Saturday, July 25, 2009
Saturday, July 18, 2009
The old joke goes;
Q: "What is a shin?"
A: "A device for detecting furniture in the dark"
Socks prevent broken toes
This is my favourite safety tip. Because I have broken toes on my stupid metal bedframe, and because now I only "nearly break my toes" on my stupid metal bedframe/casters. Put thick wool socks over the legs of your bed to avoid breaking a toe on the metal legs/bed frame when moving around in the dark. It really
Take the saw to your coffee table
Cut sharp corners off of coffee table (leaving rounded corners or corners that are more blunt). It started with my knees. I kept hurting my knees on the coffee table, then our toddler was putting himself in danger by falling near the coffee table. (God saved his bacon so many times). I looked at those finely chiselled corners on the ikea coffee table and thought... Hey, if I cut those at a 45 degree angle the corners will be half as sharp. Enough said, we've had several events were the children's injuries were less sever because the scary corners got recycled years ago.
Tie down your TV
Anchor your TV to the wall or cabinet to prevent children from pulling it off the shelf when they inevitably attempt to climb up the TV. The idea isn't to hold the entire weight of the TV, but to simply prevent it from tipping or moving in the first place. Large eyelets which screw into your furniture and TV (make sure to avoid all electronics and related shock hazards) make the task easy. Insert these before positioning the TV. Then use Wire (electrical wire of sufficient thickness) to secure the eyelets to each other ensuring the ends are well secure by winding many times.
Anchor your Bookshelves
Anchor tall bookshelves to the wall to protect against toppling. Emergency preparedness recommends anchoring tall furniture with the potential to topple in and earthquake. Much more common is the scenario where children decide to climb the tall furniture to reach something interesting on the top shelf. Do yourself and the kids a favour and anchor that furniture. I recommend using webbing (commonly used for rock climbing) Cut a piece 4 inches longer than you need. Fold the end over so you have 2 inches of overlap, put a screw through a washer into the webbing and into a solid piece of wood on your furniture. Then repeat the same for the other end of the webbing into the wall. Make sure that the screw you are putting into the wall penetrates a wall stud or your anchor is useless.
Laminate entryway windows
Consider laminated glass for entryway windows if you are replacing your windows. In addition to providing some protection from shattered glass in the event of earthquake, they make these windows much harder for a thief to break. Generally it is thought that a thief will not stick around and fight with your window while making more and more noise. If your house is not an easy target the thief is likely to think twice and move on.
Don't obscure doors and windows with plants
When planning landscaping, think about keeping an open line of site. lattice fences, well placed shrubs, low fencing. Blockwatch advises that homeowners and renters keep plants well trimmed so they don't obscure the view of your houses entrances and windows. By keeping these entry points exposed, thieves are less likely to try to use them.
Motion detecting floodlights light your way
Use motion detection to activate floodlights around your entry ways. Less as a paranoid security measure, and more as a convenience to your family. How many times have you had to go back in the house, run up the stairs, through the kitchen and throw the switch to turn on the back light. If your house doesn't have motion detecting floodlights, get with the program and install some. Installation is easy if you are the least bit handy.
Secure your gear to deny thieves tools
Secure ladders tools, lawnmowers and bikes with a cable and padlock. Blockwatch warns that ladders and tools left outside a home provide a would-be thief with more tools for breaking into your home. Make the theif miserable by securing your gear with a braided metal "aircraft cable". Purchased from your local hardware store, the aircraft cable can be looped and secured to something that won't move (like your house or your strongbox). The free end can be looped and secured and is easy to thread through / around your gear. After threading the cable through the lawnmowers bikes, weed-eaters and tool handles, loop it back around something large and lock it to itself with a padlock.
Secure flamables in a firebox
Build a firebox to secure flamables. Arsons are rare. Accidents are more common. Children and carcinogenic flamable explosives do not mix well. Keep your kids safe by building a box for your gass / oil / propane / white gas and other flamables. Make sure to leave enough room so jerry cans and other containers can sit level. Making the box lock with a padlock is inexpensive and effective. Lining the inside of the box with tin can be easy with tin-snips and metal screws. You might find it effective to purchase air vents and open them up rather than trying to find sheet metal.
