Review of Benchmark Fiberglass Entry Doors by Therma-Tru

Doors are not made equal. Exterior doors, such as the front door, are the most exposed to climate change and repeated use. Fiberglass is now a preferred surface material for doors because it does not rot, warp or crack like wood, nor does it rust or dent like steel. Traditional doors are a throwback to the time of exquisite handcrafting and craftsmanship but this artistry would be wasted on wood surfaces that would soon fracture and crumble too early. Benchmark fiberglass entry doors are now some of the most popular for new homes and replacement doors for old homes that once had wooden doors like mahogany or oak. These products are backed by the Therma-Tru name, pioneers in fiberglass doors, and exclusive distribution by Lowe’s stores. As wood doors are sliding from staple to next best, fiberglass doors are gaining interest. Architects and remodelers want to know how to find the right ones and make the most of those.

Benchmark fiberglass entry doors are increasingly known for achieving a balance between design and price. They are good-looking but affordable, an attractive possibility to savvy builders and homeowners who may be on a budget. Their classy designs mirror handsome doors of old but clean lines harmonize with unexpected elements like glass and metal. At the same time, their reasonable prices compete with real hardwood doors that reigned over the market with an iron hand in the past. The real test is in weathering and usage. If your location is troubled with fluctuating outdoor conditions, or if it is a high-traffic area requiring a new door, you should have a realistic budget with a ceiling for a top-of-the-line product. For a low-traffic area, especially inside the home, you may opt for something charming and mid-priced.

The promise of a long-lasting, energy-saving product that offers peace of mind adds to the appeal of Benchmark doors. They feature a “leak protection pad” that has been designed like a special corner pocket to block air and moisture where it is most expected to penetrate. Dual bulbs and dual fins make a heavy-duty door bottom sweep that further seals up against air and water infiltration. These enhance the quality of energy efficiency attached to fiberglass, which provides three to five times more insulation and lets natural light inside homes. The door sill has been developed to resist rotting and corrosion, with a cap using non-wood composite material and adjustable hardware using stainless steel. Greater resistance to rotting and insect damage can be had with the optional jamb, primed and ready for painting. An optional three-point locking system promises increased security. It has also been constructed from stainless steel and is resistant to corrosion.

Therma-Tru Doors, which owns the Benchmark by Therma-Tru brand, specializes in doors made from fiberglass rather than steel, composite material or wood, specifically, pre-hung entry doors and door systems. It manufactured the first fiberglass entry doors more than 25 years ago. With Benchmark fiberglass entry doors, the company is working on establishing an expertise in other aspects of the door business on a par with veteran manufacturers such as Masonite, Milgard and Feather River. An order delivery system and aftersales service are examples of those other aspects that have great impact on buyers. As Benchmark entry doors are pre-hung, you can choose do-it-yourself installation or professional installation, either by exclusive carriers Lowe’s or a company you have contracted. Unless you are skilled, installing a door yourself would most likely be troublesome. If the door area must adjust to a particular architecture, design or age of the house, you should probably obtain a professional installation service on your own.

Asphalt Paving Problems and Solutions

Protecting your asphalt investment from deterioration is the key to keeping an attractive looking parking lot or driveway. Sealcoating new asphalt within one year of installation is the best and most cost efficient way to avoid expensive repairs due to pavement failures. However, let’s take a look at some common asphalt problems and their solutions:

Oxidation and Graying

Over time, traffic, water, gas, oil, the suns unrelenting rays, especially in Florida, will wreak havoc on asphalt pavement. The older the pavement gets, the more exposure to elements, the more the asphalt pavement will fade and take on a gray appearance. This graying is a sign that the asphalt is oxidizing and drying out. The drier it gets the more brittle it will become and the more prone to cracking. It’s a downward spiral at this point if nothing is done to stop the water from penetrating the asphalt cracks. It is critical that asphalt repairs are made as part of an ongoing asphalt pavement maintenance plan to avoid further decay.


Another asphalt paving maintenance issue to be aware of is raveling. When the binder, which acts as a glue, that is used to hold the stone and sand particles that make up the asphalt starts deteriorating, this is called raveling. Pieces of aggregate will loosen and breakaway from the pavement surface making it thinner and thinner as it deteriorates.

The surface of the asphalt pavement will appear rough as pieces of the asphalt away and separate. This can create a void for water to penetrate into the base material.

Linear Asphalt Cracks

Transverse and longitudinal cracks are fairly common in asphalt pavement as it ages. Starting small, they will expand over time. Again, any crack in asphalt is an opportunity for water to penetrate. Pavement expansion due to hot and cold temperatures will continue to cause the cracks to expand.

Cleaning out any dirt or debris from such cracks, asphalt repairs can be made to stop water from seeping below the pavement and help stop the crack from growing.

Sealcoating the pavement early on helps lock-in the binder and prevents from cracks from occurring.

