December 2014 archive

Don’t use foil in the microwave – and other household myths

Many widely held beliefs about home safety and savvy are more fiction than fact.

Myth: Standing in front of the microwave oven while it’s on will give you cancer.

Fact: Federal regulations have established strict limits on the amount of energy that can be emitted by microwave ovens. These standards are much lower than the level at which any adverse health effects are believed possible. Even if an oven leaks, you may feel some warmth but you will not be at risk for cancer, says Sharon Franke, the Institute’s expert on microwave cookery and food appliances. Unlike X rays and ultraviolet light, microwave energy is non ionizing, meaning it can’t damage genes or cells.

Myth: When wrapping foods in aluminum foil, the shiny side of the foil should face outside.

Fact: It doesn’t matter which side of the foil you use when you’re cooking, freezing, or storing foods. While there’s a slight difference in how much light is reflected off the two sides, it has no effect on the food you’re covering, says Franke. So why is one side shinier? It has to do with the manufacturing process.

Myth: Using antiperspirants containing aluminum and cooking with aluminum pots can give you Alzheimer’s disease.

Fact: There is no scientific evidence that aluminum from pots, pans or antiperspirants causes Alzheimer’s, explains Sandra Kuzmich, Ph.D., director of the Institute’s Chemistry Department. While some studies have found increased concentrations of aluminum in the brain cells of Alzheimer’s patients, it is not known if this is a cause or effect of the disease, or whether there is any relationship at all. Because aluminum is found in the air, water, and soil, it’s present in most foods we eat. It’s also found in many over-the-counter medicines, including antacids and buffered aspirin: According to the Food and Drug Administration, the amount you absorb through everyday items is extremely small–and safe.

Myth: Toothpaste is a good substitute for silver polish.

Fact: Your regular toothpaste (not the gel kind) can be used in a pinch, says Carolyn Forte, director of the Home Care Department. But because it’s more abrasive than silver polish, repeated use can leave fine scratches. For on-the-spot emergency polishing, rub a little on with your finger, then rinse well with hot water and dry with a soft, clean cloth.

Myth: Never put aluminum foil in the microwave.

Fact: “Older ovens–those made twenty or more years ago–couldn’t handle foil because of a problem with energy reflection and would become damaged,” says Franke. “But you can use foil safely in newer models.” For instance, small pieces can be folded around corners of foods like brownies and lasagna to keep them from overcooking. Note that you should keep the aluminum foil smooth and at least one inch away from oven walls; pieces that have jagged edges may cause some sparking. Other metals, such as wire twist ties, should never be used in the microwave.

Myth: Rechargeable batteries will last forever.

Fact: There is a limit to how many times you can replenish rechargeable batteries because the chemicals inside will eventually wear out, explains John M. Sun, director of the Institute’s Engineering Department. The life expectancy of nickel-cadmium rechargeable batteries, for instance, is determined by an estimated number of charge cycles. So each time you remove your cordless phone and put it back on the base, you’re using up one of the cycles. To make the battery last longer, don’t put the phone back on the base after each call. Instead, wait until the end of the day.

Myth: Don’t use plastic wrap in the microwave; toxic substances in the plastic can get into your food.

Fact: Under very high temperatures (300 [degrees] F. or higher), plastic wrap can melt into food. However, it’s highly unlikely that food will ever get that hot unless you’re cooking–not just reheating–something that contains large amounts of sugar or fat, says Franke. Even if you do eat heated plastic particles, experts say there’s no scientific evidence they will make you ill. But to be extra safe, advises Franke, put food in a microwave safe bowl, then cover with plastic wrap.

Myth: Moths eat only wool, so you don’t have to worry about other fabrics.

Fact: First, it isn’t the adult moth hut the larva or worm that hatches from the moth egg that causes the damage to your clothes, explains Associate Textiles Director Nancy V07ar. Second, larvae will attack even synthetic fabrics to get to food stains. So make sure all your clothes are clean before you store them.

Myth: If a stain has ruined a garment, just dye it a different color.

