The Philadelphia Inquirer Home Real Estate Column

Aug. 18–Since we’ve exceeded the $6,000 or so that the experts say people spend in their first six months in a house, I’ve decided to try to use the material at hand when I work on the place.

Fortunately, we have leftover paint in the basement that is being used to touch up nicked walls and to redo the remodeled master bath and library.

I did have to buy three 1-by-6 pine boards on which I’m planning to mount shelving in the library to hold videotapes and DVDs.

I could mount the shelving directly on the wall, but I think it needs more support than just two screws in a couple of studs.

As a favor, the contractor marked the location of the studs — 16 inches on center, would you believe? — because no matter how careful I am, and how sophisticated the stud finder is, I often drill right past the stud and into the wallboard.

That’s why a can of spackle accompanies every project.

The shelves are part of a bookcase system we bought from Ikea for the library, since we couldn’t wait till I set up my workshop in the garage and found the time to make my own.

The problem is that the three shelves are supposed to span the wall between two CD towers. When I measured the library before we bought the bookcase system, there was supposed to be about an inch of give in the arrangement.

That space was to be plugged with one side of a third, unassembled CD tower.

Instead of an extra inch, however, we ended up being shy a half between the CD towers. (I’m still trying to figure out how this happened, but all signs point to me.) So I’ve decided to cut the Ikea shelves down a half inch.

Of course, I will have removed the finished edges from one side of the shelving, but since both sides will fit snugly into the opening, it won’t be visible.

I don’t recommend cutting Ikea to fit. I did it successfully once when we overdesigned the kitchen of our previous house and I had to trim a cabinet and fit it over a radiator valve and under a windowsill.

But I wouldn’t recommend it. At least the pieces will fit easily into the compound . It’s best to strip a piece of masking tape on the edge of the cut so that remaining material doesn’t fleck off.

Miter_Saw_9664

I’m still nowhere near having the workshop that I want in the garage, but what I do have is functional. The table saw got mashed somewhat in the move from the old house to the rental house, and I haven’t decided whether to redo it or buy a 2002 version.

Right now, the compound miter saw is sitting on top of the table saw, which is better than having it on the garage floor.

I found uses for other leftover things. We used to sleep on a waterbed, but when we discovered that we could have a normal mattress on our old platform bed, we returned to dry land.

The borough took the waterbed mattress during April cleanup, but I kept the two-piece frame, the rough plywood underlayment, and the four huge drawers.

I put the two frames one on top of the other, covering them with the plywood that I cut with my 53/4-inch battery-powered circular saw.

Then I took some stray screws and assembled the lot.

The waterbed frames, now in the basement, hold Christmas decorations, trains, and the model of the old Asbury Park, N.J., railroad station my father-in-law made for my older son.

BS-TDMBKH_LRG_01

The previous owners left four two-by-fours and cedar siding in the rafters of the garage. The siding is being used to replace a couple of pieces on the garage that were nailed poorly and split. The two-by-fours joined three others left over from the bathroom remodeling to make a heavy-duty work table for the garage.

The table is a kit, manufactured by Simpson Strong-Tie. You supply the requisite lumber — two-by-fours for the frame and plywood for the top and bottom shelves. Simpson, for $26 at Home Depot, provides the connectors, screws and directions. (The plywood for the shelves also was left over from the bathroom-remodeling project.) In different configurations, but with comparable materials’ lists, you can use kits to build shelving, workbenches, and storage cabinets with doors, which is what will eventually cover the walls of my basement and garage.

One of the mistakes I made with the last two houses is that I tried to do too many things at once. I would start one project, then something would break or the furnace needed to be cleaned, or I had a great idea, and the first project would sit half-finished on the basement floor.

I’ve vowed not to make that mistake again.

Still, there is that box of oversize tile that’s been sitting underneath my desk at work for a year now. They would make a really nice tabletop…

“On the House” appears Sundays in The Inquirer. Contact Alan J. Heavens at 215-854-2472 or aheavens@phillynews.com.

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Do you remember your first Willys sighting

Do you remember your first Willys sighting? I do…like it was yesterday. Mine was a powder blue, flathead-powered ’37 B/Fuel Coupe making a pass at the Pomona drags. McKinleyville, California’s Tommy Smith can remember his first Willys, too. “I’ve always wanted a Willys,” said Smith, “since the first time I saw a picture of Stone, Woods, & Cook. But I rebuilt this Willys in memory of my Mom, who was always there when I needed her and who passed away two days after its first public outing.”

  • Smith’s mother was there when he purchased the $400 rust bucket in nearby Napa 13 years ago. She was there when its fly-wheel broke, causing Smith, again in his words, “to lift up the body and throw everything else away save the rearend and front spindles.”
  • And she was there when her 33-year-old paint salesman and fabricator son began rebuilding it three years ago. Fabricatin’ Smith laid in a supply of 2×3-inch mild-steel tubing then got out the tube bender, band saw, and hot wrench. A new frame, A-arms, and steering column appeared like magic.

But money caused the 45-inch narrow Currie-constructed 9-inch Ford, TCI shocks, Mustang II brakes, Pinto rack, and Alston ladder bars to appear in the mail. Cool cash also produced the Weld rounders (ZD10 14×6 front; ZD10 15×10 rear) and Dunlop/Firestone (32×14) grounders. But squirtin’ Smith saved a pile by doing his own painting, using a custom-mixed Nason Ful-Thane pearl yellow, magenta, and purple combo to cover the steel body and its fiberglass rear fenders and front grille panel. He frenched in the ’39 Ford teardrop taillights as well. Speaking of piles, as in rugs or carpets, call him “trimmer” Smith, too. The guy with the generic name covered his Corbeau seats with black cloth and vinyl, the floor with black nylon, and filled the stock dash with an Auto Meter-gauged aluminum insert.

The yellow Grant steering wheel was his idea, too. About the only other thing that Smith didn’t have a hand in was what makes “a Willys” A WILLYS! Doin’ the deed here is a B&M Mega Blower’d 355-inch small-block Chevy that was built, balanced, and blueprinted by Lansing Engines. Changes include everything from Banks blower pistons and Howard’s aluminum rods to a Competition Cams roller and Dave Fisher-ported heads. The fact that Smith rows through the gears with a four-speed Muncie is a flashback to the time when Ken Dondero did the same driving Panella Trucking’s ’40 Willys pickup. “My first low-buck attempt,” remembers Smith, “was a bore. Now three years later it gets real exciting when I step on the throttle.” That’s the thrill of a Willys.

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Borrowing trouble

As I emerged from another long day’s lonesome hibernation in my den of dreams, my dear wife looked up from her task of clipping grocery coupons and said, “Barnyard [her pet name for me], if you ever had to go to work, what would you want to do?”

Counting to ten, and then ten more, I put the insinuation on hold and began thinking (something I rarely do after 5:00 p.m.). What would I do if I didn’t go into my playroom every morning (but Sunday) and amuse myself with my capricious pen, my patient legal pad, my hide-and-seek games with dictionary and thesaurus, and those friendly frolics with typewriter and fax?

“I suppose you’d laugh if I said I’ve often thought that photographing lingerie models would be a pleasant way of making a living.” She laughed.

“You can’t hold a camera still when you’re photographing the dog,” she said, wiping the tears from her eyes.

“I could always serve as a handyman, don’t forget. Kick that around in your empty stadium.”

“Handyman!” I thought she would have a convulsion. “After some of the dumb stuff you have pulled?”

“Such as?” I could have bitten my tongue to the quick.

“Such as painting our garage at Whitmore Lake, for starters.”

So she had begun this discourse to bring up the old Whitmore Lake garage episode for the 37th time. But as I again pointed out, this disaster came from a rented paint sprayer, not from incompetence on my part.

I know. Shakespeare tells us neither a borrower nor a renter be. (Or is it lender? Whatever.) I had learned the value of this admonition waaay back when I was young and gay (make that young and free). If it was starters my dear wife wanted, I’d give her a starter she hadn’t known about: it goes back to the night I borrowed my brother Meryl’s 100 percent soybean suit.

