Iliotibial Band Syndrome – Exercises and Treatment

Iliotibial Band (IT Band) Syndrome is a frustrating source of knee and hip pain for athletes, and is one of the most common causes of lateral knee pain in runners. Most cases of iliotibial band syndrome occur as the result of “too much, too soon” or poor biomechanics and can be prevented with these simple tips and listening to your body.

Anatomy of the Iliotibial Band

The iliotibial band is a thick layer of tissue along the outer part of the leg that runs from the hip to the knee. Irritation can occur either in the hip or the outside part of the knee as the iliotibial band rubs across the greater trochanter and the lateral epicondyle of the femur.

Iliotibial Band Syndrome Symptoms

Symptoms of iliotibial band syndrome include pain at the outside part of the knee that is worse when bending or extending the knee, such as during running or cycling Other symptoms include pain on the outside part of the hip over the greater trochanter.

Causes of Iliotibial Band Syndrome

Tightness in the iliotibial band is a common cause. Weakness in the muscles around the hip and buttocks (gluteus muscles) can cause excessive hip and leg rotation, resulting in increased stress on the iliotibial band. Other factors that can lead to IT band syndrome include running on a sloped surface such as the beach or road and excessive pronation or rolling in of the foot.

Iliotibial Band Syndrome Prevention

Iliotibial band syndrome can be prevented by avoiding overtraining, allowing for adequate recovery and rest, following a regular stretching and strengthening program and selecting proper running shoes for your running style.

Treatment of Iliotibial Band Syndrome

Ice massage to the painful area for 10 to 15 minutes after workouts can decrease the pain. For acute injuries (less than 2 weeks) anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil) or naproxen (Aleve or Naprosyn) can help with pain and irritation. In chronic injuries there is less inflammation of the tissue, therefor acetaminophen (Tylenol) may be more appropriate.

Iliotibial Band Stretches

Stretching of the iliotibial band is an important component of proper rehabilitation if the band is tight. One simple stretch is to stand and cross your injured leg behind your uninjured leg and bend over to touch your toes. A more advanced version of this exercise is to then extend the arms overhead and slowly reach to the opposite side (for the right IT band, extend the arms to the left) and then continue the stretch as the arms reach for the floor. As you perform this exercise, you should feel the stretch in the side and back on the hip. If you experience pain or muscle spasm then reduce the motion during the stretch.

The seated IT band stretch is performed while sitting on the floor with the legs out straight. Bending at the hip and knee, take the injured leg and cross it over the uninjured leg. Twist the upper body towards the injured side to continue the stretch. An alternative method is to slowly extend the knee and leg of the tight IT band to increase the stretch.

Seated Iliotibial Band Stretch

The”Figure-4′ stretch is an exercise that can be done while seated at a desk. While seated, cross the ankle of the injured leg on top of the opposite knee. The stretch can be extended by either lightly pushing the flexed knee down towards the floor or by leaning forward at the waist and allowing your body weight to increase the stretch. Hold the stretch for 5 to 10 seconds and then slowly relax.

Foam Roller Stretch

A foam roller is a great tool to break up scar tissue and help with myofascial release of the iliotibial band. The stretch is performed by rolling the injured leg back and forth across the foam roller. Focus on the hip and outside part of the thigh. The exercise can be done daily for several minutes. Try the rolling with the knee straight and the knee flexed. Gradually increase the amount of time each week.

Strength Exercises for Iliotibal Band Syndrome

Strengthening the gluteus muscles is also important in iliotibial band syndrome. Step lunges and leg squats can help increase gluteal muscle strength and are prevent excessive hip internal rotation and added stress across the knee and iliotibial band. For athletes that are trying to rehab from IT band syndrome, a gradual approach to strength training of the gluteal muscles is recommended.

Side Leg Lifts

Side leg lifts focus on strengthening the lateral gluteal muscles as well as teaching the athlete the correct muscles to focus on. Side leg lifts are performed lying on the side, with the injured leg on top. Keeping the hip and knee straight, slowly lift the top foot twelve to twenty-four inches directly above the bottom foot.

Hold the position for 5 to 10 seconds and slowly return the leg to the starting position. Focus on using the gluteal muscles and not the lateral thigh muscles to lift the leg. Repeat this exercise 5 to 10 times in sets of 2 or 3.

Hip Hitches (Pelvic Drop) Exercises

Hip hitches or pelvic drop exercises are another method of improving gluteal muscle strength. Stand on a step or elevated platform with the injured leg. The unaffected side should hang off the edge of the step. Slowly relax your hips and the pelvis should tilt down towards the unaffected leg as the foot lowers. Concentrate on contracting the gluteal (buttock) muscles on the standing leg and bring the hips back to a straight position.

Wallbangers

Wallbangers help provide another method of improving gluteal muscle strength. Stand perpendicular and one to two feet away from the wall with the injured hip towards the wall. With arms extended out in front, slowly drop and twist away from the wall until the hip lightly contacts the wall. Don’t hold this position – return to the starting position. As you perform this exercise, you should feel the gluteal muscles in the hip closest to the wall contract as you return to the upright position.

Frontal Plane Lunges

Frontal plane lunges are another simple exercise that increase gluteal muscle strength. Standing with the feet shoulder-width apart, slowly step to the right and lower the body into a squat position. Shift the body weight from the left to the right leg and rise from the squat position as you bring the left leg back underneath your body. Repeat the exercise in the opposite direction by stepping to the left and repeating the above steps.

Sample Exercise Program

Week 1

  • Every day – Stretching exercises – Once daily for total of 5 to 10 minutes in each session. Ice as needed after stretching.
  • Days 1, 3 and 5 – Strength exercises – start with 8 to 10 repetitions and one or two sets. Focus upon proper form.

Week 2

  • Everyday – Stretching exercises – Twice daily for total of 5 to 10 minutes in each session. Ice as needed after stretching.
  • Days 1, 2,4 and 5 – Strength exercises – start with 10 to 12 repetitions and two to three sets. Continue to focus upon proper form.

Key Points to Remember for Iliotibial Band Syndrome

There are several key points to remember with iliotibial band syndrome. The focus should be on stretching of the iliotibial band and strengthening the muscles around the hip since weakness in these muscles often is the primary cause of the injury. Limiting increases in running mileage to approximately 10% weekly can help prevent injuries from “too much, too soon”. Proper stretching after warming up and before cooling down can help prevent re-injury.Sometimes, worn running shoes with poor arch support can lead to excessive pronation of the foot and increased stress on the iliotibal band. Remember that most running shoes last for 300 to 400 miles and need to be replaced. Having an expert at a running shoe store can help in selecting the proper shoe for your foot and running style.

Don’t forget the importance of recovery and moderation in an exercise program. While a little soreness is a sign that your body is adapting to the increased training, pain is your body’s signal to slow down.

Return to Running and Activity

The often-asked question of most runners and endurance athletes is when they can return to running with iliotibial band problems. A gradual return to running can begin once an athlete can perform the exercises without pain. While individual results may vary, most iliotibial band syndrome cases resolve with 4 to 6 weeks of rehabilitation.

A return to running program should focus on proper biomechanics and avoid triggering factors (sloped or uneven surfaces). Studies have shown that faster paced running has less irritation of the iliotibial band due to the flexed position of the knee at foot strike versus slow paced jogging.

We recommend easy and short fast-paced running on alternating days on flat ground for the first week with a gradual return to longer, slower paced runs over the next 2 weeks. Additionally, avoiding downhill running or on sloped surfaces (side of the road) can help prevent re-injury.