Secure outdoor gear with a strongbox
Build a strong-box for secure outdoor storage. Thieves don't normally want to work too hard to steal, otherwise they would just go work. They don't usually have a lot of time, but you can take time at your leisure to build a strong-box for outdoor storage that slows thieves down, making your secured stuff a much less tempting target. If you make it large enough it will be practically impossible to be moved (i.e. 2 people required to move it empty) If you use weather-stripping and silicon caulking in cracks and opening, you can practically eliminate the possibility of spiders or other insects getting into your gear. If you use haspes and padlocks, you can construct it in such a way that removing your locks is difficult. We built our when we were renting a small suite and simply didn't have the storage space, yet didn't feel the neighbourhood was safe enough for us to leave our gear outside.
Cultivate a culture of safety
Employee safety rules to help children learn. "If you trip on it, stop and pick it up". In addition to preventing a second accident with a particular object, it also helps bring order to your world by engaging your children in making an house more safe and orderly. Other rules could include; children may not touch tools unless they get permission from an adult. Carry sharp and pointy things with the point facing down away from your body and many more...
Then it hit me... like a hollow core interior door right between the eyes
Fix doors so they don't stay "half open". Doors are useful when they are closed, and when they are open. They are next to useless when they are half open because you are then forced to move them. Some evil doors have a tendancy to make themselves 1/2 open, where they wait for you to walk into them. This usually happens in the dark. Hinge springs or pulleys and weights can keep your doors where they are supposed to be.
There you go. That is the list of home safety tips I have for you today. I hope some of them help keep you and your family safe. pass them on if you know someone who would like them. Add your own safety tips below in the comments.
Monday, July 13, 2009
Instead of paying your cell phone provider $1 or $2. Try Goog-411 Put 1-800-4664-411 on your speed-dial and use their voice recognition to find business listings in your area. In my experience the voice recognition is acceptable as long as someone isn't trying to talk to you at the same time. The listings tend to be useful although where they get their listings isn't exactly clear and some businesses don't appear. The good news is that most do return correct information. Advantages include:
- Handsfree dialing while in traffic
- No cost for the service
- Free connection to the listing anywhere in North America (so if you lookup a business in another state/province, that long distance call doesn't cost any more than a call to the 1-800 number)
- Start by adjusting the screen brightness so it is only as bright as you need it to read clearly. Some phones auto adjust brightness for the ambient light to save power.
- Configure your ringtone profiles to not use vibrate unless you need a vibrate only option. The electric motors used in the vibrator function use more power than a speaker playing a ringtone.
- If your phone supports it schedule an "auto-on" and "auto-off" time when your phone will turn itself on our off on weekdays and weekends. Mine turns on at 6AM and off at 10PM weekdays.
- If you have an older phone, ensure your phone is set to use digital mode when possible rather than analog, this way it will use less power.
- If you use bluetooth, turn it off whenever you are not actively using the bluetooth as this second radio transmitter (after the cellular radio) uses a significant amount of power. Consider assigning a 'quick access' key to enable and disable your bluetooth for fast access.
- Try speaking in a squeaky high pitched voice as high pitches require less power to transmit. Nah, just kidding that last one is a complete lie I just threw in for fun.
- Add the local traffic radio station because often not only can you report traffic, you can ask them what is going on and get an answer faster than by listening to the radio.
- Add your local "commercial vehicle enforcement" tip line to report those scary truck drivers and perhaps save a life
- If you travel through several communities on your commute, add local emergency services for each community
- consider the "city engineering" departments for flooding / wires down and other road related hazzards you will encounter.
- Add your work's general number so that you can hit the voice recognition engine and voice dial anyone in your company. (or let the receptionist connect you which is safer than you looking them up in your address book while driving)
- Last but not least, add your home number so you can let your spouse or roommate know when you'll be home for dinner.
Sunday, July 12, 2009
After a couple false starts with utilities that did not deliver, i found a Google Code project Announced on the Google Blog . The project features a number of converters including the "Wordpress2Blogger" converter I used. The blogs I could see supported include "movabletype", "livejournal", "blogger", "wordpress".