For this catastrophe I blame Henry Ford. Had he stuck to turning out his Model A’s and not begun fooling around with various uses for this hog staple, the suit would not have darkened a hanger in our dark upstairs closet.

Basic black with a quarter-inch green vertical stripe, the suit could be seen coming from 50 feet away on a foggy night. This asset alone was reason enough for brother Meryl to lay out the handsome sum of $18 to remove it from the rack at the cut-rate haberdashery in downtown Flint.

I “borrowed” the suit to wear to the big Saturday night dance held weekly in Russelville. My explanation to Meryl that I had mistaken the suit for one of mine didn’t hold water, because the thing actually glowed in the dark, and neither of mine did. What did hold water, unfortunately, was the suit.

No sooner had I picked up my date for this particular bash than rain began to fall in great gobs. Though I had no trouble delivering her nice and dry at the dance hall entrance, I did have trouble finding a parking place for our Model A. Thus, by the time I arrived back under shelter, the proverbial drowned rat and I had much in common. And brother Meryl’s basic black soybean suit with the seductive green stripe had assumed the pungent odor that rises from beans that farmers cook in a big iron kettle out behind the barn to allow the stench to dissolve before it can penetrate the house.

As a result, no sooner had I grappled with my date for our first dance than she straight-armed me, keeping me at arm’s length until we arrived at the LADIES ROOM sign, where she excused herself. When she emerged, it was only to explain that she wasn’t feeling well and, by the way, she had made other arrangements for getting home.

The odor hung, close to visibility, in the old family sedan for a full month. And when I left home for college, the 100 percent soybean suit was still hanging from a nail in the woodshed.

But if my dear wife preferred the Whitmore Lake garage episode for starters, the garage it would be.

“Why didn’t you paint the garage with your trusty old three-inch brush, instead of renting an unreliable sprayer?” I have often been asked. By the same person each time. To which my response has been, “Because after its last use, the bristles swore an oath never to be separated again.” If she wanted to use the brush for tenderizing Swiss steak, it was all hers. But I wasn’t going to slap on three gallons of paint with a brush that would have required at least a week for the bristles to be separated into singles.

Why three gallons, for Pete’s sake? The blame here can be traced directly to the army surplus people. When I spot an ad for outside pray paint at two bucks per gal]on, three for five, well, you know me.

So I hie down to the Whitmore Lake hardware, rent this humongous paint sprayer, and fill it with light gray army surplus. Then, accompanied by Nikki, still trusting her dad by age four, and Tippie, our equally innocent cocker, I lead the way out to our target.

Holding the sprayer at eye level, no small trick in itself, I took aim from a distance of maybe four feet and pulled the trigger. Rather than the fine mist I had expected, a stream rivaling the circumference of a ballpoint pen shot out, bounced off the siding, and surplused my daughter and my dog from head to toe and head to tail, respectively. Although they both cleaned up pretty well, I still have some of that gray in my hair to this very day.

“And don’t forget how you butchered our house in Indianapolis with the floor sander,” dear wife busted in.

How come a woman can dredge up a minor boo-boo from that long ago and not remember how expertly I did something only last week? Like … well … let’s see … h’m ….

The sander business had less to do with my lack of ability, as I keep reminding her, than with the terms of the rental agreement: half a day for half the cost of a full day. And you know me, as I may have already mentioned.

Professional sanding people will be asking, I’m sure, how I could sand the floors of three bedrooms, the dining room, and a hallway in just short of four hours. No problem, really. One secret is to use only coarse sandpaper, forget the fine. Another little trick is to go cross grain instead of with the grain. By doing so, you can really make the old wood chips fly and get the sander returned before the noon deadline.

Had dear wife not got into the act and varnished the floors, we might have remained on speaking terms for the rest of that month. Why varnish would bring out the hollows, the pits, the potholes, and various other irregularities has never been cleared up in any varnish books I have read. A know-it-all relative, who turned an ankle in one of the valleys, pointed out that I should have gone with the grain and that the sander should have been elevated at the end of each “furrow,” as he nastily phrased it. But after pointing out to him that I had sanded four rooms and a hallway in less than four hours, he just sat there with his mouth open, but nothing came out. Dear wife, on the other hand, still talks about it, given the slightest opportunity.

Nor does she fail to point out that borrowing or renting isn’t necessary. She says I can cause trouble enough using our own stuff, the snow blower being her favorite.

I blame the medical people for this catastrophe. I wouldn’t have bought the blasted blower had I not read that men my age who shoveled snow were dropping like flies. I would like to ask the clown who came up with this longevity tidbit what’s the difference between keeling over from shoveling snow and going to your reward from trying to start and operate a mulish, clattering, smoking, no-good piece of junk. But I’m getting ahead of myself

You don’t pour just plain old gasoline into a snow blower. You must carefully follow the recipe for mixing in the proper amount of oil or risk, I suppose, die embarrassment of blowing out all eight cylinders. After squeezing a Primer Bulb to send this mixture from tank to carburetor, you must remember to turn the key to ON. (Extremely important, as I would discover after try number ten on the Rewind Manual Starter, without so much as an encouraging belch.) It was my dear wife who discovered the Choke. But not until she had read in the manual that “the Control Bar must be engaged at all times” did the blower at last begin chewing up the plywood flooring of our shed.

I take you now – along with the remains of the snow blower – to place of purchase. A no-receipt-no-refund type of individual emerged from behind the counter, lifted a loose panel of the blower with the toe of his Florsheims, and coolly asked, “You been throwing stones at this poor thing?”

“We have a stone driveway,” I explained.

“Our snow blowers are made to operate on concrete,” he frostily informed me.

“Our only concrete is in the root cellar,” I icily pointed out. “And we don’t get much snow down there.”

Why I left the wreckage to be repaired (at $135) has never been cleared up satisfactorily to you-know-who. Her main beef comes from my not having used the snow blower since.

On our way home from place of purchase, we spotted a car with a flat tire, and the driver just stood there staring at it. Whether he was swearing or praying for help, I couldn’t detect. But big-hearted old me had to stop to find out.

He needed a jack. And I had a jack, a brand-new $40 Wal-Mart hydraulic jack, never used. I would be glad to see him use it so I could pass the knowledge along to dear wife, as I am often too exhausted from driving under her tutelage to take on any extracurricular activities.

It so happened that I had no more than returned to our car to pass along the knowledge than the man took off, jack and all.

And I didn’t have a spare 40 bucks at that time to buy a new one.

I thought of borrowing a jack, of course … but only briefly.

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How to use airless paint sprayer

It is true that you can find many designs airless paint sprayer in the market because it will comes with many kinds of designs but please do not forget that the controls and general features will be same in the all kinds of airless paint sprayer.

Please do not forget that getting a good result will not be depended on your paint sprayer because it will be only depended on your using system. If you use the paint sprayer perfectly then you can get a good result.

If you have airless paint sprayer but you cannot get a good result then you can stay with me because in this article you can get the tips of airless paint sprayer which will ensure a perfect result in your painting work.

Prepare the painting surface:

  • In the first before start your painting work you need to prepare the paint surface because it will be too much important for you.
  • Before start your painting work you need to cover up all things which will be not painted including yourself because if you do not cover up everything then paint can drop in your materials which will be too much harmful for you and also for your materials.
  • Please do not forget that if you paint inside the house then you need to cover up the floors and walls and hinges and doorknobs and also light switches. If you cannot cover up all kinds of these things then paint can be dropped in any materials which will be bad for you and also for your materials.
  • If you paint in the outside of your house then you need to cover up 15 to 20 feet. You can cover up the landscaping and neighbors’ house and also the fence otherwise paint can be dropped during the painting time.

