New AC Efficiency Rules are Groundbreaking

CondizionatoreOn Dec. 17, the Department of Energy announced that there would be a new standard for air conditioning efficiency. This standard is one of the biggest pushes for carbon-reduction measures in the history of the agency.

The department says that the rules will “save more energy than any other standard issued by the department to date.” Businesses in particular, they said, would save $167 billion on their utility bills in addition to cutting carbon pollution by about 885 million metric tons.

The new rules won’t take effect until sometime in 2018, said officials, and it will require air conditioning products to be about 13% more efficient than they are now. Five years after the first rules go into effect, the standards will tighten by an additional 15%.

To develop the rules, the department consulted with organization, companies, and manufacturers within the air conditioning industry. Even through their work in recent years, this new announcement is historic. Previous regulations, in total, cut emissions by about two billion metric tons — and that was over 40 separate rulings. This one ruling alone will cut emissions by 885 million tons.

“Just days after the Paris agreement to cut global emissions and create a new era of affordable energy, today’s announcement marks the largest energy-saving standard in history and demonstrates that America is leading the effort to reduce energy costs and cut carbon emissions,” said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.

The Natural Resources Defense Council chimed in as well, calling the rule a “promising sign” for the fight against climate change.

“These groundbreaking standards will yield the greatest single amount of energy savings of any rule ever issued by the Department of Energy,” Rhea Suh, the group’s president, said. “These are very, very promising days in the global fight to slow, stop and reverse climate change, the central environmental challenge of our time.”

“This is an agreement that will ultimately save the nation considerable energy and we are proud of the role our member companies played in its development,” Francis Dietz, the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute vice president of public affairs, said. “It is a good example in a sometimes cynical city that when disparate parties come together in good faith, good things can happen.”

New Study Helps Understanding of EMF

cellular tower on the blue sky backgroundElectromagnetic field (EMF) exposure has been a hot topic in recent years. The rise of court cases claiming that WiFi makes people sick has forced scientists to consider conditions such as electromagnetic hypersensitivity and attempt to get to the bottom of it.

A new study was launched in order to dispel fears and help the understanding of EMF and whether or not EMF shielding is necessary.

The EU-funded LEXNET project has been conducted over the last three years and finally concluded this October. The researchers looked at public perception of EMF and then did work to figure out if there was a factual basis there. To do this, they created an index of Europeans, and then assessed exposure levels versus attitude and belief.

The study’s findings will significantly impact coming decisions of Europe’s policy makers — the findings will allow them to set and optimize rules on EMF. Researchers also hope that the findings will help to better inform the public of where real danger lies.

While there are limits and rules in place to protect the public already, many believe that they are not enough given the changes in technology in recent years. For example, about 70% of those responding to a Eurobarometer survey say they believe their cell phone affects their health.

One of the biggest and most shocking findings of the LEXNET project, however, was that it’s not cell phones we should be especially worried about. In fact, mobile phones were consistently one of the lesser exposure sources.

So what was the biggest source? According to researchers, it’s a WLAN-connected laptop.

From their findings, researchers suggested that people invest in what could be a market for developing low-exposure technology. They say it has huge potential, while also helping the public.

For those who are worried about their own EMF risks, many say EMF shielding products can help protect against these effects.

“We are grateful that LEXNET is creating an Exposure Index (EI) that will provide EMF safety standards for future safer cellular network architecture as well as demonstrate the true impact of EMF exposure to human biology,” says Virginia B. Brown, Occupational Therapist, President, BioElectric Shield Co. “If the EI becomes available worldwide, individuals can demonstrate to doctors that their medical issues are real, and that EMF protection should be a reimbursable expense on all health care plans.”

Researchers with the LEXNET project also say that people place far too much fear in far field exposure like cell phone towers without considering the bigger exposure levels from things like their laptops. They also figured out one key thing about the perception of EMF: it is highly dependent on social factors and demographics.

