Help Stop SOPA/PIPA

You may not know it, but you are an agent of change.   If nobody has ever told you that, just take my word for it.  If you’re a voter, you are a potential agent of change….if you’re willing to act when needed.   Well, now there’s a very real need!

Normally at A Master’s Hands, we stay away from politics – in our business, and in our blog posts – and we don’t want to alienate any of our clients or those who follow our blog.  However, today, I’m breaking my own unwritten “no-politics rule”, because there’s something going on in U.S. politics right now that we need to make sure you know about and understand, because it affects all of us in many ways…some of which we might not even fully realize yet.

Using websites to blog, to publish, to communicate things online that once upon a time would have been relegated to an unread private journal (or simply remained unspoken, uncreated, unshared) makes you a part of one of the biggest changes in modern history: the democratization of publishing and the independent web.

Every time you read someone else’s blog post (like this one), or click Publish yourself to post a blog entry, you are a part of that Internet-based change…part of what is making the world “flat” (see “The World is Flat“)….equalizing things, leveling the playing field in many respects for smaller developing countries, giving them essentially free access to huge amounts of data, knowledge, etc.  So, whether you just like to read, or are posting political insights, a joke or a story about something that happened to you, this is a topic that should matter to you….a lot!  If you use free on-line services such as Craigslist, Backpage, Facebook, or other similar services, you also are experiencing the power of the world wide web…which is now suddenly at risk.

How would you feel if the web stopped being so free and independent?   We are very concerned about two bills that threaten to do exactly this, and as an active participant in one of the biggest changes in modern history, you should be, too.

You may have heard people talking/blogging/twittering about SOPA — the Stop Online Piracy Act. The recent SOPA-related boycott of GoDaddy was all over the news, with many people expressing their outrage over the possibilities of SOPA, but when I ask people about SOPA and its sister bill in the Senate, PIPA (Protect IP Act), many folks don’t really know what the bills propose, or what we stand to lose. If you aren’t shocked by the potential impact….e.g. the havoc that could be wreaked by SOPA/PIPA, please… for the next four minutes, instead of checking email or Facebook, watch this video.

Some thoughts:

  • In the U.S. our legal system maintains that the burden of proof is on the accuser, and that people are innocent until proven guilty. This tenet seems to be on the chopping block when it comes to the web if these bills pass, as companies could shut down sites based on accusation alone.
  • Laws are not like lines of computer code; they are not easily reverted/edited if someone wakes up and suddenly realizes there’s a better way to do things.  We should not be so quick to codify something this far-reaching.
  • The people writing these laws are not the people writing or overseeing the independent web, and they are certainly not out to protect it. We have to stand up for it ourselves.

Blogging is a form of activism.  You can be an agent of change. Some people will tell you that taking action is useless, that online petitions, phone calls to representatives, and other actions won’t change a single mind, especially one that’s been convinced of something by lobbyist dollars. To those people, we repeat the words of Margaret Mead:

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

We are not a small group. Millions of people use blog engines to post and to read news.  Millions also use sites such as Craigslist to help market their services.  If such sites were shut down simply based on one accusation, many small businesses would see revenues dry up overnight.  As an example, the blog engine we use to power our entire website for A Master’s Hands is called WordPress, an open-source (free) application.  WordPress is said to power about 15% of the web.  Each of us who are using and benefiting from this application can make an impact, and you can be an agent of change.  Go to Stop American Censorship for more information and learn about a number of ways you can take action quickly, easily, and painlessly.  The Senate votes in less than two weeks, and we need to help at least 41 more senators see reason to change their current positions on this proposed legislation before then.  PleaseMake your voice heard.

Thanks in advance! — Jim Bartlett, Founder

Remodeling and Handyman Services

The web is continually evolving, and there are more and more ways to get the word out about services a company provides.  The latest we discovered is called Thumbtack.  This on-line service is definitely worthwhile checking out.  See our information about Remodeling and Handyman Services at Thumbtack!

For Handyman Services Firms, it’s Black Friday Too

The day after the food-heavy Thanksgiving holiday is typically the busiest of the year for handymen and residential plumbers, sort of like a “Black Friday” for drains and pipes.

