Saturday, 30 May 2015

From Amazon, With Love

Credit: RUNA, Fast Company

You’ve heard people promoting their health products with a detailed account of their near-death experience, but RUNA, a clean and steady energy drink brand founded by two liberal arts students, is different.

Before we get to the drinks you need to know this Brown University student Tyler Gage, who took a course on the languages and religions of the Amazon, and later went on to live with Amazonian tribes in the jungle. From the Shipibo people he lived with for two years, Gage not only learnt their unparalleled hospitality, unique language and cultural heritage, and their coexistence with the nature, but he was also taught this drink the tribespeople would rise at 3am to make, by boiling a leaf called guayusa in clay pots. Everyone would sit together to enjoy the drink, while interpreting dreams and recounting myths before dawn, and again at night to provide energy and clarity for hunting in the jungle. Intrigued by the leaf, said to have mystical power, Gage decided to research on it, and learnt that this naturally sweet leaf has the same caffeine content as coffee, and double the antioxidant content as green tea.

Upon his return to the United States, Gage embarked on a mission to start a business that could help support the Amazonian families that he spent two years with, knowing that they are struggling in an increasingly urbanised environment, where they can no longer survive with natural resources alone – they need money to send their children to school. Gage knew the guayusa drink would make a hit in the US market, in face of the ever-growing health trend, but the problem was he, a liberal arts student, was clueless about running a business. So together with his close friend and classmate Dan MacCombie, Gage took a business class in the final semester and slowly worked on expanding their network via their professors’ connections. The two entered and won several business plan competitions, and soon after graduating from school, they moved to Ecuador to begin working with local Kichwa communities to build a guayusa supply chain.

Fast forward to today, RUNA is buying guayusa leaves from over 2,300 farming families in the Amazon rainforest, and it goes on to prove that you can have a business in the Amazon that can benefit the environment, human health, and the preservation of traditional cultural practices, all the while supporting local producers.

*RUNA’s organic, fair trade and non-GMO-certified guayusa drinks are only available in the US right now. But by all means speak to your nearby organic food store or café and get them to ship some to Hong Kong!

Let the Dog Handle the Shutter

Credit: Heartography Nikon Asia

No, you read it right. We meant dogs can now become photographers now, and not needing you to hold the camera for them. Created by Nikon, Heartography SmartCase is a camera device that turns emotions (of your dog) into photographs.

The way it works is that your dog’s heartbeat data is gathered with an elastic, conductive band that is tied around the dog’s neck, before it is transmitted via Bluetooth. The servo arm of the Heartography SmartCase would then depress the camera’s shutter button, readying the camera’s focus for a photo. Once a spike in heart rate (when it exceeds a predefined baseline, set by buttons on the SmartCase) is detected, the Pro Trinket microcontroller will move the servo to take the photo.

Sounds complicated? It’s all really about your dog taking photos of what excites or scares them. Here, let Grizzler, the world’s first canine photographer show you how it works.

Friday, 29 May 2015

Pain No More

Credit: Fast Company

Cringe-worthy is how I remember the day I had my measles vaccination. I was already crying before I reached the clinic, and dad had to promise me a stuffed dog if I’d only let my arm take the jab. It took a lot of coaxing, compared to what little of it my dad had to do for my sister, who had the pluck to stick out her arm, like a man, for the nurse, and watched as the needle went under her skin.

There’s something terrifying about injections, although now that I come to think of it, it was more the unjustifiably multiplied pain in our head than the actual pain that scares some of us. But that could soon be history now, with Comfortably Numb, a device that ensures painless injection, invented by Rice University students Andy Zhang and Mike Hua.

Comfortably Numb is really a small 3D-printed canister (which contains water and ammonium nitrate) attached to a hypodermic needle, and a twist of it will break the two ingredients, causing the metal plate at the bottom of the device to chill, therefore numbing the skin to 4.5oC before it is punctured by the needle.

The only thing that is stopping Comfortably Numb from being widely used in the market is its cost: at USD2 it is significantly more expensive than the needle, which costs just USD0.35. So, your thoughts?

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Top 5 Green Shops in Hong Kong


Not sure if you’ve realised but green shops in Hong Kong are sprouting like mushrooms, and they are showing no signs of abating. Scattering all over the city and outlying islands, owners and founders of Hong Kong’s green, organic and sustainability-orientated shops are giving you no excuses to not shop for a sustainable future. Just in case you need a quick recap of the green outlet landscape, here’s a pick of five from us.