This study goes a long way in developing hard evidence of EMF risks. Many of those who do not believe EMF is dangerous point to the lack of scientific evidence, so this study will hopefully the first of many to provide this evidence they’re seeking.

Bobcat Forklift on Roof Leads to Major Fines for Staten Island Construction Company

Dangerous accident during workIn a year when construction accidents are on the rise in New York City, a Staten Island construction firm is paying the price for letting a Bobcat loose on an apartment building rooftop.

Brooklyn resident Tommy Demoneris, 55, of Telentos Construction, was charged with reckless endangerment after his company brought a one-ton Bobcat mini-forklift onto the roof of a six-story apartment building at South Beach Houses. Demoneris was cited by the New York City Housing Authority because he used the equipment without a permit and without determining whether or not the building roof could sustain the weight of the machinery.

SILive.com reports that the company is also in trouble for failing to erect a permanent guardrail on the roof to keep workers safe and prevent debris from falling over the edge. Instead, Demoneris used steel cables and orange netting.

Although no one was injured and the building was not damaged, Demoneris was arrested for putting lives at risk, according to a statement issued by Mark G. Peters, commissioner of the city Department of Investigation, and Acting District Attorney Daniel Master.

“The owner of this company decided to operate above the law and put the lives of New York City Housing Authority residents and coworkers at risk, according to the criminal complaint,” Peters said in the statement.

Demoneris had the Bobcat 453 Skid Steer Loader lifted onto the roof to scrape off roofing material, but he did so without first having an engineer assess the building and the roof. Even more durable materials, such as steel roofing, should be inspected before workers perform any major work in order to prevent injuries.

“In today’s work climate, it is important to assess each work site to insure the proper equipment and protective equipment is being used,” says Ray Farmer, President, American Metal Roofs of Northern Wisconsin. “By following the appropriate state building guidelines, these types of incidents can be avoided. We follow the state’s strict guidelines to ensure its business and homeowners property are protected from these types of concerns. Our employees are our number one asset and we firmly believe in providing the correct equipment and training to ensure each employee is protected to the best of their ability. Since opening our doors in 2007, AMR has not experienced any safety violations as a result of not following OSHA’s guidelines. We are proud of that achievement!”

Construction accidents caused 874 workers fatalities last year, according to statistics from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Yet a June 2 piece from The New York Times reports that accidents surrounding construction sites are on the rise throughout New York City’s five boroughs, including Staten Island. As of June, eight people had died in construction-related accidents, the same as the grand total for 2014; in 2013, just three people died while working construction jobs.

That figure is at a high since 2008, when several incidents, including two falling cranes, led to 19 fatalities throughout the year.

Yet even nonfatal accidents can pose a serious risk in densely populated areas like Manhattan.

This spring, a 12-ton heating and air conditioning unit fell 30 stories onto Madison Avenue when it broke free from a crane. Although 10 people were hurt, none faced serious injuries.

As for Demoneris, he’s just lucky no one at his construction scene had been injured or worse. He faces a misdemeanor count of second-degree reckless endangerment, which could lead to up to a year in jail if he is convicted.

Divorce Rates Hit Record Lows, But Women and Older Couples Buck the Trend

I hope they will work it out.Despite a public perception that divorce is more widespread than ever, divorce rates are actually approaching record low levels. However, the latest studies on divorcing couples suggests that divorce rates are rising for certain groups.

So-called silver divorce, or late-in-life divorces, are becoming more common. Not only that, but the AARP reports that women now initiate 60% of divorces in couples above the age of 40.

Pepper Schwartz is a sociology professor and the Love, Sex, and Relationship Ambassador for the AARP, and she often provides divorce advice to older women in her work. She believes there are few simple reasons behind these twin trends.

First, people are living longer than ever, and couples approaching their 30th anniversary suddenly realize they may have to put up with each other for another 30 years. Second, many silver divorces are the product of second marriages, which are much more likely to end in divorce. Finally, the “changing status of women” in modern times means many wives now feel more confident in serving divorce papers, whereas middle-aged and senior men might be more likely to stick out a relationship that’s turned sour.

