Tech To Look Forward To

February 6th, 2014 — 7:49pm

There are always going to be those people with fears of technology. We at Build St. Louis certainly aren’t those kinds of people. We were certainly on board with the IPhone explosion, and once Android took over, we jettisoned the whole “Buy everything from Apple. Now. Seriously.”

Hyperspectral cameras probably need to a little less 80s for real acceptance.

Hyperspectral cameras probably need to a little less 80s for real acceptance.

It was a great feeling, believe you me. But what has happened recently in the world of technology that is really worth talking about? A dedicated app to let me know what’s happening with the Blues? Yep. But that’s a little last year, now isn’t it? Time for some new tech. Stuff we can actually use. Something that may have a little bit of a vaporware smell to it, but will probably have serious applications in the future.

Let’s Talk Hyperspectral

Let’s face it – the fact that you can scan a UPC code with your phone and immediately find the cheapest price for the item and order it online within 2 minutes is a bit awesome. But what about, as an example, if you could actually scan your Thanksgiving turkey to determine exactly the moment when it is cooked absolutely, positively perfectly? What if you could do this with your phone?

Soon, my friends, soon. I’m of course talking about Hyperspectral imaging, which takes advantage of the wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation. Every object, naturally, has its own signature, and this Hyperspectral imaging technology has the ability to pretty much change everything we think about everything. The issue is unfortunately that the actual sensors and Hyperspectral imaging devices – like the ones here and here – are still extremely specialized. Like for scientific use only. Or for military operations (this article explains rather broadly how the technology may have been used in the legendary Osama Bin Laden mission). It’s all really cool stuff, and the leaders in this industry are perfecting the technology so that it can be practically used for everybody.

In essence, though, there are really no limits to this technology. The applications are probably going to be endless. The limitations right now are mainly the miniaturization of the devices (they are still pretty freakin’ huge, at least in terms of the micro-size of everything else these days), the high prices of these things (this is not a “consumer tech” item), as well as simply finding a way to analyze all the crazy data that these things can pull. The analysis of the data is something that is huge, because without this part of hyperspectral imaging, you’re just looking at a funky, heat signature kind of picture. Looks neat, yes, but really doesn’t tell you diddly about squat.

What Does This Mean?

I think what it means is that you read about it here. As of right now, we’re not really sure if there is an imaging specialist in St. Louis – a lot of this innovation, quite typically, is taking place in California – but it seems like an area that St. Louis tech companies should probably be taking a look at. The possibilities of this stuff is just absolutely endless.

Just remember that you read it here first.

Comment » | Business

Battle Of The Sexes Is Always An Interesting Thing

August 23rd, 2013 — 12:00am

IN APRIL 15, 1993, a healthy young male entering a suburban Washington library slammed the door on a woman laden with books. In a world plagued by racism, poverty, and AIDS, it should be easy to ignore such a trifling incident. I might have done so on any other day, but this particular day was the 81st anniversary of the Titanic’s sinking, the last gasp of Victorian chivalry.

The Titanic told us alot about chivalry and men and women.

The Titanic told us alot about chivalry and men and women.

Only a third of the Titanic’s passengers survived; most were women and children. When a surviving ship’s officer was later asked whether this “women and children first” policy was the captain’s rule or the rule of the sea, he replied that it was the rule of nature. Official inquiries revealed that several male passengers refused to enter lifeboats because they couldn’t be sure all the women aboard had been rescued. Among the few ungallant males who dashed for the life-boats, one was beaten bloody by several men who stood stoically on deck, facing death but spared dishonor.

Such men understood the essential and intimate links between door holding, hat tipping, and making the ultimate sacrifice for the women every layer of their socialization had taught them to revere. Those chauvinistic fossils would be appalled to learn that the sex they drowned for is now routinely raped, verbally assaulted, and denied seats on trains even when obviously pregnant. They would ask how we could fight to put select women on the Supreme Court and in corporate towers while stripping all women of the freedom to walk our streets safely.

With a righteous twist of their handlebar mustaches, those Titanic gents would declare that women were the soul of this country’s civilization before it was a country. When saints are toppled from their pedestals–or willingly leap off them–the social church is cold and empty.

Breaking Silence

I NEVER had the courage before to openly admire those men or envy the women they saved. At least a decade before the siege of political correctness, I was silenced by the unconscious but relentless intimidation of female friends and colleagues who are educated, self-sufficient, and eager consumers of the latest feminist books. I am supposed to owe the authors of those books unqualified gratitude for all the hard-won rights the Titanic women never enjoyed.

There is gratitude, but it is tempered, because the feminists who battled for my rights decided chivalry was tyranny dressed in pearl grey kid gloves. So they mocked, cursed, and lectured men who held their chairs until men stopped holding all our chairs in the name of equality–the one universal God we are allowed to worship.

