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Gaining Strength from Adversity

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Venetian Blinds and Cellular Shades

That the winds of change is upon us is evident – the world over, tumult turns lives upside down, and the survival of the fittest dogma reinstates itself. In Europe, Greece grapples with a major economic crises that was long in the making; in Iran, socioeconomic crises has created the impetus for the crash in petrol prices that threatens the Canadian economy; the stock market experiences free fall, creating agony and bankruptcy for investors; China goes through economic flux. Phew! It’s a scary world out there, but I’d like to borrow from an African proverb to illustrate my burgeoning tale –
“Smooth seas do not make skilful sailors.”
Earlier in the week, an article, ‘The Upside of a Downturn in the Silicon Valley’, by Farhad Manjoo in the New York Times, tells us about a presentation ‘R.I.P Good Times’ that was made for the founders of tech companies to counsel entrepreneurs to again “batten down the hatches” — to cut costs, to focus on profit, to “spend every dollar as if it were your last” because “it is going to be a rough ride.” Some of the most successful tech investments of all time — among them Google and Facebook — came about in Silicon Valley’s lean times. This is a paradox of invention, as well as of investing: Bad times feed good ideas, which in turn lead to good times, which breed complacency, waste and lots of bad business plans.



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It takes me back through the ages when basic inventions became the highlight of an era – back to the times when traders exchanged wares and information, and the world started the new Pangaea – the global village as we know it now. Venetian traders brought back the know-how to making blinds by tying wooden slats together to be hung over olden-day windows for protection and privacy. The Venetians in those days were little less than slaves in their country, beholden to the state due to debilitating taxes. Of those who left to escape the impoverishment, some settled in France, and plied the trade of making Venetian Blinds or Les Persiennes that they’d probably learned from the Persians, in a bid for survival in the hard times that had befallen them. By the end of the 1700’s, they were commonly used in wealthier homes, public buildings and churches. In Philadelphia (1767), the Londoner, John Webster, considered the pioneer of modern Venetian blinds, introduced and advertised, “Newest invented Venetian sun blinds for windows . . . stained to any colour, moves to any position.” The thrifty George Washington is said to have had one Venetian blind made for his dining room window so that it could later be duplicated. It is said that Venetian blinds gained its peak popularity in the 1930’s, with manufacturers putting out shades (made of both wood and metal) worth $210 million on the market in New York. The RCA Building (called the GE Building today) was the first commercial building to use Venetian Blinds after it opened, in the 1930’s. John Hampson of New Orleans is credited with having patented a device that would change the utility of Venetian blinds forever – the tilt mechanism for the vanes of the blinds! Enabled by a plastic rod that can be turned to change the angle of the vanes that aids in maximizing privacy and optimizing the harvest of natural light. In today’s world, Venetian blinds are among the most useful window shading devices, used in both commercial and residential buildings to optimize daylight. Made of wood, faux wood, composite material and metal, its utility is unsurpassed, and can be used in tandem with other window shading to increase its insulation values. The motorization of its vanes has taken its value over and above the imaginable, making them stylish, convenient, durable, and energy efficient. A quick rule of thumb – the broader the vanes of a blind, the more the space between the slats, and therefore, the better the view offered. It’ preferable to use blinds with vanes of two and a half inches or more for large expanses of glass, as the blind will be lighter, reducing its chances of bowing, and will stack more compactly when raised, offering a cleared expanse of glass and reducing the chances of bumping one’s head when used over doors.


Fast forward to the energy crisis of the 1970’s that came up with the development of the Cellular Shades. Studies had to be rapidly made on how to reduce energy use in the looming petroleum crisis that had prices skyrocketing due to fuel shortage. In came the honeycomb or cellular shades! The hexagonal cell pockets, kept crisp by sharp pleats, trap air in their confines, forming a barrier between the window/door glass and the room, preventing infiltration of cold air around the shades, allowing users to turn down thermostats of their heaters to the lowest and still maintain comfortable ambient temperatures. Likewise, in the cooling months, deploying cellular shades over windows during the day will enable the cool indoor air to keep to remain inside, with air conditioning turned down to its minimum levels, or if at all. Cellular shades are made of cells of varying sizes, with larger cells obviously trapping more air, and with more than a layer of cells, more layers ensuring better insulation. Today, its cells are lined with Mylar, a metallized plastic coating, to block light completely, providing even better insulation and blackout, ensuring undisturbed sleep during the day and blocking the glow and glare of artificial light at night. The National Sleep Foundation endorses the blackout cellular shades as the best window covering for undisturbed sleep. Today, innovation in technology has allowed manufacturers like Graber the flexibility to offer users varying degrees of light control, privacy and insulation, with options like the Top-Down-Bottom-Up, the Sun-Up-Sun-Down, Day-Night-Cellular-Shades and the PerfectVue. Simply translated, combinations of fabric densities in one shade mechanism allow users the benefits of fantastic insulation, light control, and decorative appeal!
Like the old Welsh proverb tells us, “Adversity brings knowledge, and knowledge brings wisdom”.




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