Tuesday, December 15, 2009
© Jack Brauer
Heaven is a place on earth
Our planet is a wonderful place and there are countless gems like the Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia, for us to appreciate and preserve. The Plitvice Lakes National Park was granted UNESCO World Heritage status in 1979. The beauty of the National Park lies in its sixteen lakes, inter-connected by a series of waterfalls, and set in deep woodland populated by deer, bears, wolves, boars and rare bird species. The sixteen lakes are separated into an upper and lower cluster formed by runoff from the mountains, descending from an altitude of 636 meters (2,087 ft) to 503 meters (1,650 feet) over a distance of some eight km (5 miles), aligned in a south-north direction. The lakes collectively cover an area of about two square km, with the water exiting from the lowest lake to form the Korana River.
Africa's Rescue Rangers
Bart Weegens, from Belgium has turned to his childhood interest in Giant pouched rats, when he was searching for a possible solution to the global issue of unexploded mines. When one considers that these rats are easy to train, have an excellent sense of smell and, unlike dogs, are too light to deploy a mine themselves – the idea might not seem so far fetch after all.
Weegens is the founded of APOPO, a non-profit organization, that trains African Giant pouched rats to deploy mines in the field. The rats are trained according to the Pavlovian method that associates the smell of explosives with a treat (such as a banana or peanut). Training takes part in a cage and last up to one year. In the field each rat is connected to a search string and to two trainers. When the rats locate a mine they usually sit still and scratch themselves, whereafter the mines are then deployed by their human helpers. To ensure that all mines have been detected two or three rats will each search the same area. It is important that the rat gets rewarded teach time they perform their function.
Another method called REST (Remote Explosive Scent Tracing) does not involve visiting a minefield at all, the scent is brought from the mines to the rats. The rats can find explosives present in these samples and it helps to determine the actual boundaries of the minefields. These ‘HeroRATS’ as they are called are currently deployed in Mozambique where they have enabled over one thousand families to reclaim their land. They have also helped to bring electricity to remote regions by with clearing areas so that power lines can be passed through, which would not otherwise have been possible.
The Giant pouched rat is a distant relative of the common rat. The female of the species produces up to ten litters a year, although only one to five arrive with each litter, despite the mother having eight nipples. In many African countries they are kept as pets but are also used as a food source. Clearly the rats serve a much greater purpose in the field that on a plate. Plans are being made to deploy the rats in Zambia, Congo and Angola. AGOPO is currently based in Tanzania at the Sokoine University of Agriculture, it is also here that Weegens made his latest discovery that showed that the rats could also detect tuberculosis in human sputum. APOPO is actively looking for partnerships globally, not just in Africa. For more information visit their website at www.apopo.org.
Friday, November 13, 2009
Testical implants for dogs might seem strange for some, but it is in fact a very succesful product. Owners can choose the size and type of implant. I guess fake balls is better than no balls. Their web site states:
"Neuticles, the revolutionary testicular implant procedure for pets, allows your pet to retain his natural look, self esteem and aids in the trauma associated with neutering."
"Over 225,000 caring pet owners Worldwide have selected Neuticles as a safe, practical and inexpensive option when neutering."
2. Pimp your pooch
Petattoos are soft foam rubber stamps that doesn't involve any real inking. 'Petta-Paint' is applied to the Petattoo with a 'Petta-Plier' and then stamped onto your pet's coat. There is no need to press too hard on the stamp, the Petattoo's apply easily. When you want to remove the Petattoo, all you need to do is to damp a paper towel onto the surface and wipe it off….it's that easy!
3. Eye-catching dogwear
Doggles is the first and only eye protection designed and created just for dogs.
The 'Pet Peek'
Dogs get depressed when they can't see outside. If you have a fence around you house, installing the Pet Peek is the view your dog needs.
5. Dogs bark their minds
The Bowl-lingual shows you, the pet owner, the emotions your pet feels. It also offers information about your pet’s horoscope. The emotions your pet can experience can be any of the following: happy, sad, frustrated, on guard or showing off. In Japan, the product is selling very well, so much so, that the maker actually released an English language version.
6. Fluffy made a boo-boo
The STA-ON diaper harness
"The STA-ON is suitable for elderly animals who have lost control of their discharge functions, female animals that happen to be undergoing menstruation, and young animals that are not yet house trained."
What a great invention! I'm sure my dog will love walking around in diapers and its not humiliating for him at all. Telling by the tail of the dog in the pic... his body language speaks for itself. No dog will be wagging their tail when they are wearing a nappy. By the way, if I wanted to change diapers I would have given birth and not have bought a dog.
