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July 24, 2013

Helpful Hints from joeeze: Low-tech mosquito deterrent


Old ways are the best ways.

You will recall the movie "Cleopatra" in which Elizabeth Taylor's Queen of the Nile is surrounded by fan-waving servants.

Excerpts from William J. Broad's July 15, 2013 New York Times appreciation of this ancient flying-insect-repellant technology follow.


Over the Fourth of July holiday, my wife and I joined some friends for a barbecue in their backyard. The guests were lively and the space was lovely — grassy and open but shady and surrounded by lots of shrubs and trees.

In other words, it was perfect for mosquitoes — and indeed, closer inspection showed that they were thriving in all that greenery.

But our friends had come up with a solution that saved us from having to deal with bug repellents or, worse, bites and itches.

On a low table, they set up a small electric fan, perhaps 12 inches high, that swept back and forth, sending a gentle breeze across the grassy area where people were sitting.

That was it. No citronella candles, no bug zappers, no DEET, nothing expensive or high-tech. Yet amazingly, it worked. As far as I could tell, no mosquitoes flew into the vicinity of the simulated wind; nobody was bitten.

As we left, I asked our hosts about the fan idea; they credited a mutual friend at the barbecue. He, in turn, paid tribute to a friend of his: Frank Swift, president of Swift Food Equipment Inc. in Philadelphia.

So I reached out to Mr. Swift, who replied by email. "The solution came from trying to think like a bug," he explained, "and realizing I don't like flying into a 15 m.p.h. wind."

Outsmarting bugs with a fan may be a poorly known strategy. But the method, it turns out, is endorsed by the American Mosquito Control Association, a nonprofit group based in Mount Laurel, N.J., that publishes a journal bearing its name.

"Mosquitoes are relatively weak fliers," it says on its Web site, "so placing a large fan on your deck can provide a low-tech solution." The group says mosquitoes fly slowly — from roughly 1 to 1.5 miles per hour, depending on the species.

Scientists have identified another factor. The breeze from a fan disperses the human emanations that allow female mosquitoes to zero in on us. (Females need the stolen blood for egg making.)

Humans exhale lots of carbon dioxide — the most widely recognized of the many likely mosquito attractants, including body heat and odors. When a female mosquito senses the invisible gas, she typically flies a zigzag path within the plume to track down its source.

In a wetland swarming with mosquitoes, entomologists from Michigan State University did an experiment that demonstrated not only the attractive power of a carbon dioxide trap but the effectiveness of plume disruption.

"Fan-generated wind strongly reduced the mosquito catches," the scientists wrote [in 2003] in The Journal of Medical Entomology. "We recommend that fan-generated wind should be pursued as a practical means of protecting humans or pets from mosquitoes in the backyard setting."

The recommendation has penetrated the blogosphere — a bit. "Sit near an electric fan while you are outside," eHow.com advises. "An oscillating fan works best, but a regular box fan will do. Mosquitoes aren't strong enough to fly through the wind."

In my experience, that kind of homey advice is lost amid all the ads and pitches for mosquito repellents and traps, which can cost hundreds of dollars.

As for other popular remedies, the mosquito control association says repellent-infused mosquito coils provide only "some protection" at best, and it dismisses the candles with a shrug, saying their mild repellent action offers no significant advantage over other candles that give off lots of smoke.

By contrast, the simple fan seems like a sure thing. In the world of journalism, we call this news you can use.


Times graphic up top by Tim Bower.

July 24, 2013 at 08:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Cult Pens — "The widest range of pens, pencils & refills on the planet"

Screen Shot 2013-07-23 at 6.17.19 PM

I won't argue with this company's self-description, not when Flautist introduces me to it by writing "Information for pen freaks like me and possibly you, this U.K. website has everything known to man. Very interesting to see what all is available in pen land."

Exploring the site, I found a ton of fascinating stuff.

Above and below,

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just two of many attractions.

July 24, 2013 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Color of Superheros


Wrote Tim Leong in a superb article in the August issue of Wired, "Historically, hero costumes have been designed in red, yellow, and blue. Spandex in primary colors is a visual cue to a character's pure and heroic nature."


"The costume color conventions developed early on for supervillains too. Orange, green, and purple signal a character's evil and polluted intentions."

July 24, 2013 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Leash — Stop leaving your phone behind



From the website:



The phone has become a natural extension of our everyday lives.


With The Leash, your phone is kept safe and conveniently at hand all day long.


Finally, your phone becomes a true accessory.


The Leash attaches to "buttons" that you fasten to your personal items, using a special tape developed by 3M.


Two "buttons" are included, allowing you to use The Leash with two devices.


Works with most phones and wallets, including iPhone, Galaxy, and Blackberry. 




Orange or Green: €9.99 (phone not included).

July 24, 2013 at 08:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Catme 13/GlassEffect 19: POV through Google Glass — Monday night's mile at the Charlottesville Track Club All-Comers Meet

Constant readers will recall that I have attempted to break 7 minutes in the mile each of the past two weeks without success: times of 7:24 and then 7:13 were sadly slower than this past May's 7:04 on the very same track at a huge UVA meet witnessed by many, both in person and via a video that pretty much went viral. heh

Long story short: It was hot Monday night, around 83° and humid at the 6:45 p.m. start, much hotter than had been anticipated by yours truly.

I gave it everything I had but when I hit the 800-meter halfway mark in 3:35 I knew it wasn't gonna happen.

I did the second 800 in 3:36, bringing it in in 7:11.

One more shot at cracking 7 minutes upcoming: tonight's Downtown Mile, on the streets of Charlottesville along a course laid out by Charlottesville running guru Mark Lorenzoni so I know it's gonna be accurate.

That one'll also be recorded live and featured here in the days to come.


July 24, 2013 at 04:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

What is it?


Answer here this time tomorrow.

Hint: bigger than a bread box.

Another: magnified highlighted area in circle has nothing to do with anything.

July 24, 2013 at 12:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

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