Friday 30 April 2010

ISSA/INTERCLEAN Waterfed Pole Brushes By Hill Brush (Salmon)

HillBrush provides the Pro-Window line of ultra-lightweight water-fed brushes sets new standards in ergonomics, innovation, ultra-lightweight use and provides the latest generation of professional brushes for pure-water cleaning systems. The products have been developed by Hill Brush Co. Ltd, typically know for manufacturing the world’s most comprehensive line in quality manual cleaning tools. New standards in ergonomics & innovation - Ultra-lightweight brushes for 20m+ work heights -Exceptional dirt pick up -Easy rinsing - Glides smoothly across the glass without leaving streaks - Smart-lock technology for lightweight telescopic handles - Safety-first approach - Ultimate quality .

The PRO-WINDOW line of products sets new standards in ergonomics and innovation and provides you with the latest generation of professional glass cleaning tools. The system consists of a T-bar scrubber with a microfibre sleeve, a handle with a selection of three different size squeegee blades, and telescopic poles that fit both the T-bar and the squeegee. The handles on the squeegee and scraper T-Bar are created with a non-slip, bi-component ergonomic grip that fits perfectly into a user’s hand. When it comes to understanding the needs of the user, HBC’s new PRO-WINDOW Soft Rubber provides streak-free performance, better glide and superior results.

SHOE COVER DISPENSER: Finally one of the biggest success stories of the past two years has been the Automatic Shoe Cover Dispenser. This has created a storm and will continue to do so in 2010 with the 3rd Generation model due for release shortly.
Improves hygiene & cleanliness - Automatically fits over your shoes - Reduces germs & infections - No need to remove your footware - Easy to load - Innovative design -Professional look - Comes complete with 100 covers -Refills available.

The accolade of supplying the Royal Household was, and remains, a sign of excellence, a recognition to be proud of and one that is unequalled anywhere in the world. Our warrant gives HBC the right to display the royal coat of arms discreetly on our products, packaging, stationary and company vehicles. A company's Royal Warrant is reviewed every five years and HBC continues to set the benchmark for products in its field.

Thursday 29 April 2010

ISSA/INTERCLEAN: Window Cleaners Win Innovation Award 2010

The chairman of the Innovation Award jury, Michelle Marshall, announced the winner of 2010: Left Erik van Liempd and right Bart de Bonth (pictured) of Baudoin Wash Systems with the "Travelator Cleaner." The jury was unanimous in it's judgement, "it is rare that the jury sees a product which is so original, ergonomical and sustainable." "A true innovation!" The Travelator Cleaner is also winner of the category 'Equipment/tools for cleaning, care and safety.'

The Travelator is easy to use, was designed with the latest technology and has a modern appearance. The device runs on a battery which allows the Travelator Cleaner to be used for a full day before requiring a re-charging. The first step in cleaning the black marks and dirt on glass is to place the machine on a non-operating travelator. The side panels will hydraulically slide out and be placed on the glass at equal pressure. The panels automatically adjust to the different travelator heights. The 6 round micro-fibre pads start rotating cross wise and, if you activate the spraying system, the pads will start cleaning the glass. The high-quality spraying system sprays a very thin film of aqua pure water with a glass protector which in combination with the micro-fibre pads will easily clean the most heavily polluted surfaces and provides a spotless result. The Travelator Cleaner can be used for a full day without requiring refilling thanks to its 5 litre reservoir.

The Travelator is the newest and most innovative solution to clean more than a thousand kilometers of travelator glass all over the world, at the best, most efficient, ecological and ergonomic way there is. The Travelator is a compact, easy to use machine, designed with the newest technology and has a modern appearance. This innovation is not only a huge development in the cleaning industry, it will also result into a 60-70% time save, compared to the current way of working by hand.

More Video to come of Baudoin Wash Systems Water Fed Poles & Accessories here! Previous blog here!

Wednesday 28 April 2010

Window Cleaning News

Chicago firefighters rescued a window washer from outside the 26th floor of a Gold Coast high-rise this afternoon. The worker was dangling from a rope and was brought to the roof of the building at 300 E. Ohio St. by firefighters at about 4 p.m., said Chicago Fire Department spokesman Quention Curtis. He suffered minor injuries and will likely be taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

Window Washer Rescued From High-Rise Hotel - CHICAGO. Firefighters rescued a window washer from a scaffold 26 floors above a Streeterville area high-rise Tuesday afternoon. The incident happened at the Doubletree Hotel Chicago at 300 E. Ohio St. about 4 p.m. The scaffold was on the 26th floor of the building, according to Fire Media Affairs Director Larry Langford. The call was for "a window washer in some form of distress," Langford said. The man was ultimately brought down from the scaffold to an ambulance and taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital in fair condition, fire officials said.

