June 27, 2017

Life Jackets in California: Want to live? Always wear a life jacket when participating in boating-related water activities.

Entirely preventable.

Completely avoidable.

Yet another Summer drowning, due to the simple reason of not wearing a life jacket.

Please, please, please:  When partaking in boating and similar water activities, always ... ALWAYS ... wear a life jacket.  A 40-year-old father drown Sunday in 50-feet deep waters in nearby Rio Vista when the kayak he and his 5-year old daughter were in overturned.

And yep, you guessed it:  Neither the father nor the 5-year-old daughter was wearing a life jacket.

The 5-year-old daughter survived.  The father drowned.

A tragedy that was completely avoidable simply by wearing a life jacket.

Life Jacket Usage:  Laws in California

Wearing a life jacket is simply common sense. But in many cases, it is also the law in California. California law requires that:
  1.  Children under 13-years-old must wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket while on board a moving water vessel that is 26 feet or less in length. 
  2.  Any person being towed behind a boat or similar water vessel (such as skiing), and any person riding a personal watercraft (jet ski) must wear a life jacket regardless of age.
The only exceptions to the law requiring life jackets for children 13-years-old and younger are when a child is:
  1.  On a sailboat and is restrained by a harness tethered to the sailboat;
  2.  In an enclosed cabin; or
  3.  On a vessel engaged in an emergency rescue situation.

No excuse not to be smart on the water.  

Be safe.  Be smart.  Respect the water and wear a life jacket.

June 22, 2017

San Francisco Giants: No Fair Weather Baseball Fans Here

Gotta say one thing about the San Francisco Giants baseball team:

Win or lose, the Giants have some of the
most loyal fans in baseball.

Yep, I am a baseball fan, and a Giants' fan in particular.  And also a fan of any team playing the Dodgers!  😉  Looking solely at wins and losses, this year's season pretty much, well, sucks for the Giants.  The Giants currently have the 2nd worst record in Major League Baseball, and have retained this dismal statistic for a while this season.  A snapshot of division statistics pretty much shows it all for the Giants.  20.5 games back as of this morning, and clearly "out of it" for the season as far as autumn playoffs are concerned:

National League West Baseball Standings as of the Morning of Thursday, June 22, 2017.

But don't tell that to the ever-loyal San Francisco Giants' fans.  No Fair Weather Fans for this major league baseball team.  Attendance at the Giants' AT&T Park has averaged 42,622 per game this season, just shy of a 42,915 sell out.  The Giants' average home attendance this season is the 3rd highest in major league baseball's 30 teams; this in spite of the team's overall dismal performance.

And how about neighboring baseball team Oakland A's attendance?  Well, the A's are also in last place in their league, although they currently have a better win-loss record than the Giants.  Well, the A's fans aren't so keen on this losing thing.  Plus the A's more-than-crappy stadium likely has something to do with lack of attendance, too.  Attendance at the Oakland A's home games this season has averaged a pitiful 17,988 seats per game, leaving the A's near dead bottom in average attendance per home game:  29 out of 30 teams.  Only lowly Tampa Bay is worse, with an average home game attendance this season of 14,589.

Baseball is Just Plain Good Fun

To me, baseball is a game to be enjoyed not only for the actual play of the game, but for the statistics, trivia, and history of the game.  Hey, and AT&T Park ... Well, I happen to think it is the most fan friendly stadium in major league baseball.  Probably one of the best things San Francisco has going for it, along with the Golden State Warriors basketball stadium that recently started construction.  The Giants and AT&T Park are truly the only reason I make a trip into San Francisco, other than for business purposes.

AT&T Park
Home of the San Francisco Giants Baseball Team

Go Giants, and Go Giants' Baseball Fans!

Mary Rae Fouts

June 20, 2017

Heat and Pets: Please DO NOT Leave Pets in the Car When it is Hot Outside

Heat can kill and does not discriminate.  Both humans and companion animals suffer and die from heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

We are in the midst of a heat wave her in the San Francisco Bay area.  High so far this week on my backyard weather station in Pleasant Hill, California?  113.1 sizzling degrees.


