1 December 2021
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Overclocking the Humble Chickpea

The (in my opinion) world’s most perfect legume is on track towards even greater perfection, thanks to some dedicated international scientists and a hardworking AI. A huge recent project, led by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), has assessed more than 3000 wild and domesticated varieties of chickpea, nailing down 1582 novel genes […]

hatch chili used in taco recipes
8 November 2021
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Taco Night in the Void

After popularizing such legendary foods as astronaut ice cream and Tang, NASA has once again set a high bar for outer space dining: an orbital Taco Night! A crew on the ISS recently harvested peppers grown entirely on the station, recorded data about the crop, and then ate a couple – for science. The peppers were all the […]

8 November 2021
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Fraction Traction: Re-Branding a Burger

n the marketing failure Hall of Fame, the A&W 1/3 Pounder hamburger is right up there with the Edsel and New Coke. The tale of this ill-fated burger starts in the 1980s, with the success of competitor McDonald’s Quarter Pounder, which A&W longed to unseat. A&W decided their best bet was a bigger burger at the same price […]

27 October 2021
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Contraband Confection: UK Food Standards Spike American Sprinkles

In a turn of events that sounds like a premise to a Christmas TV movie, a bakery in the north of England has gone public with news that their favoured sprinkles – a signature component of their raspberry-glazed doughnut cookie – have been banned. Dubbed #sprinklegate on social media, the kerfuffle has its source in […]

12 October 2021
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Cheers to Mustard: A Classic Brand’s Boozy Reimagining

As a professional mustard-maker, I respect those who blazed a trail for us. Once upon a time, the flavour of mustard itself was exotic enough; now, we get to mess around with all kinds of amazing taste combos! One such old-timer is Grey Poupon, the venerable dijon whose “Pardon me, but do you have any Grey Poupon?” tagline […]

5 October 2021
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DNA Decodes Lobster Lifespans

I have deep respect for the lobster. Any creature as ferociously familial, as gorgeous, and, yes, as tasty as these crustaceans are deserved our admiration.  We can add to this list of lobster pros their long-rumoured longevity – now confirmed by science, and rivalling our own lifespans! The University of East Anglia, the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science […]

gas from cows
30 September 2021
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Cooking With (out) Gas: New Feed Additive Cuts Methane Emissions in Cattle

As any eight-year-old will tell you, cows are hilariously gassy. Not so funny: the, ahem, emissions of cattle are mostly methane – a greenhouse gas – making herds full of tooting bovines major contributors to global warming. While we humans work to ease up on the factory farming that requires all these animals to begin with, science is looking at other options to […]

stingless bee next to regular bee
26 September 2021
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Science Uncovers Sweet News from Stingless Bees

DFC is proud to count ourselves among a fabulous group of local food producers. One of my favourite amazing products we get to enjoy in our area is glorious honey. I can really taste the difference between what we get here, and the stuff that comes in the bear-shaped squeeze bottles I used to buy in […]

9 September 2021
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New Apples Still Don’t Fall Far From the Tree

Even though it’s officially a good two weeks away, as soon as the calendar page flips over to September I can’t help but start thinking FALL. I can’t wait to revel in bushels of the season’s best fruit – apples, hands down! There are so many varieties now, as a layperson I’d think the apple […]

1 September 2021
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Edible Soccer Cups: Not Just For Championships

Soccer fans are internationally known for being, well… fanatics, mostly for their teams or, um, let’s call it “team-related identity politics”. Nowhere is this more prevalent than in the U.K., where multiple teams, playing in different leagues in each city, engage in a complex net of rivalries. Manchester, for example, has seven professional clubs – one of which […]

26 August 2021
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Invasion of the Robo Waiters

In quite possibly the most Silicon Valley thing to ever happen, a new, NASA-honouring hotel in Mountain View, CA, is testing the final frontier of hospitality by letting robot waiters work the floor of their swanky restaurant. I read Eater’s report with visions of the Jetsons’ maid Rosey swirling through my head. But reality seems significantly more down to earth at the Ameswell’s eatery, aptly […]

sulpher crested cockatoo
11 August 2021
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Cockatoos’ Dumpster Lunch a Win for Bird Learning

A team of scientists from Australia has found a charming wild cockatoo food-gathering strategy has been passed along bird-by-bird in the Sydney area – one of the clearest examples to date of how birds teach important foraging knowledge to each other. The researchers from Down Under collaborated with a team from Germany’s Max Planck Institute […]

examples of different tomato varieties
3 August 2021
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The Chemistry of the Tastiest Tomato

Here in southeastern Ontario, we are knee-deep in our growing season, and vegetables and fruits of all kinds are coming in fast and furious. This includes our many varieties of tomatoes, each one tasting of sunshine and cool breezes, and nothing at all like the miserable pink disks of sadness one can find sliced on […]

food waste
27 July 2021
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Food Waste Solution Makes Work for Happy Microbes

Longtime readers of this newsletter will know that we at DFC love bacteria – specifically those found in the human microbiome. These little guys not only improve our health, but generally astound scientists the longer they look at them! Happy bacteria have long been known to have a beneficial effect on human digestion. But new research is pointing […]

13 July 2021
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Cheese Pic Melts Drug Empire into Justice Fondue

Here’s another fun one from the intersection of food, tech… and crime! A British drug dealer was busted this spring after snapping a picture of his favourite cheese, blue Stilton. The erstwhile kingpin took the photo of the wedge of Marks & Spencer branded cheese in the palm of his hand and shared it – inadvertently revealing his […]

rooibos tea
6 July 2021
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Rooibos Tea Cuts Through European Red Tape

What do champagne, Parmegiano-Reggiano cheese, and alfajores all have in common? Well, besides being mind-bendingly delicious in their own way, each of those foods is on the European Union’s Protected Designation of Origin list (PDO). PDO status was created by the EU to specially designate food, wines, and agricultural products that have strong links to the places […]

pistachio nuts
1 July 2021
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Black Market Nuts and the Limits of Technology

Now, I like pistachios as much as the next person. (Which is to say, I will open a bag, blackout for 20 minutes, and then come to with a fine, pale green dust in the air and all the nuts mysteriously gone…) But apparently, I don’t like pistachios as much as 34-year-old Alberto Montemayor does – though, […]

18 June 2021
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Slicing into a Melon Mystery: Watermelon’s Genetic Story

We’ve been having major heatwaves at DFC headquarters. So, even though summer doesn’t officially arrive for another week, we’ve already fully committed to the best of hot weather living. (In Canada, sometimes it’s enough that there’s no snow!) This includes wearing shorts, transitioning to cold brew coffee, and eating lots and lots of the perfect summer […]

13 June 2021
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Flat-Packed Pasta: The Shape of the Future?

At the risk of carbo-loading this newsletter, here is more pasta shape news that I found too delicious to pass up! A team working in Carnegie Mellon University’s Morphing Matter Lab has devised a way to “flat pack” pasta — stamping noodles with strategic ridges that allow them to spring up into fancy shapes when […]

bad tasting beer
1 June 2021
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The Frightening Flavour of the Beer of the Future

If you’ve ever been to Colorado, chances are you enjoyed gorgeous vistas of the Rockies, as well as the ubiquitous work of local suds masters New Belgium Brewing – they of the famously easy-drinking “Fat Tire” amber ale. Well, the team at New Belgium have released a new brew that forecasts a terrible future, where neither beautiful […]

coffee a new way
25 May 2021
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Coffee Minus Coffee: A Sustainable Java Solution?

With climate change accelerating, science is tackling more and more problems that I didn’t ever imagine we’d have to. Case in point: arabica coffee (the world’s dominant coffee bean cultivar) thrives on the sides of cool, rainy jungle mountains – among the most environmentally vulnerable landscapes on our planet. But we humans love our joe, so the […]

wine back from space
11 May 2021
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Wine in Space, Part II: In Space, No One Can Hear You Slurp

This week, the wine world had its horizons broadened a bit more, as news outlets reported on the opening and tasting of one of the bottles of Merlot that spent 14 months on the International Space Station, and arrived back on Earth just this January. (We reported on the journey and landing here.)   It was […]

fish sticks
4 May 2021
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Fish Sticks: Solving a Piscine Problem with Technology

I very rarely caved to the siren song of fish sticks when my kids were young. As far as convenience foods went, we were a decidedly chicken-finger-and-pizza-pocket household. But in these pandemic times, the decidedly retro protein choice is making a resurgence. The “why” is not terribly interesting – fish sticks are, after all, supremely easy […]

crispy fried chicken
28 April 2021
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Hacking Chicken: The Tasty Science of a Secret Ingredient

Living and working in the remote woods has many benefits. But we do miss a couple of things about city life – chief among them dialling up some delivery for dinner after a long day. Not even the thickest-crust pizza would last the schlep to DFC headquarters – but, according to chef Eric Huang, some fried chicken […]

14 April 2021
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Tales from the Tip: Medieval Garbage Pit Reveals Glimpse into Jewish Life

I’m just kicking myself that I didn’t encounter this story until Passover ended. But I definitely can’t hold onto this fascinating archeological news until the next holiday; so please, feel free to imagine your own thematic tie-in here!   A team of researchers from the University of Bristol have recently published their findings from an archaeological dig […]

very old chocolate
9 April 2021
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Chocolate Hunt Yields Historical Treat

It’s said that honey has no expiry date; pots uncovered in ancient Egyptian tombs are routinely found to be perfectly edible after thousands of years underground. Would that the same held for another sweet treat, chocolate! If it did, a bar of the stuff recently found in Norfolk, UK would have quite the sugar high to go […]

1 April 2021
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The State of the Shape of Pasta

Did you know that the number of Italian pasta shapes out there is estimated to be between 260 and 600? Even the low number came as a shock to me – who can count on two hands the pastas I can remember off the top of my head, and on one hand those I routinely keep […]

25 March 2021
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“Mineral Farms” May Yield Tasty Mining Harvest

We all know that “money doesn’t grow on trees.” But what happens if it actually does… just not in the form we expect?   A team of scientists from the University of Melbourne are pushing the boundaries of that metaphor with a study of hyperaccumulators — plants that love minerals and thrive in particular contaminated soils; they […]

9 March 2021
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Up, Up and Away In My Beautiful Bento

Either folks miss air travel more than I thought, or Japanese regional airlines have way better in-flight meals than I’ve ever encountered! Nagoya Air Catering Co. has entered the market for cute lunches through an inspired pivot: repurposing in-flight meals as bentos (the modular boxed meal that hails from Japan).    This is no simple reallocation of food resources, as […]

meat in the form of ribeye
23 February 2021
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3D Printed Meat — and “Meat”

Two Israeli companies have just made near-simultaneous announcements of their respective alternatives to traditional slaughtered meat. Though philosophically different — Redefine Meat is vegan, while Aleph Farms uses lab-grown cow muscle cells — both aim to reimagine humanity’s future dependence on meat. There are lots of reasons to try both tacks, from lessening our impact on the environment to taking a moral stand on […]

9 February 2021
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A Bright Idea from Food Waste

A student innovator from the Philippines has turned a major problem in his country — food crops destroyed by climate change — into a surprising concept for sustainable power generation. Carvey Ehren Maigue has recently won the very first James Dyson Sustainability Award for AuREUS System Technology: Clear plastic panels, which can be made into […]

wine in space
2 February 2021
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Wiiiiine Iiiiiiin Spaaaaaace (wine in space)

For only the second time in human history, one of our planet’s most interesting beverages has slipped the surly bonds of Earth — for science! For only the second time in human history, one of our planet’s most interesting beverages has slipped the surly bonds of Earth — for science! Space Cargo Unlimited, a startup […]

peanut butter
27 January 2021
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Peanut Butter: Sticking to the Roof of the Mouth of History

Between the standard winter blahs and the pandemic, we at DFC HQ have been leaning heavily on the comfort food. Among them is a childhood favourite that is actually a secret nutritional superstar: peanut butter! Not only is the spread high in protein, it also boasts a good dollop of dietary fibre, vitamin E, and magnesium. […]

13 January 2021
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Child Labour and the World’s Most Popular Vegetable Oil

Palm oil — derived from the seeds of the West African oil palm — is a high-smoke point, highly saturated fat of remarkable versatility. Not only can it be eaten, in things like baked goods, spreads, and candies, it can also be found in cosmetics, personal cleansers, and industrial lubricants; byproducts like the seed shells can […]

Pompeii snack bar
5 January 2021
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Pompeii Snack Counter Offers Taste of Roman Past

Let’s start 2021 off with a bang, with news that, unfortunately, also started with a bang, way back in 79 CE. That was the year of the notorious Mt. Vesuvius eruption, that buried the Roman town of Pompeii in layers of hot ash and pumice, erasing it from the Italian landscape and preserving the artifacts of its last […]

30 December 2020
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Waiter, There’s a Cricket in my Soy Sauce!

Japanese haute cuisine restaurant Antcicada has long practiced the bugs-as-food philosophy that we’ve been looking at recently. Foodies rave about their cricket ramen, made with two kinds of local crickets, in which “[n]oodles, sauces and oils were also developed […] to express the charm of crickets in various ways.” At their new permanent Tokyo location, you can even […]

Scotch Eggs
17 December 2020
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Scotch Eggs and What Makes a Meal

Much like a local dive bar who obeys liquor laws by keeping a dusty package of Miss Vickie’s behind the counter, UK pubs are getting creative in order to reopen after the end of their most recent lockdown. According to the law, a pub must be able to serve a “substantial meal” along with the […]

mask technology using cotton candy technology
10 December 2020
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Candy Technology Sweetens New Mask Development

Just in time for National Cotton Candy Day!: A physicist from OIST University in Okinawa has repurposed a trusty piece of fairground culinary equipment — the humble cotton candy spinner — into an inexpensive, quick, and effective method of manufacturing N95 filters for respirators. N95s are the most effective anti-COVID masks, filtering 95% of viruses breathed […]

2 December 2020
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Bugs on the Menu for Man’s Best Friends

While we in North America remain squeamish, other parts of the world have long boasted tasty traditions of insect-based cuisine. Over here, food innovators have been laying the groundwork for the adoption of crickets, mealworms, and grasshoppers as an alternative protein for a while now, but progress is slow.   At least in the human food department: Purina, […]

25 November 2020
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Longer Living Through Spice: Collating the Health Benefits of Heat

At the risk of becoming an all-chili-pepper, all-the-time newsletter, I’m bringing you more news this week from the capsaicin front. (Maybe it’s the wintery weather? I’m subconsciously seeking out all sources of heat…?) A new study points to spicy pepper consumption as an overall mortality reducer, especially from cardiovascular or cancer-related causes. This study is the first-time […]

10 November 2020
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Brouhaha Boils Over Borscht Beginnings

Soup season is coming for us! The colder temps and shorter days have prompted me to haul out my giant pot and start simmering some of my family’s favourites. (Not to toot my own horn, but my classic chicken soup is legendary.)   Soup is the great unifier: Not only do most individual humans like it, but […]

chili shaped plug-in
4 November 2020
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Chili Sensing Device Can Take the Heat — Instead of Your Mouth

I am wary of spicy foods. I’m not like those competitive Carolina-Reaper-eating maniacs; I have nothing to prove. I like a little bit of heat, but not so much it becomes an impediment to enjoying my dinner, rather than an enhancement. The problem with spice though is that it’s subjective — and once you tuck into […]

human sweets
28 October 2020
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The Human Sweet Tooth and our Ancient Brain

Finally, a scientific reason why I keep forgetting that bag of carrots in the back of my fridge until they turn into a mouldy, noodley tangle! Researchers at Wageningen University & Research in the Netherlands have shown one particular way in which humans have retained our “Stone age brains”: We are hardwired to remember the […]

black licorice
14 October 2020
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Black Licorice: The Silent Killer?

