant little things really do make life with a baby/toddler so much easier!

Related Link: EngineerGuy | YouTube

Learn about Mammals and Frogs with the Sasol Young Explorer App Software & Sites 25 JUN 2016

Penguin Random House contacted me and asked me to sit down with Jessica and have a go at the very nice Sasol Young Explorer Apps – of which there are currently two, namely Mammals and Frogs.

sasol young explorer app mammals android screenshot 1

The apps are multilingual, allowing you to switch between English, Afrikaans, IsiXhosa and IsiZulu on the fly, which opens up their use to quite a wide audience.

Each app is split into two main ‘sections’, a play area which includes a number of animal-themed mini games (for example, different sized puzzles and memory games), and a learning section, which is chock-a-block full of beautifully illustrated animals, each with their own info page, sound bite, and even video footage!

sasol young explorer app mammals android screenshot 2

The apps are well designed and very easy to use, and before long I found Jessica (with an observing Emily in tight next to her) quite independently sitting on the couch, giggling as she systematically made her way through all the animals and games.

sasol young explorer app mammals android screenshot 3

This is a pretty good animal resource for kids, and I can’t wait to have the Mammals edition along the next time we enter a game reserve with the girls – I suspect that they may finally have some use as useful game spotters! :P

Related Link: Sasol Young Explorer Apps | Google Play

The Play-Doh Town Pet Store Toys 24 JUN 2016

Oh. Hasbro has gone and expanded the Play-Doh universe by introducing Play-Doh Town, which I guess is aimed then at slightly older preschoolers. The concept is pretty cool – essentially you now have a host of townsfolk characters and locations to play with, which obviously is great because you now get to build stories in addition to just messing around with clay!

dav

Thanks to a friendly blogger drop from Atmosphere, Jessica received the Pet Store play set to test out, which has a whole lot of moulds that allow you to press out animal shapes to fill the storefront up with. You can also create hairstyles and slippers for the pet store owner, as well as bunny ears for her companion rabbit.

It seems a pretty fun idea, especially if you have more of the sets in the Play-Doh Town series, and I can definitely see how this might make Play-Doh playtime a whole lot more fun!

hasbro play-doh town playsets

Related Link: Hasbro | Play-Doh Town

Loot.co.za and MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet Partner Up! #newbestfriend
[Partner Content] 23 JUN 2016

The MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet initiative has always been a great idea – simply swipe your card with any purchase from one of their retail partners and in doing so, one of your three chosen charities automatically receive a small percentage from your purchase as a donation. So you pretty much do nothing and charities benefit – how is that not a brilliant initiative?!?

loot.co.za and myschool join forces

Pleasingly, my favourite online retailer Loot.co.za (favourite because their office is right next to mine in the Westlake Business Park, making pickups a breeze!), has now joined up as a new retail partner for the MySchool MyVillage My Planet programme – as the campaign says, #newbestfriend indeed!

(This means that thanks to the increased footprint of 14 mllion products across 17 departments all in one digital store, MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet now has the potential to do even more good above and beyond what it is already doing!)

Also, to celebrate the launch of this great partnership between the two, 2,300 new tutudesks have been handed over to the foundation for distribution to schools without resources!

Anyway, I gave the process a spin to see how simple it is to use in this new online shopping format, and as you might have guessed… it remains pretty simple.

Browse Loot.co.za as you normally would, drop a few items into your shopping cart (like the above adorable Lego Duplo), and head over to the checkout process. Just above the “Select a payment menthod” box you’ll see a section for “Loyalty partners”. Click on the checkbox next to the MySchool MyVillage My Planet image and enter your MySchool card number in the text box that appears.

It is literally as simple as that – it doesn’t cost you a cent but at the same time ensures that some much needed donations heads off the way of your selected charities! Brilliant.

(For instance, if you are based in the Helderberg like I am, then consider nominating Heartlands Baby Sanctuary – based in Somerset West/Strand – as one of your charities, as they desperately need the donations to continue doing the amazing work that they do in caring for abandoned, abused, neglected children and children diagnosed with life limiting and life threatening illnesses!)

loot.co.za-and-myschool-myvillage-myplanet

So yes, #newbestfriend Loot.co.za and MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet is definitely great news!

