BMW is the latest car company to put a voice assistant in the front seat

BMW’s new virtual assistant responds to, “Hey, BMW.”

Image: BMW

Another “wake word” has entered the lexicon. Instead of “OK, Google” or “Hey, Alexa,” this time it’s “Hey, BMW.”

With BMW’s new virtual assistant, coming to the German car maker in 2019, voice commands are front and center in the car. It’s a new way to interact with your vehicle.

The assistant was revealed Thursday at a TechCrunch Disrupt main stage event. BMW senior vice president of digital products, Dieter May, showed it off, extolling its skills beyond “just voice commands.” He said the assistant would “live side by side with you” — which is either super helpful or super creepy.

It’s compatible with other voice assistants, so don’t worry, you can still shout at Alexa to put more laundry detergent on your Amazon shopping list.

May was very clear in a conversation after the launch event that this assistant is not something to ask informative queries like “What year was Barack Obama born?” Instead it’s more of a coach about driving and getting places, think: “Where’s the nearest charging station that’s still open?” As May sees it, “It’s more of a co-driver.”

What really distinguishes the BMW assistant is its auto skills. “It’s a real expert who knows everything about your car,” May said. So when something makes a weird noise or a light starts blinking, you can quickly get answers.

You can rename the assistant, and BMW encourages conversation and casual chatting. The assistant is supposed to be able to pick up on patterns and habits. “It’s a much more natural and easier way to interact,” May said. With its predicative abilities, you shouldn’t have to tell it to take you to the gym; it’s already got the GPS loaded up once you sit down. Since we spend so much time in our cars, the AI can quickly learn what we want.

The car isn’t a new space for voice. Far from it, with Apple’s CarPlay and Android Auto and third-party services built into infotainment systems, like Nuance with its Dragon Drive interface. Talking to Waze (“OK, Waze“) brings a voice-based navigation system into your car through the app or infotainment system. Then there are devices that act like an Amazon Echo, but for your car, like the Muse.

Just this week Uber added voice commands for drivers picking up passengers. Mercedes unveiled its newest electric vehicle, which will of course include its proprietary voice-controlled user experience, MBUX. On Thursday, Nuance announced an in-car partnership with Affectiva Automotive AI, the MIT startup that measures your emotional reactions and facial expressions. The system will recognize if you’re angry, happy, sleepy, distracted or angry while driving. Emotion-based control is like next-level voice control, where your sad voice could trigger some uplifting tunes.

Amazon’s announcement last month about an Alexa integration coming directly into cars seemed to reinvigorate the potential of in-car voice assistants in a way that CarPlay and Android Auto haven’t, even though plenty of cars work with those operating systems.

Voice has become the go-to tool for the modern household, such as in the “smart” kitchen or living room, and even more so in the car.

A survey from digital consulting firm Capgemini found 85 percent of voice users prefer to use the tool while on the go, meaning in their cars, on their commutes, on a bike ride. 

Alex Stock, a partner at Capgemini, said in a call that “car companies are trying to use voice to create more exciting experiences for consumers.” So while the wow factor is still high that cars can turn on the air conditioning or one day interpret your frustration into a pitstop for ice cream (sounds plausible), the next step is commoditizing the experience. 

As we’ve seen again and again, cars have figured out how to offer a seamless experience with directions and music choices coming up on command. Now that we’re hooked on voice, it’s time for the cars to turn the “cockpit experience” into an e-commerce shopping hotspot.

Anything to keep us talking to our cars.

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AP PHOTOS: Istanbul’s historic orphanage awaits salvation

BUYUKADA ISLAND, Turkey –  Each morning, Erol Baytas checks for further damage on the imposing but derelict timber building on an island off Istanbul that for decades housed orphans from the minority Greek community.

The scene on the hilltop on the island of Buyukada, the largest of the nine Princes’ Islands in the Sea of Marmara, looks more like the shattered remains of a horror movie set than the majestic hotel and casino complex that it was originally intended to be. Parts of the roof have caved in, wooden panels are missing and the kitchen stoves have rusted.

It’s quite a fall from grace for the 120-year-old building.

“Every day, a piece of the building falls out,” laments Baytas, the building’s 56-year-old caretaker.

“When it is raining, I go inside to survey the extent of the damage. Water will flow through every hole and it hurts me so much. I call them the building’s tears. I get emotional because it is my home, and before me it was the home of thousands of children.” 

The building over six floors was originally designed by architect Alexandre Vallaury for the Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits, the company which also ran the famed Orient Express. But when it was built in 1899, Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid II withheld his permission for it to operate as a hotel and casino.