Norwich police hunt bogus window cleaner: Police hunting a bogus window cleaner who has targeted five elderly people in south Norwich in just four weeks today reassured residents they have stepped up patrols in the area to catch the criminal. Police are also speaking to elderly residents in sheltered housing and those who live in their own homes offering advice and reassurance. The con-artist has targeted sheltered housing in the Lakenham and Tuckswood area of the city, gaining entry through unlocked doors and has stolen handbags and purses. Police believe the unknown man is taking advantage of the warmer weather which means residents tend to leave their windows and doors unlocked.
Sergeant David Jerman, from the Lakenham and Tuckswood Safer Neighbourhood Team (SNT), said “We are actively holding talks with the elderly and also letter dropping with packs of advice.
“Officers will also be visiting local hairdressers and doctors' surgeries where they will leave packs for residents to have access to. “Our team feel it is vitally important to liaise with residents who are of a vulnerable nature so we can find the person/s responsible for these despicable crimes. “Bogus callers and rogue traders often prey on residents such as this, providing plausible cover stories. “We would ask anyone who has been approached by people touting for business as a window cleaner to get in touch with Norfolk Constabulary.”
Lakenham city councillor Keith Driver backed police plans to step up patrols. He said: “That's good news and I would also urge elderly people to be more on guard. The crime rate in Lakenham has gone down, and it's now one of the best places to live in Norwich.” As reported, on Sunday, April 18, an 87-year-old woman at the Norwich City Council-run sheltered housing scheme in Rowland Court, off Queens Road, and a 78-year-old woman at Corton Road, off Bracondale, were both targeted. If you have any information on burglaries in your area contact Norfolk Constabulary on 0845 456 4567, 999 in an emergency, or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111. For more information about local policing visit

Small businesses are the beating heart of our economy - but under Labour thousands of them have been left struggling for survival. A disastrous mix of the recession, rocketing business rates and bailed-out banks refusing to lend cash have forced many owners of small businesses under.
The Federation of Small Businesses say 68 per cent of small firms are still operating below capacity. And a whopping 65 per cent of bosses believe the business climate will either deteriorate or fail to improve over the next 12 months.
MARK McCLURE, 47, has had to lay off one worker and halve the hours of another. Mark, who has runs OsmoWash in Hamble, Hants, for three years, said: I blame Gordon Brown and the Labour Party for the way they have handled things. Under them the price of petrol has rocketed, banks have stopped lending money and my pension has been destroyed. I can't afford for things to get any worse. The recession and credit crunch has had a dramatic effect on our customers - and that in turn has had a massive effect on us. Home owners and businesses are short of money.
Window cleaning is one of the first services they cut. Nobody has been untouched by this. We clean houses that are worth anything from £100,000 up to several million pounds - and all home owners say the economy is in a real mess. My company has a good reputation and people like what we do but they can't afford to pay us. I'm having to work twice as hard just to replace customers that are leaving. A 70-hour week is now normal. I employ one full-time worker and seven part- timers - but I've had to lay off one worker and halve the hours of another employee.
I've also scrapped plans to buy another van and recruit two workers. I hope David Cameron - who I will vote for - has the answers to all our troubles and can turn things around.

Tributes to father (pictured) who died in bar tragedy - Emotional tributes have been paid to a father who died aged 43 after collapsing in a town centre bar. Window cleaner Philip Cotham, known as Pip, died in hospital after he was taken ill in the Breeze Bar in St Helens town centre at around 2am on Sunday, April 18. The cause of death is not known, but there are not believed to be any suspicious circumstances. Friends have been stunned and say he was “fit as a fiddle”. His heartbroken father, also named Philip, had been holidaying in Tenerife, when he was told the news but had to wait four days before he was able to return home because of the ash cloud chaos.
Pip, described as a familiar, cheery face across St Helens, lived on the Hard Lane estate and had been a window cleaner for more than ten years. He wasn’t married, but had a daughter Kirsty, aged 16, and two sons Carl, aged 19, and 12-year-old Kieron. He also had stepchildren Claire, 23, and Craig, 20.
His devastated brother Alan, 47, said the family can’t believe what’s happened. He told the Star: “It’s such a shock. He was such a popular figure round town, always with a laugh and smile on his face. “He wasn’t a wallflower and was always out and about. “At the moment, we’re not sure exactly what happened, but he was as fit as a fiddle. “He was up and down ladders and carrying them everywhere. “All we know is that he was in the beer garden talking to a friend and just collapsed. The bouncers came to help and paramedics tried for 25 minutes to resuscitate him.”
Pip also leaves two other brothers Dave, 45, and Robert, 19 and two sisters Elaine and Ann, who are both aged 41. His funeral is due to take place at St Thomas’s Church on Westfield Street on Friday, April 30, followed by a get together at the Rockware Club on Shaw Street.

