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Say goodbye to that clunky machine in your kitchen and hello to this portable one instead. Weighing in at under 1lb and measuring about 7 long, it can fit in your bag, the drawer of your desk, and just about anywhere else.
innovate design features a semi-automatic piston that injects small quantities of water into the coffee adapter. After a few pushes of the button, a bold espresso shot is extracted. It also has water tanks of different capacities, which makes it possible to enjoy multiple espresso types with any variety of bean or roast.Read More
This gorgeous five-bedroom house listed on HAR.com has everything a person could want in a home.
The Richmond, Texas house is complete with a “family room, study, art studio, game room, trophy room, pool, outdoor kitchen, fabulous kitchen [and] garage apartment.”
Most importantly, there’s plenty of room to store your disturbing doll and figurine collection.
At least that’s what the photos are suggesting because there are literally dolls everywhere and it’s hard not to be creeped out.
A mannequin even greets you at the front gate.
This is the formal living room. The listing says, “the dental molding is a work of art. There are also built ins on two walls. This room also has hardwood floors.”
There is also an eerie little doll girl hiding behind the Christmas tree, but there’s no need to mention that apparently.
The family room features a nice stone fireplace. “The double crown molding is just one of the nice touches in this room. The arches are throughout this home.”
And there’s a weird doll chilling on the couch giving the place a nice classic touch.
The study and game room have mannequin children just hanging from the ceiling which also adds some fun.
This is a look at the master bedroom and no those aren’t real human beings trying to decide what to watch on TV.
The listing says that “unfortunately the art [in the room] goes with the artist,” so maybe that also applies to the lifelike mannequins living in the bedroom, too.
The secondary bedroom has some hardwood floors, vaulted, ceilings, “a nice walk in closet” and whatever that thing is in the corner.
We apologize for any nightmares this may induce.
If it makes you feel any better, several rooms are equipped with doll servants to wait at your every beck and call.
There’s even a shower doll?
If you do want some alone time, cook yourself a nice meal in the kitchen. At least it’s doll-free.
We spoke too soon.
There’s a cowboy doll in the kitchen, too.
Of course, if you do decide to purchase the single family home, it’s safe to assume it will be empty and you most likely won’t take on a clan of dolls as roommates. Though, it’s a tad bit unsettling that they were there in the first place.
If you can get over the fact that this house will be haunted by the former presence of human-sized dolls, then you’ll certainly be living in luxury for $1,275,00.
It’s really beautiful before you get a peek at what’s inside.Read More
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Nostalgic tech is making its way into the gadget world and were all big fans.
Add a classic taste to your modern tech with some of these products. Theres no time like the past
From vinyl Bluetooth speakers to mix tape thumb drives, this list has all the nostalgia feels.
Bring it back with a handheld gaming device. This Smartboy Development Kit can fit any Android smartphone. Get it here for $95.
You need this full-range speaker in your living room. With wireless, Bluetooth compatibility and high-quality listening, you cant get a better combo of modern tech and nostalgia. Get it here for $79.
Take the feels into the kitchen with this popcorn maker. Enjoy some hot and delicious popcorn in retro style. Get it here for $65.
This Crosley turntable will give you the rich sound of vinyl with wireless, Bluetooth features. Available in a variety of colors, this portable speaker is the perfect thing to bring to a party. Get it here for $73.52.
It looks like a rotary-dial phone, but its push-button technology is easy to use and the perfect statement piece. Get it here for $49.95.
An old-school cassette tape turned into a USB drive? Need that. Personalize it with a title, message, and playlist, and give it to a friend. Get it here for $16.95.Read More
Youve probably heard of HelloFresh-style businesses where you are given tailored ingredients for your meals. Well now the concept has come, literally, to dog food.
Butternut Box is a London startup now bringing tailored, delivered meals to British dogs. Its aiming at dog owners who want high-quality ingredients put into meals for their precious pooches.