Keep the spray gun pointed:

  • After that you need to keep your spray gun point carefully because good result will be depended on the keeping the spray gun point.
  • Please do not forget that you need to keep the airless paint sprayer paint gun point always at the painting surface.
  • After that you need to move your hand in a horizontal motion and be careful about this matter because it will be most important for you and also for your painting work. Always remember that you cannot spray without your hand motion because it can be harmful for you and also for your painting work.

Start your painting:

  • After that you can start your painting work but before that you need to start moving your hand then you can pull back the trigger and then you can start your painting work.
  • Please follow as my tip because if you cannot follow as my tips then you cannot get a good result from your painting work.

Stop your painting work:

When you want to stop your painting work then you need to release the trigger and if you do this work then your painting work will be stopped.

Clean your paint sprayer:

  • When you finish your painting work then you need to clean up your pain sprayer but be careful during cleaning time and you need to clean your paint sprayer properly otherwise it will be harmful for your airless paint sprayer.
  • Please do not forget that you need to clean your airless paint sprayer after use every time and be careful about this matter. Some people will not be careful about this matter and for this reason their airless paint sprayer will be damaged.

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Building for the future

A dramatically designed bakery facility allowed its owners to build a foundation for future business expansions into outlets. At first glance, the imposing building looks like anything but a retail bakery. Peach-tiled, glass-fronted, cantilevered, it could house anything from a furrier to an investment bank.

But it is a retail bakery, and a European gourmet and deli, as well. Built by owners Wolfgang and Carla Buchler two years ago, the Heidelberg Pastry Shoppe in Arlington, Va., takes advantage of all the latest in design and architecture to make a strong statement. It says: quality.

That first impression of quality is reinforced when customers enter a 1,600-sq.-ft. store that’s a fantasyland of delicate and delicious cakes, pastries, breads, candies and cookies, all made on the premises. A selection of imported meats and cheeses complements the line of bakery products, and a display of gourmet coffees provides another tempting aroma.

Customers who may believe that only Santa’s elves could have put together such an appealing display only have to sweep up a staircase to view the workings behind the magic. At the top of the stairs, they can watch bakers and decorators putting together marvelous delicacies with precision and care. If they want to learn more, they can join one of the Wednesday-morning tours the bakers conduct to explain the mysterious workings of yeast, gluten and baking powder.

The Buchlers’ dream bakery didn’t come easily or effortlessly. In fact, it took more than 18 months of plans, projections, meetings, and construction before this $1.5 million building was ready for its grand opening. But their risks and efforts paid off with consecutive 30% increases in annual sales since the door opened in September 1988.

An apprentice who didn’t fit the mold

Although grand, this Heidelberg bakery is hardly the end of the road for the Buchlers, who have plans to expand into cold spots within a year. But it does represent a pinnacle of achievement for Wolfgang who, as a slightly outspoken apprentice in his native West Germany, may not have lasted in the field had he stayed there.

“When I started as an apprentice,” he says, “I wanted to learn both baking and pastry work, so I completed my master’s degrees in both areas. But, you don’t learn much management because things are always done the same way, everywhere you go. For me, the problem was that you can’t question the system, especially not when you’re an apprentice. I could see that management was more democratic in America.

“I also wanted to learn how to produce more efficiently. When I was in Germany, making 10 to 15 cakes a day was a big deal. But in the United States, 10 to 15 cakes better be done in an hour. And, here, there is no sharp division between a baker and a konditor. American bakers know how to do all kinds of products.”

That kind of freedom appealed to Wolfgang, and he came to the Washington, D.C., area 22 years ago to work in a German-style konditorei. After seven years, he thought it was time to strike out on his own.

Wolfgang found a retail store available in a busy strip shopping center. The store was only about 700-sq.-ft. wide at the front end, narrowing toward the back, but it did come with a basement for production and storage. With other thriving businesses in the shopping center, the bakery soon built up a steady clientele for its European-style specialties. Best of all, says Wolfgang, he met Carla when she applied for a job soon after the bakery opened.

The Heidelberg Pastry Shoppe stayed at that location for 13 years, and might still have been there had Wolfgang not started calculating again. But, the landlord wanted to raise the rent. After figuring how much money he was directing towards rent, Wolfgang thought he could do better paying a mortgage on a building of his own.

The question was where to start looking for the financing necessary for the type of building the Buchlers had in mind. After putting up with their cramped quarters for so long, they were bursting to move into a building that would provide the room to produce and display a greater variety of bakery products, as well as to add other items, such as deli foods.

When they decided to move, Wolfgang and Carla approached the local chamber of commerce about finding money for a new building. “We knew we needed some other entity to help with the financing,” Carla says. “Banks tend not to lend money unless you already have money.”

“Before I talked to the chamber, I checked with the Small Business Administration,” Wolfgang says. “With SBA, the bank would get the government’s guarantee that I would repay my loan. But the chamber told us to contact the Virginia Asset Financing Corporation. The corporation’s 504 Loan program was more attractive.”

Learning to deal in high finance

The 504 Loan program is part of the SBA’s Economic Development Program, and is administered by private, nonprofit certified development companies, such as the VAFC. A retail bakery that wants to expand by acquiring land or building a new facility is the ideal candidate. The development company’s role is to structure the loan in a way that’s attractive both to the bank and to the borrower.

“Most of us don’t know what banks are looking for in terms of a loan application,” Carla says. “And, banks really don’t understand your business, so it’s up to you to make it easy for them to loan you money. That’s was the VAFC did for us.”

Basically, the 504 program structures the loan in a 50-40-10 proportion: 50% of the required investment money comes from the bank. The development company itself provides 40% of the money–the 504 loan. And, 10% must come from the borrower’s equity, as cash applied to the project costs. (For a more detailed description of the 504 loan program, see page 28 in Bakery’s May 1990 issue.)

Because the bank wanted the financing package presented in a certain way, the VAFC’s Kathleen Strawhacker worked with the Buchlers to improve their presentation and sharpen their business plan.

“Kathleen helped us to set up our projections for the bakery’s business after we put up the new building,” Wolfgang explains. “We had to submit architect’s plans, contractors’ bids, the land contract, everything. Everything works together, but you don’t really know if you’re going to get the money until the end of the process. So, you have to assume you’re going to get the money, and proceed as if the project was going on.”

Of course, nothing goes as smoothly as planned, as the Buchlers soon learned. “We had worked on the presentation to a banker with whom we’d been dealing for a long time,” Wolfgang says. “At this point, we’d been in business for 13 years. The banker assured us that everything looked good. So, we went on vacation; we only had three days after we got back to close the deal on the land. But our accountant called and told us that the bank had had cold feet. So we had three days to get the money.”

However, all the careful preparation that Strawhacker had guided them through was going to pay off. “Luckily,” Carla says, “our lawyer introduced us to another banker. We explained to him that we needed $70,000 by the next day; we didn’t think we had a chance. But being a small bank, only three people had to look over the paperwork. Kathleen really prepared us well, and we had the check the next day.”

The moral here: it’s not what you know, but who you know. The Buchler’s connections with the chamber led them to the VAFC; a good accountant and a lawyer with banking connections also paid off.

A location on the morning side

The loan for which the Buchlers applied allowed them to build a new 6,700-sq-ft. facility only six blocks from their original location and more than double the size. They picked a corner on a busy thoroughfare, and located on the morning side of traffic. However, the bakery’s entrance is on a quiet side street, allowing customers to ease back out into traffic.

Because local ordinances required a parking space for every 200 sq. ft., regardless of its use, Carla and Wolfgang had to modify their original plans somewhat. For example, they had planned to cantilever the second story dramatically over the first floor, but didn’t have room for the additional parking spaces that would be required.

Still, Wolfgang had decided to build the bakery on two floors; he wanted plenty of light in the production area, as well as the store. “As a working baker, I spend a lot of time here,” he says. “I wanted to know whether the sun was shining, or whether it was raining, or whatever. I was tired of working in a dungeon, so we designed the building with production on the second floor.”