Christopher Pickard pleaded guilty to supplying ketamine – a hallucinogenic anaesthetic – to Miss Kaye during an impromptu party at his home on April 17 last year. He was jailed at Bradford Crown Court yesterday by Recorder Edward Bindloss who said Pickard had “a relatively low level of culpability” in Miss Kaye’s death. Prosecutor John Harrison said Miss Kaye called at Pickard’s home, at Halifax Road, Ambler Thorn, Queensbury, at about 1.45am after a girls’ night out. Miss Kaye, of Mickledore Ridge, Horton Bank Top, Bradford, had been drinking heavily, the court heard. Pickard, a window cleaner, now of Thirkleby Royd, Clayton, Bradford, had Ketamine available in his kitchen.

A new window-cleaning company has opened in South Charleston. Debbie Kelly and her son, Joe Kelly, have opened a Fish Window Cleaning franchise at 203 D St. The franchise cleans windows on residential and commercial buildings. Debbie had been director of human resources for a Charleston hotel. Joe previously worked in the mining industry. The Kellys have the first Fish Window Cleaning franchise in West Virginia. Fish Window Cleaning has more than 220 locations in the United States.

Administrative and System-wide Support: The proposed budget reduces/eliminates contracts (vehicles, HVAC, window cleaning, fax/typewriter maintenance); reduces staff development and training; reduces programming support; reduces facilities and maintenance system-wide; and consolidates administrative support activities. Up to 31 positions are expected to be eliminated.

If you have a desire to shake your head from left to right multiple times without any rhyme or reason, "Dirty Jobs" is probably the show for you. Host Mike Rowe has developed a reputation for going into any circumstance just to showcase how some everyday individuals make a living, and often the entertainment value and gross out factor are high enough to leave an impression beyond every episode. The Discovery Channel recently released Season 4 in a five DVD set which can be found at Rowe winds up in Hawaii at one point with a company named Worldwide Window Cleaning. He positions himself in a boson´s chair and spends some time cleaning windows about 40 stories above downtown Honolulu.

A prolific burglar has been spared jail after helping police solve 76 crimes. Lee Webster, 28, of Washington Close, Paignton, was given a two-year community order and order to carry out 100 hours of unpaid work after he admitted two burglaries in Barnstaple and asked for 76 other offences to be taken into account at Exeter Crown Court. He was also electronically tagged for three months under a daily curfew from 8pm to 7am. Judge Graham Cottle warned him he faced a "huge sentence" in prison if he landed in trouble again. Webster broke into a window- cleaning firm and a canine- grooming company in Barnstaple in August last year. Tools and some cash were stolen and police patrolling with sniffer dogs later caught Webster on the Tarka Trail. He then co-operated with Devon and Cornwall Police by showing them where he had committed other crimes. He already has 61 previous court appearances for various offences. Prosecutor Malcolm Galloway said police had written to the court to comment on Webster's impressive co-operation in helping solve a further 76 crimes.

Beware of Greenwashing: Avoid Eco-Hype: As increasingly more businesses provide "green" products and services, others are inflating or misrepresenting the environmental performance of their products or services. Smart businesses and marketers should consider the following tips for making environmental claims responsibly. As demand for environmentally preferable purchasing increases, "greenwashing" — the practice of misleading purchasers about the environmental benefits of a product or service — remains a key concern. "All it takes is a few big scandals about something not being very green — after it was promoted as green — and consumers will stop trusting," Anastasia O'Rourke, co-founder of the research firm Big Room, Inc.
Meanwhile, S.C. Johnson & Son faces a class action suit alleging that placing a proprietary "Greenlist" seal on its Windex window cleaning products misled consumers into believing that the products were independently certified by a third party; the Greenlist was actually an S.C. Johnson-conceived program. "Unfortunately, not all manufacturers have made the investments necessary to provide more environmentally preferable products," Scot Case, founding board member of the International Green Purchasing Network, has written at "In order to compete in a market that demands 'green' products, some manufacturers have resorted to creative advertising instead."

The best street handball players dominate parks like gunslingers in a western. Handball has been a feature of urban life for generations, a pastime of laborers and lawyers, a fixture in parks, private clubs and prison yards, a passion that transcends class, religion and ethnicity. Rambo walks with a limp, the result of a fall from a three-story building during his days as a window washer 20 years ago. These days, he teaches kick-boxing and tends a samurai sword rack at his home in Downey, Calif.