With Halloween approaching, DFC’s staff fancies are lightly turning to thoughts of… CANDY! We’ll likely be keeping the traditional bowl by the front door to ourselves though, as celebrations all over are in upheaval because of COVID-19. (Besides, given our rural location, we probably wouldn’t be handing out the good stuff to the assorted Black Panthers and mermaids and […]

7 October 2020
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A (Subway) Bread by Any Other Name Would Taste as Sweet

I have a stumper for you: When is a sandwich bread not a sandwich bread? When the Supreme Court of Ireland rules it’s too sugary for that title, that’s when!   Jokes aside, this is not a thought experiment — the highest judicial body of an already starch-knowledgeable nation has come down hard on Subway (the sandwich chain) for the […]

VQA wine at Taco Bell
29 September 2020
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Wine and Cheesy

With the rolling restriction tightening that recent COVID surges have brought, I’m starting to think about hunkering down again for the winter as we did back in March. One tiny sliver of silver lining is that our food sources have had a bit of a summer breather to innovate for the dark days ahead. One such […]

16 September 2020
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Veggies and Introversion: Chewing on a Connection?

In our sauce and condiment line, we make room for diets of all stripes. From vegans to vegetarians, to hardcore meat eaters, all are welcome at the DFC table! (YMMV with using our products for keto purposes; and, while roasted meat is the definition of paleo, our barbeque sauces regrettably aren’t.)   So I looked with interest at new […]

wine window
8 September 2020
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Ancient Wine Windows Serve Glasses of Cheer During Coronavirus

by Maureen Gualtieri   When I visited Italy, what stuck with me most about its people was that they were very used to — and very good at — celebrating life in the face of hardship. My trip there took place well before COVID-19, but, for example, the geological threat to the vibrant Naples region, and […]

an old apple tree - before and now
8 September 2020
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Old Apple Tree Offers Glimpse of Genetic Past and Future

With high summer behind us and fall on the horizon, I’m looking forward to the season of one of my favourite fruits: apples! And when I bite into my first hand-picked Ambrosia this year, I will say a mental “cheers” to a recently fallen relative — the Old Apple Tree of Vancouver, Washington.   CNN reports that the venerable […]

cattle with eyes painted on their rear
8 September 2020
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Saving Botswana’s Cattle — One Pair of Butt Eyes at a Time

As any dog owner knows, putting eyes on your pup’s rear and pretending their tail is a nose is a source of much hilarity. But in Botswana, cattle farmers are harnessing this gag for good, in order to protect their cattle — both family food source and livelihood — from predation by local lions.   A four-year-long international study of […]

13 August 2020
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Talmud Measures

Talmudic Measure Modern equivalent Equivalent to Also equivalent Familiar equivalent Thumb-breadth 2cm Cherry Handbreadth 8cm 4 thumb-breadths Credit Card Handspan 24cm 3 handbreadths 12 thumb-breadths 11 Piano Keys Cubit (Large) 48cm 2 handspans 6 handbreadths Ruler, Carry-on luggage Short Cubit 40 cm 5 handbreadths 16 inches Pizza Talmud incidences of measure (a visual concordance) Talmud measure […]

new fish the sturddlefish
12 August 2020
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One Fish, Two Fish, Bred Fish, New Fish

Scientists have been formulating “Frankenfoods” for decades now. There is validity to a certain amount of genetic modification; after all, we wouldn’t have today’s plump corn or watermelons or eggplants without selective breeding by ambitious (and hungry!) farmers over centuries. Nowadays, the GMOs we hear most about involving splicing genes from one incongruous species to another, which freaks some […]

4 August 2020
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Chocolate Chip Redesign Overclocks the Humble Cookie

Here at the DFC test kitchens, David is the baker, while I fall decidedly into Camp Cooking. When it comes to baking, I usually only have patience for the sampling and critique of the results! David’s chocolate chip cookies are particularly legendary: as he did with our barbecue sauce, he spent years refining his recipe, experimenting […]

30 July 2020
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Sports Science Maps Limits of Human Hotdog Dominance

At the venerable Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest, this past July 4th, competitive eater Joey “Jaws” Chestnut set a new record in his chosen sport — 75 hotdogs consumed in ten minutes.   A team of sports medicine specialists have taken a closer look at Chestnut’s results with a key question in mind. That a […]

21 July 2020
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Tools of the Trade

Click on picture for a larger view    As a mother of three boys, I was always put into a faraway room during my sons’ brit milah. So I’m not familiar with the actual procedure, just the after-effects. I had another family doctor attending my third pregnancy (long story not relevant here) who unlike my […]

hummingbirds count
16 July 2020
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Hummingbirds May Count To Find Their Food

At DFC, we are well aware of how motivating food can be. After all, the prospect of bringing more delicious barbecue into the world was the main reason behind our own pivot to the condiment and sauce business!   There are many other species (including monkeys, octopuses, and dogs) that are just as keen as humans are to […]

cold brew coffee
8 July 2020
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Hot Morning? Cold Cuppa: The Science of Cold Brew Coffee

As summer hits its stride, we at DFC are enjoying keeping cool by any means necessary. Usually, a fresh breeze off the water greets us in the morning, but on particularly sultry days, I’ve found beating the heat needs to start as early as possible. This means I’ve retired my auto-drip for the summer and ventured […]

bubbles pollination
30 June 2020
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A (Bubble) Solution for Crop Pollination

In this space, we’ve looked at the many ways the future of pollination is in flux. While various types of bees and alternative pollinators like moths and bats are working hard, researchers are still looking to supplement their efforts artificially. (After all, the stability of the planet’s food supply is at stake) But humans with tiny brushes are clumsy and require payment, […]

23 June 2020
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Vegetarian “Pulled “Pork”

For those of you who don’t eat pork or meat, this recipe is for you! The technique is easy and fun, and our original BBQ sauce is the perfect support for the flavour of king oysters in particular. Maureen, my daughter in law and a vegetarian was inspired to create something that was interesting, tasty and a crowd-pleaser […]

beautiful chocolate
16 June 2020
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Releasing the Soul of Chocolate — Through Science!

When this pandemic started, it seems like everyone on the internet immediately began baking. We snapped up all the flour and yeast, and manufacturers and sellers are only just starting to catch up with our taste to stay home, nurture sourdough, and eat many delicious carbs.   I felt the impulse too but was briefly stymied by the […]

the luna, one of many moths species
9 June 2020
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Midnight Snacks: The Secret Pollination Powers of Moths

We at DFC love our bees. From adding to the biodiversity of our home in the Frontenac Arch to ensuring food supplies for the world at large, bees are superstar pollinators who have (rightly!) been earning all the press. As the hemisphere moves towards summer, the buzz of happy bees among the flowers outside has started filling the days at […]

Lego blocks & sustainability
2 June 2020
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Lego “Tapas Factory” Can Roll Appetizers Right Into My Mouth, Thank You

In this space, we’ve written about Lego many times, but never before has the ubiquitous Danish brick toy dovetailed so well with our current obsession, food! Via one of my favourite lucky-dip blog Boing Boing, I’ve discovered a charming video by Lego YouTubers The Brick Wall. In it, these spatial geniuses demonstrate a “tapas factory” built from the plastic bricks. […]

plant plastic made from plants
26 May 2020
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Plant “Plastic” To Bring Sustainability To Our Patios

Just a couple weeks ago, we looked into a new microbe, with whose help scientists are hoping to recycle PET plastics back into PET plastics with no degradation in quality. (No mean feat considering said microbes essentially eat the plastic — what comes out the “other end” is the new material!). While this development is great in […]

fried rice being made in wok
19 May 2020
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Fried Rice Physics: When Science Meets the Restaurant Scene

When DFC was located in the Toronto suburbs, we often found ourselves grabbing a quick bite at some of the amazing Chinese restaurants in that community. Besides being fast and delicious, they were often open at the unusual times we were peckish!   Now that our offices are in the (relatively) deep woods, more often than not we have […]

12 May 2020
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A Tribute to Jill, a Great Dog

Usually, I start thinking about what to write as an introduction at the start of the weekend…however I did not have to do that this week. On Friday the day that every pet owner dreads came upon us – we had to say goodbye to Jill.  Jill’s mobility wasn’t going in the right direction and […]

coating to keep this fresh
12 May 2020
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New Food coating

Despite the weather taunting us, spring is technically on its way here in southern Ontario. With it, comes the promise of delicious local fruits and veggies to wake up our hibernating tastebuds. I’ve always loved waiting for my faves to come into season — asparagus makes me think of Victoria Day, and McIntosh apples of Thanksgiving […]

5 May 2020
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From Cocktails to Cleansers: Distillery Pivots to Pandemic Preparedness

Due to a variety of reasons, North America has ended up behind the eight ball in terms of our protective response to COVID-19. In particular, my heart goes out to my home state of Michigan, as well as other U.S. states scrambling to take care of their own. Where there is a silver lining to be found, […]

seed packets
28 April 2020
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One Man’s Quest for Seed Security and the Future of Food

I’ve long been fascinated by the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. The Norwegian deep freeze is where thousands of the world’s food crop seeds lie slumbering, preserved as a testament to Earth’s genetic diversity — with a sad eye to the day when they are extinct outside of the seed vault’s concrete walls. But for all its […]

so from milk
21 April 2020
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Milk Surplus Solved by Pivot to Ancient Recipe

Necessity may be the mother of invention, but in this case, it seems the mother of re-invention as well: Japanese foodies are making an ancient “cheese,” called so, to liven up their quarantines due to COVID-19. They’re also doing it for a civic-minded reason — with kids out of school, there is an overabundance of the milk […]

collection of empty used plastic bottles on white background. each one is shot separately
14 April 2020
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Hungry Enzyme Makes a Meal of our Waste Plastic

In this time of supply-chain uncertainty, many of us are looking at different sources of food. It seems that includes other species: namely, a compost-heap-derived bacterial enzyme that scientists have refined to eat and recycle plastic — within hours!   Originally discovered happily digesting a pile of leaves in 2012, this year the enzyme became the front runner in […]

future food
12 April 2020
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One Giant Leap for Man and Insect Kind: New Food Regulations Expand EU Menus

While we are still in the thick of the COVID-19 curve, it feels like a luxury to think about a future that not all of us are going to get a chance to see. But some experts are starting to talk about the potentially beneficial social fallout our descent into the unthinkable might have.   How […]

11 April 2020
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Biblical Units and Measurements

Talmudic into modern-day measurements – making sense out of what those rabbis were talking about Talmudic Measure Modern equivalent Equivalent to Also equivalent Familiar equivalent Thumb-breadth 2cm Cherry Handbreadth 8cm 4 thumb-breadths Credit Card Handspan 24cm 3 handbreadths 12 thumb-breadths 11 Piano Keys Cubit 48cm 2 handspans 6 handbreadths Ruler  4 Cubits 192cm 75 inches […]

pizza-saver furniture
2 April 2020
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Pizza on Earth: Achieving the Apex of Purpose-built Furniture

Among the many things we are getting up to in this time of contagion and physical distancing is a) taking care of projects around the house, and b) ordering in food from hard-hit local restaurants to help keep them afloat.   Luckily, we can now combine these two tasks into one, with news from ad firm […]

olive oil
24 March 2020
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Deep-Fried Innovation: 3D Printing with Recycled Oil

I’ve often joked with David about converting our trusty canine-and-condiment-hauling vans to “green” vehicles by filling the gas tanks with recycled deep fryer oil. Besides being the cheapest option for long-term fuel use, it would have the added benefit of making everything inside the van — including the driver! — smell like the world’s best food: […]

17 March 2020
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Honey Fraud Unmasked by Sweet Science

With the current health climate, we at DFC consider ourselves luckier than ever that we live out in the woods. Still, we are laying in a few supplies in case we get sick. This is a continuation of our usual winter M.O.: Who wants to schlep out to the shops when you’re coughing and miserable, […]

cassava affected by climate change
12 March 2020
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Climate Change: Toxic in More Ways than One

We at DFC have been really lucky. As we’ve been expanding our sauce and condiment business, we’ve developed fantastic relationships with some really lovely food folks  — the Ormsbee’s Mercantile team who provide us with maple syrup, and the garlic gurus at the Bowness Family Farm, to name just two! We’ve been learning more about organic, local growing practices, […]

5 March 2020
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Machine Learning and Human Health: Decoding New Antibiotics

Long-time readers of this newsletter can corroborate: We’re always interested in the development of AI through machine learning. We’ve seen computer bits of intelligence fool university students, teach English to Japanese schoolkids, name kittens, and sort Lego.   While it is fun to think about a computer dubbing a baby cat Snox Boops, how well does machine learning work with less frivolous data? Well, […]

cars that drive themselves
26 February 2020
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Chilly Canadian Data Key in Teaching Self-Driving Cars

We at DFC spend a lot of time on the road, from visiting clients to dropping in on family, to ferrying our barbeque sauces to market. We’ve seen our share of good, fair, and poor drivers — but what we haven’t seen yet are cars with no drivers at all.   While I’ve been watching developments in autonomous cars keenly, what […]

mummy's voice
20 February 2020
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Hearing a Voice from the Grave — Through Science!

