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Clean:

Trashy Tech Talk: How Technology Is Improving Waste Removal

People in metro regions across the United States are experiencing some subtle changes to their surroundings that may or may not be evident to the average passerby. They have to do with options in waste disposal.

Back when the American Dream was firmly in place behind the white picket fences of the suburbs, trash disposal consisted of tying up the family trash bags and leaving them on the curb for the garbage collectors — er, sanitation engineers — to come and remove. There weren’t very many rules and regulations about how, when, where, and what to throw away.

But necessity is the mother of legislation as well as invention. As our awareness of the larger effects of trash disposal has increased, so have our efforts to maximize the efficiency of addressing this need. Even technological advances have come into play, in seemingly small ways that have had a massive impact.

Automated trash collection

Many neighborhoods and cities have a regulated “trash day/night” on which the residents are asked to place their waste at curbside for pickup the following day. However, more populated areas such as colleges and apartment complexes now have an automated trash collection system in operation.

These systems not only help to accommodate the larger volume of waste that’s generated in these areas, but they also reduce the costs of manpower, fuel/energy, and time required to remove the trash.

Homeland Security regulations that govern waste disposal

When we think of the agenda of the Department of Homeland Security, trash disposal might not be one of the things that comes immediately to mind. However, after enduring and studying a series of security emergencies, American regulators have noted the need for a system that will ensure a clean and efficient way to deal with trash cleanup and disposal.

With a now highly regulated hierarchy of how and where trash disposal should take place following a Homeland Security emergency situation, as well as rules that address high-traffic public trash disposal receptacle options, it appears that we have come to realize as a nation that proper waste disposal and cleanup is an important element of maintaining the our national security.

Solar-powered trash compactors

A relatively recent innovation that’s being seen more and more in downtown urban areas is trash compactors on public streets. City waste disposal systems such as Philadelphia’s, which use “Big Belly Trash Cans” have supported a remarkably successful program that reduces the amount of litter on the streets while saving the city millions on trash removal costs.

The City of Brotherly Love has gone a step further and made these high-tech trash bins more environmentally friendly with the installation of solar energy cells to power these compactors.

Too often, we pay more attention to reducing the waste we make than we do to how to dispose of the garbage we generate in a safe and secure fashion. But with the technological innovations we’ve seen in recent decades, we’re finding ways to improve both our awareness of trash creation and the efficiency of our disposal options.

Social:

How Technology Has Revitalized the Real Estate Industry

Technology seems to have reached into many different areas of our lives. Closing a deal for a Carlsbad home like this one can be done by connecting with a real estate agent online.

Social media is just one of the new ways that agents are communicating with prospective clients. Let’s take a closer look.

Online social media sites

Advertising a home on social media services is a powerful way to get free advertising. The popular reason for placing a home on a site like Twitter is that it will get re-tweeted between many people.

If a family likes the look of the place, they can re-tweet it to their friends. Now their friends can check it out and tweet it to their friends.

Considering almost 80 percent of people find their home online these days, it’s a pretty sharp idea to post on a social media website. People are nervous about approaching real estate agents, almost as much as they are uncomfortable about talking to a car salesman.

Providing service online has helped some agents reach new customers.

Fetchnotes and real estate

The housing crisis made many Americans wary of trying to purchase a new or used home. The interest rates have gone up and down in recent years and it can be hard for the average consumer to know the best time to buy.

This gives the real estate agent more work to do. More than in the past, an agent can expect to answer a variety of questions and show more properties without necessarily making a sale.

This is where a program such as Fetchnotes comes into play. This software program is designed to help agents organize their notes about certain properties. By creating a “hashtag” of each property, an agent can easily come back to that home when he or she needs to.

To give an example of how this program works, picture a newlywed couple who asks for a four-bedroom home that has skylights. The real estate agent can hop into Fetchnotes and use a hashtag that reads something like #4bed and #skylights.