Squeegee Pro: A couple with a neighboring business was sure a lot more than massages was going on inside. The sign on the door may read "no soliciting" but according to neighbors at an Irvine business park, there was plenty of solicitation of a different sort. "We just started noticing that everyone going in was a male and it was just constant foot traffic," said Paul Slaney. "I just thought it was really strange…just a short period of time and constant flow of guys," said Elizabeth Meehan. Slaney and Meehan bought Squeegee Pro Window cleaning at the beginning of the month. Although there was no sign on the neighboring business, it went by Young's Chiropractic according to its website. The couple's suspicions and research soon led them to sites reviewing so called "massage parlors." "They're talking about the services they got and they're saying it's right next to Squeegee Pro," Meehan said.
Believing they bought a business in a city consistently ranked as the safest in the country, they contacted police and local paper. Then on Tuesday, city citations and tenancy termination notices were left at the business - revealing that employees were living there as well. "I have no idea what those women's personal circumstances are but I could never imagine anyone else going in there would want their daughter or their wife or their mom having to go through what these women probably go through," Meehan said. "I just think it shows ordinary people can make a difference," said Slaney. "If you see something you can say something and something can really happen from that." The business closed up early and CBS 2/KCAL 9 was unable to reach the listed owner, Soon Kim, for comment. Irvine police said as soon as one of these plaxes shuts down, it tends to pop up somewhere else. That's way police emphasized it important for citizens to be their eyes and ears.

Those who doubted whether Eau Claire could support the new apartment buildings going up in the Phoenix Park area might want to reconsider their skepticism. Steven Smith of S&J Window Cleaning in Eleva washed windows Tuesday at the mixed-use building scheduled to open this weekend at 312 Wisconsin St. in downtown Eau Claire. All the 24 apartments are leased in the building, which is part of the North Barstow Redevelopment Project.

Hands up if you remember spiderman? - Dan Bourke recalls the day a French daredevil risked life and limb to climb One Canada Square. There's a book called Let The Great World Spin, about that bloke who walked on a tightrope between the World Trade Centre towers in the '70s - the one they did that film about, Man On Wire. Actually, it's not about Philippe Petit as such, although he is in it. It's about his walk and about a pretty randomised selection of Taxi Driver-era New Yorkers - projects hookers, a radical monk, drugged-up artists - some of whom witnessed the event. Its given added poignancy, of course, by the fact that the two towers don't exist any more, and there are plenty of more light-hearted Quantum Leap style ironies of anachronism.
The French free-climber who set himself the mission of scaling One Canada Square without ropes? Alain Robert, he is called. Why are these people always French? It was a Friday, October 2002. We knew he was going to try, I seem to recall. His people must have put it about. Security knew too, and they were watching the Tube station for him, but one man slips through that crowd pretty easily. We heard about it while he was up about floor three. He hooked his little French hands and feet into the grooves used by the window cleaners' cradle. A crowd grew. No one could get near him - the security guards here don't look like mountaineers. A base jumper, who that night would leap with his packed parachute from the top of the building site that would become the Marriott, was the first to notice the rain. He gave up on the 35th floor, the climber, Robert. The wind is pretty strong up there. Those non-mountaineering security guards, in the cradle of a window cleaner, got him to the top. The police had a word with him. Then sent him on his way.

Tuesday 27 April 2010

Unger: New HiFlo Multilink - The Ultimate Adapter System

At the ISSA Interclean today, Dave Rogers of Unger UK was on hand to show me the new HiFlo Multilink gooseneck system - where you can choose your pole, multi-link gooseneck & brush in any combination. With this system nearly every working angle or distance can be achieved. Various combinations perfectly adjust your HiFlo pole to your individual working requirements. Thereby the brush can be twisted or turned into any position. All the multi-link adapters are made of robust aluminium & the Unger multi-link adapter allows the attachment of the ergotech safety cone & a multitude of classical cleaning tools, such as squeegees, washers & scrapers. The HiFlo pole is a fairly light pole for all the various combinations that a window cleaner would need. Rapid changeovers make this pole & attachments a solution for every window cleaner in a tricky situation.

Also new is the light weight boars bristle brush with adapter, complete with jets, hoses & T-piece. This can be combined with the new HiFlo Carbontec telescopic pole for a distance of up to 20 meters. Also on the video you get to see a few more mono-filament brushes & an inline variable chemical/soap injector for those really grubby windows or cladding.

*n.b. The website shown in the video is not yet available to view on the internet at this time.

Monday 26 April 2010

Window Cleaning Massage Parlour

Due to Google linking Squeegee Pro with a massage parlour the blog title has been changed. If you are looking for Squeegee Pro window cleaning company - go here.

Can you believe this coincidence? I'm only in town (Amsterdam) for the ISSA cleaning conference & a story like this rolls up in front of me! ...