Boris Karloff’s immersive acting technique ain’t got nothing on the determined researchers from Royal Holloway – the University of London, University of York, and Leeds Museum. They were able to scan the preserved vocal cords of a 3,000-year-old mummy, and 3D printed a version that was then paired with an established invention called the Vocal Tract Organ. […]

cuttlefish hunting
11 February 2020
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What the Cuttlefish Saw: 3D Hunting and the Structure of the Brain

If the octopus is the mastermind of the sea, then I consider the cuttlefish its tough, canny cousin — a cephalopod enforcer with a literal backbone (not really: it’s an internal shell), a Joe “Pesce,”  if you will.   Okay, okay, I’ll stop… But a team of scientists from the University of Cambridge and the University of Minnesota won’t: won’t stop […]

11 February 2020
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From Beds to the Podium: Recycling at the 2020 Olympics

Olympic and Paralympic officials in Tokyo are scoring a point for sustainability in the design of athletes’ accommodations for the summer Games this July and August. Specifically, the bedframes that the competitors will be sleeping on between matches, races, or bouts in the Athletes Village will be made of a sturdy but recyclable cardboard.   As anyone who has ever tried […]

29 January 2020
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Playing at Work: Toys and Brainstorming Creativity

Playmobil, that Lego-complementary, German bastion of many a plastic childhood fantasy world, is poised to enter the workforce!   Jason Wilson at the Washington Post trialed the innovation, called Playmobil Pro; a pared-down play set that can be used in a play-therapy-like business brainstorming session.   The Playmobil Pro set neutralizes the human figurines by making them all blank white […]

21 January 2020
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Busy Bees and the Mystery of Lyme

In this newsletter, we have encountered the many wonders of bees. But Texas Monthly has an account of another we can — possibly — add to the list: Lyme disease therapy??   Unfortunately, the science is murky, but that seems par for the course for anything involving Lyme — so named after a town in Connecticut where, in the early 1970s, […]

puffins picture
14 January 2020
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Puffins Tool Use Scratches Deeper into Animal Intelligence

Humans are great at a lot of things — but one that we excel at most is being unconsciously biased towards how we see the world!   As such, we have created lots of so-called “intelligence” tests, designed to gauge how the non-human animals with whom we share our planet measure up in the smarts department. But, […]

smart earbud
7 January 2020
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Smart Headphones, Safe Head

Happy New Year, and welcome to the future!   With the holidays over and done with, I’m sure plenty of folks are showing off what Santa brought them. The especially lucky may have found 2019’s trendy audio accessory, a pair of wireless earbuds, in their stocking.   But the proliferation of low-profile earbuds and headphones has some safety experts […]

2 January 2020
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The We in Y’all: Sleeper Pronoun Key to Inclusive Language

As a Canadian by choice, I freely acknowledge that my current home has a few advantages over the country of my birth, the good old U.S. of A.   But there’s one factor where the Land of Liberty has the Great White North beat: its linguistic crucible has led to the only second person plural pronoun our language has seen […]

laptop on the cloud
2 January 2020
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Leisure on Your Work Laptop: Never the Twain Should Meet!

Despite our work-from-anywhere ethos plenty of DFC’s newsletter readers work in regular-style office jobs and have a boss, and a Slack channel, and a kitchenette with a sink that SOMEONE always manages to leave their dirty lunch dishes in. (When I worked in an office, that someone was Nikki. Man, it feels GREAT to finally call her out […]

17 December 2019
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It’s a Loud, Loud, Loud, Loud World (with noise)

Out in the boonies, we at the DFC offices rarely encounter unwanted noise. With rare exception, we work to a near-uniform soundtrack of crickets, the soft lowing of cows (link: photo of the neighbours?), and the wind in the leaves of the many maple trees.   But it’s hard to deny that the world is getting louder. […]

toilet aka can
10 December 2019
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The Reinvention of the Can

The DFC ranch runs on well water and a septic system, so we put a little more thought into turning on the tap than your average city dweller might. Also, water conservation is a key issue in our neck of the woods — so I was fascinated by a new invention that looks to cut bathroom water usage by half in one […]

ancient puppy
4 December 2019
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Wolf or Dog?: A Puppy’s History Frozen in Time

At DFC, we are, always and forever Team Dog. So much so, that I almost let my enthusiasm run away with me when I first saw news of this fascinating discovery: Swedish researchers are studying the body of a two-month-old puppy, found in the Siberian permafrost and estimated to have died 18,000 years ago. The puppy is so well preserved […]

tiny house
26 November 2019
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Tiny House Hate and the Future of Shelter

When we moved DFC from the Toronto suburbs to the deep wilderness of the Frontenac Arch, we downsized majorly. At the time, I drew inspiration from philosophies like KonMari (“Sorry, Jill, that chewed up stuffie that used to be shaped like a dolphin no longer sparks joy.”) and minimalism (“Do I really need a kitchen whisk? I could just use […]

Lego blocks & sustainability
19 November 2019
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Playing at Sustainability — For Keeps

I have fond memories of gifting Lego sets to my children on early birthdays and watching as they excitedly constructed imaginary worlds with wonderful, wacky kid-logic. Today’s Lego sets may follow trends in terms of content, but the basic units — the classic bricks — haven’t changed since 1958, and still allow for grand gestures of creativity!   Recently, Lego expanded on its product’s creative […]

perfect office for male and female
19 November 2019
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The Future is Female (and Eye-Strained, and Hunchbacked): How the Typical Office Could Hurt Us

We at DFC strive to make the office of the future a place of work-life balance, where your job can be ported to any location you find comfortable to work from, and there are no soul-destroying commutes or harsh fluorescent lighting to battle! Researchers have recently added fuel to that fire, by sourcing the worst office-related physical complaints […]

commercial kitchen made sauces
19 November 2019
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Kitchen Technology and the Nature of Work

David & Sons Fine Condiments is at the Royal Winter Fair this week! Cooking vast batches of our sauces in preparation, not to mention filling hundreds of tiny bottles, was only possible through the use of industrial kitchen machinery we have access to at the awesome Ontario Agri-Food Venture Centre. Technology is definitely a time and effort saver on the […]

water filled jelly drops
29 October 2019
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“Edible” Water Treats Sweeten Dehydration Treatment

As 2019 slowly winds to a close (where has the time gone?!), I’m keeping my eyes peeled for a fascinating invention that its creator hopes will help people with dementia by the end of the year. Pattinson’s Jelly Drops are brightly coloured, deliciously flavoured pods of “edible water” — 90% liquid water in fact, with gelling agents and […]

24 October 2019
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The Sound of Selling: Evolution and e-Commerce

If you’re reading this newsletter, you probably know DFC as your friendly neighbourhood boutique IT and business solutions company. But perceptive readers are also aware that we sell barbecue sauces (developed from David’s legendary from-scratch recipe) too! Our sauce business has taken us all kinds of places; from barbecues to country fairs to the shelves of fabulous local grocers. But no matter how […]

barn owl
15 October 2019
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WHOoo has Invented a New Owl Inspired Gadget?

As frequent readers of this newsletter know, DFC HQ is located deep in the country. As such, our team has had their workday interrupted by fishers, porcupines, cows, donkeys, and any number of gorgeous local and migrating birds.   One bird I’d love to see is the magnificent barn owl, which is regrettably endangered. We’re just barely in its habitat range, and […]

10 October 2019
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Looking for Nessie

I’ve long been fascinated by cryptids: It would be so cool to see a Sasquatch sashay across my backyard, pat Jill on the head, and keep going into the trees! Unfortunately, as a scientist, I must temper my enthusiasm with evidence. Which is why I loved digging into this tale of an international team of researchers, […]

birds dance
1 October 2019
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Dance Like a Team of Scientists is Watching: Birds and the Cognition of Boogie

At the DFC ranch, we are endlessly fascinated by reports of animal  intelligence — not least because we share our workspace with two remarkably smart canine co-workers (link: pic of Samson and Jill). So when I read news of an unusual kind of intelligence showing up in a representative of a really unusual species, I was just about as thrilled […]

A woman scribe
25 September 2019
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That’s Why the Lady is a Scribe: Dental Analysis Solves a Medieval Mystery

Recently, a pair of researchers stumbled onto a fascinating proof of women in the medieval workforce. Anita Radini of the University of York was seeking to unlock the mysteries of diets via starch particles preserved in dental tartar, and Christina Warinner of the Max Planck Institute was after the DNA of ancient oral bacteria. But, […]

17 September 2019
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Bye Bye Trabi? Not if Fans Can Help It

While learning all about the subculture of Soviet car fans back in May, I was reminded of my own personal favourite totalitarian bucket of bolts, the Trabant. I first encountered the Trabant (or, affectionately, the “Trabi”) on a trip to Germany, where I turned down an Ostalgie -soaked tour of the former East Berlin via the iconic — and […]

banana peeled
10 September 2019
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Smartphones Go Bananas with New Farming App

Smartphones — the little computers in our pockets — are sapping our willpower. Or, they’re keeping us more connected than ever. Or, they’re hurting kids by distracting their parents. Or, all of the above. We can’t deny smartphones have changed everything. That’s why it’s so satisfying to see the unique, portable power of this technology harnessed for good.   […]

sour dough bread
3 September 2019
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Just Like Mummy Used To Make: Bread Nerd Revives Ancient Culture

I’ve been dabbling in the sourdough subculture (pun intended!) since my daughter-in-law gifted me with a splinter of her starter in the spring. Ever the chemist, I loved experimenting with it — and chowing down on its amazing returns — until I pushed the envelope a little too far and it gave up the ghost. […]

27 August 2019
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Solving the Middle Seat Problem: The Business of the Sky

Now, I love travelling, but I haaate flying — and it has almost everything to do with the seats. With the wealth gap getting away from us, I understand I will never be one of the chosen few worthy enough of those first-class pods. My wishes are humble: it’d be great to not have to duke it out […]

20 August 2019
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(Macadamia) Nuts for Genetic Diversity

After consulting my doctor, I’ve recently started upping the “good” fats to my diet. (I love half an avocado on toasted sourdough!) Nuts are great source of monounsaturated fats, so I’ve been indulging in a few nuggets of my favourite — macadamia nuts. Little did I know, that what I thought was simply a healthy snack, was actually a wonder of […]

13 August 2019
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Artificial Tongue Tastes for True Whisky

A team of researchers from — where else? — the University of Glasgow has invented an “artificial tongue,” that can differentiate between different kinds of whisky, and could potentially be used to put a halt to the dangerous counterfeit alcohol trade.   Looking nothing like an actual tongue — thank god — the artificial tongue is made up of two […]

tattoo example
6 August 2019
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With Tattoo Sensors, Health is Skin-Deep

Researchers from the Technical University of Munich have united new technology with one of the oldest art forms, all to improve human wellbeing. They have developed an experimental dermal implant pigment that turns colour when it detects changes in metabolic substances. The pigment can be incorporated traditional tattoo ink — which means a permanent monitor of […]

2 August 2019
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Trip Again, Trip Better: Building a Smarter Prosthetic Leg

We behind DFC are a military family, and will forever be thankful to service members everywhere for the sacrifices they make for our country. So, when tech news comes down the pipes with a particular application for military members and veterans, we twig to it immediately!   One such development is Vanderbilt University’s recent research into improving the stumble […]

nuns as roommates for millenials
24 July 2019
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Unlikely Roommates: Nuns and Millennials find Common Ground

At first glance, there seem to be no two populations in today’s world more divergent than women religious and Millennials. But a new organization, dubbed “Nuns and Nones” (as in “none being Catholic”) is finding out that both groups can learn from each other, in one of the most time-tested ways — by living together in one community […]

16 July 2019
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The Extra Finger Advantage

In the Simpsons universe, everyone famously has only four fingers on each hand (the configuration is easier to animate). The sole exception is occasional guest star, God, who, as a deity, naturally has five fingers per hand. So, what does it mean when someone has six?   On The Simpsons, nothing: there is no character who boasts 12 total fingers. […]

cat with whiskers
10 July 2019
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New Drone Sensors Are The Cat’s Whiskers — Literally

For all our vaunted advantages — thumbs! giant brains! — the human toolbox sometimes pales in comparison to all of the species-specific hardware out there. For example, whiskers are an extraordinary set of close-range sensing organs that are found not only on the usual suspects of cats and dogs, but on rodents, seals, and even some birds. Whiskers allow their bearers to […]

one octopus short of octopuses
2 July 2019
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Octopus and Co.: The New Lab Rats?

Animal testing is an unfortunate reality of how we make biomedical research happen. While organizations have struggled to drive down cosmetic testing and other non-critical uses of animal lives, animal testing in medicine and the sciences is a necessary evil. (Though it can be debated how much of the foot-dragging is because there really are no viable alternatives)   […]

25 June 2019
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Lucy in the Synthesizer with Diamonds

We at DFC have cleaned a lot of mystery residues off of hardware in our time. Cherry cola in a keyboard, lunch grease in a trackball, corrosion of all kinds — you name it, we’ve pried it off some computer part.   Thankfully, we’ve never come across a cleanup job like Eliot Curtis did recently. A broadcast operations […]

19 June 2019
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The (Honey) Bees Are Alright

If you’re anything like me — an apian layperson — when you hear the word “bee,” your mind immediately fills with terrible visions of colony collapse disorder, leading to no more honey, and then leading to the end of all life on earth.    But, if you’re anything like me — an environmental catastrophizer — you’ll also have […]

17 June 2019
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Automation Solution: Humans and Robots Working Together?

Among the many reasons why I’m glad I’m my own boss, knowing I’ll never fire myself for being obsolete ranks high! But there are many jobs out there that are threatened by mass automation — from the obvious data entry gigs and telemarketing to the startling library technician jobs, and, I’m sure, personal assistants.   But new research is showing that replacing all […]

4 June 2019
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A Rose By Any Other Name

I love this part of spring — all the early snowdrops and crocuses have had their time, and the gardens are now filled with my favourites: showstopping tulips. It’s early enough that I’m still surprised by their presence. Soon we’ll be seeing all kinds of wonderful summerflowers in our neck of the woods, including roses of all stripes.   A team […]

dog ownership and more
28 May 2019
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The Genetic Case for Dog Ownership

Here at the DFC ranch, we don’t have to come up with excuses that dogs make office and home life better: we have reasons — a pair of them. The dogs get us away from our desks when our eyes and backs need a break, and inject much-needed levity into our workdays. (The fact that Jill can open doors, and […]

21 May 2019
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A Rare Chalk in the World of Math: How Tools Change How We Work

Working with computers can be pretty esoteric — after all, the reason why DFC exists as a professional team is because folks who prefer to focus on other things need our network-wrangling, cloud-tapping expertise (link: http://dfc.com/solutions/). That is the very same reason I have an accountant, and my accountant, in turn, has a dentist: everyone has […]

pyramids built with bricks
15 May 2019
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Big Bricks, Ancient Answers

This Passover I indulged in one of my favourite holiday-themed activities, next to cathartically cleaning house: watching the classic 1956 movie epic The Ten Commandments. Between bouts of arguing the relative acting abilities of Yul Brynner vs Chuck Heston (Brynner for the win!), we got to talking about all the theories about the building of the pyramids. […]

DIY tools
8 May 2019
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The DIY Nexus between Cars and Computers

It is a truth universally acknowledged that there are some things you can DIY, and some things you can’t. I myself grew up in a very handy household, but even my father handed down the sage advice of always hiring a professional for at least two aspects of maintenance: electricity and plumbing. Pallet planter? Go ahead. Roman blind? Have at it. But […]

smart pet
30 April 2019
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The Good Question Hiding In “How Smart is Your Pet?”