“Women have higher expectations for their emotional life,” Schwartz said.

A new report from the National Center for Family and Marriage Research found that people age 50 and above are now twice as likely to get divorced as they were in 1990, while divorce rates are dropping among other demographics.

According to another recent study by the Marriage Foundation, divorce rates have fallen almost 7% since the 1980s. In 1969, when no-fault divorce opened up new paths to dissolving a marriage, divorce rates rose sharply, peaking in the 1980s.

In 2015, a first marriage has about a 41% chance of surviving, while the divorce rate for second and third marriages is 60% and 73%, respectively.

Unfortunately for older couples struggling with a rocky marriage, those numbers increase as you age.

2015 Is Officially the Year of the Emoji for Content Marketing

Blue bird with speech bubbleTwitter recently announced that it would be expanding its selection of emojis available online, most notably including the newer collection of emojis with diverse skin tones.

According to The Verge and PC Magazine, Twitter announced on Dec. 9 that the website had just begun supporting all new Unicode 8 emoji, which is the set of emojis that Apple released in its iOS 9.1 update this past June.

The Unicode 8 symbols include tacos, unicorns, zodiac signs, and a diverse selection of different skin tones. Unfortunately, Android users will still have to wait to use these emojis on Twitter; Google updated some of its Nexus devices with Unicode 8 emojis, but the majority of Android smartphones and tablets are still waiting for the update.

Nevertheless, as PC Mag stated, “This was a big year for emojis.”

The Oxford English Dictionary actually named a specific emoji, “Face With Tears of Joy,” as its 2015 Word of the Year. This particular emoji is reportedly one of the most common emoji symbols used in the U.S. and U.K., respectively representing 17% and 20% of all emoji use in the two countries.

According to GeekWire, emojis haven’t just taken over the English language in 2015; they’ve also become the cornerstone of social media marketing among social media-savvy brands.

The Seattle-based firm Simply Measured found that 35% of brands used emojis online in 2015. With Instagram and Twitter in the lead, companies regularly use social media accounts for everything from official company statements to informal conversations with customers.

While 2015 seems to be the biggest year yet for social media marketing, many digital marketing experts believe that it’s only going to become a more prominent part of content marketing in the years to come.

“Social media has become extremely important,” says Jeff Lizik, Director of Digital Marketing, C-leveled. “Not only are your customers out there looking at social profiles but the retargeting opportunity is something that has to be taken advantage of. Social media is a way to break through the noise and standout from some competitors. As for emojis, they let people express emotion in a visual sense without relying on words.”

New Resort-Style Community in Texas Centered around Golf Course Designed by Tiger Woods

Golf CourseAs more potential home buyers place a stronger emphasis on amenities in their real estate search, a private golf course in Texas is adding homes and several other perks to transform into a resort-style community.

According to Community Impact, BlueJack National, a country club in Montgomery, TX, has begun the first phase of adding homes and luxurious amenities as it makes the transition from golf course to private community.

Bluejack is famous for being designed by legendary golfer Tiger Woods. As the club continued to add other amenities outside of the golf course, developers decided to use a 755-acre site surrounding the course to build homes and become a full-blown private community.

“Golf is a common anchor in communities all across the country, and while we’ve put a lot of time and money into that, it’s just part of the story here,” Bluejack President Casey Paulson said. “Really what we tried to focus on here is a thorough set of amenities that cater to people of all ages.”

In total, there will be 386 private homes constructed with 234 custom estate home sites also being developed. Homes will range from $455,000 to $1.55 million, which is well worth the price considering some of the unique amenities that will soon be added.

Bluejack community members will have access to a swimming lake, ropes course, zip line, and archery range, in addition to the world-class golf course that is already on the premises. Private communities around the country are using a similar approach to development, offering a litany of recreational opportunities for families who desire more than just a house.