This will point the agent toward each home in the books that meets both of these criteria. The representative doesn’t need to sift through every listing and look for the keyword “skylights.”

Using email to respond to ads

Many people who search for a home online will either call or email a real estate agent. The agent will ask the buyer a few questions and point the person in the direction he or she needs to go.

A good way for the agent to keep in touch with the buyer is to send out a steady stream of emails about new listings. This will keep the person up to date on what’s available with that agent.

Some real estate reps can get carried away with free email marketing, though. It’s important to send only a few emails, evenly spread out over time.

Clearly, technology is changing the way people do things in the real estate industry. Keeping up with the times requires the use of a computer, and you should consider the risks with sending out real estate emails.

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last update: October 22, 2014

Gadgets:

Home Buyers Are Barely Hitting The Pavement Anymore

In the past, prospective home buyers contacted a real estate agent and started the process of visiting homes. Property after property was viewed and evaluated. At some point, the buyers decided on a home.

It might not have been the perfect home, but it felt good enough after doing all that legwork. Today’s age of online mortgage lending and home listings brings the real estate market into the home, however. Home buyers search for the right property right on the computer, and often find it.

Get pre-approved loan first

Buyers aren’t limited to their local bank anymore. If you go online, you’ll find many lenders looking for their next client. For most lenders, there’s no commitment to take the loan after a quote.

Simple information from the buyer is necessary for a rough estimate on maximum property principal and interest rates. One site can even have multiple lenders competing for a buyer’s business.

The lenders propose their best offer in hopes of winning the client. There are no awkward bank meetings or intimidating clerks. Buyers have a good chance at a perfect loan that fits their financial needs.

Earth view

As technology improves, buyers have a better view of the world than ever before. Specialized laptop, cell phone, and tablet apps and software allow buyers to look at a satellite snapshot of their potential new neighborhood.

Zoom in for a look at street level, from gorgeous park landscaping to unsightly vacant lots. If buyers are looking for a new property in a different neighborhood, a satellite view may give them a better look than a typical drive-by.

Access to statistics on crime and schools

A safe home another goal of buyers. However, it’s sometimes difficult to identify bad neighborhoods with one or two visits alone.

Several online resources offer statistical data regarding both crime levels and school performance. For example, buyers can find out about local sexual predators housed in the area, or last year’s robbery rate.

Alternatively, look up local school scores to find the areas with the brightest students. Schools with dedicated teachers, students, and parents often reflect a close-knit community. All these online resources provide another layer of information for a well-informed choice during house hunting.

Open houses online

Online property listings allow buyers to view dozens of homes in a day, without leaving their computer. As websites have expanded, each listing often shows photos of the living room, kitchen, bedrooms, and outdoor areas.

With more photos, properties have a better chance at a sale. Some listings offer a 360-degree view that gives buyers a look around the entire room. Descriptions of amenities, along with filtering applications, allow buyers to pinpoint the perfect property in a specific area. Once it’s found, buyers can ask their Realtor about visiting the property for a tour of the premises.

The online world has made it much easier for both buyers and sellers to find the perfect match. With the right descriptions and and photos on a reputable website, a beautiful home can really shine.

Mobile:

Which Weight Management App is Right for You?

Managing your weight, whether you want to lose, gain, or sustain, can be challenging. Swimwear season is just around the corner, and now it’s easier than ever to make a splash with the right weight management app.

There are a number of helpful apps available for both Android and iPhone, but how can you know which one is right for you? Luckily, the hard work has been done by other folks, and if you consult the high rankings and glowing reviews, you should know what to get.

Start with the BMI Calculator, an aptly named app that helps you keep track of your Body Mass Index (BMI). This has been a doctor-preferred method for gauging your overall health as it pertains to weight for more than 100 years.

It’s not perfect, especially for athletes, but it’s a good indication of where you fall on the spectrum and whether you should be focusing on gaining weight, losing it, or staying about the same.

