November 15

Chew on this: just because it’s not cigarette, doesn’t mean it’s safe

Rick Bender was 12 when he took his first dip. His friends were mostly cigarette smokers. But Bender chose to use moist snuff–finely ground tobacco sold in cans and put between the gums and cheeks–because it was advertised as a safe alternative to cigarettes. However, when he was in his 20s, Bender got a mouth sore that wouldn’t go away.

And that’s when he realized that there’s no such thing as a safe tobacco product. “Tobacco companies used to say, ‘Take a snuff instead of a puff.’ Now they’re saying, ‘Take a snus instead of a snuff,'” Bender, now 47, told Current Health. “They’re supposedly selling a safe alternative to the safe alternative.”

Smokeless 101

Tobacco companies have been expanding their smokeless tobacco offerings for many reasons. The most obvious are indoor smoking bans and increases in cigarette taxes, both of which discourage people from smoking. To stop losing customers, cigarette makers are promoting smokeless alternatives for getting a fix of nicotine, the highly addictive drug in tobacco. Their efforts seem to be working. Although smoking rates among teens have declined, smokeless tobacco use by teens has risen. (See “Ditching Cigs for Smokeless Tobacco.”)

While cigarette smokers inhale does nicotine cause cancer from the fumes, smokeless tobacco users typically absorb it into their bloodstreams through the mouth. Traditional products include moist snuff (also called dipping tobacco) and chewing tobacco (tobacco leaves, plugs, or twists). Alternatives such as snus (a tea bag-like pouch of tobacco) and dissolvable tobacco (which dissolves in the mouth) are currently getting a lot of attention as well. There are even devices called electronic cigarettes that contain no tobacco but still give a nicotine fix.

Whatever the form, smokeless products are common sights at schools. At Victoria Young’s school in Omaha, Neb., the 18-year-old says she sees people using smokeless tobacco every day, usually during classes, when students are not able to smoke cigarettes. “Mostly boys do it,” Young says. “When the teacher is writing on the blackboard, they’ll take it out of a can and chew it and then spit into a coffee mug.”

“I know a lot of kids who do dip in the bathroom stalls. And a lot of people use … snus because it’s tiny and you don’t have to spit,” says 18-year-old Cody Bullock, who lives in southeastern Ohio. The 2009 Monitoring the Future survey found that use of smokeless tobacco in rural areas of Ohio and other central and western states is more common than in the rest of the country.

Starter Products

There are plenty of reasons why Bullock’s classmates may find these products attractive. Dissolvable tobacco and suns, unlike other forms of smokeless tobacco, do not require spitting, says Shelly Kiser, director of advocacy for the American Lung Association in Columbus, Ohio. And the sleek, colorful packaging appeals to image-conscious teens, she notes. “They’re going after you young because if they get you young, you’ll be addicted and they’ll get as much money as possible from you,” Kiser says.

Another way companies try to attract young people is by making products with candy or fruit flavors. “It’s not like [older users] are going to switch to vanilla,” says Danny McGoldrick, vice president for research for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “They are clearly starter products.” Documents from tobacco companies, he says, reveal a strategy of drawing in new customers with flavors and lower nicotine levels and then “graduating” them to stronger, higher-nicotine brands.

For example, one tobacco manufacturer is test-marketing some new dissolvable tobacco products in Columbus. One product looks like candy, another resembles breath-freshener strips, and yet another is shaped to resemble cinnamon sticks, says Kiser. “People try them because they look familiar and innocent.”

A Risky Road

Smokeless tobacco products are far from innocent, say experts. “A lot of people think it’s relatively safe, but the fact is smokeless tobacco contains many well-established cancer-causing chemicals,” points out Jack Henningfield, a professor at Johns Hopkins University and a member of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s scientific advisory committee on tobacco products. “There’s a serious risk of oral and head and neck cancers.”

Many users of smokeless tobacco develop white, patchy areas in their mouths called leukoplakia, lesions that sometimes become cancerous. Bender started noticing those in his freshman year of high school. “They looked like when your fingers are kept in water too long…. I thought they were calluses,” he recalls.

By age 26, Bender had tried regular cigarettes a few times but was going through a can of “spit” every couple of days. When one sore in his mouth wouldn’t heal even after he quit using smokeless tobacco, he got it checked out and learned he had an aggressive form of oral cancer. Bender needed multiple surgeries to remove part of his tongue and much of his jawbone.

Smokeless tobacco can cause other side effects too. Dental problems such as gum disease, stained teeth, bad breath, and receding gums are quite common. Studies have also shown smokeless tobacco use decreases sperm count and can lead to premature births.

At first glance, electronic cigarettes, also called e-cigarettes, may seem safer because they don’t contain tobacco. However, the user inhales vaporized nicotine from the battery-operated devices. “It’s the Wild West with e-cigarettes–they are renegade products with wild claims and no oversight,” says Henningfield. Because makers don’t provide specific information, there is concern that e-cigs contain harmful ingredients or too much nicotine.

Generally, users absorb more nicotine from smokeless tobacco products than from cigarettes, so experts worry about their addiction potential. Nicotine withdrawal symptoms include cravings, irritation, and trouble concentrating. Studies have shown that does hookah have nicotine also constricts blood vessels, which increases heart rate and blood pressure. Smokeless tobacco, like cigarettes, can contribute to heart disease, according to Henningfield.

Keeping Them Honest

Still, some cigarette smokers try switching to smokeless products to quit. That’s what Bullock did. He tried dip for a few months in an effort to quit cigarettes but says, “I wouldn’t recommend it. Dip is so much more powerful than a regular cigarette.”

