Indoor Air Quality: How Bad Is It?

Most of us take all kinds of precautions to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe: we use seat belts and child seats in the car, we clear sidewalks and driveways in the winter, we place non-slip mats in bath tubs, and so forth.

One thing many of us might not have thought about, though, is the quality of the air in our homes. As far back as 1981, the New York Times ran an article detailing many of the hazardous fumes that may be lurking in your own living room, kitchen, or basement.

cigarette smokeSome of these are obvious, such as cigarette smoke or gas from the stove or furnace, but others are more insidious. For example, we probably don’t think about formaldehyde being an indoor pollution threat, but according to the article, it can seep out of materials like foam insulation or even the particleboard used in cheaper furnishings. Studies suggests that formaldehyde poses a cancer risk, so it’s nothing to mess with.

Then, of course, there’s radon, the dangers of which are discussed in the media periodically, as well as common household chemicals used for cleaning and such. Mold and mildew are also a problem, as they emit a variety of spores and other irritants.

So, what to do? For starters, do some work to determine just how unhealthy your indoor air really is. The American Lung Association provides some excellent guidance for this.

Besides recommending a radon test (the only reliable way to know if you have high levels of it), the article also suggests checking if the humidity in your home is routinely above 50%, if there are areas of standing water or leaks under your sinks or in the cellar, and if you are routinely covering and removing food waste.

Obviously, a lot of these issues can be dealt with through regular cleaning and effective ventilation. Another potential option is filtering indoor air with a purifying machine, but in many cases, consistent housekeeping and circulating air by opening windows is likely enough to keep your home safe and breathable.

The Wide World of Strollers

When you think of baby strollers, it probably doesn’t dawn on you the wide variety of shapes, sizes and types they are available in. They run the gamut, for strollers for joggers and runners to prams with two seats to combined car seat/stroller units.

Let’s have a look at just a few of the varieties on the market today.

Mom and strollerFirst off, there is the basic, single-seat stroller. But it’s more than that, actually. For instance, there are so-called jogger strollers, featuring larger wheels and constructed for more stability so that the parent can run while pushing it, getting in a workout while making sure their baby gets some fresh air.

Then there are lightweight strollers that typically fold up into a relatively compact footprint. These are ideal choices for air travel, as well as frequent trips to the store that necessitate a lot of stowing and deploying of the pram.

Next up, we have the travel systems. These are sort of an all-in-one solution for hitting the road with your little ones. Most of these consist of a car seat that fits neatly and securely into a stroller framework, so you don’t have to be constantly moving the child back and forth between two different pieces of equipment.

Think about the advantages of this for a moment: if your toddler has dozed off in their car seat while you’ve been tooling around town, you can simply remove the entire seat and fasten it into the stroller without having to disturb your sleeping darling. No muss, no fuss.

Finally, there are double strollers. These are perfect if you have twins or two children who are close in age. There are two basic varieties: side-by-side and tandem.

A side-by-side stroller may be preferred for twins, as the two seats will be the same size. It also allows both children a clear view of the world around them. The downside is that it’s wider than a standard pram, so you may have trouble fitting in through some doorways and narrow aisles.

A tandem stroller is configured so one child sits behind the other. This may be more suitable for children of different ages, where the older one would likely sit in the back seat. Some models, known as “sit-to-stand”, allow the child in back to stand, so they have a better view. This is great for preschoolers who have learned to walk, but may get tired and need a break.

Also, unlike its side-by-side cousin, a tandem stroller will be easier to maneuver through doors, but may not be quite as stable overall. Double jogging strollers are usually configured as side-by-side for this reason.

So, if you’re in the market for a pram, you’ve got a lot of potential choices available. Hopefully, we’ve given you some food for thought, and you’ll be able to find a model that suits you.

Photographing Deer and More Remotely

We’re approaching autumn here in North America, and that means transition: kids heading back to school, baseball season winding down and football gets cranked up, leaves bracing themselves to change from green to a radiant rainbow of colors … and many, many people making plans to explore the great outdoors.

Whether you’re a hunter, a wildlife researcher, a conservationist, or just enjoy a walk in the woods, one piece of technology is likely attracting your attention: the trail camera.

If you’re not familiar with these little wonders, they’re cameras that you can mount, say, on a tree in an area frequented by wildlife, so you can capture photos or video of them automatically without having to sit in a blind all night yourself. They typically feature a motion sensor, so they only activate if something passes within range of the camera lens. Pretty cool, huh?