He also was tired of the heat; he included 30 tons of air-conditioning for a more comfortable atmosphere throughout the bakery. To keep those costs down, he also had powerful fans built over the ovens to vent their heat away on hot summer days.

The design included a basement, which encloses some garage parking and a storage area. Ingredients and finished products are transfered among the storage area, retail store and production area via an elevator, located in the building’s back corner. The elevator holds one rack, but the building is reinforced, and another, heavier, freight elevator can be added later to haul up pallet-loads.

Besides the elevator, the bakery includes two stairways. The one at the back of the building runs all three floors; another stairway, accessed from the store, allows customers to come up and observe the bakers at work. That gives Wolfgang a chance to have some customer contact.

“One disadvantage to building from scratch,” Carla says, “is having to follow all the rules and regulations. For example, health regulations say you have to have one bathroom on each floor; other building regulations said we needed two bathrooms, each handicapped-equipped, on each floor. Fortunately, we had to build only one on each floor.

“We also had to include a handicapped ramp. As a result, the building has a really unique shape, because of the lot size and shape, county requirements and architectural limitations.” The architect wrapped the handicapped ramp around a curving glass front, both allowing access and creating a unique entry that also admits lots of natural light.

The store has a counter along the window and a small interior bar where customers can park with a cup of coffee and a pastry. Although the store is roomy enough for tables and chairs, the Buchlers preferred not to have to follow restaurant codes. They would have had to have additional parking spaces, and would have had to give the public access to the bathrooms.

To bring natural light into the second floor, the building has skylights and windows, which save electricity and promote an airier feeling. There’s a window next to the oven, so the oven man and the decorators can see the world. “We can check on the number of cars parked out there,” Wolfgang says, “to check whether the store is crowded and needs help.”

For now, the building’s production area is adequate, although business volume jumped 30% the first year after Heidelberg relocated, and repeated that performance last year. In fact, Wolfgang is projecting another 30% increase for fiscal 1990; his actual figures are showing about 26% so far. The bakers work on staggered shifts from 3:30 a.m. to about 6 p.m., so there is some room for expansion.

“We have thought about buying the buildings next door and knocking them down for additional parking,” says Wolfgang. “Then, we could close in the open parking area in the basement to create additional production space if we need it.” And they might, considering Wolfgang is in the planning stages for as many as seven additional outlets.

Planning ahead for success

“When we built the bakery,” he says, “we planned for the future. We plan to open another outlet next year, in a nearby town. We chose that town for the high average income of its residents. The average income of the people in this neighborhood is over $60,000. That’s what I would look for in a cold spot location.”

In fact, Wolfgang has his eye on several locations. Eventually, he plans to get out of day-to-day production and run the overall business instead. He plans to hit that goal in two years.

To prepare himself for that new challenge, Wolfgang attends management and business seminars on a regular basis. In fact, he makes it a point to spend about $200 a month on self-improvement and education.

His meticulous planning is evident in his organizational system. He uses a binder-type organizer to keep track of things that need to be done. In the binder’s various sections, he jots down tasks completed, calls made and received, people talked to, special orders taken, meetings scheduled, the day’s production targets, etc. The book serves as a record of what the bakery did when. Wolfgang keeps the book near his work station so he can check it periodically during the day. Since he is in production himself, he says, this binder is a good management tool.

“When we had to put together the projections for the new store,” he says, “I could look back at these records to provide a basis for our estimates. As it turns out, we were a little conservative, but our bank is very happy with us. Of course, we can’t do everything ourselves.”

Instead, the Buchlers rely on advisors, such as their lawyer and accountant, as well as reports generated by their computer, which is tied into the store’s four cash registers. Each salesperson has her own sales drawer. Four registers are hooked in series; at night, a master register polls them and transfers the compiled information to the computer.

From the office computer, the Buchlers can generate reports on sales by time, by item, by salesperson, etc. The computer also allows them to compare their performance with any time period. It’s equipped with a modem; their accountant also has one. At the end of the night, he can pull the computer’s sales data into an accounting program.

“We’ve had a computer for more than 11 years,” Wolfgang points out. “But sometimes we get so busy that we neglect things like checking formula costs. Now, we have our accountant enter inventory invoices and check costs for us.

“For example, I have a gut feeling that we’re not making money on donuts. We still make glazed donuts, and fry for about three hours a day. We used to run all the donuts here, but I’m buying cake donuts from another baker now. Over the years, our donut production is down by about 50% from what we used to sell. I know it’s not my product. It’s people’s eating habits that are changing.

“We sell about 30 to 40 dozen a day, but we’re checking it out on the computer. We’re pulling together all the time and labor costs versus sales to see if we’re still making any money on them. The computer will confirm whether or not we’ll keep donuts in the product line. It’s just changing trends, and we have to keep up with the trends.”

Changes in customer eating habits have also caused other product-line changes. For example, Carla says, croissants no longer are popular; instead, customers are buying more bagels. Wolfgang switched to margarine from butter in his Danish, as customers complained about butter’s cholesterol content. And, although most of the bakery’s products are still made from scratch, Wolfgang uses some sugar-free muffin mixes.

One product line that has definitely benefited from the trend to healthier eating is bread. They contribute about 15% of sales, with rolls adding another 7%. Thanks to the bakery’s large freezer, the store can stock 30 different types of breads on a daily basis. Customers confused about the difference between corn rye, farmer’s rye, Vollkorn rye and Jewish rye can pick up a descriptive brochure that also lists other products.

Because the brochure lists literally hundreds of different products, you might wonder how a bakery staff of eight full-time bakers can keep up with production. The key is freezing.

After moving into the new facility, the Buchlers soon realized that they wouldn’t be able to keep up with the increase in volume by baking everything from scratch every day. Wolfgang wants to keep ingredients costs at about 27% and labor costs below 33%, so he decided to rely on mass production and freezing for greatest efficiency in all-scratch baking.

Some products, such as Danish and puff pastry, are made up and frozen without any problems. Other items, such as cakes and breads, needed some adaptations. Because of most cakes’ rich, butter-based buttercream icing, freezing iced cakes presented some problems, including cracking as the cakes thawed. Instead, the bakers freeze uniced cakes inverted onto sheet pans. The bakery’s regular sizes of 6-, 8- and 9-in. cakes are baked with paper liners, which aren’t removed until the cakes are ready to be iced. The liners help to seal in moisture; in addition, all the cakes get a wash of flavored simple syrup before being finished to restore any moisture that might have been lost.

Wolfgang also found that made-up frozen breads tended to thaw unevenly, and didn’t have the same oven spring as fresh-processed loaves. Now the mixers add about 40% more yeast to the different bread formulas and mix them to a lower temperature–not more than 70 [degrees] F. The doughs are immediately scaled, washed with mineral oil to seal in moisture, and flash-frozen in the freezer, which is kept at -30 [degrees] F with the aid of 5-in. of insulation.

Each night, before they leave, the bakers pull the loaves they need for the next day, and allow them to thaw in the retarder. “This process allows the doughs to ferment,” Wolfgang explains. “The individual pieces ferment more evenly.” In the morning, when the bakers arrive, they make up the individual loaves, proof them and bake them in the rack oven. Although the bakery also has a reel oven, Wolfgang explains that his rack oven’s steam is more even.

Because most items are mixed in large batches–individual types of breads are made in 100- to 150-lb. batches–employees have their own work stations. The mixing area has several mixers, as well as a candy stove and steam kettle, allowing the baker to have several items going at once. Other bakers concentrate on making or finishing large batches, which are then transferred to the freezer or to the store’s display area.

When planning for the new bakery, the Buchlers didn’t shortchange the production area. In addition to the major pieces of equipment, it’s full of time-saving gadgets that ease the bakers’ workload.

For example, a paint sprayer loaded with egg wash speeds the processing of thousands of sugared pretzels, as well as Danish and puff pastry items that need a wash. A glaze heater/sprayer gives a fast, neat finish to fresh-fruit pastries. A chocolate shaver hums in the corner, spewing enough curls to decorate the hundreds of cakes made up daily. Timers tick everywhere, reminding bakers of tasks that need to be tracked.