While it’s possible that using smokeless products could help smokers quit, Henningfield says, often the products discourage smokers from quitting or lead them to use both cigarettes and smokeless tobacco. At the same time, the products can attract new users and hook them on nicotine.

Experts say a better approach to quitting any type of tobacco use is to join a support group or talk to your doctor. He or she can steer you to proven methods, such as nicotine patches or chewing gum, that decrease cravings. And it’s important to keep trying. For Bullock, a smoking cessation program at school gave him the incentive he needed to put both cigarettes and smokeless tobacco behind him.

As for Bender, he shares his story with young people all over the country. “I tell them the tobacco companies lied to me 25 years ago. Why wouldn’t they lie to you now?”

Baseball and Smokeless

When tobacco companies started leaving free samples of dipping tobacco at baseball clubhouses in the 1970s, use among players (and the teen boys who idolized them) soared. Today, about one in three Major League Baseball players–such as former Montreal Expos pitcher Carlos Perez (above)–use smokeless tobacco. But studies show that figure is going down; Minor League Baseball hasn’t allowed smokeless tobacco since the early 1990s. In fact, look more closely at your favorite major-league players: Many are chewing gum or sunflower seeds, not tobacco.

October 5

The Invicta watches review is the best tips to buy unique and stylish watches

The watches offered by the Invicta are the one of the best time pieces available in the market nowadays for both women and men. The Style and ingenuity of the invicta designs are the best factors that can be seen in their broad providing of various watch styles. This will offers you that are from the professional looking luxury watch to the casual dress watch collections. In addition to this, it will offer you with a wide variety of urban and sports style of time pieces. With all these large array of sections it is very difficult pick and tries just one.

So the invicta watches review is very much helpful to get the best one. This type of review will cover some basic tips that will helpful to find the Invicta watches for men that fits both your budget and your style.

Choosing the best Invicta watch designs

If in case you are looking for the chronograph you can wear it for the night out that is on the town and also to indicate your personality, look, class no further than the series such as Pro Diver. This particular type of series will provides some modern takes ancient luxury designs of watch. These types of watches are made from the highly polished stainless steel, the Pro Diver’s heavy construction is unique and it will offer you with a feel of quality luxury and also weight time pieces. The Pro Diver series designs are mean to pay homage to the luxury classic time pieces like Submariner.

Pro Diver series

When it comes to its designs, this is comprises of distinct differences and also the precision automatic movements, these time pieces are wind itself with motion of the user arm. Moreover the user requires wearing these watches frequently in order to keep from winding down. For the modern professional the Pro Diver series of Invicta watches are the classy watch. If in case you are looking for the high quality but the inexpensive Invicta watches for men, then you can prefer the Speedway series of Invicta watches.

This particular type of time pieces will features an array of innovative designs and patterns that are very different compare to other types of common time pieces you find. The Speedway series are different from the classic Swiss movement designs, but both are available with high quality features. These types of time prices are great for daily use and also these can be worn to work and night out.

Lupah time pieces

One of the very unique designs that are very popular among the young generation is the Invicta Lupah Series. These types of time pieces are features the bold and hottest designs that are not other common watch designs. Whether these time pieces are modern and wild watches with the unique ion plated casings and bright colors but different models , all types of Lupah time pieces are stands out as much as the persons wearing them. The invicta watches review is the best source to know info regarding the unique features of the Invicta watch.

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October 18

Entry dress-ups: front door

Help your home emerge from winter’s blahs by giving it the quickest yet most effective face lift you can: Add drama and design to the frame around your front door. After all, the entry is the first thing your callers see.

I studied the style and proportions of my house before sketching up new casing that I could either make myself or create by combining stock moldings from the lumberyard. My design would adapt well to many other entries–even those without a soffit overhead. But one of the effects I like best is the way my new trim package fills that eight-inch gap on top by butting against the soffit, seeming to support it.

Sitting down to design your own casing can be intimidating at first, but these tips should help:

* Look at entry-door trims on well-designed homes in your area. Familiarize yourself with different trim styles, such as Federal, Georgian, and Greek Revival, by consulting books on architectural detail at your local library.

* Experiment on paper. Take a photo of your front door and have it enlarged to an 8×10 size. Tape tracing paper over the print and draw various designs around the door.

* Do sample assemblies with pieces of molding. Your new casing will consist of three basic parts–two pilasters (vertical strips that flank the door) and a head (the horizontal crosspiece at the top). It’s easy to make the pilasters of a single board, but the head is usually built up from several different moldings.

Head for your lumberyard to check out its moldings –you’ll probably find a dozen shapes that have possibilities. The larger crowns, coves, beds, battens, and stops –plus half and quarter rounds–are all worth looking at. If the yard doesn’t have samples to lend you, offer to buy a couple of inches cut off each molding you want to play with. At home, set these short lengths on end and arrange them like blocks, building up full-size cross sections of various configurations until you find one that appeals to you. Then trace around each molding to get a profile like the sketch at right. If your design calls for a shape you can’t buy, consider making your own–as I had to for my dentil and “panel-raising” moldings.

My actual trim work started with the pilasters–made from hald-inch clear pine 5-1/2 inches wide. I routed parallel flutes then chamfered the edges. I stopped both flutes and chamfers about five inches from the bottom and three inches from the top.

After nailing up all trim, fill holes with an exterior wood putty, caulk all joints, prime the wood with an alkyd primer, and apply two coats of latex trim paint.

October 2

4 Types of Materials Softball Bats Are Made Of

When you are using a good softball bat, you will easily be able to get enough single and double runs and increase the number of scores and wins that you can manage in a year. Once, bats for softball playing were primarily constructed of wood. However, technological advances have led to the introduction of a variety of materials, such as composites, graphite and aluminum. Each of these materials comes with unique and positive features.