Busy massage parlor bugs neighbour: Irvine – At first, the new owners of a window cleaning business in a quiet industrial park in Irvine didn't notice the steady stream of men visiting the establishment next door. However, as Paul Slaney and Elizabeth Meehan (pictured) settled into their new jobs at Squeegee Pro on April 1, a clear picture emerged. They noticed the business next door had no displayed name – just a lit "Open" sign beckoning from behind a darkened window. They noticed the constant foot traffic, even on weekends, to the nameless tenant of the Main & Redhill Business Center.

And they noticed that most male clients – many well dressed, and most driving expensive cars – would leave, after some 30 to 45 minutes, clutching bottled water. "I went home and did an Internet search of 'Squeegee Pro' and 'sex' – two words that should never go together," Slaney said. What he discovered was enough to compel him and Meehan, his business partner and wife, to try to get out of their lease – or get it slashed in half.

The business next door, Slaney discovered, is an "erotic massage parlor" where men pay for various sex acts, according to online reviews that identify it by address and by exterior photographs. The occupants of 18218 E. McDurmott, Suite G have gotten the attention of Irvine police, who are conducting an investigation to determine what kind of business it is and if the business is properly licensed, Irvine police spokesman Lt. John Hare said. According to a preliminary investigation, the business is a chiropractic service that also offers massages, Hare said. The probe into possible criminal activity continues, he said. As Slaney and Meehan see it, running a business next to a tenant that may be engaged in illegally activity is bad for their bottom line.

They say they had no idea who their neighbor was when they assumed the lease from the prior owner of Squeegee Pro, which owns a fleet of trucks that are sent out to homes and business through Orange County. Clients rarely visit the Squeegee Pro office. Still, that's not the point, according to Slaney and Meehan. "This establishment (next door) creates an unbearable working environment ... and greatly reduces the value of the leasehold," Slaney wrote to his property manager April 21, demanding termination of his $2,349-per-month lease that expires May 2011.

Slaney and Meehan work in front of a window that provides a clear view of the customers heading into and out of the business next door. "The place is just hopping with 'Johns,''' said Slaney, referring to the term used for male clients of prostitutes. "It's disgusting. "As a woman, I particularly feel uncomfortable. And reading about sex-trafficking and the exploitation of women, I'm just appalled." Apparently, the chiropractic/massage parlor has been in business for years.

A woman who Slaney and Meehan believes is the manager of the massage parlor often visits Squeegee Pro, delivering plates of strawberries to the office manager and two tenants who sublease space from the window cleaning business. "Maybe that's her way of trying to stay in our good graces," Slaney said. One website Slaney turned up identifies the business next to Squeegee Pro as Young Chiropractic Clinic. The site rates the female masseuses there by name, as well as the quality of the sexual acts they perform.

One blogger, describing the location of where he got serviced, mentioned that the establishment is located directly across from Squeegee Pro. And the 18218 McDurmott address is mentioned on other websites that cater to men looking for sex. Slaney and Meehan say the alleged activities going on next door are appalling enough, but what also upsets them is the stance of their landlord.

Davis Partners LLS, which manages the business park for owner Prudential Real Estate Investors, is unwilling to reduce Squeegee Pro's rent or renegotiate the lease, according to Slaney. A Davis Partners representative told Slaney he was the first tenant to complain about the business in Suite G. The representative did offer, however, to move Squeegee Pro to another space in the business park – something he and Meehan aren't considering. "It would be unfair and expensive," Slaney said. "We would have to reprint our business cards and other materials, and it would not be fair to the two tenants we sublease space to. "If anyone should be forced out, shouldn't it be them?" Slaney said, referring to the occupant of Suite G. Marc Buchanan, a principal of Davis Partners who spoke to Slaney about his complaint, did not return a phone call.

An undercover Irvine police detective, responding to a complaint by Squeegee Pro, paid a visit, along with a city code enforcement official, to the allegedly illicit massage parlor last week. The business was cited for plumbing and electrical code violations, Hare said. The detective told Slaney that Irvine police shut down a similar establishment in the same business park a few months ago. Hare could not confirm that. In less than 24 hours after being cited April 21 for the code violations, the establishment next to Squeegee Pro was back in business. In a span of two hours around lunchtime Friday, three men visited Suite G, apparently with pre-scheduled appointments. Two of the men drove BMWs, the third – a middle-aged man dressed in a white shirt and tie – a Lexus SUV. When the Register called the massage parlor, a woman answered the phone. She said "hello" without giving the name of the business. She said rates for a massage were $50 for 30 minutes and $80 for an hour. Asked what other services were available beyond a massage, the woman said: "You come by and see me. I don't tell you over the phone."

Sunday 25 April 2010

Window Cleaning Rants & Posts

Yes, here is another example of superior customer service that turned me from “disgruntled customer” into a “happy camper” – but not into a “raving fan”!