Vegetation Growth

If cracks, gaps or joints in asphalt are left unfilled, grass, weeds and other plants – even trees have been known to grow right through a parking lots surface. Not only does this make for an un-kept looking parking area, but the roots of the vegetation can cause severe damage to the base of the asphalt. Additionally, as the plant grows, the roots and the visible vegetation will widen the gaps letting more water penetrate the surface eroding the base materials. A simple asphalt crack repair before vegetation has a chance to take root can save property managers thousands of dollars in repairs or replacement.

Bridge – Rules of Etiquette

The rules of etiquette when playing bridge are largely based on common sense and showing respect for others; being well-mannered and courteous at all times is a good place to begin.

A suggested list of good etiquette follows:

1. Refrain from making negative comments during play concerning the contracts made.

2. Always pay attention to the play and stop your mind from wandering.

3. Do not remove a card from your hand before it is your turn.

4. Do not conceal your cards from the sight of other players.

5. Avoid the practice of arranging the cards played to previous tricks in a disorderly manner; mixing your cards together before the result of the deal has been agreed upon is another no-no.

6. Making a questionable claim or concession is inadvisable.

7. Do not prolong the play unnecessarily.

8. Using different designations for the same call is not good etiquette.

9. Do not indicate any approval or disapproval of a call, bid, or play.

10. Indicating the expectation or intention of winning or losing a trick before play to that trick has been completed is often frowned at.

11. Commenting or acting during the auction or play to call attention to a significant incident thereof, or calling of the score or to the number of tricks that will be required for success is unprofessional.

12. Scrutinizing others and their cards during the auction or play is to be avoided.

13. To vary the normal tempo of bidding or play in order to distract opponents is not recommended.

14. Do not leave the table needlessly before the round is called.

A long list of technical rules and variations as pertaining to conduct could be added but for reasons of brevity the above shall suffice. Always keep a clear mind and concentration when playing and your bridge skills and etiquette should flourish.

NB A respected bridge manual was consulted before this article was written.

DCX Opens New Assembly Plant and Expands PHEV Program

DaimlerChrysler AG has recently opened a new assembly plant located in Ladson, South Carolina. During the inauguration ceremony at the new assembly plant, Wilfried Porth, Head of the Mercedes-Benz Vans Business Unit of DaimlerChrysler AG commented:


“The Dodge Sprinter and Freightliner Sprinter set standards in their sector for safety, variability and environmental protection. We are proud to be able to offer our latest product in the van segment also on the American market so soon after its presentation. I thank all colleagues who made the opening of this plant possible today through their personal effort and commitment.”

Although the new DaimlerChrysler plant will not produce Mercedes-Benz E-Class models like the E 320 with Mercedes 320 part, the new assembly plant in South Carolina will exclusively produce North America’s most popular Sprinter van. DaimlerChrysler invested a total of $35 million in the Ladson plant with an area of 42,780 square meters (460,000 square feet). The company targets 32,000 units of the all-new Sprinter to be produced at the new plant. The all-new 2007 Sprinter will roll out in markets all over the U.S. and Canada starting this spring under the Dodge and Freightliner name plates.

The all-new 2007 Dodge/Freightliner Sprinter is available in three variants including cargo van, passenger van and chassis cab models. Customers can choose between the two all-new power plants for the Sprinter full size van – a 3.0-liter diesel or a 3.5-liter petrol engine. The 2007 Sprinter comes with new standard components like the ADAPTIVE ESP (electronic stability program) featuring additional sensors for further safety.

Meanwhile, DaimlerChrysler AG’s Chrysler Group division has also announced that they are expanding the concept plug-in hybrid program by including the all-new 2007 Dodge Sprinter full size van.

As part of a test-fleet program by Chrysler Group, the Auburn Hills-based automaker will roll out about 20 units of Dodge Sprinter Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV) in the US. According to Chrysler Group, the Dodge Sprinter PHEV can reach a maximum driving range of up to 20 miles running solely in electric power. Electric energy comes from a lithium-ion battery pack that offers more storage capacity compared with nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) batteries. The Dodge Sprinter PHEV contains a switch on the dashboard that allows the driver to manually or automatically switch between two driving modes.

History and Features of the Cast Iron Mailbox

The very first cast iron mailboxes were used in Russia in the 19th century. Russia was the first country to provide public post boxes and they started with letter boxes made of wood. However these were lightweight and frequently stolen. In response, Russia introduced the considerably heavier cast iron boxes that could weigh up to 45 kilograms.

The United States postal service began employing mailboxes during the late 1800s. They purchased these mailboxes from the Danville Stove and Manufacturing Company, which was also known as Beaver Stoves. During the turn of the century and the early 1900s one could see post boxes with the Beaver logo around the country.

One of these antique mailboxes is still in use at Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Wall mounted letterboxes made of cast iron were also popular for home use during the first half of the twentieth century. Today mailboxes are seeing a resurgence in popularity, both for their sturdiness and their aesthetic qualities. Many neighborhoods have encountered repeated attacks on mailboxes from people driving by wielding baseball.