Neon Clocks – Time Illuminated With Neon Clocks

Neon Clocks – Fancy and flashy

Despite the subheading seeming to refer to a Las Vegas showgirl, this article is about neon clocks.  Perhaps some explanation would be in order, since the words “neon” and “clock” are not often found in such intimate proximity.  The term refers to clocks with neon lighting, the result of which proves useful in more ways than one.  With their powerful lights, these illuminated timepieces are easily readable even in the dark.  The neon lighting can be bent and twisted into different shapes, so there is theoretically no limit to the designs one can use.  The clocks are no less subject to whimsical and practical turns of style, and there are many clock designs to suit different tastes and design themes.  They are fancy and flashy, but not necessarily worthless as a certain old saying would have you believe.  Of course, the neon lighting consumes more electricity than conventional lighting.  Due to the increased energy consumption and powerful illumination, these are best suited to public places with low light, like bars, but do not let that stop you from getting one for your home.  These are sure-shot centerpieces and conversation items, so decorating with them provides you with utility and style.

Neon Clocks – Timepieces over time

Most people are aware of the history of clocks, and neon clocks clearly stem from that long sequence of innovations and inventions.  Timekeeping used to be extremely simple, relying on the position of the sun and moon in the sky.  Unfortunately, this was useless during cloudy days and nights, plus civilization was evolving and requiring more definite measures of time.  Sundials and the like came about, and they did indeed provide more discrete and clear measurements of time.  But like the previous time-telling method, they were worthless at night and on cloudy days.  An improvement on the sundial, using candles that burnt at known speeds proved useful at night, but it was a bit costly and was not always accurate.  Water clocks used the power of water, controlled with troughs, mechanical escapements, and measured amounts, to mark the passing of defined units of time.  Water clocks failed when there was too little or too much water, plus parts needed maintenance and replacement, and they were often large and expensive.  Spring power and miniaturization saw the introduction of pocket watches, wristwatches, and standing clocks, but they needed regular winding to keep time properly.  Finally, with the advent of electricity, time could be tracked using vibrations of materials with known electrically-induced frequencies.  Finally, digital clocks that used liquid crystal displays showed time in easy to read numbers.  The faces of clocks also saw changes in relation to the eras when they were made or which they were made to look like.  Today, there are so many clock designs to choose from, with aesthetic elements from various countries and multiple subcultures.

Neon Clocks – Under the neon lights

Neon clocks use neon lights, but neon lights do not necessarily use the noble gas neon.  The first neon lights used neon, which is why the name stuck.  At the time of their burgeoning popularity, they were dubbed “liquid fire” due to their fluid appearance as evidenced by twisting into various designs.  The basic mechanism requires electricity at high voltages to energize gas molecules and thus release photons, or quanta of light.  Though in theory all gases can be electrified and made to glow, most gases cannot sustain their integral nature and thus the lamp would go bust too quickly.  Neon, as a noble gas, retains its quality, so the lamp stays usable for a long time.  Other noble gases like helium, argon, krypton, and xenon are also used, but neon is the most common.  Using the properties of these gases under energizing, the ultraviolet rays released are harnessed using tubes with phosphor finishes.  These phosphor compounds produce various colors of light when struck by ultraviolet rays, which is why we have such a large range of colors for neon lighting.  Due to the gaseous nature of the electrical medium and the coating methodology for phosphors, it becomes possible to bend and twist tubing into different designs.  The only real requirement is that the tube should be airtight and not blocked anywhere along its length.  At the two ends of a neon tube, electrodes are installed, and are how electricity moves through the gas.  At the flick of a switch, they glow and flash, subject to the whims of man in their use.

Neon Clocks – Light and time

Though light and time has yet to reveal all their secrets to scientists, for the common person neon clocks are pretty much the summation of the two.  A neon clock is bright, so one could read the time, day or night.  The neon lights are flamboyant and very eye-catching, so the potential for advertising exists.  Indeed, neon lighting is best known as a commercial advertising device, meant to grab attention and lure customers.  Cities like Las Vegas, in the USA, are replete with these lights, and many things can be found under their neon glow.  The best place for one of these luminescent chronographs is a public room, say a game room or living room at home, or in a bar or on a street frontage.  If anything else, it will make it easier for patrons to keep track of time, should they be sober enough to read the time.  Also, the design paradigms popularized as Fifties and Sixties styles, respectively reflective of 1950’s and 1960’s USA, use neon lights profusely, so any diner or pub employing these designs would find a neon-framed clock ideal.  Modern artists play around with neon lamps and create fantastic designs, designs which are sometimes translated onto these illuminating and illuminated chronographs.  One could have the neon lamps spell out words and names or have them twisted into caricatures of objects.  Various logos and advertising elements can be printed onto the clock face, and the neon framing would be responsible for drawing attention to it.  The hardest part about Neon Clocks is choosing one!

Greece – Cycladic Architecture

Cycladic architecture is famous for its uniqueness and charm. In fact, the rapid growth of tourism over recent years has extended its reputation well beyond the borders of Greece. When you visit a Cycladic town or village for the first time, you may have the feeling that you are inside an enchanting stage set.

The early Cycladic builders worked in the same simple yet daring style that distinguished the artists who created Cycladic idols some 5,000 years ago. With the authentic and untainted instinct of folk artists, these craftsmen constructed buildings that were adapted not only to the everyday needs of the inhabitants, but also to the beauty and grace of the Cycladic landscape.

One rarely comes across public squares in Cycladic villages. Public spaces in settlements are, as a rule, quite small. The common area is usually the street, with its exceptionally well-balanced building facades.

The street is characteristically paved with whitewash-outlined polygonal or rectangular flagstones. The pattern of the flagstones is usually adapted to fit along the outsides of the buildings, which are of two main styles: narrow-facade (“stenometopo”) and broad-facade (“evrymetopo”). Buildings in the same cluster or on the same block are most likely to be in the same style, with similar features. Therefore, a row of narrow-facade houses will have approximately the same dimensions and the same design. The houses usually have two storeys, with an outside staircase that allows separate access to the upper storey from the street.

The outside staircase exists regardless of whether the house is used as a single-family dwelling or two separate families individually own the ground floor and upper storey.

Separate ownership of individual floors is a popular tradition in the Cyclades, dating centuries back. It apparently started because of the lack of space within the fortified settlements that were built in the latter part of the 14th century when the islands first became settlements. Later, however, separate-storey ownership continued even after the pirate incursions had abated (mostly following the Battle of Lepanto in 1571), with the settlements then able to spread beyond the walls. Although the main reason for this is that it served the institution of the dowry, separate-storey ownership satisfied other needs as well, In Mykonos, for example, peasants who went to Hora (the Town) to sell their wares and do their marketing wanted storage spaces and rudimentary shelter. So, they purchased these ground floors from the locals.

The exteriors of Cycladic buildings are simple and unembellished, whitewashed, with only a few windows and a particular type of roof, which comes in three variations: vaulted, inclined, or pitched. For the most part, Cycladic houses resemble connected stark-white cubes.

Perched on cliff-sides, with an economy of space ensured by native ingenuity, these single or two-storeyed houses blend with church facades, fountains, windmills (where they exist) and dovecotes to compose pictures seen nowhere else in the world.

Buildings that form a compact mass, irregularly aligned houses, an economic use of curves, and walls that subtly slant out towards the ground to give the impression that the building is growing out of the island’s stark rocky ground, flagstone stairs rimmed in white to diminish their weight. When you add the painted doors (typically, the cobalt blue of the sea), windows and balconies, which contrast the stark white houses, you have the complete picture of Cycladic architecture.