Fact: “Before you dye your clothes you must remove the stain,” says Vozar. If you don’t, the dye will color the stained area differently from the rest of the fabric and you’ll still see the spot.

Know your fire extinguisher

The smoke detector starts blaring, and as you rush to find your children, you spot the blaze. It’s small; maybe you can just put it out. Quick: Do you have a fire extinguisher? Where is it? Do you know how to work it? If you can’t find and use it in moments, the fire is likely to get out of control.

More than 70 percent of all Americans own a fire extinguisher, but only a fraction actually know how to use it. “Our message is advance planning, so you’re not trapped making a quick decision under stress,” says Meri-K Appy, assistant vice president for public education at the National Fire Protection Association. Her instructions, below, could save your life.

Q: How do I decide when to use a fire extinguisher or when to call the fire department?

A: The only time you should try fighting a blaze is when you have a clear exit behind you and the fire is small, self-contained, and not spreading rapidly. I advise people not to attempt it if the fire is bigger than a wastebasket, but the truth is you should never fight a fire if you’re not confident. I remember hearing a firefighter from Omaha suggest that you take the hair-on-the-back-of-your-neck test. If it’s standing up, just get out.

Q: If I put out a fire with my extinguisher, should I still call the fire department?

A: Always. Fires can reignite as long as three elements are still present-fuel, oxygen, and an ignition source. People often won’t even notice that there are still embers smoldering, but with sufficient oxygen, fires can rekindle.

Q: What do I need to know before buying a fire extinguisher?

A: First, make sure the brand you’re buying has been tested and is labeled by an independent testing laboratory such as Underwriters Laboratories, Inc. After that, we recommend you buy the largest unit you can lift and handle.

Q: I’ve noticed combination letter-number designations on fire extinguisher labels. What do they mean?

A: The letters tell you what kind of fire the extinguisher is intended to fight. We recommend a combination extinguisher, with an ABC classification. The numbers you see, which appear in front of the letters, indicate what size fire the unit is intended to extinguish. The higher the number, the larger the fire it can handle. No sizes are assigned to C extinguishers; A models range from one to 40, and B from one to 640. For home use, your best bet is a unit labeled 2A:10B:C. [Cost around$30.] This is a good size because it’s big enough to hold a reasonable amount of extinguishing agent.

Q: What’s the best place to keep it?

A: In plain view, next to an exit. The last thing you want to do is somehow get yourself caught in a position where there’s a fire between you and an exit. We recommend that you keep an extinguisher on each level of your house. You should not have to walk more than 40 feet to reach a working unit.

Q: Is there an instance in which a fire extinguisher isn’t best choice for fighting a fire?

A: You can use an extinguisher to put out a grease fire on the stove, but it isn’t the best choice because the pressure from the extinguisher can cause the grease to splatter. Instead, put on an oven mitt, carefully slide a cover over the pan, and turn off the burner. Then hold the lid tightly in place until the pan has cooled completely. Don’t peek inside; that’ll let in more oxygen and can reignite your grease.

Never throw water on a grease fire. Don’t pour baking soda on it either; in the urgency of the moment, you might grab baking powder instead, which can cause the fire to spread.

Q: How long is a fire extinguisher good for?

A: Some models have a color-coded dial pressure gauge that tells you whether you’re in the fully charged range. Others have a pressure-check pin; if the pin doesn’t pop out when you push it in, the pressure inside is too low. Some units, especially small ones, are designed to be thrown away after use, or when the pressure drops too low. But if the unit is rechargeable, bring it to a service center  or to your local fire department if it offers servicing. Be sure to bring it in after each use as well.

Which Waist Cincher Is Best – 4 Tips to Choose the Right One

Waist cinchers are considered to be very amazing products for narrowing down the waist. Considering the fact that each woman is unique, it is not an easy job to know which body waist trainer is best. This is even more difficult considering the fact that there are cinchers available in many varied designs. The perfect model is one which can be a perfect match for your lifestyle and most importantly, is able to adjust to the contours of your body. Read on to get 4 easy tips which can help you to choose the best waist cincher for yourself.