An app for all bodies

My Fitness Pal is a popular website that can assist with all aspects of your health, whether you’re trying to figure out how many meals to eat per day or keep track of calories. The complementary app is also a great tool, because it enables users watch their caloric intake, and it’s very customizable.

You can choose from an existing database of 1.5 million foods or input your own. There’s a free barcode scanner and more than 150 trackable exercises to see just how many calories you’ve burned, too.

However, if you’re on Weight Watchers, getting their app is an absolute must. You’ll get access to new recipes, media reports on health and obesity, and detailed reports on exercise information to keep you on track.

The support system for Weight Watchers is incredible, and with easy social media and forum links within the app, you’ll find a stronger network than ever, right on your smartphone.

A little extra support

Are you looking for all the benefits of a personal trainer but don’t feel you have the money to pay those costly fees? Noom Weight Loss Coach is an app that lets you personalize a weight management plan and assigns daily tasks to help you get there, whether it’s reading the latest breaking health news or tackling a new exercise challenge.

You can easily log your success and steps, and it keeps you on track with reminders so you can make changes that will last over the long run. Plus, it even comes with a GPS and pedometer so you know exactly how much movement you get under your belt.

If working out is more your thing than measuring your kale salad, the 7-Min Workout might be right up your alley. You’ve heard about seven minutes in heaven? That’s exactly what your body will think happened with this quickie app that ensures you get an intense workout almost anywhere with zero equipment.

Enjoy clear directions and commands for switching it up, and you can know that you’re getting the regular cardio you need in intervals that even the busiest of professionals can handle. No matter which app you choose, whether one or all of the above, putting your health literally in your hands is a good habit not just for bikini season, but for life.

 

Mobile:

Flappy Bird a Health Crisis, Developer Says

Less than two percent of “gamers” are responsible for half the revenues involved in this booming industry — a fact that is both terrifying and sad. However, it looks like some game developers are starting to own up to the addictive nature of their creations, even if they didn’t force anyone to play.

Dong Nguyen, the skilled designer behind Flappy Bird, killed his own game in March 2014 and claimed it was just too dangerous and too many people were getting addicted. This was an unprecedented move, and it helped bring attention to a serious issue.

In an interview with Forbes, Nguyen remarked: “Flappy Bird was designed to play in a few minutes when you are relaxed. But it happened to become an addictive product. I think it has become a problem; to solve that problem, it’s best to take down Flappy Bird. It’s gone forever.”

Is killing the Bird the answer?

While it appears that Nguyen’s move was a genuine one, sincerely intended to protect the fans of his game, he’s essentially left a jackpot of winnings behind. It’s been estimated that Nguyen raked in about $50,000 a day from the game, but the developer chose not to confirm that estimate. “I don’t know the exact figure, but I do know it’s a lot,” he said.

A potential issue here is that the interview took place in Vietnamese, so something may have gotten lost in translation. However, most important is that Nguyen, intentionally or not, has brought the issue of game addiction into the public forum.

It’s a condition that sometimes requires extensive physical, emotional, and mental treatment. The developer apparently shares the secretiveness of many gamers: He insisted that his face not be shown and mentioned that his parents didn’t even know he created the game. The 29-year-old generally keeps to himself.

Birds out of control

Flappy Bird has been available for less than a year, having been released in May 2013. According to Nguyen, it only took him a couple of days to code it.

However, even though the young developer has many other games in app stores, such as Shuriken Block (and all are top rated), there are currently no plans to kill other games because he says they are “harmless.”

On the other hand, Nguyen added that if he suspected addiction were to become a problem with any of his other creations, he wouldn’t hesitate to remove them, as well. His heart may be in the right place, but it’s impossible for a non-licensed, non-professional to gauge whether complete strangers are addicts.

Getting another fix

There are scores of Flappy Bird “knock offs” floating around, so it won’t be a challenge for addicts to get their fix. As for Nguyen, he says he plans to continue developing games after a short break from the grid.