7. Dogs have bad hair days too
Wiggles wigs for dogs
A Florida company has found its own niche in the market – selling pet wigs. It it is scary that there are so many people that actually buy these wigs for their pets. It's a bit hair-rising if you ask me.
8. Sex dolls for shaggy dogs
The doggy 'lover-doll'
This is a real product. The doggy lover doll is the brain child of a Brazilian company...and for the rest I really think the picture speaks for itself.
9. When your dog takes you for a ride
The dog powered scooter
This seems like a win-win sitsuation – The 'Dog Powered Schooter' enables the lazy person to take a bike ride without actually 'riding' and the best part is that your dog can come along, however it will be your dog that gets all the exersice. From the photo's I've seen, all the dogs seem like they are enjoying the experience. It's a bit like mushing around in your own neighbourhood. I'm just wondering how far my miniature poodle will take me.
10. How to take the fun out of fetching...
'GoDogGo' remote fetch
Now you can play fetch with your dog and all that you have to do is push a button. This is ideal for lazy people. I think this machine lacks a few features; such as the part where your dog gets a 'good boy' accompanied by a pat on the head, when he brings you the ball. However, in the end, solo fetch is better than no fetch.
11. Bubbles that tastes like chicken? WTF?
The 'Fetch A Bubble Micro Bubble Blaster'
This dog bubble shooter blows colorful chicken-scented bubbles for your dog to pop as they float through the air. Apparently dogs love to chase after bubbles, especially if they smell like chicken. I must admit that a variety of flavors will make the product even more barkelisious. Personally, my dog prefers beef to chicken, but his favourite flavor is still cat.
Paint kits for arty dogs
I don't believe that dogs are very artistic, and I surely do not think they enjoy the whole Jackson Pollock experience of getting their paws covered in paint and then walking across a piece of paper stuck to the floor. If you ask me dogs will rather choose to fart than to make art.
13. Shaggy likes to snuggle
The 'Alpine Dog' sleeping gag
Okay, I must admit, a dog sleeping bag is not a bad idea. But a alpine dog sleeping bag? I mean come on, who will ever take their dog to places where it is below 16 Degrees – that would be cold-hearted.
14. Keep your dog under the weather
The 'Pet Umbrella'
Thank goodness, now I can take my dog for a walk in the rain... and he won't smell like wet dog afterwards...
If I ever buy a 'dogbrella' it will be to protect my dog from the sun and not from the rain. I must admit. it does make a cute picture. Did I mention you can get matching umbrellas for you and your dog? Well now you can! What about matching outfits too?
15. Hooch for your pooch
'Kwispelbier' – tail-wagging beer
Beef flavored beer for dogs – don't worry, it is not the type of beer that will make the tail wag the dog, it is non-alchoholic. The beer is in fact very healthy, it consists of various nutrisiants and vitamin B that is good for your dog's kidneys. Now your best friend can be your drinking buddy too.
16. Let sleeping dogs exercise
Okay, I admit, exercise for your dog is essential, but this is a bit drastic. Surely a walk in the park will be a better option since you and your dog get to burn some calories. The big question is: will your dog willingly use the treadmill, everyone knows that you can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink...
17. Just the urn your dog earns
Howl about that? This digital urn has a screen that displays photos of your dog (while he or she was still alive) as memorabilia. The first compartment holds the digital frame while the second has 95 cubic inches of space inside, accommodating pets from 0-75 lbs. Being constantly reminded of you dearly departed dog is surely not a good way of coping with your grief.
18. Boo for poo!
The 'Pet Loo'
The Pet Loo was invented by a woman who lives in an apartment with her two dogs. She recognized the need for dogs to be able to do their business without the owners presence.
The Pet Loo box has a sheet of porous synthetic grass on the top and an angled drainage solution underneath, so that urine drains through and collects in a tray at the bottom for easy emptying by the owner.
The plastic turf has been treated so that it doesn't smell and that it can be washed in warm water – so that pets don’t get turned off by chemicals and disinfectants.
I don't care how clever the design is, I'd rather stick to late night dog walks, which I believe dogs enjoy more.
19. 'Walkies' vs strolling
The 'JEEP Rubicon Pet Stroller'
There are a lot of pet strollers on the market, but this one from JEEP takes the cake. It has features such as: a hand brake, parking brake, a parent tray anda large storage basket. It sure as hell takes the fun out of 'walkies'.