Bucking the feminist party line, I expect to be accused of having low self-esteem or not thinking “freely.” Bemoaning the losses of the past is for intellectual slugs who enter beauty pageants or join the Junior League–women who don’t count, women who are excluded from the diverse politics of inclusion. It is also politically incorrect to notice that those who preach against sexual double standards often arbitrarily practice them. For example, many feminists believe women should be “protected” by laws against pornography, but no such protection should apply to military combat. And I wonder whether feminists would view PMS as a legitimate defense for violence if they knew that Victorian doctors attributed everything from mood swings to insanity to the monthly “wound of love.”

Revolt against Self-Restraint

BUT FEMINISTS deserve only partial blame for the erosion of chivalry and civility. Since the 1960s, an entire generation has gleefully obliterated every vestige of Victorian manners. The manners of a silk-hatted century were deemed too rigid, too snooty, too WASPy. But their worst crime was perpetuating and embodying that great Puritan bugaboo—self-restraint.

The post-bellum Victorians were stunned to learn that they were not one step below the angels but a few steps above primordial sludge. They gulped hard at that revelation, then tightened and expanded their comprehensive etiquette code to prove they could rise above their roots. They realized that a fragmented nation needs the common currency of common courtesy to peacefully settle its disputes as much as it needs a common language. In contrast, our generation has opted to replace that code with a cultural anarchy that encourages every individual to maximize his or her self-expression, whatever the cost. The same crusaders who want to battle social Darwinism with government assistance to the victims of various poverties, handicaps, and addictions also celebrate a free-for-all, in-your-face world that would have appalled their great-grandparents.

Meanwhile, they malign Victorian mores to unmask the repressive functions of courtesy and civility. A 1990 book by historian John Kasson typifies the current fashion:

The ritual order of etiquette, by sternly guarding against slips in bodily and emotional control, assured the individual’s deferential participation in the dominant social order. Instead of allowing any outward relaxation, bourgeois etiquette drove the tensions back within the individual self, providing ritual support for the psychological defense mechanisms of repression, displacement, and denial necessary to cope with the anxieties of the urban capitalist order.

Unlike Mr. Kasson, many uncredentialed people find more tension and anxiety in the uncivil social disorder that assaults them daily. They would welcome a little “unhealthy” restraint and repression if it spared them from rib-bruising commutes to work, casual conversations laced with expletives, and street-corner hooting at women. (Once upon a time, a man who merely stared at a woman was considered a cad.) Most people living today never walked lower Broadway when custom confined louts who smoked in public to the east side of the street because the west side had the finer ladies’ shops. They never saw women with parasols strolling fearlessly through parks, except in Impressionist paintings. And they never heard elderly people religiously called “ma’am” or “sir” except in the approved post-modern spirit of sarcasm.

Yet they know that in many ways life was better. They know because the collective historical consciousness of dead literature, dead art, and the memories of their parents and grandparents has let them vicariously experience the loss of what they never had. They feel these intangible losses as amputees feel their missing limbs, and to them they add concrete modern losses–how the sexual revolution destroyed the subtlety and poetry of romance, how the video camera destroyed personal privacy, how television destroyed childhood innocence. The Victorians also took their share of losses from the hydra-headed monster of technology, even before the world stopped waltzing and began spinning out of control. They complained that the telephone killed the art of letter writing, while the typewriter killed the art of penmanship. But unlike us, they still had a solid moral foundation and a rich tapestry of social graces to adorn the antiseptic walls of progress.

Deciding how to salvage pieces of the past is a difficult task made far more daunting by “right-thinking” academics, journalists, and other chief-tains of the cultural elite. To admire the redeeming qualities of an age that practiced racism and sexism is to invite the very social ostracism that these progressive thinkers otherwise deplore as repressive mechanisms of social control. To avoid such scorn, historical adulation must be confined to primitive cultures or neglected and oppressed groups.

As a certified member of the latter, I wish women would reclaim their lost turf with the same fervor they apply to pursuing civil rights. In an era when we are told to go for it, we should feel free to ask for all the courtesies which were once taken for granted without fear of having that used against us. When men relearn respect for women and the self-restraint it implies, violence against women will decline, sexual-harassment laws won’t be needed, and life will be a shade more pleasant. The lack of civility is sexual harassment, and it won’t end until the concept of manhood is redefined.