The company is led by Goldman Sachs alumni Kevin Glynn and David Nolan (aged 27 and 30 respectively), and is now announcing a 1 million Seed round of investment from a leading London early stage investor, Passion Capital.
Estimates for dog and cat food snacks in the UK is currently 3.1 billion per annum, but only a tiny minority of these products are cooked fresh. Plus, only two companies dominate an estimated 77% of the UK pet food market.
That said, they say that unlike other brands, their proprietary algorithm identifies how many kcals each individual dog needs on a daily basis. They then remove the hassle by pre-portioning this kcal amount into daily servings. They even taste test all their food with humans.
Glynn says Pet owners are left choosing their dog food in an aisle cluttered with washing powder and bin bags and dominated by a few unhealthy choices. Butternut Box makes it easy and convenient to ensure dogs get the very best diet tailored for each individual.
They appear to be pushing at an open door. Just as in humans, obesity and related issues are said to be costing British dog owners over 200 million in vets fees. Overfeeding, and unhealthy food is leading to obesity. But Butternut Boxs algorithms might be one answer. Nolan says: We know their age, weight, breed, activity levels and body condition. With this information, we can develop meals that meet the dogs specific needs. Meet the Quantified Dog.
Why create this tailored approach? Well, a scientific study found that dogs who were fed a natural, home-made diet had a longer life capacity than those dogs who were fed industrial canned products. The difference which is mentioned in the study between those two diets is three years, a long time in dog years.
After starting out in a family kitchen, with daily early morning trips to Londons Smithfield meat market, Butternut Box is now based in a kitchen in West London and sources all its meat direct in Ireland and Britain. So far its cooked over 250,000 individual meals since it launched in April 2016.Read More
About my eleventh grade English class, I remember very little, and none of it very pleasant. Miss Elizabeth Kapp, a stern maiden lady of some years, led us to believe that American literature pretty much stopped at the 19th century (and so, some of us were convinced, did she: who else would have kept portraits of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson hanging on the walls of the classroom, and this in a completely integrated school?).
Not only that, but the 19th century literature she championed ran to oozy poets like James Greenleaf Whittier, William Cullen Bryant, and Sidney Lanier, all of whom we were made to memorize by the yard and then recite aloud. The one poem she reserved for herself was Poes The Bells, and even now I can see the wattles of her chin shake as she declaimed the tintinnabulation of the bells, bells, bells.
Miss Kapp was more hagiographer than critic. The writers we studied were all, she led us to believe, beyond reproach. But there was one exception. She openly mocked Henry David Thoreau, whose bicentennial we celebrated July 11.
You know, she confided with a cynical chuckle one day while frog marching us through Walden, he may have gone out and lived by himself for a couple of years, but he was mighty happy to go home to Mamas in town for a chicken dinner every Sunday.
Her snide aside confused me twice over, once because it was out of character for Miss Kapp to malign an author, and again because, as an apprentice hippie, Id read Walden on my own a year before and found nothing to complain about. I loved his back-to-the-land preachments and his categorical condemnation of the mindlessly acquisitive bourgeois life. Reading Thoreau was like listening to a sympathetic, companionable friend who had it all figured out.
It did not occur to me for many years that Miss Kapp, not being a child of the age of Aquarius, might see Walden a little differently, that she might in fact take it for what it wasa fierce indictment of her easy, middle-class life. So maybe she went looking for weak spots, holes in the fabric of Thoreaus prose where she could pull a thread and unravel the sense he was making. And what better way to do that than by questioning his accomplishment.
He wasnt really self-sufficient. He wasnt really an ascetic hermit finding himself by a pond. No, he was a fraud, and a lazy fraud at that, a man who spent his life telling other people what to do. To hear her tell it, he might as well have stolen pies off kitchen windowsills like some passing hobo.