Asked if he has any messages for fans of the defunct game, Nguyen’s response was simple: “Thank you very much for playing my game.” For the throngs of people who may be suffering from a documented case of gaming addiction, Nguyen’s move probably won’t cure them.

But it might be the necessary springboard that pushes them to seek professional help.

 

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Lifestyle:

Four Facts that Will Convince You The World Isn’t So Bad After All

More than anything else, the uncertain economy has left many people feeling pessimistic about the state of the world. The threat from Middle East terrorists also hovers in the background as another reason for negative attitudes.

While these factors look bad, an examination of the big trends in the world paints a very different picture. A glance at the actual statistics concerning key components of wellbeing provide solid evidence that people’s lives, on average, have improved in recent decades and continue to improve. Here are four areas with good news.

1. Longer Lives

It’s true that in some regions of the world, such as parts of Africa, there can be temporary declines in average life span, but the overall trend has been an increase in how long people can expect to live. Keep in mind that in many places, such as North America, there hasn’t even been any short-term setbacks. The key players in making this possible have been increasing wealth and scientific discoveries. These forces have made their way throughout the globe during the 20th century and into the 21st century. One dramatic fact that’s resulted from this spread is that the average world lifespan has grown from 47 years in 1950 to 70 years in 2011.

2. Growing Wealth

Another area where the facts don’t warrant pessimism is in the standard of living throughout the world. The spread of more democratic governments is credited by most experts to be the main driving force. Governments that have to be responsive to their people are going to be more concerned about whether they succeed or not. The single best example of this improvement is regarding what the World Bank has defined as extreme poverty; anyone making $1.25 per day or less. In 1981, 40% of the globe’s population fell into this category. By 2010, this situation only applied to 14% of people worldwide.

3. Less Violence

The mechanics behind growing wealth and health are relatively easy to understand. Another piece of good news, the decline of worldwide violence, is a bit more mysterious to figure out. It’s thought that emergency medical and policing technologies play a role. It’s also believed that higher income levels make people less likely to commit crimes. These ideas can’t explain all of it, though. Others have proposed even more unconventional theories to account for the reductions, including the removal of toxic lead from the environment.

4. Literacy

Another bit of good news is the increase in literacy worldwide. This phenomenon can be connected to improving living standards in a feedback loop. Wealthier people can better educate their children. These children then grow up and become more productive. While increases in wealth and longevity have not taken place evenly throughout the world, this is one situation where the improvements have been consistent everywhere. Globally, the rate stands at just over 84% as of 2010.

Conclusion

Do you feel a little better now? When you look at the right metrics, things seem to be just fine with the world. If you want to feel even better, studies have shown that donating to charities can make you feel better about life, and make you happier. Give it a try, and you might agree; the world isn’t so bad after all.

Clean:

5 High-Tech Devices That Will Save You Both Kinds of Green

Going high-tech and changing your home to go green are working together in a growing synergy. Each year more smart devices come on the market that are not only earth-friendly but pretty cool to have in your home. Here are five examples.

1. High-tech thermostats

It’s no surprise that since a majority of home energy bills involve heating and cooling costs, much of the new technology for homes centers on this. Older homes have inefficient systems that waste an incredible amount of energy.

Much of the waste is attributable to climate control of rooms that are not in use and when the home is unoccupied. Smart technologies now give you programmable thermostats you can control from anywhere.

Applications and Internet-enabled technology provide greater control while you’re away, as well as networking of thermostats for efficient climate control throughout your home.

2. Motion sensors

Remember when you were a child and your parents would remind you to turn out the lights when you left a room? Motion sensors will turn on lights when you enter a room and shut them off when you leave.

This technology isn’t limited to lighting. Electrical and other systems through your house can be outfitted with sensors to cut the flows to other devices as well. Some devices even allow you to do this using an application on a smartphone so you can monitor and shut off any appliances, electrical systems, and anything else that might have been left on when you rushed out the door.

3. Solar power

Even though it could save an average of 30% of their power consumption, some people aren’t ready to commit fully to solar energy. This is understandable, since converting to solar requires a costly initial investment.