Even a few years ago, wooden bats for softball were extremely rare. However, these are gradually resurfacing in the mainstream and are regaining acceptance with softball enthusiasts who prefer to hear a whack from their bat rather than a ping when the ball hits the sweet spot. A wooden bat for softball performances are bottle-like in shape and have a weight of around 32 – 35 ounces, which is about 8 ounces bulkier than bats made of aluminum. Wooden bats have been traditionally constructed out of ash. But ash is soft and light and bats constructed out of ash have a tendency to dent fast and splinter. These bats are also constructed out of wood from oak, bamboo or maple. Maple is firmer and has a denser grain than ash, which makes it less prone to chafing and splintering. Bats that are constructed out of Chinese bamboo are the closest wooden bat equivalent of an aluminum bat. Very lightweight bamboo has a higher tensile strength than steel.


Best softball bats that are made of aluminum is lighter and this helps players to get more control and speed. These are more durable and stronger as compared to wooden bats, and do not suffer any breaks. Over a period of time, however, these may suffer cracks or dents. Bats made of aluminum can be availed in varied weight and alloy combinations. Alloys of lightweight aluminum are thinner and have more resilience. They offer a larger “sweet spot” or hitting zone. You can get these types of bats in single or double-layer combinations. Power batters make use of double-layer bats.

Graphite/Titanium lined

Titanium or graphite is used to line bats made of aluminum. These strong and durable but lightweight materials are added to bats made of aluminum and with thin walls in order to reduce the weight of the bats. Batters can get more powerful swings with lighter bats. These bats, lined with titanium or graphite, come with a greater “sweet spot” or hitting zone. These are shock-absorbent materials and can help reduce the shock that is felt due to an ill-timed stroke.

Composite materials

Bats which are constructed of Kevlar, glass or carbon are strong and firm although light in weight. Bat manufacturers use composite materials to incorporate varied stiffness and strengths in various areas of a bat. This can help create bats with firm handles for higher amount of control. Such bats have a more prominent “sweet spot”. However, the very high velocities at which balls fly off bats can result in safety issues for pitchers who have to react very quickly.

September 18

Fender ’64 Vibroverb Custom

Introduced in 1964, the Fender Vibroverb was essentially a Super Reverb Pedal fitted with a single 15 instead of four 10s (a change that required a shorter cabinet and a different output transformer). Fender pulled the plug on the Vibroverb after a little more than a year in production–a move destined to make the amp a prized find today, even without the added cache of having Stevie Ray Vaughan as its most noted user.

In 2001, Fender was approached by custom-amp builder/guitar-tech Cesar Diaz (known for his work with Vaughan, Keith Richards, and Bob Dylan) with the idea of resurrecting the Vibroverb in a guise that incorporated some of his favorite mods. Diaz remained involved in the project until his death in April, 2002–almost a year before Fender’s introduction of the ’64 Vibroverb Custom ($2,099 street), the first new amp to be added to its Custom Series since the mid 1990s.

Return of a Legend

The ’64 Vibroverb Custom looks identical to an original Vibroverb, and it features such authentic details as a handwired circuit and a finger-jointed, solid-pine cabinet. Major differences include a glass-epoxy circuit board, (the oldie employed a wax-impregnated fiber board), vinyl-clad wiring (vintage models had cloth-covered wire), an Eminence speaker (Jensen was the original maker), and, of course, the Diaz-inspired functions. The Customs circuit is cleanly assembled, and many of the components (including all of the tube sockets) are chassis-mounted as per original spec. Less inspiring are the four tiny silicon rectifier diodes (the smallest I’ve ever seen on a tube amp) and the thin-gauge wire used in some parts of the circuit. Size issues aside, the amp performed beautifully after being trucked around to various gigs, and it’s worth noting that Eric Johnson had his way with this amp for several weeks before we got it.

Hail Cesar!

The ability to switch between tube and solid-state rectifiers allows you to subtly soften or stiffen the Customs dynamic response (not to mention the diodes activate automatically in case of rectifier tube failure), but it’s the Diaz-designed Mod/Stock switch that makes the Custom a more flexible animal than its vintage counterpart. Switching to the Mod position pumps-up the gain and toughens the mids for punchier, grindier tones with single-coils, and a heavier, Marshall-like presence with humbuckers. Don’t expect gonzo overdrive, however–the distortion/volume increase is similar to what you’d get by stepping on a mild and best rated overdrive pedal. In fact, as the vibrato is disabled when the Mod function is selected, it would appear the Diaz modification creates a signal boost by simply bypassing the vibrato circuit. (Fender’s Shane Nicholas says the Mod function also rebiases the preamp tubes for more distortion and attenuates the lows for a tighter bottom.)

Vibro Verve

If you’ve never played a Vibroverb, you’re in for a real treat when you plug into the Custom. This loud, bright-sounding amp offers loads of bottom, as well as a slightly twangy treble voicing that adds a little Texas accent to whatever you play. Tested with a variety of single-coil and humbucker guitars (including a ’68 Les Paul Custom reissue, a ’70s Tele, a ’50s reissue Strat, a PRS McCarty, and a P-90-equipped Hamer Monaco 3), the Custom delivered sparklingly clear and balanced tones through the Vibrato channel with the tube rectifier selected, the volume around 5, the Mod switch in the Stock position, and the well-voiced tone knobs about halfway up. At higher volume settings (we’re talking 7 or more with single-coils), the tones became grittier and significantly brighter–enough to require turning down the treble a fair amount. Switching to the Mod setting boosts the volume and distortion while adding a more aggressive midrange bark. Too bad the Mod function isn’t footswitchable, though, as it would be perfect for a lead boost (a two-button footswitch is included for the reverb and vibrato).