In my time with DFC, I have worked with lots of intelligent humans: clients, suppliers, colleagues, and friends. What I enjoy most about all these connections is that, when it comes to smarts, everyone has different strengths. Some excel at spatial know-how, others emotional intelligence, still others are wizards of scheduling. It makes for a […]

26 April 2019
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Porcupine’s Pointy Problem = Surgical Solution?

As a country-dweller, porcupines are second on my list (after fishers) of Not Cool Local Animals, judged by the main criterion of how much they can hurt my dogs (link: to story of Jill vs. Fisher).   Porcupines are herbivorous rodents who are native to most of Canada and the western United States. They are each […]

16 April 2019
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Procrastination and Human Emotions

Procrastination gets a bad rap: as a demon outside of ourselves, sitting on our extremities, preventing us from picking up a pen, or a broom, or a copy of TurboTax, like we know we’re supposed to. It’s that little imp that has had me up making a total of three separate cups of tea while I attempt to […]

9 April 2019
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Computing without Computers

When we first started out, DFC was primarily in the hardware/software business. Since then, we have moved to include networks, security, and bespoke business solutions. I see DFC’s trajectory as a metaphor for the development of computing at large. Time was, you got the unit first (whether out-of-the-box or DIY) and then futzed around figuring things out and […]

processed cheese slices
2 April 2019
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Artisan vs. American: Cheese and the Business Context

Out in DFC country, we are definitely spoiled when it comes to quality food — especially dairy. In particular, some of our province’s best (in my opinion) cheeses can be found a stone’s throw    This cheesy reality got me thinking about how responsiveness to context is deeply necessary for business success. Artisan cheesemaking makes a lot of sense in […]

cryptocurrency illustrated
26 March 2019
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Best Laid Plans: Security and Cryptocurrency

Even though it’s comparatively old news I still remain utterly fascinated by cryptocurrency. Thinking about the concept and its mechanics never fails to be a mind-expanding exercise. But recent events have shown that, no matter how pie-in-the-sky the new economy and its currency gets, it can still be brought down by something quotidian: security.   In this case, […]

bias towards cat behaviour
19 March 2019
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Bias and Animal Behaviour, Or: Your Cat May Not Be a Psycho

I found myself the in the GTA a couple of weeks ago, talking up our David & Sons barbecue sauce at local heroes Seed to Sausage’s new location. After a long day’s work meeting, greeting, and (facilitating) eating, I decided against the long drive back to the DFC ranch. Instead, I stayed overnight at my middle son, Ben’s, apartment. He and […]

ink and ink based drawing
12 March 2019
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HP and the Ink-based Shenanigans

Here’s some fun, dystopic-sounding news from the realm of the Internet of Things. HP, a printer manufacturer that DFC frequently encounters in the offices we service, has been sliding alarmingly towards 1984-type control over inkjet printers and components used by its consumers. (For example, in March of 2016, HP pushed a seemingly harmless security update to users of […]

patents for pasta
5 March 2019
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Pasta Patents: Technology on your Plate

Theoretically, spring is supposed to arrive this month, but in DFC’s snowy neck of the woods, winter continues to close its icy grip. I’ve been fighting back with the most powerful weapon we cold-climate-dwellers have: comfort food!   Chilis and soups are high on my list, but in this nastiest of months,  nothing beats the world’s most perfect […]

driverless car
26 February 2019
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Driverless Cars and the Future of Parking

DFC is located in a pretty rural part of Ontario, so, with all the snow this winter, we’ve been seeing many vehicles that are rare birds for city dwellers. ATVs, snowmobiles, and any number of hulking trucks with huge plow blades have all muscled through the drifts and past our offices. With our humble SUVs, we’ve […]

classic record
19 February 2019
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A Reissue of a Classic: Small Business and the Importance of Community

DFC the company supports small businesses all over with our array of business solutions. And DFC the humans try to do the same in our own community, through frequenting the many fairs, inns, and shops of our fellow Frontenac-dwellers. Sometimes we even go as far as Kingston! And it is in that bustling burg that I’ve found a heartwarming story about how important local […]

12 February 2019
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Squaring Up Theories on Wombat Poop

My entire life, I have been squirreling away facts in my brain that will come in handy when I inevitably get on Jeopardy. One of my favourites is a classic tidbit about one of Australia’s less-violent marsupials, the wombat. Specifically, that fact that its scat is cube-shaped!   While theories have abounded as to why wombats poop cubes (They stack them to mark […]

pepper plant that may provide pain relief
5 February 2019
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Peppery Plant Heat and the Future of Painkillers

Welcome to February! Right about now is the point in the winter when I start dreaming of warmer climes — if only for a vacation. One of my personal life goals is to visit some of my favourite hot-weather plants, cacti, in their natural habitats. Saguaro cacti  in particular look so friendly  that I’d be tempted to give […]

Michelangelo toes
30 January 2019
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The Toes Knows: Research Uncovers Key Co-Worker of Michelangelo

One of my favourite things to do on a cold winter day off is wandering around an art gallery or museum! I love how the snow outside bounces a different kind of light onto paintings and photographs, and how — with the weather being so grim — there’s no pressure to be anywhere else, or […]

microbiome with microbes
22 January 2019
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Microbes: A Match for Childhood Leukemia?

I’m lucky enough to have lived through a good amount of the 20th century, and into the 21st, two amazing centuries for medical science. In my own time, doctors (and vaccines!) have eliminated or nearly eliminated such terrifying diseases as smallpox, polio, and measles. But these diseases all come from outside agents: viruses. (Never mind all the nasty infections […]

Cardinal bird
15 January 2019
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A Red Bird is Not Just a Red Bird: The Many Kinds of Cardinal

Deep winter is when birdwatching really heats up in our (literal) neck of the woods. I love looking out into forested backyard over my first cup of coffee and seeing who’s joining me for breakfast. Species who end up at our sunflower-and-suet-filled feeder include juncos, chickadees, and blue jays — the bullies of the bunch!   Another bird I […]

10 January 2019
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What Alexa Knows

If Santa brought you an Alexa device this year, once you hear this news you might turn right around and punt it out the window!  A German Amazon user requested that company’s data in him back in August, under the EU’s new, stringent, General Data Protection Regulation. Amazon sent his data — along with a 100MB ZIP file […]

1 January 2019
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Systems vs. Goals: The Resolution Revolution?

Happy New Year! The DFC team hopes you’ve had a year of joy, challenge, and prosperity, and are looking forward to more of the same in 2019. With the calendar turnover approaching, I’m sure many of us have been thinking about resolutions. In my case, I mostly think about them to immediately discount them — I’m not […]

light source
18 December 2018
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Keeping an Eye on Screen Time as a Light Source

As the winter solstice nears and the sun disappears from the sky earlier every day, light sources become even more important to we humans. Exposure to sunlight gives us vitamin D and may have an effect on mood. The current trend of hygge, the Danish concept of embracing winter coziness, is so centred around candlelight that researchers are now warning fans […]

11 December 2018
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Smartwatches for Kids: Too Smart For Their Own Good

‘Tis the season for your gift-giving holiday of choice — and boy am I over it already!   For those of you still mired in the depths of gift buying, it’s my duty to warn you away from a tech-based gift that is especially hot right now but has chilling implications for its users. (And it’s not any of that infernal […]

showerheads and bacteria
4 December 2018
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The Bacteria that Shares your Shower

At the DFC homestead, we use well water. This was a significant difference from the city supply we were used to before we moved here and a change that gave us pause initially. Even though I’m a trained chemist, I couldn’t help my citified brain briefly piping up: “But if it came out of the […]

27 November 2018
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Dr. “Ctrl-Alt-Del”

At DFC, we love elegant design: in systems, hardware, and software. Usually, beautiful design draws attention to itself naturally — and there’s nothing more sublime than being called to admire something worthy of admiration!    But there’s lots of subtle solutions, so simply perfect that they seem to have occurred naturally, that fade into the background of everyday life unfairly. […]

dogsled teamwork in detail
21 November 2018
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Sled Dogs and Teamwork

With winter around the corner, I’m looking for ways to keep both myself and my furry companions Jill and Samson active. When the snow flies, there are lots of options for fun in the area — but one I hadn’t considered until I read this National Geographic article was dogsledding!   Turns out, some of today’s most effective sled dogs are not the pure-bred malamutes […]

13 November 2018
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New Study: Humans Drowning Out Dolphin Communication

We at DFC are fascinated by possibilities in communication. We love stories about how humans make themselves understood, so we can learn more about how our services can respond. But we also enjoy hearing about animal communication styles — mostly because animals are awesome!  There is extra fascinating — and extra unfortunate — news about human/animal communication from a new study […]

flu quarantine
6 November 2018
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Learning from the Flu -nniversary

I love anniversaries, especially if they are of happy events. But remembering tragedies on the date they roll back around is just as important, and probably more informative.   Among the big ones this year is the 100th anniversary of the most devastating influenza pandemic our planet has ever experienced. 20 to 100 million people died of the 1918-19 “Spanish” […]

31 October 2018
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The Canary in the Air: Drones Detecting Toxic Gases

From exploring pyramids to delivering your new charger cable, drones are increasingly weaving themselves into the fabric of our day-to-day. But in addition to making our lives easier, drones have started saving our lives too.   We wrote about the drone that saved two swimmers on its first day on the job with the lifeguards of Lennox Beach in NSW, […]

one octopus short of octopuses
23 October 2018
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In An Octopus’s Garden, In a… Rave?

Now, I respect the octopus. It can fit through any hole that is large enough to admit its beak. It’s intelligent enough to know when it’s in trouble and escape. Two-thirds of its total neurons are IN ITS ARMS. And now, thanks to researchers affiliated with Johns Hopkins University, word has come through that the humble Octopus bimaculoides knows how to party.   […]

photosynthesis example
19 October 2018
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Lessons in Photosynthesis

This month, as I work at my desk, I get to watch the leaves on the birch and maple trees outside my window change from healthy greens to gloriously rich yellows and reds. Fall shows us the flip side of photosynthesis — the process by which deciduous trees produce fabulous amounts of energy in their chlorophyll-rich leaves by […]

helpful robot as teachers
9 October 2018
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Teacher’s Bot: AI and English Class in Japan

Japan is a country that loves its robots. From elder care, to pet ownership, to pint-pulling, one is hard-pressed to find a problem in Japan that has can’t be addressed by a machine.   Continuing in that vein, the Japanese ministry of education is looking to bring AI robots into classrooms starting next year, in an effort to help […]

security is more than locks
2 October 2018
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About Your Privacy and Security – Some of My Thoughts

This week Facebook had a data breach affecting 50+ million users…Then there was a CBC Marketplace investigation that exposed how smart home devices are not only creating convenience and smart homes for their owners but are also engendering huge security vulnerabilities for those same owners. Think about how convenient it is to control the thermostat in […]

smartphones for medication
26 September 2018
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Tech Takes on Tuberculosis: Smartphones and Medication Adherence

Often thought of as the disease that took out 19th-century opera heroines, in our modern day, pulmonary tuberculosis is far from obsolete. It killed 1.7 million people worldwide in 2016 alone. While antibiotics to fight TB were developed in the 1940s, many strains of the bacterium are drug-resistant, and can result in a painful, bloody, suffocating illness, in […]

18 September 2018
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Broadcasting the Future with a Flexible, Wearable Speaker

We at DFC have long looked forward to the Singularity — the point at which the exponential development of technology will end in self-awareness, and totally alter human life as we know it. Yay!   Already, there are so many of us who are bionic.  Now, a new wearable has joined the ranks of cool technology that changes how we interact with […]

bias towards cat behaviour
11 September 2018
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Will Your Pet Cat Help You Become An Entrepreneur?

As dog people, we at DFC remain in opposition to our mortal enemies, cat people. Among the many reasons dogs are better than cats is the fact that, while yes, cats will poop in a box so it’s nice and convenient for you to scoop it, and so you don’t have to go hunting in your […]

birds can learn other bird languages
4 September 2018
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Great Leap in Language Learning — in Birds?!

A lot of birds are quite smart: take crows for example, who can recognize human faces and hold generations-long grudges against them. Or Alex the African grey parrot, who not only learned and used over 100 words in his 30-year lifetime but demonstrated an understanding of basic math.   But it’s not just the outliers or superstars who […]

4 September 2018
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Garlic is not just garlic!

Ever since we watched the garlic episode on the Netflix documentary, Rotten, we made a vow to only use locally sourced garlic in our BBQ sauces (and upcoming new flavour sauce). One of our customers in Perth, ON supplies us with garlic but we are always looking for new suppliers – thus our foray to the Verona Garlic Festival on […]

28 August 2018
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When Alexa is Too Helpful: Children, A.I., and Empathy

I’m a proud grandmother, and one of the coolest aspects of my role is the ringside seat I get, where I watch three little brains learn and grow and establish personalities! But, as a modern grandmother, I’m a little worried about the staggering developments in tech those little brains are going to have to deal with — […]

21 August 2018
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Invasion of the Popcorn Robots!

Now, we at DFC have a long history of adoring tiny, highly specified robots. But this new one takes the cake!   A team of Cornell University researchers has done a series of experiments on the feasibility of popcorn-driven robots. Yes: robots made of delicious, delicious popcorn. By enclosing unpopped kernels in various configurations, and popping them using heated Nichrome wires, microwaves, and hot […]

fitness tech
14 August 2018
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The Future of Fitness Tech: The Pentagon Responds to Strava Snafu

As a military mother, I’m always tuned to news that might affect my two older sons. Recently, they’ve have found themselves working on the same base, and have started using that good old sibling rivalry to egg each other on during lunch hour workouts. They use all kinds of apps to keep track of their […]

7 August 2018
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Automaker’s New Glasses Help Solve Old Problem of Motion Sickness

Ah, high summer in Ontario!: The time for ice cream, swimming, and road trips. But, if you’re among the 1/3 of the population who are highly susceptible to motion sickness, that last one might be a lot less fun than the others. And, you’d know the various treatments by heart: fresh air, scopolamine, that acupressure point on your wrist. But now, French automaker […]

math and numbers
7 August 2018
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Math Solves A Beatles Mystery