A window cleaning company employee broke a handle off one of our windows (no, I won’t get on a ladder to clean the third story windows!). The window cleaning company told me they would pay for the replacement handle – but, seriously, they broke it so they should pay for it right? However, I had to order the handle, replace it and then send them the receipt to get reimbursed. This is not the example of superior customer service! Why should I be hassled to correct their mistake? To make me a “raving fan,” – which should always be the objective when correcting a mistake - the window cleaning company should have ordered the handle and then stopped by and put it on the window at no charge to me. That would have made me want to continue to do business with them. Merely doing what they were obligated to do - pay for the replacement part - has cost them a customer and referrals – Whenever I receive superior customer service I recommend the company to the other 24 residents of our home owners association. They will not be getting a recommendation.

The example of superior customer occurred when I ordered the replacement handle from Pella Windows. Rather than go to the Pella warehouse, I asked that the replacement handle be mailed to me. When it arrived it was the wrong handle. I would now have to travel to the Pella Warehouse (a 60 minute round trip) with the broken handle to get the right replacement part. I was not a happy camper! A day later, I got a call from a Pella Service Representative who asked if I had received the part and was satisfied with it. When I told her I was definitely not satisfied, she immediately got the information about the broken handle and said it would be delivered to me the next day by Fed Ex at no charge.

This made me a happy camper and changed me from “irritated customer” to “happy camper”. What would it take to make me a “raving fan”? Perhaps a reimbursement of the cost of the handle to show they were sorry about the original mistake and the hassle (minimal I agree) it caused me.

Or am I just too hard to please? Maybe like some of your best customers?

The Bottom Line: When you have a chance to transform a “disgruntled customer” into a “raving fan” don’t stop half way at the “happy camper” stage! You may never have another opportunity to impress this customer with how much you value their business.

And you never know who has the ability to increase your business through referrals – so give every customer superior customer service (even though you may not give them the big customer discount).

The Question: How far will you go to rectify a mistake and create a “raving fan”?

What are we opening our doors to? He pushed the small package across the kitchen table. "Look what I've brought you, brother." The man looked at the object without touching it. "It is not very big. Are you sure it can do the job." "It senses movement up to one and half metres. Any movement within that range will set it off." "Obviously it is not set up now or...," he did not bother to finish the statement. "That is right but even so you must be very cautious. Listen carefully."

He went on to explain while making sure he had the attention of the one who would take possession of the device. "The contents may catch fire, the container may explode if heated, and may irritate eyes. Remember, do not puncture and not burn. Use it only in a well ventilated area and keep away from open flames such as a pilot light or any object that sparks, such as an electric motor. If you are going to store it keep it away from heat and do not get it in your eyes. Be sure to keep out of reach of children and pets."

Next was an explanation on assembling the device -"lift the front cover then lay the canister into position. Snap the canister in place. Now pull and discard the red tab to activate batteries. Now be sure to keep the unit pointed away from you and others during assembly. You see, it will automatically spray a burst 20 seconds after assembly to show it is working properly. And that, my brother, is how you refill the Glade Sense & Spray Motion activated freshness sensor."

Research by the Sierra Club of Canada shows that the inside of homes is often worse than the outside and we are willing bring in the offending chemicals. For instance, formaldehyde isn't limited to the high school lab. Formaldehyde is used in fertilizers, glues, plywood, particleboard and certain types of installation, as well as in some disinfectants, antibacterial soaps and even beauty products. So, what's to worry about? It has been classified as a probable human carcinogen by the EPA. Home exposure to it has been linked to respiratory allergies in children.

Companies tend to shy away from the down-side of the toxic chemicals while promoting the benefits of their products. Air fresheners give off naphthalene, a suspected carcinogen. Ammonia-based window cleaners cause respiratory irritation. Some cleaners contain the nerve-damaging butyl cello-solve which is absorbed into the skin.

We have to get into the routine of reading labels. While assessments start from the premise that some degree of exposure, even to the most hazardous chemicals, can be judged "acceptable", for many of the chemicals already known for some time to present serious hazards, scientists just don't know the full and long-term effects of these chemicals on our health or on our environment -even at low doses!

Tightrope: Getting the word out about your business - By Gladys Edmunds for USA TODAY (pictured).

Question: Hello, Gladys, I own a carpet (window) cleaning company and so far I seem to have a fairly decent customer base. I would like to get more customers. When I checked into advertising on local radio stations and in a few local newspapers, the prices are more than I can afford. How can I get more people to know about and use my service without spending money that I don't have? — Sam

Answer: There are many ways to get the word out about your business that won't cost you a lot of money. You will need to use the most valuable assets you have — time, effort and creative ability. Keeping them in good working order is one of the enjoyable aspects of entrepreneurship. The following are examples that you can try and I'm sure there are other entrepreneurs that may find a few ideas to try as well.