Dogs in Hot Cars = Death!!

Which reminds me:  Do not ever,  ever leave pets in cars when it is hot, even warm outside.  You may think you trip into the store will "only take a couple minutes", when actually it will take you 20 minutes.  The inside temperature of a care rapidly climbs, creating great risk of injury or death from heat exhaustion or heat stroke to the enclosed pets.  Take a look at the chart below:

And yep, I was in my local grocer Lunardi's Sunday at 11:30 AM.  90 plus degrees outside, and over the intercom comes an announcement that 2 distressed dogs are in a blue sedan car in the parking lot.  Luckily in California, people can break vehicle windows to removed distressed dogs in situations such as this without criminal prosecution.  Yes, it is a state law.  However, how sad such a law should have to exist.

Stay cool and hydrated everyone.  And that includes our Faithful Canine Companions and other Companion Animals.

Mary Rae Fouts

June 19, 2017

Police K9 Hancock Recovering from Pit Bull Attack During SWAT Raid in Oakley, CA

K9 Hancock, a canine member of Concord, California Police Department's K9 Team as well as the Central Contra Costa County SWAT Team, was injured will assisting in a search and arrest warrant in Oakley, California on Saturday, June 17.

The warrant pertained to a home connected to a suspect wanted for a murder earlier that day in Concord, California.  Hancock was injured when the Oakley home's resident Pit Bull broke loose from his collar, charged officers, and attacked K9 Hancock.  The Pit Bull first bit Hancock on a front leg, then clamped onto Hancock's neck, at which time an officer shot and killed the pit bull.

Thankfully, K( Hancock is expected to make a full recovery and is comfortably resting at home.

Thank you for your community service, K9 Hancock!
Rest up and get well soon!

Photos from the Concord Police Department are posted below.  Also, read Concord PD's Facebook post about the event.

K9 Hancock received Emergency Vet care after attack by Pit Bull.
Note bite wounds on right front leg and left neck area.
Poor Doggy!

K9 Hancock recuperating comfortably at home.  Good Boy!

Mary Rae Fouts

June 13, 2017

Mountain View Cemetery: Lack of decorum sparks complaints and public discussion.


de·co·rum:  Etiquette. behavior in keeping with good taste and propriety.

Regretfully, not by some visitors to Oakland, California's historic Mountain View Cemetery.
Oakland's Mountain View Cemetery
Photo credit:  mountainviewcemetery.org

223-acre Mountain View Cemetery was established in 1863 by a group of East Bay pioneers under the California Rural Cemetery Act of 1859. It provides stunning views of the East San Francisco Bay Area.  Mountain View was designed by the renown landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who also designed New York City's Central Park and much of UC Berkeley and Stanford University's landscape.

Mountain View Cemetery has  been promoted as a place for the public to enjoy for its beauty, along with its function as a cemetery.   But, regretfully, a few people ... Idiots ... are treating Mountain View with great disrespect, and possibly jeopardizing public access to this beautiful and serene location.

The miscreants? They seem to generally fall into 2 categories: (1) Hell raising teens who are drinking alcohol, playing basketball on grave site areas, and setting up impromptu band "jam" sessions in the cemetery, and (2) dog owners and walkers who are walking dogs off leash, and walking dogs in prohibited areas.  Read more about this issue in this East Bay Times article.

I have always believed that most people try to be generous and good.  But here a select group of people ... likely a small minority of all who visit Mountain View Cemetery .... are acting disrespectfully, with no decorum, in a place of rest that demands respect from all visitors.  Where are the teens' parents?  And as for the dog owners and walkers?  They are likely the same ones who walk their dogs off leash in public parks and trails where off leash dogs are prohibited, while leaving their dog poop behind.

Decorum, Rotary Phones, and The Good Old Days

Decorum.  So said when people fail to observe simple etiquette.  Sometimes I miss the Good Old Days of suits and dresses at baseball games, men always opening doors for ladies, TVs with antennas and 3 channels (an no remote), bacon and eggs every day for breakfast without worrying about cholesterol and fat, and rotary dial phones that always worked. 