But this is only the general picture. Each island has its own unique characteristics, determined by its history and topography, as well as by how the local materials have been utilized.

The interior of the houses is also similar, with only minor variations from island to island. The inside space is divided into two unequal sections by a kind of platform, 1-2 meters high and up to 3 meters wide, extending either the length or width of the house. This platform is called, alternately, “krevatos” (bed), “kraatos” or “sofas” (couch) depending on the locale. The furnishings, which are impressive for their aesthetics refinement and usefulness, are in total harmony with the decoration and architecture of the house. The interior decor consists of small cabinets, the “stamnos” (water jug) stand, trunks to store clothing, wardrobes, icon stands, wooden-carved chests, as well as a variety of furniture built into the walls.

This is often combined with pebble-paved front yards (particularly on Milos and Paros, as well as other islands), which add particular grace to the otherwise stark but always harmonious constructions of Aegean island vernacular architecture.

Should You Solder Your Wedding Bands and Engagement Rings Together?

After the wedding is all said and done, the question is how you will wear your wedding rings and your engagement ring in the future. Deciding on the best way to wear your wedding and engagement rings together will ensure that you show them off in comfort and in style for many years.

Many women like to show off both the engagement ring and the band by wearing them next to each other on their ring finger. Usually wedding bands are placed on the finger first because it is the closest to your heart. However, sometimes these rings can rub against each other awkwardly or spin around the wrong way so that they do not look right. Some women choose to have their wedding ring and engagement ring soldered together to prevent this from happening and to make them more comfortable to wear.

Advantages of Soldering

Soldering wedding bands to engagement rings essentially turns the two rings into one. It is not a very expensive thing to have done and it has some advantages such as preventing the rings from twisting in different directions while they are on your finger. It is a popular option for wedding sets which are designed to fit inside each other, such as a solitaire enhancer band or a wrap.

Soldering the rings together also prevents them from rubbing up against each other, which can cause excessive wear and tear on the sides of the rings.

If you decide to have the rings unsoldered in the future so that you can resize them or upgrade them, a jeweler will be able to take them apart again and polish each ring so that it looks like new.

Disadvantage of Soldering

However, the disadvantage of soldering wedding bands and engagement rings together means that you will never again be able to wear them separately. If you think that there might be an occasion when you just want to wear your wedding band, you might want to think of other non-permanent methods of holding these rings together.

Adjust the Size

Your rings might be spinning around on your finger because they don’t fit properly. Take them to the jeweler to have them resized so that they fit your finger perfectly and they should not move or rub against each other.

Use a Ring Guard

You can also use a wire ring guard inside the two rings. Use a pair of pliers to fold the metal tabs up around both of the rings to hold them together. The ring guard should be invisible if you wear it on the inside of your hand.

Whether or not you solder your wedding bands and engagement rings together or use a more temporary method of attachment is up to personal preference. Take a look at the different options and decide which one will be more comfortable for you.

Parrot Cages – Metal Toxicity in Parrots

Bellow listed common and not so common metals and their alloys that can be found in cage materials (wires, frame), hardware (screws, padlocks, hinges), parrot toys and common stuff around your house. Some of them if ingested may have adverse affect on your parrot’s health.

All birds are very sensitive to toxins because of fast metabolism, delicate skin and respiratory system, small size, and digestive system with gizzard (pH 2.0, and 42C) that allows some non-food items sit there for prolong time releasing toxins or causing obstruction, impaction, bleeding and death. Natural curiosity and cleverness that pushes parrots to reach for, to chew and taste any usual and unusual objects and strength of its’ beaks put parrots even at greater risk of being exposed to toxins not only when ingested, but through skin contact or when inhaled. Toxins (like heavy metals) get usually deposited in brain, bones, feathers and some in muscle tissue; and may damage many different organs causing non-specific signs of illness.

Paint used on your bird’s cage is the main concern. Powder coating is much stronger than regularly applied paint that easily flakes and can be ingested and let the cage rust.

In short – ingesting any paint or any kind of metal is never a good thing – doesn’t matter how safe it is, especially there are no standards for safe levels of toxic metals established for birds.

Lead and Zinc – highly poisonous for parrots. Exposure to paint or alloys in cage wires containing metals, as Lead and Zinc is the most dangerous to parrots since they naturally not only chew on everything but also use their beaks to climb. If your cage material or hardware contains these metals it more likely will cause heavy metal poisoning in your parrot. Also your family could be exposed to lead in a dust from your parrot’s activity around the cage. The most common signs of poisoning in birds besides subdued behavior and shutting down – with lead poisoning – seizures and falls from the perch, with Zinc – falls from the perch. If you have any suspicion – contact your bird avian vet immediately. The bigger the parrot the bigger the danger – the large birds can easily scratch, shave or detach by chewing up some pieces of softer metals or paint.

Beside paint Lead may be used in paint primers, in soldering metal – soldered joints in cage (distinguished from welded joints), foil on wine bottles, champagne wire, fishing weights, curtain weights, rifle bullets and pellets, stained glass, in PVC and caulk.

Industry standards for Lead refer for the safe standards established by federal government that currently allow less then 600 ppm (parts per million parts or 0.06 % by weight) of Lead in household paint.

Check with manufacturers regarding Zinc, as there are no federal regulations for its content in paint.

Zinc is essential trace element, playing important role in enzymatic activity, but if ingested in uncontrolled amounts from non-food items may lead to high accumulation and toxicity. Zinc is not only used in paint but also may be used in plating – galvanization of cage wires, hardware and some metal parts of bird’s toys (galvanization is term used only for zinc coatings to protect cage metal or hardware from oxidation and make it look better). This is extremely toxic for parrots as described above.

Not to mention Zinc galvanized wire or mesh in outdoor aviaries. Don’t treat outdoor aviaries with vinegar to guard your parrot against zinc poisoning – what it actually does it will etch upper very accessible oxidized zinc layer (dull whitish coat – zinc rust) and zinc coating underneath oxidized layer to some point – not necessarily remove all of it but thin it enough to make underlying metal prone to oxidation and rusting which is also not good. This procedure may be sufficient to protect small birds from zinc poisoning but it seems as the best bet to avoid zinc around parrots altogether. Other zinc and its’ compounds applications: UV protection in plastics, Sun protective creams and lotions, fire retardants, wood preservatives and agricultural fungicides.

Copper is an essential trace element required for hemoglobin formation and is a component of several enzyme systems. Copper is soft metal usually used for plating (not only US Mint cent coins – copper 2.5% plated zinc 97.5%, but also hardware and decorative elements on your cage), kitchen utensils, copper wire, welding. Copper can be potentially poisonous to birds – usually oxidized copper causes troubles – storing acidic food in copper containers or slightly acidic water from copper piping may contribute to elevated levels of this metal in your bird’s diet and it’s easy to avoid. Copper is a popular algaecide and fungicide (used in commercial and residential pools as well as to spray vegetables and grains to prevent fungus and algae growth).

Brass is alloy of copper and zinc and usually used in padlocks – it’s probably OK for small birds that are unlikely to chew the padlock, but should be avoided around parrots. You can find few documented cases of metal toxicity in parrots that chew brass padlocks.

Nickel could be potentially toxic to your bird. Even though there are little documented evidence could be found clarifying nickel toxicity for pet-birds and parrots in particular, few articles clearly show that nickel is moderately toxic to wild birds as well as poultry (especially in young actively growing birds – in experiments growth of chicks to 4 weeks of age was significantly depressed at 700 ppm nickel and above). Nickel is commonly known as human allergen (causing dermatitis upon skin contact) and its insoluble salts and soluble aerosols are highly toxic to everything live. Nickel commonly used for plating as it prevents metal corrosion (on iron and copper usually). So even if you decided that it’s OK to have nickel-plated stuff around your parrot check it frequently, as it may chip and expose underlying metal to oxidation.