The 'Double Decker Pet Stroller'
The double decker pet stroller makes it possible to walk two dogs (or cats) at once. It looks a bit like a prisoner transport vehicle for pets, and the poor animals don't look very happy by being constrained.
20. Top dog
The 'Pet High Chair' for dogs
There is nothing as fulfilling as having your pup join you for dinner...or lunch...or breakfast. Now you can also take your best friend out to a fancy restaurant that will ensure for barking conversation.
Monday, October 19, 2009
The boldest of them all
One of the most glorious exotic fruits is the pitaya fruit or the dragon fruit. The fruit is native to Central America, Vietnam and Malaysia. The fruit originates from the dragon fruit cactus plant and is known for it’s bright coloured pulp and unique shape. The dragon fruit requires a warm climate therefor it prospers well in semi-arid areas. Bats play a crucial role in the plants pollination process. Without the help of bats the plant will fail to create a dragon fruit cactus.
The fruit consists of vital minerals with various nutritional values. The fruit is an excellent supplement for the liver. It also helps with weight-loss, creating a well balanced body weight, without compromising your health. For people suffering from diabetes, a dry or fresh dragon fruit guarantees blood glucose control.
Fresh pitahaya fruit contains lots of water, justifying the soft creamy texture you feel when eating it fresh, a dry pitahaya fruit features a chewy feel, and generally appears darker than the fresh fruit. There are three cultivated varieties of dragon fruit: the red dragon fruit with red skin and red flesh, the Pitaya fruit featuring white flesh and yellow skin and the red pitaya fruit featuring white flesh and red skin.
2. The Star Fruit
A fruit with an edge
Carambola or star fruit is a tropical fruit that is native to Indonesia, India and Sri Lanka. The tree grows fast and produces fruit at approximately 5 years of age. In ideal conditions the carambola can produce up to 400 pounds of fruit a year. The fruit is cultivated mainly during the months of June, July, and August. The fruit is entirely edible, including the slightly waxy skin. The fruit are ripe when they are yellow with a light shade of green and have brown ridges. An overripe fruit will be yellow with brown spots.
The taste is difficult to compare, but it has been described as being a mix of papaya, orange and grapefruit. The starfruit contains enzymes that have various health benefits, however, like the grapefruit, carambola contains oxalic acid which can be harmful to individuals suffering from kidney failure. If you consume star fruit in combination with certain medications, it can significantly increase the effective dosage of the medicine within the body. It can also be used to help treat cardiovascular illnesses.
3. The Mangosteen
A tasty wonder
Mangosteens comes from the Garcinia Mangostana plant of South East Asia. The mangosteen has a soft white edible center that is similar in construction to the sections of an orange, with possibly one seed in each of the larger segments. Several days after harvesting, the skin of the mangosteen starts to harden as it loses water, at that point, the use of a knife is essential to open the fruit. The rind of the mangosteen starts out almost white or very pale green and gradually turns red, then purple or a dark brown. The fruit consists of a delicious juice that is a perfect balance of acids and sugars. The seeds are somewhat soft and should not be eaten because they are bitter.
The people of South East Asia have been consuming mangosteen for centuries, unaware of the benefits of the fruit. Modern science discovered that the fruit has a very high concentration of xanthones that is one of the most powerful anti-oxidents in the world. The fruit also boosts the body’s immune systems and helps increase energy levels.
When harvesting mangosteens, natives must prevent the yellow sap of the tree from entering the fruit and making it bitter. The latex or sap may also ooze through the rind and appear as hardened yellow droplets on the outside of the fruit. Seeing these droplets does not automatically ensure that the fruit will be bad, they can appear on the outside for a variety of reasons.
4. The Kiwano
Nature’s horned melon
The Kiwano – also called the African horned cucumber or melon, jelly melon, hedged gourd or melano – originated from central Africa and is part of the cucumber and melon family. It is grown around the world, notably in New Zealand and California. In Asia it is called the ‘blowfish fruit’ because of its oval melon-like shape with horn-like spines. The fruit of this plant is edible, but it is also used for decoration.
In Zimbabwe, this cucumber is called 'gaka' or 'gakachika' and it is primarily used as a fruit-snack. It is eaten young, mature, or when ripe. Its taste has been compared to a combination of cucumber and kiwi or a combination of banana, cucumber and lemon. Some people eat the skin because it is very rich in vitamin c and fibre.
A traditional food plant in Africa, this little-known fruit has potential to improve nutrition, boost food security, foster rural development and support sustainable landcare. The pulp can be used in soups, smoothies, dips and sauces. Peeled, the fruit can be tossed in fruit salads.