June 12, 2017

Arianna Huffington: Can you say H-Y-P-O-C-R-I-T-E?

Hypocrite.  A person who acts in contraction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings.

Yep, that’s Arianna Huffington.  Self-avowed feminist and co-founder of the progressive and politically liberal (aka lefty) opinion and news website The Huffington Post, now known simply as HuffPost.

Huffington’s current project Thrive calls for a "third women's revolution" to end male-dominated workplaces which consider burnout "a badge of honour".

Sounds impressive, doesn’t it?  But what does Arianna do in real life?

You guessed it ...
Just the opposite. 

As reported in this morning’s print editions of the New York Times and my local East Bay Times (read the articles here and here), Arianna Huffington, who sits on the Board of Directors for crisis-filled Uber, has been a consistent fan and likely the board’s biggest supporter of Uber CEO Travis Kalanick.  Yep, Arianna Huffington has been the head cheerleader for worse-then-a-bad-frat-boy Travis Kalanick.  Yep again, Kalanick, the Uber top executive who sat idly by as scores of Uber female employees complained of sexual harassment, retaliation, and sexual propositions in the workplace, in addition to sexual assaults/rapes upon paying female Uber passengers by male Uber auto drivers.

"Hypocrite" aka Arianna Huffington

Did Huffington come out condemning Travis Kalanick’s abhorrent lack of leadership and toxic management style?  Nope.  Huffington only continued to offer support.  With a smile.

So much for living your own “third women’s revolution”, Arianna.  NOT!

If you are a woman, would you feel safe taking 
Uber for transportation, or working at Uber today?

As of right now, I would not.

Pathetic.  Amazing how so many public figures – Arianna Huffington included - willingly choose to not walk the talk that dribbles daily from their mouths.

Hypocrites all.  Sickening.

No one I would look up to as a roll model.  Ever.  Would you?

Mary Rae Fouts

June 8, 2017

Pet Food: Is your pet food safe? Maybe not, even if it is an ultra-premium brand.

As the old saying goes, "You are what you eat."  One could argue the same holds true for our companion pets.

So, what are you feeding your pets?  If you are feeding your pets an ultra-premium commercially-made pet food, the food must be safe .... Right?

Uh, may not.
Contaminated Pet Food and Treats:
Beef Thyroid Hormone, Anyone?

Each year, thousands of dogs and cats become sickened, some die, due to consuming contaminated commercially-made pet food and treats.  And the problem is not just with "cheap" brands.  The ultra-premium Blue Buffalo dog food brand recently recalled its  BLUE Wilderness, Rocky Mount Recipe dog food because it was found to be contaminated with beef thyroid hormone.

And as far as the word "natural" used to describe some pet food, including the Blue Buffalo brand, there is no regulatory definition of what "natural" means for pet food.   Your guess is as good as mine.

The FDA maintains this database of Animal and Veterinary Recalls (screenshot above), including those related to pet food and treats.  Visit the site to view recalls and sign up for email alerts.

Are Bones Safe for Dogs?

Now let's talk bones.  I know some dog owners will disagree with me on this issue, but ...  As for bones, in my opinion, they are a BIG BIG NO for your dog.  Just say no to bones.  Bones can splinter and lodge in a dog's airway passage or intestine.  In fact, this happened to a dog in my neighborhood last summer, who ingested part of a pork sparerib bone he was chewing on.  The bone became lodged in his intestine and splintered, requiring emergency surgery.  The poor dog was never the same afterward and appeared to never recover; his health appeared to greatly declined after the bone event.  As of a few weeks ago, his human owner told me the dog's life was on a day-to-day basis.

And What About a Raw Food Diet for Your Pet?