I forgot all about this for years, until recently, when I found that you need not be a card-carrying member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy to loathe the transcendental, abolitionist bard of Walden Pond. Millennials of my acquaintance, it turns out, also think he was a fraud who preached what he did not practice.
This took me longer to unriddle, until it occurred to me that Thoreau himself is never cynical. Worse, he is earnest, a quality that doesnt resonate with many people under the age of 70, since the last half century is nothing if not the golden age of cynicism. We just assume that every hero these days comes factory equipped with feet of clay. Trust no one over 30, my generation said. How quaint. Trust no one, say those who came after us.
Then, when I began reading Laura Dassow Walls wonderful new biography of Thoreau, I found that the problem is even bigger and has far deeper roots than I first expected. It turns out that tagging him as a hypocrite was fashionable even before he published Walden in 1855for years after a young Thoreau and a friend accidentally set some woods on fire near Concord, some would taunt him by hiding and shouting Burnt Woods at his back, according to Walls. This is what you get for being the town gadfly.
Mocking the man, it turns out, has always been the easiest way to inoculate against the often hard lessons he has to teach. As Walls puts it, all those harmless and loving dinners at home, where he dropped off his laundry, caught up on the news, packed in a good meal, and maybe carried away a pie for breakfast laid him open to endless charges of hypocrisy. No other male American writer has been so discredited for enjoying a meal with loved ones or for not doing his own laundry. But from the very beginning, such charges have been used to silence Thoreau.
Thoreau may have been a first-class eccentric, by the standards of his time or any other, but he never pretended to be anything he wasnt. As Mohandas Gandhi said of him, he taught nothing he was not prepared to practice in himself. Indeed, he was downright discreet when it came to flaunting what he knew, because when it came to the natural world, he was a walking encyclopedia. It was to Thoreau that the farmers and woodsmen of Concord turned when there was a question about flora and fauna. He was downright oracular, on the page and in person.
There was surely more than a little self-consciousness in Thoreaus decision to spend two years by Walden Pond. He was after all, a writer whose principal subject was himself. Walls even calls the move a piece of performance art. But that does not negate his sincerity. Indeed, what he was trying to do was first simplify his lifeget it right down to the chassisand then forge the essentials into one harmonious whole. As Walls says, moving to Walden was a declaration that from then on Thoreau would be a writer in an entirely new sense: instead of living a little, then writing about it, his life would be one single, integrated act of composition.
Even before the Walden experiment, which he embarked on at the age of 28 in 1845, Thoreau strove to unify the separate parts of his life, so that writer and naturalist, day laborer and loafer, son and citizen all chimed together and informed each other. He wanted a life that adhered around core principles and could not be pulled apart. In some ways he willed this into being, but in other, more important ways, he was just acknowledging who he was. Nowhere was this plainer than in the marriage of his two favorite activities: writing and walking (a ten-mile walk was nothing to him). Walls says that even before he moved to Walden Pond, he was rhyming the rhythms of the walker and the writer such that they became inseparable for him: Walking was becoming synonymous with writing, the measure of his steps with the measure of his prose.
In one sense, Thoreau was too good at his job: Much of the wisdom in Walden seems self-evident to us. But that is only because we have so completely absorbed what Thoreau tried to teach us. Those who today take environmentalism, vegetarianism, Native American rights, civil disobedience, and pacifism for granted forget or simply dont know that it was Thoreau who first introduced American readers to these concepts. Without question he was the godfather of the environmental movement, and he singlehandedly pioneered that admixture of science writing, memoir, op ed, and reporting that we call contemporary nature writing.
Beyond that, I would urge anyone who encountered Thoreau in high school or college and abandoned him there to go back for another look. Sentences such as The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation sound complacently self evident when you're 16 or 20. Try it again when youre 10 or 20 years older, and that line takes on an almost Beckett-like caste.
I cant say enough good things about Walls book. It is almost certainly what its publisher promises: the Thoreau biography that will be read for generations. But beyond that, its simply one of the best biographies Ive ever read, beautifully researched and written, and sympathetic but never apologist. Even if you come to her book as someone who likes the Thoreau met in his writing, her portrait makes you like him even more.