The wife of a Greek banker later purchased it and donated it to the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, which then ran it as an orphanage.

The Prinkipo orphanage became home for about 5,800 minority Greek children from 1903 until 1964 when it was forced to shut down, a victim of political tensions between Turkey and Greece over the east Mediterranean island of Cyprus.

The building later became the subject of a drawn-out legal battle between the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Turkish government, which confiscated it in 1997. It was returned to the Patriarchate following a European Court of Human Rights ruling in 2010.

Earlier this year, the cultural heritage organization, Europa Nostra, included it on a list of seven endangered monuments, but its fate remains unknown. The Patriarchate has said it wants it turned into an institute for environmental issue.

“Prinkipo is a very important part of the culture and heritage of Istanbul, of the Greek population of Istanbul, or the Rum population rather,” said Burcin Altinsay, chairperson of Europa Nostra Turkey, referring to the Greek Orthodox community of Turkey. “It is an important part of our cultural heritage and it is really in danger.”

A team from Europa Nostra and from the European Investment Bank Institute is expected to prepare a report on what needs to be done to save the building. The report will be ready by end of the year, according to the European Investment Bank Institute.  

Istanbul — once Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire that was dominated by the Orthodox Church — was captured by the Muslim Ottoman Turks in 1453. Istanbul’s Greek population has dwindled to less than 3,000 in recent years, but the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the seat of the spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians, remains in the city.

Sitting under the shade by the St. Nicholas Orthodox church in Istanbul’s Yenikoy neighborhood, 80-year-old Vitleen Magulas still has vivid memories of Prinkipo, where she lived with her sister, from 1945 to 1951.

“At night, when the moon came up, it was as if you could hug it. We had very beautiful nights there,” Magulas said. 

“We had a beautiful life there, better than in our own homes,” she said. “We were happy with everything, our clothes, our food . At that time, there were many Greeks in Istanbul and many benefactors. They gave donations to the orphanage. We had everything. They were taking good care of us when I was there.” 

Baytas fears that the structure, which suffered a fire in 1980, may not survive another winter of neglect.

“I do not know how they will repurpose the building but it does not matter, as long as it is saved,” he said. “The building has been decaying for years but recently the deterioration has accelerated. This year it will not survive another winter if nothing is done.”


Suzan Fraser reported from Ankara.

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Magic Leap vs. Microsoft HoloLens: Which is the better AR experience?

The Magic Leap One

Image: Magic Leap

I first tried out Microsoft HoloLens a few years ago, a few months before its launch as a developer tool, and came away with similar impressions that many tech journalists had at the time: the tech was intriguing and impressive in some ways, but its limited field of view diminished the experience considerably.

I’ve used HoloLens a few times since then at demos and events, and although there have been improvements, they haven’t changed fundamental experience — or its limitations.

Magic Leap, which launched its developer hardware in August, provoked similar reactions. Although the product is different from HoloLens in many ways — it’s more steampunk goggles than futuristic visor, and you need to carry around a small hockey-puck computer to make it work — most people who had hands-on time with the device had similar observations: Here was a very promising augmented-reality experience that also suffers from field-of-view limitations and a lack of compelling software (although the latter criticism may have changed on Wednesday, with the release of a Magic Leap version of Angry Birds).

But if you were to conclude from those general impressions that the two devices provide near-identical experiences, you’d be mistaken. There are clear differences between the two, rooted in each company’s approach to augmented reality, the specific problems they’re trying to solve, and even the respective company cultures. Magic Leap also had the benefit of being able to act after HoloLens, learning from early criticisms of that device.

I recently got a chance not just to try out Magic Leap and HoloLens, but to do so back to back — a rare treat for expensive developer hardware made by competing companies. Thanks to a gathering of virtual- and augmented-reality storytellers arranged by StoryUp, a startup that helps produce immersive content, and the Reynolds Journalism Institute at the University of Missouri, I was able to use both products extensively. The exposure to both headsets in the same time and place gave me strong impressions of what each product is — and isn’t — good at.

Leaps and Lenses

This was my first exposure to the Magic Leap One. Most AR/VR headsets require a certain amount of precision when putting them on, but that goes double for Magic Leap since it requires that you carry around the tiny computer, called a Lightpack, that powers the experience. That means you have to remember to sling it around your shoulder before donning the goggles. You also need to make sure the supports in back are more on the top of your head than lower on your skull, which is a bit counterintuitive.

Magic Leap is more of a chore to put on than HoloLens, but it’s slightly more comfortable to actually wear.

