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Posts Tagged ‘real life’

No, not that, though we HAVE been eating a lot of beans around here since we got the slow cooker.

Our carbon monoxide detector went off today. We’re not sure why, and to confuse matters further, it said it was in Test Mode… yet it said it had seen (when? now?) 287ppm. The furnace, hot water heater, and oven were all going. I’m scheduling a check for all of the gas appliances, since we haven’t had them checked in more than a year– in fact, more than 2 years. The time just slips away.

The alarm is not going off now. By the end of today we will have several new CO detectors in the house, a mix of the battery-powered type and the house-current type. I’ve learned a number of things in the past few hours which surprised me, including things I was Just Plain Wrong about. Fortunately, not Dead Wrong. If the situation were different, though, my lack of correct information might have been fatal. So, let me share, just in case you know some of the same wrong things.

What to do first. If you’re like most people, including us, the first thing you do is go to the alarm and see what’s up, then start looking for the problem. No. Not even remotely correct. The FIRST THING you do is LEAVE THE HOUSE. Period. No questions. Grab all family members and pets and get out. Only then do you think about what to do next and make a plan of action. [1]

Why? Because in case your alarm went off only in the cumulative exposure fuzzy-headed stage, you may already be at risk of going to the next level of CO poisoning. It can be abrupt, and you could go from ‘mostly fine’ to ‘I can’t think and need to just sit down for a moment’ without any real warning. If it turns out to be that bad, you might never stand up again.

The next thing that everybody does is start opening up windows ‘just in case’. Apparently that’s also wrong. Instead, you should, theoretically, call the fire department, your appliance repair person, or your utility company and actually have them do a check. If you’re like most of us, you’re probably not going to do that, you’re going to change the battery in the thing instead (you did write the date of the last change on the battery with a sharpie, yes?) and if it goes off again, then you’re going to think about calling someone.

At least get folks out of the house first, and don’t go opening all the windows yet. “Many CO alarm calls have been classified as ‘false alarms’ because the homeowner has ventilated the home and turned off the equipment before firemen or technicians can measure the CO levels and find the source.” [2]

Another ‘everybody knows’ pseudo-fact is as long as you don’t have a skull-splitting headache, you’re okay. NOT! What most folks don’t know, and I sure didn’t, is that low levels of exposure commonly cause flu-like symptoms, including sniffling, red eyes, tiredness, nausea, mild headache. At medium levels of exposure, the ones that could tip suddenly depending on your physiology, that’s where you get symptoms like “severe throbbing headache, drowsiness, confusion, fast heart rate.” [3]

If you tend to be sniffly and tired at home in the evenings or weekends, but feel better at work or out of the house, well, that could be a lot of things from needing to clean the ducts to vacuuming to dust mites. But it could also be low-level CO exposure, so add that to your list. Get yourself a CO detector that measures continual exposure and make sure you get your appliances checked annually.

Speaking of which, as long as the flame is blue, not orange we tend to think it’s ok. Leaky ducting can cause CO exposure even when the flame adjustment is ok, so don’t rule it out just because the flame looks right. Get somebody with a sniffer to confirm your in-house levels.

The CO detector should be in your bedroom, right? Maybe one of those little plug-in ones? Well, partially. Ideally, the CO detector should be either on the ceiling or about 5 feet off the ground, since CO is generally lighter than room air. I was unpleasantly shocked to find out that the only CO detector in our place was actually in the 2nd bedroom, which Mike uses as a workroom. Why? We don’t remember. Well, that will change by this evening!

We also tend to think that as long as the ‘test’ button works, the alarm works. Wrong, alas. Apparently very few CO or smoke detectors actually test the detector, rather than the audible alert. Pressing the ‘test’ button tests the NOISE circuit, not the detector, in the vast majority of detectors.

We purchased our detector when we moved in, almost 5 years ago. We assumed it was good ‘forever’ as long as we changed the batteries. Nope. The mechanisms they use to detect CO differ, and many of the small battery-powered ones use a colored disk that they monitor for changes, rather than more direct chemical means. Multiple sources say that most CO detectors have a 5-year lifespan but some may be valid for only a couple of years. Either way, we need to replace ours.