I hesitate to suggest yet another reformation of men, since three decades of women’s liberation have stretched them until they have no identity, just identity crises. But since live males are almost as reviled as dead ones, there is small risk in submitting to one more stretch. We might borrow the approach of astute and innovative African-American leaders who are trying to curb teenage pregnancies by teaching young black males that true masculinity means providing for children, not recklessly fathering them. To this antique notion, I would add another: that emotional and physical esteem for women is central, not tangential, to manhood. The British statesman Lord Chesterfield, a favorite source of Victorian etiquette writers, believed everyday deference was due to all women because it provided their only shield against men’s superior physical strength. He added, “no provocation whatsoever can justify any man in not being civil to every woman; and the greatest man would justly be reckoned a brute if he were not civil to the meanest woman.”

Men used to be stigmatized as brutes and bounders for sins of both commission and omission against women. It was other men who put the punch in that stigma by socially ostracizing the offender and even refusing to do business with him. This unwritten penal code was much more effective than today’s fuzzy hate-crime and hateful-speech laws.

Men need to revive such peer pressure, and women must prove they deserve men’s regard. Too many still think liberation implies imitating men by cursing to the hilt, telling crude jokes, and proving they too can stuff dollar bills in the G-strings of gyrating strippers. At the very least, those women are begging to have doors slammed in their faces. (And I’m not blaming the victims, just the collaborators.) It is time for women to put one foot back on the pedestal while keeping the other planted in the executive suite. It can be done; a sex that can survive menstruation, childbirth, and menopause while still running carpools can do anything.

If there is a role model for this integrated woman, it may be Blanche Lambert, a freshman representative from Arkansas, who recently said, “When you grow up in the South as a woman, you’re used to men doing very nice things for you, like opening doors and standing up when you come to the table. I’ll be very frank with you. I don’t want to lose that at all.”

Time for a Restoration?

THOSE MIGHT be the most candid words spoken by a living politician. They may signal the resurrection of courtesies that men can enjoy along with women, as men always enjoyed proving their manhood in those pearl grey kid gloves. But there will be limits to this new old chivalry. Men are done dying for women; now women die because of men. This may be the inevitable price of sexual equality. It may be the result of a world that stopped reading Sir Walter Scott. No matter the cause, my female intuition tells me the Titanic was the end, and not only for the men who drowned.

I never experienced the depths of grief at the Vietnam Wall that I did at the Titanic Memorial, a Washington monument so anachronistic it is no longer listed in major guidebooks. If there is ever a memorial for another Titanic, it won’t be erected to honor the men who perished to save women and children, because the only survivors will be healthy males who won the Darwinian dash for the lifeboats. When people visit that monument, they will sadly shake their heads and wonder–too late–where it all went wrong.

Comment » | People

Just How Effective Has NAFTA Been For Our Environments?

August 19th, 2013 — 11:59pm

Indeed, following the birth of NAFTA on January 1, 1994, the three NAFTA governments, especially the United States and Mexico, began working much closer together than ever before to focus attention on the environment. For example, nine binational working groups now exist that concentrate on environmental issues that range from hazardous waste to pollution prevention to enforcement. Several trilateral agencies are up and running to address environmental matters, including the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation and the Commission for Environmental Cooperation. Along the border, the Border Environment Commission, formed in 1993, now helps support local communities, along with Earth Works For Humanity, to develop infrastructure projects.

coolnaftagraphMoney also has been made available through the North American Development Bank (NADBank). The U.S. and Mexican governments contribute US$225 million to the bank, which has future commitments from the two governments of nearly $2.6 billion.

The amount of NADBank money set aside to help with environmental projects along the 1,952-mile U.S.–Mexico border may seem large, but the environmental needs far outweigh those funds.

Consider the state of Mexico’s environmental situation. It’s a country where only 10% of its waste water is treated; where 30% of its more than 80,000 metric tons of solid waste is properly collected; and, where only 11% of its 8 million metric tons of hazardous waste is properly disposed of, according to a report by the U.S.–Mexico Chamber of Commerce.

Despite Mexico’s dismal environmental portrait, environmentalists and others agree that NAFTA has been a catalyst in drawing the attention of the U.S. and Mexican governments.

The chamber of commerce says Mexico’s environmental problems did not occur overnight, but resulted from years of neglect. But it argues that NAFTA is helping solve the problem. “NAFTA has permitted Mexico to achieve a dramatic recovery from the major recession caused by the peso devaluation about a year after NAFTA was implemented,” says John Harrington, who authored the chamber’s report on the environment. “With continued growth, Mexico will be able to afford the ambitious environmental programs being implemented by the administration of President Ernesto Zedillo.”

The commitment of the Mexican government to help solve its environmental woes may not be happening fast enough to silence the critics in the U.S. Congress. For example,  Bob Filner, disgraced mayor of San Diego, California, argues that NAFTA has been a failure because his district, which includes the area along the U.S.–Mexico border with Tijuana, is choking from pollution.