Tin is soft metal considered by many experts as not toxic for birds unless it’s “galvanized tin” (which is misused term for galvanized sheet metal (galvanized steel) or some small galvanized iron containers) – if in doubt – consult manufacturer. According to Wikipedia metal tin itself is non-toxic but most tin salts are, as well as some organic tin compounds – TBT (tributyltin) for example. TBT is very toxic – thin layer of this polymer may serve as a protective coating on non-food glass and ceramics. Tin resists corrosion from distilled, sea and soft tap water, but can be attacked by strong acids, alkalis and acid salts. Tin is present in various alloys, such as soldering tin & bronze, pewter, bell metal, Babbitt metal and dental amalgams. Organotin compounds are used as fungicides, insecticides and bactericides and they are well known for animal and human toxicity. Additionally, these are applied as PVC and PCB heat stabilizers.

Steel /a.k.a. Wrought Iron is hard metal nontoxic (mostly because it’s hard and very difficult for parrot to detach and ingest piece of it) to birds, but rust – is, so be careful as cage coating wears off and corrosion starts – consider powder coated cages versus pained. Powder coating is much stronger and structured surface of this coating provides better grip for birds.

Stainless Steel (SS)- is very hard material, that will not shave or scrape easily, will not rust under normal indoor conditions. It doesn’t require any coating, plating or paint, very easy to take care for – you can power wash (just remove your beloved bird!:) and wipe the cage dry – basically nothing to worry about. Couple comments on Stainless Steel:

Some stainless steels may stain and rust if left in humid acidic environment for prolong time or if bird’s droppings accumulate in some places that also keep moisture;

You can find many references saying that SS is not magnetic – this is not exactly correct. Stainless steel is any alloy that contains 10.5% or more of chromium and iron in excess of 50% and other components. Its magnetic property depends on what other components of this alloy are – nickel, magnesium, carbon, nitrogen, molybdenum…Any steel alloy with nickel is not magnetic (nickel strengthen stainless characteristic of iron and chromium alloy). Medical grade SS usually uses nickel and chromium so it’s not magnetic. Alloys only with chromium (no nickel) are magnetic. Different combinations of components define magnetic power of alloy.

Some parrot’s owners say that bright super glossy SS cages (shiny almost mirror-like looking surfaces) made their parrots very exited (even agitated) – it may make sense to look for SS cages that have less lustrous finish – polished surface with subdued mat tone – electro-polishing usually does just that.

Aluminum is a soft metal and by many considered as safe for birds. However few studies indicated that some birds’ species in aluminum-laden habitats with high Aluminum diet have elevated aluminum level in bones and laid deformed eggs with soft shells leading to reduced hatchability. Other studies bring concerns with bone grows and body weight gain in growing chicks with elevated aluminum in the diet. So it’s probably more safe not to let your parrot put his beak on aluminum stuff around your house and to avoid it in bird’s toys (just as mere precaution – you never know what reaction your particular bird will have)

Most of parrot aluminum toxicity cases that were documented connected to heated aluminum foil – which is mostly attributed to fumes from its non-stick polymer additives.

Selenium, mercury, cadmium, arsenic, thallium and cobalt are potentially toxic to birds. Poisoning causes by these elements have been well documented in wild birds due to environmental exposure and infrequently diagnosed in pet birds but it seems prudent to know main sources of household exposure to these elements.

Selenium is another required dietary element that can be toxic if ingested in high amounts. Selenium used in electronic industry, glass and rubber production, photographic processing, pesticides and shampoos – avoid your parrot contact with these chemicals. Interpretation of selenium toxicity is complicated by its interaction with other metals, particularly with mercury and arsenic that may reduce selenium toxicity.

Mercury is nonessential very toxic heavy metal. It affects the immune system, alters genetic and enzyme systems, and damages the nervous system, including coordination and the senses of touch, taste, and sight. Since most of the household hazards associated with mercury were recognized and eliminated while ago – until you are feeding your parrot fish and mercury containing thermometers it’s highly unlikely that your bird will have exposure to the most toxic mercury form – Methyl-mercury or elemental mercury.

Cadmium – is found in some batteries, pigments, used in electroplating, soldering, alloy manufacturing and plastic production. Cadmium and its compounds are extremely toxic even in low concentration. If ingested, bird will accumulate it in liver and kidney causing kidney damage, reduced egg production and altered behavior.

Cadmium is long known as carcinogen. Besides possible cadmium exposure through food (most of the plants have high level of absorption and accumulation of environmental cadmium – one more reason to feed your parrot organic food), burning fossil fuels such as coal and oil and smoking are other dangerous sources of cadmium exposure – since lungs absorb cadmium much more effective then guts. Do not smoke around your parrot and never let it to reach for you cigarette butts, don’t burn coal or use oil lamps. Keep your artist paints (if it applies to you) out of reach of your parrot. Cadmium Yellow, Orange & Red pigments used in artistic colors, in coloring plastics and some specialty paints, in color glass and ceramic glazes (Tiffany lamps, red stoplights) also contain cadmium.

Arsenic has been used to control agricultural pests, to pressure treat wood for outdoor use (until 2003) and in chemotherapeutics. If ingested different organic and inorganic arsenic compounds accumulate in kidney and liver and may cause anemia, nervous disorders and immune system suppression. Hopefully your parrot exposure to this hazard is very limited.

Thallium sulfate (salt of heavy metal Thallium) used as rodenticide (to control rats) and household insecticide (ants and cockroaches) – is highly toxic to mammals, birds and insects used only by professional exterminators – very unlikely your parrot will be exposed to any of this unless you store and use this chemicals in your house.

Cobalt and its salts are used in nuclear medicine, enamels and semiconductors, grinding wheels, painting on glass and porcelain, hygrometers and electroplating, in vitamin B12 manufacture, as a drier for lacquers, varnishes, and paints, and as a catalyst for organic chemical reactions.

According to Wikipedia although cobalt is an essential element for life in minute amounts, at higher levels of exposure it shows mutagenic and carcinogenic effects similar to nickel. After nickel and hexavalent chromium (VI), cobalt is a major cause of contact dermatitis in people.

Play it safe – check all metals in your bird cage and on your birds toys regularly for chipping, peeling, rust & oxidation.

Importance Of Using Relay Harness With HID Conversion Kit!

This is one of the most important questions that is confusing many people these days! Many of us while handling our HID kit are confused as to whether or not to opt for using a relay harness. Well, the answer to this important question depends upon a number of other factors, such as the type of application, HID kit installation location, low beam/high beam/fog light use, etc.

Most of the time an HID kit can be plugged directly into the headlight panel socket. However, the results will vary depending upon the type of the wiring in the vehicle and the use of automatic light controls. In the older car models, generally the headlights withdraw power directly from the switch socket.

After the installation of the HID kit, the power consumption will increase, which can burn out the switch over time. This damage can prove to be extremely heavy on your pocket. Especially, if your car was manufactured around 1980, you had better pay close attention to this warning.

But, if your car belongs to the league of the newly manufactured vehicles, you might just escape this disaster. In most of the newly manufactured vehicles, a more dedicated headlight relay based circuit is provided for handling the low beam/high beam/fog lights, etc.