Image: Pete Pachal/Mashable

HoloLens isn’t much better in this department, but it’s better. Microsoft’s headset is a single, standalone unit, so there’s no purse computer. However, it’s also a bit weird in how it fits on your head: The visor connects to a headband via a hinge, and you’re often left wondering if you’ve put it on right once you’ve slipped it on and raised the visor back up. Still, I prefer Microsoft’s crank for tightening the headset on your head to Magic Leap’s traditional straps, but will admit the crank might feel weird for novice users.

Where Magic Leap surprised me the most was its field of view. Yes, it’s limited — the virtual images are confined to a rectangular zone right in front of you – but it’s not nearly as limited as HoloLens. There’s no official spec for field of view, but some have pegged the vertical FoV at almost double that of HoloLens. 

Smart hardware and software choices help, too. My first experience with Magic Leap was a demo “world,” where various patterns that resemble marine life appeared all around me, changing seemingly at random. When I reached out to touch the images, they’d react in different ways: seaweed-like tendrils would bend to my hand movements, and a jellyfish-like ball would rapidly spin and implode when I tried to grab it.

Magic Leap was more effective at immersing you with virtual objects than HoloLens, thanks mainly to its better field of view.

Image: Sarah Hill/Mashable

Magic Leap’s goggles do appear to cut off more peripheral vision than HoloLens. While that sounds bad, it also means the ratio of non-augmented space to augmented space in your gaze goes up, so naturally it feels more immersive. Whatever the reason, I was not immediately struck, and subsequently frustrated, by how limited the “magic” window was on Magic Leap.

By contrast, HoloLens keeps reminding you of what you’re missing. After putting on the $3,000 headset, I took a look around the kitchen I was standing in and saw it was populated with several holograms, including very precise renderings of ballerinas, weightlifters, and breakdancers. But as I moved my head to check them out, parts of the holograms would get cut off as they moved out of the holographic part of the display.

This is the most annoying thing about HoloLens. When something interests you visually, you have a natural inclination to move closer so you can see it better. But instead of rewarding you, HoloLens’ limited field of view will cut off parts of the object you’re looking at, preventing you from taking it in fully. The closer you get, the more it takes you out of the experience.

A winner materializes

I didn’t experience the same level of frustration with Magic Leap. The software is a big part of this; most of the virtual objects I interacted with weren’t particularly large, so there was less chance of them being cut off.

The objects also tended to have a more ethereal quality to them, which does a lot to manage expectations: it’s less weird to see something ghostly start to disappear. By contrast, Microsoft’s very solid-looking holograms always looked strange when heads, feet, or arms were cut off.

That said, I have to concede realistic holograms are more of a point for Microsoft than against. The goal of HoloLens is to mix virtual objects with the real world, but in a way where the viewer sees and treats those objects as if they were real. And it succeeds: The holograms are almost always crisp and clear to the eye. I tried a couple of different apps on Magic Leap, but the virtual objects never felt quite as present.

So yes, HoloLens has a certain rigidity that the Magic Leap didn’t match, but it wasn’t always an advantage. The hand gestures that you use to manipulate the holograms need to be very precise, and those interactions often call up icons and menus in 3D space. In general, it feels like the experience was designed by engineers — it seems Microsoft can’t help but be Microsoft, even when it’s innovating.

I found using Magic Leap to be a much more natural experience. The only menu I really used was the main one that you call up with the remote. Otherwise I mostly just used my hands to goof around with things, walking through virtual environments, like a volcano-ravaged Guatemalan village in an AR experience created by The New York Times. At one point the headset got confused when it couldn’t figure out exactly where I went in the room when I moved from an open area to a tight space, but mostly it did a better job of creating an AR-enhanced environment than HoloLens.

Back in HoloLens

Image: Pete Pachal/Mashable

If you’re getting the sense there’s a winner here, you’re right. Again, Magic Leap had the advantage of taking its time — thanks in part to an absurd amount of venture funding — and addressing early concerns of AR, so it’s not an even playing field. But there are also some some fundamental differences in approach that help, too.

With its traditional dialog boxes, desktop-like iconography, and need for precise gestures, HoloLens feels much more like a developer tool. Microsoft has told a confusing story around HoloLens — at various points in its lifetime it’s been touted as a consumer, gaming, and enterprise device – which has led to some paralysis in the experience. Without a software experience to walk you through things, it’s not intuitive to use.

Magic Leap, on the other hand, feels like a level up. The graphics don’t look better, but, using it immediately after HoloLens, I felt like an artist who’d just been given a slightly bigger canvas and a much better paintbrush. Both platforms still need a killer app to make them worthwhile, but at least with Magic Leap you’re thinking more about what you can see and do than what you can’t.

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This stay-at-home mom’s post about ‘not working’ has been shared over 400,000 times.