The demand for amenities has become so strong that some communities are even voting on what they would like to see added. According to NewsTimes, the community center in Newtown, CT, recently allowed residents to place their vote on what they would like to see added throughout the town.

Among the top vote-getters were a community pool and ice rink. There were also some interesting write-in options, including a cigar/poker night and a “clothing optional” section of town.

As for Bluejack National, there is no word on when home development will officially be completed. However, the community has planned a grand opening in April that Tiger Woods is set to attend.

Are You Truly Happy in Your Home?

Room AdditionRemodels can be a great way to rejuvenate a home as well as increase its value before selling.

In fact, according to PR Newswire, a new report from the National Association of Realtors has shown how drastic the benefits of alterations can be on homeowners remodeling solely for their own pleasure.

The 2015 Remodeling Impact Report determined that after a remodeling project, around 64% of homeowners felt an increase of enjoyment in their homes. Another 75% of respondents stated feeling a major sense of accomplishment from their finished projects.

When asked about their initial reasoning behind the remodels, around 38% of homeowners were interested in upgrading worn-out surfaces and finishes. Additionally, 17% wanted to add features that improved the overall livability, with 13% simply believing it was time for a change.

In order to help homeowners find all home, kitchen, or bathroom remodeling services they may need, Sam DeMars has launched a website that specializes in providing quick information and advice on finding experienced contractors.

However, the Disability Remodeler website is actually meant for homeowners who are disabled or have mobility issues to facilitate their everyday needs.

“A lot of families end up needing to modify a residence in order to better suit an older family member,” stated DeMars. “Sometimes this situation occurs slowly over time as a family member grows older and their health declines, or sometimes it occurs very quickly due to an accident or sudden downturn in someone’s health.”

“Design for homeowners with disabilities are not common, few companies specialize in designing and remodeling homes to meet disabled needs,” says Peter Kiwior, Owner, Pro-Home Services. “Building a ramp for a wheelchair, installing a walk-in shower or even an escalator to a second floor will help them enjoy their homes and will make it accessible for them.”

The top three most common home projects that are found through DeMars’ website are outside entrance wheelchair ramps, bathroom remodeling, and kitchen remodeling.

But the projects offered by the Disability Remodeler website range from a variety of services. These can include widening doorways to allow for wheelchairs and walkers to pass through, adding safety grab bars in bathrooms, as well as installing elevators or stair lifts.

DeMars’ site is currently still in the development phase, but he soon hopes to have extensive lists of local contractors for every city.

El Niño Weather Patterns to Bring Snow to California This Winter

Snow removingCalifornians might want to think about breaking out the heavy duty snow plows this winter as a result of abnormally heavy snows brought on by El Niño.

According to a Nov. 24 Los Angeles Times article, residents of the state’s Sierra Nevada region saw a series of strong winter storms, allowing ski resorts to open up a bit earlier than usual. In previous years, the region’s resorts would see a significantly shortened season due to lack of snowfall — but that’s no longer the case.

“This is the earliest the ski resorts have been opened in many years. … They rarely open before Thanksgiving,” explained Bill Patzert, a climatologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge.

El Niño, the periodic warming pattern that takes place along the Pacific coasts of North and South America, is known for bringing added precipitation when it arrives around this time of year. As a result, weather experts predict the current snow boom should last into next year, along with plenty of rain in warmer parts of the state.

And while this is good news for California’s ski enthusiasts and tourism industry, all this extra snow is poised to carry some risks.

“Areas that don’t typically receive substantial snowfall often lack the snow removal equipment and manpower to handle these situations,” says Michael Guggino, President, Pro-Tech Manufacturing and Distribution. “Equipment such as snow pushers, truck plows, and salters are critical during snow events to keep communities operating. Even something as simple as going to the grocery store can be hazardous.”

Dangerous driving conditions are just one drawback to El Niño’s snow boost — loss of life is another. Late last month, officials said they found Michael David Meyers, a UCLA graduate student who had gone missing, buried in snow after an avalanche fell in the John Muir Wilderness.