Go for one with the best waist compression

One of the greatest benefits of wearing cinchers is the ability to get a narrower waist. In the majority of cases, you can find cinchers which are lines with boning (metal strips) and plastic. The primary reason for which this outfit has been designed by manufacturers is to provide women with support. When shut the boning generally serves to reinforce the shape of the dress that you wear. It is also able to compress your body into the shape that you want. It can restructure your body minimally and compress your skin, body fluids and fat constantly in order to make the midsection slimmer in appearance.

Choose one with proper support

Postural support is another major advantage of wearing these cinchers (see here for more information). It can restrict your movement to a specific degree. The bending is done in such a way which retains the firmness of the garment. When you wear a well-structured and steel boned waist cincher, you find it impossible to slouch and have a bad posture. Women who use these outfits on a daily basis find that they get additional support to their posture due to their usage. This extra amount of support can help reduce back problems and offer enough assistance at the time of walking and performing daily activities.

Get one with custom measurements

Many women suffer from aches and pains, which are part of the various disadvantages that are experienced, when they wear the wrong types of waist cinchers. A cincher of an ill-fitting variety can always result in damage. It can lead to an uncomfortable and unpleasant experience even after you wear it for a few minutes. Due to this reason, it is extremely essential for women to wear cinchers that come with custom measurements. These types of cinchers always make the waists narrower than is expected. Well-designed or decorative cinchers are fabricated always for cosmetic purposes.

Select one which is not too tight-fitting

One of the main disadvantages of wearing waist cinchers is chafing. This is actually due to the fact that cinchers are very tight-fitting in form. When you wear cinchers directly over the skin, it may lead to irritation. Even using those made of the softest material can cause chafing. Wearing a thin shirt or a camisole to act as a barrier between the cincher and the bare skin can help you to easily get rid of this issue.

Buyer’s guide: fax machines

Just 7 years ago the average price paid for a home fax machine was $600. Today, you can purchase one for half that, and the machines are becoming almost as common in the kitchen as they are in the office. Most new models have eliminated old annoyances (no more disconnecting if you accidentally answer a “fax call” from another phone in the house). Even the less expensive thermal (rolled) paper models double as copiers and now commonly boast deluxe functions, such as automatic paper cutters and built-in answering machines. The more expensive plain-paper machines, preferred by some because printouts don’t roll up or fade over time, have dropped in price from over $1,000 to under $500.

How We Chose

We examined 18 thermal (rolled) paper and plain-paper fax machines, ranging in price from around $250 to $750. Our engineers faxed and copied pages that displayed a variety of images, including typed and handwritten works, geometric shapes, and magazine photographs. Each printout was judged for charity, sharpness, and legibility. Those with added capabilities (answering machines, computer printers, scanners) were subjected to additional tests.

Features to Look for

  • AUTO-REMOTE ACTIVATION: Automatically senses and receives an incoming fax, even if you inadvertently answer the phone from elsewhere in the house when a fax is trying to come through. Machines without this feature require you to quickly punch in a code to keep from being disconnected.
  • BUILT-IN ANSWERING MACHINE: Provides a simpler and more foolproof setup process than hooking up the fax to a separate answering machine. Current models have digital (tapeless) designs that operate quickly and silently.
  • COPIER: Makes photocopies of an original document. This feature is found on all fax machines.
  • DISTINCTIVE-RING DETECTION: Lets you program the fax machine to answer only calls with a special ring–if your phone company offers an optional service that assigns a second number on your existing line with a different-sounding ring. This service is cheaper than getting a second phone line just for faxing.
  • ENLARGED/REDUCED COPY: Can shrink or enlarge the original document when copying.
  • MEMORY DIAL: Lets you store frequently called numbers for quick retrieval.
  • MULTICOPY CAPABILITY: Allows you to make several copies of the original in just one step.
  • OUT-OF-PAPER MEMORY: Stores information when unable to print; memorized faxes will automatically print when paper or ink is refilled. The number of pages stored may vary, depending on the mix of text and graphics.
  • PAPER ANTICURL: Designed to reduce the curling tendency of rolled paper.
  • PAPER CUTTER: Automatically cuts rolled paper to the right length after each page is printed.
  • PRESCAN: Quickly “reads” and stores each page into memory, then faxes at an accelerated speed.
  • SHEET FEEDER: Automatically feeds a stack of sheets, one page at a time, into the sending or copying section of the machine.