Every car is provided with a light circuit, which is designed around a certain wattage level for the bulb. If the installed HID kit withdraws more power than the reference bulb, the protection fuse most will blow. In some cases, people make use of bigger fuses, but that is really not the safe solution. In doing so, you might just end up burning the wiring harness or even igniting electrical fire. Then, where does the solution lie?

Well, the solution lies in installing an HID based relay harness. Such a system makes use of the light socket in the car for clicking over the relay. This enables the easy flow of power directly from the car battery through the gauge wire, as well as suppling the right fuse size for the operation of the HID ballasts.

If your vehicle has automatic lights or employs low voltage based DRLs, then you should certainly opt for the HID relay harness setup. Most of the relay harness setups cater to the voltage dipping troubles associated with automatic car lights. The operating voltage of the DRLs used in your car will determine the configuration of DRL to be used. If the operating voltage is more than 6.5 volts, a single HID relay harness will work, or else a DRL module has to be used.

10 Eye-Opening Facts About Lions – The Bravest Big Cat

1. Lion Pride

Lions tend to be quite social. They live in family groups called prides. A pride contains between 10 and 15 lions, most of which are females and cubs. Male lions, on the other hand, make up just a fifth of a pride, on average.

2. Game of Thrones

A lion’s reign as a pride’s leader is short, lasting between two to four years. Only the strongest male lion can rule a pride, but that means that he needs to be on constant watch to defend his position.

When the lion king gets older and weaker, younger lions challenge him for the position of pride leader. It’s not unusual if several lions (usually siblings) join forces to overthrow the leader of the pride. Once that happens, the new leader usually kills all of the cubs fathered by the former leader.

3. Gender Roles

Male lions may not seem like very good hunters, at first glance. In fact, they prefer to sleep, play, and groom instead of doing hard work. Female lions are the ones with the role of feeding the family. Compared to male lions, lionesses are more agile and a bit faster, making them more adept for hunting. They usually chase down prey of about 250 pounds, using intelligent hunting tactics.

Male lions, on the other hand, mostly hunt during the years when they are alone, searching for their own pride. They are incredibly powerful, and can often take down prey that otherwise requires 4 or 5 lionesses.

4. Lionesses

Lionesses work together when hunting in order to catch the best possible prey. Once they get it, they will often allow the pride’s leader to feast first. During the hunt, one lioness usually stays in the pride to take care of the cubs. Every lioness that’s lactating will allow any cub to nurse, regardless of who the mother is.

5. Lion’s Duties

Most of the day, the pride’s leader doesn’t do anything but sleep and eat. A male lion will spend between 16 and 20 hours a day sleeping. The rest he uses for guarding the territory, which is his main role. The leader lion will mark his territory by urinating, so other lions can sense his presence. In the case of an intruder, he will roar and try to chase them or fight, if the need arises.

6. Lunch

Lions eat twice a week on average, but those meals are huge. An average portion for male lions accounts for one-tenth of their weight, which is about 40 pounds. Such a large amount of food needs to be digested so right after lunch lions go to sleep, a rest that can last for over a day. Their favorite dishes include zebras and antelopes.

7. Mating

Lionesses often synchronize breeding, so they could take care of all their cubs at once. They can be in heat for about 4 or 5 days, during which period they mate with a lion between 2 and 4 times per hour. That means that the male will often copulate over 100 times each day.

8. Lion’s Roar

Lions roar as a way of communicating with each other, but the loudest roars are heard when they’re angry. An enraged lion protecting his territory can be heard roaring from a 5-mile distance.

9. Cubs

The average litter size is 3 to 4 lion cubs. Newborns are vulnerable to predators like hyenas and leopards, so at least one lioness is always with them. Cubs remain with their mothers until two and are taught hunting. When they are around 11 months old, lionesses will start bringing them live prey to help them practice hunting.

10. Hybrids

Lions can mate with other members of the Pantherinae subfamily and produce offspring. The hybrid cross between a lion and a tigress is liger, which is the biggest of all cats. Tigon is a cross between a lioness and a male tiger while the cross of a lioness and a male jaguar is called jag lion.

How I Drilled My Conch Shell to Make a Ceremonial "Pu" Conch Shell Horn

In all of the Polynesian islands, the Pu shell or Conch shell is a very sacred instrument used to begin ceremonies, ward off unwanted spirits, bless unions and was also used for important communication between islands in ancient times.

Particularly in Hawaii, the conch shell is a very intimate part of every ceremony, beginning the tone of the event-majestic, deep, resonant and a part of the ever-changing seas, which nourish and surround these islands.

We managed to trade old rope (a villager in Tonga had just gotten a cow!) while we were sailing the South Pacific for a beautiful huge Queen conch shell and it traveled thousands of miles with us across the sea to our final destination (for now)-Maui.

I was a bit reluctant to start drilling a hole in our fantastic, unmarred Pu shell, but I really wanted to make my own horn-making it that much more special and intimate of an instrument for our wedding ceremonies. So I researched how to drill a conch shell horn and found a very helpful video on the process.

Basically you start with a VERY small drill to make the first hole and you drill where the spiral starts on the shell. It can be a very pronounced point, or in our case a somewhat small nub where the spiral starts on the closed and largest part of the shell. Only go in about a ¼ of an inch-you don’t want to compromise the inner spiral which gives the horn it’s unique sound. Then you just keep changing the drill bit to a larger bit until you get about a ½ inch hole. I kept trying to blow a sound, and finally got the sound I wished for, stopping with about ½ inch hole (again only ¼ inch deep). Once I got the desired hole size, I carefully filed the edges of the hole until it became smooth.

Blowing the Pu shell in Hawaii is a very sacred moment; it is done with reverence, respect and the deepest of connections with the spirits of Aloha and Pono. We blow the shell to say goodbye to the setting sun; we blow the shell to begin a special ceremony or bless a union. In ancient days, the Pu shell was also used as a communication device between islands-allowing passage, permission to come ashore and sending important messages. To blow the conch shell, one must allow the spirit to flow and your intent must be very clear, making your personal connection with the spirits that guide you in such an important and ceremonial tradition.

Pool Table Light Height

Proper illumination of your billiard table is essential in playing billiards accurately. If your billiard light is hung to high it will cause a glare in the players eye and if it is hung to low your pool cue may hit it. Also improper billiard light height will cause shadows on your pool table and which will result in inaccurate shots. Here are some tips on hanging your billiard light to ensure proper pool table light height:

-Your billiard lamp should illuminate your table only and not the rest of your room.

-The billiard light must be centered along the billiard table lengthwise. You can use the middle white diamond at the end of your table as a guide to help center the light.

-The average height of your billiard lamp should be 36″ above the playing surface or bed of your billiard table to the bottom of your billiard light shade. At this stage you can adjust your billiard table light in order to ensure full illumination of your pool table only. When your adjusting the height of your billiard lamp turn off all lights in your room except your pool table light and adjust the light so there are no shadows on your table.

-A popular and more general way in determining optimum light height is to hang the light so the bottom of your billiards lamp is level with the bridge of the your nose.

-If you want to install your lamp before your billiards table has arrived measure between 62 and 70 inches from the floor, and you can adjust your light precisely when your billiard table is installed. Use the bridge of your nose as a gage. 65″ from the floor-up- to the bottom of your billiard lighting fixture is average but a smaller table may be 62″ from the floor up and 70″ might be needed for a larger table.

A Primer on Recessed Lighting

Recessed lighting (also known as can lights and down-lights) is one of today’s most widespread and adaptable lighting uses on the market. It works extremely well with the new trends of layering light and task lighting. Recessed lights are used indoors or outside from the floor to the ceiling.

