What are ‘Bee Lawns,’ and Why Are They the Hot New Trend in Lawn Care?

Landscaped flower garden

That perfect, turf-like lawn may be the ideal for many homeowners, but it doesn’t hold the same appeal for Mother Nature.

So-called “bee lawns,” however, are growing in popularity, as they provide more of an attraction for pollinators like bees, birds, and butterflies, which help to pollinate nearby food and flowering plants.

“Bee lawns aren’t 100% flowers. They have some grass included,” said Mary Meyer, an extension horticulturist and professor with the University of Minnesota. “While bees don’t use grass, humans do. Most flowers, if you start walking on them, will die. Clover will tolerate a bit of foot traffic.”

Dutch white clover, which is rich in nitrogen, is considered the best alternative to traditional grass for homeowners looking to attract pollinators. Many turf seed mixes used by landscaping companies used to include clover, until the trend changed to favor more “pure” lawns.

“You can mow [clover] and keep it relatively tame in a lawn, and bees love it,” said Mace Vaughan, pollinator program director for the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation in Portland, Ore. “The good thing about Dutch white clover is that it is good [to grow] across most of the U.S.”

Some homeowners are reluctant to incorporate broadleaf plants and flowers into their perfect lawns. For these people, the best option to consider might be locating the more pollinator-friendly plants in less visible areas of their property, and keeping the front lawn or other areas often seen by passersby, looking sleek and turf-like.

But does clover and other bee-friendly ground covering count as weeds, or just grass alternatives or companions? Well, that’s a matter of personal taste. There’s no right or wrong answer, but if more people start planting bee lawns, the trend of manicured, uniform lawns that look like golf courses might begin to change into something more natural.

One significant benefit of bee lawns? They are much easier to maintain than traditional grass. They require less fertilizing, and are more resistant to drought and pests. Since their imperfection is part of their charm, they don’t require as much extensive upkeep.

More American Drivers Are Realizing That Current Traffic Violation Fines May Promote Injustice, Rather Than Encourage Safety

Justice is blind ( ... or maybe not )

As much as drivers complain about traffic laws in the U.S., a small glimpse into Finland’s legal system and traffic violation regulations is offering some valuable perspective; although Finnish traffic fines have been based on a sliding scale for many years now, Business Insider states, a slew of violations involving high-profile celebrities, athletes, and entrepreneurs has won the attention of American media outlets lately.

Quite simply, according to Finnish legislation, when you break a traffic law, the fine you receive is based on how much income you make.

For example, Finnish businessman Reima Kuisla was recently pulled over while driving 64 mph in a 50 mph zone. After looking at Kuisla’s 2013 tax returns and finding that he had made about $7.2 million that year, local authorities issued him a speeding ticket fine of approximately $60,000.

Finnish 27-year-old internet entrepreneur Jaako Rytsola encountered a similar experience when he was driving down an empty expressway at 43 mph, despite the 25 mph speed limit. When he was pulled over and the police officer checked the tax information database (which all police cars in Finland have, along with traditional radar and ID scanners), Rytsola was given a ticket for $71,400.

As The Atlantic notes, this “sliding scale” tool isn’t uncommon in many European countries; Denmark, Germany, Austria, France, Sweden, and Switzerland all have scales similar to that of Finland when it comes to issuing traffic fines.

In the U.S., however, sliding scale traffic fines have remained “exotic” — despite being tested out in multiple areas since the 1980s. The major advantage of these scales, The Atlantic explains, is that studies have proven that “wealthier people…[tend to] drive more recklessly than those who make less money, and even Steve Jobs was known to park in handicapped spots and drive around without license plates.”

But why does any of this matter to American drivers right now?

It’s actually connected to the ongoing turbulence in Ferguson Missouri. After the Department of Justice issued a comprehensive report at the beginning of March regarding the state of Ferguson’s law enforcement policies, people across the country were outraged to find that law enforcement policies have been geared toward making profits for the city, rather than focusing on public safety.

And this recent report from Ferguson has Americans across the country wondering if their own cities are more concerned with profits or with public safety; whether flat-rate traffic fines are actually effective, or whether they simply widen the gap between wealthier and poorer residents.

“I don’t think that California will ever use sliding scale tickets,” says Amir Soleimanian, Owner/Founder, 4 Mr. Ticket. “Here, it doesn’t matter how much money you make. With 12-14 million tickets issued each year in California, there’s no way they would be able to charge higher fines to people that make more money and lower fines to those that make less, it just wouldn’t happen.”