Never underestimate the power of referrals. There are a couple of ways to go about this. Call or write a letter to your customers and ask them to refer a friend. Or, you can ask each of your customers to recommend three of their friends. Then, write a letter to them introducing your services.

I know there are many companies that offer cash bonuses or rebates to people who refer customers. Personally, I don't like that arrangement. Several months ago I got a letter from the gym I frequent offering members a $50 referral fee if they could get a friend to sign up. I asked one of the owners how that campaign had fared. He said they didn't get any takers. I wonder what would have happened if he had offered the discount to the person signing up. I certainly would be happy to tell my friends that if they joined the gym during a certain time they would get the cash back. So try to avoid offering to pay your customers to send their friends to you. Generally when you have customers that appreciate your service they are usually happy to help you stay in business.

With the end of winter just around the corner, spring cleaning will be on most folk's to-do list. You could design attractive leaflets and drop them off at churches, supermarkets, car washes, laundromats, gyms — any place that has a good flow of traffic. Usually there are community bulletin boards that you can post your leaflets on; by all means take advantage of that.

You can also offer your service as a fundraiser for your favorite charity. For a designated period of time give the organization a percentage of each sale they send your way. Organizations that are involved in raising money to fight breast cancer have raised millions of dollars this way.

Have you considered co-op advertising? Sometimes local newspapers offer this option. If not, pull it together yourself. Invite several small businesses that compliment your service to join in with you on an advertising campaign. For example, you could contact a window cleaning company, drapery cleaning company, maid service and maybe even a chimney sweep to join in an ad campaign aimed at building business for that coming spring-cleaning season. Once you pull the other business owners together, sit down with an ad agent from the newspaper and work out something attractive and eye-catching.

Also talk with other business owners to learn what they done creatively to enhance their market share. Try out one or two things that fit well with your company. Marketing a business is all about testing, testing and re-testing to see what works. Never underestimate the power of even the simplest marketing idea. The very thing that you think to be ridiculous could be the thing that has the most impact. Sometimes the best marketing and promotion ideas can come from simple ideas.

Spidey Senses, Spidey Tenses: Spider-Man fever never seems to die. Just Google-news search "spider" and you'll see what I mean. Apparently there's a Spider-Man Broadway musical set to be produced (and Alan Cummings has bailed out - but we should have seen that coming). I live in New York City and I can honestly say that I may never go see a Broadway musical and I will not feel bad about it. Still, I recognize the iconic/ridiculous popularity that something must reach before it is turned into a Broadway musical (see: Toxic Avenger)(did I just invalidate my own point?).

But that's not all. Now it seems you can have Spider Man clean your windows for you. A full grown man or woman who is already performing a very dangerous job will now dress up in a costume fit for a child and perform that same job for the entertainment of the many onlookers who have previously stopped to watch window washers but have felt that it lacks zest (what? exactly.). The company featuring these costumed clean-saders (get it?!!) said that they want to add fun to whatever they do. Although if we think this through, the person who is doing the job (the window washer) is probably not enjoying dangling from a sky scraper and wearing a mask. (Am I crabby today, or does anyone else feel bad for the window washers?)

Lets talk some physics. I had wanted to continue up my post about rope with a discussion about strong materials. The wonderful lecture by James Kakalios at the APS March Meeting taught me that spider silk is one of the strongest naturally occurring materials in the world. In researching this post I'm just overwhelmed with all the awesome little things I'm finding about spiders and their amazing materials.

To illustrate the strengths of spider silk, Kakalios showed a scene from Spider Man 2, in which Spidey stops a speeding train using his webs. Assuming the speed and weight of the train, and how far it had to slow down, and taking a stab at the thickness and number of web strands, Kakalios shows Spidey would, in fact, be able to stop that speeding train, while even steel cables would not. Real spider silk in a quarter inch thick strand can support 6,000 pounds. (See his answer to that and other questions here.)

So why can't we buy spider silk rope in our local hardware store? Or make a clothing from it (which would be lighter and stretchier than Kevlar, although Kevlar is slightly stronger*)? Well, apparently reproducing spider silk is not so easy. This article from Live Science in 2004 calls reproducing spider silk on a larger scale "the holy grail of materials science." A bit of a journalistic overstatement I think, but obviously intended to convey great importance. Because really, the Holy Grail of anything is the Holy Grail. There's really no substitute for eternal life, is there? I am full of distractions today.