And how about the raw food diet fad that some pet owners embrace?  Not me.  (Yes, I know I will likely take some flack for this opinion, too.)  I still remember the discussion about dog food  I had with my primary vet some years ago.  My vet's opinion of raw food?  One word:  "Gross".  He went on to state that today's domesticated animals do not have the GI tracts and digestive abilities to property digest raw food like wild animals do.  Also, there is great risk for food poisoning for humans and dogs alike.  According to WebMD, general risks when feeding raw food to your pet include:
Sid's and Lexi's Food Mats
and Food Bowls.
  • Threats to human and dog health from bacteria in raw meat;
  • An unbalanced diet that may damage the health of dogs if given for an extended period; and
  • Potential for whole bones to choke an animal, break teeth or cause an internal puncture.
With those risks, no way I'd ever consider a raw food diet for my dogs.  Would you?

What Do I Feed My Dogs?

I cook for my dogs Sid and Lexi, a meal my husband Jim and I call "Canine Unfried Rice".  I posted about Sid and Lexi's meals last year.   I'll re-post again soon on this topic, including my recipe for 24 hour slow -cooked turkey and broth that I am currently using in the Canine Unfried Rice.  Easy to make, nutritious, and delicious!

Unconditional love.  And I am reminded daily that some of the most important things in life, I have learned from my dogs.

Mary Rae Fouts

June 6, 2017

HUMAN Project: Would you turn over all of your life to researchers? I say hell no.

Would you allow researchers to track every single aspect of your life for ... well ... 20 years?  Maybe longer.  And I mean everything ... every minute detail ... about you and your life, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.  Then allow every bit of your data and personal information to be retained, studied, and stored by researchers?

We're talking all of your smartphone activity.   All of your financial transactions.  Website browsing and shopping.  All health information and records.  All of your daily activities, including sleep activity and what you eat and drink.  Heck, the project is even going to track and study your poop.

And for what reason? Well, a group of stalkers researchers from the University of New York decided they want to know “everything there is to know about a group of people,” in an attempt to "try to answer fundamental questions about why we make the decisions we make and how they affect our lives."  The project is known as the HUMAN Project.  You can learn more by visiting the HUMAN Project website.

The project plans to only accept New Yorkers for its subjects.  That's kind of discriminatory, isn't it?  Ohioans or Texas no good enough?  And what happens if a New York project participant moves out of state to some foreign place, say the  Oil and Petrochemical Refinery State Garden State New Jersey?  Kind of messes with this so-called project, doesn't it?

Maybe it's just me, but are these researchers just bored to death, or what? Don't they have enough work to do without starting some Fantasy Island-like science fiction project that will be the treasure trove delight of hackers everywhere?

Or perhaps using research efforts and funding to find a cure for breast cancer, lung cancer, Alzheimer's disease, type 1 diabetes, and Lou Gehrig's disease is just too passé today.  

Is the HUMAN Project truly science, or some researcher-obsessed form of stalking?

To read more about this crazy, ding bat, nonsensical ... ok, I'll put on my diplomatic hat and just label it an outlandish project, read the recent New York Times article:   10,000 New Yorkers. 2 Decades. A Data Trove About ‘Everything’.  And check out last year's article in nymag.com here. 

Science, or perhaps Franken-Science, at your service.

Mary Rae Fouts

June 5, 2017

NYC Subway: Travel in Style with your Faithful Canine Companion

Once again, New Yorkers show their resourcefulness when complying with New York City Subway regulations.

Specifically, regulations regarding traveling on the subway with a dog.

Need to take the subway with your Faithful Canine Companion?  With a bit of ingenuity .... and perhaps a bit of New York City style ... no problem.

You see, NYC Subway regulations state that a dog may ride the subway provided the dog is “enclosed in a container.”

But the regulation does not define "container".
Nor does it define "enclosed".
And that's when things get interesting.
And well, simply downright cute.

Photo credit:  Pinterest at https://goo.gl/images/ujgRC1

Check out these sure-to-put-a-smile-on-your-face picture-filled articles (here and here) that capture New York City's subway-riding dogs.  And prepare to smile.  A lot.

Another life lesson learned with help from our Faithful Canine Companions!

Mary Rae Fouts

June 2, 2017

Dogs: Once again, a dog steals the show. Or a Russian Newscast, that is!