Green Common
Yet another green initiative by social enterprise Green Monday, Green Common is the latest addition to the city’s stock of shops that prioritise green, organic, healthy lifestyle above everything else. As the first Asian sales point of Beyond Meat – a brand dedicated to replacing animal protein with plant protein to sustain future food supply and the planet – and a community space that organises regular and free seminars and workshops on food labelling and cooking, Green Common is David Yeung’s attempt at raising public awareness on the necessity of going green. In addition to donating 1% of its revenue – from its vegetarian ice cream, gluten-free pasta, zucchini pasta and the likes – to food bank Food Angel, Green Common will also be donating part of the remaining revenue to Green Monday’s own foundation to continue its environmental education effort.

Location: 222 Queen’s Road East, Wanchai, Hong Kong
Phone: +852 2263 3153
Opening Hours: 9:30am to 8:30pm Monday to Saturday, 10:00am to 8:30pm Sunday

JustGreen Organic Convenience Store
Hailing from Lamma Island, JustGreen soon expanded towards the city with a location in Soho, Star Street, plus a centralised warehouse in Kennedy Town and a new fashion concept store in Soho. From recycling resources and minimising energy usage within its office, to sourcing from only ethical products via sustainable methods, JustGreen covers everything you’ll need from body care to what you need for the larder. If you need ideas on healthy diet for your baby and toddler, or a vegan diet for yourself, JustGreen has stocked up on books and magazines to make sustainable living easy too.

Location: 75 Yung Shue Wan Main Street, Lamma Island, Hong Kong (more locations on website)
Phone: +852 2982 2325

Known for its innovative menu of healthy and clean diet, complete with vegan, dairy- and nut-free options such as the carb-free cauliflower risotto, snow crab sesame oolong soba, and fresh juices to keep you energised, Locofama also makes health-conscious living easily achievable through its stock of local and organic products from pasta to tea and coffee and pet food.

Location: 11 Fuk Sau Lane, Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong
Phone: +852 2547 7668
Opening Hours: noon to 10pm daily

HKFYG Organic 21
Also a restaurant-and-store in one, HKFYG Organic 21 by the Hong Kong Federation of Youth is a social enterprise that promotes healthy and organic living by dishing out food made with ingredients grown organically in Hong Kong’s only USDA-certified organic farm. Its farm-to-table experience includes everything from organic salads, pastas and all day breakfast, but by all means stay after the meal and shop the organic garlic juice, acai berry juice and argan oil at its food store.

Location: G/F, 60 and 62 B Staunton Street, Central, Hong Kong
Phone: +852 3104 9134
Opening Hours: noon to 9pm daily

Green Dot Dot
With easily accessible locations spread across the city’s MTR stations, Green Dot Dot encourages a healthy, natural and eco-friendly lifestyle with food and grocery items that are free of pesticides, preservatives, artificial colouring and chemical fertilisers. From sustainable seafood to organic pork and vegetables, Green Dot Dot makes sure even the time-poor can pick up the right food ingredients for an organic and healthy dinner after work.

Location: Shop No,23B, Hong Kong MTR Station
Phone: +852 2147 3239

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Poop Power

Credit: Fast Company

If you told your friends last year that your dog could be your source of renewable energy, you could easily be taken as a fool. But not anymore, with the conceptual design Poo Poo Power by Geneva-based designer Océane Izard, also the human parent of three dogs.

The way the device works is simple: place a biodegradable bag of dog poop inside, let the sludge-eating bacteria belch out methane that is then converted into power, and the electricity is stored in batteries to be used to power your appliances. Naturally, the amount of poop produced by different sizes of dogs matters too, so a German Shepherd produces around 500 grams of waste a day, which is enough to keep your fridge running. The Beagle, on the other hand, produces around 250 grams of waste per day, which would suffice to power a fan for two hours.

As gross as the idea may sound to some, powering your home with dog poop is nothing but ingenious. Not only does it help cities save up the cost of cleaning dog poop on the streets, it also prevents the emission of greenhouse gas into the atmosphere where dog poop is dumped into landfill. Additionally, it helps to keep the city clean – cities where dog owners don’t have the good manner to clean up after their dogs, that is. 

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Time to Eat

Credit: Ode

Among senior-related issues, often overlooked is the problem of weight loss among dementia patients. The truth is, people suffering from dementia would actually forget to eat, like they’d forget they’d already eaten. But a newly invented device is expected to help dementia patients eat well and on time.