The history of work is full of great duos: Banting and Best, Reiner and Brooks, Fay and Poehler. But, as a music fan, my favourite team would have to be Beatles John Lennon and Paul McCartney!   Like any genius creative pair, John and Paul had evenly matched, but complementary, working styles. Their legal songwriting credit, Lennon/McCartney, was testament […]

mindfulness meditation
24 July 2018
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Mindfulness of… Futility?: Meditation and Workplace Motivation

We at DFC are notorious fans of work-life balance. As a trend in both business and private life, mindfulness meditation caught our eye early on, and it remains a hot topic today.   In (very!) short, mindfulness meditation involves paying close attention to the present moment, without judgment. It helps increase a practitioner’s sense of their presence […]

24 July 2018
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Of Bicycles and Scarves: Knitting on a European Commute​

This week, I find myself in Hamburg, Germany, visiting my youngest son, who works here as a chef. It’s been a while since I’ve visited northern Europe, and I am struck afresh by the many small differences between Canadian daily life and life here. Delicious, strange berries! The coffee culture!   Also, people here are a lot more […]

3 July 2018
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New Proof: The Peter Principle in Action​

We at DFC consider ourselves enormously lucky that we get to be our own bosses. This is for the usual reasons: We set our own goals  are thoroughly invested in every aspect of our company, and do our work while surrounded by natural beauty of the Frontenac Arch! But there’s a new reason why we’re glad no one’s in […]

marshmallow bonanza
27 June 2018
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Marshmallow Test Take 2: The Sociologic Hullabaloo

If you’ve ever investigated the culture of business or self improvement, you’ve likely heard tell of the marshmallow test: the study done at Stanford in the 1960s on young kids attending the university’s preschool program. Run by professor of psychology Walter Mischel, the test involved placing a marshmallow in front of a preschooler and telling them […]

green broccoli
19 June 2018
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Not That Kind of Green Coffee

I’m no Brassica-phobe: I love broccoli. Steamed, roasted, in a crunchy salad or creamy soup: its flexibility and high vitamin C content make it one of my favourite green veggies. But I draw the line at a new way of consuming broccoli developed in Australia, land of the weird  — where it is dehydrated, pulverized, […]

record for alien consumption
12 June 2018
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The Golden Record and Alien Thought

And here I thought the biggest problem with NASA’s Voyager probes, launched for deep space exploration in 1977, was that they came with a handy map of how to get to Earth for whomever in the universe might be tempted to pop by and eat us. But a pair of scientists have taken a closer look at Voyager 1 […]

5 June 2018
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A New Hub for Gadgets Boosts Accessibility in Gaming

We at DFC love elegant solutions — especially when they open up new experiences to folks underserved by the status quo. This is why we join most of the gaming community in a giant “w00t!”  in response to the just-announced Xbox Adaptive Controller (XAC).   Created to address the accessibility challenges of the standard controller that ships with Microsoft’s […]

humanity and bright blue
29 May 2018
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Ancient Humanity Never “Got” the Blues

As we considered back in February, blue is everywhere on the Internet, and due to that fact has a strong case for being its official colour. I bet we can, therefore, consider it to be the most modern colour, then! Design arguments aside, Science Alert has more scientific evidence that bolsters blue’s avant-garde status. There is linguistic evidence that blue has been […]

Google Duplex
22 May 2018
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Google Duplex’s New Ethical A.I. Problem

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any creepier: At the I/O conference at the beginning of this month, Google debuted a new add-on to its Google Assistant program. Dubbed Duplex, this feature is billed as making heavily digitized personal lives mesh more easily with others who haven’t caught up — by using sophisticated voice recognition and natural […]

drums of columbia
15 May 2018
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Talking Drums in the Amazon

At DFC, communication is both our business and our obsession. We strive for the perfect balance of simplicity and effectiveness in each solution we provide. That’s why I am bowled over with admiration for a unique method of inter-village communication devised by the Bora people of the Peruvian, Brazilian, and Colombian Amazon. Recently studied for the first time in depth […]

8 May 2018
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Big Data and the Soullessness of Algorithms

Like you, we at DFC have no time for Luddites: technology is here to stay, and it’s important for us to grapple with what kind of effect it will have on us, rather than sticking our heads in the sand and hoping it goes away. This is easy to do when examples of said technology are […]

dog ownership and more
1 May 2018
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Circle of Life: The Why and How of Pets Eating Owners

We at DFC live a pretty rural life. While we have an excellent emergency response, if we do say so ourselves, we still feel a bit more remote from others than we did in the  ’burbs. I’ve often thought what would happen to Jill and Samson if either of their humans became suddenly compromised. I like to think that […]

cilantro close up
24 April 2018
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Of Cilantro and Dinosaurs: New Theory About Taste & Extinction

I had a productive conversation with a friend this week, in which we potayto–potahto-ed over the world’s most controversial herb, cilantro. I love it, and welcome its delicate flavour in anything from curry to scrambled eggs. He loathes it, swears it tastes like “metal soap,” and would willingly launch every last ounce of it into the sun. Science has shown that […]

bias towards cat behaviour
17 April 2018
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A Kitten (and A.I.) Tale

In the distant future, when humanity has become a marginalized species, reduced to scraping out an existence on a now-watery planet that we ruined through our own technological hubris, or fighting our implacable robot overlords as a ragtag, vastly outnumbered and outgunned resistance we will huddle around the meager junk-fires of our encampments, and tell tales of 2018: the […]

10 April 2018
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Only in Silicon Valley: The Bragging Rights of Backyard Chickens

Silicon Valley has long been a topsy-turvy world: where data mining is good (for nefarious actors, that is), diversity is bad, and where employee productivity is such a concern that the design of a new office building literally forces workers to walk into walls.   Now, the Washington Post has published a take on what it claims is a new trend in this non-metallic pocket […]

4 April 2018
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Invasion of Barbra Streisand’s Cloned Dogs!

In addition to her legendary status as a vocalist and actor, over the past fifty years, Barbra Streisand has maintained her spot on the cutting edge of culture. Her 2003 lawsuit against the California Coastal Records Project, launched to suppress research photos of the Malibu cliffside where her house happened to be, led to the coining of the term […]

back bending
27 March 2018
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Put a Spring Into Your Back

With the Spring equinox past us, we at DFC are finally convinced that winter might, possibly, be close to over! But in order to prepare for sunbathing and BBQ season, we have to do spring’s dirty work first. Chez Moi, that involves waiting for the snow to melt, then clearing winter debris from my garden and any […]

20 March 2018
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I’m Talking to the Dog in the Mirror: Evolution and Dog/Human Relations

I have learned to accept the fact that my dogs are not only the best but also the most beautiful and smartest dogs on earth. (We all have our crosses to bear…) But it turns out that Jill and Samson share a specific kind of intelligence with other representatives of their species: “mirroring” — that is the ability to […]

13 March 2018
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You Can’t Tell A Hero by its Size: It’s Just a Teeny Little Super Magnetic Robot

We at DFC are suckers for small robots that do cool things, but that we could still totally overwhelm if they suddenly gained sentience and joined the uprising against humanity that is surely coming.   New to that long list is this cool innovation from the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems: a millimetre-scale robot made of a strip of elastic […]

Cars and turkeys don't mix
6 March 2018
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Cars vs. Bikes: A 21st Century Solution?

As a rural driver, I have to deal with lots of unusual obstacles on country roads: from turtles to turkeys, to the occasional deer. But all of these pale in comparison to sharing the asphalt with cyclists! I totally respect their right to be on the road, and I carefully maintain proper distance and predictability in […]

humanity and bright blue
27 February 2018
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Blue Crush: The Colour of Surfing the Net

In an advertorial on their blog, creative asset and design marketplace Envato brings up an excellent point about something I frankly didn’t notice about the Internet: it’s really blue. And they’re not talking colloquially about the documented relationship between ’net-based social media use and depression. They mean literally: a lot of brand presences on the Internet use blue […]

naked mole rats
20 February 2018
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Naked Mole Rats: Hairless, Painless… Ageless?

New in fascinating nature updates! Everyone’s favourite adorable wrinkly horror, the naked mole rat, has been found by scientists out of lifespan study company Calico Life Sciences LLC to defy everyone’s least favourite law of mortality, the Gompertz law. This means that naked mole rats do not age in a typical way. In addition to being a trippy addition to the already […]

13 February 2018
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Flowering Plants’ Tiny Genome Equals Evolutionary Success

It’s been so long since I’ve seen a flower out in the wild; I’m having a hard time believing they’ll ever return! But, of course, they will, fulfilling a genetic legacy that has made flowering plants (or angiosperms) the dominant plant type on Earth.   Flowering plants edged out former first-place gymnosperms (which include conifers […]

cartoon villain
6 February 2018
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The Hidden Bias in Cartoon Villainy

My two grandsons are still in the visual-entertainment-for-distraction phase (hello there, animated Wheels on the Bus or Paw Patrol for the forty-seventh time). But, when they grow old enough to grasp plot and theme, we’re looking forward to introducing them to all the modern film classics, including Star Wars (or “The Space Hero’s Journey” and The Lion King (or “Animal Hamlet”)   But a recent article […]

30 January 2018
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Drone and Human Unite to Save Australians — The Future in Action!

“At least it’s summer in Australia,” I thought this morning while staring out my window at my frost-covered yard, wearing two sweaters, two pairs of socks, and cradling my second cup of hot coffee.   But though (like all of us right now I’m sure!) I crave the cheery presence of the July sun, I also recognize […]

helpful robot as teachers
23 January 2018
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Robot Revulsion as Developmental Milestone: The Uncanny Valley at Work

Does Sophia the robot inspire revulsion in you? You know, Sophia: the humanoid robot developed by Hanson Laboratories and activated in 2015, who has a title at the UN and has been granted Saudi Arabian citizenship? The one whose cranium is transparent, and who cracks jokes about destroying all humans? Yeah, her.   If Sophia and other humanoid robots like her […]

bath towel
17 January 2018
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The Wonderful World of What’s Living on your Bath Towel

With certain personal items, it’s quite obvious when it’s appropriate to swap them out and wash them. Socks? Every day, of course! Bed sheets? Weekly, you spend like 60 hours total in them, for Pete’s sake. Bath towel? Well, considering you’re squeaky clean (in theory) when you dry yourself off post-shower, you’re… probably good for […]

9 January 2018
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What do Blimps and the Great Pyramid Have in Common?

Back in November, muon tomography of the Great Pyramid at Giza revealed a previously undiscovered large void, deep within the last standing Wonder of the Ancient World. Naturally scientists are super enthused about exploring this new mystery — but how to do so in a way that won’t break through doors or walls, compromising the state in which […]

a jellyfish
2 January 2018
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The Hidden Talents of Jellyfish

On this New Year’s Day, I’m excited to tackle the challenges the future will bring! But this exhilaration is tempered a bit by the realization that the holiday-mandated relaxation period will soon be over. During these holidays, I’ve been unwinding by watching nature documentaries — particularly BBC selections narrated by the incomparable Sir David Attenborough.   I’m […]

giving health a hand
26 December 2017
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Giving Health a Hand

Between the holidays bringing people closer together and cold weather forcing them together, often in enclosed spaces, now is the time that illness-causing bacteria and viruses start jumping from host to host, having the time of their short, hedonistic lives.   One of the best ways of minimizing their rampage, and the chances of getting sick, is by keeping our hands […]

show of power
25 December 2017
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The Paradox of Power: Between Bahaviour and the Brain

We at DFC are about to take a strategic news holiday, having overdosed a little on politics updates from our southern neighbour. There’s a lot of atypical decision making going on down there — and most of these choices are united by the same underlying lack of empathy. To risk a sweeping generalization, it seems to be easy for folks in […]

Detroit map
13 December 2017
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Internet in Detroit: A Community Coming Together

As a Canadian from Michigan, I’ve always kept a soft spot in my heart for my childhood “big city”, Detroit, the former automotive crown jewel of the Midwest — that has been having a really rough go of it over the past several decades. The disappearance of major industry and cultural forces was terrifying at the beginning. But […]

Smashy the goldfish
6 December 2017
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“Smashie Smash!”: Goldfish Hulks Out in Art Piece about Ecological Balance

As the calendar clicks over to December, the less prepared among us (Exhibit A: me) are just getting an inkling that maybe they should start shopping for the gift-giving portion of their winter  festival of choice. Happily, you and I now have it covered! — Thanks to a hilarious artwork called “Fish Hammer,” originated by UK artist Neil Mendoza, as […]

talking trees earthship logo
28 November 2017
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Talking Trees Project Bringing Sustainability into the Future

(David Craig is a local innovator whom I met at an event a couple weeks ago, and he wowed me when we chatted about his newest project. I know I can’t stop singing the praises of DFC’s neighbourhood, but the news David related to me means my community is about to get even more exciting!)   Builder David […]

28 November 2017
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Medicine and the Blockchain?: An Innovative Approach to HIV Treatment

Last month, American biohacker Tristan Roberts participated in a unique collaboration with Ascendance Biomedical on a new treatment for HIV. The collaboration was unprecedented not just in its approach, but its execution: Roberts voluntarily injected himself with Ascendance-provided components of a new gene therapy, over livestream. Roberts and the corporation hoped to find an ethical way to circumvent […]

baby birds
15 November 2017
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New Bird Behaviour Points Out Global Warming

I’m grateful that DFC’s office is one where it’s easy to strike a work-life balance. I manage to indulge in one of my favourite hobbies — birdwatching — simply by looking out the office window!   It was after returning from one of these coffee break birding sessions that I came across some startling news from New […]

bias towards cat behaviour
12 November 2017
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Faceless Future of Robot Cats to Colonize Couch Cushion Near You

As a dog owner, I know firsthand how wonderful it is to have a furry friend (or two) in your life. Dogs and cats have been living with and alongside humans for centuries — but sometimes, due to living space constraints or mobility issues, keeping a live pet is not an option. And, in finding […]

death and coffins
30 October 2017
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Death and Tech Meet in Spooky Smiths Falls

‘Tis the season for the creepy, kooky, mysterious, and spooky — it’s Hallowe’en! Back in civilization, I used to love handing candy out to the neighbourhood kids; I think this year we’re going to have to be satisfied with dressing up the dogs. But underneath the costumes and the sugar rushes, Hallowe’en has another purpose: it lets us confront […]

testing lead in drinking water
30 October 2017
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Young Eyes Offer Fresh Perspective on Harmful Lead

This amazing story hits the sweet spot for me as both a now-grown kid science nerd and transplanted Michigander — I just had to share! 11-year-old Gitanjali Rao has been named the grand prize winner ($25,000!) of the 3M Young Scientist Challenge, for Tethys, a device she created that can quickly pick up on lead […]

29 October 2017
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Future Funerals: Space as Burial Ground Not Yet Achieved

Ascension, a company out of the UK, is catching a bit of flak from geeks for misrepresenting its primary service: scattering human ashes in “space.” Unlike other existing companies, whose space burial services involve launching a sealed craft into orbit for later, earthly retrieval; or NASA, who piggybacked Eugene Shoemaker’s ashes on the deliberately crashed Lunar Prospector probe […]

10 October 2017
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At The Speed of the Screenreader: A Blind Programmer Shares His Method

I love stories of humans who have managed to develop a closer bond with the machines. The optimist in me believes wholeheartedly that humankind is that much closer to the Singularity every time a new prosthetic arm is developed! Which is why this piece by Finnish programmer Tuukka Ojala, over at the blog for Vincit, his […]

sexism symbol
7 October 2017
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A “Mann” For All Seasons: Foiling Tech Sexism with a Fake Male

As a woman in the technical field of computing (and having transitioned from a long career in the technical field of chemistry), I’ve come up against many insidious examples of sexism in my time. Oh, how often have I wanted to give the perpetrators their comeuppance — but been unable to without blowback! So I […]

29 September 2017
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Keep It Simple, Scientists: Flexible Wheel Robot Heralds a New Movement in Robotics

While it seems that only the whiz-bang-iest robots in the field these days are the ones getting attention, they are also the most complicated. And, as we all know, the more complicated a thing is, the more opportunities it has to fail. This is especially true in robotics (DARPA competition blooper reel, anyone?). This has led some researchers […]

19 September 2017
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Stress: The (Epigenetic) Gift that Keeps on Giving?