He was one of those people who are happiest outside. His keen attention and bottomless curiosity made him an extraordinary naturalistand not just as an avid collector in the field: he knew the science, too. He was one of the first Americans to read Darwins Origin of Species, and probably the first to grasp how profoundly it game changed natural science.
Such intense, omnivorous curiosity about the workings of the world might be Thoreaus defining characteristicit certainly would be in a less faceted, less contradictory man. Because for all his nature loving, he also loved tools and machines and gadgets. Carpenter, house painter, boatwright, arboristhe truly was as close to self-sufficient as anyone could be in 19th century America. He was Concords handymanthe ideal handyman in what might be considered Americas ideal town, since Thoreaus clients for home repair and gardening included Emerson, Hawthorne, and the Alcotts. He may have been a home boy nearly his whole life, but what a home. He was also the towns chief surveyorhis principal livelihood. And he spent nearly his whole life, in one capacity or another, helping out in his familys pencil factoryhis refinements with graphite made Thoreau pencils the most popular in the U.S.
All this I learned from Walls, who is as good at the small stuff as she is on the big picture. From her I learned that Thoreau almost never saw a deer, the ecological depredations of the English settlers being so severe that entire animal populations were eradicated by the time he was born. Further, summerhouses, writers shanties, and wilderness retreats like the one Thoreau built for himself at Walden were all the rage among young 19th century Americans eager to find themselves in nature. And thanks to Walls, I now know that those weird under-the-chin beards that you see on 19th century men were not just some weird fashion statement: Called Galway whiskers, they were worn by consumptives like Thoreau, who thought they protected the neck and warded off tuberculosis.
In the end, of course, Thoreau survives on the strength of his own writing or not at all. Since hes made it this far with his reputation more or less intact–he weathered the charges of hypocrisy in his own lifetime, and so he has in death–Id say the chances that hell survive are more than fair. Certainly what he has to tell us has not dated at all. Indeed, if I had a million dollars to spare, Id send a copy of Walden to every Trump appointee at the Environmental Protection Agency.
Thoreau has been dead for more than 150 years. Miss Kapp has, I can only assume, long since departed for that great teachers lounge in the sky. I am no longer a hippie, apprentice or otherwise. But Im still reading Walden, and I discover something new every time I open it. It remains a living testament that never stales.Read More
Judge rules tech giant must give US federal department snapshot of its 2014 pay records as part of pay discrimination case
A judge has ordered Google to hand over salary records to the government in an ongoing investigation by the US Department of Labor, which has accused the technology corporation of systematically discriminating against women.
Google must provide the federal government with a 2014 snapshot of the data, along with contact information for thousands of employees for possible interviews, according to a ruling made public on Sunday.
Judge Steve Berlin, however, also denied part of the governments request for records and partially sided with Google, which had argued the departments demands were overly broad and could violate employee privacy.
The limited records Google must release could help the Department of Labor (DoL) build a formal pay discrimination case against the company, which has repeatedly refused to disclose key data in what has become one of the most high-profile court battles to date regarding wage inequality in Silicon Valley. The department which had argued that additional records would help explain the extreme gender pay gap it uncovered in an initial audit said in a statement the decision vindicates its vigorous enforcement efforts.
The provisional order, written Friday, comes at a time of growing scrutiny of gender discrimination and sexual harassment across the tech industry, including a major scandal at Uber and a string of recent controversies involving prominent venture capitalists.
The DoL first publicly accused Google of systemic compensation disparities in April, testifying in a hearing that its preliminary investigation found that women across a wide range of positions at the Mountain View campus were paid less than men.
Berlins decision resolves a more narrow court battle stemming from a DoL lawsuit filed against Google in January, which accused the corporation of violating federal laws in its refusal to turn over salary history and employee contact information. Google has contracts with the federal government, which means it is obliged to comply with equal opportunity laws and has to allow the DoL to review certain internal records.