One response has been to purchase letterboxes that can withstand a hit, such as those made out of cast iron. Besides standing up to brute force, cast iron wall mounted mailboxes can hinder theft. Many have letter slots and hinged lids that lock. As long as the lock is as sturdy as the rest of the mailbox, personal correspondence and the information within is safe from mail theft. Others prefer it for its non-utilitarian features. They are usually black and generally more ornate than a typical mailbox, embossed with designs. In addition, it lasts for years.

So, those looking for antique mail boxes as authentic finishing touches to their period homes should have no trouble finding the right wall mounted letterbox. However, if they have not been properly cared for, these antique boxes will likely be rusty. To restore the mailbox first rub down all surfaces with steel wool to remove the rust. Then wipe down the mailbox to remove any dirt or dust. Finally, dip a cloth in oil or unsalted fat and rub it into the mailbox. This last step prevents rust and adds shine and will need to be repeated periodically.

How To Stop Over-Analyzing and Over-Thinking: A Better Golf Psychology

Golfers who struggle the most with their golf psychology tend to over-think and over-analyze. Analytical golfers are unusually smart, especially when it comes to solving problems. Unfortunately, this quality can get you into trouble in golf.

Here’s the problem with being a superstar problem-solver. You fall in love with your own brain.

You try to use your head (intellect) to solve every problem, including the ones in golf. You get so good at using your intellect you can’t remember how to trust your body or your heart anymore.

There’s an old adage. “When the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” If the only tool for peak performance you have is your intellect, you’ll use it to solve every problem out there.

This is bad.

It’s bad because you second-guess your body. You override your sixth sense in golf.

Instead of cultivating your Great Jock Mind, you snuff it out. It lays dormant inside you. It might surface every now and again by accident.

When it does, it’s glorious. You’re glorious. But then you chase it away by over-analysing.

Here’s what golf pro John Daly said about over-thinking: “The average golfer steps up to the ball and starts thinking a mile a minute. ‘What’s my target line, how’s my grip, where are my elbows, take it back low and slow, remember to pivot, cock my wrists, bring my shoulder down…By the time I’m ready to start my swing, I’ve stopped thinking…what I try to do is go blank. Not consciously think about ANYTHING.”

John admits it took him a long, long time to learn how to stop over-thinking everything. You can do it in as little as week simply by refusing to engage your analytical mind and trusting your body instead.

Instead of over-analyzing, you play with confidence and relaxation. You gain a winning golf psychology consistently and effortlessly.

History of the Gluggle Jug

Gluggle jugs, with their distinguishing fish shape, have become synonymous with Dartmouth pottery. Called ‘Gluggle’ because of their characteristic ‘glug glug’ sound when poured, they were originally made in Staffordshire back in the 1870s. Thomas Forester & Sons designed the unusual fish shape along with other unique designs in pottery and vases, which became popular household items.

Over time, the design of the jugs passed through various manufacturers, ending up with Royal Winton Grimwade in the 1930s.

After WWII however, wartime restrictions limited how much they could manufacture with the materials they had. Demand was still high, so they needed to find a manufacturer who could supply what they needed. Dartmouth Pottery had recently opened, and did not have the same restrictions that Royal Winton Grimwade was encumbered with. A partnership was created; Dartmouth Pottery would mould the jugs ready to be decorated by Royal Winton Grimwade.

Over the next 20 years, Dartmouth Pottery became well associated with the Gluggle Jugs, even manufacturing their own design called the Cod Fish Jug. However, this was generally seen as a commercial failure due to the tendency of the tail to break off. Despite this initial drawback, by 1958, Dartmouth Pottery were selling and marketing the Gluggle Jugs as their own, using the slogan ‘A jug that gurgles’. At this time, the Britannia Royal Naval College commissioned a pair of the jugs to be made and presented to the Queen and Prince Philip. As such, they became in high demand, and jugs in various sizes and colours became collector’s items.

Dartmouth Pottery continued to successfully produce and sell the Gluggle Jug, creating a long standing association between this South Devon port and the unusual yet charming fish shaped jug. In keeping with its geographical connection, in later years Plymouth Gin commissioned the jugs to be used to advertise their drink.

In 2002, Dartmouth Pottery closed and the manufacture of the jugs moved, over 100 years after its creation, back to its original home of Staffordshire. Wade Ceramics now produce the jugs, where many are exported to the US. Jugs dating back to earlier days, particularly those made under Thomas Forester & Sons in the late 1800’s are highly prized collector’s items. Many home ware and country shops stock Gluggle jugs, sometime called Glug Glug jugs, if you were interested in buying them. They are not hard to find and add a unique touch to any home décor.

Contemporary Painter

Contemporary Painter

Since the term contemporary means current, up to date, or today, a contemporary painter is someone that has recently created a painting. This means that contemporary art does not always have to be modernistic in style. It can also be old fashioned.

It's Just Out There

We often think of contemporary artists as a little bit weird or just out there. Many artists try and push the envelope and are looking for something to have a little shock value. This tends to make modern paintings more exciting.

