• If you poked around in a lot of homes here and around the country, you might fight old armoires sitting empty and neglected in the garage, or even at a garage sale.

    Those attractive pieces of furniture once proudly contained the family’s major TV, the cathode ray sets, the big bulky ones with square-shaped screens.

    Then came flat screens of all sizes, relegating the older armoires, lovely as they may be, to the dustbin of history, along with typewriters, 45-rpm record players and spittoons.

    Now, to the armoires’ rescue comes a Naples couple, Craig and Beth Boyce, who have created a mom-and-pop business bringing new life to old furniture — transforming the almost obsolete armoires into “Barmoires.”

    “We saw a need and decided to try to fill it,” Craig says, “in our own home.”

    When the Boyces moved to Naples from New England, they brought an armoire with them. But it looked out of place and didn’t hold the new high-definition flat-screen TVs.

    “I don’t know how the bar idea came to us, but we converted the piece into a bar and it looked great, partly because we incorporated the use of low energy-high output LED lighting into the cabinet.”

    They did the work themselves, painting and refinishing the wooden armoires, moving or replacing shelves, adding a wine rack, etc. They bought a few armoires cheaply and converted them.

    “We rented a booth at the Flamingo open air market in Bonita because we had four Barmoires and had to get them out of our condo. So, we used the booth as a showroom and that worked out great. Now we’re getting some retailers who are putting our finished products in their stores.

    “Our customers include people who don’t have bars and love these because they don’t take up much space.

    “I think Americans like armoires, grew up with them, had them in their homes. Some of them can be beautiful pieces of furniture.”

    The lighting in the Barmoires is a strong selling point.

    “We use blue lighting to highlight the wine storage area and white lighting for the workspace and task areas of the bar counter,” he said.

    “At night it all just glows. Some customers say they liked their armoires so much and are pleased to recycle them in this way.”

    The remodel effort started with removing the old Brenner’s storefront sign from the front of the building. Owners said that the project is in part  to help revitalize the downtown business community and modernize their building.

    “The overall vibe of downtown is changing and so we need to change too.” said David Fenderich, a part owner of the downtown location.

    Brenner’s said that the remodel project will include new signs, awnings, LED lighting and foliage on the sidewalk. They said that construction is scheduled to be completed by the end of October.


  • If your utility situation is similar to mine, your bills are skyrocketing as rates rise. However, you aren’t completely helpless in this situation. There are many steps you can take that will help you reduce your bills.

    First, you should check your water heater to make sure the heat setting is correct. A few degrees will make a difference on your bill. If the heater is older, make sure there are no leaks and insulate it so that it conserves electricity. Next, check the pipes from the water heater for leaks. A small drip can waste gallons of water. When you are sure your water heater is ok, move on to your toilet. A toilet that constantly runs is not economical. Also, check for dripping faucets or rusty pipes throughout the house.

    After giving your home a plumbing check up, you should move on to your laundry room. You can save a lot of money on your electric bill if you run your dryer on a short time setting and put blue jeans and quilts on a line to dry. Also, try washing laundry in cold water. It gets just as clean and saves wear and tear on your water heater and conserves electricity.

    Next, you need to examine your electricity. If you consistently are coming down in the morning, only to see the same lights still shining, try plugging those lights into a timer so that they shut off by themselves after a certain time. Also, don’t leave lights and television sets on when you are not in the room. Even a little savings can add up to big payoffs when you get your electric bill.

    Do you have outdoor lighting for paths and walkways? Look into solar alternatives. These formerly black plastic, unattractive lights have become quite trendy and there are many styles to choose from. Of course, you can also still get the old black style as well. Do you have an outdoor water feature? Solar pond pumps have really improved over the last few years. Go solar-replace outdoor lighting and pond fountains with solar lights and fountains. These products have really improved over the last few years and solar lighting has become very stylish.