Google originally provided a 2015 snapshot of salaries. The DoL subsequently requested compensation history and contact information for employees so it could conduct confidential interviews, but Google argued the demands violated fourth amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure.
Berlins ruling, which is a recommended order that still has to be finalized, said Google must provide the comparable 2014 snapshot, though he said the DoLs demands for contact information for more than 25,000 workers was over-broad, intrusive on employee privacy, unduly burdensome, and insufficiently focused.
Instead, Google has to provide personal information for up to 8,000 employees the DoL selects, the ruling said. Berlin also denied the departments broader request for salary and job history data, saying the demands create an unreasonable burden on Google and its employees.
The departments regional solicitor Janet Herold praised the decision in a statement, saying, The courts decision vindicates [DoL]s vigorous enforcement of the disclosure and anti-discrimination obligations federal contractors voluntarily accept in exchange for taxpayer funds. Contractors will be held to their promise to let [DoL] fully audit their employment practices.
Google has vehemently denied that it discriminates against women, publicly claiming that it has closed its gender pay gap globally. In a Sunday blogpost, Google said it was pleased with the decision and would comply with the order, providing the much more limited data set of information.
In a final hearing last month, Google argued it was financially burdensome and logistically challenging to compile and hand over the salary records the DoL had requested, saying it would have to spend up to 500 hours and $100,000 to comply with the ongoing demands. The defense earned a strong rebuke from the DoL and others in the industry who noted Google has touted its $150m diversity efforts and has a nearly $28bn annual income as one of the worlds wealthiest companies, building some of the most advanced technology.
Google would be able to absorb the cost as easy as a dry kitchen sponge could absorb a single drop of water, DoL attorney Ian Eliasoph said in his closing arguments last month.
Google has faced repeated criticism for its lack of transparency in the dispute. The companys lawyers unsuccessfully lobbied to get the case thrown out last month, arguing that a DoL official may have violated ethics rules by talking to the Guardian about the federal investigation.
In that interview, Herold said the data suggested that discrimination against women in Google is quite extreme, even in this industry. Google also tried to restrict press access during one hearing.Read More
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If youre going out into the wilderness for any significant amount of timewhether youre tent camping or cabin glampingyoure going to want to have a more reliable source of fire than your old Zippo. After all, even the cushiest camping trips can get rugged real fast, and it never hurts to be as prepared as possible.
Replace your current lighter with the Saberlight Plasma Beam Lighter and youll have a contingency against inclement weather and low lighter fluid reserves. Plus, youll have a remarkably slick lighter that will blow your fellow campers moisture-wicking socks off.
The Saberlight Plasma Beam Lighter offers unparalleled reliability in rough conditions, including high winds and rain. It features the same flip-top functionality as your standard butane lighters, but its electrically generated plasma beam burns hotter and cleaner.
Hold a piece of kindling to the beam and it instantly ignites, allowing you to start your campfire quicklyso you can skip the hassle and get right to the marshmallow roasting. Saberlight can be used over 300 times on a single charge, and then replenished via USB in a laptop or portable battery (or a good old electrical outlet if youre not exactly roughing it). Normally, this remarkable gadget costs $99.99. Today, however, the price has dropped to just $15.95 for a limited time.Read More
Sentences for people who carry out acid attacks in England and Wales could be increased as part of a “wide-ranging” review, following a rise in attacks.
Ministers have faced calls to tighten laws, including for the sale and possession of acid, after five attacks over one night in London on Thursday.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd told the Sunday Times that perpetrators should “feel the full force of the law”.
“Life sentences must not be reserved for acid attack survivors,” she said.
MPs are also due to debate acid attacks in the Commons on Monday.
The review will look at existing laws, the response of police, sentencing, how people access harmful products and the support offered to acid attack victims.