The truth is that while some artists are "out there" a lot of artists are not. Paintings that are the strangest just stick out the most.

Old Always Comes Back

The old standby for artists is to paint landscapes. An old standby is a barn down a country lane. This may seem traditional, but often times the old style comes back or can be done in a different way.

One of these current trends is the reemergence of Fresco. It takes a good deal of work and knowledge to create a good Fresco painting, but there is a real trend for artists that are relearning this old style.

Landscape paintings are traditional in style, but in the contemporary medium you can see new trends. For example, Thomas Kinkade, contemporary painter, created landscapes that focused on showcasing the beauty of light. This had never been done in such a way. What was created was a new style out of a traditional one.

Recent Trends

One of the more classical trends is to create something finely detailed. It may take you hours and hours of work to create. In the final result, you can appreciate the fine detail if you get close to the picture and really admire it.

Nowadays, a subtle trend has emerged for vibrant earth tone colors. The idea is to complement the home and the home décor in a soft subtle way.

These types of paintings are often splashed colors that are carefully picked out to go with the home. The colors are blended in ways that bring out the architecture style of the home. For example, you often see a reddish orange patch of paint that is blended towards a raised white and dark brown center splotch. The resulting effect is the room feels warm to the heart yet also feeling strong and resolute. It is hard to explain without seeing it. The main point is to bring out the heart of the home and make the architecture resonate with who you are.

More to Say

There is a mountain of information that can be said about contemporary painters. If you are seriously considering a piece, visit your local contemporary gallery. Nearly every large city has at least one. In this way, you can be assured of a truly unique work of art. If you can not find a modern gallery, simply go to a larger museum or gallery and ask for a niche referral. Many of the best pieces are not broadly advertised for sale and require a little effort to find.

NMB Compared To UFB Electrical Cable

Since there are so many types of electrical wire in the industry you will have to determine where it’s going to be installed and how much power needs to run through it before buying anything. Certain cables are designed for indoor use while others are designed for outdoor use and their cost is directly affected by the amount they can handle. More work by engineers and higher manufacturing costs are the result of an outdoor or underground cable.

NMB stands for Non Metallic because there is a “metallic” electrical cable used outdoors and in conduit. The non metallic version is used indoor only at a much cheaper price. The ground wire doesn’t need to be insulated and the outer jacket doesn’t need too much protection. The main reason for the jacket is for the contractor to be able to run multiple electrical wires at once rather than individually.

UFB stands for Underground Feeder because it’s used for installations that are buried directly in the ground without conduit. It’s a flat cable and the tough PVC jacket covers each THHN wire individually for added protection. Again, this cable can be buried in the ground without conduit but it will be much more expensive than NMB cable because of the additional approvals and manufacturing costs.

There’s also an electrical cable in between these two, in cost, and in the environmental installation abilities. MC cable stands for Metal Clad which is the “metallic” cable mentioned above. The metallic (aluminum interlocked armor) jacket wraps around all of the THHN conductors allowing it to be used outdoors and in conduit applications. It also passes as its own conduit for indoor applications only. Many times a contractor will, first, need to run conduit and then install an NMB cable indoors. However, now they can simply buy MC cable and install it without conduit to save time. MC cable is NOT approved for direct burial in the ground.

Think of the 3 main electrical installations which are indoors, outdoors and underground. Additional approvals and requirements are needed for each environmental change. Also, more engineering and manufacturing costs are needed to make the more difficult cables like UFB Underground Feeder. The one thing they all have in common is the inner conductors of THHN THWN. The change is more in the jacket material than the inner conductor insulation because that’s where most of the protection comes from.

Make sure you speak to your wire and cable supplier before making a purchase so that you don’t over spend or possibly under estimate the amount of protection you need.

The Essential Beach Toys – The Bucket And Spade

If you are planning on taking your child to the beach, then almost certainly one of the first things you'll have checked that you had, or bought, will be the traditional bucket and spade. There can be no more classic idea than a small child crawling about on the beach making sand castles, digging holes and forts, burying dad and collecting interesting stones, shells, bits of seaweed and small things that skuttle around at the bottom of their bucket. If you managed to get all the way to the beach without having purchased this essential equipment, then you'll probably have been reminded by the parade of brightly coloured shops and stalls all along the sea front selling a range of buckets and spades that will astonish you.

Do you go for small chubby plastic spades, longer handled spades, plastic ones or metal? And what about buckets – is this one too big, too small, is a square bucket better for castles or is a round one easier to use? The choices and decisions make this seemingly easy task one that requires great thought. After all, the whole beach trip's success may depend on the type of bucket and spade that you choose.

For very small children there is a charming array of buckets and spades, although frequently there are fewer spades than there are forks or rakes. This is for a very good reason – small children, such as toddlers, tend not to be very good at realising what they're doing with all the sand that is on their spade blade. Generally, anything that needs to be got rid of can be hurled into the black void that is the invisible space over their shoulder. This is otherwise known as your lap, the picnic or mummy's head. A toddler armed with a spade will wreak devastation with sand flying everywhere, and this wildly fantastic game is likely to end only when either one of the family wrestles the toddler to the ground, removing the spade with, of course, the resulting flood of tears and wails, or when the toddler themselves hurls a ball of sand into their own face, and then this results in tears and wails.