It is a truth universally acknowledged that being a human can be stressful. Whether it comes from an unfulfilled desire for a more flexible workplace, ill health, or family tension, none of us is immune to the physical and mental effects of stress.   Unfortunately, there seems to be an increasing amount of evidence that the effects of […]

carp fish
13 September 2017
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Mixing Fish with Alcohol Makes For Winter Survival Strategy

With DFC’s offices located in the Frontenac Arch Biosphere we’ve gotten used to being close to nature. Sometimes, after work, I’ll take a quick jaunt out to the lake right across the road, and watch from the shore as the fish do their thing. It’s quite relaxing! But I’ve long been curious about how our aquatic neighbours […]

lip skin
5 September 2017
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Robo-Mole Patrol: AIs and the Battle against Skin Cancer

When the calendar clicks over to September, the time has come to start accepting that summer is nearly over. While I will miss the long days and the hours outside in beautiful sun, what I won’t miss is how those can combine into scary opportunities for melanoma (skin cancer) to strike.* Though I’m diligent with […]

29 August 2017
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Investigating the Chimp-Human Alzheimer’s Connection

Humans share a great deal of similarities with our chimpanzee cousins, including our use of stone tools, our love of fruit, and the fact we both pass the mirror test. But for the many ways we are strikingly alike, humans have one heartbreaking difference lurking in our brains: we develop Alzheimer’s disease, as no other primate can.   […]

birthday candles
27 August 2017
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Blow The Candles Out and Hold the Cake?

We at DFC have had friends celebrating a couple birthdays recently, and I only just realized that it’s been a long while since any of us have blown out candles on a cake! I guess it’s something that grown ups don’t really do anymore, and I briefly felt sad about it — until I read about […]

15 August 2017
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A Sticky Situation, Thanks To Slugs

We at DFC love it when science turns to our animal friends for answers to human problems. It keeps everything in perspective, reminding us that, after all, humans are animals too!   Now, researchers are looking to the elegant slug for insight into a new type of surgical adhesive. As we learned when looking into the adhesive properties of […]

ice cream cone
9 August 2017
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Why we scream when we eat ice cream

This month, we find ourselves in peak ice cream season, the most wonderful time of the year! But ice cream has its hazards — including the dreaded brain freeze. We all know that when the mouth-chilling wave hits we need to go easy on the Tiger Tail or Superkid, but have you ever thought about how the physical process works?   Turns […]

Lego blocks & sustainability
2 August 2017
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AI Takes The Tedium Out Of Lego: Brick-Sorting Machine Leads to Fun (and Profit!)

I’m going to send this week’s article to my middle son Ben, a longtime Lego enthusiast. He’s just returned to Canada from a year working abroad. His job was so time – and attention-intensive, all the poor guy could do to unwind was invest in Lego sets that he obtained through retail therapy (he frequented […]

2 August 2017
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Gee Whiz! New Fuel Cells Process Urine into Light and Clean Water

As you likely already know, dear reader, we on the DFC home front live deep in the wilds of the Frontenac Arch Biosphere. Transitioning from suburban Toronto a couple years ago was a bit of a culture shock, but we’ve gotten quite comfortable with our new, more sustainable, digs! The only thing I still find myself […]

19 July 2017
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Pineapple Pleather and Sustainable Fashion

After I waxed rhapsodic about one of my favourite fruits a few weeks ago, apples, you will have to indulge me one more time with tech news that involves another type of fruit close to my heart: pineapples!   Or, more accurately, it involves the pineapples’ leaves — fashion designer Carmen Hijosa has created a textile […]

19 July 2017
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Artificial Tentacles Point the Way to Underwater Adhesives

Since we live in different parts of the planet — dry vs. wet — humans and octopuses rarely cross paths. The general public has only recently begun hearing news that this sometime-sashimi is actually a remarkably intelligent animal. Octopuses are perhaps even more long-lived in their intelligence than us!   Science is now looking at the foreign world of the […]

5 July 2017
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An Apple a Day Keeps Genetic Stagnation Away

We’ve just gotten into summer, so there’s plenty of fresh local fruit — strawberries, peaches — that we get to enjoy before one of my fall favourites, apples! When the brisk October days come, and it’s time to find a pick-your-own orchard, I’ll keep in mind this fascinating New York Times article on apple hunters— who use […]

microbiome with microbes
28 June 2017
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The Surgery/Weight Loss Link: A Detour through the Microbiome

After a few years of awareness, researchers are now really digging into the mysteries of the bacterial powerhouse inside the human gut — the glorious microbiome. From chronic fatigue to jet lag effects, we are discovering that upsetting the unique microbial balance within each of us can have far-reaching effects.   But some of them […]

21 June 2017
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The Word on, Like, Uptalk?

As a woman in business, I am often aware of the way I speak, and how it comes across to clients and co-workers. Many damaging labels end up stuck to women who try to get their point across in power situations, and I like to do my bit in recognizing when that’s happening.   So […]

house in the city
13 June 2017
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The City that Google Built: At Home in Toronto?

Alphabet Inc., parent company of Google, has answered a call for proposals from the City of Toronto for a high-tech partnership that will reshape a chunk of the city’s waterfront. Alphabet’s “moonshot” initiatives arm, Sidewalk Labs, has been looking for a city in which to embed a new kind of urban district that it wants […]

nose on the face
7 June 2017
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The (Human) Nose… Knows?? We May Smell Better Than We Think

I’m always impressed by the olfactory feats my canine companions Jill and Samson can accomplish. From searching a field for a groundhog to chase, to lasering in on the treat bag as I pull it from the kitchen shelf, I’m envious sometimes of the whole other world of scents they seem to inhabit!   Well, science […]

neurons and deep breathing
1 June 2017
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Keep Calm and Use Your Neurons: Deep Breathing and the Human Brain

Humans, in a variety of situations and religious practices, have long engaged in deep breathing to calm and centre — for so long, that it can’t be just a philosophical response! Researchers have been attempting for decades to nail down why deep breathing affects us the way it does. A new study led by Stanford […]

26 May 2017
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In(mate)genuity: Behind the Hidden Computers in an American Prison

Showing the kind of get-up-and-go that may have, um, helped them in their previous careers, a group of inmates at the Marion Correctional Institution in Columbus, Ohio, constructed two working computers out of spare parts and hid them in a ceiling in their facility. They were discovered in the summer of 2015, when IT at […]

17 May 2017
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A Tale of Intelligence: A New Test for Animal Self-Awareness Smarts

From one account of bias to another: This week we look at a new experiment that may redefine animal intelligence on their terms, not ours – opening up a whole new way of looking at the interesting animals with whom we share our planet! The study (recently published in Scientific Reports) has shown that elephants […]

9 May 2017
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New Research Points to Tetris as Balm for Trauma

Good news for gamers! Swedish and British researchers working out of Stockholm’s Karolinska Institute are looking at something a little unusual right now — the health benefits of sitting on your duff and playing a video game — specifically, the perennial classic, Tetris.   The benefits seem to be to mental health, and involve counteracting the […]

rabbit gene to be edited
26 April 2017
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Gene Editing: An Invasive Species Solution?

The government of New Zealand may soon deploy a futuristic tool to solve an old problem, unique to their biosphere. That problem is the invasive species — like rabbits, rats, and stoats — that have wreaked havoc on native species that have not evolved to ideal with predation. Previous attempts to gain control of these invaders […]

23 April 2017
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The Perils of Pseudo Penicillin Allergy

Since its serendipitous discovery by Alexander Fleming in 1928, penicillin has developed into one of the leading lights of the antibiotic world. But quite a few of us are allergic to it — or so we think. It appears that a startling number of folks who profess a penicillin allergy come to that conclusion without actual […]

butterfly found in the country
4 April 2017
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Country Living is Naturally Green

The three R’s of Recycle, Reuse, Reduce come naturally when living in the country. Instead of watering my garden from our well I carry buckets of water from the rain barrel. I’ve learned that the ashes from the wood stove that we use to heat our house are used on the driveway as a natural ice-melter. We now take apart […]

cat in a box
28 March 2017
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Indoor Cat Behaviour — A Masterclass in Adaptation to Surroundings

Though we at DFC are avowed dog people (and today is Jill’s birthday), there are folks in our lives who are strictly Team Cat when it comes to at-home companions. And, like most of the internet, they will not stop talking about the doofy things their indoor felines do on a daily basis — like get […]

Salmonella source
23 March 2017
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Salmonella vs. Cancer: Someday a More Even Match?

In a proof-of concept study, researchers at Chonnam National University in South Korea have bioengineered a strain of Salmonella that can enter tumours and, Trojan-Horse-style, trigger the host’s immune system to attack the malignant cells. So far, this works well in mice, but the team is hoping this early success will pave the way for […]

15 March 2017
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Snail Spa Supports Slime Surplus: The Ethics of a New Cosmetics Fad

European snail farmers are currently experiencing an unheard-of demand for their product. Interestingly, it’s not in response to an uptick in escargot consumption, the usual fate of Helix aspersa or Cornu aspersum, but in a cosmetics fad for snail slime skin serums.   Studies have shown that the uniquely thick mucus produced by these snails […]

hydrogel capsules
7 March 2017
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Hydrogel Robots Wave Us Over to New MIT Innovation

Some great new tech news from my favourite innovators, those wacky folks at MIT: they’ve invented a series of hydrogel “robots,” which are much more responsive than previous generations, and could have an extraordinary range of applications in the medical field and beyond!   These soft robots are designed to “live” and work in water. […]

7 March 2017
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A Musical Robot for an Improvisational Age

To the pantheon of adorable robots, Georgia Tech’s Centre for Music technology is making a bid to add a little fellow named Shimon. With one large lens for a friendly eye and four mallets in hand, Shimon is a demon on the marimba. But while rocking out with the best improvisational jazz musicians, he also shows […]

Titmouse does mobbing
23 February 2017
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Bird “Mobbing”: Self-Conservation in Action

I’ve long enjoyed a little light birding as a hobby — but I’ve gotten much more serious about it since moving both home and business to the Frontenac Arch Biosphere and incredibly species-rich area of Canada. Consequently, I’ve also become more interested in the mechanics of conservation — and a recent article in Nautilus introduced me to an […]

samson and other animals
14 February 2017
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The Only Thing (Really) Separating Us from the Animals is our Ability to Accessorize

As a devoted dog person, I have long thought that my two pack-mates, Jill and Samson try to communicate with me vocally. (Jill especially, who is a howler more that a barker, can be quite articulate in her criticisms when I’m a bit too slow getting her dinner ready!) But, of course, they can’t really be […]

organizational citizenship
7 February 2017
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Organizational Citizenship Behaviour: A Hidden Form of Burnout

A study out of the School of Management and Business at King’s College London has proven something that, anecdatally, also makes a lot of sense — that conscientious, above-and-beyond-type employees, who are successful at their jobs because of this drive, also experience significant emotional exhaustion, and struggle to keep a work-life balance.   Participants in […]

media and your genes
31 January 2017
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Your Media Habits Are In Your Genes

With the veritable explosion of technology and online platforms in recent decades, research is understandably catching up to the core truths about how our (comparatively un-evolved) brains and bodies interact with these almost parallel realities. One narrative has us at the mercy of insidious tech that erodes our willpower and enslaves us to our glowing […]

button toy
28 January 2017
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Using an Old Toy to Save Lives

We’re lucky enough to be surrounded by so much gee-whiz tech nowadays – from the Mars rover to tortilla Keurigs  – that it’s easy to forget that the definition of technology includes some elegantly simple concepts. The lever, the wedge and the pulley have all changed the world far beyond what their uncomplicated structures might indicate possible. We […]

bias towards cat behaviour
17 January 2017
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Curiosity: Personality Testing and the Link to Creative Problem Solving

Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it might also breathe life into human workers’ careers — a different breed of curiosity, at least, that researchers are just starting to look at.   In a recent study done by the University of Oklahoma, Oregon State University, and Shaker Consulting Group, researchers have discovered the connection […]

10 January 2017
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Hacking Sleep: Strategies for Rest in the 21st Century

Throwing myself back into my standard working hours after a holiday period off has really made me think about how much we in the business world try to manage our sleep. We at DFC are able to set our own hours, but some hours are non-negotiable: my canine alarm clocks certainly don’t know the difference […]

journal notebook with pen
3 January 2017
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Breaking Down the Bullet Journal: Productivity’s Newest Trend Taps Into Old Wisdom

If you spend any time on social media, you’ve probably seen the “bullet journal” coming for a while now. Created by Brooklyn digital product designer Rider Carroll, the bullet journal — or “BuJo” to aficionados — purports to be a revolutionary development in personal organization and motivation.   Basically, all one needs to start a bullet […]

cooked by June oven
21 December 2016
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Harder, Not Smarter?: Considering the June Oven

From counter-top tortilla makers to fridges you can tweet from, so-called “smart” appliances seem to be getting smarter.   But over at Fast Co. Design, writer Mark Wilson posits that the gadgets in our lives are exhibiting the wrong kind of smart — exemplified by his frustrating test drive of the June, “the intelligent convection oven.”  […]