    You can cut electric or gas bills by adjusting your thermostat. If you lower it a few degrees in the winter and raise it a few degrees in the summer, you will save big. Also, try using nature’s air conditioning system. If you properly position deciduous trees in your yard, they will provide shade in the summer months and naturally make your house cooler. Throw open the windows in the late spring and early summer and use ceiling fans and window fans to pull in cool air instead of using your central air.

    Finally, maintain your heating and cooling systems once a year. Have duct work cleaned, filters changed, and furnaces and heat pumps serviced to be sure they are working effectively. If you have radiators, be sure they are bled to provide proper pressure. Once your heating and cooling systems are clean and ready to go, check to make sure you do not have furniture or curtains covering any of the vents. Also, take a look at your house and see if there are any areas, such as guest rooms, that are unused for most of the year. Closing vents in these rooms, especially in a larger home, can substantially cut costs.


  • It was interesting to see various sites round the web today linking to dial-a-phone’s comparison of the camera results from the new Sony Xperia S and the Nokia N8, especially given the conclusion that the newcomer is the ‘clear winner’. However, such comparisons are more than a little misleading - there’s far more to testing out a phone camera than shots of still subjects in bright….

    I do accept that Sony’s new 12mp phone camera produces great results in these bright conditions, and that the writer of the dial-a-phone blog post, Dan Nixon, does seem to have kept a leveller head than some other sensationalist tech journos in the last year. And I welcome the way the camera shutter button can simply be mashed down on the ‘S’ even when locked, in order to launch the Camera quickly - that’s something that I was rather hoping Nokia would add to Belle for the N8. Ah well.

    Having said that, and rather making a few other points in the process, I’d argue that back in the real world, both my ageing Nokia N86 (from early 2009) and ancient N82 (from 2007!) would take better photos than this 2012 Android superphone. And no, that’s not heresy, and no, that’s not to say that these two old smartphone would take better photos in the linked snow scene settings - they wouldn’t.

    Secondly, both of these oldies are far smaller, far more nimble and far more ‘camera’-like in their feel. Go on, you try taking photos on holiday for a week with a 4.3″ thin touchscreen slab - then take just a few photos with the N82 or N86 and it will feel ten times more secure in your hands and ten times more comfortable as a ‘camera’. Even the linked article’s writer acknowledged that the N8’s ‘more compact size’ had benefits.

    Thirdly, and bringing the N8 in with the ancient N82 here, and returning (of course) to my oldest and most famous rant, back in the real world, the subjects of your photos will often not be inanimate objects but will be living, breathing, moving people.

    Kids, friends, family, and so on. Moreover, they’ll not only be moving, they’ll usually be (most inconveniently for you, the photographer) be huddled in the warm, indoors, lit only by artificial light or in shadow or (worst of all) in dimmed ‘atmospheric’ lighting.

    Under these circumstances, the new Xperia S will be as hamstrung as every other poor excuse for a ‘proper camera’ phone over the years. LED flash will mean that anyone moving so much as a body hair will be blurred, while the scene will be poorly lit and digitally ‘noisy’ because there’s simply not enough light.

    There are two solutions to capturing better low light photos - and the N8 embraces both wholeheartedly.

    The second solution is the best one though, especially when your subjects are people - put in a proper flash. The N82 knew this back in 2007 and I still know of people who carried this phone in 2010 simply because it would capture the shots that no other phone camera could. Xenon flash is up to a hundred times brighter and (crucially) a thousand times shorter than LED flash. So it both lights and freezes a moment, even in pitch darkness. N82 fans moved, of course, to the N8 when it was available and haven’t budged an inch since then. I know, I’m one of that number.


  • Gov. Dannel P. Malloy of Connecticut said on Sunday that the state’s largest electricity carrier would not meet its goal of restoring power to 99 percent of its customers by midnight, and those affected entered a second week without electricity since the freak October snowstorm.