Many people recognize recessed lighting outdoors as a way to draw attention to steps or the edge of a pool. This style is a favorite method of landscape designers because the recessed lights don’t allow anything to protrude which could cause a fall on the stairs or someone to fall into the pool.

Yet, not all recessed lights made for outdoor use. Before installing outdoors, one should make sure that the unit is waterproof at the very least. Such elements are unforgiving and a serious catastrophe will occur if one places a recessed light meant for the indoors outside.

Another feature which many people use the lights for inside the home as well as outside the home is to highlight certain focal points. Art lovers will use the lights to enhance a work of art in the household or a sculpture outdoors.

The method is a favorite use with art galleries and outdoor gardens because it allows people to see other features which they normally would not have been able to view if it were not for the extra focus.

Fireplaces are another area which receives a lot of recessed light fixtures because few things are more romantic that a subtly lit fireplace. Installing recessed lights over a fireplace is another method that designers love to use with the lights. The fixtures manage to take a design element and turn them into a focal point.

Many people are wary of installing the lighting fixtures in their home because they feel like they will cost them more money. However, that feeling does not hold true by today’s standards. Whereas, in the past recessed lights were known to let heat and air escape through their housings, that problem no longer exists.

Lighting designers have updated the fixtures’ casings with a new seal technology which prevents heat and air from leaving the household and thus helping to regulate the electrical bill. Another feature which helps to save money is installation of dimmer switches on for the lights.

Dimmer kits places the lighting control in the homeowner’s hands and by using only the specific amount of light necessary for the job, the homeowner will save money. Controlling the amount of light needed for a space is another reason the fixtures do well in the kitchen.

One of the biggest trends in kitchen design is the use of task lighting. Task lighting is when lights are given specific lighting jobs. Therefore, pendants over a work area, recessed lights over the sinks and under cabinet lighting to make the cabinets brighter all serve a purpose.

This way, one does not need to turn on an entire set of lights when one or two can do the job. This is another method that manages to save money because only the areas which needs the highlighted and the other parts which do not are left alone.

Recessed lights in hallways are another popular use because those lights typically give off a subtle glow; so that they do not assault people’s eyes with bright light. This is great when one needs to go to another room in the middle of the night and are dreading turning the lights on to see where he or she is going.

Recessed lights are wonderful requirements to any home’s lighting fixtures. The Versatility combined with its ability to enhance any feature one would want in the home puts it on every homeowner’s wish list.

Take Away the Internet Language Barrier

Is there a language barrier on your Web site? No, I'm not talking about someone who does not speak English. I'm talking about the actual communication that goes on between your Web site visitor and your Web site content. Sometimes the communication breaks down and your message is not understood. I'd call that an Internet language barrier.

Take a look at your Web site; are you unwittingly putting up a language barrier? Here are some "red flags" that you might be creating a communication breakdown:

1) Your Web site uses "jargon" or technical terms that your audience does not understand.

Who is your target audience? Are they familiar with the terms in your industry? If the answer is no, then you need to make sure you eliminate all jargon or technical terms from your Web site.

Effective communication occurs when the reader can easily understand the words of the message. Engineers can talk to engineers, but when engineers try to talk to consumers there is often a problem. The message becomes unclear.

Right now I'm working on a Web site for a medical device company and most of the content was written by engineers. However, it's not just engineers who visit the Web site. The company realized they needed to rewrite the content so that it can speak in a non-technical way that is less dry and more conversational.

By doing this, the company is tearing down the language barrier and creating a site that is friendly and welcoming to all prospective customers.

2) Your Web site does not provide enough information for the reader to make an informed decision.

Before you put your message together, take the time to analyze your audience and think about what they know and do not know. How educated is your audience? Do they need more explanation or do they already have the information they need to make a decision? What information would make it easier for them to make a decision?

Quite often people are ready to buy when they come to a Web site, but they want all the information they can get to make sure they are not making a mistake. Internet shoppers are informed shoppers. They tend to do research before they make a purchase. If you provide them with the information they need, they will be more likely to buy from you. After all, if they do not have to go to another site to find more information, it's easier to make the purchase on the site they are on: your site.

3) Your Web site's navigation makes it difficult for visitors to get to your product.

You need to use a combination of good writing and graphic layout that gently moves the reader through your content and to the eventual sales page. Do not make the reader search page after page for the product or piece of information they need to close the sale. Remember the 3-click rule; do not make them click more than 3 times to make the sale.

Make sure it is easy to find your product by using text links and graphic highlighting. Do not bury your product in a long paragraph or hide it in a list. Let your product stand out and make it easy for the visitor to make a purchase.

I like to include multiple ways to click to my sales page. For instance, I put a text link in the content description and I make the graphic of my product a text link.

Remove the Language Barrier

Your goal should be to make it easy for your visitor to understand your message and easy for them to make a purchase. Take away the language barrier on your Web site and you are on your way to huge Internet success!

Alfred Hitchcock, Mr. Memory, and Asperger’s Syndrome

Alfred Hitchcock’s film, the 39 Steps, bears only the slightest resemblance to the novel whose title it borrows. One of the many differences is the character Mr. Memory, who is central to the film but does not appear in the book.

It may surprise you that Mr. Memory was based on a real person, the English music hall sensation, W. J. M. Bottle, who preformed under the stage name Datas. Bottle could recall thousands of obscure facts and answer trivia questions shouted from the audience, The ages and birthdays of celebrities, the results of sporting matches, obscure facts of geography; his range of knowledge was astounding (see Ricky Jay’s fantastic book Learned Pigs & Fireproof Women for more details).

Bottle wrote a memoir where he disclaimed any early knowledge of special memory powers. In the same book he tells of his accidental discovery of his powerful memory when he overheard two men trying to remember the date of the verdict in the Tichborne trial, a notorious Victorian scandal.

Heir to a great fortune Roger Tichborne had been lost at sea and pronounced dead. A Australian butcher named Arthur Orton, who bore only a slight resemblance to the missing man, came forward and claimed to be Tichborn. Orton’s claim was accepted by Tichborn’s mother, but after her death Orton tried to claim the inheritance. His bid failed and he was eventually convicted of perjury.

Bottle provided them the date of Orton’s conviction; February 28, 1874. When one of the men expressed surprise that Bottle would know a date of an event that occurred before his birth, Bottle proceeded to provide all the important details of the Tichborne case.

In his memoir, Bottle tells us “finding how surprised they were at my stock of knowledge, I felt encouraged, and continued with a number of dates of events in English history, and the names of Derby and Oaks’ winners, in rapid succession.” Bottle’s performance was overheard by a theatrical promoter who invited him to appear on the Standard Music Hall that very night still in his dirty work clothes. He was an instant success and soon quit his job as a manual laborer at a gas works for a life in show business.

Reading Bottle’s autobiography one finds evidence that Bottle may have had Asperger’s syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder characterized by social awkwardness and obsessive interest in facts and details. Many children with Asperger’s syndrome are hyperlexic, teaching themselves to read at an early age. Bottle had scant schooling and taught himself to read. As a child he showed obsessive interest in obscure facts; “from memorizing shop-keepers’ names I got to cabbies’ and policeman’s number. Like most children with Asperger’s syndrome he had little interest in his peers. “I was not the same as most other children” in that I took no part in their games, having no desire to.”

Bottle had great powers of visualization and he may have also had synesthesia, which is often associated with superior memory.

The Versatility of Paintable Wallpaper

Do you prefer paint over paper but would like to add more interest to a room? Paintable wallpapers are the perfect combination of paint, texture and pattern. Available in a rich selection of retro, traditional, geometric, contemporary and innovative styles and patterns for commercial and home interiors. Paintable wallcoverings, dados, borders and friezes are a cost effective way to transform any room.

