January 12, 2008
'Burning soft woods and creating too much creosote is an old wives' tale'
I learned the opposite when I was knee high to a grasshopper.
So wherefrom comes this heresy?
No less than Bob Fish himself, owner of Vermont Master Chimney Sweeps in Londonderry.
Ashley Eldridge, director of education for the Chimney Safety Institute of America, concurs.
Read all about this apparent apostasy in Billie Cohen's article from yesterday's New York Times on fireplaces and related matters; the piece follows.
- Waking Up an Idle Hearth
Nothing makes a winter getaway more inviting than that warm glow crackling in the fireplace. "Since cave man times, we like to build a fire and poke around in it," said Ashley Eldridge, director of education for the Chimney Safety Institute of America.
But to keep those second-home fires burning, especially given that owners might be absent for months at a time, safety and maintenance steps need to be taken.
The first is easy: make sure your chimney has a rain cap to keep out flue-damaging moisture as well as curious animals. "I would hope every chimney has a rain cap," Mr. Eldridge said. "You certainly wouldn't build a house without a roof."
The second step requires just a phone call: regular chimney inspections by a certified sweep. (The chimney safety group administers a national certification, and its Web site, www.csia.org, lists those who have it.) "The sweeping and inspection should be done in spring or summer," said Bob Fish, who owns Vermont Master Chimney Sweeps in Londonderry. "That way any repair work can be done when the weather is good."
The most common issues he finds during those inspections are damage from a chimney fire, which can require repair of cracked flue tiles, and creosote buildup, which requires a sweeping.
Even if your chimney is the cleanest in town, that first fire of the season can still present a challenge, especially if your house is in a cold climate. "If the chimney has been sitting idle for a couple of months, that structure will be very cold, so it might be very difficult to initiate a fire," Mr. Eldridge said. That's because the air inside the chimney is also cold, and cold air's tendency is to fall, pushing any smoke back into the living room instead of up the chimney. So if you open the damper and feel a chilly blast of air come at you, don't try to light a fire.
"It's possible that after the initial surge of cold air, it will resolve itself and some of the air will begin to go up the chimney on its own,â Mr. Eldridge said. But for extra insurance, he recommends opening a window on the windward side of the house "to increase positive pressure. It also guarantees that you'll have plenty of air for the fireplace."
The other main ingredient for a roaring fire is, of course, wood, which must be properly dried, or seasoned. "You want to acquire wood with sufficient time to dry it — six months ideally," Mr. Eldridge said. "And beyond just simple drying, it's important that wood be cut and split and stacked off the ground where there's a breeze to carry moisture away."
Both he and Mr. Fish are quick to dispel a myth about which woods burn best. "Burning soft woods and creating too much creosote is an old wives' tale." Mr. Fish said. Mr. Eldridge further explained: "Because of pine's inherently resinous nature, people think tar will remain in the chimney. The truth is, pine is great for starting a fire because that pitch is often flammable. It will light up very quickly, so if you've got a larger fire, it makes an ideal kindling. Whereas a piece of hickory, because of its density, it's not going to go off when you put a match to it."
Density is the key word here. "Pine, fir, spruce are all soft woods, and they're all fine to burn," Mr. Fish said, but he added, "You'd end up burning more logs to get the same amount of heat as you would from a hardwood. If you have the same size log of soft and hardwood, the soft weighs substantially less and has less B.T.U.'s.
No matter how dense your wood, though, don't count on the fireplace to warm your home. "I've been told if you plan to heat your house with a fireplace, you need a stack of wood equivalent to the size of your house," Mr. Eldridge said, laughing. "Which is just a way to say it's ridiculous.
"But," he added, "for the sentimental value, there's no substitute. And in my opinion, it's absolutely worth it."
Colonel Ichabod Conk World Famous Lime Shaving Soap
A few weeks ago (December 14, 2007) I reported on a solution to the problem of airline carry-on annoyances regarding toothpaste.
"Now, on to solving the shaving problem," was how that post concluded.
My crack research team awoke from their post-holiday stupor and brought back just the thing, an acceptable alternative to shaving cream that doesn't require any special packing to be carried aboard a plane.
It's a solid piece of soap that foams up a little when you get it nice and wet.
I shaved with it and though it's not as nice as Gillette foam, it'll do just fine and is a heckuva lot better than the nasty shaving lotion in a foil package they gave me at a hotel last month.
From the product website:
- Colonel Ichabod Conk World Famous Lime Shaving Soap
• Lime glycerine with aloe vera
• Reusable hinged container
• 2.25 oz.
Look at the photo above.
What do you see?
It's "A Java Green specialty dish, the Mush-paragus, [which] is a portobello mushroom steak with asparagus, gobo root and organic rice," according to the legend of the picture, which accompanied a review of the Java Green eco-cafe by Eve Zibart which appeared in yesterday's Washington Post, and follows.
- Vegetarian Fare With a Korean Twist
At first glance: This organic, socially conscious "eco cafe" could pass for any coffee shop/carryout in town, with its pretty standard dining bars along the front windows, tables squeezed down the middle and steel basins of sandwich ingredients. But the T-shirts and posters that adorn the walls of this tiny eatery promote fair-trade farming, animal-free products and solar and wind power. Java Green recently was named the nation's most progressive restaurant by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
On the menu: A glance at the menu (printed with soy ink) tells you the food is Korean: mandoo dumplings, kimchi, boolgogi, gimbob (the Korean term for sushi), bibimbob salad. But unless you read the fine print, you might not immediately realize that Java Green is a vegetarian/vegan establishment. Many non-vegan customers appreciate the menu's low-fat, low-cholesterol qualities. There is a range of meat substitutes: soy, tempeh or seitan (wheat gluten) versions of chicken, beef, turkey, sausage, bacon, shrimp and tuna as well as tofu. There are no egg dishes, but there are some dairy options, including cheese, milk and whipped cream. Java Green serves a Saturday brunch of vegan pancakes, French toast and waffles (11-3).