    “The closer we got to C.L.&P.’s self-identified goal of 99 percent restoration in each city and town by midnight tonight, the more skeptical I became of their ability to meet that goal,” the governor said in a statement, referring to Connecticut Light and Power, which was working on Sunday to restore electricity to more than 100,000 customers. “I’m releasing this information because towns and cities need to make preparations based on the reality of the situation — not what C.L.&P. hopes to have happen.”

    More than 800,000 homes across Connecticut lost electricity during the storm. According to projections released by the governor’s office, it could be Wednesday before power is restored in many areas, including Danbury, Middletown and Torrington.

    In surrounding states, the situation had improved. Jersey Central Power and Light, which serves 1.1 million customers across 13 counties in New Jersey, said all but 1,200 customers had power as of 4 p.m. Sunday.

    In Connecticut, meanwhile, the utility said that about 7 percent of its customers remained offline as of Sunday evening. Officials said they were still working to meet the goal of having power back to 99 percent of customers, but acknowledged that they might fall short in 31 towns. More than 2,300 crews have been dispatched to restore the electricity at these homes, said Katie Blint, a spokeswoman for Connecticut Light and Power.

    “We’ve never had that many crews working in Connecticut’s history,” she added.

    Still, some residents remained dubious about the utility’s deadline — if only because they had not come across crews of any sort since the storm hit. “You only fix the problem with boots on the ground,” said Daniel Schwartz, 40, who has stayed with his parents nearby since the power went out in his home in Avon, Conn. “We just haven’t seen them.”

    Mr. Schwartz’s family used to measure damage wrought by power loss against the aftermath of Hurricane Gloria in 1985. Now, he said, the October storm will become the new standard.

    Many of those affected have been forced to improvise. While his home in Bristol, Conn., remained offline over the past week, Ryan Broderick showered at the public school where he teaches history and psychology, and slept on couches and in guest rooms at the homes of his parents and in-laws.

    Even the celebrity class has been afflicted by power loss. The actress Mia Farrow, whose home in Bridgewater went dark for two days until a generator allowed her to flush her toilet and turn on some lights, has relied on the outdoors as a refrigerator.

    “We put our perishables in a dog crate and put it outside,” Ms. Farrow said. “Everything’s stayed pretty fresh for the most part.”

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  • led light 05.09.2011 No Comments

    This reminder from the Prime Minister of one of our major regional trading partners, was enough to prompt the Coalition to back down. According to media reports, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said to his party room last week that he would no longer pursue the plan to overturn the WTO ruling, because “at the end of the day we…cannot pursue short-term political gain at the expense of the long term national interest that Australia has as a trading nation”.

    The irony was, he’d already done so. In the media interviews the Opposition had already given, in the public alarm that they had already caused about the dangers posed by New Zealand apples, and the message they’d already sent to our trading partners, the damage was done.

    But it’s the Coalition’s support for another bill, which seeks to make it compulsory to label all products sold in Australia that contain palm oil, that is more alarming for Australian business and trade relations.

    This bill, sponsored by Senator Nick Xenophon and the Greens, is likely to pass and become law if the Coalition continues their support for it, and don’t re-enact the backdown they’ve displayed over apples.

    Again, this is a bill that could also breach Australia’s World Trade Organisation obligations.

    But what the Opposition knows is that this is potentially an emotive issue and another way for them to tap in to voter anxieties.  The reason why there’s a call to require compulsory labeling of palm oil is because palm oil plantations in Malaysia and Indonesia are seen as a key driver of the rampant clearing of native vegetation in those countries.

    Preventing deforestation in Malaysia and Indonesia is a worthy aim. But this bill is the worst possible way of going about it.

    Leaving aside the costs that this bill would impose on Australian business, two countries, Malaysia and Indonesia, have already indicated that they will take a dispute against Australia to the World Trade Organisation if the Parliament proceeds with the palm oil bill.

    And if we lost that dispute, we would expose ourselves to the threat of retaliation on any of Australia’s significant exports to those countries.

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