Rakes, on the other hand, are slightly safer, with the toddler less able to hurl great wads of sand around, but a few flurries. Hopefully they will be more interested in the patterns they can make with it in the sand.

Of course, as a child gets older, spades are necessary as all children love digging holes, and a good sturdy spade will be required. Metal blades are much better for getting through wet sand further down, but are also very good at being used to attempt to slice of toes – whether intentionally or not. Therefore, these are best left for the older children who have a much better grasp of where their toes are, and the need to keep them attached.

As for buckets – a strong handle is all you need, since wet sand or water weighs quite a bit, and you do not want this dropping suddenly and either landing on your child's toe, or over your items. For instant satisfaction with small children a smooth sided round bucket will produce good castles fairly reliably and easily, whereas the more complex ones that have turrents are good for older children who are happier to out a bit more effort into them.

Sharpen the Shovel: Spending Time to Save Time

It is snowing heavily again today. It has been snowing for five days now. Over the past five days we have seen more snow, less snow, shoveled snow, piled-up snow. How much more snow can we take?!? Well, we can keep taking it as long as Mother Nature keeps dishing it out. And it looks like she will be serving it up to us on platters the size of Those Jack found in the giant's castle when he scaled the the Beanstalk and didnt a "break and the enter", for a few more days to come ( http: // ).

Let's not talk about snow. Let's talk about taking time to "sharpen the shovel" instead. Stephen Covey, the author of all the "Habit" books (I use only this word because he now has out "The 8th Habit". "The Seven Habits of … books" is insufficient) always talks about "sharpening the saw" . My interpretation or understanding of this is basically taking the time to hone your abilities to a "razor edge finish" so that you are more productive in the goals you want to accomplish. This means not panicking nor rushing to get the job done.

Like sawing through a tree with a blade that becomes dull, you just waste time and energy if you rush through your tasks and try to get them done as quickly as possible. Instead, if you take the time to put the teeth back on the blade, you can cut through the tree in less time, and with less energy while letting the saw do its job.

Like shoveling through a huge pile of snow, if you try to push the heavy stuff in big piles, try to rush through it, you only succeed in snapping the shovel like I did ([ /ph/camswitzer/detail?.dir=6034&.dnm=80cf.jpg&.src=ph]). We had to buy a new shovel.

Spend time to save time.

On a production line in business, here in Japan, managers of excellent companies take into consideration the "total running cost" of the system. This may mean that by spending a little more money or time here and there, in the long run they can decrease overall time (= money) and expenses. I have noted that this is not often done in the USA or Europe because "cost right now" is the only thing the managers see. In China, labour seems to be so cheap that nobody cares about "total running cost" because the human element is almost free (this will change as quality-of-product and quality-of-life increases in China).

Not to be waxing philosophically, here is a good real-life example for you to consider:

There is a very special tiny screw that I sell to manufacturers; it is designed in such a way that one simple screw cuts off an amazing amount of processes and time in the product's production line. Even though the screw costs about 4X the amount of a standard screw ($ 0.08 as opposed to $ 0.02) the labor costs are dramatically reduced. The managers that spend time to consider this and not just look at the "bottom line" are the true winners. They are the ones that save the company true costs by knowing when to spend a little more to save a lot more. Take the time to think about how better to do the activities you need to accomplish. It also means spending the time to learn about what you want to do, educate yourself, do due diligence, clear your mind of other things so that you can focus, develop other good habits to assist you in your ventures and so forth.

(Here I take a break in writing to help my wife get out to work by cleaning the path, shoveling out her can and pushing the snow off so she can drive away)

Let me get back to my "sharpen the shovel" theme if I may.

This morning I was out shoveling snow (again) into the street for the front end loader to push away. I do this every morning. I do it every few hours to be more precise. I even shovel the snow down to the concrete in the street in front of my house to reduce the load. By taking the time to do this, the amount of snow that piles up is dramatically reduced so that when the loader pushes the street snow away the boulders left behind blocking the parking area are much smaller than those heaped up in front of all the neighbor's homes . When they get home from work they have one giant backbreaking chore to take care of.

The man running the front end loader this morning seemed in a hurry. He sped through the narrow street pushing snow. When he was done I looked down and noted that the road had not been cleanly cleared, but that there was a lot of rutted snow, hard packed left over. Also, the amount of snow boulders piled up at each driveway was quite substantial. He did his job, moved the snow and moved on to the next street. The other three days a different driver took more time, went more slowly and cleared the snow much more professionally. After he had been through three times the concrete was visible, the ruts were gone, the street was wider than that which one-pass only would offer and the hard-packed snow chunks in front of people's entries were dramatically less.

