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February 12, 2006

Helpful Hints From joe–eeze: 'Your quilt stinks!'

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Oh, yeah?

Who died and made me king of the smell police?

OK, smartypants, let me ask you a personal question: have you bent down lately and buried your nose in your quilt, then inhaled deeply?

Didn't think so.

Go ahead, do it: I promise you won't be smiling afterward.

So now that we've got that out of the way, let's chat.

Louisa Jaggar is the co–author of "Saving Stuff: How to Care for and Preserve Your Collectibles, Heirlooms, and Other Prized Possessions," written with Smithsonian senior conservator Don Williams.

She wrote a most informative story which appeared in the February 2 Washington Post Home section about how to care for quilts.

Among many useful tips, such as "Never take a quilt to the dry cleaner," she offered a nice, easy, do–it–yourself method for detoxing your quilt of its foulness.

Here's what you do:

1) Tie your quilt inside a muslin or cotton pillowcase.

2) Put the tied–up quilt/pillowcase bundle, along with some cheap charcoal (the kind not covered in paraffin), into an airtight plastic tub (Rubbermaid is best).

3) Go away and do something else for the next two weeks.

4) Open the tub and take a whiff: if it still stinks then replace the charcoal and repeat steps 2 and 3 above. Depending on how long you've let things go, it can take a month or two — that's three or four treatment cycles — to eliminate the stench.

Here's the article in its entirety.

    Cover Stories Worth Preserving

    Quilts often are called functional art.

    You can wrap up in them on a cold winter night, display them on your walls and, if you're lucky, learn the secrets they carry.

    Handling quilts, whether old or new, can lead to their untimely death, whereas storing them properly can add hundreds of years of life.

    But what good is an object if you never see it or use it?


    On Display

    Location, location, location!

    All light, artificial or real, causes light damage.

    Even when not in bright light, quilts will fade.

    To minimize damage, pick a place to display them that is not in direct sunlight.

    Joan Knight, director of the Virginia Quilt Museum in Harrisonburg, Va., recommends displaying a quilt on a guest room bed.

    You can close the curtains, and the bed offers needed support for the quilt.

    Quilt racks are also a good choice as long as you remember to take the quilt down at least every six months and refold it in a different way so that creases don't settle and the fabric doesn't fade unevenly.

    Never use tacks, staples or nails to hang a quilt.

    These leave holes and distribute the weight unevenly, causing the quilt to become misshapen over time.

    To hang a quilt on the wall, sew a sleeve onto the back of the quilt to hold a support rod.

    You can find directions at http://www.wvculture.org/museum/quiltconserve.html.

    Museums often use a hook-and-loop system that evenly distributes the weight of the quilt so that the fabric is not being pulled in any one direction.

    This is a very exacting method and time-consuming, but it also is the best way to preserve a quilt that is being displayed.

    Instructions for this method, along with diagrams, can be found in the book "Saving Stuff: How to Care for and Preserve Your Collectibles, Heirlooms, and Other Prized Possessions."


    Cleaning

    "Never take a quilt to the dry cleaner," says Knight.

    "Usually a good dusting is enough to brighten a quilt."

    To dust, take fiberglass window screening, available for a dollar or two at your local hardware store, and cover the edges with masking tape to avoid snags (do not use duct tape because the residue is too sticky and the adhesive might get on the quilt).

    Place the screen over the quilt and vacuum through the screen, section by section, with a handheld vacuum attachment.

    If vacuuming doesn't do the trick, schedule an appointment with the Virginia Quilt Museum's experts (540-433-3818); they will tell you how best to wash your quilt, depending on its fabric and age.

    If it is a vintage quilt and needs extra care, they may direct you to a textile conservator in your area.

    Also, if you think you have an extremely valuable quilt or just want to know more about it, call the museum for an appointment.

    Their Web site is http://www.vaquiltmuseum.org/.


    Oh, the Smell

    You can remove the smells from quilts without damaging the textile.

    Tie your quilt inside a cotton or muslin pillowcase.

    Put the pillowcase together with some cheap charcoal (the kind not covered in paraffin) into an airtight plastic tub or bag (never let charcoal touch the quilt).