Regardless of whether this debate actually gains ground in the U.S. in the future, there’s one thing we can all be thankful for: at least we aren’t millionaires living (and speeding) in Finland.

Oakland Software Company Makes Software For Pennsylvanian Hospitals

female doctor with laptop pc

A California software firm is reaching across the coast to help hospitals in Pennsylvania improve their quality of service.

Trib Total Media reports that Qualaris Healthcare Solutions, Inc., a software company based in Oakland, has been providing western Pennsylvanian hospitals with healthcare management software for more than two years. Focusing on quality measures, the software is designed to help hospital administrators keep track of everything from the number of times employees wash their hands to the number of follow-up phone calls the staff make to recently discharged patients.

Washington Health System, a health services provider operating in three counties near the Pittsburgh area, uses the software to complete what was previously long and tiring work. Before Washington Health used Qualaris’s apps, its managers had to complete compliance records by hand, manually entering data into computer spreadsheets, and creating graphs, charts, and reports. In addition, they did not have immediate access to the data, making the process even more time-consuming.

Now, Washington Health can collect quality measure information on tablet devices and submit and process them in real-time. This is a significant, especially considering the recent government pressure on hospitals to reduce infection and readmission rates. Since 2011, the government has taken stern measures to improve medical care, going as far as cutting Medicare reimbursements to hospitals that hadn’t reduced their infection and readmission rates.

“We found there’s a whole set of manual stuff going on [in hospitals] that could benefit from some sophisticated processes,” said James Wolfe, the CEO and Co-Founder of Qualaris.

Wolfe recently signed off on a deal with 40 members of the Hospital Council of Western Pennsylvania, a regional trade association that specializes in healthcare, to provide healthcare quality software and apps. Part of the deal requires Qualaris to provide free tools for keeping track of hand washing and fall prevention measures.

Karen Bray, vice president of patient care services at Washington Health, commends the software as an invaluable tool for her company. She points out that, before the software, reports on quality care were issued every quarter, making it difficult for managers to audit their progress and evaluate a hospital’s performance.

“By the time a quarter passes, it’s gone, you’re on to new issues,” Bray said. “It’s really nice to have real-time data.”

The software provides administrators with “actionable information right there so they know where they’re failing,” said Jane Montgomery, vice president of clinical and quality services for the Hospital Council. “Now, instead of having a person in an office entering all that data, that person can be out doing real work.”

Qualaris is hopeful that its experiences with Washington Health and the Hospital Council will enable them to sell their products to similar healthcare organizations around the country. The company has already made an imprint in western Pennsylvania. In 2012, it was awarded a $50,000 grant from Carnegie Mellon University and has received more than $180,000 from local investment company Innovation Works since 2013.

Washington Health has already seen signs of improvement since adopting the software. For example, the rate of placed 48-hour follow-up calls increased from 60% last April to 81% in December.

“That’s still not where we want to be but it’s still a good trend,” Brey said.

Metagenomics Company Partners With Animal Digestive Health Firm to Study Canine Microbiomes

human DNA
While biobanks and their innovative laboratory management software are typically recognized as vital to modern research, most studies and projects that use them seem to focus on human diseases and conditions. However, it was recently announced that a metagenomics company has partnered with a provider of digestive health solutions for companion animals. Together, these organizations plan to develop a sample collection kit for dogs, which could be used to better examine canine health, especially digestive health problems.As part of the agreement, the Houston-based metagenomics sequencing and analysis service, Metanome, will test samples collected with Companion PBx’s Dx Fingerprint kit. This kit highlights deficiencies in pets’ GI health, which will allow the company to give veterinarians and pet owners better treatment recommendations. The samples will also be used to create a planned database of microbiomes from healthy and unhealthy animals, which will be used to create specialty foods and probiotic supplements to be used in modified diets. Companion PBx says that the kit costs about $30 and is available to limited populations to collect data, but will be made more broadly available in the future.

Established in 2013, Metanome offers a number of sequencing services, including 16s and 18s rRNA sequencing and qPCR, whole-genome shotgun sequencing, single-organism genome sequencing, microbial RNA and transcriptome sequencing, and viral metagenomic sequencing. The company also provides consulting services for experimental design and project implementation, ranging from sample selection, collection and storage to culturing and imaging. As a result, Metanome has extensive experience with diverse human microbiome sample types. However, their partnership with Companion PBx is their first project working with domestic animals. The company says the project exemplifies their open-minded, marketable approach to biobanking and sequencing, and could offer helpful solutions to animals suffering from digestive problems.