“Despite the side agreements and the mechanisms [that] were promised to solve these [environmental] issues, the situation has simply not improved,” he says. “Industry continues to grow in areas with little or no infrastructure to support the environmental health and safety needs of the working people and the residents in these areas.”

City officials in Nogales, Arizona. share similar feelings. Nogales City Attorney and webmaster at, Hugh Holub says NAFTA was beneficial for drawing attention to environmental problems, but the small city of 20.000 people struggles to keep up with the fast pace of growth and development. Long delays in building infrastructure projects, either because of a lack of financing or because of bureaucratic red tape. have put a strain on the city.

Making things more difficult for Nogales is its bleak economic situation, which includes a 20% unemployment rate. “As far as we’re concerned … we have plenty of costs associated with NAFTA, especially infrastructure, but we have yet to see any benefits,” says Holub.

Comment » | Business

Choosing A “Clean” Nursing Home

July 7th, 2013 — 4:38pm

Keeping a nursing home clean is a tough business. And although hiring a cleaning service is a great way to save money and lessen overhead, it can also create issues you may not want. Here are some things to watch for when you’re looking for a cleaning service for your nursing home:

No way would authentic cleaners be this happy. Not a chance!

No way would authentic cleaners be this happy. Not a chance!

1) Fines levied by government agencies: As a number of nursing homes have learned, noncompliance with regulations related to cleanliness, safety and infection control can cost dearly. OSHA fines, for example, can be particularly nasty. This is serious business, and your cleaning service should help you to develop a site-specific plan to prevent deficiencies and, if deficiencies have already been tagged as violations, to correct them immediately.

OSHA exists to protect the worker on-premises, regardless of who the employer may be — the nursing home or a contract cleaning service. This is another reason why the nursing home needs to be certain that all subcontractors meet OSHA requirements. Otherwise, the facility may be held responsible for everything from the cleaning service worker using glass cleaner to clean a toilet, to the worker who carelessly places your residents, staff or him or herself in direct danger. Again, awareness is the key.

2) Infections/allergy symptoms due to poor indoor air quality: Indoor air quality is a hot topic these days. Those of us in the cleaning community had expected OSHA to come out with stringent Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) regulations by now, but these have apparently been delayed, due, possibly, to the Congressional majority’s stance on new regulations. New regulations or not, poor air quality from biopollutants remains a concern, especially in health care facilities. And biopollutants need to be removed from the facility, rather than simply moved around. This is accomplished by minimizing dusting and making more extensive use of vacuuming.

More long-term care facilities are using carpeting, and while manufacturers are producing a higher-quality, easier-to-clean product, carpeting still needs to be kept clean and dry to prevent mold and mildew build-up contributing to allergic reactions. To clean carpets effectively without having to cordon off an area for an extended period of time, it’s important to use cleaning methods that avoid putting a great deal of moisture into the carpeting.

Dry carpet cleaning methods, such as dry foam extraction, clean just as well as wet cleaning methods. They also greatly reduce drying time since the dry foam contains only 7% moisture. At times, bringing in ah air mover to supplement the building’s ventilation can help to ensure that drying occurs within a reasonable amount of time.

3) Allergic reaction from overuse/misuse of chemicals: OSHA’s hazard communication standard is designed to protect employees using chemicals, as well as the employees and residents of the facility in which the chemicals are used. Cleaning service workers should therefore be knowledgeable about the chemicals they use, and their specific knowledge and training in chemical safety issues should be inquired about.

4) Slip and fall injuries: The need to prevent falls should be as much of a priority to cleaning personnel as it is to the nursing home staff. Cleaning service workers should be trained to keep equipment out of the path of residents, staff and visitors, and should be instructed not to “save time” with methods that lead to overuse of annoying chemicals or to inadequate drying periods, leading to slipperly surfaces.

5) Premature wear-out of flooring materials, If you care for your flooring by calling the cleaning contractor only when it gets dirty, there may already be damage to the flooring surface by the time you make the call. The key to making any type of flooring last as long as possible is to work with your cleaning service contractor to develop a routine maintenance program to prevent problems before they occur. This may be a little more costly over the short term, but will produce big savings in replacement costs.

6) Cross-contamination of work areas: The thought of cleaning an office or lounge area with the same cloth that’s been used to clean the bathroom is, to say the least, disturbing. It does happen, though; especially since most cleaning is done after hours or at other times when there is little supervision, these types of practices may go unnoticed. Your cleaning contractor should, of course, make sure its personnel understands the concept of cross-contamination. One result should be that you will notice cleaning personnel isolating and using cleaning equipment and materials designated for specific areas. This isn’t always easy to pick up on, but keep your eyes open.