The number of stay-at-home moms is on the rise in America. From 1967 to 1999, the country saw a gradual decline in moms who stay home, but over the past nine years, the trend has reversed.

A Redbook study found that 90 percent of stay-at-home moms are happy with their domestic career, but that doesn’t mean their work is any easier.

Florida mother and tattoo artist, Ryshell Lynch, wrote a Facebook post on the incorrect perceptions surrounding stay-at-home mothers, and it’s been shared over 400,000 times.

The post is a hypothetical conversation between a psychologist and a father who complains that his stay-at-home wife, “doesn’t work.”

During the exchange, the psychologist uncovers the unbelievable amount of work the mother does, even after the father comes home and rests after his full-time job.

Conversation between a husband (H) and a psychologist (P):

P: what do you do for a living Mr. Rogers?

H: I work as an accountant in a bank.

P: Your wife?

H: She doesn’t work. She’s a housewife.

P: Who makes breakfast for your family?

H: My wife, because she doesn’t work

P: What time does your wife wake?

H: She wakes up early because it has to be organized. She organizes the lunch for the children, ensures that they are well-dressed and combed, if they had breakfast, if they brush their teeth and take all their school supplies. She wakes with the baby and changes diapers and clothes. Breastfeeds and makes snacks as well.

P: How do your children get to school?

H: My wife takes them to school, because she doesn’t work.

P: After taking their children to school, what does she do?

H: Usually takes a while to figure something out that she can do while she is out, so she doesn’t have to pack and unpack the carseat too many times, like drop off bills or to make a stop at the supermarket. Sometimes she forgets something and has to make the trip all over again, baby in tow. Once back home, she has to feed the baby lunch and breastfeed again, get the baby’s diaper changed and ready for a nap, sort the kitchen and then will take care of laundry and cleaning of the house. You know, because she doesn’t work.

P: In the evening, after returning home from the office, what are you doing?

H: Rest, of course. Well, I’m tired after working all day in the bank.

P: What does your wife do at night?

H: She makes dinner, serves my children and I, washes the dishes, orders once more the house, makes sure the dog is put away as well as any left over dinner. After helping children with HW she gets them prepared to sleep in pajamas and the baby is in fresh diapers, gives warm milk, verifies they brush their teeth. Once in bed she wakes frequently to continue to breastfeed and possibly change a diaper if needed while we rest. Because she doesn’t have to get up for work.

-This is the daily routine of many women all over the world, it starts in the morning and continues until the wee hours of the night… This is called “doesn’t work”?!

Being a housewife has no diplomas, but has a key role in family life!

Enjoy and appreciate your wife, mother, grandma, aunt, sister, daughter… Because their sacrifice is priceless.

Somebody asked her…

You are a woman who works or is it just “housewife”??

She replied:

I work as a wife of the home, 24 hours a day..

I am a mother,

I am a woman,

I am a daughter,

I’m the alarm clock,

I’m the cook,

I’m the maid,

I am the master,

I’m the bartender,

I’m the babysitter,

I’m a nurse,

I am a manual worker,

I’m a security officer,

I’m the adviser,

I am the comforter,

I don’t have a vacation,

I don’t have a licence for disease.

I don’t have a day off

I work day and night,

I’m on duty all the time,

I do not receive salary and…

Even so, I often hear the phrase:

“but what do you do all day?”

Dedicated to all the women who give their lives for the welfare of their families

The woman is like salt:

Her presence is not remembered, but its absence makes everything left without flavor.

Share with all the beautiful ladies of your life.

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Youre Failing At Achieving A Perfect Life Because Deep Down You Know Its Not What You Fucking Want
Cataloged in Self-Improvement / Encouragement

You’re Failing At Achieving A Perfect Life Because Deep Down You Know It’s Not What You Fucking Want

If you actually wanted your life to be perfect, it would be.

If you wanted to take the time in the morning to style yourself perfectly, only eat food that looks good enough to be on a blog, have a consistently filtered grid, wash your face and work out every night before you went to bed, you would. 

You’ve heard stories about 90-year-old women who move their beloved pianos out of burning homes by the sheer force of their adrenaline. Mothers who lift entire cars off of their small children trapped underneath after a crash.

You’ve heard stories of people who don’t let being deployed to war or nearly losing their lives to addiction or being on the brink of splitting because of familial religious differences ever actually get in the way of them being together.

You’ve heard stories of people who studied for decades to defy the odds of them staying in a lineage of poverty, or the people who risked everything in pursuit of building the business they’ve always dreamed of, or taking a shot at the relationship of their dreams, even if it never worked out.