Non-human biobanks of genetic material have been an important resource for research for years, particularly in areas such as primate research, and museum collections at places like the American Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonian,” said Rick Michels, Vice President at Dataworks Development, which developed the software Freezerworks to manage biobank collections. “Domestic pets is a natural next step. In fact, our software has been in use at a biorepository at Purina, for research on their extensive pet product line.”

However, Metanome’s 50-person staff has their work cut out for them: the firm will be competing with companies like Second Genome, which recently announced that it had created a microbiome discovery platform to identify and validate microbiome modulated drug targets. Likewise, a company called Enterome Biosciences is currently developing projects to profile the human gut biome, which would improve the management of various metabolic, gastrointestinal, and autoimmune conditions.

Fortunately, Second Genome’s research activities are largely supported by proprietary and licensed technology for metagenomic assays, bioinformatics pipelines, and in vitro and in vivo assays. Meanwhile, Enterome Biosciences has partnered with the pharmaceutical company AbbVie to create diagnostic tools for Crohn’s disease and other conditions. It is also working with the Mayo Clinic to develop and test microbiome-based tests for obese and overweight patients. For that reason, Metanome seems to be one of the only metagenomic research facilities studying animal microbiomes. But will this endeavor be as scientifically valuable and economically viable as its employees and Companion PBx seem to think? Only time will tell.

Iowa State Senator Accidentally Eats Gourmet Dog Biscuit at Statehouse

cat and dog sleeping together
Any baker or cookie aficionado will tell you that there are plenty of options for lovers of this popular baked treat, ranging from interesting recipes to services offering gourmet cookies for delivery. However, a recent mishap at the Iowa Statehouse in Des Moines still seems quite strange: according to the Des Moines Register, a state senator accidentally consumed a gourmet dog biscuit while tending to business in the state capital.According to the Register, an eastern Iowa lobby group visited the Statehouse in early March. These visits are fairly common, and groups often bring cookies and cupcakes to hand out. However, this group reportedly chose to distribute handmade dog treats from Woofables, a popular business in Coralville, IA. While Woofables specializes in creating dog treats that resemble hamburgers, pizza, and other foods, the packaging these gifts were wrapped in reportedly stated that the product was a dog biscuit.

However, Senator Liz Mathis, a Democrat representing the Cedar Rapids area, says she missed that warning. Caught in the rush of “Funnel Week,” a period where the state legislature weeds out hundreds of bills from their future agenda, Mathis says she stopped by her office and found what appeared to be a graham cracker shaped like the state of Iowa on her desk. Quickly ripping open the package, Mathis took a bite, only to realize that she had been dreadfully mistaken.

While the senator’s mistake probably seems nauseating to many, the treat she consumed was gourmet, and probably not unhealthy. Woofables claims to reject additives and preservatives in favor of natural ingredients, a choice which mimics a trend many human treats are now following.

Others might have been mortified by the incident, but Mathis seems to be taking things in good humor. According to theRegister, she shared her mistake with two other senators during the Education Committee meeting for a laugh, joking that she should bark instead of stating “yay” during one of the votes. Given the serious nature of Funnel Week, Mathis says she appreciated the moment of comic relief, even if it came at her own expense.

Juniper Networks Plans to Incorporate Internet of Things Into the Data Center

Internet Computer

On Wednesday, March 11, Juniper Networks announced its plans for the rest of 2015 during its Innovation Showcase, including provisions for boosting network performance, automation, scalability, and security throughout its data centers.

According to ZDNet.com, the enterprise networking company’s most ambitious plan for 2015 might be its intent to integrate the so-called “Internet of Things” into its data centers.

By definition, the Internet of Things is the rapidly-growing network of everyday physical objects that are embedded with electronics or software that allows them to send or receive data. Juniper’s estimates state that by 2020 — just five years from now — there will be 50 billion connected devices belonging to approximately 7.6 billion people. That’s a mind-boggling number of objects that will become gadgets, and will require a new kind of server.

To accommodate this deluge of data brought about by the Internet of Things, Juniper said it plans to outfit its servers with a new series of switches, additional firewall services, improved analytics and automation capabilities, and a converged architecture design. The new Juniper data center, the QFX10000, boasts switches with 100G Ethernet connectivity, as well.

Additionally, the company’s recently-debuted Junos Fusion approach for its data center infrastructure management proves to give the Internet of Things the data hub it needs to run successfully. Junos Fusion is a set of standards that emphasizes centralized management and provides a virtual buffer for its switches.

“This is about fundamentally changing the basics of networking for both our enterprise customers and our service provider customers,” Jonathan Davidson, general manager of Juniper’s development and innovation unit, said.