18 December 2016
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Looking to Babies to Model A.I.

Despite some experts’ developing theories on the impossibility of our ever creating “strong A.I.” — that is, the kind of robot intelligence that we need to worry about getting away from us and eliminating us as threats to itself (ahem Skynet ahem) scientists out there are still plugging away at this fascinating issue.   One way to […]

alarms of all types
6 December 2016
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Alarming Alarms, Or: How To Annoy People For A Very Good Reason

On Friday, I was happily taking care of the dishes while half listening to a local radio station playing in the next room. Suddenly, over the sound of the running water, I heard the most unholy buzzing screech. I had to turn off the tap and run to the centre of my home to locate […]

29 November 2016
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A Digital Memorial Comes To Life

The Verge has published a moving meditation on a close friendship torn apart by death – and how the friend left behind has memorialized the other in a very 21st century way. Eugenia Kuyda and Roman Mazurenko became acquainted in Moscow, where he was a cultural mover and shaker, and she wrote for a lifestyle […]

23 November 2016
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How Much Do You Love Tortillas?

It took me a good couple days to believe this in-development appliance was real, and not from The Onion – but once I did, I was staggered by it. The tubby little box follows a proven kitchen appliance formula: it lives on your counter, accepts single-use pods into its top, and in a few seconds, dispenses […]

surfer beaver
15 November 2016
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A New Type of Wetsuit Inspired by Beaver Fur

As the days grow shorter and the wind blows colder, thoughts turn to how the heck to keep from freezing every time I leave my cozy, wood stove heated house. I sometimes think of the animals who don’t have it so lucky, and have to stay outside over the winter in dens or burrows, or […]

brain training
8 November 2016
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Brain Training Downer: New Study Shows Overall Cognitive Improvement Not Likely

A team out of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has done a serious assessment of studies of brain training games, like those featured in programs likeLumosity and Learning Rx. They hoped to get a final answer on whether playing these skill-specific games can result in general memory and cognition strengthening, as these companies assert, and […]

Schadenfreude neurons
1 November 2016
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Schadenfreude Neurons May Show Connection Between Brain and Emotion

Schadenfreude, an originally German term, is used to describe a very human emotion — translated by a certain hit Broadway musical as “happiness at the misfortune of others.”. Now, a team of neuroscientists, who were actually studying neurons associated with observational learning, has found the particular brain cells that activate when they see someone else […]

glowing shrimp & E. coli
25 October 2016
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Putting a Spotlight on E. Coli – a deep-sea shrimp may make our food safer

Sometimes, the foods that make you sickest are the ones that passed the – literal and figurative – sniff test. In determining food safety, there can be more guesswork than is comfortable. But soon, standing in front of your fridge wondering if that package of frozen hamburgers, whose batch number isn’t quite the one that […]

19 October 2016
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Bees + Elephants = Conservation

Earlier this week, we (meaning the dogs & humans living here) had some excitement in the backyard. The excitement started when Jill hit, no pounced, on the back door to go outside. Both she and Samson started some serious barking and jumping. I looked outside to see what all the excitement was about and it […]

teamwork and memory
11 October 2016
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Teamwork can harm memory

If you spend your days in a workplace where teamwork is paramount, here’s something to think about: a new study shows that groups of people working together to recall information may actually be compromising that recall. The team behind the study, a collaboration between the University of Liverpool and the University of Ontario Institute of […]

teleportation and the quantum internet
5 October 2016
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A Tale of Teleportation: One Step Closer to the Quantum Internet

Researchers at the University of Calgary have demonstrated a principle in physics that even Einstein himself called “spooky action at a distance.” They have done so with an experiment of elegant simplicity, even though the concept seems seriously dense to the layperson (i.e. me!).   Basically, the team — headed by Professor Wolfgang Tittel and made […]

pay for the meatware
29 September 2016
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Mercy for “Meatware”: a Future of Working Smarter, not Faster

One of the many interesting threads that I picked out of the hot economics tome of 2014, Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century, was that, given that the success of the 20th century was a short-lived economic fluke because of an unprecedented confluence of world events, we in the 2000s in the West are seeing […]

20 September 2016
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Dogs Brain Research Shows a Truth about Language Processing

My dogs Jill and Samson have never been shy about telling me what they think about what I’m saying to them – either through vocalizing or cocking an expressive eyebrow. But now researchers at Eotvos Lorand University have quantified exactly how the brains of dogs in general respond to language – and have found an […]

teddy bear apps
14 September 2016
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Beware Of The Menacingly Simple Culture of Apps

I’m sure anyone with a phone in their pocket nowadays has stuffed it full (or had it come out of the box stuffed full) of apps. From Twitter and Google Maps, to Rocket Man and Instagram, apps are the route by which a staggering amount of information in our world is mediated and packaged for […]

6 September 2016
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Squid and Secret Messages

This week, scientists are looking to the sea and its citizens again for a new human tech innovation.   We recently investigated the new invention of self-repairing fabric, which uses a polymer derived from squid sucker teeth to “heal” torn fabric without sewing. Now, a team out of the University of Connecticut has turned to […]

30 August 2016
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“Neural Dust,” the World’s Tiniest Sensor, Paves Way for Medical Innovation

Now, I’m as suspicious as anyone of the chip-in-our-brain future we seem to be careening towards. But I’m still fascinated by the wealth of applications of this new innovation from UC Berkeley: “neural dust.” While definitely not chips, these incredibly tiny, battery-less sensors could be implanted deep within the body, to transmit information about nerves, […]

23 August 2016
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Unique Microbial Profile Shields the Amish from Asthma

Scientists have made yet another real-world connection between human physical health and the state of the microbes that live in and on our bodies, and tag along for the ride our entire lives.   This time, a team out of the University of Chicago sought to investigate why the Amish population in the United States experiences […]

not needed with self-healing fabric
16 August 2016
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Studies in Self-Healing Fabric: Goodbye Sewing Kit, Hello Super Suit!

With Vogue’s much-storied September issue hitting newsstands right now, I have been inspired to pay more attention to the art of fashion. It’s hard to do way out in the glorious woods where we at DFC live and work; out here, with the ticks and the flies and the scratchy branches, function necessarily trumps form! But, […]

9 August 2016
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“The Shirley Technique”: 3D Printed Prosthetics on the Horizon

Over the past several years, 3D printing has gone from theory, to fun novelty, to possible threat. Now, the concept is being used as a medical game changer – helping several patients with unique facial prosthetic needs.   The first such patient was Shirley Anderson, an Indiana man who lost his jaw and Adam’s apple […]

music earbuds
2 August 2016
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The Sound of… Science?: Avoiding Hearing Loss with Music

Back in 2012, before I moved to Eastern Ontario and started to get back into playing music, we profiled a special project in this blog: Music & Memory, which gifted donated iPods filled with personalized music to people in nursing homes experiencing dementia. The change in the recipients was astonishing: listening to the music of […]

skin as an accessory
26 July 2016
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Skin Deep: Adventures in Designer “Genes”

As I write this, we are experiencing a heat wave in most of Ontario. With temperatures hitting around 40°C (with humidex), it’s way too hot to even think about wearing something like leather!   But, if you do manage to bypass that particular mental block when considering this week’s topic, you may find another one […]

gut with bacteria
19 July 2016
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Gut Bacteria May Hold Key To Unlocking Mystery Syndrome

Call it confirmation bias, but it seems like nearly everything we investigate in these blogs circles back to that good old microbiome!    Everyone’s favourite bacterial colony (that actually makes up about 90% of, well, everybody) is just starting to be studied in real depth. As we become aware that the health of the bacteria that […]

bacteria CRISPR methodology - DNA
13 July 2016
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Rewriting Bacteria ABCs of DNA

There are some amazing things happening at the genetic level nowadays – beyond the usual, controversial, modifications to increase crop yield, or make plants glow. Researchers have now devised a method to rewrite the DNA of living bacteria, encoding information into them like mini microscopic hard drives.   This feat was accomplished through the use […]

prosthetic arm
5 July 2016
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New Leaps in Prosthetic arm technology

DARPA, an agency of the U.S. Department of Defense, has been putting its research muscle behind a new way to use real muscle: arm muscle, that is! Specifically, the arm muscle of volunteer Johnny Matheny, whose left arm amputation has made him an excellent subject for the development of a new prosthetic: one that features […]

machine uprising
28 June 2016
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Machine Uprising Probably Not In Cards, Still Makes Great Movie Plot

As we have moved through the 20th century and into the 21st, and computer processing power has increased exponentially, popular culture has been progressively gripped by the what-if scenario of computing machines becoming sentient. Fictional examples run from saviours to annihilators, but all characterizations hinge on one assumption: that computing machines can become sophisticated enough […]

AI teacher to students
21 June 2016
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OMG: AI TA Provides A’s for Q’s at Students’ SOS

It’s usually a shock to the system when someone transitions to a higher level of education. With a more competitive atmosphere and higher student-faculty ratio, it’s easy for basic questions to go unanswered, and connections to professors — and subjects — to be lost. But Ashok Goel, instructor of the Knowledge Based Artificial Intelligence masters-level course […]

Supercapacitor make edible electronics
14 June 2016
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Supercapacitor “Sandwiches”: The Tasty Future of Ingestible Electronics?

I love trying out new recipes: as long as I have a sharp knife and a good source for unusual produce, I fell well equipped to give almost anything a shot! But the requirements for this new sandwich gave me pause, as I’d need more than my kitchen — I’d need a lab. The “sandwich” […]

spring leaf and mom nature
14 June 2016
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Unfurling the “Bionic Leaf”: Spring Comes to the Artificial Photosynthesis Field

Now that Victoria Day, the traditional date in Southern Ontario that marks the end of the chances of frost, has passed, I’m allowing myself to get attached to the plants in my garden. And boy, are they (and their friends in the woods around us) really starting to do their thing! While the happy spring […]

1 June 2016
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A Cooler Commute: Modeling the City Bus of the Future

As loyal readers of this newsletter know, we at DFC are advocates of making your workplace where you already are. Our “where” happens to be a cabin in eastern Ontario, but we look forward to the day when folks all over can use technological interventions to bring their workplaces to them . Until that happens, […]

anti procrastination aids
24 May 2016
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Procrastination Solution: All in Your Head?

There are certain things generally accepted as separating humankind from the animals: empathy, our ability to accessorize, and, in my opinion, our tendency to procrastinate! I don’t think there’s a person alive (or dead) who hasn’t battled that demon of “Do-It-Later”.   As we learn more and more about the brain, an answer to why procrastination […]

unplug the gadgets
17 May 2016
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What Price Progress? Digital Gadgets and the Power They Use

Technology has become so integrated into our lives that it’s hard to realize all the gadgets and gee-gaws that surround us and help with every little thing. From your laptop snoozing away on your desk, to the smartphone in your pocket patiently waiting for your inquiry, bionic support is just one wake-up button away.   […]

password via skullconduct
10 May 2016
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Using Your Head — As Your Password?

Keeping track of the eight hundred million passwords that we all seem to need for a normal life nowadays (that include at least one capital letter, one number, and one non-alphanumeric character: gee, this is a totally normal thing to remember with complete accuracy…) can be stressful. Add to this the increasing presence of wearable […]

life at weliving
3 May 2016
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WeLiving Life — 21st Century Style

When it comes to the Great Work-Life Balance Debate, we at DFC fall firmly into the Live-to-Work camp. I mean, with all the neat tech out there that makes connection easier, why not use it to your advantage, to create space for more and higher quality leisure?   But for those who are team Work-to-Live, that […]

strandbeest life form
26 April 2016
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The Strandbeest — A New Form of Life

Dutch artist Theo Jansen has created what he posits is a new group of living creatures through his art: the Strandbeests, walking sculptures of lightweight plastic tubing, that “feed” off windpower and spend their natural lives frolicking in the tidelines of northern beaches!    Strandbeests can be quite complicated in structure, but their operation is […]

app uses sunglasses
20 April 2016
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Seeing AI App Brings Visual World to All Users

Via the always fascinating BoingBoing comes news of a neat new Microsoft Cognitive Services app — one which interprets the visual world and its unique information for users who are visually impaired or are blind.   It’s called Seeing AI, and it integrates into not only your standard smartphone, but into a convenient pair of sunglasses. […]

overpowering boss
12 April 2016
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When Your Boss is a Psychopath

Folk wisdom has established strong links between psychopathic tendencies and success in business — it seems almost intuitive that someone who is charming, good at taking the credit, and who experiences no remorse would make a great CEO!   Joking aside, studies have found a significantly higher rate of psychopathic behaviour in upper management types — […]

social-media and depression
5 April 2016
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Social Media and Depression

We at DFC are huge advocates of the positive powers of social media: it does things like help foster connections between individuals, aggregate audiences for artistic works or political movements, and generate fun memes that bring joy to all (who love Ryan Gosling!).   But social media does have an acknowledged dark side: it can […]

doodle yourself to happiness
29 March 2016
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The Mystery of Writer’s Block: A Problem of Happiness

As anyone who’s written anything (a novel, a report, heck — this blog!) knows, writer’s block can be a mysterious and tenacious foe. Much thought has been given over to why the muse, often so gentle and helpful, sometimes says “See ya!” and strolls off into the distance without any warning, maybe to catch a […]

22 March 2016
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Neurasthenia — The Scourge of Modern Life (Whenever It May Be)

If you’ve been tuning into this blog often over recent months, you may have noticed a bit of a thematic shift. With the debut of our remote office solution The Lifestyle Workplace(TLW), we have become increasingly interested in the concept of happiness — how to spark it, how to cultivate it, and how to carry it […]

MIT Polaris : the star fighting webpage bloat
15 March 2016
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MIT Develops Polaris: A Star to Aim For in the Webpage Load Speed Race?

Frequent readers of this blog will remember when we delved into the hidden menace of webpage bloat,and how, if we don’t work to stop it, ads and design cruft and big corporations will not only make the ‘Net molasses-slow, but also less democratic.   Well, MIT has come up with part of the solution: a mobile […]

movement with mouse
8 March 2016
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Unconscious Movements and a Better Computing Experience — The Future is Now!

If experts like Vernor Vinge and Ray Kurzweil are to be believed, with every passing day humanity is creeping ever closer to the Singularity — the point towards which technology seems to be advancing, at which it will attain intelligence, and after which human life, as we currently define it, cannot continue. On that sunny […]

Nice work
2 March 2016
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Being Nice at Work: Asset or Productivity Killer?

It is a truth universally acknowledged that everyone likes nice people: they’re easy to talk to, to get along with, and to work alongside. But, like everything positive, there is a hidden dark side to niceness: sometimes (*thunderclap*) one can be too nice.   Psychologists define the quality of being nice as “agreeableness.” People who are […]

Introverts on the Job
24 February 2016
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Introverts on the Job: At Risk of Burnout?