When you really start to pay attention, you’ll see that people do pretty much whatever they believe will bring them more pleasure and help them avoid pain.

And when you begin to notice that people will do nearly anything for what they care most about, you begin to realize that whatever you’re not creating in your life doesn’t exist because you don’t want it to.

If you’re stuck between feeling like you’re totally falling behind but still aren’t doing what you would need to be to change anything, it’s not because you’re lazy or stupid or unmotivated.

The fact that you’re both stressing yourself out about looking better but not actually taking any action steps to make that desire a reality is not a coincidence.

You don’t want to look better. You want to feel better, and because you don’t know how to feel better, you’re putting an intense amount of pressure on yourself to do something, anything, just to move, just to shift, even a little.

What you have to realize is that you can bully yourself into looking perfect as much as you want. You can spend hours laboring over what the side of your body looks like in a mirror or what other people think when they scroll through your feeds, and none of it is going to bring you even a bit more happiness because it’s not what you really want.

If you wanted a more perfect life, you’d have one.

What you want is harder than a perfect life.

What you want is not as easy as creating the semblance of a perfect life.

Trying to be perfect is what you do when you don’t know how to begin to tackle what it is you’re really hungry for.

And what you’re probably denying yourself is simplicity. It’s healing. It’s routine. It’s easing into the joy of a good’s days work and making regular food and cleaning the kitchen afterwards.

What you want is to be content with who you are, as you are, and where you are, without being stressed that you’re supposed to be anywhere, or anyone, or anything else.

There’s no way to measure whether or not you’re loved enough, that’s something you have to decide. There’s no test that can grade you on how good of a grown up you’re becoming, that’s something you have go gauge. Because when there are no more parameters by which you can measure your growth, your mind will try to build them out of your deepest fears and insecurities.

The real work is not trying to make your life “perfect.”

The real work is battling the darkest demons that are trying to keep you away from yourself, from enjoying the life you already have, from being the person you already are, from the looking the way you naturally do.

The life that you want is the life that you have.

Your pain is only a product of denying yourself your presence within it.

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New ‘Halloween’ trailer previews terrifying fight to the finish

Bloody teeth, kitchen knives, and Jamie Lee Curtis with a shotgun? Yup, sign me up.

Set 40 years after the events of the 1978 classic, this year’s Halloween looks scarier than ever. Serial killer Michael Meyers has escaped from prison to hunt down the one that got away: Laurie Strode. But, as it turns out, this former “final girl” is more than ready for a fight to the death.

Nick Castle and Jamie Lee Curtis will reprise their respective roles. The plot will similarly stick to its roots, ignoring all other sequels and their subsequent consequences.

Halloween screams into theaters October 19.

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Why 12 is the magic number when it comes to composting

Image copyright The Bay
Image caption Calum Richardson was determined from the outset to eliminate plastic from his restaurant

The BBC’s Circular Economy series highlights the ways we are designing systems to reduce the waste modern society generates, by reusing and repurposing products. This week we look at compostable and biodegradable packaging.

Stonehaven, a seaside town just south of Aberdeen on Scotland’s east coast, first made its culinary mark with the invention of the deep-fried Mars Bar. These days it’s making a new gastronomic name for itself, thanks to the success of The Bay, the local fish and chip shop.

Right on the harbour front, seagulls swoop overhead, and the waves rolling in from the North Sea sometimes crash right up against the door. But, alongside its picturesque location and traditional menu, The Bay is scoring points when it comes to sustainability.

Partly because the natural world is so literally on his doorstep, chef Calum Richardson decided right from the outset The Bay wouldn’t be leaving a waste trail of plastic cutlery, pots and packaging. So all of the tableware he uses from tea cups to knives and forks is 100% compostable.

“The packaging I use for fish and chips is quite expensive compared to what a lot of other businesses are using,” admits Calum, “But I thought, I’ll put 10p on the product and have a clear conscience.”

Image copyright The Bay
Image caption All Calum’s packaging and cutlery is designed to breakdown and is compostable

Above all sustainable packaging reflects the kind of image he’s after at The Bay.

“I’ll tell people I’m using good quality fish, and the right packaging.”

His takeaway fish suppers are served in brown cardboard boxes. The cutlery is made of a plant-derived bio-plastic known as CPLA (made from polylactic acid).

One or two of the more argumentative customers like to point to the transparent tubs he uses for tartare sauce and accuse him of double-standards. They look just like plastic, but those too are compostable, made from corn starch.

If a material is certified as compostable, it means that under specified conditions, it will break down within 12 weeks.