    I recommend Rubbermaid tubs; they use good plastics that will not harm your quilt.

    Leave the quilt for two weeks and check.

    Replace the charcoal as needed.

    Depending on the smell, it can take a month or two for the process to be fully effective.

    Caution: The quilt must be completely dry when you put it into the airtight tub.


    Repairs

    "Don't do anything to your quilt that cannot be undone," says Knight.

    If a piece of the quilt is torn, do not remove and replace.

    Instead, cover with a new piece of material by basting fabric over the torn area.

    This way you haven't destroyed the original quilt and have maintained its integrity. Repairing a quilt often means destroying its value.


    Storage

    • Method One: Store the quilt in an acid-free box, making sure to stuff out the folds (so there are no creases) with acid-free tissue. If you do not have an acid-free box, you can place your stuffed-out quilt inside a large cotton or muslin pillowcase.

    • Method Two: Roll the quilt around an acid-free cardboard tube. Be sure to choose a tube that is slightly longer than the quilt. Then cover the quilt with a clean cotton or muslin sheet. This method keeps the quilt from creasing and keeps it out of the light. Store in a dry area.

    One old wives' tale suggests cedar chests as an excellent place to store quilts.

    Not so.

    Cedar does not prevent bugs, rodents or moths from attacking quilts.

    And worse, cedar wood can actually stain your quilt.

    Line cedar chests with clean cotton or muslin sheeting before placing quilts inside.


    Saving the Story

    Quilters often weave the fabrics of their lives into their quilts.

    Save their stories by writing on a piece of muslin (using permanent ink that will not stain when wet) and baste it to the back, saying who made it and when, and any other important information (never write on muslin that is already attached).

    Remember to ask for the story before the generation that knows the history of the quilt is gone.

    The book "The Quilts of Gee's Bend" highlights the creations of a group of African American women from Gee's Bend, Ala., most of them descendants of slaves.

    What makes the book so powerful are the narratives that not only explain the quilts but introduce the quiltmakers.

    My favorite story is of a quilter, Missouri Pettway, whose husband had died.

    She told her daughter Arlonzia that she was going to make a quilt out of all his old work clothes so that she could "cover up under it for love."

    Without the story, the quilt is a work of art without a soul.

    ********************

    Writer and collector Louisa Jaggar is the co-author of "Saving Stuff: How to Care for and Preserve Your Collectibles, Heirlooms, and Other Prized Possessions," written with Smithsonian senior conservator Don Williams (Fireside Press, 2005). If you have questions about caring for your stuff, e-mail her at louisajaggar@aol.com.

February 12, 2006 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Water Color Watch

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You take the little palette and paint your digital watch and band to match your mood and/or your outfit.

Mercurial?

No problema: wipe it down and create a new one.

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Endless fun for the easily amused.

Which, I'm learning, seems to be the one defining characteristic of regulars here.

Hey — it works for me.

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$9.99.

February 12, 2006 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Spaceport Mongolia: 21st–Century Launching Pad?

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So I'm strolling along just now, reading today's Washington Post, when on page 27 of the main news section I come upon a story by Edward Cody about Mongolia's lately becoming the new best friend of the U.S. in an attempt to find a haven of sorts between its two giant neighbors, Russia to the north and China to the south.

I look at a map that accompanies the article and see why Mongolia might feel threatened.

It is completely surrounded by Russia and China (above and below).

Then I come to the following paragraph, about halfway through the story:

"Some analysts have suggested that Mongolia's flat, broad expanses, along with an abandoned Russian air base, could also be valuable as the Pentagon seeks to position itself for the eventuality of conflict with China. But U.S. bases here would be impractical, because Russia or China would have to grant overflight permission for any U.S. planes coming or going."

Would they?

What if the planes came straight down, from orbit?

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And how do you spell "space elevator?"

As far as I can tell, there's never yet been a claim to a country's space rights.

If you want to send a satellite over any other country, be the planet's guest.

It's open season up there.

So putting up a space station or satellite with the capability of becoming a depot for vehicles traveling straight up and down, not worrying about trivialities like close–in air space, would seem a most 21st–century solution to the problem of being landlocked.

Don't think others aren't already at work on this.