What kind should you get? Here in the States, I quote Underwriters’ Labs: Rather than looking for specific features, look for the UL Mark with the adjacent phrase “Single Station Carbon Monoxide Alarm.” [3]

Why? Because it’s required to have a silence button and to re-alarm within 6 minutes if the condition persists. Many detectors will just happily shut up and not go off again if you silence them. Low batteries can cause an alarm to go off, so if one does go off, after you think it’s safe (remember the first part of this article) then you can change the batteries and see if it goes off AGAIN.

There’s so much more, but that’s a good start. Don’t freak out, but take part of an afternoon and put some safety in the bank for you and your family. Have a safe n happy new year!

[1] http://www.carbonmonoxidekills.com/faq.htm
[2] Incredibly detailed and helpful info from our Canadian buddies: http://www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/en/co/maho/yohoyohe/inaiqu/inaiqu_002.cfm
[3] http://www.ul.com/consumers/co.html

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Times are tough for some of us, less so for others. If you’re fortunate enough to have the opportunity and means to contribute to a 401K account through your employer, you may have topped out your contribution around now. How about putting an extra $25 or $50 of that to work for charity, in time to count for this year’s taxes?

More and more charities have easy monthly sign-up plans now, where you can give $10, $20, or however much per month. That’s like, giving up one latte a week and getting a coffee instead. But over the year, it adds up for the charity you’re helping. Maybe you’d find it’s easier to give up something small to help somebody else than to save it for yourself. Or decide you want to give up two tall mochas a week and buy yourself something nice at the end of the year with the fund from one of them!

Anyways– this is on my mind and I figured I’d blog my own favorites list. I try to add one every year or so, so that I kind of get used to it and can do a bit more. And if you’re not in a position right now to give money, just smile at one more person a day and that will go a long way toward making the world a better place, too.

  • Heifer Project International; Provide farm animals, seeds, honeybees, to people, who then pass on the gift locally. A bootstrap program making a real difference all over the world.
  • Grameen Foundation; Micro-loans that enable small businesses and bring people out of poverty. A $10 – $20 loan can do things like enable a weaving cooperative to market directly from their village, or help people fund a local mill to grind grain.
  • International Foundation of Red Cross and Red Crescent; Humanitarian aid for disaster victims. You know about their efforts for earthquakes, floods, and the like, but did you know they also work locally to do things like house and help families burned out in apartment fires? Note that IFRC is the parent foundation; “National Societies” like the American Red Cross organize the work by country. IFRC has an online directory of National Societies by country.
  • Hesperian Foundation; Publishing books like “Where There is No Doctor” and “Helping Children Who Are Blind” in multiple languages. All of these books are available for download via their site, btw.
  • Electronic Frontier Foundation; Defending digital liberties, fighting vote fraud, and so very much more.
  • Amnesty International; Working to free the unjustly imprisoned worldwide, and providing hope to those who have been shut away in some political oubliette for speaking their mind and trying to change things.
  • Doctors Without Borders; Sending medical help where it is needed, sometimes into great dangers, to help people in need. Volunteer doctors, nurses, EMTs, pilots– but they need gas money for the planes, medical supplies, logistics, etc.
  • Natural Resources Defense Council; Working to protect wilderness, wild areas, animals, plants, biodiversity. Not one of those “don’t touch it, we don’t care if you starve” orgs, NRDC works on transitioning communities to ecotourism, sustainable wild harvesting, and giving people economic incentive to preserve for long-term good rather than destroy for short-term gain.
  • Organic Consumers Association; Promoting sustainability, fighting the dilution of ‘organic’ (eg, factory farm confinement dairies fed on organic corn), working with communities on food safety.

There are a number of other groups I support, but they don’t seem as universal or uncontroversial to me, like MoveOn, VoteSmart, Weston A Price Foundation.