Assaults involving corrosive substances have more than doubled in England since 2012 to 504 in 2016-17, according to a Freedom of Information request to police forces by the BBC.
Separately, the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) said more than 400 acid or corrosive substance attacks were carried out in England and Wales in the six months to April 2017.
Where the age of the offender was known, one in five was younger than 18.
A 16-year-old boy has been charged in connection with the attacks in London on Thursday.
Under the new strategy, the Home Office will assess whether the Poisons Act 1972 should cover more acids and harmful substances.
It will review Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) guidance to prosecutors, to make it clear that acid and other corrosive substances can be classed as dangerous weapons, and what is required to prove intent.
The government said it would work with police and the Ministry of Justice to assess whether the powers available to the courts, including sentencing, are sufficient.
In addition, police will be given new guidance on searching potential perpetrators and how to respond to a victim of an acid attack.
The government also said it would “further work” with retailers to agree measures to restrict sales of acids and other corrosive substances.
Announcing the plans, Ms Rudd said: “Acid attacks are horrific crimes which have a devastating effect on victims, both physically and emotionally.”
She said it was “vital that we do everything to prevent these sickening attacks”.
“The law in this area is already strong, with acid attackers facing up to a life sentence in certain cases,” Ms Rudd said.
“But we can and will improve our response.”
Politicians and acid attack survivors have called for tougher sentences on perpetrators.
Labour MP Stephen Timms will lead an adjournment debate on acid attacks in the Commons on Monday, where the government will outline the plans.
Acid attack survivor Katie Piper has said victims face a “life sentence” and also called on tougher sentencing to act as a deterrent.
In a letter published in the Scars, Burns & Healing medical journal on Thursday, she said: “I will continue to need operations and therapy for life. For acid attack survivors, the aftermath is a life sentence.”
Another measure in the government’s plan includes ensuring that police record victim impact statements so courts are made aware of the “full impact” of the attack.
However, Sarah Newton, minister for crime, safeguarding and vulnerability, has admitted that tighter regulations are difficult to enforce because “these chemicals are under everyone’s kitchen sinks”.
Assistant Chief Constable Rachel Kearton, the NPCC’s lead for corrosive attacks, also said it was “virtually impossible” to ban the sale of all corrosive substances.
Bleach, ammonia and acid were the most commonly used substances, according to the NPCC.
She said: “We are working closely with the Home Office and retailers to determine how we can keep these products from people who intend to cause harm.
“Police have dealt with a number of high-profile cases in recent months and we continue to collect data from police forces across England and Wales to understand the scale and extent of these attacks and develop our ability to support and protect victims.”
Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-40621303Read More
You open the oven door to peek at the casserole inside. Hmm … wonder how it’s coming along.
You boldly extend your index finger, completely unprotected, and stick it into the dish. Warm, but not quite there.
As you withdraw your finger, you accidentally make momentary contact with the blazing-hot glass baking dish. SEARING PAIN. Your nerve endings fire emergency signals to your brain. Retreat! Retreat!
Then the words come out: “Ow! Shit!!”
You pull out and slam the oven door shut, immediately bringing your scorched finger to your mouth for some reason. You turn around, and your 4-year-old is laughing maniacally, parroting you:
“Shit! Shit! Shit!”
Congratulations. You have ruined your child.
In a viral Facebook post, Hall writes that her young son, Arlo, “has been dropping a few bombs,” after overhearing her.
“Does it bother me?” she wrote. “Not much, meanness would bother me more.”
She explains: Her son is getting to an age where he’s going to copy his friends, no matter what she teaches him. Better that he learns to surround himself with good people than to adhere to a rule like “Never curse!”
“But what we can do is teach them how to recognise qualities that we respect. Point out, ‘how kind was Charley lending you his drink bottle?’ And ‘did you see how Sam helped out that younger kid?’ ‘I love the way Sophia is always making funny jokes.’