Low Rider

One of the Customs standout attributes is how rich and gnarly it sounds on the low strings.

With a little distortion, you get throaty, sax-like tones that are perfect for hard-driving blues. Reduce the grit and/or lighten your attack, and fat, spanky country licks snap from the big speaker.

The tube-powered spring reverb is bright and reflective, and it offers plenty of surf-approved splashiness when turned up. At high volumes, the reverb gets pretty trashy–especially with the Mod setting engaged–but it’s still an awfully cool effect. The excellent vibrato (which is really tremolo, because it’s modulating volume not pitch) has the smooth pulse and wide speed range that are trademarks of blackface Fenders.

Good Vibes

With its meaty response and bell-like clarity, the ’64 Vibroverb Custom is a hip choice for any guitarist seeking a tough-sounding amp that excels at clean-to-moderately-overdriven tones. I’m not sure what type of player Fender originally had in mind for the Vibroverb, but it’s probably safe to say that SRV and Diaz would smile in approval of Fender’s efforts to give this maverick combo a new lease on life.

September 12

How to make your home a haven from allergens

Allergies are merely a seasonal annoyance for some of the 50 million people who have them. But for others, they’re a year-round struggle with watery eyes, a nose that won’t stop running and a horrible stuffy feeling. And for still others, allergies can trigger asthma attacks so severe that emergency care is needed.

If you have allergies, your doctor should prescribe a treatment program that may include antihistamine or decongestant medications or injections for severe cases. But the first line of defense is separating yourself from the allergen that causes the problem. And that starts at home.

“The more people can do to control their exposure to allergens where they live, the better the medications are likely to work,” says Stanley J.Szefler, M.D., director of clinical pharmacology at the National Jewish Center for Immunology and Respiratory Medicine and professor of pediatrics and pharmacology at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Denver. “A careful review of the environment is important to identify critical sites of exposure. If I suspect that environment is a problem, I sometimes ask a person to bring some pictures of the home to help identify sources of allergens,” he says.

Removing allergens may be especially important for young children: Studies show that early exposure to allergens may be linked to later development respiratory problems, such ly. If there’s as asthma. Scientists theorise that one of respiratory problems, such as asthma. Scientists theorize that one of the possible reasons for the steady rise in childhood asthma since the 1970s may be the increasing energy efficiency of our homes. This increased allows little exchange of outside air and hence more contact with allergens.

Your doctor can determine what you’re allergic to by taking a medical history and doing skin tests. But before you can begin avoiding allergens, you need to know what these allergens are and where they lurk. Here’s what you’re up against:

Dust mites These critters (so tiny you can’t see them) dine on little particles of skin that fall from your body. They like to live wherever you spend the most time–notably your bed, your sofa and your carpeting. (Nearly 100,000 of them can live on a square yard of carpet.) A mite produces about 20 minuscule waste pellets a day, containing a protein many of us are allergic to. The mites thrive in humidity and die off when the humidity drops below 50 percent.

Dander It’s not per fur that people are allergic to–it’s the protein in tiny flakes of pet skin and saliva that’s the culprit. Cat allergies are the most common, but you can also be allergic to dogs, rabbits, guinea pigs, birds or other animals. Animal dander is light, easily remains in the air (especially cat dander) and is prevalent wherever pets live.

Cockroaches As many as 60 percent of people with allergies are allergic to cockroach body parts and droppings. Roaches tend to hang out near kitchens, although you can find them anywhere.

Mold Mold thrives in moist areas, such as bathrooms and basements; it reproduces via spores carried in the air, and this is what causes allergic reactions.

Pollen This seasonal problem can invade your home through an open window or plague you in your yard.


So does the idea of allergy-proofing your home sound exhausting? It doesn’t have to be, says Lanny J. Rosenwasser, M.D., head of allergy and clinical immunology at the National Jewish Center and professor of medicine and co-head in the division of allergy and immunology, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Denver. “You want to do what’s necessary without eroding the quality of your life,” he says.

Some people advocate stripping rooms of all possible allergens, but others think this is overkill. “I have trouble getting hung up over the pennant hanging on the bedroom wall,” says Harold Nelson, M.D., senior staff physician at the National Jewish Center and 1 of 11 members of a panel of experts that developed national guidelines for diagnosing and treating asthma.

Instead, he advises, concentrate on the bed, where you spend about a third of your life with your face nestled up near pillow and mattress that are likely teeming with dust mites and their waste, or animal dander if a pet has been there. “Your bed is critical,” says Dr. Nelson. “If you don’t do anything else, treat the bed and you’ve done the major thing.”

And don’t assume that being allergic means you have to get rid of your beloved pet, which can be traumatic for adults and children alike. Although that’s the easiest way to banish the allergen, in many cases there are ways to coexist with animals, says Thomas A.E. Platts-Mills, M.D., professor of medicine and head of the division of allergy and clinical immunology at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, Charlottesville.

So unless your doctor advises otherwise, start small with changing your life to accommodate your allergies. If one step doesn’t work, take the next. To help you, we offer the room-by-room defense plan outlined here. Dealing with carpeting can be a major challenge when you have an allergy-prone person in your household. But deal with it you must: A study at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville found that carpeting accumulates allergens at 100 times the rate of a bare, polished floor.

If you have thick or shag carpeting, your best bet is to remove it, particularly in the bedroom and family room and especially in the basement, says Dr. Rosenwasser. If that’s not practical, your next step is to try to keep the carpet as allergen-free as possible. Here’s how.