Materials that will biodegrade, creating an organic product that can be dug back into the soil, offer an attractive solution for restaurants like Calum’s, that are looking for practical ways to serve takeaway food, without adding to the mountain of plastic waste that’s a by-product of our modern lifestyles.

Image copyright BBIA
Image caption Compostable crisp packets would help avoid contamination of food waste

The particular beauty of composting is that food waste – smears of tomato sauce, left-over mushy peas, the odd greasy chip – can be ignored, since they are all part of a happy compostable mix.

But dig deeper and it’s clear there are challenges too.

The flood of new materials that claim to be “biodegradable” can be misleading, says David Newman director of the Bio-based and Biodegradable Industry Association.

“There are a lot of snake oil salesmen on the market at the moment, saying their product is biodegradable,” he says. But there is no legal definition for the term biodegradable – it could be applied to materials that would take decades to break down.

Image copyright ORG
Image caption After two weeks compostable bags begin to break down

But even with compostable items, you can’t just toss them in the regular bin.

“If you put a compostable item in general landfill waste, it will just lay there for ever like plastic,” explains Mr Newman.

“It’s a storage unit. The whole point about landfill is we don’t want biodegrading to happen because it produces methane.”

Nor is it simply a question of chucking these items into your green waste bin, the contents of which are destined for the most common kind of compost facility known as “windrow sites”. Neither those, nor home compost bins, reach high enough temperatures (50-70C) to eliminate pathogens found on food.

So unless the items are completely free of food waste, they need more specialised processing at “in vessel” composting facilities, of which there are only a limited number around the UK.

Biodegradable v compostable – what’s the difference?

Image copyright Jenny Grant
  • Biodegradable materials will break down naturally but there’s no time frame specified, so a biodegradable fork could be buried for years without breaking down.
  • Compostable materials will break down within 6-12 weeks in home or industrial composting facilities, but won’t necessarily decompose if you just throw them under a hedge.

Fortunately for Calum at The Bay, there is a local service that will collect and process his compostable waste. That is, in part thanks to Vegware, the firm that provides all of his compostable tableware.

Vegware’s mission is not only to sell its boxes, cutlery and tubs, but to focus on the whole lifecycle of the products. The Edinburgh-based firm has spent the last few years, working to establish a network of collection routes across Scotland. But not all parts of the UK are so well served.

“There’s an element of chicken and egg,” says Joe Frankel, Vegware’s founder and chief executive.

“It’s hard to get a route going until lots of people are using compostables. It’s hard to get compostables used until there’s a system for collection in place.”

Image copyright BBIA
Image caption The aim is for food waste and compostable packaging to be returned to the soil as a matter of course, say campaigners

Vegware also trains kitchen and serving staff, puts in new bins and new signs to help with waste sorting, and will even hold customer engagement days to educate consumers on the new tableware. The aim is to ensure composters don’t turn away contaminated waste.

The firm has expanded beyond the UK, to the rest of Europe, Hong Kong and Australia. But it is San Francisco that Mr Frankel holds up as the textbook location for operating a closed loop system, where food waste and compostable packaging is returned to the soil as a matter of course.

The city offers three waste streams in offices, homes and on the street. Separating off compostables is now second nature there, Mr Frankel says. That’s because Californians, so reliant on agriculture, have an appreciation of the end product – the crumbly rich compost that can replenish nutrients in the soil.

And that in the end could be the clinching argument elsewhere too, wherever modern agricultural techniques have taken a toll on topsoil.

Image copyright BBIA
Image caption Compostable coffee capsules could be collected along with food waste

Charlie Trousdell, a veteran of the composting industry, who often speaks for the sector, says there are still challenges to overcome, especially when it comes to plastic contamination of the waste stream.

But by putting the right systems in place, he thinks we could shift much more of our food waste to a system where it is recycled into the “magic” product that is compost.

Circular Economy

More on the Circular Economy.

“The most critical step is for government to ban food and green wastes from landfill and to vastly improve the collection of food wastes from commercial premises,” he argues. That would open the door for widespread use of compostable packaging, not just for takeaway food, but for groceries too, bringing down its price into the bargain.

“We’re not going to get it all right from day one but you have to have people being a bit visionary. You have to start somewhere.”

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Minnesota state lawmaker ends reelection bid amid daughter’s allegations of inappropriate touching

Minnesota state Rep. Jim Knoblach announced Friday that he would be ending his reelection campaign amid allegations he inappropriately touched his adult daughter for over 10 years.

The abrupt announcement from the 60-year-old Minnesota Republican came just hours after his attorney denied the allegations in an interview with Minnesota Public Radio.

Knoblach’s 23-year-old daughter, Laura Knoblach, came to the station to tell her story after she said she exhausted all other means.  