He took the time to do the job slowly, efficiently and effectively. He "sharpened the shovel". In so doing, he dramatically reduced the work for everyone in the street when they came home in the evening from a long drive through the snowstorm.

The snow on the roof is near 2m now (over six feet). It is very heavy due to the warm temperatures we have (just above 0C / 32F). I have a lot of work to do today but I know that if I do not take the time to "sharpen the shovel", get up on the roof and push the snow off today the house could be damaged from the weight.

In life and business, like in winter, things (like snow) pile up. If you do not take the time to "sharpen the shovel" you could get snowed under, or worse, your entire surroundings could come crashing down upon you.

Taking the time to set your priorities, to do the right things, to do things right, is essential in life. And what is business if not one aspect of life itself?

When you have finished reading this article, take a break. Go outside and breathe in the fresh air. Look around. Enjoy life. It will clear your head and you can come back and focus even better on your work at hand.

Sharpen the Shovel

Cam Switzer

Kamishii-mura, Japan 2005/12/16

PS No matter whether it is business, or household, or family, or friendship never forget to say "thank you" to people that are doing a job which somehow affects you. Even if it is "atarimae" or expected of them, a simple heartfelt "you did a great job. Thank you" goes a very long way. In a company everyone has duties. They perform them. If you want them to excel beyond what they would do naturally take the time to tell them that you appreciate their work. It may seem strange to them at first because that is the reason they were hired, and the company is paying them to do the job. But by doing that extra little thing like showing appreciation for a job well-done, you are helping them to "sharpen their shovel". This will go a very long way. It also applies to family, especially family. Tell your husband, wife, kids that they did a fantastic job shoveling off the driveway, or cooking dinner, or putting their toys away, or doing the laundry, or even walking the dog. Everyone deserves praise. Everyone deserves a "sharp shovel".

I thanked the drivers of the front-end loader this morning by reaching up and giving them two cans of hot coffee. I did not tell you this earlier, but they came back later for a second run at my street and helped me clean the boulders out of the entry to the parking pad. It works.

Pallet Lift Equipment – The 3 Main Options

Moving pallets around can put strain on the worker. This strain can lead to physical injuries. Unloaded pallets can weight as much as 50 pounds to 80 pounds. Imagine the weight of the pallets when a load has been added. It is for this reason that equipment should be used when dealing with pallets. There are several types of pallet lift equipment on the market that can be used.

Pallet Jacks

One such equipment is a pallet jack that can come in either manual or powered. Pallet jacks are small and allow for use in areas where there is not enough space for bigger equipment to safely operate. Pallet jacks have limited lift heights so storing or loading the pallets will have to be at shorter heights. With the manual, you will have to move the handle up and down to achieve lift but with the powered pallet jacks, the lifting is done for you. The powered pallet jacks remove all forms of physical strain from the operator.

The Pallet Stacker

Another option that you have is a pallet stacker. These are best used in a powered form and give higher lift options than the pallet jacks. Usually these will run on batteries and can be acquired with a built in charger to ensure optimal performance. Another great feature of pallet stackers is the ride on platform. This means that loads get moved quicker than a walk-behind equipment option. They can operate in almost the same small vicinities that pallet jacks can, thus allowing them to be a great choice in pallet lift equipment for small workspaces.

The Forklift Option

The other heavy-duty option is the forklift. The forklift can lift larger load capacities than the pallet jack and pallet stacker as well as achieve higher lift heights. Forklifts require more space to move around than the other two options though. Also unlike the pallet jack and pallet stacker a forklift requires training and certification to be able to operate. Forklifts also are able to operate better on multiple types of flooring and outdoor conditions. This is not a very good option though for places that has limit spacing for operating the forklift.

Safety In The Workplace

All of these options do pose some risks and for that reason safety precautions need to be taken. Pallet jacks and pallet stackers need to have weight capacity plates placed on them and visible to the operator. Exceeding the weight capacity can damage the equipment and cause bodily injury to the worker. All operators should be shown how to properly handle the pallet jacks and stackers prior to use. Additionally a pre-operation inspection should be performed prior to usage.

Forklifts pose a number of safety hazards and therefore all operators are required by OSHA regulations to go through a training session and become forklift certified. These safety precautions and OSHA regulation are put into place to ensure the safe usage of pallet lift equipment to reduce damage to the equipment and harm to the operator and other workers in the vicinity.

Elevator Pitch Examples – How to Avoid the Most Common Mistakes

Elevator pitch examples can be heard everywhere people gather. Formal and informal networking sessions are the most obvious venues but you can be asked: “what do you do?” anywhere and at any time. You need to be able to answer that question in a way that grabs interest and attention. Remember that people are jaded by this stuff, they have heard countless elevator pitches in their time and so you need to make sure you stand out.