Please comment with some of your favorite charities, it’s always great to hear.

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It’s getting close enough to election time, and various voter registration deadlines, that this excerpt from RISKS that I posted elsewhere is due for a refresh.  Will you be able to vote this year?  Take a few minutes soon and make sure that you are registered AND have whatever ID or papers your polling place will require.

Addressing the Challenges of Identification and Authentication in American Society
by Peter Swire, Cassandra Q. Butts, Center for American Progress, 2 Jun 2008

How individuals identify themselves in our country grows more complex by the year. Just last month, 12 nuns were turned away from voting booths during the Indiana presidential primary because they lacked state identification
(none of them drives), a stark reminder that the recent Supreme Court ruling that upheld Indiana’s voter ID law poses lasting consequences to our democracy. And two years ago last month the personal identification data of 26.5 million veterans were lost from a government laptop, the latest in a
series of data breaches that threaten the integrity of everyone’s
identification.

Those 12 nuns are among 20 million other voting age citizens without driver’s licenses, and they join those 26.5 million veterans and many millions of other Americans who suddenly find themselves on the wrong side of what we call the ID Divide-Americans who lack official identification, suffer from identity theft, are improperly placed on watch lists, or
otherwise face burdens when asked for identification. The problems of these uncredentialed people are largely invisible to credentialed Americans, many of whom have a wallet full of proofs of identity. Yet those on the wrong side of the ID Divide are finding themselves squeezed out of many parts of
daily life, including finding a job, opening a bank account, flying on an airplane, and even exercising the right to vote. …

http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2008/06/id_divide.html

Full report (pdf)
http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2008/06/pdf/id_divide.pdf

Identification and Authentication Resources page
http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2008/06/id_resources.html

(Via RISKS-Digest, RISKS-LIST: Risks-Forum Digest Sunday 8 June 2008 Volume 25 : Issue 19

ACM FORUM ON RISKS TO THE PUBLIC IN COMPUTERS AND RELATED SYSTEMS (comp.risks)
Peter G. Neumann, moderator, chmn ACM Committee on Computers and Public Policy

***** See last item for further information, disclaimers, caveats, etc. *****
This issue is archived at <http://www.risks.org&gt; as
<http://catless.ncl.ac.uk/risks/25.19.html&gt;
The current issue can be found at
<http://www.csl.sri.com/users/risko/risks.txt&gt;)

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I was looking for a reference in my notebooks, and then just browsing. A note from 12/28/1995 seems worth quoting today:

“For all of us, it is the public expression of desire that is embattled, any deviation from what we are supposed to want and be, who we are supposed to behave.” Dorothy Allison, “Skin: Talking About Sex, Class And Literature”

It is not what we want, it is the act of wanting that is both a political and a personally threatening act. Even to want anything as simple as a flower, a sunset, a cookie, is to bring forth the hidden “I”. “I want.” I am I, I have an identity rather than just a function.

Wanting is the ultimate subversive act to those who depend on and make use, or misuse, of the functions we carry out– wife, mother, secretary, woman to leer at, etc. We may not even know to what functional role someone has assigned us, until we express a want not consonant with that role in that person’s presence. SRChalup, Cat Leaping Notebook

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Plz! No paparazzi at naptime!

Our bestest buddy the Booster is doing really well and has regained much of the weight she lost this past fall, when we feared the worst. None of the tests we ran turned up anything: she was pronounced incredibly healthy for a 13.5 year old kitteh, but she was growing noticeably skinnier and I could feel more bones along her back.

I started reading the labels on the canned food, the treats, and dry food in the pet store. The dry food has 2 to 2.5 times the protein of the canned stuff, and more carbs, and the treats were similar. I wondered if the canned food was simply not providing enough protein and carbs to maintain Boo’s muscle mass and keep her warm during the colder fall/winter weather. I got some high-quality dry food and started offering them free-choice dry food again. They were all over it with great enthusiasm.

When I listen to sidewalk, I can hear ocean! … What you mean, no?