Carla and Wolfgang knew they had the chance of a lifetime when they decided to build a new bakery. But they didn’t let the size of the opportunity fluster them. Instead, with careful planning and sound advice from outside experts, they built a masterpiece that can grow into the future. Indeed, this building will make a nice headquarters for the future chain of Heidelberg Pastry Shoppes.

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This is Portico’s first foray outside of New York

This is Portico’s first foray outside of New York, where it operates eight stores.

The interiors for both stores were designed by award-winning designer James D’Auria of New York City, who used a combination of gun-metal and spun aluminum finishes, juxtaposed with pine floors, cherry cabinetry and raised paneling. A separate alcove houses the children’s collection, finished with a light ash wood.

The Portico collection includes vintage swatch color-blocked pillows, candlestick-inspired lamps and citrus-scented body oil, lotion and fragrances.

For rug rats

For those who enjoy hunting for exotic rugs and furnishings, the hunting has been made easier by a soon-to-open branch of the sophisticated Mohr & McPherson furniture store.

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  • The unique Cambridge-based business has made a name for itself by seeking out the unusual and the exotic, offering everything from furniture from Indonesia, India and China to ikat weavings.
  • The store also carries the area’s biggest selection of traditional kilims, flat-weave wool rugs made in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kurdistan and Turkey.
  • Kevin McPherson, president of Mohr & McPherson, imports his wares through two Afghanistani friends. McPherson chooses the rugs for his Cambridge and Portland, Maine, stores. He hopes to offer an even wider selection of the popular rugs at the new Boston location at 81 Arlington St.

Tooling around

If the sounds of power saws and the smell of freshly cut pine appeal to your creative senses but the noise and mess make woodwork at home impossible, consider buzzing over to the Community Woodworking Club in North Billerica.

The newly opened club offers everything for beginning to advanced woodworkers and is equipped with sanders, best miter saw, band saw, variable speed lathe, table router, planer, drill press, variable speed scroll saw, orbital and profile sanders, a biscuit joiner, jig saw, clamps, measuring tools, chisels, bits and jigs, to name a few.

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Other tools can be purchased at the club. The workroom is also well-stocked with plans, designs and templates as well as books, magazines and videos covering everything from guitar making to the differences between soft and hard woods.

The club also offers classes in joinery, learning to use the lathe and routers, craft making with a scroll saw and basic how-to-start classes. Another major benefit to the club is that members can rent storage space and avoid the costs of maintenance and cleanup.

All members are required to take a safety course before beginning any work. Four membership options are available, ranging from $95 to $690.

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Handsaw is divining rod in search for the Mahogany Ship

A water diviner with a handsaw seems to be getting further than most in the hunt for the Mahogany Ship. GRAEME O’NEILL reports. The search for Warrnambool’s mysterious Mahogany Ship has taken a bizarre turn with the reported recovery by a water diviner of fragments of wood, possibly of European origin, from deep in a dune just west of the city. A Monash University researcher, Dr Neil Hallam, an expert on wood identification, has tentatively identified the fragments as being from a gymnosperm, a conifer. Mr Bob Sheen, 67, of Rockhampton, who says he makes his living divining water and minerals, says he recently spent three months searching the beaches near Warrnambool using a metal handsawas a divining rod, and obtained signals from seven buried wrecks. Unable to distinguish between them, he located a modern piece of mahogany wood and carried it in one hand to “tune in” on any buried mahogany.

He says he obtained signals from a wooden object buried in sand near the car park at Levys Point, west of the city. Using a power auger, he encountered a solid object at 23.75 metres, and recovered fragments of wood. But the wood is not mahogany, according to Dr Hallam. Optical and electron microscopy shows it is from a gymnosperm that could be either a pine or a cedar. Initial rumors that the wood had been identified as European cedar apparently stemmed from the fact that former Warrnambool identity Mr John Archibald, among his bequests to the nation when he died early this century, left a fragment of wood that was supposedly obtained from the Mahogany Ship before it was covered by shifting dunes. The wood was European cedar, not mahogany. In the 1980s, Australian National University scientists radiocarbon-dated the cedar to about 1640. One theory, based on a 19th Century description of the wreck being of “ancient design” is that the Mahogany Ship was a Portuguese caravel, one of three under the command of Portuguese explorer Cristovao de Mendonca, who may have charted the north and east coasts of Australia in 1522.

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  • One of Mendonca’s caravels ran aground and was wrecked. A Geelong maritime historian, Mr Kenneth McIntyre, in his book `The Secret Discovery of Australia’, says the so-called Dauphin Map, drawn in 1536 _ 14 years after the Mendonca expedition _ has features which could be interpreted as representing the north and east coasts of Australia.
  • The Dauphin Map’s coastline ends abruptly to the west of a bay that could be Port Phillip Bay. Mr McIntyre says this would be consistent with the expedition having been abandoned after one of the caravels ran aground at the present location of Warrnambool.
  • Mr McIntyre said yesterday that Portuguese caravels of the day had hulls and ribbing of Portuguese oak, but the decking and some components of the superstructure were of Laeria pine, not cedar.

The fact that Mr Sheen was divining for mahogany, rather than pine or cedar, is a problem, along with the fact that there was no superstructure or decking on the wreck _ although it could have separated from the hull during the wreck and been buried further along the beach, before European settlers saw it. Dr Hallam says the stratigraphy of Mr Sheen’s core is also unusual. Between the surface and the level at which his drill encountered the mysterious wooden object Mr Sheen encountered two other layers containing plant material. The first, at 10 metres, contained eucalypt bark and wood, and another lower down contained compressed eucalypt leaves. The problem is to explain how two generations of eucalypts could have grown on the dunes and disappeared in the century since the ship was covered by sand. Mr Sheen believes the modern dune filled in an old river or creek bed, and that the caravel was trying to put into the river mouth when it ran aground on a rocky reef at the entrance. If the sedimentary sequence is ancient, the pine in the deepest layer may not be from a ship but from a solid, deeply buried native pine log.

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If the object is a buried tree trunk, it could be from Lagarostrobus, or Huon pine, which became extinct on the mainland at the end of the last ice age, and now grows only in Tasmania. This possibility is suggested by the recent discovery by a team of palaeoecologists from Monash University, led by Dr Peter Kershaw, of large amounts of Lagarostrobus pollen in sedimentary cores extracted from ancient crater lakes in the Warrnambool region. Dr Kershaw believes the grassy basalt plains of western Victoria supported patches of cool temperate rainforest, including Antartic beech (Nothofagus) and Huon pine during the last interglacial period more than 40,000 years ago. Dr Hallam says the wood samples he has been given are too small to be radiocarbon-dated, which might indicate whether the wood is hundreds or perhaps thousands of years old. Mr Sheen has applied to the Victorian Archaeological Survey for permission to sink a 1.2-metre wide exploratory shaft down to the level where he found the wood. The Victorian Government has offered a $250,000 reward for the person or team finding the Mahogany Ship. The Portuguese Government is believed to be considering matching the offer, because of its interest in early Portuguese voyages of discovery.

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Have we turned ourselves into Stepford wives? The remake of the 1975 thriller as a comedy has some observers asking what the big deal is. In a world of Prozac and Botox, writes JESSICA JOHNSON, satire seems beside the point

She’s perfectly coiffed, has buoyant breasts and an unlined forehead. She wears strappy Manolos that show off her pedicure and sexy little dresses that show off her cleavage. Her main activity is shopping. Recognize her?

We should. She’s us.

When the remake of The Stepford Wives opens on Friday, observers may be forgiven for wondering what the big deal is. Satire is difficult when your material is already extreme. The film is arriving in a world where 40-year-old women look (and act) 25, thanks to Sex and the City. It’s a world of Prozac and Botox and cosmetic surgery (the latest trend, vaginal refreshment, was recently covered in Vogue), in which even powerful women are frantically obsessed with combatting the process of aging.