Sadly, most people think that being asked what you do (or being asked to give your 30 second elevator speech) is an invitation to talk about yourself and what you do. Wrong! That is why so many people are disinterested when they hear an elevator pitch example like this:

“I am a (job label like “financial planner”) and our offices are based on the southwest corner of 45th and Main. We have been in businesses 150 years and have a combined experience in the industry of over 200 years in our office alone. We have the best range of X,Y,Z services in the industry and have just launched a new product that is unique in the market. What sets us apart is our customer service – we really love to help our clients. I’d love to talk to you, tell you more and give you quotation”

Sound familiar? This is a SAFE introduction. It talks about YOU. Look at the number of times it includes “I” and “our” and variations on the first person. This is about the speaker and is safe because nobody knows more about your business than you.

But it is NOT compelling. Nobody wants he hear about you. Good for you that you have been in business so long but.. SO WHAT? I don’t care about that stuff. I want to know that you understand me, get my problems, empathize and can help me.

How do you do that?

You avoid telling people how great you are and tell them WHO you help and the ISSUES they are dealing with and WHAT they get from working with you.

Notice you do not tell them HOW. They don’t even know if you are worth listening to yet. Avoid the temptation to launch into an elevator pitch about the process you will follow etc.

Here is the above example using the above guidelines:

“I help small business owners who are busy running their business and are confused about how much they should be saving and where. Often times they struggle with the complexities of financing and actually hate doing that stuff. I take that burden from them so they can concentrate on making money in their business and running it without worrying about their finances.”

Biggest tip for an elevator pitch – keep it about THEM, not about YOU.

Organs of Speech

Almost all of us have studied about the role of nose and lungs in the respiratory system and the function of mouth in the digestive system, most of us do not know much about the role of these very organs in speech. Although numerous complex effects are produced by the human voice, the inner system that makes the sounds (which make up the speech) is extremely simple in its nature. This system can be compared to an organ pipe, a comparison that enables us to explain what happens inside.

An organ pipe is a tube in which a current of air passing over the edge of a piece of metal causes it to vibrate. This puts into motion the column of air in the pipe which then produces a note. The operating air is forced across the sounding piece of metal from a bellows. The tube, in which the thin sounding plate and the column of air vibrate, acts as a resonator. The resulting sound depends upon various sizes of the producing parts. If the tube is long, the sound will have a low pitch. If the tube is short, the sound will be high. You can alter the pitch by stopping the end of the pipe or by leaving it open. A stopped pipe gives a note an octave lower than an open pipe of the same length. The amount of the vibrating plate which is allowed to move also determines the pitch of a note. If the air is under great pressure, you will hear a louder note. If the air is under little pressure, a soft note will be heard.

Now let’s compare this with our inner system, the system in our body which produces voices. The bellows can be compared to our lungs, from which the expelled air is forced upwards through the windpipe. The lungs are able to expel air regularly and gently, with no more expense of energy than required during ordinary breathing. However, our lungs can also force air out with tremendous power that is sufficient to carry a sound over hundreds of yards. In ordinary repose, the outward-moving breath does not produce any sound, because it does not meet any obstructions in its passage.

At the upper end of the windpipe is a triangular chamber, the front angle of which forms the Adam’s apple where the vocal cords are located. These cords are two tapes of membrane which can be brought closely together, and by muscular tension stretched until passing air causes them to vibrate. As a result, they cause vibration in the air above them, like the air in an organ pipe vibrates. Hence, a tone is produced.

Open Fires, Draughts and Chimney Dampers in the UK

If you’re reading this in the States, I’m probably preaching to the converted, but you will be surprised to hear that chimney dampers are all but unheard of here in the U.K. I’ve been involved in chimney/fireplace consultancy for nearly 15 years and I’m amazed this simple technology has not yet become a part of standard fireplace and flue design in my country.

Most people have never looked up their chimney; many have no idea that vast quantities of their expensively heated air are flowing through that fireplace, up the flue, and into the atmosphere 24/7 whether the fire’s lit or not. The fact is that leaving a flue open all year round is really no different to leaving an upstairs window open, come rain or shine.

Ironically, when the weather turns cold, people will often start to go round the house looking for the gaps around doors, windows, and even keyholes that are letting the draughts in, and trying to plug them, without much thought to where the draught is going to! Very often its the chimney that’s driving the draught, sucking that cold air into your centrally heated home.

In the U.K, building regulations specify that permanently open, dedicated ventilation should be provided for every open fire equal in area to half the cross sectional area of the flue. While homeowners are frequently appalled by the prospect of such a gaping hole in their living room, a fire does need to “breathe” and improvements in home heating efficiency such as carpets, double glazing, and draught proof doors mean we can longer rely on a purely adventitious air supply. Adequate ventilation need not be the cause of any discomfort if correctly located, especially if a chimney damper is fitted to the flue, preventing unnecessary draughts and heat loss when the fire is not in use.