So while it’s important to say ‘don’t swear it’s not cool’ it’s equally important to teach your kids to strive to find friends with similar moral codes to your family.
That way when they do ignore you and run off with their mates, they are in good hands, maybe cheeky ones, maybe sweary ones, but good ones none the less.
Because our house hold might be a sweary one, but it’s a bloody kind one and it’s full to the brim with love.”
You can read the full post below:
Yelling out the F-word when you stub your toe doesn’t teach your kids much of anything. However, if they see you abusively yelling “F*ck you!” at someone who cuts you off in traffic, that’s a different story.
You could even replace swearing with plenty of other behaviors considered to be “bad.” Does your kid like to sleep in a little too much? Have too much of a sweet tooth?
OK. Maybe those are things to work on. Maybe not.
But remember that one of the best things you can do as a parent is to raise your children to be kind to others and to themselves.
It’s not the only thing that matters, but it helps put all the other “shit” into perspective.Read More
We all do dumb things when we drink: call an ex, send a profanity-laced email to the boss, buy used jeans on eBay that arent returnable. We know we shouldnt be doing these things, but theres never a responsible person next to us to say hey, I think youve had too much to drink.
Fortunately, theres now a smartphone accessory that takes care of this for us: the DrinkMate Breathalyzer. Drinkmate promises that you can plug this tiny, 1.9-inch breathalyzer into your phone, blow into it, and get an accurate reading of your BAC level within seconds. When was that last time one of your drinking buddies did that?
The DrinkMate Breathalyzer connects to your iPhones lightning jack (an Android version is also available) so you never have to worry about needing an external power source. It easily hooks to your keychain or slips it into your pocket too. And since your lips dont actually make contact with the DrinkMate Breathalyzer, you can even share it with your friends. Compete to see who has the lowest BAC. Or to ensure that everyone in your group makes smart decisions.
Actually, you should always do that. Safety first!Read More
Phil Murphy watched the Grenfell disaster unfold on television from his flat on the eighth floor of a Manchester tower block. The former firefighter immediately decided to check out his own building’s safety – and was horrified at what he discovered.
On the morning of 14 June, as he switched on the news, Murphy knew straight away how serious the situation in North Kensington was.
Murphy had joined the fire service at the age of 28. Going into a fire, he remembers, was “absolutely frightening”.
But he had found the job, which he did for six years, extremely rewarding. He moved up through the ranks and became a fire safety officer.
The worst kind of call out? “Anything to do with children.”
Now, he lived in a tower that, like Grenfell, stood 23 storeys above ground, with a single staircase. And he wanted reassurance that the same thing couldn’t happen in his building.
For the past eight years, Murphy has occupied a flat in Stretford House, a 50-year-old block that sits between Manchester’s inner ring road and Stretford Mall shopping centre on one of the main routes into the city.
“I love living here,” he says. “We work hard to make it a community that we all enjoy.” Quite a few of his neighbours are elderly or disabled, and the residents’ committee, chaired by Murphy, works hard to stop them feeling isolated. There are plans to grow fruit and vegetables on the roof, as well as to start a recycling club in the shed.
He left the fire service a decade ago. But once you’ve been a fireman “it never leaves you”, he says. “You always read the fire safety in a building when you walk in.”
Murphy wasted no time – the day after the Grenfell fire he requested a meeting with Stretford House’s landlords, Trafford Housing Trust. He persuaded his local MP, Kate Green, to come with him.
“They were quite firm in reassuring us that everything was fine and they gave me a copy of the 2016 fire risk assessment for the building to take with me,” Murphy says.
If this was meant to reassure him, it failed.
“I was horrified, frightened and astonished at the contents of that document,” Murphy says.
He found there was a lack of documentation to show that fire alarms, emergency lights and dry risers – pipes which allow water to travel up a building in case of fire – were working or had been looked after.