But really, this whole post is a distraction. There's some physics in here about spider silk and its strength and flexibility, but mostly it's just marveling at spider amazingness. There is seriously so much cool stuff to learn about spiders. Did you know their blood flouresces? (See pic to the right) Did you know the pain from a spider bite may be similar to the pain you experience when you eat hot food? Then there's the super strong nano-structures that exist in their fangs. If these things were the size of tanks they would rule the world. Luckily, it doesn't seem like those super structured claws or the super strong spider silk can transition to the macroscopic world very easily.

Scientists have even taken spiders to space. When building a web, spiders can sense their own weight, which provides a guideline for how thick the silk should be. NASA scientists immediately challenged the spiders by chanting, "Oh yeah? Betcha can't do that in zero gravity!" Living up to their end of the challenge, NASA scientists took common garden spiders (Araneus diadematus) spiders into space, where they were still able to build webs, and over time got better at building them in zero gravity. Their results showed that the web threads were finer in space than on the ground. So the weight sensing mechanism works pretty well.

As for manufactured reproductions of spider silk, there seem to be few if no updates on work that was done five or six years ago. Well, at least not breaking news stories about it. The subject of spiders and there silk, however, remains heavily researched by groups like the Oxford Silk Group, who were featured on some British TV shows to talk about this stuff.

All this spidey awesomeness - is this why people still have Spider-Man fever, years after the third and terrible movie came out? I enjoy a good comic book, but these real life spiders are the ones who have me tangled up in their web.

Monster wife is violent boozer: My marriage is in total meltdown. My wife is the main breadwinner. She has a good job and earns lots of money but she’s drinking more than ever. And when she drinks she takes all of her frustrations out on me. I get called every name under the sun. I’m told that I’m useless, lazy and a drag on her purse. She throws things at me, punches and kicks me. When I complain she spits that I’m nothing. She screams that she should never have married me. She accuses me of bleeding her dry and being half a man. But this arrangement was her idea.

She was the one who told me to give up my profitable window cleaning round to look after the house and support her. She made it all sound so sensible and plausible. She’d earn the serious cash and I’d provide the back-up, the meals, the maintenance and the homemaking. But now it’s all gone belly-up. To the outside world our life is perfect. We live in a beautiful house with all mod cons. Friends come round, admire our stuff and tell us that we’re lucky. But no-one really knows what goes on behind closed doors, do they? If I’m honest, then I’m probably what you might call a beaten husband. When we have sex it’s like I’m being punished for a crime I haven’t committed. I’m physically and verbally abused. And if I fail to perform, Heaven help me.

I’m literally kicked out of bed and into the loft room. I understand that she’s currently under a lot of pressure at work. Yes, she does earn a bomb – plus bonuses. She does travel, enjoy swish lunches and mix with the great and the good. But it’s all at a price. Her boss thinks nothing of ringing her at midnight and bawling her out down the phone. Her clients expect total dedication, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. She copes with the stress – or rather, doesn’t – by drinking huge amounts of vodka and wine. Then she kicks me around like a dog. I have tried speaking to her when she’s sober but then she simply brushes everything aside and says that I don’t understand. But I do. Only too well.

JANE SAYS: My advice is for you to get out of that hellhole right now. Take your stuff and go to a safe place where you can sleep easier, breathe and think. At the moment you’re like a caged animal. You can’t move and you can’t reason because your wife has you trapped. She’s kicking you around and abusing you with no thought for your feelings, your safety or your happiness. This isn’t a marriage, this is a life sentence.

If she has problems with her boss, her clients and her drinking, then she needs to be encouraged to deal with each one in turn. But you cannot continue to take the brunt of her frustrations. This isn’t right and it isn’t fair. Find out which of your friends or relatives can help you in moving out and moving on.

Saturday 24 April 2010

Wagtail at the ISSA Conference Amsterdam

The ISSA/INTERCLEAN conference 2010 is starting this Monday (Monday 26th to Thursday 29th) in Amsterdam, Netherlands at the RAI in cooperation with ISSA (The Worldwide Cleaning Industry Association). This is the largest international trade show for the cleaning industry with the ISSA running a series of educational seminars tackling the most contemporary themes in the cleaning sector. Entirely in line with current developments, sustainability is a recurring subject. Other subjects include the impact of the global economic crisis, legislation and regulation, global measuring and quality systems, and how hygiene can combat health problems. The full list of 657 Exhibitors can be seen here. With an expected 80,000 visitors & roughly 20,000 people a day - this is promising to be the biggest cleaning event this year.

"Willie Wagtail" (pictured) & his line of well known cleaning tools aka THE WAGTAILS will also be attendance all the way from Sydney, Australia. Willie also has three new products coming on to the market! Watch this blog for more news - Willie is hoping they will be on show for the event. Mum's the word for now - hopefully I can get some footage over the next week live from the show. If you haven't already signed up for the newsletter, do so now & have a chance to win some 14" & 18" Wagtail Whirlwinds!

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