Even the savviest cold-weather adventurers should take extra precaution as a result, explained Inyo County Sheriff William Lutze. He stressed the need to travel in pairs when trekking across dense, snowy mountain terrain.

“If it doesn’t look safe, it’s not safe,” Lutze said.

Oracle Trying to Make Ground On Cloud Computing Industry’s Juggernauts

Web design.For a while, cloud computing and technology became something of a buzz term in many ways. If anyone didn’t know how something worked or where it went, it inevitably would lead to someone referencing the magic of the mysterious technological cloud.

Today, more and more people are beginning to understand and utilize such services as they keep growing in popularity. One of the latest companies to try and carve out space in an increasingly crowded space is Oracle Corp., which announced late last month they will be launching a new expansion of their cloud computing program at the Oracle OpenWorld 2015 event, according to Forbes.

When it comes to cloud computing, there are different types, but the one Oracle will be expanding is an Infrastructure-as-a-Cloud (IaaS) services.

Oracle is not just introducing a cheap alternative, though. In fact, they’re aiming straight for the top as they compared their new services capabilities with Amazon’s Amazon Web Service (AWS), the online retailer’s IaaS branch and current unquestionable leader in this specific space.

Early financial reports have come back positive for the new competitor on the block, but the established industry juggernauts, such as Amazon and Google, are strong brands to win support away from. The 2016 first quarter revenues for Oracle’s cloud computing was about $2.5 billion, which was almost a 30% increase in that category from previous quarters but still lagged well behind AWS’s $7 billion-plus revenue stream.

Up until this point, Oracle’s bread and butter has been in the database software business, and expanding into the fiercely competitive IaaS market will be a struggle with such established leaders. The move is certainly not impossible, though, especially as more and more new companies, businesses, and first-time users seek out a provider.

The other advantage they will have is in providing these new services to their current on-premise database clients. It just makes sense for most businesses to use the same provider and keep it all under one roof.

The opportunity, however slight, is there. Now it’s just up to the cloud services themselves — and the people who sell them — to prove their worth.

Community Activist Transforms Blighted Lot Into Urban Farm

urbanfarmgardenVacant lots in cities are usually found in the most blighted sections with potentially dangerous activity running rampant. They can be breeding grounds for drug dealers and juvenile delinquents to loiter. That along with the presence of literal trash are the main reasons Andromeda Brooks decided to take action by turning the vacant lot at Chanslor Avenue and First Street in Richmond, CA, into an urban farm that supports the community, reports area news source Richmond Confidential.

“I’m gonna put food on the corner instead of drugs,” Brooks said. “Growing has always been a part of me. It would be nice if it could be like a community-supported grocery store.”

She started the project by herself and named it the “Happy Lot Farm and Garden.” Today, the 14,000-square-foot lot, which was previously covered with weeds, trash, and debris, is a thriving example of urban agriculture. Happy Lot features two dozen varieties of fruits and vegetables, as well as some chickens, ducks, and rabbits and a quail.

Most of the food Brooks harvests from the flourishing urban farm she gives away to local community members, volunteers, and even the random passerby. Reports even indicate she sometimes leaves surprise gifts inside cars people leave unlocked, though nothing is confirmed at the time of this writing.

There are monthly volunteer days where neighbors and community members come out and help her plant, clean, harvest, dig, and whatever else needs to be done on the given day. They even helped her build a custom pergola for grapevines to grow around. Though perhaps not a traditional pergola in the architectural sense, it, like everything else in the Happy Lot Farm and Garden, was made entirely from recycled and reclaimed material.

The garden reminds Brooks of her childhood, as she grew up spending a lot of time in her parents’ garden and truly enjoys the work that goes into making such an immense project an overwhelming success.

For Brooks it’s not about making money or even community appreciation. Her biggest concern is helping the neighborhood she lives in and educating people about their food.