Friday, October 21, 2016

Toilet Paper Up or Toilet Paper Down?

Response to “When the Ship Hits the Fan” was so good I decided to continue with this theme and delve into toilet paper. Back in the day, before the invention of TP, people looked forward to receiving the gigantic Sears catalog, which was printed on very soft paper. However, time marched on and thankfully toilet paper itself was invented by Joseph Gayetty around 1857 and the roll of toilet paper was patented by Seth Wheeler in 1891. And, ever since, people have been debating the pros and cons of how to install it in the dispenser. Should it hang down in the back or hang down in the front.
     Although, it may not matter which way you install your TP, it does matter how you install your cabinetry, whether it be in the kitchen, bathroom or family room. I couldn’t possibly include all the instructions on how to do this properly in my column so here are a few web sites that will guide you through the proper procedure. If you’re reading this article on your computer or i-thing, just click on one of the links below. If you’re reading it in the newspaper, tap on them to your heart’s content. (Good luck).


     After viewing these instructional videos it should now be apparent that there is a right and wrong way to do everything, and that extends to the toilet paper conundrum as well. But who is to decide which way is correct? Is there really a better way?
     Probably your best bet is to hire a contractor to install both your cabinets and your toilet paper, so you know that it’s been done right. Unless you’re affluent enough to have them install one of those $4,000 toilet bowls that eliminate the need for toilet paper. (Factoid: if you have the store that you buy the cabinets from install them, you don’t have to pay sales tax! Which leaves more money for TP.)
     Don’t look to me for an answer to the TP issue. I like it hanging in the back; Liz likes it hanging in the front. I guess it’s like a chicken and egg thing. We’ll never now which is better or which came first. What I do know is it sort of reminds me of the upcoming elections and the candidates we have to choose between. Will it really make a difference which way we go, after all, were just dealing with toilet paper.

NOTE: Hold the presses. Disregard this whole article. When Doug proofread the copy for accuracy he found the original patent for toilet paper at (tap away here) which clearly illustrates the proper procedure.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

They're Killing Us . . . Breath by Breath

Forget about sleeper cells and the dangerous “lone wolves”. What’s really going to do us in is the dreaded imports that are slowly killing us, just as sure as a direct attack on our homeland. They’re putting arsenic in our orange juice, lead in our kid’s toys, and there’s even sulfur in our sheetrock. God only knows what’s in the cabinets. U.S. health regulators have recently reported that certain types of laminate flooring imported by Lumber Liquidators was found to have a greater risk of causing cancer, or other health problems, than previously believed. They said that “people who purchased the China-made flooring are about three times more likely to get cancer than it had calculated earlier this month.”  And yet we keep importing products and produce from countries that do not regulate their manufacturing.

So really, what’s the big deal? Where’s the harm in a little arsenic, or lead, or hydrogen sulfide gas, when you can save a couple of bucks? Haven’t you heard? We’re still recovering from the recession. Our health and well being is a small price to pay when you’re talking about saving money.

But if you are concerned about avoiding the perils of hazardous material exposure when eating, buying toys, homes or remodeling you must use your common sense (see K&B Insider #123, Common Sense, Priceless!). The best way to begin is by reading labels, assuming you still can read after exposure to all those noxious fumes. If not, have your BFF (Best Friend Forever) read the label for you. If the product does not have a label, ask the proprietor for a Material Data Safety Sheet, which lists the properties (both harmful and inert) of the product.

In the remodeling industry, most cabinet and countertop manufacturers have been making a concerted effort to clean up their act. Now you can purchase American made cabinets that have little or no harmful ingredients, such as volatile organic compounds, at very competitive prices; although they will never be as inexpensive as cabinets made in countries where the average hourly wage is less than a (US) dollar.
Some of these same countries sell granite counters with high levels of radon, a cancer causing, radioactive gas. Just shut off the lights and see them glow! But hey, they’re cheap! Consider instead quartz composite countertops which are certified by various environmental organizations as to their lack of harmful emissions or buy granite that has acceptable radon emissions.

Now, I’m not saying that everything made in America is great, in fact some of our stuff could stand a little room for improvement, but at least there are some government standards to adhere to. And I’m not saying that exposure to some chemicals is all that bad. When I was an Industrial Arts teacher, for many years I taught both woodworking and printing. In print shop we handled type that was made primarily of lead and washed our hands with kerosene. Having dinner with a product liability attorney the other day, I mentioned this and said it didn’t seem to have any ill affects. Her reply was, “think of what you could have been”!

So sit back, take a deep, formaldehyde filled breath, and watch the kids sip arsenic laced apple juice while putting their lead painted toys in their mouths. It really doesn’t matter much because the hydrogen sulfide gas coming from the sheet rock will eventually kill you anyway. Unless, of course, you decide to spend a couple of extra bucks and buy safe products from a country you can trust.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Duck and Cover - Under Your Countertop!