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It’s a world where stores are awash with this year’s new “feminine palette,” and the Gap’s most recent seller of the season is a little strapless dress in a Fifties shape, not at all unlike the floral numbers designed for Nicole Kidman and her supporting cast.

And it is impossible to discuss any of this without getting into Martha Stewart. With her “good things” and her Zen of domesticity, she has created a world that is not unlike Stepford, Conn., the sleepy town where feminism-threatened husbands conspired, in the 1975 original, to remake their liberated, bra-less wives as apron-clad robots.

  • As New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd wrote recently, “The real chiller is that the evil husbands in the original did not need to murder. They just needed to wait. In the long interval between the two movies, women have turned themselves into Stepford wives.”
  • Not so long ago, a life lived happily through domesticity was every woman’s nightmare. Now, it’s every working woman’s dream, as we watch TV chef and “Domestic Goddess” Nigella Lawson market the latest must-have kitchenware, and buy up books of homemaking tips such as Rita Konig’s Domestic Bliss.
  • It’s not that it’s all women, nor is it confined to them. It’s just that the woman provides a reference point for what is being satirized.

“There is an epidemic of powerful Stepford wives around in real life,” says Megan Kelley, a film historian at York University in Toronto. “Laura ‘Ashley’ Bush is in the White House, the perfect Stepford wife — you can’t believe she’s not a robot.”

In such a context, Kelley doesn’t see how the new film can be particularly scary — clearly the thinking of the filmmakers, who have turned what was once a dystopic thriller into what is being pitched as a comedy.

The reality in 2004 is more frightening. “I saw a commercial for the TV show The Swan, and that scared me,” says Kelley, referring to Fox’s notorious “extreme makeover” reality show, in which women get cosmetic surgery and then compete in a beauty contest. The results are strangely similar, a blonde and sculpted bimbo team.

Does it all come down to sex? Not any more. At some point, the Stepford Wife made the transition to the Stepford Life.

What perturbed feminists in the earlier film was the depiction of female sexuality: a menace to be kept (ever available) for one’s own husband, covered by floor-length dresses, hats and virginal white. Author Ira Levin has since said the 1975 film didn’t get it right. “In Stepford,” he recently told the Los Angeles Times, “the women would have been in hot pants and the men would have been at a softball game with the women bringing them cold beer.”

In 2004, men and women are less obsessed with gender roles. Even the bastion of old-school libido, Playboy, is changing. This month, the magazine once dubbed misogynist by Gloria Steinem is running a search for “The Women of Home Depot,” a photo spread to feature the bright orange aprons of the home-repair chain with friendly smiles on power-tool-bearing women.

John Thomas, the editor of Playboy.com, who came up with the concept for the spread, says it’s no longer emasculating for the girl next door to be wielding your power tools. “I think guys kind of dig the fact that a woman can spackle or saw or drill. I think there’s something kind of almost empowering and liberating for men in the sense that, hey, you’re both on the same wavelength in a certain sense if a woman knows her way around a miter saw.”

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If the publicity machine is to be believed, this is far from the reality reflected in the new film. “I think satire works best if it’s a little closer to the bone of what’s really out there in culture,” Kelley says. “If you want to scare people, you have to make them identify with it. In the Fifties, that’s why they set movies in small towns. Most people were still living in those kinds of communities then.”

But that’s just be the point: If Stepford represents a place that doesn’t exist in real life, it is ever-present in advertising. It’s the world of Martha Stewart and Ralph Lauren, a place where picket fences and gingham are still common. Increasingly, that’s the way that we see ourselves; through marketing. It’s as if, individually and collectively, we’ve all been Stepfordized.

Stepford now is part of a wave of retro remakes — such as last year’s sixties satire Down With Love, or the recent Cheaper by the Dozen, about an extra-large family — whose purpose once was a social commentary, now mined for nostalgia. We’re in love with the big sprawling house, the look of the bachelor pad, the pouffy skirt. The irony is that, even if it’s no huge blockbuster as a movie, Stepford’s biggest success will be aesthetic. You can even give yourself a makeover, a la Stepford wife, on the film’s website (http://www.stepfordwivesmovie.com). It involves pearls, this season’s must-have accessory.

 

Or the story might, as was Levin’s intention, serve as a cautionary tale. The anti-Stepford wife? Get ready for the do-it-yourselfer in the Home Depot apron.

Jessica Johnson’s book, The Good Shopper, will be published by Penguin next year.

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INNOVATIONS Electronics making tools smarter

The Wall Street Journal STEREOTYPICAL home improvement buffs go for power, speed and noise. But that doesn’t keep inventors from trying to stuff quiet, clean electronics into their tool boxes.

While such products still remain scarce, some users swear by electronically enhanced levels, saws and measures.

Take Lois Glover, an occupational therapist with the Center for the Independence of the Disabled, a non-profit group in Belmont, Calif. She uses an electronic level made by Wedge Innovations Inc. of San Jose, Calif., to check buildings’ compliance with disability act standards for the steepness of wheelchair ramps and handicapped parking spaces. “The SmartLevel is just a miraculous tool,” Ms. Glover says.

Unlike normal bubble levels, which haven’t changed much since they were invented in France in 1666, Wedge’s level calculates how far from level something is and displays it as a percentage, degree or pitch. Before she discovered the SmartLevel, Ms. Glover says, it took two people three minutes to measure the slope of a single ramp, including geometric calculations. Now, she says she can lay down the level and get a reading in three seconds.

David Shayt, hand tool specialist at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, says electronics will play a growing role in tools. “There’s decreasing reliance on the ability of a workman to read a measured line,” he says. For example, most machinists now use calipers with digital displays, rather than squinting at the old-fashioned metal scale. “Some of the folklore and some of the romance is departing.”

Most tool makers have been skeptical about making tools smart. “Up to this point, electronic tools haven’t been as simple to use or as accurate as existing tools,” says a spokesman for Stanley Works of New Britain, Conn., a large hand tool maker that has studied but shunned such innovations.

But some tool makers are changing. Porter Cable Corp., a Jackson, Tenn., division of Pentair Corp., recently unveiled a miter saw for cutting angles that features a red laser to show exactly where the saw blade will cut.

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The saw, which will go on sale next month, saves carpenters from having to guess whether the blade will exactly match the desired line and often saves the effort of marking a line at all. Moreover, it’s safer. “If you see the red line crossing your thumb, don’t cut,” says John Chapski, marketing manager.

Mr. Chapski says Porter’s market research indicates carpenters will pay $400 (U.S.) or more for the saw at retail, $150 more than comparable miter saws. After lending a few prototypes to carpenters, “we had a devil of a time getting them back.”

Price is one big barrier to the spread of electronics. Electronically enhanced tools normally cost 50 to 100 per cent more than their traditional counterparts, so they need to provide real benefits to sell.

The most successful electronic tool yet, the StudSensor, detects variations in electromagnetic fields caused by the greater density of studs in walls. Introduced by Zircon Corp. of Campbell, Calif., in 1980, it costs less than $20 and has sold more than nine million units. Zircon recently added StudSensor Pro, a $25 device that’s sensitive enough to detect floor joists through floors.

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  • Wedge charges $50 to $100 for various versions of its SmartLevel, a product that gets raves from most observers and is included in the Smithsonian’s tool collection.
  • “It tells you whether it’s level and plumb, and it tells you absolutely,” says John Lee, an Annapolis, Md., restoration expert. In an old house, knowing that a ceiling slopes up one inch in 10 feet makes it easier to adjust windows so they don’t look crooked, he says.
  • Moreover, it can automatically recalibrate, unlike most levels, which lose their accuracy for good when they’re accidentally dropped because the fluid-filled vial shifts a few 10,000ths of an inch.