For a first-time game cam buyer, though, the number of choices can be overwhelming. We found a very detailed (and rather long) video review of several models on YouTube:

We particularly liked how he tested the ability to get a shot of a passing animal quickly enough so that it didn’t end up partly or entirely out of the frame. This struck us as an often overlooked aspect of picking a trail cam.

Another feature they noted that may prove useful is wifi connectivity, so you can review and download images from the camera without actually having to go out in the bush to retrieve a memory card. Nice!

We’re sure you can see the myriad uses for this technology. Hunters can use it to find the areas frequented by trophy bucks, while conservationists and researchers can employ it to help track wildlife behavior, estimate populations, and more. And if you just enjoy the outdoors and want to capture some “candid” shots of your favorite fauna, a trail cam is a relatively painless way to do it.

Finally, there are models in just about every price range. As with most things, it appears that you pretty much get what you pay for, so you should approach your shopping with a clear idea of which features you need, which would be nice to have, and which are not necessary for your specific purposes.

Overall, we think game cameras are a neat, exciting and responsible way to bring wildlife home with you. Check ‘em out!

Going Paperless: Scanning, Saving, Conserving

If you’re like most folks, you’ve got tons of paper in your home office. Those of you who are better organized probably have it all sorted out in a filing cabinet or two; others (like me) have stacks and drifts of paper all over the place.

Either way, wouldn’t you like to have a bunch of the space taken up by those documents back, while saving time, money and the environment all at once? I sure would!

stacks of paperI recently came across this article that outlines a few of the benefits of going paperless, as well as some recommended tools for getting the job done. Here are some of the things that stood out to me.

The first point the author highlights is reduction of clutter, which is obvious to most of us, but the second benefit they list is time saving, which I hadn’t considered before.

Think about it: if your important documents are all stored on your hard drive or in the cloud, you can do a simple text search to locate them quickly. Compare that to flipping through even the best organized filing system, let alone ploughing through every teetering pile of paper in your office. It’s bound to be faster and more efficient.

Another advantage I hadn’t considered is easier access for your partner. Even if one of you is primarily responsible for, say, doing taxes, there are bound to be times when your mate will need to look at some financial document. Again, if it’s saved to the cloud, they can access it from anywhere they have an internet connection, rather than having to go hunting for it in your office.

Among this article’s list of necessities for going paperless, a scanner obviously tops the list. While they recommend a specific brand, each of us will have their own preferences. I found the guide at http://bestdesktopscanner.com to be especially helpful in making a good buying decision.

Also, there’s a lot to be said for keeping these documents available online in the cloud, as described above. Make sure you go with a reputable outfit here that offers top-notch security functionality. Much of what you’ll be scanning will be sensitive, so keeping it private and safe is paramount.

Personally, I also like to keep my docs backed up on a USB or external hard drive, as well. This allows me access to them in places where the internet connectivity is poor, and serves as an extra layer of prevention against them getting lost.

Finally, and sadly, we are still far from being truly paperless as a society, so some things still have to be kept as hard copies. To keep them secure, consider buying a fireproof box. These are portable lock boxes designed to protect your documents from flames, as well as provide some measure of theft prevention. They’re built like little portable safes, usually with either a key or combination lock, and are relatively inexpensive, considering one will probably your lifetime.

Hopefully, this gives you a few ideas on how you can get rid of a lot of that paper and start enjoying a more organized and “greener” life.

Gadgets, Gizmos, and Widgets … Oh, My!

Welcome to the Big Gadget Show!

We like gadgets: contraptions, gizmos, doohickeys, thingamajigs and whatchamacallits. Especially whatchamacallits.

We’re equal opportunity when it comes to these devices: they can be electronic, mechanical or a combination of both. They can solve a simple problem, a complex challenge, or just do something cool, fun or beautiful.

This site will explore new gadgets across this huge spectrum. If we like a new gizmo, we’ll write about what it does and why we like it. When we can, we’ll also share where to get your hands on one yourself.

While some of our posts may end up reading like reviews, or even something of a sales pitch, our purpose is not really to get you to buy the nifty thingy in question. Truly, we’re just having fun here, and hope you’ll enjoy joining us for the ride.

Thanks for checking us out, and come back often to see what’s happening on the Big Gadget Show. So long!