Now that nuclear proliferation has once again crept into our lives it brings to mind the 1950’s, when we were taught in elementary school, in case of a nuclear attack, to duck under our desks and cover our heads. This we were assured, by Bert the turtle, would certainly protect us from Armageddon and in case of a nuclear blast we would live to tell about it. Hard to believe, but that was the syllabus back then. Just click here, to watch the riveting 1951 production of Duck and Cover.
Obviously, we now know that the only real protection against radiation (and Kryptonite too, I think) is lead. So I’ve decided to use a crowdfunding source like Kickstarter to create a lead countertop business. When the bombs start to fall, just empty your cupboards and climb in. You’ll be safe and sound when all your neighbors are fried to a crisp.
It’s not so outrageous. Back in the 1880’s and 90’s, zinc was all the rage for counters. I visited the mansions in Newport last fall (and by examining the kitchens was able to write off the whole trip). Each palatial home had a zinc counter in the kitchen. But in time zinc lost out to stainless steel; stainless to granite; and now quartz composite is the latest fad. Concrete rears its ugly head every once in a while, but who wants to prepare food on a sidewalk?
Each material has its own benefits but quartz is the zinc of the 21st century. Sold under the trade names of Cambria, Viatera, Caesarstone, etc., quartz is the second most abundant mineral on earth, and is a basic component of granite. In a typical quartz countertop, the raw quartz is crushed and combined with pigments, to give it color, and resins (sticky stuff), to hold it together. The resulting process creates one of the most durable countertop surfaces on the market today. It is harder than granite, more scratch resistant and non-porous. For the geologists who follow the K&B Insider, quartz ranks #7 on the Mohs hardness scale (whatever that is) and only diamonds, sapphires and topaz are harder. But it still doesn’t block radiation as well as lead.
The fact that quartz counters are non-porous makes them considerably more stain resistant than granite and safer in terms of bacteria growth. They require very little care, and perhaps that is why they are so popular today.
But don’t rule granite out yet. Considered by many as the most beautiful surface available, granite has movement! Movement is the suggestion of motion in the elements making up the finished surface. The swirls and patterns created by nature cannot be completely duplicated in engineered stone, however some of the new quartz composites are approximating this attribute. If you exercise a little care with granite, you can avoid staining and scratches. Granite should be sealed when it is installed and at least once a year afterwards.
The cost of the average granite slab is pretty stable; however, granite prices are dependent on the rarity of the color and the hardness of the stone and as quartz becomes more popular, its price is going up.
If you’re not ready to duck and cover under the protection of your new lead countertop, and your not concerned about outliving your neighbors, quartz and granite are probably the way go to. Take your time when making your choice and examine all the options that are available, selecting the one that best suits your lifestyle and the current political climate. 
This has been a public service message.

Monday, February 8, 2016

What’s Wrong With Me?

It appears that I have reached the point in life where I have difficulty accepting the premise that when something sounds too good to be true it almost certainly is too good to be true. Or, perhaps its not age related but ingrained in our DNA; we want more for less, something for nothing, always searching for the deal of the century.
Every day I find myself bombarded with countless ads and emails offering everything from handy gadgets (that I am assured I cannot live without) to fabulous furniture to complete new kitchens or bathrooms, all at ridiculously low prices. As hard as I try to avoid even glancing at these limitless offerings my fingers pay no attention to my brain. Taking on a life of their own, they click to open every offer that has managed to avoid my spam or junk mail rules and regulations. And each time I succumb to the lure of the must have LED flashlight with built in can opener, that’s “cheap at half the price”, I am disappointed yet again. What’s wrong with me?
I saw a young woman on TV who totaled her car, which she had named BRAD (while insured by a company that we should switch to immediately). I think she took her settlement and created a web-site named after her car that offers terrific DEALS, but only if you act very quickly. Most of this stuff is too good to be true, or too cheap to be good. But that didn’t stop me. I purchased a set of outdoor furniture (some assembly required); six chairs and two foot rests, guaranteed not to rust for a year. I’m too embarrassed to reveal how low the price was. It took two full days to assemble, after a two week wait for the missing parts to be shipped from California. The rust started 31 days after initial delivery. Company policy: 30 day return. Informed I was out of luck for return, but since the warranty was good for a year, I could ship the assembled chairs back to California (small print: at my own expense) to get a replacement. After calculating that shipping the assembled chairs would cost five times the initial cost of the product, I have decided to live with the rust.
But did this experience teach me anything? Apparently not much, although my resistance to these hard to believe offers is gradually building. And, speaking of building, the same holds true with remodeling. Ads for incredibly low priced cabinets and countertops are springing up all over. Often the cabinetry and counters are imported from overseas, in countries where they have no scruples or standards. We have no way of knowing what harmful chemicals are in these products and what dangerous gases will permeate our home environment once they are installed. But by then, it’s too late, the damage is done, and we’re pushing up daisies (that never grew because we ordered them from a cheap mail order catalog).
There is a range of legitimate prices for any product or project, but beware of the preposterous deals that don’t sound plausible. Every time I’ve succumbed to the deal of the century, be it for a lawn chair or a new computer program that will fix everything, I’ve regretted it. As attractive as low bids are, especially when coupled with big promises, they should raise a red flag.
Do your research! Check reviews and referrals and use your common sense! In the case of remodeling, make sure you select a qualified firm for your project, whose business and financial capabilities, past performance and reputation guarantee that you will get a job done well, with products that will perform as promised. I’m not saying that you can’t find bargains, but remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is, and you just may end up living with the rust.