Within the week, Boo stopped losing muscle mass. Her hind legs, which were getting so thin that I could feel the tendons near her paws, plumped up again. She’s regained all her muscle mass, though not much fat, and her neck and back are noticeably more muscular. I’m really shocked that high-end canned food made with good ingredients is not enough to keep her healthy. I am very glad that she is fine again, and kind of shocked and scared that I could have been accidentally starving her! OK, not *starving*, the vet said that she was a far cry from that, but it was a startling change in Boo that I picked up on pretty quickly.

All’s well now, but I wanted to post about it in case other folks’ aging kittehs are starting to get bony. Don’t just chalk it up to the aging process. See if different or better food, or combinations of food, will work. Feed high-energy treats like Greenies, bits of cheese, etc, to help your fuzzball build up strength. And don’t give up! I look forward to many more happy years with the Booster Bunny. They don’t stay with us forever, but we want them with us as long as possible, as long as they are still enjoying being here. She’s back to her sassy self!

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After a long negotiation process between my DNS provider and the registrar of the domain thieves, virtual.net is back where it has belonged since early 1993: with me.  Huzzah!

My advice, in retrospect, is that if your domain is hijacked, immediately file with ICANN, over the protests of your registrar if necessary.  Fortunately I got my domain back, but if the remote registrar had not finally given it back (after making my registrar send some kind of “we won’t sue you” papers), I’d have been SOL, as the ICANN waiting period for opening a case had already expired.

How did I eventually lose the domain?  My provider offers both secure and non-secure login pages, and I believe that I accidentally logged into a non-secure page while at a public wireless location.  At first we thought my email provider had been compromised, but we found nothing but my home network access in the logs, and no suspicious activity.  The fact that the thieves had to change the contact email to “inbox@greatdomains.com” to get the transfer key is further proof that they had no access to my email.

If your provider offers non-secure login pages, make a bookmark to their secure page and only use that bookmark for login, never surf there directly or use a sidebar login on a provider’s main page– unless it says “secure login”.  There’s really no excuse for offering non-secure logins in this age of ubiquitous wireless– I’ve mentioned to my provider that they’re a bad idea, we’ll see if they go away.  I was on my laptop, with a new hard drive, and I hadn’t pulled over my bookmarks yet, so I think that’s how I screwed up.

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Booster Update

Boo is 13 now, and will be 14 in June.  She’s been losing weight noticeably.   We had blood work done, and it came back with all ok– not thyroid, liver function, or diabetes, any of which can cause weight loss in older cats.   Meanwhile, her coat is still thick and glossy and soft, and when she was in for her annual in September, the vet and the techs all said she seemed like a much younger cat than her age.

I took Boo in for an x-ray today.  She’d lost another quarter-pound, in just 2 weeks, but nothing obviously wrong on the x-ray.  The doctor will call me tomorrow (her regular doctor wasn’t in).

The vet-tech said that she is not bony; she sees really emaciated cats and Boo is nowhere near there.  Boo was 13+ pounds over a year ago, and her weight has been slowly and steadily coming down since we took them off dry food entirely after the big pet-food recall.  It may just be that she’s been doing the equivalent of South Beach or Atkins for cats for close to a year now.

No need to panic unless the doctor comes up with a reason tomorrow.  We need to remember that Boo is not a huge cat, at least as far as bone structure.  Snark’s fairly muscular weight is still just around 8 pounds.  Boo is currently at 9 pounds, 12 ounces.

The vet-tech did suggest fewer treats so that Boo would eat her normal food better.  That will take care of itself when I am working offsite daily, I suspect.  In the meantime, I will only ‘treat’ a couple times a day, and give only 2 or 3 Greenies instead of 5 or 6.

I know they can’t stay with us forever.  Boo and Snark came to me as kittens in October and December of 1994.  Someday they will pass on, and it’s likely to be within the next few years.  Lots of domestic housecats who are primarily indoor cats live to be 16, 18, even 20 is not uncommon anymore.   We’ll just be extra-good to them and hope for the best.

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