Eight low-cost power pedals from Korg and Zoom (Part 2)

ZOOM BOXES

Korg’s prices are impressively low, but those of the new Zoom pedals are unreal. The company’s popular 505 Guitar pedal offered impressive multi-effector power for a mere $150, but the four new Zoom boxes–the 507 Reverb, the 508 Delay, the 509 Dual Power Modulator, and the 510 Dual Power Driver–list for an astonishing $120. Each lets users store 24 programs and includes a reliable chromatic tuner. Wow.

All the Zoom pedals have a pair of foot switches for shuttling up and down between programs; stepping on both calls up a by-pass/tuner mode. These large switches are easy to operate, but the all-plastic housings feel cheap. Most edits are made via comfy, thumb-sized switches on the sides of the units. (The Zoom boxes are most easily programmed while cradled in your hand like video-game controls.) All models have a large, two-character LED that displays the program number or the value of the parameter selected in edit mode. They’re easy to read, but some of the two-letter abbreviations are confusing. Edits are stored in six banks of four programs each, and you can specify whether the foot pedals advance you through all 24 programs or simply cycle around a chosen bank of four. Either way, the thumb-sized increment/ decrement switches escort you directly from bank to bank.

All Zoom pedals have stereo outputs (via a 1/4″ TRS jack) and a single controller-in jack for connecting an optional expression pedal or footswitch. The typical sample rate of the Zoom effects is 31.25kHz, which offers more than enough resolution for electric guitar. A single,

9-volt alkaline battery runs each pedal for about four hours. Many of these features would be remarkable in any stompbox, let alone ones this inexpensive. But be forewarned that certain aspects of the operating system are less lovable. For example, the edit buttons have secondary functions when you hold them down for more than a second–such as a store key that toggles between two effect-loading modes if you tarry too long on the button–and most of these are not notated on the devices. Another irksome trait is the lack of a standardized numerical scale for the effects parameters.

On the Dual Power Driver, for instance, the maximum settings for pre-gain, gain, tone, and noise reduction are 16, 30, 15, and 9, respectively. You often don’t know where you stand unless you scroll up to the maximum setting. Zoom’s manuals are decent, despite some amusingly strained translations from the original Japanese.

  • 507 REVERB

Given its rock-bottom price, the 507 reverb guitar pedal is surprisingly rich and musical. Its 16 hall, room, and plate simulations are nicely voiced for guitar and betray relatively little of the gunkiness typical of digital micro-reverbs. Four additional programs combine the reverbs with up to one second of digital delay. You can specify the delay time in 10ms increments, the amount of regeneration, and the reverb/delay balance.

The delays sound nice, but you can’t adjust their color–the 507’s single tone control only works when you use reverb without delay. You can add a not-too-bad chorusing sound to any patch, choosing between nine preset settings of varying depth. Several have a flange-type resonance, although you can’t adjust the depth or feedback amounts. Chorusing can occur before or after the reverb, and each of the three effects can be switched off in edit mode. You can also toggle the chorus on and off via an external footswitch, or use an expression pedal to regulate the overall wet/dry mix. There is no tap-tempo function. Players who like digital reverb may be pleasantly surprised by the 507’s guitar-friendly color. Even players who avoid reverb effects may be swayed, as the 507’s heavier settings have a pleasantly tanky quality; the reverb doesn’t sound like a tube or spring device, but it captures a bit of that brash plash. By any reckoning, the 507 Reverb is more than just a bargain box.