For Vintage Reproduction Ceilings

Looking to create a vintage reproduction ceiling or backsplash? Derby Embossed Anaglypta, and Berkely Original or Spencer Anaglypta are perfect for creating embossed Victorian or tin look ceilings. Simply hang overhead or on the wall and apply a metallic paint for a tin look.

Traditional Interiors

For a traditional look on interior walls favorite patterns are Hamnet Original or Townsend Original Embossed. Hammet is a classic floral and Townsend features a neoclassical stripe both are favorites for creating traditional, classic interiors.

Modern & Contemporary Spaces

Funky Squares Anaglypta, Dandelion Bush and Gisborn Geometric block offer fun, modern patterns.

When a Tough & Durable Paper is Needed

High traffic area? That’s where Armadillo comes in..the Swan Open Basket weave pattern for a modern look or the Peacock Miniature Floral for country flair..it is the pattern that won’t flatten!

What’s the Difference?

“Original Anaglypta” offers traditional and contemporary patterns and textures that have become the modern classics of interior decor.

“Armadillo” and “Armadillo Contract” is the pattern that won’t flatten. Extremely tough and durable wall covering ideal for very high traffic areas. Armadillo Contract has the benefits of a wider roll for commercial use. Non-woven paste the wall paper.

“Anaglypta Dado Panels” Timeless and make use of period architectural elements, adds elegance to any interior. In Neoclassical, Rococo, Oriental land Gothic designs.

“Luxury Textured Vinyl” offers deeply textured designs and patterns, exquisite detail on an easy to hang flat-backed paper.

“Lincrusta” is the ultimate in wallcoverings. First invented in 1877 and used in prestigious buildings around the world. Lincrusta is unique in the home and commercial environment. Made from natural materials, using some of the same designs and sometimes the same original rollers from 1877.

All are ideal for walls & ceilings, cover minor cracks, lumps and bumps and are flat backed and peelable.

Leave paintable wallcoverings their natural white, paint any color, sponge, apply a metallic for a tin effect~ the variety of techniques applicable are endless. Repaintable up to 10 times for those with changing decor!

Whichever finished application you choose remember to wait at least 24 hours for the glue to dry.

Comparing Models of Woodburner Stoves

LOOK THROUGH ANY WINDOW…

There is such a bewildering array of models in the wood burning stove market that it is hard to know where to start.

Fortunately we have assembled a very representative range of stoves of all shapes and sizes, covering all the bases from contemporary to classic styling and from wood burners to multi-fuel stoves, using only top-quality manufacturers.

The Westfire range from Denmark is representative of the modern design style that uses steel for the main stove construction and finishes it off with a cast iron door. The result is an attractive ‘face’ which also has the function of retaining heat for longer. The total weight is less than for all-cast models. Westfire also use lightweight vermiculite fire bricks for added heat insulation.

The steel legs and overall design of this range also allows some of them to keep the floor heat below 100 degrees, thus permitting the use of a thin 12mm hearth/floor plate. This aids installation and opens up the possibility of an attractive glass plate, or other designs in granite or resin. Steel can be used, but it has to have a base layer of non-combustible material under it. You can shop for pre-made shapes of plate – square, rectangular, curved-corner, teardrop or semi-circles are available according to taste and the available space.

Some Westfire models also carry DEFRA approval for use in smoke control areas. And the Uniq 23 model has an unusual side glass feature for added fire visibility.

Pevex offers traditional cast iron styles, 9 of which are on offer here, from the little Bohemia 30 that is ideal for narrowboats, holiday homes and summerhouses, to the very popular 50 and 60, both with a choice of single, double or cast door. The Suffolk range includes the big-selling Orford, with a riddling grate which allows the use of other fuels: unusually it has a small 4″ flue outlet which will need an adapter to step up to a larger flue. It is approved for 12mm thick hearths. Like all of the stoves stocked by the website, it features the modern airwash technology that aids efficient burning and keeps the glass clean.

Wolverton’s stoves are distinguished by the fact that they are all designed for multi-fuel use. The range starts with the Kinsale, which at only £82 is comfortably the cheapest stove here. A traditional ‘pot belly’ cast iron stove, it is great for residential boats, huts, garages and small nooks. Despite its old-fashioned charm, it has a thoroughly modern 91% efficiency.

The larger Wolverton stoves are traditionally styled and claim an amazing 93-95% efficiency. This is all the more creditworthy given that some other manufacturers compromise their efficiency by trying to offer multi-fuel capability. The clever design feature of having a cast iron-lined firing chamber is perhaps the secret of Wolverton’s success.

Firebelly is proud to offer a British hand-made range of stoves with an unfussy appeal that fits in with most interiors. They use Teknilite fire bricks for added heat retention. Another good design feature is their stay-cool door handle. The FB1 is offered in 2 colours and has an attractive arched-top door.

Particularly noteworthy is their FB2 double-sided 12kW model with glass windows that create a very special ambience. It is the obvious choice if you want or have to have a chimney set in the middle of a room.

Saey’s Belgian stoves are traditional cast iron in construction. Their unusual point of difference is that most models include an extra side door. Not much use if you intend to set it back into a recess but if you have space all round, you can load up long logs more easily. The 94 model has a full riddling grate, while the big 96 has a very powerful 13 kW output. Its equally heavy-duty weight of 164kg needs to be carefully considered before you commit to buying.

The largest range being offered is that of the French manufacturer Invicta. When you see their fascinating range of styles, including some unique contemporary stoves, it is not surprising. The excellent quality of the manufacturing is also evident. They have brought something fresh and original to the UK market since their launch here in 2008. They are cast iron and carry the ‘Flamme Verte’ seal of approvak for having CO emissions of below 0.3% and at least 70% efficiency (although the latter figure is also met by all other stoves mentioned here).

Among the many noteworthy Contemporary designs (out of no less than 14 on offer) is Poele, with a quirky-shaped glass in its door. Note that its metric outlet, like all those from Invicta, requires an adapter to fit an imperial-measure flue, so budget for an extra £50 or so.

The Oxo model is egg-shaped, and as a result has a rear-only exit. The Oracle and Chamane stoves are upright, which may suit narrow openings, or maybe you like the look, but the drawback is that you have to cut all your logs down to 330mm or less. The same restriction applies to the amazing wigwam-styled Tipi.

Pharos and Antaya both have a single pedestal foot, one being vertical the other horizontal in layout.

Weighing in at a super-heavyweight 225kg is the Odysee. You have to check the strength of your footing with any of these cast iron models, but the Invicta models do not skimp on specification and they are particularly chunky. The biggest models are expensive at over £2000 but these are mostly well below the normal price when bought from the website.

Traditional models from Invicta (11 models offered) start with the tubular Sologne, which like many traditional styles is a rear-only exit type. (Do bear this in mind if you are restricted by the location of the stove relative to the chimney). Several of their traditional types are enlivened by colour options, with 7 hues on offer in the case of the Modena model. This is a good manufacturer to choose if you want to break away from the conventional.

Spelunking the Pinto Basin Gold and Turquoise Mines of Joshua Tree National Park Near Palm Springs

I was about 12 the first time I ventured to the Pinto Basin although I didn’t know that was w it was called at the time. It was the mid 1970’s and I was just a kid brought along with my brother and sister while Mom and Dad explored the desert around Palm Springs on a Sunny afternoon in a Toyota Landcruiser with their friends. I knew we were a long way from home. It felt like we’d traveled out beyond the moon. The earth had quit being golf courses and city streets a long time ago. Now it was just sand and rocks and hills and the occasional scrub grass.