Keep Fido and Fluffy away. If the problem is animal dander and you have pets that can’t live outdoors, keep them away from the carpet (and furniture!) in living areas, says Dr. Rosenwasser, whose family coexists comfortably with a dog despite their allergy problems. “My wife has trained our dog to never come upstairs, to never get on the furniture. The dog has learned she can come to the edge of the family room and lie down on the wooden floor, but not on the carpeted areas.”

Realize that if your pets–or the pets of previous tenants–have been on the carpeting or furniture, you may have to treat the areas to deactivate the dander. Pet allergens can persist long after a pet is gone.

Time your vacuuming right. Vacuums swirl dust-mite debris and animal dander into the air, where they’re more likely to be breathed in than when sitting quietly on the carpet. Dust-mite particles settle down in about 45 minutes, so you can avoid many problems by having the person with allergies stay away until the dust has settled, says Dr. Nelson. With animal dander, however, this is seldom practical. “Animal dander stays in the air for a long period of time,” he says.

Choose the right vacuum. A central vacuum system avoids many problems by venting particles out-of-doors. The problem with conventional vacuums and regular vacuum bags is that allergen particles pass right through and into the air, says Dr. Nelson. Some filters, however, can trap animal dander and mite debris. HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) filters are made of tightly woven fibers pleated to increase surface area. You can buy a special HEPAvacuum cleaner, HEPA filters to fit your vacuum, or new vacuumcleaner bags (non-HEPA) designed to be more impermeable than traditional bags.

“If money is on object, the best choice is a HEPA vacuum cleaner,” says Dr. Nelson. “If money is an object, then buy HEPA filters for your existing vacuum cleaner or try the new bags.” (If the allergic person does the vacuuming, a mask should be worn.)

Avoid water vacs. Vacuums that filter dust into a canister of water aren’t recommended for either dander or mite debris: These vacuums can spew out a fine mist loaded with allergens, says Dr. Nelson. No vacuum removes many mites because they cling so tightly to the carpet.

Avoid shampooing. Soap residue from shampooing can produce an irritating dust, and the wetness can encourage mite growth and mold. Steam cleaning is preferable since the carpet doesn’t get as wet, says Dr. Rosenwasser. “The key thing is to make sure you steam-clean at a temperature greater than 130[degrees] to kill mites,” he says.

Another possibility is a product called HOST, a dry extraction carpet-cleaning system. It’s supposed to reduce mites without adding moisture. As a last resort, your doctor may advise you to treat your carpets with chemical products. Benzyl benzoate, marketed under the name Acarosan Moist Powder, kills mites. “It has to be used correctly,” cautions Dr. Nelson. “It must be left in a carpet overnight.” Because mites tend to die off anyway when the temperatures drop in the fall, the best time to treat carpets is early in the summer, he says. And while this product kills mites, it doesn’t remove allergy-causing dust-mite debris.

Another product, Allergy Control Solution, can be sprayed on both carpets and upholstered furniture. It’s made with tannic acid, which doesn’t kill mites but neutralizes the allergy-causing proteins in mite droppings and animal dander.

“This is most often appropriate for the person who moves into a place where there has been a pet to which she is allergic, or someone who gets rid of her pet and needs to rid her home of allergen,” says Dr. Nelson. Disadvantages include cost and time required, and the fact that tannic acid may darken light areas of the carpet or upholstery.

August 31

Maxon FA10 Fuzz Elements – Air VS Hallmark Nu-Fuzz

Maxon FA10 Fuzz Elements – Air

We’re jazzed to get a first shot at Maxon‘s entire Fuzz Elements series–which seeks to emulate vintage top fuzz pedals without resorting to the use of silicon or germanium transistors.

“Maxon mapped the sonic elements of these classic pedals using advanced software technology,” explains Kevin Bolembach of Godlyke Distributing. “The replicated sounds are achieved using analog circuitry, but they do not necessarily use the same components as the originals. In other words, there may not be any transistors in a particular circuit–it depends upon what components were required to replicate the sound of the original pedal.”

In the case of the Air ($189 retail)–which emulates the octave fuzz of the Univox SuperFuzz–there’s absolutely nothing light and airy about its sound. It is, in fact, heavy, as hell. You get soaring crunch with the mode switch on Fat, and terrifying nails of doom on Scoop. The Expander control pulls down sustain for blistered, stuttering tow-power effects. The octave effect is subtle, and it tends to decay faster–and with some audible frazzle as it falls off–than the root note. This is either an ultra-cool texture, or somewhat annoying, depending upon the application, but it’s definitely a unique effect.

  • Kudos Awesome roar. Fat/Scoop switch.
  • Concerns Fast-decaying octave effect not for everyone.

Hallmark Nu-Fuzz

Hallmark‘s Bob Shade sweats the big and small stuff in his company’s guitar designs–many derived from classic Mosrite models–and he took the same course for his first pedal release. In reviving Mosrite’s mid-’60s Fuzzrite–which gained buzzy acclaim on Iron Butterfly’s “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida”–Shade brought on the original designer, Bakersfield, California’s Ed Sanner, who hand builds each pedal in the USA. The Hallmark Nu-Fuzz ($249 direct) is actually modeled after the Nu-Fuzz that Sanner evolved from his Fuzzrite design for Rosac Electronics in 1968, after he left Mosrite. Despite the passing of nearly five decades, the limited-edition Nu-Fuzz (only 100 will be made–all signed by Ed) remains tethered to the ’60s via its roadster finishes (Kandy Orange, Kandy Lime, Kandy Apple, Kandy Gold), vintage amp control knobs, homespun construction, and sole reliance on 9-volt battery power.