That's why the sight of the U.S. presidential limousine making its way through the Mongolian desert (below)

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during President Bush's visit last November, marking the first–ever stop by a U.S. President in this once isolated land, may not be all that unfamiliar in years to come.

February 12, 2006 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Minimalist bunk beds

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They hail from Spain and were featured in the February 9 New York Times "Room To Improve" column in the paper's always entertaining House & Home section.

    Wrote Mitchell Owens:

    Called La Literal, it was designed by Liévore–Altherr–Molina, a cutting–edge firm in Barcelona, and is made by Sellex, a pioneer of Modernism.

    The frame, which must be mounted on a wall, is coated with a hard epoxy paint, and the mattress rests are laminated melamine chipboard.

    Two 36–inch–wide bunks pivot and lock into place; when not in use, they fold up.

    Mattresses are sold separately.

In Silver–Gray, Beige, or Blue.

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$2,250 (including ladder but not mattresses) at Resource Furniture: 969 Third Avenue (58th Street) in New York City; www.resourcefurniture.com; 212-753-2039.

February 12, 2006 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

When big cellphone news hides in plain sight — Episode 2: Your cellphone number may once have belonged to someone else

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That's right — and it may have been recycled many times, to any number of people all of whose records and subscriptions may provide an avenue of entry into yours.

Who needs the NSA with this back door?

Don Oldenburg, in today's Washington Post Business section "Consummate Consumer" feature, lifts up a rock and finds all sorts of stuff scurrying away from the unexpected daylight.

Here's his story.

    One Mother's Wake-Up Call

    Her Son Gets a Cell Phone — and the Old Owner's Subscriptions

    Cell phones for kids are a hot ticket lately.

    If you've got a 'tweener or teen in the house, you know this all too well.

    Either the kid's got a cell phone (and is checking out ads for newer models) or is begging for his first.

    While it doesn't have the cachet of the first driver's license or first kiss, that first cell phone has already reached rite-of-passage status.

    To the child, it's a symbol of responsibility and freedom -- not to mention a fascinating high-tech toy.

    To a concerned parent wanting a where-are-you-now link, it's nearly as good as a homing implant.

    So it rang true when Consumer Reports recently reported that more than a third of 11- to 14-year-olds have their own wireless phone.

    But wrong numbers do happen.

    As the number of cell-toting kids multiples, so do related issues -- possible health risks, an anticipated assault of commercials, increased outsider access to kids.

    Oh, and did you see this month's phone bill?

    Maybe none is of the nightmare proportions portrayed in Stephen King's new techno-thriller novel "Cell" (you don't want to know), but they are problems.

    Some unexpected, as my colleague Roxanne Roberts discovered after buying her son, Carter, his first wireless phone for his 13th birthday.

    "He's getting around on his own more, and we thought he should have his own phone," says Roberts, who as half of the Reliable Source duo in The Post's Style section knows her way around a telephone.

    Roberts signed up Carter for a Cingular "GoPhone" account -- a pay-in-advance plan that charges 5 cents per text message and 25 cents per call.

    She set his monthly limit at $10, figuring that should accommodate a teenage newbie's cell phone habit and teach him a little about sticking to a budget.

    But within an hour after the account was activated, Carter's new phone erupted with the rapid-fire beeps and buzzes of a couple dozen incoming text messages -- the latest scores from the NFL and scoring possibilities from the online dating service Match.com.

    By the end of the day, half of his monthly budget was shot from the unwanted texting.

    Roberts says she spent an hour on the phone with Cingular customer service trying to find out what was going on.

    The Cingular rep acknowledged that the text messages were coming from subscriptions to online services the previous owner of Carter's cell phone number hadn't canceled.

    "There was a previous owner of this number?" Roberts asked.

    "There've been six," replied the Cingular rep.

    The revelation stunned Roberts.

    Potential risks raced through her head. "What if it was porn instead of sports scores?" she asked the Cingular rep.

    "And how long will it take you to make it stop?"

    After the typical go-around consumers often face when calling customer service, Roberts persuaded a supervisor to delete the text charges.