“People try to grind up turkey skin,” says Jerry Feiman, owner of Jerry’s Plumbing in Ventura, Calif. “They put too many veggies down the disposal all at once.”

The intensity of cooking and associated use of the kitchen sink, combined with visiting relatives using showers, toilets and washing machines can take a toll on plumbing and sewer lines this time of year.

“The week after Thanksgiving is often one of the busiest weeks of the year for us,” says Jim Bartlett of A Master’s Hands, LLC.   He anticipates many calls from clients with clogs in their kitchen sinks and toilets.

“We try to work around people’s schedules,” says Bartlett.  “Some people need to have us respond to their issues in the evening.”

The Thanksgiving-triggered business usually starts the evening before Turkey Day.  Calls tend to slow down on Thanksgiving itself, because many people are worried about extra charges associated with calling for assistance on a holiday.  Others may just want to get through the “big meal” without interruption, if possible.

Bartlett says the most common Thanksgiving problem his company gets calls about is a clogged kitchen sink, resulting from improper use of the garbage disposal.

It’s important to run lots of water when using a disposal, says Bartlett.  He recommends not feeding stringy vegetables, or starchy material like potato peelings into the disposal.  If you must pour grease down the drain, make sure you run a lot of hot water as you do so.  That will ensure it makes its way completely through your home’s plumbing.

To avoid disposal/sink problems altogether, Bartlett recommends putting all the above mentioned “throwaways” in a separate container and tossing them in the trash, rather than putting them through the disposal.   “Many people just put too much garbage down the drain,” says Bartlett.  “If you limit it to just the small table scraps as you rinse off plates before putting them in the dishwasher, that will ensure you get through the holiday period without needing to call us.”  Food prep waste (peels, cuttings, fat, grease, etc., should be put into the trash he says.

Bartlett also says homeowners should realize that just because a disposal turns on doesn’t mean it’s necessarily working properly.  Homeowners sometimes don’t know a disposal isn’t really working properly until they overload it on the big day and everything backs up.

Toilets also can also stop up from heavy use. Some homeowners with low-flow toilets make the mistake of putting bricks in the tanks with the intent of saving water.  But without sufficient water per flush to create the necessary “siphon” action, the toilet won’t fully flush.  Repeated usage in this manner can lead to stopped up plumbing, and a call for professional assistance.  Sometimes the culprit behind a clog is too much toilet paper being used – something that’s difficult to control (much less monitor) with visiting friends and family members with children.  Of course, tampons and other feminine products always are a no-no for flushing.

If it works its way down into the main line, a bad sink or toilet clog can stop up the entire plumbing system in the home, creating indoor floods.

“While we’re happy to assist clients who have emergencies around Thanksgiving, we’d much prefer to see everyone adopt these common-sense approaches that can help avoid common problems,” says Bartlett.

Protect Your Home While Away

Going on vacation this winter? Be sure to turn off the main water shut-off valve where it comes into the house. Also turn off the gas (or electric) for the hot water heater.


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Carbon Monoxide – the Silent Killer

The Silent Killer: Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Most cases of Carbon Monoxide (CO) poisoning in residential situations happen to occur during the winter months….which is also flu season. And, thus, because mild-CO-poisoning symptoms (fatigue, dizziness, nausea, etc), tend to mimic the flu, most people

Carbon Monoxide detector.

Carbon Monoxide detector.

may not initially recognize the root cause, or the true danger of the situation.

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Energy Saving Tips for Winter Time

Now that the winter season has officially started and we’ve also rolled into a brand new year, many people on fixed / limited incomes, or those who simply want to make more frugal choices around the home, are seeking new opportunities to save money on their energy bills. Here’s some simple energy- (and money-) saving tips that you may be able to put to work in your home immediately!


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Taking Care of Your Hot Water Heater

A client recently called us with a complaint of no hot water and the following symptoms regarding his Hot Water Heater: When he first found there wasn’t any hot water he relit the pilot light, and then fired up the burner. However, when he checked on it a couple of hours later, the water was still cold, the gas burner was off again, and the pilot was, once again, also not burning.

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