The trip to the fab ’60s continues when you put boot to pedal, as almost every “beautifully awful” caterwauling frazzle from bands such as the Electric Prunes, Davie Allan & the Arrows, Frijid Pink, and Count Five is brought to mind. The midrange sear of the Nu-Fuzz is so formidable–even with the Tone knob knocked back–that I haven’t found a track it couldn’t cut right through and slap you across the cheek. This is the sound of classic fuzz. Celebrate it. Fear it. Adore it.

  • Kudos Stunning recreation of ’60s fuzz. Cool colors. Ed signs ’em.
  • Concerns Battery is only power option.
June 20

Tile your entry area

Has the carpeting in our entry area been made old and worn before its time by your family’s comings and goings? You’ve probably tried, over the years, the two common protective measures for carpets in heavily traveled areas: plastic mats and area rugs. But mats are unsightly, and rugs catch wear. And new carpeting, which won’t solve the problem, is expensive.

For a fraction of the cost of re-carpeting, you can tile your entry area and say goodbye to ugly mats and unfriendly rugs. Glazed ceramic tile is durable, comes clean with soapy water, and is easy to install.

The possibilities for your entry are almost endless with ceramic tile. It comes in a wide selection of patterns, shapes, and sizes. And colors range from electric blue through all the pastels to various shades of white. Tiled floors can look like a brick walkway or can form an abstract pattern of colors and shades. Sizes range from an inch-square (or diameter) up to one square foot.

This wide range of sizes comes in handy. If the area you plan to tile is small, narrow, or unevenly shaped, penny tiles(round tiles an inch or less in diameter) or one-inch squares make cutting and laying easy. If the area is basically square and there’s room to maneuver, larger tile will fit and entail less labor. For my area, I chose tiles eight inches square.

Tile is sold by the square foot, so the first step is to measure the area you plan to redo. Buy at least one extra square foot of tile. Cutting tile takes a certain touch, and you might have to sacrifice several of them before hitting your stride. A square foot usually costs two to seven dollars, so buying extra won’t overload your budget. Be sure to get glazed ceramic floor tiles; the types designed for bathroom-wall decoration won’t hold up under foot traffic.

My front door opens directly into the living room, so I chose a light-almond tile to complement existing furnishings. I decided to tackle a 56-by-68-inch area, which is big enough for two people carrying packages. To enhance both the look and practicality of the area, I gave it a curve and extended the tiles into an adjacent closet. Running tile behind closed doors also saves you from having to put an edging in an awkward area.

Use dressmaker’s chalk, which is soft and comes in colors, to mark the tile area. Cut away the carpet and the mat underneath. Tape a plastic tarp to the adjacent carpet. (In the step-by-step shots I didn’t bother with a drop cloth because the carpeting was soon to be replaced.)

The floor beneath the carpet is bound to have some imperfections–unevenness or abrasions–that might lead to cracked tiles. For a secure, workable surface, cut a base from 1/4-inch exterior-grade plywood (it won’t delaminate) to the exact dimensions of the tile area, then nail it down. Any minor imperfections in the plywood surface will be filled or smoothed over when the adhesive is applied.

Place the tiles down to establish the width of the grout lines and to get a count of the number of tiles that will need cutting. If you’re using tile that comes in sheets, such as penny tile, the grout lines between tiles are set, so you’re one step ahead here.

If you’re cutting tile to fit a curve or an irregular shape, use a tile nipper. Mark the cut line with a pencil, and nibble away small areas at a time. Don’t try to cut off large chunks, as tiles crack easily. And wear safety glasses for protection from flying ceramic fragments. A tile cutter–which you can rent from a tile dealer for a nominal fee–can be used to cut along a straight edge. Rough edges can be smoothed out with a whetstone and a little water.

Spread the tile adhesive over an area that you can comfortably tile before the epoxy sets (it sets fairly quickly). I recommend Latacreek liquid floor mix, which is a mild epoxy and, therefore, has more give than the conventional rigid adhesives, which can eventually lead to cracked tiles.

Set each tile in place with a gentle twisting motion. Lay one at a time, and check the alignment each time. If you don’t feel confident enough to space by evey, use plastic spacers available from a hardware store, or make them out of uniform wood scrap.

You can bed the tile in a number of ways. I recommend wrapping a piece of wood in carpet, placing it on the tile, and tapping it with a hammer. A rubber-head hammer will also work, as will a fist. The extra pressure creates a better bond with the adhesive and ensures an even level.

Floor grout comes in a variety of colors. White grout, however, shows dirt quickly–which would defeat the purpose of this project. I chose an almond color to blend with the tile.

Prepare for grouting by wiping the adhesive off the tile and removing the spacers, if any. Then use a rubber-faced float to spread the grout along the tiles an into the joints. Smooth over air bubbles, and scrape off excess grout with the float. Apply a damp sponge in a circular motion to clean the tile, and smooth and set the joints even with the level of the tile. Use a jointer tool to compact and smooth out the grout lines.

Let the tiles sit for an hour or so before you start removing the haze of grout nd whatever adhesive is left. Clean and polish the tiles with a soft cloth or a sponge.

Try to stay off the tiles for about a day, until the adhesive and grout dry. To be on the safe side, keep foot traffic light through the entry for the next several days.

March 22

On the sucking edge

Forget Twister. Now you can have a clone in your own home – Dyson‘s Dual Cyclone to be exact, a 900mph vortex of air that swirls at the heart of a vacuum cleaner that has become the British manufacturing success of the 1990s.

The product’s claim to fame is that it has no bag. The vortex sucks air and dirt in such a way that they can be separated, the air sent back to the room, the dirt to a plastic bucket. From bag to bucket is not exactly progress. The real gain is that the machine carries on sucking at full power without becoming clogged. In a field scarcely renowned for innovation the Dual Cyclone sells more than 30,000 units a month at £200 a time.