Self-Driving Cars Could Reduce Accidents by 90% in U.S., According to New Study

Car driving fast in tunnel
According to a new study, the rise of driverless cars could lead to a 90% reduction in auto accidents in the U.S., saving thousands of lives and up to $190 billion in damages and healthcare costs each year.

The study, compiled by consulting group McKinsey and Company and released March 5, is based on interviews with dozens of officials across the automotive industry.

“Autonomous vehicles and the path toward them is one of the most shaping trends in the auto industry today,” Hans-Werner Kaas, a senior partner in McKinsey’s automotive practice, said in a statement.

This report predicts that mass adoption of driverless passenger vehicles will occur in approximately 15 years. Google’s self-driving car fleet has already traveled about 700,000 miles, with no serious accidents; Uber has also announced it will make a play in the driverless car market, and well-established automakers such as Volvo and Mercedes-Benz have also said they are focusing on self-driving technology.

Elon Musk, of Tesla Motors, has said that a fully autonomous car will be completed within the next five years.
Impacts on the Industry and Economy
The implications of driverless cars will travel through the auto industry, changing the entire American economy, the study concludes.

Within the auto industry, Automotive IT pointed out March 9, service shops will need to quickly train technicians and purchase new equipment to deal with an influx of autonomous vehicles. Of course, not everyone in the industry agrees on how soon such changes might occur and with what urgency automotive training and service outlets should act.

“I don’t see this technology being common for another 20 or more years. The liability is enormous for car manufacturers and insurance companies,” said Stan Creech, owner of Creech Imports. “We won’t wake up one day and see in the new that ‘self driving cars’ are now available. The change will take place slowly as systems are perfected one step at a time, such as braking for example. Once automatic braking (backup braking to avoid collision) is perfected, then it’s on to the next system. Steering, navigation, basic maneuvers such as lane changing, ect. all must be addressed. This is a huge step for auto technology. Don’t expect self driving cars anytime soon.”

 

Indirectly, the rise of driverless cars could even lead to a boost for the overall economy as travelers spend less time driving and more time browsing and shopping on the web. The study estimates that for each additional minute that driverless-vehicle occupants spend online, about $5.6 billion a year could be generated.

More Than $30,000 in Tables, Supplies Stolen from Charity Rummage Sale

Red Semi Truck On Interstate In Springtime
Although the Upscale Rummage Sale in Lake Forest, IL, isn’t happening until April 23 through 25, the charity event has already hit a major snag after the founder discovered the tables for the event were missing.

The sale’s founder, Renee Baldwin, discovered that the semi-trailer storing supplies for the event had gone missing from the parking lot where it had been stored.

In addition to the 125 banquet tables needed to hold rummage sale items, the trailer also included $30,000 in supplies, such as professionally made signage, commercial shelving racks and gridwall.

The police have been notified of the theft and are currently investigating the whereabouts of the missing trailer, but so far they have been unable to track down the trailer or the items.

But to keep the sale going, Baldwin is asking community members and organizations to loan supplies for this year’s sale. She says she is especially interested in finding 125 #30 eight-foot banquet tables.

“I prefer to not spend money to rent new tables, because the money would otherwise go to charity,” she said.

Baldwin has been collecting supplies for the sale since she started the event 14 years ago.

Since its inception, the event has benefited a number of non-profit organizations in the area. Over 14 years, she has held 17 sales and has raised more than $250,000 for the Lake Forest Montessori School, NorthPoint Resources, LEAD, Lakeside Singers Outreach Program, House of Peace, PADS, Lake County Seniors and Lake County Veteran’s Closet, along with various pet shelters, church organizations and infant welfare programs.

This year, Baldwin is hoping to add Mothers Trust Foundation, which helps support mothers and children in Lake County, to the list of recipients.

In addition to funding local non-profits, the sale helps people afford a variety of home goods, including clothing, athletic equipment, high chairs, cribs, artwork, kitchenware, furniture and more.

Even furniture with torn upholstery, which is often not accepted by larger organizations, can be donated to the rummage sale because, Baldwin says, it can be salvaged.

Like the many charity clothing pick ups throughout the nation, the rummage sale will even pick up larger items like furniture within a 10-mile radius of Lake Bluff. All they ask for is a $50 donation for the pickup since the movers are paid rather than volunteer workers.

The only items that the rummage sale won’t accept are textbooks, household chemicals and outdated electronics, computers, or tube televisions.

Baldwin is also calling on the community to donate space for the Upscale Rummage Sale, which many have done in previous years. This year and last, however, she has had to rent warehouse space.