When the fire is lit an appropriately sized vent will supply the air necessary for combustion, and to allow the chimney to draw; ideally it should not be within the fireplace, but on the same side of the room as the fireplace, so that the incoming cold air doesn’t cut across everyone’s ankles as it’s drawn to and through the fireplace opening and up the chimney. In fact, allowing the fire to “breathe” easily through this vent will tend to stop it having to suck air from further afield, through doors, windows or down other chimneys in the property, and improve comfort levels. Vents within the fireplace are less than desirable, as they may blow ash and smoke around and out of the fireplace; there is also a beneficial effect on the draw resulting from the incoming air coming through the fireplace opening, tending to draw smoke with it.

As the cost of heating our homes soars with escalating fuel prices, and the effect our wasteful habits are having on the environment become ever more evident, energy efficiency is no longer just an issue for green activists, but for all of us. For many, installation of a woodburning stove is the obvious choice, but in Great Britain we are lucky enough to have a rich architectural heritage of splendid open fires, and there is a good argument for preserving them, if we can minimize their negative impact on home heating efficiency. While woodburning or multifuel stoves have an important role to play, fitting them correctly very often involves lining the flue which is not only a costly operation for the customer, but can be irreversible, preventing use of the fireplace as an open fire in the future, and altering the character of the room forever. Those who have several fireplaces may well choose to have a stove fitted in one fireplace as their main supplementary heat source, and fit dampers to their other fireplaces, especially if the alternative is to permanently cap the chimney.

For fireplaces that are expected to be used on a very occasional basis, d.i.y. solutions can help. I often see plastic bags of fibreglass or bubblewrap stuffed into flues! There are also purpose made balloons and the like on the market but for more regular use, most would not choose to have to remove and store any form of sooty chimney plug every time they have a fire. It’s also worth noting that it’s good practice to allow a trickle of air to flow up the chimney, to prevent condensation, and/or a flue so cold it will be hard to re establish an updraught on lighting a fire.

Whenever possible, the ideal solution is to fit a purpose made chimney damper that the householder can instantly open and close at will, with no fuss or mess. The benefits in comfort and reduced fuel bills will make it an investment that pays for itself a lot faster than most in the home improvement sector. Dampers can be fitted at the top, or bottom of the flue, and there are pros and cons for both styles, but often the geometry of the fireplace and chimney, and the relative difficulty of access to the top of the chimney stack will be the deciding factor.

One reason the U.K. has been slow to adopt chimney dampers is undoubtedly the variety and age of our housing stock, meaning that off the shelf products may not be suitable for many homes, and it should be noted that if a poorly sized damper is fitted that, in its open position reduces the flue area significantly, it may lead to a smoking fire.

There are also many British fireplaces struggling to draw through the addition of a chimney pot. Although seen as “traditional” by many, they’re really a Victorian invention, suited to the smaller fireplaces popular from that period onwards. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been asked to look at smoking fireplaces, and looked up the chimney to see a nicely constructed gather, and a good sized flue, which is abruptly reduced to less than ½ its area by an 8″ or 9″ pot, which itself is often partially obscured by slates or whatever other bearers the fitter has used during construction.

The combination of turbulence caused by the abrupt change in section and the physical restriction of the small outlet often causes these fireplaces to smoke unnecessarily. Another common “problem fireplace” is the 3’squarish opening revealed by keen homeowners who think they’ve peeled back the layers of history to find the original fireplace. What they’ve actually found is the builder’s opening, never intended to function as fireplace, but to accept a cooking range or Victorian style insert fireplace, built with a flue to match these more modest proportions.

In fireplaces where the flue outlet errs towards the undersized, I would not advise fitting a damper to the existing terminal. If access, and planning considerations allow, open it up, and extend the stack if necessary, or fit a bigger pot if you must, and fit a damper while you’re up there. Otherwise, try to fit a damper in the gather just above the fireplace lintel.

Chimney top dampers have the advantage of keeping birds and weather out of the chimney, as well as maintaining a warmish flue. On the downside are issues of access and working at heights, and the possibility of mechanical failure in the “remote control” operating system. (normally stainless steel cable or chain)

Fireplace dampers normally give you failsafe and visible mechanical opening and closing, and can be fitted without access to the top of the chimney, but are deceptively tricky to design and fit so they don’t foul the walls of the flue as they open, or overly restrict the egress of smoke from the fire below. Fitting is an awkward and sooty job…and if there isn’t a good bird guard up top, twigs and soot displaced by weather and bird activity can accumulate to get dumped on the hearth when the damper’s opened. By the way – mesh stretched across the top of the chimney is NOT a bird guard. It’s a perch/social amenity for our feathered friends to gather on while they keep warm, de-louse, defecate, and practice twig throwing! A good bird guard has a smooth, solid, ideally angled (to shed rain/snow and make perching a chore) top, and mesh sides.

I look forward to the day the majority of U.K. homes have dampers fitted to all their open fires, and predict that in years to come these devices will become as integral to responsible and shrewd home heating management as a well insulated loft, or double glazed windows.

Chimney dampers may not be fitted to flues serving gas fires in the U.K, nor may a gas fire be fitted to a flue or fireplace incorporating a damper unless rendered inoperable. The damper on a solid fuel/wood fire should not be closed unless the fire is out and cold!