Meet Ode, an assisted living and wellbeing product designed by a British team specialising in product design and fragrance, to enable certain level of independence among dementia patients while offloading responsibilities from caregivers, by alerting the patients of mealtimes through the emission of food scents, which come with an extensive menu from fresh orange juice, cherry tart, homemade curry to braised beef casserole and black forest gateau. Released for three times a day (breakfast, lunch and dinner), the fragrances are developed by British perfumers and flavourists, with the intention to improve appetite and create a pleasant, homely environment.

Ode has been tested with over 50 individuals and families living with dementia, and 50% of participants have gained an average of 2kg of weight over 11 weeks. Several residents living in care homes have shown increased appetite and inclination to socialise over mealtime, according to their caregivers.

Sounds like a device worth a round of applause? 

Rent an Uncle

Credit: RocketNews24

Japan is a country of intrigue and umpteen possibilities. I thought I’d seen it all upon knowing that you can actually rent a pet in Japan, and now the country surprises me with something even more puzzling: apparently you can rent a middle-aged man, colloquially called ‘ossan’, and it’s legit.

Nishimoto Takanobu is a 47-year-old fashion producer and stylist. When the girl sitting next to him on a train was once evidently grossed out by his ‘ossan-ness’, Nishimoto decided that instead of moaning, he should embrace this special quality in him. And so he started the Ossan Rental service, where you get to rent an ossan for JPN1,000 (approximately HKD64) per hour. The rationale of the service is patrons will be able to gain sagely wisdom over a cuppa with the ossan. Take Nishimoto himself, for instance. He has worked in Japan and the United States, from department store salons to major stylist company, and he has spent a short spell as an agony aunt. Quite a lot of stuff to learn from, no?

According to RocketNews 24, while Nishimoto was mostly rented to hang out with clients at a café or bar, drinking or getting life advice, there wasn’t a dearth of unusual requests either, such as visiting sick people in the hospital, announcing one woman’s marriage to her family after her father passed away, and many more. But with his ‘no touching’ policy, Nishimoto at least makes it clear that he and his business isn’t up to something fishy.

Think this business is daft? Well, Nishimoto has been rented out by 1,502 since the company’s establishment in 2012 – not bad, we’d say. And the good news is, the rental business has just hired two more ossans, handpicked by Nishimoto himself out of over 100 applicants! 

Monday, 25 May 2015

Iconic Hot Dog


Fed up with the traditional hot dog? Iconic H is dishing up speciality hot dogs to tempt your palate.
It’s not hard to spot Iconic H in Hung Hom with its perennial long queue, but there’s reason for the wait: Iconic H’s hot dogs are one of a kind and reasonably priced. From veal, Nuremberger, sundried tomato to chorizo, chicken and mushroom frankfurter, lamb merquez and salmon sausage, the extensive list of hot dogs on offer at Iconic H means that as customer, you’re spoilt for choice. 

Depending on your preference, you may add bacon chips, melted cheese, micned meat, sauerkraut, truffle egg, grilled onion/pineapple/mushroom as toppings, before choosing from the sauces of blue cheese, relish, curry ketchup, honey mustard, truffle mayo and wasabi mayo.

Drooling already? Wait till you read about the new items added to the menu recently: mentaiko lovers like yours truly would adore the salmon sausage hot dog topped with mentaiko mayo and mentaiko scrambled egg (did I tell you I’m bonkers about scrambled eggs too?), those with a penchant for spicy food will love the frankfurter with Sichuan-style minced meat, and cheese maniacs will be chuffed to learn that Iconic H now also has the double dog with melted cheese and grilled pineapple.

Still got room in your stomach? Choose from the variety of snacks from cheese on noodles/macaroni, French fries, wings and onion rings. For just sixty-something dollars you’ll get a set with drinks too. Little wonder people are making a beeline for Iconic H’s hot dogs.

Location: Shop C106A, Whampoa Building, 97 Baker Street, Hung Hom, Hong Kong
Phone: +852 5595 5981
Opening Hours: 11am to 10pm daily 

Sunday, 24 May 2015

3D Daikon Art

Credit: RocketNews24

Forget 3D latte art. We know it’s adorable but forget about it, because the 3D daikon art is something that you can actually make at home.

Apparently the Japanese people have had enough of the 3D latte art that they’ve decided to create its savoury counterpart: the 3D daikon art. Traditionally an essential ingredient in the Japanese ‘nabe’, or hot pot, the daikon, or Japanese radish, has recently been given a makeover in its appearance in the nabe. By grating the daikon and squeezing water out of it, Japanese home cooks have been able to mould the grated daikon into shapes of cat, elephant, polar bear or Ghibli characters of their preference, such as Totoro. If you wish, use soy sauce for colouring, or nori for eyes and whiskers.