Sid enjoying the beach at Carmel, California.
The past 7 days have been absolute Hell, or perhaps Hell and back.   Our beloved Husky-mix Sid became critically ill,  requiring life-saving emergency vet care and hospitalization.  We didn't know if Sid would make it for a while, but he is a strong dog, is home, and on the mend.

More on those horrid events later, but thanks to Sage Emergency and Specialty Vets in Concord, California for saving Sid's life, and for the collaborative vet work from our primary vets at Hillcrest Veterinary Hospital in Pleasant Hill, California.

So today's post warrants something fun!

And, of course, Dog related!

I have not a clue as to what the Russian news anchor is saying, but that's not necessary.

Once again, a dog steals the show.  Or in this case, a Black Lab steals the newscast!

Watch the video below, and read about this hilarious incident here.

Photo credit:  today.com
Mary Rae Fouts

May 23, 2017

Muttville's Chi-Pom-A-Thon: Live near San Francisco and have room for a small senior dog? Check these adorable doggies out!

Muttville Senior Dog Rescue is paws down the best run dog rescue group I have ever encountered.  Wonderful management, superb fund raising, great volunteers, and simply the best care for the senior dogs they rescue in order to find new Forever Loving Homes for them.

And Muttville has, once again, succeeded with their canine lifesaving superhero actions!

Muttville recently took in 18 senior mutts ... yes, 18 ... from a tragic dog hoarding operation in El Dorado County, California.  7 Pomeranians and11 Chihuahuas to be exact.

All super cute, by the way.  And they are ready for adoption today, awaiting their Loving Forever Homes.  Take a look at these cuties ...

Photo credit:  muttville.org

Want to meet them enjoy a human social hour, too?  Stop on by Muttvilles's first ever Chi-Pom-a-Thon and Happy Hour this Friday, May 26 from 2pm - 7pm at their San Francisco rescue headquarters.  Here's what Muttville has to say about the event:
"To celebrate saving EIGHTEEN senior dogs from a hoarding situation of over 40 animals, we're hosting our first every Chi-Pom-a-Thon with a special Yappy Hour adoption event Friday, May 26th from 2PM to 7PM!   We'll have snacks, drinks, and all the Poms and Chihuahuas you could dream of! 
WHERE:  Muttville HQ, 255 Alabama St. in San Francisco
WHEN:  Friday, May 26, 2pm - 7pm
WHY:  Senior dogs, that's why!!!"
Read the entire story about Muttville's incredible life-saving Pom and Chihuahua rescue.

As I am reminded every day by my dogs  Sid and Lexi, an adopted rescue dog provides Unconditional love and Support.  24 hours a day, 365 days a year.  Making every day, well, a good day in spite of anything else that happens.

Mary Rae Fouts

May 22, 2017

Fyre Festival's Founder Billy McFarland: Entrepreneur or Scam Artist Extraordinaire?

You've likely heard of the cancelled Fyre Music Festival planned last month in the Bahamas.  Marketed as a ultraluxurious music festival with A-list performers, the event instead cancelled right as it was supposed to begin.

Mastermind behind the festival?  25-year-old Billy McFarland, known in some social circles as a brazen salesman who could sell underwear to a nudist.

But is Billy McFarland simply a brazen pretty boy salesman, or a criminal Con Artist?

Photo credit:  newyorktimes.com; Patrick McMullan/Patrick McMullan, via Getty Images

After reading today's New York Time's investigative article about the aborted Fyre Festival and McFarland's .... well, interesting ... deal-making history, I'm presently inclined to believe McFarland is the latter.

McFarland and his company, Fyre Media, are currently defendants in lawsuits from would-be Fyre Festival goers, alleging fraud and breech of contract.  A criminal investigation has also begun, with federal investigators looking into numerous allegations of fraud, including mail, wire, and securities fraud.

Once again I'm reminded of the proverb if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

And perhaps there are more than 2 things (death and taxes) certain in life.  Try 3:  death, taxes, and Con Artists.