It seems like everyone is talking about introversion and extroversion: how to present powerful ideas, how to communicate, and how to help them work together. While each personality type has its strengths, our world — with its focus on interconnection and near-constant communication — is clearly built for the extrovert. According to Michael Godsey, writing […]

pay for the meatware
16 February 2016
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Charity — and Happiness — Begin in the Workplace

It is a hazard of our economic system that the majority of us (that is, adult humans participating in capitalism) must have a job in order to fulfill certain comforts. We need money for food and shelter, an RRSP or other structured savings for the future — and sometimes, heck, just a reason to get […]

Is happiness a motivator while working?
9 February 2016
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Do What You Love: Is Happiness a Motivator while Working?

During the mid-20th century growth explosion, leading economic experts, including John Maynard Keynes, sought to predict what the trend might mean for the West’s working future — the future in which we are now living. Keynes posited, roughly, that if economic productivity continued its upward trend, working hours would also trend downward. In the future, […]

Sleep moon
2 February 2016
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Go (to Sleep) with your Gut: Connecting Lack of Sleep, Intestinal Health and Obesity

There are a variety of theories out there that seek to explain the link between length and quality of nightly sleep, and weight gain. One of the newest involves our old friends, our microbiomes, and how sleeping less than required can potentially hamper their weight-managing talents. Israel’s Weitzmann Institute has been on the case, and […]

many wear masks at work
27 January 2016
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The Pursuit of Being Yourself at Work

Before we get down to work, about work, I need to vent. I hate the word “lifehack.” It’s too jargon-y, and most applications of it are so far removed from the original definition of “hacker,” it just makes me mad. (Are you gaining unauthorized, back end access to the computer system that is your life […]

bloatfish for bloated webpage
27 January 2016
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Webpage Bloat: The Creeping Menace….

I thought it was my devices getting rickety — crankily refusing to load pages, making online video and audio stutter. But no: websites everywhere are getting unwieldy, stuffed full of megabytes worth of info that enhances form but drags down function. Maciej Cegłowski has distilled an impassioned talk he gave at the Web Directions conference […]

Extra time - What to do?
20 January 2016
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What can you do with extra time? Share your ideas!

The other day I wrote about experiments in productivity where working for a longer time doesn’t necessarily mean accomplishing more in a relative sense. So if you don’t spend all your time working, what else is there to do…? Here’s a thought experiment of our own: Subtract 20 from your regular 40-hour workweek. That’s still 20 […]

12 January 2016
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Experiments in Productivity, Workweek Edition: 20 Hours vs. 90 Hours!

Chris Bailey writes for The National Post about an experiment he undertook early on in his Life of Productivity efforts, when he needed to get a really good sense of the amount of hours of work it took to actually accomplish something. He set up alternating weeks of very short and very long (20 hour […]

Red Star OS
5 January 2016
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Red Star Rising: A Peek into North Korea’s Bespoke OS

Two programmers at the 32nd Chaos Communications Conference have offered the rest of the world a look at the operating system that runs the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea — otherwise known as the mysterious and suspicious North Korea. North Korea has been closed to outside influences since the mid-20th century reign of Kim Il-Sung, […]

Paper powers
29 December 2015
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Paper Powers Fantastic Future? Storing Electricity in a Page

Moore’s Law — the projection that digital performance and capacity can be expected to double every 18 months — is always exciting to think about. But each new technological breakthrough and refinement we’re sure to cook up will also have a more mundane flip side: we will also have to dream up equally innovative ways […]

22 December 2015
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Re-Imagining a Less Addictive Internet

As any of us who’ve been sucked into a YouTube fugue know, it’s hard to escape the self-recrimination cycle of online overuse. We blame ourselves for our lack of self-control – and the many lifehacking tips and even hilarious cartoons on the subject support that sense of personal failure. But, Michael Schulson argues (in his recent […]

17 December 2015
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The Great Hoverboard Turnover

You may call them “hoverboards,” or “smart balance wheels,” or another catchy name – whatever they are, on my last foray into downtown Toronto I witnessed a flock of people wheeling up the sidewalk on these colourful, seemingly physics-defying things as though they had been born wearing them.  I was so astonished at the futuristic […]

Walking Distracted
8 December 2015
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Walking Distracted Thanks to Tech: Or, Th— LOOK OUT!

Those of you who are longtime readers know the saga of my most recent walking injury (saga here). When it happened, I consoled myself with the knowledge that it was an accident, the result of a perfect storm of uneven terrain and the actions of two huge and incredibly exuberant dogs.  Now that I’m recovered, […]

Packing tape
1 December 2015
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A new use for packing tape

With recent advancements in the field, it seems we can 3D-print basically anything: art, arms, even food! This is true as long as said anything is small. But what if you need to visualize a (much) larger object, and a 3D-printed scale model doesn’t fit the bill? Researchers out of the Hasso Plattner Institute in […]

Tractor beam
24 November 2015
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A New Tractor Beam at the Speed of Sound

As I’m sure I’ve mentioned in this space before, I’m quite fond of pointing out all the ways we are now living in the future Star Trek predicted. From our handheld communicators (cellphones), to PADDs (tablets), to heck, warp drive, we’re reaping the real-world results Gene Roddenberry’s imagination sowed. And now, we may actually be […]

Working with effort to the bone
17 November 2015
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Work & effort are not the same, it’s all about balance

A few weeks ago I eluded to a new section on our website introducing a new initiative. And then a couple weeks ago we launched our new website with the new Lifestyle Workplace or TLW for short. It seems that we are (as usual) ahead of the curve and have just defined a product that […]

Woman technologist
11 November 2015
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The Uphill Battle of Women in the Sciences

I recently communicated with one of my connections within LinkedIn, “catching up” and commiserating with her on the direction in which our preferred software platform (Lotus Notes, or whatever they call it, that we both program in) is going in the ever changing marketplace. What’s really interesting is how we originally “met” on LinkedIn – […]

Wheel with spokes
10 November 2015
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Hands-Free Driving May Not Be So Distraction-Free

In an effort to curb accidents due to distracted driving, many jurisdictions — DFC’s home province of Ontario included — have created laws penalizing the use of hand-held devices while on the road. This has led to a plethora of “smart” vehicle interfaces, like Uconnect and MyLink, and smartphone link-ups like Siri and Google Now, […]

iPad robots
4 November 2015
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The Trials of Telepresence

We at DFC chuckled along with most of the audience of Community’s “Laws of Robotics & Party Rights” episode, in which the inherent hilarity of telepresence robots is exploited by h aving a convicted felon attend Greendale Community College via “an iPad on a stick,” and ineffectually try to murder Jeff Winger.(Seriously, convict Willy’s facial […]

1 November 2015
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The Holiday-Health Connection

Even before our home and business’s move to bucolic rural eastern Ontario, we at DFC have long known the value of work-life balance. (In fact, we’re working on a new solution that supports just that: keep your eyes on this space in the coming weeks for more exciting details! So it is with a heavy […]

Winter tires and service
30 October 2015
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Service is not dead…yet!

Every time I have to call into a large company – especially my wireless provider, telephone company, cable company, etc. I have to gird every part of my being to get ready for what is almost always a frustrating and futile experience. Offshore call centers is usually the crux of my despair. So when I […]

light source
24 September 2015
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Ways to focus

Dear readers, I have a confession to make: these weekly missives in which I expound upon the latest tech-related news of the weird that has caught my eye, and that I think you might find just as diverting, sometimes do not come easy. More often than not, I am sometimes less-than-inspired: the right words elude […]

smartphone for medication
15 September 2015
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On call while offline

Tonight is the beginning of a new year. No you didn’t go to sleep and wake up mid-winter; it’s still late summer in this northern hemisphere, at least for another week. It’s the start of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year. It’s a celebration, but it’s also the start of the 10 days of awe […]

8 September 2015
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More good news on coffee

My new neighbors are shy and elusive. I don’t see them all the time and when I do see them, it’s usually first thing in the morning. I was so excited to see them when I first saw them, that I ran over to saw Hi, but they ran, no galloped away. Lately I’ve been […]

1 September 2015
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My dirty floors and the five second rule

My house is a filthy mess. It has nothing to do with my housekeeping skills, (which I’ve never put on the list of things that help make me a whole person) I’ve been sweeping up at least twice a day and even the husband has been going around with the broom! The culprits are none […]

25 August 2015
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Tetris: Help for Addictive Behaviour?

We at DFC have already reported on the many talents of the smartphone – from testing your stress, to becoming a high-powered microscope. Now there’s yet another service they can do to add to that list: helping to mitigate cravings for food, drugs, and other activities. It has everything to do with what the subjects […]

18 August 2015
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A batty idea or not?

This August brings with it much memorializing, as it marks the 70th anniversary of the beginning of the end of the Pacific War, the last conflict of World War II. This end began of course with the cataclysmic use of the most extraordinary weapon humanity had seen to date: the atom bomb. The city of […]

DFC logo
12 August 2015
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It’s a wild web world

Moving to a new area after 40 some odd years requires getting to know the members of one’s new community. Of course there is plugging oneself into the local scene to find new hairdressers, butchers, dentists, etc. One member that I’ve taken the time and effort to get to know is someone I’ll call Charlotte…she’s […]

4 August 2015
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The Socialization of Smelling

As I’m sure you are aware, dear readers, I share my life with two hulking yet adorable dogs. I love seeing how smart they are in their dog-specific skills. To change things up, we have a new game: I stand on the porch and throw dog treats for them to find. Jill, in particular, has […]

La saveur des larmes
29 July 2015
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Digging & detecting forged art

Thankfully Samson has found something more interesting than digging up our yard…he likes to chase critters that hop and slither around our yard. In fact he was fixated and barking like mad the other day – this is what he was barking at! The Computer that Detects Forged Art One of the things that continue […]

21 July 2015
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Aqua regia – how science defeated the Nazi’s and made my hands more valuable

Alchemy has been an interest of mine for quite awhile…to me it represented the more glamorous and legacy aspect of chemistry. So it was with interest as I was preparing this week’s article that aqua regia, “royal water” played a part. Back in my chemistry days, I worked in a precious metals refinery which meant […]

16 July 2015
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Nature’s noise: from birds and our brains

It’s just after dark and it’s really noisy here – so much so, it’s hard to concentrate….It’s not traffic outside or the tv program that’s blasting which my husband is trying to convince me that he needs to watch – no it is the birds! There are so many new birdsongs around that it drives […]

14 July 2015
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Brutalist playgrounds and laundry

Here’s a quick quiz for you dear readers: The picture below shows a few things that is in our new backyard – soil covering Samson’s hole digging, clothes on a line, hidden fence flags and a fire bowl for burning things….So the question is, what would have been considered a violation in our old neighborhood? […]

14 July 2015
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The future of passwords

This business that we have been in since the late 1980’s has seen substantial change. I remember when I had to explain what the web was to potential customers, let alone what a web page was…the “Information Highway” was going to be the next big thing! Fast forward a “few” years and the Internet is […]

26 June 2015
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Customer service and queing theory for grocery stores

Last week a less pleasant aspect of rural living was shared with you dear readers, however, this week in concert with the article below, I’ve experienced a pleasant surprise in just ordinary shopping: customer service. Folks, customer service is still alive and well outside of the GTA (Greater Toronto Area). The most notable example was […]

21 June 2015
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Waking up to prickly realities

We are transitioning…from urban to rural living. In leaving behind the grind, hustle & bustle of city life, there are a lot of new things to learn: wells, septic systems, wood stoves, etc. One thing we found out about our new area is that skunks are not very prevalent – but porcupines are! The first […]

12 June 2015
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The Hidden World of Bacteriophages

Like me, you may not be aware that 2015 is the official “Year of the Phage”; indeed (also like me), it’s possible you aren’t entirely sure what phages are. Don’t let that stop you: learning about phages — bacteriophages, that is — is fascinating. And, since not many laypeople know about them, you’ll find yourself […]

DIY tools
2 June 2015
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Tools = Technology?

Last week I attended a workshop, “The Digital Marketing Journey” at IBM and was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t the usual yawn fest of corporate self adulation! In fact, it was very useful in that it shared information as to the history of Digital Marketing and insights on Marketing Automation. One of the many tools […]

28 May 2015
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This is older news, but timeless (Week 218)

This weekend was my treat of the week — I got to visit my grandsons and help the eldest celebrate his third birthday. His younger brother is only five weeks old, so he’s pretty clueless about what’s going on around him other than the immediate needs that his still developing nervous system tells him about, […]

28 May 2015
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News from DFC – Week 221

Uncovering Bias in Internet Memes Like the “real” world,  there are definitely locales on the Internet where bias is rampant and obvious (hello, 4chan!) — but there are also places where it operates in a far more hidden fashion. Take the sphere of memes, for example: while there may not seem to be any overt […]

27 May 2015
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News from DFC Week 220

I am just giddy. Here in Canada it’s the long weekend that marks the unofficial start of the summer season: gasoline prices jump, garden centers open up (in the midst of frost warnings), the trees now have fresh, verdant green leaves (finally after the long winter), and local produce is starting to appear in our […]

27 May 2015
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Digital Marketing: Okay time for updating!

Yesterday I attended a digital marketing workshop at IBM Canada and it was excellent! The most surprising thing about yesterday’s session was that the IBM speakers were great! Which, unfortunately is not often the case. There were a lot of interesting take aways that touched on the history of digital marketing: Did you know that […]

11 February 2014
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New Coffee News: Caffeine Can Boost Memory!

If your workplace is anything like mine, it runs on coffee like a Hummer runs on dead dinosaurs: relentlessly and without mercy. We at DFC love a good cuppa, and frequently look with amusement upon the study-du-jour on the effects of coffee on human life. It prevents cancer! It might cause heart disease! It can cause […]

7 February 2014
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UCbyDFC: Business Anywhere. Anytime.

Cool Feature by UCbyDFC Imagine you’re in a meeting out of the office and someone calls your desktop and leaves you a message. Wouldn’t it be cool if, on a break, you could just open your laptop or smartphone or tablet, get an email with your voicemail in it and call the person back right […]

5 February 2014
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This is a test Blog post for DFC International Computing Inc.

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28 January 2014
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DFC launches UCbyDFC on the IBM PureSystems Test Post

DFC launches UCbyDFC on the IBM PureSystems DFC launches UCbyDFC on the IBM PureSystemsDFC launches UCbyDFC on the IBM PureSystemsDFC launches UCbyDFC on the IBM PureSystemsDFC launches UCbyDFC on the IBM PureSystemsDFC launches UCbyDFC on the IBM PureSystems

28 January 2014
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DFC launches UCbyDFC on the IBM PureSystems

DFC launches UCbyDFC on the IBM PureSystems.