7) Breach of security: Unfortunately, some cleaning services send their workers out on a job with little or no supervision. This increases the likelihood that doors will be left unlocked or alarm systems won’t be properly set. The best solution to this potential problem is an on-site supervisor employed by the service who personally oversees the work and makes certain that unoccupied areas of the facility are secure during the cleaning and after the workers have left.

8) Hidden costs: While we’d like to think that all our colleagues conduct business completely ethically and professionally, a small number of services may advise their customers to pay for a service they don’t need. A case in point: Recently, a health care facility asked us what we would charge to strip and refinish their floors every two weeks. This indicated that this facility had been misinformed, since floor stripping — the most expensive procedure performed on floors — should be done every six months, at most. With proper routine maintenance, stripping may not be required for years at a time.

Carpet shampooing, one of the most frequently requested services, serves as another example of this concern. Shampooing is a very aggressive, “last resort” attempt to restore the carpeting to its original condition after it’s been neglected. Again, with a good maintence program in place, less aggressive, less costly methods will usually suffice.

Asking the Right Questions

With all this in mind, how do you go about selecting a cleaning contractor that will provide the needed services in a safe, effective, efficient manner? Like anyone wanting to hire a service provider, nursing home administrators typically ask for references. The problem is that references usually only show the outcome, and while outcomes are clearly important, there are other, more relevant questions to be asked: What types of cleaning tools and chemical systems do you use? How is the cleaning staff trained: do they receive ongoing instruction after the initial training? What type of program do you have with respect to chemical safety, bloodborne pathogens and other safety issues? Is Your staff up to date on all safety regulations? Are your workers supervised?

As you meet with representatives from various services, keep in mind that the recommendations they give you with respect to a maintenance plan for your facility should not vary significantly in their basics from one service to another. The “rules of thumb” discussed in this article apply to all facilities.

Comment » | Business

Cleaning Quilts Takes Effort

July 2nd, 2013 — 4:38pm

Whether a quilt dates from 1850, 1950, or today, proper care can help extend its life span. “The more careful you are from the beginning, the longer the quilts in your collection will last,” confirms Cathy Coho, textile conservator at the Shelburne Museum, in Shelburne, Vt., an institution entrusted with more than 500 antique quilts. We’ve asked Cathy and fellow quilt authority Patsy Orlofsky, director of the Textile Conservation Workshop, in South Salem, N.Y., and co-author of Quilts in America, to address two of the most common concerns that collectors face: how to clean and how to store their prize possessions.

Filth vs. Fragility

Collectors are often warned: “Never clean an antique quilt.” But is this advice realistic? Sometimes a flea market find is truly filthy. Spills and other household accidents might stain a quilt that’s on display. And some people just prefer crisp, clean colors to the yellowed patina that many feel is intrinsic to a vintage quilt’s charm. In such cases as these, what’s a caring collector to do?

PROCEED WITH CAUTION. First of all, advises Patsy Orlofsky, determine whether the quilt in question is sturdy enough to withstand cleaning. Sturdy quilts exhibit stitches that are secure, batting that is firmly enclosed by the quilt’s top and backing, and fabric that is neither torn nor deteriorating. If your quilt meets these criteria, and it is fashioned of cotton or linen, you may be able to undertake a gentle cleaning in your home. Sturdy wool or silk quilts can be dry-cleaned if the cleaner is willing to do it by hand; ask in advance if the firm has experience with this process, with large pieces, and with delicate, vintage fabrics. If your quilt is fragile, Patsy cautions, “it is advisable to have a person trained in textile conservation carry out the cleaning.” (To find a conservator in your area or a dry cleaner familiar with hand-cleaning techniques, please refer to the Shopping Guide.)

BEFORE YOU BEGIN CLEANING a sturdy cotton or linen quilt, perform a test to determine if the dyes are fast (meaning that colors will not bleed when wet). Choose an unobtrusive corner of the quilt and place a few drops of water on the fabric. Press firmly with a white blotter. If color appears on the blotter, do not try to clean the quilt yourself. If no color appears, try again on other spots to be sure all the fabrics are stable. Repeat the process using drops of water mixed with mild detergent (see next paragraph for suggestions).

FILL A BATHTUB ABOUT HALFWAY with lukewarm water (tubs allow the quilt to be folded as little as possible during the cleaning process, as opposed to most washing machines). Lay the quilt in the water and let it soak for about 30 minutes. Allow the tub to drain without removing the quilt, then refill. Add a half cup of a liquid dish detergent like Ivory, Palmolive, or Dove (these soaps are considered mild and rinse out easily). Harsh detergents and chlorine bleach should never be used. Gently agitate from time to time for about 30 minutes. Drain and refill the tub with cool water several times until all evidence of soap is rinsed away.