Mary Rae Fouts

May 18, 2017

From Beehives to Nuts: Agriculture Theft is Lucrative Criminal Business in California

Think large scale criminal theft is unique to big cities?  Think again.

In California, agriculture theft is a very lucrative criminal business, and can be difficult to prove and prosecute.  Why so difficult?  Tulare (California) County Sherriff Mike Boudreaux pretty much summed up the difficulty when he stated last year:
“I can pull over a car with 20 lbs. of methamphetamine in it and that driver’s going to jail. I pull over 30,000 lbs. of pistachios, I have to prove that those are stolen, otherwise the guy goes on his way.”
Did you know that by value, food and beverage theft is now greater in the United States than theft of electronics?

Take stolen beehives, for instance.  Nearly $1,000,000 of beehives have been stolen throughout Central California over the past 3 years.  Authorities believe they have broken up the beehive theft ring, after hives from numerous beekeepers were found in Fresno, California, literally hiding in plain sight in a vacant lot.

The alleged mastermind, former Sacramento, California bee keeper Pavel Tveretinov, was arrested … and released on $10,000 bail.

Yep, suspected of stealing beehives worth nearly $1,000,000, yet let go on a measly $10,000 bail.  Does anyone think that amount of bail is going to deter Tveretinov from continuing to criminally participate in California’s lucrative agricultural theft rings?  I sure don't.

Oh, and don’t forget nuts.

During 6 months last year, $10,000,000 of almonds, pistachios, cashews, pecans, and walnuts were stolen from Central California nut growers and processors.  Some nuts were recovered, including walnuts still in the storage bins clearly marked “Diamond”.  Yep, the walnut perps were too dumb to remove the stolen walnuts from the processor’s containers.  But, most of the stolen nuts were never recovered.

And California avocados?  Green Gold to criminals.  Avocado growers in San Diego County, home to the majority of California avocado farms, incur thefts of 20,000 to 80,000 avocados each year.  Picked right from the trees at night by criminals.  And many avocado growers are small family farms.

Honeybee swarm in my backyard.
They stayed around for about 18 hours, then left as quickly as they arrived.

The next time you become irritated  about the high cost of food, don’t immediately throw blame on the farmer, middlemen, or your grocery store.  Think about the criminal theft component of food’s cost.  And if you see cheaper-than-can-be-believed prices for food items at a flea market, farmers market, or a roadside vendor, there just might be a reason - as in stolen - the food is so cheap.

Insurance, Tax, or Financial Concerns?

Mary Rae Fouts, EA, CFP assists nationwide clients that have complex or technical insurance, tax, and financial concerns, including concerns related to insurance coverage for liability and theft risks.  For more information about Mary's fee-only Consulting, Tax, and Expert Witness Services visit Fouts Financial Group.

Mary Rae Fouts

May 16, 2017

EB-5 Investor Visa: Green Cards and United States Residency For Sale

Once again, Money talks.  This time with the United States' EB-5 Investor Visa program.

Money, money, money, money ... Money money!

Live outside the United States and got an extra $500,000 laying around?  It's your lucky day!  You and approximately 9,999 similar people can buy your own coveted U.S. Green Card and gain legal residency in the United States.

$$ Yep, Green Cards For Sale. $$

What you gotta do?  Well, just take that $500,000 and invest it in a business in the United States.  Then show that your investment will create or "preserve" 10 full-time jobs.  Heck, you don't even have to prove that you created or preserved the jobs, you only have to submit a business plan that states 10 jobs will be created or preserved by your cash investment.  And then you'll get your EB-5 Visa (also called the Investor's Visa) Green Card and legal residency in the United States.

The country supplying the largest percentage of EB-5 Investor Visa holders?  You guessed it - China!  According to various statistics, Chinese nationals hold between 75% and 85% of EB-5 Investor Visas.

And gosh, don't you love that loosey goosey 'preserve a job' language?  Only something a politician would write.