The good news is that many smaller solar collection devices can cut your energy costs. By placing solar panels on patios, porches, garages, or at other outdoor locations, you can increase the efficiency of your home dramatically.

Some companies offer hybrid devices that run on both solar and direct power to provide some savings and take that small step toward being greener.

4. Smart Appliances

When LG released its line of smart appliances at the Consumer Electronics Show in 2012, people went crazy over them. From a refrigerator that creates menus and inventories its contents, to a washing machine that was not just eco-friendly but also fast and high-capacity, these advances in home technology were the greatest in many years.

Utilizing Internet networking technology, these appliances are able to connect and even communicate with one another, which allows for easier use and greater energy efficiency.

5. Power adapters

There’s a common myth that installing energy- and cost-saving devices requires a ton of work and a complete overhaul of the space. The reality is that you can do quite a few things that save money and still do your share in going green.

The average household uses 13% of its home energy simply charging and powering up devices each year. Typical charging devices push far too much energy through their adapters during a charge-up and continue to do so even when the charge is complete.

A company called Green Plug offers an alternative that creates a “smart” style of charging device that powers down when it isn’t connected for a charge and only feeds power to the device when it needs it.

Science:

Would High-Tech 18-Wheelers Be Safer?

Accidents that involve 18-wheelers have turned up in the news increasingly. Some surveys suggest there are roughly two semi-truck accidents across the nation per hour each day.

Of course, this includes lesser incidents with minor damage that aren’t widely reported, but it’s a large number of accidents that involve costly damage, and sometimes cost lives.

There haven’t been major changes in semi-truck technology in many years, and 18-wheeler mechanical failure is a leading cause of accidents in the US. Perhaps this is a sign that it’s time to rethink the design of semi trucks altogether. This has already been under consideration for several years, most notably by German designer Luigi Colani.

The 18-wheeler of the future

The original reason for Colani’s futuristic truck design was to reduce the amount of gas needed to run a big rig. Gas prices have been in violent flux, and sometimes make it too expensive to justify driving a huge, gas-guzzling vehicle.

Colani’s design proposal changed the engine to reduce fuel consumption by 30%, and reconfigured the frame so it’s much smoother and more aerodynamic. Over the years, he continued to refine the idea, and came up with lighter materials and a new method of driving that incorporated a joystick rather than a steering wheel.

The current design uses 50% less fuel than semis currently on the road, but for the moment it’s unfortunately not cost-effective. A price tag of $1 million to produce a single vehicle is a little too pricey.

Perhaps one day, manufacturers will come up with ways to reduce this production cost. One thing that Colani never mentioned about was any safety improvement, to parallel what has been added to non-commercial vehicles in recent years.

Safety feature technology

A hot new trend in modern cars is a lengthy list of vehicle safety measures. Some of these features include:

- Forward collision avoidance

- Responsive automatic brakes

- Back-up cameras

- Parking assistance

- Back-up warning sensors

These are among the most popular features that regularly turn up as options in private vehicles. Perhaps some of these same measures will be added to semi trucks.

Semis are very heavy vehicles that take a longer time to slow down than cars do. If a semi driver has slow reactions, he or she only adds to the braking time necessary to avoid a terrible accident.

With autonomous brakes, a truck can begin to slow down at the first sign of danger, and potentially save lives.

Keeping semi drivers alert

Another major factor in accidents involving semi trucks is drowsy drivers. Big rigs typically move freight over long distances, and they can be on the road for incredibly long periods of time.

If a driver begins to “nod off” after a long stretch of driving, an accident is more likely to occur. Technology is starting to be implemented to keep drivers alert on the road. A few examples could be sensors that send out an audible alert if the driver’s hands leave the wheel for more than a few seconds, or if the vehicle begins to drift.

Technology of this variety has already been developed in certain areas, and it may not be long before it can be used to keep big-rig drivers and the people around them safer on the road.

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