Yes, we know it’s still just daikon. But surely it doesn’t hurt to make the dining experience that bit more visually appetising? 

Because Air Quality Matters

Credit: Awair

As a new victim of nasal allergy, I must concur with my fellow sufferers that yes, at times you just wish that you could cut off your nose and be done with the allergy, once and for all. What’s tricky about nasal allergy – in my case, at least – is that you never know when it’ll strike. It basically comes and goes as it pleases, causing stuffiness in your nostrils just when you’re about to sleep, or making you sneeze like a maniac in the middle of a work meeting. I can blame it on the severe air pollution in Hong Kong, the shedding seasons for my cats and what-not, but whatever the causes, nasal allergy is simply annoying.

Enough of my rant. It looks like help is at hand. A sleek device with an appearance that resembles a retro-style amplifier, Awair is designed to analyse your indoor air quality in real time, learn your routines, and communicate with other home devices to help you achieve optimal air quality for your home or office. By allowing you to choose from the list of habits and lifestyle preferences, Awair tracks the daily air quality levels in a given room, and can then recommend ways to help change your behaviours, such as activating the humidifier (to which it is connected) to increase moisture content in the room if it’s deemed too dry for comfort. With sensors that survey carbon dioxide, fine dust particles and volatile organic compounds in the air, Awair shows you the quality of the air that you’re breathing through a companion app that illustrates the data using infographics and digital cards.

Good news is Awair is now available for pre-order at USD149, and will be shipping from autumn this year onwards. I don’t know about you but I’m seriously tempted.   

Saturday, 23 May 2015


Credit: The Cat Museum

Calling on all cat lovers! So you’ve left umpteen footprints at cat cafés the world over, but did you know there’s a cat museum, the world’s first and only, in Singapore?

It all started on Purvis Street 11 years ago, when a company, thoroughly entertained and amused by the feline residents in the area, decided to rescue and rehome what they would later come to call the ‘Lion City Kitties’. Starting with socialising three kitties to be adopted by the first cat café, the Cat Museum, founded by a foundation with a passion for compassion, went on to adopt eight more at their shophouse office.

In case you’re wondering what it is that the Cat Museum does, it is a mission that conveys the message that every home or small office deserves some feline love, and the staff speak as they find, having been touched by many a kitties. The Cat Museum, currently home to nine superstar cats, is open to anyone who loves cats or are curious about cats, and who is willing to pay SGD9 (free for children under six years old) for some cat therapy. Despite how at ease the resident cats are at the Cat Museum, the staff encourage interested individual to take the cats home, if they have the financial means and love abundance to provide for the cats.

So drop by the Cat Museum if you’re in Singapore, learn about the Lion City Kitty history, appreciate arts and crafts and photography, and most importantly of all, pet the feline friends as much as you please.

Location: 8 Purvis Street, #02-02 Singapore 188587
Phone: +65 6336 2133
Admission: SGD9 per person, free for children under six years old
Opening Hours: 4:30pm to 7:30pm Friday, noon to 7:30pm Saturday and Sunday; closed from 3:30pm to 4:30pm for Kitty Kat Nap 

Friday, 22 May 2015

Save the Bees with One Billion Wildflowers


You’d be no stranger to posters of supermarkets void of fruits and vegetables, or various collective efforts the world over in saving the bees. In case you didn’t know of Colony Collapse Disorder, which sees the bee population dwindling at a staggering rate, partly as a result of lack of diversity or availability in pollen and nectar sources, look it up now. The possibility of losing this adorable and resourceful little creature – and depletion of food resources – is a depressing prospect, but fret not, there’s quite a lot you can do on an individual level to help bring back the bees, such as what a couple in Bay Area, the United States, is doing.

Determined to combat Colony Collapse Disorder, Chris Burley and Ei Ei Khin have come up with the ambitious plan to plant one billion wildflowers, and they are making it easier for keen individuals to join by creating the rainbow-coloured Seedle seed-bombs. Consisting of native, non-GMO-certified seeds, compost, clay and natural dyes, the colourful pellets of seed bombs can practically grow themselves – all you need to do is to throw them in the soil and grow them. As the fruit of the couple’s 18-month experimentation in their backyard, which eventually won USD11,000 of funding on Kickstarter, these seed bombs are designed as a solution to ensure a sustainable food system for the future generations.

If you’re looking at more instant, local solutions to help save the bees, find out what Hong Kong’s first urban bee keeper Michael Leung is doing with his HK Honey