Dad and his friend, Lee, came across a group of low hills at one end of a long wasted valley in what’s called Joshua Tree national park. I knew that much. I also knew, looking at the hill, that the worn road was rougher than anything my Dad had attempted yet in his four-wheeler. But the urge to see what was just beyond the ridge was too great. Rather than risk the car this far away from help we decided to walk to the crest and peer over its edge. There we saw the shifted dirt which marked a mine as having been dug. So we trekked down the other side and found not just one mine, but three.

The first turned out to be the deepest and the most interesting. I went back several hundred yards into the hill from which it’d been carved. At one point you had to get on your hands and knees to crawl through the remaining hole from a long past cave-in. Then you had to walk across an old plank board lain over a bottomless hole some eight feet or more across. There was an old rickety ladder stretching down forever in it. We dropped rocks down its gaping maw to try and gauge its depth. We could hear the rocks hit the sides of the hole a couple of times as they fell. But of the bottom we heard nothing. The board was old, knotted and split. The hole could’ve been a mile for all it scared me. But I walked across.

Further into the mine I came across something so incredible many people I tell hesitate to believe. I’m no geologist. I couldn’t spot a vein of gold if it had neon sign on it – and that’s what the makers of this mine had been looking for nearly a hundred years ago when they dug it, I’m sure of it – but of turquoise, there’s no mistaking it. It’s a deep greenish blue and bright as all get out, even in its raw form. And right there in the wall of that mine was a streak of it as wide as a man and running floor to ceiling in the cave, disappearing into the roof and running beneath its floor.

Before we left that day I had gone into the mine a second time, claw hammer ready and armed with a five gallon paint bucket. I chipped and clawed and ripped that stuff away from the mountains grasp until my bucket was full and brought it all home. it made a neat display in my bedroom framed against a backdrop of my Star Wars album. The remainder of the turquoise I gave away as Christmas gifts, rocks as big as my fists and blue-green as the Pacific at Hawaii.

The other mines were fun, though not as magnificent. One went straight down like the hole in the first mine. But there was no horizontal path to traverse. The other had an old rail track still laid down and a busted rusty ore car at the mouth of the cave, went in only about fifty feet and then there was another ladder going down about thirty feet to what looked like a landing. Since I was the smallest kid, my dad elected me to climb down the ladder, figuring if it could hold me no one bigger would give it a try. I went to the bottom but the landing led to no where, it just dead ended.

We drove home that day in the dark with great stories to remember for the rest of our lives.

Fast forward twenty plus years into the mid 1990’s. I wanted to find it again but for the life of me I had no real sense of where it was other than on the far side of Joshua Tree National Park, and that was a whole lotta desert to have to prowl through. Still, with no better plan I got a map and divided it up into sections. The first time I went in my Jeep Wrangler with just one of my kids and my wife. We didn’t find it. The second time we rented a Jeep Cherokee, because I had more kids, out of the airport and searched another section of the desert. Still no finds. But the third trip, while in a big rented four-wheel drive Ford Excursion complete with in-laws and a bigger family yet, we struck gold – or turquoise you might say.

As we went down a dirt road that took me farther out into the desert than I could swear to having gone before, I saw set of hills off in the distance with a rutted worn out road climbing over one of them. My skin tingled. We parked at the bottom of the road and I grabbed flashlight, hammer and bucket, a host of kids and family behind me. At the top of the crest I saw the shifted dirt of the first mine, and low and behold at the bottom of the hill near it was a beat-up old Toyota pick-up truck, still operational, and a small cadre of men dressed in worn-out clothes. Apparently others had found the mine over the years too.

Still, this was it, again. I went into the mine and crawled through the now even older cave-in, went past the deep hole and the plank that stretched over it, careful to not let my kids do anything foolish near it. And when I got to the vein of turquoise I was somewhat surprised, though not entirely, to find that my vein had been mined out. There were still some fragments of what I remembered, which I chipped away at for old time sake. And I found a few other pieces of blue-green on the floor by kicking away the dirt. But the main swath of turquoise was gone to other families, boys, whoever who had also discovered it over the years. We had found the mine and I will never lose it again, it is embedded in my mind as a great destination in the middle nowhere to go to: my own personal bit of the lost Southwestern landscape complete with tales of buried treasure, only tales.

A few years after that, a friend of mine, Chris Shurilla, came to see me. He had some rappelling gear and we headed out to the mine. We crawled past the cave-in and looked into the deep hole and the ladder stretching down forever. There was an old wooden trellis built over the hole which heretofore I had missed, probably because I was always watching where I put my feet and how close to the hole I was on my earlier trespasses. We tied off on the beam, clamped ourselves onto the line and dropped two hundred yards of roped into the hole.

Chris had no fear. He swung out over the empty space and ZEEEE, he ripped down the rope at a frantic pace. I was cautious as a virgin bride on her wedding night, white knuckling down the ladder one rung at a time even though I was tied off and supposedly secure, safe. The one of the ancient rungs crumbled under my weight and I swung out into the dead space. Chris laughed at me and yelled to hurry up. Once I coughed my heart back out of my throat I sped up my descent. When I caught up to Chris he was hanging in mid-air of a larger chamber. The narrow throat had opened up into a cavity some thirty or forty feet across. The ladder still stretched through the middle of the blackness where it was crossed by an old cat walk supported by two by four somehow affixed to the seemingly distant cavern walls. It was like something out of a Stephen King novel. The cat walk ran into a dark side cavern on each end cut into the earth. Chris says faster than I can respond, “I’ll go check it out,” unhooks his belay and trots off across the ancient planks suspended in darkness light as a cat on a windowsill.

“Chris, you idiot,” I yell. Those boards are probably a hundred years old. He comes bouncing back beneath me with no concern. “Oh they’re fine,” he says. And while I wouldn’t swear to it, maybe it was just my fear kicking into overdrive, I thought I saw him bounce on them as a way of testing their mettle. Had they failed I don’t know what he or me, would do. “That end,” he said, jerking a thumb back towards the hole he’d just investigated, “only goes a few feet and dead ends.” The he went to the other side, disappearing in the darkness again, “This side too.” He came back and tied back onto the line and we went down some more.

We had about another 75 feet we cold drop before we got too close to the end of the rope for comfort. Chris still hung comfortably on the rope with no hands holding the endless ladder or the sides of the rocky hole. I was clinging to the ladder still, for what it was worth, cause for all its old age, it felt better than nothing. But seeing Chris hanging there and the empty blackness beneath him we still knew we could go no further. We pried a rock off the side of the hole and dropped it. Though we were 200 yards down from the original starting point, the rock made no final resting sound. We did it again with another rock. We still could not hear it hit bottom.

We climbed back up and found our wives and kids were pissed at us. We’d been down that hole several hours and they said they’d been yelling for us after the first thirty minutes. The only thing they knew was the rope was still taut and it occasionally swung.

The entire area of the pinto Basin is littered with mines. if you go out there, you have a good chance of dying. I’m not saying this to be an alarmist. but seriously: there’re holes in the ground big enough to drive a car into and some of them have no bottom. There’re caves that go into the mountains hundreds of yards, past holes and cave-ins and rotten supports and you’re hours away from help even by car if you have a problem. And what if the car breaks down.

Do not go out there unless you are experienced and prepared. At times, I can’t believe I did it as a kid and then did it again with mine and then did it again with a rope, repelling gear, and a fearless friend.