Install "low flow" aerators on all your taps.
- Bathroom sinks (hand washing and tooth brushing) 1.5 GPM (Gallons per minute)
- Kitchen sink (filling pots and washing things) 2.5 GPM
- Shower head 2.5 GPM
- Look for and read any small writing on the spout of your tap, look right where the water falls out (this is in case you already have one). You are looking for a number and GPM (or LPM if you are metric)
- Purchase an aerator for your tap
- Cover your tap's spout with a piece of cloth to prevent the plyers from scratching, and remove the round piece on the end of your tap's spout.
- Screw your aerator back on there to replace that piece.
- Save water
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Maintaining your car well Potential savings: Up to $271 a year
including advice to: Remove heavy items from your trunk and roof racks can improve fuel economy by 2 percent.
Driving Smarter Potential savings: Up to $294 a year
including advice to: Ease up on the pedal. Slowing down from 75 to 65 miles per hour will drop your highway gasoline consumption by about 15 percent. In town, avoiding rapid acceleration and aggressive driving can improve fuel economy by up to 5 percent.
Driving Less Potential savings: Up to $236 a year
including advice to: Share a ride to work, telecommute or use transit. If each commuter car carried just one more passenger once a week, we would cut America's gasoline consumption by more than 50 million gallons each week.
Sunday, July 5, 2009
Four times a week we receive a community newspaper. Now the paper is mostly ads, advertisements, paid advertising and ads. There are relevant local articles, but it hardly seems worth the "filtering" to get to the content. Out of 40 printed pages, I'd guess 4 or less actually contain news. Now I don't believe in mindlessly reading advertisements (and don't know anyone who will admit to this), but I must admit my relationship to the printed newspapers that appear on my mailbox has been undergoing a transformation.
I was curious what the impact was on my time and on the environment to handle all the paper associated with the unsolicited flyers and community newspapers I receive. To try and estimate the impact on my city, I'm assuming everyone in town does exactly what I do, and I'm believing the newspaper's circulation figures (averaged to 40,000 per paper) which I found on the Internet. You will see some high dollar figures here, and this is because the cost to consumers is generally left out of the equation and ignored... Retailers don't incur that cost, it is the consumer's problem, so why would anyone bother to track or estimate that cost... This is only a rough but fair estimate. Now I'd love to make this more accurate, so if you take issue with the numbers, do us all a favour and contribute some research. Here is the transformation in chronological order:
Handling Flyers and community newspapers (original version 1.0)
Initially we would bring the paper in, sort through the flyers "in case there was something good there", and put the papers on the coffee table to be read. Then I would flip from front to back through the paper making sure I didn't "miss anything. So including all the "handling time" bringing in the paper, reading through it. Picking it up off the floor after the small children decorated the room with it. Recycling it. I probably spent 30 minutes per paper and ended up skipping half of the papers completely. The time spent "reading the paper" was time I didn't spend with my kids etc, so I'm going to think of that cost to me as $20/hour for my like many people earn. The 150 grams estimated weight of the paper is based on Canada Post's "weight restriction" for mailing community newspapers (mine is probably larger) and 37 grams of flyers. So 150 grams 4 times a week is 0.6 Kg per week or 31.2 Kg per year.
- My yearly time spent "handling" newspapers and flyers: 52 hours $1040
- My papers and flyers sent to recycling: 31.2Kgs (68.8 lbs)
- My city's yearly time spent "handling" newspapers and flyers: 2,080,000 hours $41,600,000 (this is the cost of consumer's time!)