And golly gee, we all know how 100% accurate and a for-sure-thing business plans are.  If it's a plan on paper, it must be realistic and for certain to come true, right?  </sarcasm off>

What gets me riled up is that with all of the hand wringing and complaining going on about the&nbsp H-1B Specialty Occupation (Professionals) Visa program taking away American jobs, and the agricultural industry's push to expand the H-2A Temporary Agricultural Workers Visa program, how much do you hear about this controversial EB-5 Investor Visa program?  Nothing.  I didn't even know the program even existed until I read about it today.

There are not enough H-2A Visas to supply much-needed migrant farm workers,
but if you've got money, $500,000 to be exact, welcome to America!!!

But oh, what the heck, huh?  Who needs fruits and vegetables, anyway, right?!

Another example of politics at its finest.

Mary Rae Fouts

May 15, 2017

Clothes Dryer Fires: When did you last inspect your clothes dryer vent?

I've posted before about residential fire safety and the importance of adequate fire insurance.  As I remind my insurance clients, fire safety is so very important in the home, including adequate fire extinguishers in visible locations, working smoke detectors, smart living practices (such as not leaving a pan of hot oil and French fries unattended on a stove), and emergency exit route plans.

But one thing I've yet to talk about on this blog is your clothes dryer.

When is the last time you checked your clothes dryer vent for lint buildup?  Or have you ever checked your clothes dryer vent for lint buildup?

If its been a while, or if you've never checked it (Don't worry, I won't tell anyone!), one piece of advice:

Check your clothes dryer and dryer vent for lint buildup.

Clean out any lint buildup in your inside dryer vent, outside dryer exhaust vent , and inside the dryer itself.  Before doing so, be sure to unplug the electrical plugin, and turn off gas if you have a gas dryer.   Also, pop off the bottom panel (you may need to use the claw of a hammer to get if off), and clean out any residual lint on the bottom of the dryer.

Clogged Dryer Vent
Photo credit:  windychimney.com

Clogged Outside Dryer Exhaust Vent
Photo credit:  DFW Dryer Vent Cleaners
Why?  Dryer lint is highly flammable.  When trapped in a dryer vent or outside dryer exhaust vent, the decreased airflow and buildup of heat can pose a very dangerous fire hazard.

Just how dangerous are lint-clogged dryers, dryer vents, and outside dryer exhaust vents?  According to this publication, Clothes Dryer Fires in Residential Buildings (2008-2010) by the U.S. Fire Administration National Fire Data Center, approximately 2900 clothes dryer fires occur in residential buildings in the United States each year.  Based on data during the 2-year time frame, clothes dryer fires annually cause an estimated 5 deaths, 100 injuries, and many millions of dollars in property damage.

And the leading cause of clothes dryer fires?  A lint clogged dryer vent.

Residential fire safety can be easily and safely implemented with simple procedures and plans, including routine clothes dryer maintenance.  Stay safe, everyone.

Tax, Insurance, or Financial Concerns?

Mary Rae Fouts, EA, CFP assists nationwide clients that have complex or technical tax, insurance, and financial concerns.  For more information about Mary's fee-only Tax, Consulting, and Expert Witness Services visit Fouts Financial Group.

Mary Rae Fouts

May 12, 2017

Betty Reid Soskin: National Park Service Ranger and American Treasure

Betty Reid Soskin.
National Park Service Ranger and American Treasure.
Right in my own back yard.

Look up the definition of "inspiration" in the dictionary, and one of the definitions will surely be - or at least should be -  "Betty Reid Soskin".

Betty is this country's oldest Park Ranger.  Working for the National Park Service at the Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, California, Betty hosts talks about race and social change during her life.

Oh, and did I mention Betty is 95-years-young?
How's that for a lifetime of experiences?
And yes, still working as a Park Ranger.
And she maintains a might fine blog, too!

Betty Reid Soskin
Photo credit:  Sierra Club
Check out Betty's blog, "Cbreaux Speaks".  And learn about her upcoming honorary doctorate degree from Mills College.

Too bad the East Bay Times newspaper buried the honorary doctorate story back in the paper's 2nd section on page B2.   Very poor, nearly shameful article placement, in my opinion.  This good-news, inspirational story deserved placement above the fold on the paper's first page A1.  Just sayin'.