  • 508 DELAY

The 508 Delay is another big price/performance winner. It offers eight flavors of echo (including straightforward monaural and stereo delays, plus 2-, 4-, and 6-stage multi-taps) and a whopping four seconds of delay time. The delay tones are more than acceptable, and you can set their times to the millisecond–an unprecedented feature in this price range.

The sole tone control is a high-cut circuit, but it succeeds at evoking treble-shy analog flavors. You can also give the delays a slight treble boost, a useful option for hard-edged doubling effects. Another hip extra is an optional “seamless mode” that lets your delays decay naturally even after you’ve switched programs. Connecting an expression pedal lets you regulate the wet/dry mix in real time. Sweet.

An external footswitch lets you set delay times via foot-tap. You can also enter tap-tempo settings from within edit mode without an external switch. This may not help much onstage, but it will certainly come in handy in the studio. In sample-and-hold mode, you can start and end recording via a footswitch–a nice extra, but don’t expect the surgical precision of higher-priced sampler/loopers.

The 508 isn’t the fattest-sounding delay pedal on the market, but its tone is quite pleasant. And if programmability is a priority, this might be the best guitar delay pedal and near impossible to beat.

  • 509 DUAL POWER MODULATOR

The 509 Dual Power Modulator contains two separate multi-effectors that can be connected in series or parallel. Each offers chorusing, flanging, phasing, rotary-speaker simulation, remolo/pan, doubling, EQ, step modulation (a signature Zoom effect that uses an abruptly shifting waveform to generate uniquely burbling effects), plus semi-intelligent dual-voice pitch shifting (another first in this price range). Adding an expression pedal lets you control overall volume, regulate the wet/dry mix, and even attain Whammy Pedal-style pitch shifts. Sound incredible for a box that might go out the door for less than $100? Yes–until you plug it in.

Zoom has crammed an unbelievable number of features into an inexpensive box, but few of the sounds are truly suitable for professional applications. The best of the lot are the phasing and flanging tones, which boast a touch of tactile, tape-like warmth. Despite some clever features, such as a “detector in” jack that lets you get reasonably reliable pitch tracking–even if you connect the 509 after a distortion pedal (provided you use a splitter box to siphon off a clean signal from a pre-distortion stage)—this box is tough to recommend except as a budget, entry-level device.

  • 510 DUAL POWER DRIVER

The 510 Dual Power Driver is another two-stage processor. Its “pre-drive” section offers a choice between four flavors of preamp-style distortion, compression (with adjustable sensitivity), octave bass, auto wah, and pedal wah (expression pedal required). The main drive section features eight additional distortion modes that run the usual overdrive-to-fuzzball gamut. The two distortion stages can be arrayed in series or parallel, and you can use an external footswitch to toggle stage 1 on and off to get two tones from a single program.

Zoom distortion is a world unto itself. Players seeking naturalistic amp overdrive tend to shun it, while those in search of extravagant, overstated effects often swear by it. The 510 tones are a bit more dynamic than those on some other Zoom devices, but they still will not appease players who rely on the guitar volume pot to regulate overdrive. To my ear, the torqued-out fuzz, grunge, and metal tones are more satisfying than the subtler overdrive colors.

Zoom adds an interesting new wrinkle with an “auto parallel” circuit, which lets your playing dynamics determine the relative strength of the two distortion stages. It’s definitely a dynamic effect, but its feel bears little resemblance to that of amp distortion. Some players could probably attain expressive results in auto-parallel mode, but I confess I’m not one of them. Connecting an expression pedal yields an acceptable wah tone. Using the pedal to regulate drive amount or the balance of the two drive modules is more impressive, and the octave bass effect is terrific.

There are high and low EQ controls, but no adjustable midrange–a curious omission, since that’s where so much of a distortions character resides. The adjustable noise reduction works fine, but the merely serviceable amp simulator is strictly on/off. The 510 is a delight for those who gravitate towards lurid, processed-sounding distortion tones.