FOR ALL-WHITE QUILTS, dilute solutions of oxygen bleach (like Clorox 2) can be used for mild bleaching. Add about a half cup per half tub of water. Soak for about 15 to 20 minutes, then repeat the detergent bath and rinse as stated above. Don’t be overzealous about stain removal. Old stains may have set for good, and excessive cleaning in one area may result in a lightened ring around the stain. If at any time during the cleaning process you notice bleeding between colors, rinse immediately and remove the quilt from the tub.

WHEN THE FINAL RINSE IS COMPLETE, gently squeeze excess water from the quilt; do not wring it. If possible, have someone help you lift the quilt out of the tub, as textiles can become surprisingly heavy when wet. Lay the quilt out flat on absorbent towels and lightly press out as much water as you can. On bright, dry days, you may dry the quilt outdoors. Place it facedown on a sheet or a cotton mattress pad on the grass and out of direct sunlight. Cover with another cotton sheet to block bugs, acorns, passing birds, and other threats from nature. If drying the quilt indoors, lay it flat on towels and train an electric fan over the surface. Never line dry a quilt, as uneven distribution of weight can weaken both the fabric and the stitching.

CONTEMPORARY QUILTS, although made with fabrics that are generally colorfast and sturdy, can still experience bleeding between colors. Test for colorfastness as you would a vintage quilt. A gentle tub wash and laying flat to dry is the safest method for cleaning even these newer quilts, since the steady rotation of a washing machine and the high heat of a dryer can break down fabric and stitches over time. Please note: Special care should always be taken when cleaning any quilt – antique or contemporary – that features embroidery, buttons, sequins, writing, paint, or other delicate additions.

Smart Storage

Cleaning an old quilt is not exactly easy.

Cleaning an old quilt is not exactly easy.

Museums, universities, and other institutions with large quilt collections often rely on advanced climate-control devices and cavernous storage spaces to keep their charges out of harm’s way. But what about the average collector’s home? Cathy Coho offers the following advice for making your house a safe haven for quilts.

CHOOSE A PLACE IN YOUR HOUSE WHERE HUMIDITY AND TEMPERATURE ARE MOST STABLE. This rules out attics and basements. Cathy suggests the bedroom, where quilts can be stored either under the bed in acid-free storage boxes or on a closet shelf away from dust, pets, pests, and sunlight.

FOLD QUILTS LOOSELY, stuffing the creases with acid-free tissue, then wrap them in clean cotton sheets. Never store quilts in plastic, a material that prevents airflow, traps moisture, and breaks down over time. If storing quilts in a wooden cupboard or chest, apply a coat of polyurethane to the wood’s surface to prevent the textiles’ direct contact with this highly acidic material. (Cedar chests are not a good choice for quilts, as a polyurethane coating would negate their usefulness as an insect repellent.) Wool and silk quilts benefit from mothballs or herbal sachets, but these agents should not touch the quilt or its cotton cover.

TWO OR THREE TIMES A YEAR, take your quilts out of storage. Lay them flat on a bed and inspect them for any signs of damage from bugs, mice, or mildew. On dry days, open the windows and allow the quilts to air out for a few hours. (Close the curtains to block direct sunlight and keep your pets out of the room.) To air quilts outside, follow the instructions for drying a quilt as stated in “Filth vs. Fragility,” above. Brush off the quilt before bringing it inside or vacuum it through fiberglass screening (available at hardware stores) using a handheld vacuum. Employ masking tape to bind the screening’s rough edges.

CLEAN AND VACUUM THE STORAGE AREA while the quilts are airing out. When you are finished, refold the quilts along different lines to prevent permanent creases from setting and return them to storage.

Comment » | Home

Local Training Program Takes Housekeeping To A New Level

May 30th, 2013 — 11:32pm

Housekeeping involves more than making beds and scrubbing a few toilets. And in the current tight labor market, turning a job applicant into a valuable, long-term housekeeper takes some time and effort on the employer’s part.

Those in the housekeeping field say training and education are the basis of a good housekeeping staff.

housekeepingGail Edwards, the director of housekeeping at the Adam’s Mark St. Louis, said education starts with the hiring process.

“When we interview people, we talk about vacuuming and dusting,” she said. “Those are things people do at home. They visualize how the job is going to be, then when they get here, it isn’t visual anymore.

“It’s physical, and they have a very hard time doing that amount of physical work.”

Edwards said part of the problem is that people today aren’t hospitality people.

“They don’t have the desire, the idea of what we’re trying to accomplish,” she said. “Because the field is not what it used to be, the employer can’t pick and choose, and the training isn’t done as it was years ago. Training now is on the tasks of the job, not the accomplishment of service.”