At your service: Order at one end of the counter, pay and pick up at the other. (If you're dining in, a server may try to deliver, but aisles are tight.) Korean hot chili sauce, a less spicy brown sauce and balsamic vinegar are in bottles on the counters. Java Green offers environmentally friendly containers for carryout; in-house meals are served in attractive pottery bowls.
On the table: Rice, noodles and many of the sandwiches tend to be on the bland side unless you make use of the sauces. The spicier dishes of Seoul chicken salad and ramen soup with kimchi broth are generally the most satisfying. Among the better wraps are the chili chicken with greens and cherry peppers and the tuna with sun-dried cranberries and almonds. Boolgogi, the surprisingly tasty seitan version of marinated beef, comes either in a panino or a bento box with fresh kimchi, yam cellophane noodles (jobche) and a large serving of the house's mixed-grain rice. Mandoo, four candy bar-size rectangles with a light scallion stuffing, are very good. The "drumsticks" are croquette-like minced chicken substitute molded on skewers. Fresh seaweed with radishes, cucumber and citrus juices puts to shame the supermarket agar-agar version. Fruits and vegetables, especially the avocado, are ripe.
What to avoid: The lunch rush. When all 24 seats are taken and another dozen or so customers are waiting for carryout orders, the staff can forget the pesto sauce or cut the panini grilling short. However, there are daily specials that will save you about a dollar off a rice bowl, soup or wrap.
Note that Java Green uses the office building's restrooms through a hallway door and a floor down, so wheelchair users may find the arrangement taxing.
Wet your whistle: In addition to a full assortment of coffee and espresso drinks (dairy or soy), Java Green offers fruit smoothies and frappes (made with coffee or green tea), a variety of teas, caffeine-free hot chocolate, lemonade and cider.
1020 19th St. NW (Metro: Farragut North, Farragut West or Dupont Circle) Phone:202-775-8899 Hours: Open Monday-Wednesday 8:30-8:30, Thursdays and Fridays 8:30-9, Saturdays 11-6 Prices: Wraps and sandwiches $7.50-$8, noodles and rice bowls $8.50-$12 Wheelchair access: Fair Java Green 1020 19th St. NW (Metro: Farragut North, Farragut West or Dupont Circle) Phone:202-775-8899 Hours: Open Monday-Wednesday 8:30-8:30, Thursdays and Fridays 8:30-9, Saturdays 11-6 Prices: Wraps and sandwiches $7.50-$8, noodles and rice bowls $8.50-$12 Wheelchair access: Fair
Pluviae – World's first integrated shower + shower curtain rod
of the year to date.
Created by Milanese designer
[via Ray Earhart]
Tesla Electric Supercar Dead? — R.I.P.
Just in from Steve Fox, a link to the Tesla Founders Blog, which consists of a single, ominous post entitled "Stealth Bloodbath" which went up this past Thursday, January 10, 2008.
Long story short: The company is circling the drain, tossing key employees overboard as fast as it can type up their exit papers.
The wondrous vehicle, pictured above and below, is more and more looking like vaporware.
You could look it up.
In the end, it's all about the battery.
No one has yet been able to solve this problem in the automotive arena.
Whoever does so will rule the early 21st-century world.
Kneez-E-Z — With a name like that it better be good
From the website:
Spare your knees with this cushion on wheels!
Any household chore that requires working in a low position — from painting the baseboards to washing the floor to altering a hem — is easier with this rolling cushion.
With a typical knee cushion, you have to constantly get up and down to reposition it as you move from spot to spot.
Not with this rolling coaster!
Designed for use inside the home, it makes "low-height" tasks easier... and is easier on your body.
Because it’s about 6½" off the ground,
it puts you in a more comfortable kneeling position than an ordinary cushion — you can even sit on it with your legs crossed in front!
The large 16½"-square, water-resistant cushion gives you plenty of room to kneel or sit comfortably.
A full 1" thick, it attaches to the wheeled base with a Velcro closure. (Easy to remove to take along to sporting events, picnics and lawn concerts.)
The coaster’s 3", twin-wheeled casters roll smoothly over flat surfaces and won’t mark floors.
It’s handy when organizing cabinets, cleaning baseboards, grooming pets, painting, wallpapering, even weeding on the patio.
It might even find its way to the garage for auto detailing!
Base is high-impact plastic and holds up to 300 pounds.
Phobialist.com — What are you afraid of?
From A to Z, they've got yours, for sure.
From Fredd's website:
- The Phobia List
I have been working on this list for several years.
It started as a lark one day and grew from there.
Please don't ask me about curing phobias because I know little about them.
My interest is in the names only.
All the phobia names on this list have been found in some reference book.
If you're looking for a phobia name that's not on the list... sorry, but I don't have it.
[via my Missouri correspondent]
From the website:
- Flashlight Candle
The mayday flashlight-shaped candle.
For when you need a little of both.
Comes individually boxed.
[via Susan Steele]