    But the supervisor said Cingular couldn't terminate "third-party" online services connected to Carter's phone. Her advice: Keep the phone turned off and cancel the subscriptions yourself.

    "I can't believe Cingular and other phone companies are giving new owners used numbers that are still subscribed to services," Roberts says.

    "I find it pretty shocking that they can't block previous text accounts. And I'm especially annoyed that it was somehow my responsibility to fix the problem and beg for charges to be credited back to the account."

    The wireless phone industry doesn't exactly publicize that it routinely recycles used cell phone numbers.

    But with the rapid growth of cell phone use, phone companies say it's impossible to issue a brand new number to every new customer.

    "We just surpassed the 200 million subscriber mark. We're at 203 million," says Joe Farren, director of public affairs at CTIA -- the Wireless Association, a trade group representing wireless phone companies.

    "Ten years ago, there were 33.7 million."

    But problems such as Roberts's arise due to the quick turn-around in reassigning numbers.

    Phone companies typically wait only 30 to 90 days -- not long enough for online services to decide a nonpaying subscriber has moved on and to cancel the subscription.

    Cingular spokeswoman Alexa Kaufman says Cingular follows Federal Communications Commission guidelines for how long numbers can go unused between customers.

    "On average, phone numbers are dormant for about 90 days," she says.

    Inheriting a number used to mean nothing more than receiving occasional wrong-number calls -- the previous owner's ex-wife, maybe, or a collection agency.

    But with Internet-capable technology, cell phones are now used for more than just talking.

    Now, cell phone users can subscribe to services charged to their monthly phone bills that upload ring tones, TV broadcasts, movie listings, dating links, NASCAR standings, weather reports, digital music, stock tracking, etc.

    "If they have the technology to track exactly when, where and who I call -- and charge me 45 cents a minute when I go over my minutes -- why can't they give my son a clean phone number?" asks Roberts, whose persistence eventually got someone at Cingular to end the subscriptions bombarding her son's cell phone.

    "Usually we weed all this out," says Farren, whose association members include major wireless phone carriers such as Sprint Nextel, Verizon and T-Mobile, all of which recycle wireless phone numbers and run into similar customer issues.

    "This is not a big problem."

    Kaufman says Cingular has taken steps to "terminate subscription services once a number has been taken out of service."

    But, in some cases, customers subscribe to third-party sites that are harder for Cingular to clean from the account.

    "Cingular makes every effort to capture and terminate these subscriptions as we discover them," she says.

    Despite Roberts's difficulty getting the problem resolved, Kaufman says those customer service reps were out of line.

    "Cingular will gladly credit the charges and will assist the customer to terminate the subscription."

    And Roberts's porn fears?

    Cell phone smut is accessible through online sites, but it's not nearly as big here as it is in Europe because major wireless carriers haven't given the nod to charge phone porn to the phone bill.

    Adamantly stating that "Cingular does not sell pornography," Kaufman says the company recently introduced parental controls "that can help parents manage their children's use of the wireless Internet, including helping to block access to content that may be inappropriate for kids."

    But Gary Ruskin thinks all this is indicative of a larger problem -- and bigger risks -- involving children with cell phones.

    "There are plenty of companies that see cell phones in kids' hands as their next cash cow -- and not just the telecommunications companies. It's all of the 800- and 888-number companies and marketers," says Ruskin, executive director of Commercial Alert, a nonprofit consumer group in Portland, Ore., that is leading a campaign urging Congress to enact protections to make cell phones safer for kids.

    He says giving marketers, or any kind of predator, more access to children is senseless.

    "There is a whole host of concerns that are raised by giving your kids cell phones... and the risks probably get bigger as time passes," he says.

    "Who is going to get your kid's phone number next?

********************

Huh.

It was way back last summer, on July 8, 2005 to be precise, when a story by the Washington Post's Jonathan Krim appeared on the front page of the paper's Business section.

It explored in fascinating detail the fact that your cellphone records are for sale to anyone who wants them.

I was blown away by this news and said so in a post that same day.

Then, silence for several months until all of a sudden toward the end of last year cellphone billing records–for–sale suddenly became the news flavor–of–the–day, with senators and congressmen cluck–clucking about the wrongness of it all and threatening legislation to outlaw the practice.