Several companies have developed electronic measuring devices based on Polaroid Corp.’s ultrasonic sensors that measure distance by bouncing sound waves off a wall. Seiko Instruments Inc. has sold more than 100,000 units of its $90 Home Contractor, which combines the distance-sensing device with a calculator that computes area and volume to figure out how much paint is needed to cover a wall or how big an air conditioner to buy.

Consumer Reports panned the device a few years ago, recommending a steel tape measure and calculator as cheaper. David Thomasson, senior product manager, says Seiko considered dropping the product, but sales have continued, in part because “it’s a very sexy package” that sells well around Father’s Day.

Home Contractor can measure distances from two feet to 33 feet with 99 per cent accuracy. That isn’t good enough for carpenters cutting boards, but it’s fine for real estate agents measuring rooms or estimators looking at jobs.

Calculated Industries Inc. of Yorba Linda, Calif., relies on the user to do the measuring, but it makes a series of specialty calculators that convert among inches, feet, yards and metres in either fractions or decimals. Its calculators also automatically figure the angle to cut rafters in hip roofs and the height and number of risers needed for a staircase.

Electronic devices may not have the heft of a good hammer or emit the whine of a circular saw, but some gadget freaks don’t care. Blake Baldwin, a Palo Alto, Calif., banker who owns a StudSensor and electronic level, says: “I love to buy electronic things. Anything with lights or bells or buzzers.”

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Web can help in gift search for dad who has everything

Father’s Day has always posed a challenge. My dad has everything. My kids need help planning for their dad and Father’s Day. But this year I have help.

I have enlisted Mom’s help in planning for my dad. She is taking careful notes when Dad grumbles about needing a planer or a miter saw. She then calls me and fills me in on the latest. I haven’t a clue what she is talking about but I do have a new place to go and ask.

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The Home Warehouse at

http://www.homewarehouse.com/

  • offers a “Ask the Home Pro” service that lets me send in requests for translations. Once the pro has gotten back to me, I can browse the site for the item my dad wants. The buying guides clearly explain what the different tools do and how to compare the models. I even surfed through the How to Project area and learned how to whiten grout and dissolve grease.
  • Shipping anywhere is free on orders over $100. This might be a great way for me to buy a new lawnmower or gas grill. I could skip the whole “how will it fit in my car” worry.
  • The kids have been equally busy thinking up ideas for their dad. The kids know their dad well enough to compile a customized Web site list for him.

Dad can listen to live broadcasts of major league games at

http://www.majorleaguebaseball.com/

He also can get the latest baseball news, player stats and schedules here.

The other site the kids are listing is Strike three at

http://www.strikethree.com/

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Strikethree.com has a spiffy Rumor Mill that lists each little murmur that affect impact baseball.

My son Willy is hoping to get his dad more involved in fantasy baseball at

http://www.fsnwgames.com/barfbl/

Here, the boys can set up a team and play against other “team owners.”

My daughter Susie hopes to join her dad on the golf course by showing her dad the Women on the Green site at

http://www.womenonthegreen.com/

Here they can read about getting girls started in golf and shop for equipment for kids.

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(Send your questions on families and technology to Bonnie Scott at bonnie(AT)multimediamom.org )

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(EDITORS: This column is now sold separately through the KRT Columnists Group. To use it, you must buy the rights to it. For more information, please contact Ron Mendell of Tribune Media Services at 800-245-6536 or KRT News Service Director Mike Duggan at 202-383-6081.)

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(c) 2000, Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

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Artists Funnel funds into expansion

BY RANDI SPIRES Special to The Globe and Mail THE BLARE OF rock music is punctuated by the occasional whir of a handsaw and the pounding of hammers. Two volunteers are busily creating the rake of what will be the new 80-seat screening room for Toronto’s Funnel Experimental Film Theatre . In a larger, adjacent space the atmosphere is much quieter. This area will eventually house the Funnel’s production facilities but, for now, it contains a motley collection of objects: a pool table with torn felt and a single cue, a garish purple and green couch, a wheelchair, a video monitor, various sizes of pink and grey shelving, and dozens of slightly worn burgundy theatre seats.

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The Funnel is one of only two artist-run centres in Canada devoted exclusively to experimental film. The other is Cineworks in Vancouver. This month the Funnel is launching its second decade by taking a risk – moving from its old quarters among the warehouses of King Street East to larger, airier and more expensive premises on trendy Soho Street. Funnel officials hope this more central and friendlier locale will enable them to expand the audience for experimental film.

The term experimental film is often used as a catch-all to describe films that are neither dramas nor documentaries, although experimental films often use elements of both narration and documentation. Funnel founder Ross McLaren says experimental films tend to be handmade rather than commercially or industrially produced, with all aspects of each film shaped by the individual artist. Many experimental filmmakers work in other artistic media in addition to film. Among the most notable of Canadian practitioners are Joyce Wieland and Michael Snow, both of whom have long been supporters of the Funnel.

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McLaren makes films and teaches at Fordham University in Manhattan and the Ontario College of Art. He started the Funnel in the fall of 1977. “There were lots of experimental filmmakers around then,” he says, “but there was no ongoing public facility, no forum for artists working in film.”

Funnel members spent that first season in the basement of 15 Duncan St., in space lent to them by the Centre for Experimental Art and Communication. From there the centre moved to the King Street location.

Besides providing a showcase for local filmmakers, the Funnel also distributes films throughout Europe and North America, holds screenings of work by artists from overseas and across the continent, provides production space, conducts workshops and publishes catalogues. It is also one of the few places in Toronto where production equipment for the Super 8 format can be found.

All the changes are expensive. The first phase of the renovations will cost $30,000. Later improvements, to be added in a year, will cost that much again. To raise the money, the Funnel is holding a seat sale. For a $100 tax-deductible donation ($200 for institutions), a donor gets his or her name permanently engraved on a Funnel chair.

The official seat sale kicks off today at the new Funnel location, 11 Soho St., but several chairs have already been sold. The first three buyers were Michael Snow, Tom Urquhart and Betty Ferguson.

Programming will begin the weekend of Jan. 22 with two evenings of films by Australians Arthur and Corrine Cantrill. This couple has been producing films together for more than 20 years, as well as publishing Cantrill’s Film Notes, a magazine about experimental film Down Under.

A reciprocal program of Canadian films will travel to Australia February through May. Included will be films by Joyce Wieland, John Porter, David Bennell, Midi Onodera, Ross McLaren and numerous others.

These Canadian films will be seen in several cities, including Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. Putting the Australian tour together has taken Funnel personnel about two years. While there, they will check out the Australian scene, choosing work for a series to be screened in Toronto during the Funnel’s 1988-89 season.

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Television: kings of the Hollywood Hills: mid-season report

The Mangione reference is the giveaway. Fans of Fox’s animated Tuesday

night series King of the Hill know the composer of Feels So Good

as a guest star — and near-victim — in last year’s season-ending propane

explosion at the Mega Lo Mart. And here he is, holding forth in King

rof the Hill’s corporate headquarters.

But hold on a second. How is it possible that a show so dedicated to

promoting the authentic culture of fictitious Arlen, Texas — beauty pageants,

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman, riding lawn mowers, death-row inmates

— can make its home in a former law-firm office overlooking Beverly Hills?

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With difficulty. Easy access to Chuck Mangione is a big plus, but being

sequestered in a city that so completely rejects Texas values can be a

challenge. And when the writing staff includes numerous Ivy League layabouts

from the much more worldly Simpsons, staying in touch with your

creative roots becomes a real concern.

Mike Judge, who created King of the Hill, solves the problem

by refusing to leave his Texas home for rootless and deceitful Los Angeles.

And yet given the mechanics of putting together an animated series for

a major U.S. network — and making sure the network doesn’t suddenly change

your time slot when no one’s looking — California is the place everyone

else has to be.

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But how to keep that air of authenticity in the middle of the L.A. smog?