To do her part in improving the quality of training, 33-year hospitality veteran Edwards earned her Certified Hospitality Housekeeping Executive certification from the Educational Institute of the American Hotel & Motel Assn. and now trains her own employees.

“Classes, films and materials are what do the job,” she said. “The best way is to have a training program with a trainer, not just giving [the employee] to someone and saying, ‘Train them.’”

Brian Kelly, the executive housekeeper at the Best Western Pink Shell Beach Resort in Fort Myers Beach, Fla., also has seen a push for education in housekeeping. To reduce the number of employees leaving for higher-paying jobs, the property is in the process of setting up its own certification course.

“There’s no pool to pull anyone from anymore,” he said. “We’ve been losing a lot of employees to health-care facilities. We’ve called around to find out why, and their starting rates are a lot better than [what the hotel pays] housekeepers. We’re trying to stem the tide going to other jobs.”

If employees pass the voluntary eight-to-10-week certification course, they will earn about $2 more per hour. Kelly said the course will be beneficial to both the employees and the hotel.

“It’s kind of a pride issue,” he said. “It’s not going to be easy for them, but they’ve got a goal, and it will be worthwhile for them. Giving them that education also makes them much more promotable to supervisory positions and gives us a pool to promote from.”

Kelly said the certification course will include training on safety, how schedules are made, chemicals and budget elements. The course also will cover how the housekeeping department fits into the overall scheme of the hotel.

The Best Western Pink Shell also rewards its employees for being safety conscious by offering programs in which employees get paid for being safe. One program gives away up to $1,800 a month as long as no employees get injured.

Training has gained an increasingly important role with the International Executive Housekeepers Assn.

Anna Rodriguez, who ended her term as IEHA’s president two weeks ago, said her group emphasizes training because of the evolution of housekeeping, especially the management aspect.

“It’s challenging, and there’s something new to learn every day,” she said. “We are now having to deal more with the [Environmental Protection Agency], health-care and other regulations. In order for housekeeping directors to continue in our field, we have to continue the education and be educated in our field.”

Edwards agreed.

“There’s not going to be much of a future without training if we don’t start practicing what we preach,” she said.

IEHA offers an education module to members and nonmembers to teach them what housekeeping is all about, and also offers management courses. The group offers Certified Executive Housekeeper and Registered Executive Housekeeper designations.

“We are working to get states to recognize a certification from IEHA as a requirement for hiring a housekeeper,” she said. “New York already requires housekeeping managers to be certified from IEHA, and other states are close”

Edwards said more participation is needed to attract quality workers.

“The owners in the corporate offices need to work in housekeeping for a week,” she said. “They need to change the way they see the housekeeping department. The housekeeping department spends millions and millions of their dollars, and they have no idea what we do?”

Kelly agreed.

“There is a real lack of involvement from many executive housekeepers to get involved in a professional organization,” Kelly said. “There is a lack on their part to want to expand their knowledge or share it with others. They do their job and go home.”

But quality housekeeping is what holds the fabric of a property together, Edwards said.

“We like to say that housekeepers make the magic,” she said. “What the front-desk people are selling, they don’t have anything without our magic.

“You never know we’re here, but we make it happen.”

Comment » | Business

Springfield’s Watts Heatway Stays Hot

May 13th, 2013 — 11:13pm

By the time contractors read this, Heatway Radiant Floors & Snowmelting should have made the transition into Watts Heatway Inc.

Creditors approved Heatway’s bankruptcy plan at a court hearing Aug. 18. Closing of the sale of Heatway to Watts Industries was scheduled for Aug. 29, said Teresa Generous, Heatway’s lead attorney.

Creditors approved what’s called a “disclosure statement” at a July 18 hearing. Shortly thereafter, Heatway’s bankruptcy plan and a ballot were mailed to all known creditors. The plan was confirmed at the most recent hearing as the creditors, including Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., agreed to it.

“It becomes, in effect, a new contract between the creditors and Heatway,” said Generous of Greensfelder, Hemker & Gale, P.C., St. Louis. “It rewrites any other relationship the creditors had. The plan is what governs.”

Under the plan, all the assets of Heatway and all the assets of sister company Bask Technologies LLC were to be sold to a new corporation, Watts Heatway. Bask Technologies produces an electrical floor-heating product called Heatweave, which may be used on a room-by-room basis.

Watts Heatway will continue to operate in Springfield with the same personnel.

Certain claims have priority under the bankruptcy code, Generous explained, so secured creditor Finova Capital will be paid off first.