Gee — last time I looked there were laws against killing and stealing but that doesn't seem to have made them go away.

No, all the posturing and bloviating is just another way of running for reelection.

File under, "Mostly say, hooray for our side."

February 12, 2006 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Effortless Portable Battery–Powered Vibrating Flour Sifter

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Shake it up baby....

From the website:

    Light as air baked goods at the touch of a button.

    Four–cup capacity flour sifter is ideal for feather–light cakes.

    Features a snap–on lid and detachable handle that fits easily inside for compact storage.

    Easy cleaning, too: simply brush out flour with a pastry brush or wipe with a soft, dry cloth.

    • Push button to sift

    • Lightweight, ergonomic design

    • Leaves one hand free to add baking powder, baking soda or more flour

    • Excellent for those with weak hands and difficulty turning a crank or squeezing a handle

    • Rest sifter on bowl edge for even easier operation

    • 4 cup capacity

    • Durable food–grade plastic with stainless–steel mesh sieve

$14.99 (battery — and flour — not included).

Sheesh.

What doesn't vibrate these days?

Razors, salt shakers, chairs, beds, where will it all end?

Perhaps if someone could invent an internal vibrator that you swallow, you wouldn't have to bother with all the externally–powered devices.

Just a thought.

Though not that bad a thought.

I wonder, if your body vibrated at a low but constant intensity, if you could market this as a weight–loss system/technique/method?

There are many out there making a mint for their inventors with far less of a physiological basis.

Remember, though, that as with the milliondollarhomepage, all advantage goes to the first mover.

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Now get on it.

February 12, 2006 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Constant Gardener

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I watched this last night on DVD.

Whenever possible I buy the full–screen edition of a movie so as to avoid the black bars above and below.

True — that's not the way the director wanted it to be seen but hey, that's life.

I'll keep doing it until the first company to take my invention into production offers me a cinemaTV™.

A quiet, meditative movie for the most part, sort of like "Syriana" in that it takes an explosive topic and mutes it under nuance and dialogue instead of explosions and all.

And we get to visit Africa, the gritty, vibrant continent that one day, someday, will rise from its wreckage like a phoenix.

I read le Carré's novel a couple years ago and as best I recall it was quite different in terms of details from the film though the Mcguffin (as it were) — big pharma's using the wretched of the earth as a testing ground for drugs not yet ready for prime time/First World evaluation because of rather nasty side effects such as death — remains the same.

Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz occupy the screen about 90% of the time which is just fine because both are wonderful actors.

A most enjoyable 129 minutes indeed for my $17.99.

The final credits go on forever and are wonderful.

The music is superb as they scroll by.

After a while I started counting people and I would bet there were over 1,000 names listed in the credits: just the drivers at all the different locations numbered in the hundreds.

What an amazing, impossible thing it is to produce a major motion picture.

I cannot imagine doing such a thing, on such a grand scale and involving the coordination of so many people, places and things.

Truly a minor miracle of present–day life.

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FunFacts: Weisz is pronounced "vice" and Ralph is pronounced "rayph."

February 12, 2006 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Wrought Iron Windowshades

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What's this?

Must be a trick... right?

Well, sort of.

Wrote Marianne Rohrlich in the February 2 New York Times:

    Looks Like Wood or Metal, But Rolls Up, Up and Away

    Delia Heilig, a Los Angeles industrial designer who recently moved to Manhattan, designs and produces roller shades patterned after traditional window motifs from around the world, including Chinese wood latticework, Indian stone jali, and, above, French wrought iron.

    "I've kept the palette neutral, so they are easy to add to any interior," Ms. Heilig said.

    Because of their architectural look, she refers to them as building elements rather than window treatments.

    The shades, mounted on standard roller-shade hardware, take about a week to produce and are all custom made to fit individual windows.

    Their mesh fabric filters sunlight while permitting people inside to see out. (At night they offer little privacy from outside viewers.)

    Delia Shades are $15 a square foot; one that is 36 inches wide and 72 inches long is $270.

    From deliashades.com or 646-344-1652.

[via Marianne Rohrlich and the New York Times "Currents" section]

February 12, 2006 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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