There was also evidence that compartmentation – the barriers that prevent fire spreading from one part of the building to another – had been breached six years ago when new kitchens, new bathrooms and a communal energy system had been fitted. As a result, says Murphy, “the building was, in fact, full of opportunities for fire to spread”.
The housing trust “appeared not to understand what [the 2016 fire] risk assessment was screaming at them, and I mean screaming at them,” he adds.
So he began a forensic, line-by-line analysis of the risk assessment and, over four days, compiled a 14-page report. “I went into a bubble. I wasn’t sleeping very much at all. And I was completely obsessed with completing it,” he says.
He sent the report to the trust, deciding not to raise his concerns with fellow residents immediately.
“Surrounded by people that have been coming to me and crying and telling me all about their fears and why they were scared and why they weren’t sleeping, after seeing those horrific scenes from Grenfell – I just thought it might push them over the edge if I showed them that document, frankly,” he says.
The report was highly detailed and technical, but in the accompanying email Murphy was very clear about the levels of anxiety felt by the people living in his block.
The housing trust responded to Murphy’s email at 04:00 the morning after he sent it. By mid-morning there was a representative from the trust in the foyer “taking on board the concerns” of residents.
Eventually Murphy had a chance to fully voice his worries at a meeting with the trust and the local fire service. A more detailed inspection was carried out by the fire service and Murphy’s concerns about the compartmentation were confirmed.
When we meet Murphy at the entrance to his building, 13 maintenance vans are parked nearby. Inside, the sound of builder’s radios echoes round the corridors as workmen busily undertake fire safety repairs.
“On Thursday, as soon as the fire officer had been in, and confirmed that my report was correct, the building was full of people, putting fire stopping [insulation] round because it’s fatal. The place is a death trap without that fire stopping in place”, Murphy says.
We go to the flat of one of his neighbours, Pat. Her flat has just been inspected. Four areas in need of fire safety work had been identified – by her front door, in her kitchen, in her living room and in her boiler room.
“I call it my cubby hole,” Pat says.
The room is linked to a dry riser which runs the full length of the tower block.
Because it hasn’t been fireproofed, Murphy says, “if there is any smoke or fire in that riser, it will penetrate right through the building”.
“I’m frightened about smoke,” says Pat, 70, who has breathing problems. “That would kill me straight away.”
To her relief, workmen are now scheduled to fix the problems.
“Maybe I’m the one who has lost more sleep,” says Murphy. “Because I’ve seen instances like this turn into real catastrophes.”
“And that’s why everyone is grateful for what you’ve done,” says Pat, holding back tears. “I mean it, Phil.”
Trafford Housing Trust, which owns and manages Stretford House, says it has reviewed its risk assessments, is undertaking urgent works on the blocks it owns and has fire wardens patrolling 24 hours a day.
Back on the ground floor, in the caretaker’s office, we meet Mike Corfield, Trafford Housing Trust’s assistant director for customers. He says the work being done in the block is not solely down to Murphy’s report.
“Within days of the fire at Grenfell we decided we would commission something called a level four risk assessment, the highest level fire risk assessment you can take,” he says.
He admits the 2016 fire risk assessment which worried Phil did highlight some issues with the compartmentation, but “didn’t flag them as a serious risk” and says it was written by a “trained and professional expert”.
Outside, looking at the rows of maintenance vehicles, we ask Murphy if he’s pleased the problems are now being fixed.
“There’s still some very, very serious things for them lot to do,” he says. “It’s certainly warranted this level of reaction.”
He’s not giving up, though, until he feels all his concerns have been addressed. There is one thing he keeps telling the landlords: “If you lived here, it would be different.”
And he is not just thinking about his own block of flats. He wants to develop an app to allow residents to run their own safety checks.
“I want to do something to empower residents of high-rise blocks all around the country to look after their own fire safety,” he says. “Because at the moment we’re all feeling very disempowered and frightened.”
Photographs by Luke Jones unless otherwise stated
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