- My city's papers and flyers sent to recycling: 1,248,000 Kgs (2,751,369 lbs)
Handling Flyers and community newspapers (updated version 2.0)
Then I recognized the time I was spending "tidying up" these papers all over our living space and I wanted to get the papers re-routed to recycling at the earliest point possible. What I would do is "intentionaly" sit down and skim the newspaper articles for 5 minutes, if there was relevant content I save the paper for my wife and tell her what is worth reading, if not, I recycle it and all of the flyers stuffed inside before the paper even makes it up the stairs to our living space. (Sorry advertisers, your advertising budget was not effectively spent). But this skimming is still an interesting activity to me, I'm not doing it because I am (at that moment) interested in reading the paper or learning something specific, I'm "reacting" to the newspaper being delivered to my door. I'm voluntarily spending at least 20 minutes per week filtering out advertisements.... Hmm, how is it that someone else is "making me" spend time reading their paper.... That wasn't my idea. Hey I could have used that time for something I WANTED to do.
- My yearly time spent "handling" newspapers and flyers: 17 hours $340 <reduced>
- My papers and flyers sent to recycling: 31.2Kgs (68.8 lbs) <No change>
- My city's yearly time spent "handling" newspapers and flyers: 680,000 hours $13,600,000 <reduced>
- My city's papers and flyers sent to recycling: 1,248,000 Kgs (2,751,369 lbs) <No change>
Handling Flyers and community newspapers (New Era version 3.0)
So I noticed that when those friendly guys from the "Globe and Mail" would call, I would answer. "Not really interested, I use the Internet." and they would simply drop it and let me go with no more "sales"... hmmm.. Maybe I could just use the Internet and replace my local community paper... So I testsed this. What I could find online (in several locations) had all the information with much less advertising. In many cases it offered more than the news (videos and such). I bravely asked my wife what she thought and when I learned that she really didn't use those grocery store flyers I'd been saving for years, our course was set. We put a "No Flyers or Newspapers" sign on our mailbox and suddenly our house is neater, our recycling is lighter, and I'm facing much less temptation to purchase things I would not have otherwise purchased. I'm estimating that I only spend 15 minutes per month looking for local news and information. Only God knows the value of the "impulse purchases" I'm not making.
- My yearly time spent not "handling" newspapers and flyers: 3 hours $60 (Internet time) <reduced>
- My papers and flyers sent to recycling: 0 Kgs (0 lbs) <reduced>
- My city's residents potential yearly time spent not "handling" newspapers and flyers: 120,000 hours $2,400,000 <reduced>
- My city's could potentially save 1,248,000 Kgs (2,751,369 lbs) of paper from going to recycling (or worse) <Join Me! It's free!>
Adding back "The Internet"
Sure there is time spent on the Internet to find local information, but I don't think it is the same as putting a paper on your doorstep. I think that when someone is actually pursuing information, and not just having it "forced" on them, they are able to dig deeper and learn more. Sure I will likely look up some local events using the Internet, maybe 15 minutes per month when I NEED to know something specific. But that is one of the major points I'm making. Newspaper delivery was someone else's idea that consumed my time and wasted paper.
Other Resources for breaking your flyer addiction
- I liked the vision expressed by http://www.reddotcampaign.ca
We are fortunate to live in abundance where one of our major issues is TOO MUCH STUFF! And to keep us buying more, Canadians are inundated with $19 Billion worth of advertising each year. If the old adage is true, "half of all marketing works great, if only we knew which half" why don't advertisers spend more resources understanding which half works and spend the other half supporting community?
- Another small but useful site is: http://www.iwilltry.org/w/index.php?title=Flyers_against_flyers_campaign which advocates convincing your neighbours to join you in giving up flyers. They had some great images you could print out and tape to your mailbox (download the originals from their site).
- The Canadian national "Do Not Call List" operated by the government of Canada promises to reduce phone based solicitation. https://www.lnnte-dncl.gc.ca/
- The "Canadian Marketing Association has a "Do not Contact Service" designed to get your name on a list their members might check before sending out mailed advertisements. http://www.the-cma.org/?WCE=C=47|K=224217
- A ?grassroots? attempt to produce a better "do not call list" http://www.ioptout.ca/ trys to overcome limitations with the "Do Not Call List" (charities are not restricted etc).
(Use the comments to evaluate the usefulness of these links).
Please comment to let me know what you think of all this. Do you have paper taming tricks? ways to find local information that work for you? Would you consider joining me with a simple "no flyers or newspapers" sign on your mailbox? Why or why not?