That’s where staffers like Jim Dauterive come in. Parked in a messy office

untouched by Beverly Hills beautification, the Dallas-born Dauterive’s

role is to give every episode a reality check. “I’m the consultant on all

things Aikman,” he says with Cowboy pride. But if you’re a sheltered East

Coast writer, as so many of them are in Texas’s westernmost office outpost,

you can also draw on Dauterive’s expertise in deer hunting, religion and

former Cowboys coach Tom Landry.

A former advertising copywriter, Dauterive now finds himself organizing

annual King of the Hill field trips to Austin, Texas, where plots

are generated at volunteer fire departments and snapshots are taken of

goofy writers sitting on Hank Hill’s kind of lawn mowers. Because Mike

Judge has strong views about how his cartoon characters should be represented

— “He doesn’t like people who look too pretty,” says Dauterive. “The rest

of the country’s not as thin as L.A.” — real Texas faces are photographed

on these expeditions and passed on to animators.

Dauterive keeps a few of these pictures pinned up on his wall for inspiration

— look, there’s Miss Austin Hostess — and he also maintains a lending

library of high-school yearbooks and community newspapers, the advice column

of The Pflugerville Pflag being a special favourite as the model for Peggy

Hill’s work in The Arlen Bystander. Dauterive is just one of several Texans

on the King of the Hill staff who keep the show honest and refuse

to admit California preoccupations about animal rights or empty calories.

Lynda Lester, a fourth-generation Texan who still managed to find her

way into a TV-industry job as animation-production co-ordinator, corrects

animators who get the landscape wrong. “They used to make things look really

desert-like, as if Arlen was in West Texas. No, it’s like Central to East

Texas.”

Another Hollywood stereotype of Texas that needs close scrutiny is the

local patois. “They don’t have real thick accents,” says Johnny Hardwick,

a supervising producer and writer who also plays the role of Hank Hill’s

conspiracy-theorist neighbour Dale Gribble. “They’re actually more Middle

American.” When not auditing vowels, Hardwick helps educate the show’s

non-Texans on guns, girls and chicken-fried steak (avoid).

And Chuck Mangione? His Texan credentials may be questionable, but on

a recent visit to King of the Hill headquarters he charmed onlookers

with his observations on the show’s Tuesday-night demographics. ” King

rof the Hill,” he announced, flugelhorn in hand, “ranks No. 2 in share

of adults 18 to 49, the most important demo for advertisers, behind ABC’s

Home Improvement. When Home Improvement goes off the air,

it’s gonna feel soooo good.” And then, for reasons best left unexplored,

he played a few bars of O Canada.

Since most TV shows are filmed in Los Angeles, the city should be a

more common prime-time setting than it is. But producers are overly sensitive

about alienating viewers who are not so L.A.-centric, and instead we get

Friends’ Manhattan, Just Shoot Me’s Manhattan, Will &

rGrace’s Manhattan and NewsRadio’s Manhattan.

Must be something about the clogged freeways. But starting March 24

on ABC, L.A. returns with a vengeance in the new satire It’s like, you

rknow . . .. “Seinfeld goes to L.A.” is the shorthand description

of the series, which chronicles the wide-eyed adventures of a skeptical

New York writer (Chris Eigeman) assigned to write the book Living in

rLos Angeles: How Can You Stomach It?

The show’s title comes from the farewell words of the pilot on the writer’s

cross-country flight: “If you’re wondering about the weather in L.A., it’s

like, you know, 82 degrees and sunny.” In a town where the neighbour who

looks like Dirty Dancing’s Jennifer Grey really is Jennifer Grey

— she’s made to do a dirty dance to prove it, but still has to admit to

a recent nose job — the level of entertainment-industry self-importance

can be pretty high.

But fortunately, in the pilot at least, the script is more cutting about

a city where “the murder trials last two years but the marriages last two

months.”

Scott Sassa is the new president of NBC Entertainment and he astonished

TV critics here with his announcement of his vision for the top-ranked

U.S. network.

Seeking more balance in NBC’s programming, he called for greater ethnic

diversity in sitcom casts, more representations of traditional families,

fewer shows set in New York (see above) and — this was the real attention-grabber

— less emphasis on sex.

The NBC series Friends violates all of those recommendations

and still manages to be the most popular comedy on U.S. television. Sassa

emphasized that he wasn’t entirely opposed to carnal acts — “When sex

is used in a smart way, it works out okay” — but there was no getting

around the puritanical tone of his message. “In some cases, sometimes,”

he said, “I think we could use a few more words between ‘Hello’ and ‘Would

you sleep with me?’ So we need to figure out how to use sex appropriately

and responsibly.”

Sassa wants to get more families watching NBC shows, which could drive

up ratings. But he is also out to put his stamp on the network before the

arrival of Garth Ancier, the new NBC programmer hired away from the upstart

WB network — where, as it happens, raging hormones rule.

NBC’s reduced sex drive took several of the network’s stars by surprise.

“I certainly hope that we can have some sex on NBC,” said Wendie Malick

of Just Shoot Me, “or I’ll be out of a job.” “I don’t think sex

among aliens applies,” added John Lithgow, lovesick leader of the extraterrestrial

expeditionary force on 3rd Rock From the Sun. “For me, less sex

would be no sex,” complained NewsRadio’s sad-sack Jon Lovitz. “If

I don’t have it on NBC, I’m just out of luck.”

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Horror stories.

HORROR STORIES about defense spending abound. Who has not heard of the $435 claw hammer, the $640 toilet-seat cover, the $659 ashtray, and the $3,046 coffee maker? Forests of newsprint are being felled and thousands of kilowatts of precious energy consumed to vent congressional and media outrage over runaway defense costs. Support for defense spending erodes with each new tale of horror.

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With good reason, the horror stories never amount to much more than the name of a commonplace product and a dollar figure. If the stories were told in full, there would not be much horror left. Consider the following epilogues:

It is true that the Defense Department paid $435 for a claw hammer. The error was discovered by a Navy employee, and the contractor refunded the price. Last year the department bought more than eighty thousand hammers at between $6 and $8 each.

The $640 toilet-seat cover was not a toilet-seat cover at all, but a heavy molded plastic cover for the entire toilet system of the P-3 aircraft. The toilet seats themselves cost only $9.37 each. The contractor, moreover, refunded 85 per cent of the cost of the plastic covers when the department stopped the purchase.

Grumman charged the Navy $659 for ashtrays for the E-2C aircraft. Outrageous, except by comparison with ashtray replacements for many automobiles, which often run well over $100 despite being manufactured in vastly larger quantities. Grumman had to custom-make a small number of ashtrays and was losing money on the deal at the price charged. The Navy could not make the ashtrays for less than $900 even in its own shops.

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Finally there is the much-publicized case of the $3,046 coffee maker. This was for an airplane, the C-5, that can carry up to 365 troops. Delta and TWA buy similar coffee makers for $3,107 each. Scratch one horror story.

Given that the Defense Department each year signs some 13 million contracts with more than 300,000 contractors, it is not unreasonable to suppose that an occasional horror story will turn up despite the best efforts and intentions. The irony is that virtually every case of serious fraud and abuse which the media have gloried in of late has been uncovered by the Defense Department’s own Office of the Inspector General. Weinberger is being pilloried for cleaning up an act he inherited.

The real horror story may be what Congress itself has done to the Defense Department. In its zeal to achieve the utopia of an error-free, fraud-free, waste-free defense budget, it has added thousands of laws, procedures, and hurdles to the process of budgeting; it has burdened the Pentagon with literally hundreds of thousands of requests for information; it has mandated layer upon layer of new bureaucracy, overseers, watchdogs, and safeguards for the system. Weapons programs must now run a gauntlet of paperwork so burdensome and devious as to add far more to their cost than is ever saved by the safeguards. If Congress continues its crusade, we can expect that by the year 2000 not a single case of waste, fraud, or abuse will be reported anywhere in the department–and not a single weapon will be procured. Total control resulting in total immobility.

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