(Oh, and just a footnote. Existing Loot.co.za customers who don’t have a MySchool card just yet, can sign up online at www.myschool.co.za to get their free card delivered right to their door!)

Xander: Educational Apps for Young Children Software & Sites 22 JUN 2016

Created by Stellenbosch-based app development house Tribage App Studio, Xander Apps are educational mobile apps aimed at promoting mother-tongue learning for young children – with apps built in English, Afrikaans, Xhosa, Zulu, Swahili, and Tswana!

Fronted by the cute dinosaur mascot Xander, there are currently 3 main apps available:

(Oh, because my girls are English, and I mainly use Android, I’ll be referencing those versions in particular…)

Xander English 123 (Google Play)

“English 123 is an English educational app for young children that teaches numeracy using child-friendly counting beads and characters from the animal kingdom. Xander, the lovable narrator, guides your child through four learn-through-play activities involving vision, hearing and touch to teach them how to count to 10 in English.”

Xander English Shapes & Colours (Google Play)

“English Shapes and Colours is an English educational app for your children that teaches six basic shapes and the primary and secondary colours using age appropriate games. Here Xander guides your child through six learn-through-play activities involving vision, hearing and touch to teach them to identify shapes and colours.”

Xander English Wardrobe (Google Play)

“English Wardrobe is an English educational app for young children that teaches them the names (and pronunciation) for different body parts, clothing and weather.”

xander english 123 educational app screenshot

In general, the Xander apps are aimed at a younger target audience, though it is interesting to watch both Jessica and Emily get something quite different out of each app.

Anyway, check out their website for more on the team, what they do and how your children can benefit from their work!

Related Link: Xander Apps

The Cute as a Button Emily Dress from Parental Instinct Blogging 21 JUN 2016

A little while ago, Baby Steps let us know that Emily needed to come to playschool the next day dressed as a sports player – all very well and fun, but not so great when you don’t actually own anything even remotely sporty for your little girl toddler!

However, as luck would have it, a beautifully packaged blogger drop from the team at Frontpage Communications on behalf of Parental Instinct arrived at our front door in the afternoon – and wouldn’t you believe it, inside the box was the cutest toddler polo/tennis dress I’ve ever seen!

You want to know something ever more funny? That particular dress is called… wait for it – The Emily Dress! Talk about a happy coincidence.

Emily was of course thrilled to come home to this awesome surprise, and very proudly went to playschool the next day to show off her cute as a button tennis dress to anyone and everyone that she could find!

Actually, pretty much all the Parental Instinct clothing line is awesome. Started by two sport, style and design-loving dads, Paddy Muldoon and Chris Baff (who between them have 37 years spent in the design, production and marketing of sportswear), Parental Instinct was initially dreamed up as a humour-fuelled business idea, but then turned into a very clever movement for producing good looking, easy to care for, and even easier to use children’s wear.

“By taking the innovations trusted in sportswear and applying them to iconic children’s wear essentials, each of Parental Instinct’s unique products include stain resistant and release nano-technology, as well as colour-coded snaps in an attempt to make parenting as easy as pie.”

Oh, and in case that all sounds a bit like marketing guff, they even released a video about what they mean:

Very clever.

Related Link: Parental Instinct | Emily Dress

How does an Airplane Black Box (Flight Recorder) Work? Science, Technology & Curiosity 20 JUN 2016

No one is 100% sure why we refer to airplane flight recorders as black boxes – considering the fact that they are almost always painted bright orange! It could be that maybe the name comes from the fact that after an accident, the box is usually blackened thanks to the fire damage, or perhaps it simply took on the engineering term for an input device which given some inputs, does some magic internally and then spits out something else.

However, despite the media’s preference for calling this device a black box, it is more correct to call it a flight recorder – after all, that’s how the aviation industry refers to it in the first place!

bright orange flight recorder airplane black box

Anyway, the media team over at Vox have put together a nice video explaining just how these data recorders are put together, as well as what data they store:

So, with cockpit audio recordings as well as numerous airplane instrument readouts stored, it is no wonder that flight recorders are so invaluable to investigators following an air disaster!