But who is this Dyson? Who, these days, has the nerve to put his own name to a product? The norm is to use somebody else’s – the “Pammy” Virgin Cola bottle is about our level now. Even Bentone or Pininfarina cars speak of branding more than authorship. The patronymic evokes a very 19th-century inventiveness – Stephenson’s Rocket, Singer’s sewing machine, Dyson’s Cyclone. James Dyson admires Isambard Kingdom Brunel, but belies the gruff stove-pipe and sideburns stereotype of these Victorian heroes. Confusingly, he looks more designer than inventor – no row of coloured pens clutters the pocket of his Yamamoto jacket. With his seat near Bath and his factory in Malmesbury, Dyson’s whole manner is patrician, almost detached, his tenacity cloaked in charming affability.

There is no museum of British innovation and manufacture. So Dyson’s story is told at the Design Museum. This is very slightly odd, for while other designers have nothing but admiration for Dyson’s achievement, they don’t much like the look of his product. This does not surprise Dyson. He is inclined to dismiss many designers as mere stylists, incapable of creating new products.

Styling is what designers do to differentiate a product from its competitors. The conventions tend to be narrow. The inspiration for vacuum cleaners has long been the automobile; today’s Hoovers take their cue from sports cars, especially the recent revivalist models devised by Japanese stylists looking at English and Italian classics through the prism of Californian style.

Dyson needed to show that his product was genuinely different from these run-abouts. As Dr Strangelove observed of the Doomsday machine, there is no point in possessing superior technology unless people know about it. So the Cyclone expresses its turbulent soul with enough ribs and fins to conjure a Thunderbird the fictional spacecraft, this time, not the car. A newer, compact model has the coiled agility of a Sumo wrestler.

The misgivings of other designers can only be multiplied by Dyson’s latest preoccupation: not innovation, but brave new colour ways. This month sees the launch of a snow-white edition to celebrate Ranulph Fiennes’ lone Antarctic expedition (wonderfully clean there, of course), sponsored by Dyson to raise money for breast cancer research. The so-called De Stijl model (though not in the authentic colours that Rietveld and Mondrian would recognise) marks the show at the Design Museum. It’s a long way from Brunel.

Dyson may be doing himself a greater disservice. As consumers, we are dubious about highly styled products at the best of times. In the conservative domestic appliance market Dyson’s intervention seems wilfully eccentric. Business leaders look on, askance. Sir Anthony Cleaver, who chaired the admired Tomorrow’s Company inquiry for the Royal Society of Arts, felt able to dismiss the Dual cyclone as a niche “designer” object solely because of the way it looked. If only he had seen the equally colourful sales graphs – Dyson’s line questing upward, while Hoover and Electrolux sink in the dust.

Others may have their prejudices. Dyson’s own problems are of a different order. The British market can only absorb 30,000 Cyclones a month for so long. He must open up export markets and begin to think of new products. The paradigm shift he has already achieved with vacuum cleaners, and, in a previous life, with the Balbarrow (whose wheel is a ball that sinks less readily into the mire), he must seek to achieve once more. Items to fall under Dyson’s critical gaze include lawnmowers, wheelchairs, dishwashers and ironing boards. These are not articles for which you might have thought there was a paradigm to be shifted, but it is in the nature of Dyson’s inventiveness to prove you completely wrong.

February 18

Sealing & insulating for energy efficiency

If you put together all the cracks and leaks in a typical Canadian home, you would end up with a hole in the wall the size of a window. Warm air escapes from a suprising number of places throughout the house. Here’s how it usually breaks down:

  • Basement sill plates 25%
  • Exterior electrical outlets 20% 
  • Windows 13%
  • Pipe and wire entrances 13%
  • Vents 10%
  • Baseboards, light fixtures, electrical outlets, attic hatches 7% Exterior doors 6%
  • Fireplaces 6%

Fortunately, it’s easy to patch these leaks. Caulking and weatherstripping is the easiest, most inexpensive do-it-yourself task you can undertake, and it can cut your fuel bill by as much as 20 per cent. And because it tends to comprise a series of little jobs, you can do a little bit at a time.

Finding leaks may take some detective work. Check to see if your doors and windows fit tightly, and see if exhaust fans and vents close properly and are sealed around the edges. To find leaks, try this simple test: get two sticks of incense. On a windy day, hold the two sticks together and light them so you can clearly see the smoke. Hold them near areas where there may be air leaks. A strong leak will dissipate the smoke and cause the tips of the incense to glow brightly. Slower leaks will blow the smoke in one direction or draw it towards itself.

Remember to check plumbing pipes, vents, and fans that may let cold into the kitchen, bathroom or laundry room. Use butyl rubber or latex caulking.

Before you begin to caulk windows, check for rot, mold, the condition of the glass, putty and paint. You might just want to replace them. If not, at least clean them up before you begin caulking.

If you are adding insulation to your house, caulking and weatherstripping should be done first. Otherwise you’ll be putting insulation over leaky walls.

Check behind your baseboards. Many houses have open gaps that can be sealed with caulking.


There is a lot to think about when buying caulking: will it be used indoors, outdoors or both? Also think about the color, whether you can paint over it, what surfaces it will adhere to, what size gap it will seal, what temperature is required for application, what preparation is required and how long it will last. There are many different types of caulking which are suited to specific jobs.

SILICONE: is suitable for indoor and outdoor jobs and is mildew and moisture resistant. It’s available in clear form and is therefore good for applications where you don’t want to see the caulking.

ACRYLIC/ ACRYLIC LATEX: can be solvent-based for outdoor jobs or water-based for indoors. It’s paintable and adheres to most surfaces.