The current location for the sale is only about 5,000 feet, but she said she has enough merchandise this year to fill up to 20,000 square feet of space.

Sadly, the Upscale Rummage Sale isn’t the only charity to have items stolen.

Furniture Bank, a charity that delivers furniture to families in need in the Greater Toronto Area, had catalytic converters stolen from some of the charity’s trucks on Friday, Feb. 27, as seen on security footage taken outside the facility.

This isn’t the first time the trucks have had parts stolen. The security cameras had been installed after the second time the catalytic converters were removed from the charity’s trucks.

The parts are worth thousands of dollars at scrap metal yards.

Executives at Furniture Bank, which delivers furniture to new Canadians, abused women and people who were homeless, said it could take weeks until the trucks are fixed. In the meantime, the organization will rent trucks to keep deliveries on schedule.

Northeastern University Fashion Event Collects Money and Clothes for Charity

some of the money
On February 12, Northeastern University in Boston, Mass. hosted a runway fashion show organized by the Student Alumni Association (SAA) as part its Fashion in Action program. The show wasn’t your typical fashion event.

The Huntington News reports that the fashion show did not flaunt the latest trends, but rather showcases donated items from the student body refashioned into stylish, like-new clothing.

“Over the past two months, the Northeastern and Boston communities have been asked to clean out their closets and donate gently-used or no longer wanted clothes,” said Dayna Altman, a senior human services and psychology major. Altman is the vice president of community service at SAA as well as the organizer of Fashion in Action.

Altman and other members of Fashion in Action then sorted out all the donations to make outfits for the show. After the show, the clothing was donated to local non-profits serving survivors of domestic violence such as Casas Myrna, Penelope’s Place, and RESPOND.

In addition to the fashion show, the event included an a cappella group, a comedy improv group, and a spoken-word poetry artist.

“In order to make the show as interesting and captivating as possible, I thought we could intersperse the modeled looks with performances,” Altman said.

The clothing wasn’t the only thing Fashion in Action was able to collect. The event also included a $5 requested admissions fee, the proceeds of which were donated to The Joyful Heart Foundation. The Joyful Heart Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to working with victims of domestic and sexual violence.

The event was inspired by Altman’s experiences in volunteering for The Joyful Heart Foundation. She was shocked to meet women who quite literally only had the clothing they had on them when they came to the organization.

“I was thinking about ways in which I could spread the message of domestic violence and sexual assault in a creative way that people would want to be a part of,” she said. She went on to claim that a clothing drive that did not tie into the issues of domestic violence would have felt “incomplete.”

“I think there is a lot to be said about feeling good in your own skin, and giving women the clothing and tools to help them feel good in theirs is really important to me,” she said.

What the New Line of IKEA Furniture Has to Do With Your Cell Phone

View on the interior in skyscraper
It’s no secret that people these days have a penchant for their devices, so much so that pretty much everyone has experienced the frustration and anxiety of needing to charge one without having a charger handy. A new line of furniture from IKEA should help put an end to this problem.

IKEA has just launched a line of furniture that can actually charge devices like cell phones wirelessly. According to Architectural Digest, the line includes couches, tables, and lamps, which are equipped with wireless charging technology called Qi.

The new line falls in with a trend that industry experts expect will take off this year.

“This is probably the year of the wireless charger,” said Kevin Curran, a senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers in an interview with Science Times. “A lot of the top-end phones now by default are coming with a wireless charger. You just have to put the phone onto a mat or onto a stand.”

Generally, personal taste and comfort are the two biggest factors that play a role in peoples’ decorating and furnishing decisions, but a couch that will charge a cell phone is definitely a game changer.

“We find that customers are more interested in quality and finished then the ability to possible charge a phone,” said Mike McCort, owner of Amish Mike, an outdoor furniture retailer. “Most of the furniture made at the big box store brands are made of a particle board material with a smooth finish making the furniture appear to be solid. While most of this furniture is display nicely on the floor, once you open the box you can clearly see its not solid wood. All our furniture is made of a solid wood like pine,maple, oak or cherry. You might need that phone charged to call us to replace that piece of furniture that offers a phone charge but no quality!”

Between the years 2009 and 2014, the wooden furniture industry grew by about 10%, which speaks to the fact that Americans do also have a preference for handcrafted wooden furniture; however, there’s no denying that any piece of furniture that can charge a phone is going to have an edge.

The average person spends about 90% of their time indoors, but that doesn’t mean that people like being tethered to an electrical outlet. For people who don’t want to replace their furniture, IKEA is also offering wireless charging pads, which are a little more convenient — and with the right placement can convert any piece of furniture into a charger.