She alleged that the earliest memory of her father’s inappropriate behavior dates to when she was just 9 years old and continued until she was 21. Her accusations include inappropriate kissing, licking and biting of her ears.

Laura Knoblach told MPR that she recalls her father entering her bedroom after she had gone to sleep. He would climb into her bed and lie down beside her.

“He would put his arm around me and not let me get up or get away and he would lick my neck or bite my ear,” she told the station.

She alleges other acts, including at least 30 instances where Knoblach approached her from behind in the kitchen and pressed himself up against her, pinning her against the refrigerator or dishwasher.  

Laura says she confided in close friends and family and even law enforcement but with no avail.

The St. Cloud Police Department and Sherburne County sheriff’s office began an investigation last year but declined to file charges.

She provided extensive documentation to the station about her attempts to get help, which included a letter from the Sherburne County attorney’s office saying there was “insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Jim Knoblach had committed a crime.”

The St. Cloud Police Department did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment regarding why charges were not filed.

Knoblach vehemently denied the allegations.

In a written statement he said that his daughter “has been estranged from our family for some time.”

“In late 2016 she made some extremely hurtful and untrue accusations on a Facebook post, which was briefly put up and then taken down. These accusations were fully investigated by Sherburne County, dismissed, and the case closed in April 2017,” his statement read.

Knoblach did not return multiple attempts by Fox News for a comment.

As chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and in a hotly sought after seat, Knoblach’s departure will make it difficult for Republicans to hold a write-in campaign by a substitute candidate.

It is likely that Dan Wolgamott of St. Cloud, the Democratic candidate, will win the election.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Paulina Dedaj is a writer/ reporter for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter @PaulinaDedaj.

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Aaron Hernandez’s former home for sale of $1.6M

The Massachusetts home that once belonged to former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez is back on the market for $1.6 million.

An open house for the 8,100-square-foot home in North Attleborough is scheduled for Sunday.

Current owner Arif Khan bought it from Hernandez’s estate for $1 million and made about $100,000 in renovations. Hernandez bought the home in 2012 for $1.3 million.

Khan tells WFXT-TV he hopes people will be more comfortable buying the home from him rather than directly from Hernandez’s estate.

The five-bedroom, eight-bathroom home has a movie theater, sauna, gourmet kitchen and saltwater pool.

Hernandez was acquitted of a 2012 double killing in Boston just days before his prison suicide in April 2017. His death erased his 2015 conviction in Odin Lloyd’s killing in 2013.

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Review: Uuni Pro

After several weeks of testing the Uuni Pro, I’ve learned to recognize a certain look in my husband’s eyes. Every evening, he walks into the kitchen as I begin dinner prep. As I start to reach toward the dials on the stove, he shouts, “Are you using the oven?”

Before I can respond, he sprints out to our backyard patio and fires up the Uuni Pro oven with propane. It takes around twenty minutes to heat up, about the same time as our conventional gas kitchen oven.

Whether I’m cutting up broccoli or salting chicken thighs, he snatches about a third of it and sticks it in the Uuni Pro for a few minutes, or even a just an instant. Whatever comes out looks infinitely more elegant, nestled in one of Ooni’s cast-iron pans and dusted with char.

If you use propane, the Uuni Pro is so quick and easy that I can hardly begrudge him the effort. My toddler might, though. A few nights ago, she asked, curiously, “Why is all my food black now?”

Tough nuggets, kid. You live in a house with a pizza oven now.

A Little Pizza My Heart

Homemade pizza is irresistible, but making it is a deceptively simple process. Many home pizza cooks crank their ovens to the standard 450 degrees, but aspiring pizzaiolos know that that’s just not hot enough. You need higher temperatures to bake that perfect crisp, yet tender crust, with toppings that are still fresh and moist and speckled with just the right amount of char.

You can find plenty of pizza oven hacks online, from buying pizza stones, using your grill, or lining your oven with tiles. My husband and I tinkered with the idea of building our own brick backyard pizza oven, but were put off by the space requirements, the effort, and the expense.

Clearly, we were only one family of many who longed for an affordable, easy to assemble, and effective backyard pizza oven. When Ooni launched their Kickstarter in 2012, it quickly blew past their funding goal.

They’re currently in the process of transitioning their company name from Uuni to the more easily-readable Ooni. In the meantime, however, their ovens are still known as the Uuni 3, which is sized to make 12-inch pizzas, and the Uuni Pro, which can make 16-inch ones. They also sell a series of oven-compatible accessories and cookware.