BUTYL RUBBER: good for indoors, it has good adhesion on metal, concrete and other masonry surfaces. Ventilationis required during application and curing.

ACOUSTICAL SEALANT: good for sealing polyethylene air-vapour retarders, but should be used only where it is sandwiched between two materials. It bonds to most surfaces, especially metal, concrete and gypsum board. It is not paintable.

URETHANE FOAM CAULKING: available in spray cans, it’s good for wide openings and hard-to-reach places.

OIL OR RESIN-BASED CAULKING: not recommended because it dries out, may stain wood and have a short life span.


Weatherstripping is used around doors and opening parts of windows. When choosing among the many types of weatherstripping, consider the size of the gap to be sealed, the durability, appearance and ease of installation. To be effective, it has to close off the gap completely without interfering with the operation of the door or window.


  • Adhesive-backed foam, available in rolls
  • Inexpensive, yet least durable
  • For use along the bottom of vertical sliding windows, hinged windows, doors and along attic hatches.


  • a more durable alternative to foam strips
  • works well on irregular surfaces


  • hollow or core filled, made of rubber or plastic
  • must be fitted carefully to ensure strong closing pressure for a good seal
  • attaches with nails, staples, or screws
  • used for doors or swinging windows


  • “V”-shaped vinyl strips can be used instead of foam, rubber or tubular gaskets
  • adhesive backed, easy-to-install, good durability
  • available in small or large “V” format
  • for use along the bottom of vertical windows, sliding joints of double hung windows and doors


  • similar to vinyl but generally used just for doors
  • installed using tacks


  • spring-loaded mechanism
  • adjusts to unequal distances from weatherstrip to door or window
  • installed using screws


  • system uses a magnetic strip and a metal strip
  • effective for doors and hinged windows
  • Sealing doors


  • a vinyl or rubber sweep screwed to door bottom
  • do not use where door must clear high carpet


  • vinyl or rubber strip attached to door thershold
  • provides an excellent seal but subject to traffic and weathering


  • attachment strip that fits over the bottom of the door
  • needs minimum clearance of 8 mm to 13 mm (1/3 to 1/2 inch) under door


INSULATING SWITCHPLATES: foam gaskets for electrical outlets and switches are easy to install, inexpensive and very effective.

EXPLORE THE ATTIC: Hot air rises. That means it heads for the attic, and from there it exits through leaks and cracks, accounting for somewhere between 10 and 15 per cent of warm air loss. First, caulk the attic floor to prevent moisture from escaping to the attic – this easiest in winter, because you’ll probably be able to feel the spots where warm air is entering from below. Caulk around light fixtures, interior wall partitions, plumbing and electrical lines, chimneys, flues, bathroom fans and the attic hatch. A butyl rubber caulking is recommended. Then you are ready to insulate. Two words of caution: do not put insulation material near the chimney; never step between the joists – the ceiling won’t support your weight.

LEAKY BASEMENTS: The gap between the basement or foundation wall and the house wall – known as the sill plate – lets out 25 per cent of the average home’s warm air. The gaps should be filled with butyl rubber, urethane foam caulking or an acoustical sealant. For larger openings, use polyurethane foam. Any cracks in the foundation walls or slab should be patched with an appropriate material such as cement.

INSULATE PIPES: A couple of rolls of inexpensive pipe wrap are all you need to insulate hot water pipes. This helps reduce the energy lost when hot water starts to cool before it reaches its destination. As a minimum, you should insulate the first one to two meters (three to six feet) of hot water pipe from your water heater. Hot water will arrive at the faucet at higher temperatures more quickly.

INSULATE WATER HEATER: wrap your electric water heater with an insulating blanket to prevent hot water from losing its heat to the surrounding air.

FIREPLACES: a fireplace is not the best way to add warmth to your living room. A roaring fire may give off a cosy glow, but your chimney is actually a major cause of heat loss and drafts. When not in use, always close the damper as soon as the fire is completely out. Fireplace doors will also save energy. Also check where the chimney meets the wall and the floor. It could probably use some caulking.


Now that you have caulked, weatherstripped and insulated your home to lock in the warm air, it might be necessary to address the question of air quality. A well sealed house can often retain excess humidity, causing condensation on windows, mirrors and walls. In extreme cases, you will notice peeling paint, mildewed walls, water stains and musty odours. Ordinary activities like washing and drying clothes, cooking, bathing, even breathing, can add as much as 23 litres of water to the air every day. An air tight house will also retain stale air, lingering odours (cooking, painting) and second-hand smoke.

Your house may also need extra air supply if a fuel-burning furnace is operating at the same time as other major air-exhaust systems (including fireplaces, powerful exhaust vents or open windows on upper floors). This combination of circumstances can starve your furnace for air and impair its operation.

Opening a window may solve ventilation problems temporarily, but ultimately, it severely reduces the energy efficiencyof a home. The problem with a “leaky” house is that escaping air collects in the walls or attic, where it condenses and causes rotting. Cold outside air rushes inside, and it must continually be heated. Furthermore, the distribution of the fresh air throughout the house is completely uncontrolled and you will have lost any advantage you gained by caulking, weatherstripping, window replacement, etc. Air sealing saves the house structure, improves energy and improves comfort.

A heat recovery ventilator will solve the problem by giving you control over air quality and humidity levels. It automatically controls ventilation, delivering a steady supply of fresh air while creating a draft-free environment. Basically, the heat exchange is a box with two air streams: one supplying air to the house and one exhausting air from the house. The continuous supply of fresh outside air is made economical through the use of the HRV heat exchanger – while the air throughout the house is changing, most of the heat from the warm exhaust air is being transferred to the cooler incoming air.

The system also provides humidity control and eliminates the need for noisy bathroom and kitchen fans.