The balance of the proceeds will be paid on various claims with priority claims paid first, she explained. For example, administrative claims such as the accountants who handled the bankruptcy would be paid first, along with trade debt incurred by suppliers when the bankruptcy was first filed. Claims by employees would be paid next, followed by tax claims, although Generous said there probably won’t be any.

Everybody else will have to get in line.

The balance of the proceeds will be turned over to the plan trustee, Bruce Strauss, a Kansas City attorney who usually acts as a trustee for Chapter 7 liquidation cases. Heatway will still exist as a legal entity although it will have nothing in it. Strauss will collect all the receivables he can and pay out claims.

The available money has been divided into two pots, Generous said. One pot will be available for homeowners who are warranty claimants, and the other pot will be for trades creditors.

The warranty claim pot includes what Generous said is called a “channeling injunction.” Three insurance companies will send Strauss $2.9 million no later than 0ct.18. In return, the insurance companies will have no further liability for any Heatway warranty claims.

Generous said most of the warranty claimants agreed to the channeling injunction. More than 70% of the warranty claimants are seeking damages of $20,000 or less, she noted. However, 21 claimants, all with large claims and represented by three attorneys, rejected the channeling agreement. They now have to get in line with Strauss to see what they can get.

She said that Strauss still has slightly more than $1 million in receivables to collect. In addition, Watts Industries is paying $2.4 million for Heatway, a great deal for creditors because the firm’s liquidation value was $500,000.

Finova Capital will get its $1.5 million secured debt paid first.

Generous said that more than $12 million in warranty claims are filed currently, as well as $5 million in trade debt.

Notice of the bankruptcy agreement will be published in major newspapers across the country.

Homeowners will have until August 2002 to file warranty claims. Trade creditors will have to make their claims by this November.

“In general, this was the only way the creditors were going to get any kind of relief,” Generous said. “And there’s a number of employees who have jobs now who otherwise would not have a job.”

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Killer Cardinals Get The Job Done

April 12th, 2013 — 11:03pm

In two sweeps of St. Louis, the Mets had held the Cardinals to a .214 batting average and knocked St. Louis pitchers around for a 5.29 ERA.

“We’ve got to try to prove we can play with these guys,” outfielder Jim Edmonds said.

So the Cardinals swept the Mets, winning each game with dugout-clearing, fist-pumping, mob-inducing hits. They won Friday, 6-5, on a ninth-inning home run by Edmonds, who had tied the game with a seventh-inning RBI single.

They won Saturday, 2-1, on a ninth-inning screwball hit around the third-base bag by Fernando Vina off Mets closer Armando Benitez.

And they won the series finale Sunday, 4-3, on an 11th-inning home run into the right field bullpen by Edmonds, sending the Mets out of town winless and droopy-headed.

With the sweep, not only did the Cardinals prove they can play with the Mets, they proved they can play with any team.

“It was very important for us to win,” says catcher Mike Matheny, who threw out two runners in the ninth Friday and gave Edmonds the shot at winning it. “It sends a message. We can beat anybody.”

Even the Cardinals have not been so sure about that message at times this season, and their inferiority complex is understandable. They have been in first place in the dismal N.L. Central since June 6, but they have been a first-place team by default. The division’s second-place team, Cincinnati, has struggled to stay around .500, and the rest of the Central has been a black hole.

When slugger Mark McGwire went out because of tendinitis in his knee July 6, the Cardinals were able to maintain a comfortable lead over the Reds despite going 12-19 in the first 31 games without him.

But entering the week, the Cardinals had won seven consecutive series and were 16-6 in that stretch. Losing McGwire changed the dynamics of their lineup and especially affected Edmonds, who was 2-for-22 entering the series and was trying to hit every pitch he saw as hard as McGwire would. Edmonds had struck out 13 times in 21 at-bats before his heroics Friday.

“I haven’t felt good at the plate,” Edmonds says. “I have been trying to hit the ball too hard.”

But Edmonds adjusted and went 5-for-13 against the Mets. Likewise, the Cardinals have adjusted and are breaking new ground. One week before ending the hex the Mets held on them, the Cardinals exorcised another demon, winning three of four against the Braves. Including the 1996 postseason, in which the Cardinals blew a 3-1 series lead in the NLCS, Atlanta had beaten St. Louis 27 times in 35 tries.

The Cardinals were nine games ahead of the Reds entering the week, meaning St. Louis has pretty much wrapped up the division. Of their remaining opponents, only the Reds are near .500, so the Cardinals will play no other playoff-caliber teams in the regular season and have no pennant race to be concerned with.

The Cardinals’ first-round playoff opponent likely will be the Mets or Braves, so it was essential that they win these games and generate some excitement and confidence while they had the chance.

“We can see the finish line,” La Russa says. “It’s OK to get excited now, as long as it is sincere. These guys are sincere.”

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