When you unbox the Uuni Pro, it seems entirely nonsensical that such a thin, light, oven could produce as much concentrated heat as a squat, heavy brick oven. Ooni keeps the material thin by insulating the stainless steel with ceramic fiber.

The Uuni Pro is great-looking, a sleek and gleaming metal spaceship with a long, decagonal chimney and squat legs. I found it easy to assemble. Most pieces just click into place, although you will need to use the included Allen wrench to screw in a couple pieces.

It has a footprint of about 19.29 by 29.13 inches, and you’ll also need space for a propane tank. It comes with a wood and charcoal burner, and you can purchase an optional gas or pellet burner.

If you’re considering the Uuni Pro, I recommend shelling out for the gas burner bundle. Ooni informs me that the majority of their customers prefer using charcoal, but having a gas burner made the oven so much quicker and more versatile. I would also consider the cover to be a necessary accessory. The Uuni Pro is a large object to stow away. If you live in an area with a lot of rain or snow, it would be a good idea to protect it from the elements.

It’s advertised as being easily transportable, since the legs fold down and the tall chimney easily clicks out of place. However, if you’re planning on bringing it to a friend’s backyard party, please be warned that it does weigh 57 pounds in total, and has four loose tiles of cordierite stone in the bottom.

It’s A Matter of Crust

While the Ooni Pro is easy to assemble, there is a bit of a learning curve when it comes to cooking with it.

Part of the appeal of a conventional oven is that you can set a temperature, put your food in it, and walk away (most of the time). But the Uuni Pro takes a lot more attention. Testing with an IR thermometer showed that the temperature varied in different parts of the oven by as much as a hundred degrees.

When I tried to cook larger items at lower temperatures, like chicken thighs or rice casseroles, I needed to monitor my dishes constantly for doneness and to prevent the outside from scorching. After a few days, it didn’t seem to be worth the trouble.

And while the surface of the cordierite pizza stones does get to 800 degrees within the advertised 20 minutes, I do recommend that you let the oven preheat for at least an hour. For the first ten pizzas that we made (what we won’t do in the name of testing!), the pizzas stuck relentlessly to the stones. There was also a ten-minute heat recovery time between pizzas, whether we were using charcoal or propane.

To address the sticking, I tried flouring the pizza peel, or sprinkling cornmeal on the stones before sliding the pizza on. Everything just sparked and went up in flames, coating all my pizzas in bitter charcoal dust. I resigned myself to misshapen pizzas until we finally called in a professional—a friend who owns a pizza food truck explained that the pizza was sticking because the stones weren’t hot all the way through.

An hour’s preheating meant that the pizzas started sliding easily off the stones. Preheating also helped counteract the heat loss, with both propane and charcoal. Once I gave it an hour to build a good charcoal base, making the wood-fired pizzas got much quicker and tastier. You can only take so many shortcuts.

If you’re concerned with heat loss while slow-cooking, you can also switch out the open pizza door for a closed door with a thermometer. I didn’t end up doing this, since I preferred using my conventional oven for longer-cooking items. If I wanted to check the temperature while flash-firing a pan of green beans, I used Ooni’s handheld infrared thermometer.

You don’t technically need Ooni’s proprietary cast-iron cookware, but you may want to consider it. My 10-inch and 12-inch Lodge cast iron skillets fit fine, but the door is only 5.9 inches tall. My Le Creuset Dutch ovens don’t fit, so Ooni makes their own casserole pan.

Finally, my local pizza expert said that if you’re worried about dough sticking to the bottom, you might want to buy a wooden pizza peel. As there is an approximately a 100 percent sure that I will light a wooden peel on fire, I personally will not.

Gimme Pizza

Ooni’s main goal was to make a backyard pizza oven affordable, which is why the baseline price doesn’t include items like a cover. $600 isn’t exactly a drop in the bucket, but for its size, you get quite the bang for your buck. If you really want to save some dough (ha!), the Uuni 3 has most of the Uuni Pro’s functionality at a lower price, just with a smaller door. Since I ended up cooking most of my larger items in my conventional oven, the Uuni 3 might be the way to go.

Still, my family and I have been having a ton of fun with the Uuni Pro. A perfect pizza takes a handful of simple elements—dough, tomato sauce, and cheese—and turns it into something sublime. But a huge part of its allure is the process of making it yourself.

I don’t know anyone who has been anywhere near an outdoor oven and resisted the urge to just start poking random things in there. Just like lighting sparklers or sitting around your backyard fire pit, an outdoor pizza oven like the Uuni Pro lets your inner pyro come out to play…and you get to eat afterwards, too. We’ve had pizza almost every night for a week. I’ll check with my doctor, but so far, I don’t see any reason to stop.

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