5. The Ackee
Best served scrambled
The ackee, the national fruit of Jamaica, is an unusual fruit which is eaten as a vegetable. Prepared ackee looks like scrambled eggs, and has its own delicate flavour. The tree, native to Jamaica, also grows in other West Indian Islands, in Central America, and in Southern Florida. There are two bearing seasons: between January to March and June to August.
The ackee is a tropical evergreen tree that grows about 30 feet tall with fragrant white flowers. The fruit grows in clusters and is pear shaped and bright red to yellow-orange in colour. When the fruit is ripe, it splits open to reveal three large, shiny black seeds, surrounded by soft, creamy or spongy, white to yellow flesh. The fruit must only be picked after the fruit has opened naturally, and must be fresh and not overripe. The fruit of the ackee is not edible, only the fleshy arils around the seeds are.
Ackee and salt fish is Jamaica’s national dish, it consists of boiled, drained and simmered ackee with salted dried cod and vegetables. Canned ackee is exported around the world, it is widely available in the UK and in West Indian markets and shops.
6. The Durian
Smells like hell, tastes like heaven
If I think of tropical fruit I think of pineapples, bananas, mangos, and papayas. The durian, which is sometimes called ‘the king of fruits,’ is definitely something different. The durian, native to Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia, has been known to the Western world for about 600 years. The fruit is distinctive for its large size, unique odour, and formidable thorn-covered husk. The repellent odour of the dorian has led to the fruit's banishment from certain hotels and public transportation in South East Asia. However, don't let the smell of the dorian put you off, apparently it ‘smells like hell and tastes like heaven’.
The smell is similar to that of a onion, which is not what you expect from a fruit. The texture is very soft and creamy, almost like an avocado, but slightly fibrous. It is exported — either fresh or frozen — anywhere there’s a market for it. A dorian at the ideal peak of ripeness is very scarce, it is the overripe dorians that gives the fruit it’s bad reputation. The fruit can grow as large as 30 centimetres long and 15 centimetres in diameter, and it typically weighs one to three kilograms.
7. The Sugar-apple
An exotic taste sensation
The name sugar-apple derives from the distinct custard taste of the fruit. The texture of its flesh is almost like the center of a very ripe guava. It is slightly grainy, a bit slippery, very sweet and very soft. Sugar-apples also have a very distinct, sweet-smelling fragrance. Sugar-apple fruit is high in calories and is a good source of iron. The fruit is very popular throughout the tropics and warmer subtropics such as Indonesia, Thailand and Taiwan. It is naturalized north to southern Florida in the US and south to Brazil.
It is quite a productive fruit bearer; a tree of five years can produce as many as 50 sugar-apples. In the Philippines there is a company that produces sugar-apple wine. It is used by some societies in India as part of a hair tonic. The seeds are also ground and applied to hair to get rid of lice, however, it must be kept away from the eyes as it is highly irritant and can cause blindness.
9. The Miracle Fruit
A taste twister
The miracle berry plant produces berries, that, when eaten before meals, cause sour foods (such as lemons and limes) to taste sweet. The miracle berry looks a lot like the goji berry. The plant grows in bushes up to 6.1 m high in its native habitat, tropical West Africa. The plants first bear fruit after growing for approximately 2–3 years. The plant grows best at a pH as low as 4.5 to 5.8, in an environment free from frost and in partial shade with high humidity.
The berries contains an active glycoprotein molecule, this molecule binds to the tongue's taste buds, causing sour foods to taste sweet. This effect lasts 15-60 minutes. This berry is the main stimulant in what is called "flavor tripping parties". At these parties guests consume bitter foods in conjunction with miracle berries and then experience the taste changes. In Japan, miracle fruit is popular among diabetics and dieters. Miracle fruit is also available as freeze-dried granules or in tablets.
10. The Goji Berry
A gift of life
The Tibetan goji berry can be found in the valleys of Tibet and Mongolia. The goji berry is so special to the locals that they honour it in a special two-week long celebration each year. It is believed that the people in these areas live for well over a hundred years due to the nutritional value of the goji berry.
Goji berries are being called the world's most nutritional powerfull anti-aging food. Goji berries are the highest rated antioxidant on the ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) scale. Goji berries have more vitamin C than oranges, more beta-carotene than carrots, more protein than whole wheat and more iron than steak. It is said that in Tibet eating goji berries in the morning will also make you feel happy for the rest of the day. The taste can be described as a mixture between a cranberry and a cherry. Others say that they taste of raspberry and plum, guess you will have to decide for yourself!