Related Link: Vox | YouTube

East West: South Africans Zabroad Episode 2 now available Travel Attractions 19 JUN 2016

I thoroughly enjoyed the first episode from the East West team of Miguel and Retha, a web series showcasing South Africans living abroad.

South Africans ZAbroad East West Ep. 2 Seoul, South Korea - YouTube

Pleasingly, the second episode in the series has just been released, continuing their look at South Africans living in Seoul (the capital of South Korea) – this time featuring Cape Town film maker Raoul Dyssell and the man behind South African wine on tap, Tobias Jerling.

Definitely worth watching:

Nice, right? Now hit the subscribe button – I suspect it’s just going to keep on getting better and better!

Related Link: East West | YouTube

Coffee at Mondeor and a Stroll around Cape Garden Centre (2016-06-16) Photo Gallery 18 JUN 2016

Of all the things to catch, I was stuck at home in quarantine with German Measles for a week. My period of quarantine ended the day before Thursday’s Youth Day public holiday, so I promptly escaped my cabin by taking the kids out for supper at the Sunset Bay Spur here in Gordon’s Bay. (Which naturally they rather enjoyed.)

The next day was of course the public holiday, and so after making pancakes for the girls and myself for breakfast, doing a bit of gardening and DIY, and chilling for a teeny tiny bit, I took the girls out with me for a walk around Paardevlei in Somerset West. (Which they kind of enjoyed, but less so than the previous evening’s trip to the Spur!)

Anyway, by the end of our stroll Chantelle’s shift at work had finished, so we rung her up and organised a coffee date at Mondeor Garden Restaurant – always a hit with the girls thanks to their great outdoor play area.

Despite the chilly weather, the girls ran around and entertained themselves, leaving Chantelle and myself to enjoy some nice coffee and every now and then, steal a sip from the girls’ milkshakes.

Oh, and because we were in no rush to get back home, we then strolled around for a bit in the adjacent Cape Garden Center, marveling at all the pretty flowers and wishing that they would somehow just transplant themselves straight into our garden without any intervention from us at all!

Oh, and an embedded map, because I think that this might become a sort of regular thing for the blog…

Related Link: Mondeor Garden Restaurant | Cape Garden Centre

Doing the Paardevlei Nature Walk around the Vlei (2016-06-16) Photo Gallery 17 JUN 2016

With the breakfast pancakes made, a little bit of gardening done and dusted, a small bit of DIY under the belt, and the shopping mission now complete, I decided to continue our Youth Day 2016 public holiday by taking Jessica and Emily out for a walk about Paardevlei in Somerset West/Strand – something I myself was quite eager to do seeing as I haven’t yet strolled around the vlei either!

The historic Paardevlei site is in an interesting transition phase at the moment, slowly transforming itself from its industrial roots (a long time AECI dynamite factory complex) into a modern mix of small business and residential units (and an ultra modern hospital for good measure!), using its beautiful Herbert Baker and Francis Massey buildings (which date back to the late 1890s) and consequential design guides, as well as the natural beauty that comes from the relatively recently rehabilitated vlei (Paardevlei, from where the precinct takes it name), to potentially become a much sought after destination in the area.

With beautiful walkways lined with all manner of sculpture art, Paardevlei has a little Nature Walk section, the entrance to which can be found right next to the Cheetah Outreach Center. There are a lot of future plans for this nature walk of course, but for now, you have a small trail that runs around the vlei, dotted with seating areas and great views of the diverse bird life that populates the area.

A nice surprise is the large flock of flamingos that call the vlei home, and the girls and I rather enjoyed spending some time just sitting and watching these big birds go about their business in the water. Naturally, Jessica and Emily were very firm in the fact that there was no way we were going to walk the whole way around the vlei, so I had to make do with just part of the trail done!

Oh, and the art sculptures are for the most part pretty interesting too!

Related Link: Paardevlei | Paardevlei History