In spite of media and special interest group fueled negativity today, there truly is lots of good news, and good people, around.

Focus on the good, and have a great day!

Mary Rae Fouts

May 9, 2017

American Apparel: Made in the USA. Or not? It's the price, baby, the price.

Say you want to purchase a shirt, and you have the opportunity to choose between (1) a shirt made in the United States, or (2) a shirt made overseas, mostly likely in a country such as Bangladesh, China, Indonesia, or India.  The same shirt with different manufacturing locations.

What shirt would you choose?  American made, or foreign made?

But wait a minute before you jump on the Made in America bandwagon.  There's a catch:

The made in the USA shirt costs 25% more
than the foreign made shirt.

Would you still purchase the American made shirt?

Well, we're about to find out.  

Canadian company Gildan Activewear Inc. acquired Los Angeles-based American Apparel in bankruptcy proceedings earlier this year.  This represented the 2nd bankruptcy for American Apparel, a company that previously prided itself on manufacturing all of its clothing in a 7-story factory in Los Angeles, where the company was also headquartered.  Yep, truly American made.

Clearly the all-American-made business strategy didn't work too well for American Apparel.

And Gildan Activewear is setting out to change that.

What's in store for American Apparel?  Well, first off, no stores, only an online presence.  Secondly, no more all-American-made, with a twist:  Consumers are going to have the option of choosing between a made in the USA item and a foreign made item, for the same item.   But then your wallet comes into consideration, as the American made items are expected to cost about 25% more than their foreign made counterparts.  According to Gildan Activewear's Chief Executive Officer Glenn Chamandy:
“There are consumers that really want ‘made in USA,’ so we’re going to cater to those consumers.  But there are consumers that didn’t want to pay the actual price but they love the brand, so now they can also buy the brand.”
Read more about American Apparel's new sales strategy here.

Gotta admit this is an eyebrow raising business strategy.  My hunch as to consumers' choices?   I think the majority of shoppers ... the vast majority ... will choose price over manufacturing location, and pick the cheaper foreign made product.  People may chant made in the USA, but let's face it:  for many people, the wallet speaks.

Tax, Insurance, or Financial Concerns?

Mary Rae Fouts, EA, CFP assists nationwide clients that have complex or technical tax, insurance, and financial concerns.  For more information about Mary's fee-only Tax, Consulting, and Expert Witness Services visit Fouts Financial Group.

Mary Rae Fouts

May 4, 2017

Pam Montana: Her life with younger-onset Alzheimer's disease

People often associate Alzheimer’s disease as an “old person’s” disease, yet that is not accurate.  While the disease is most common in people 65 and older, about 200,000 younger people are affected in the United States, some as young as their 40s.

Meet Ms. Pam Montana

And that brings me to Pam Montana, an extroverted 62-year-old former executive at Intel and Danville, California resident.  Who just happens to have younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease.  For which there is currently no cure, not getting better, only progression of the disease.

Pam was diagnosed last July, following an earlier diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment in 2015.  However, Pam had noticed cognitive changes beginning in 2012 (difficulty learning new Intel systems), at the age of 57.  So looking back, signs indicating possible dementia were there.

Photo credit:  eastbaytimes.com
One word:  BRAVE

Rather than morph into isolation, Pam (in her true form) decided to do just the opposite:  become a very public face of the disease, in hopes of reducing stigma attached to dementia while rallying for a cure.

Read today’s article in the East Bay Times about Pam’s journey here.  Follow Pam's blog, “My journey with Alzheimer’s”, here.

 And may we all leave each day in the present,
as every day is truly a gift.

Mary Rae Fouts

May 3, 2017

Wacky Weather. A way of life in the San Francisco Bay Area!

You can’t fool Mother Nature.  Nor can you guess the San Francisco Bay Area’s wacky weather micro climates.

Yep.  Wacky.  Really wacky.

After one of the wettest winters on record, we are experiencing a Spring heat wave for a couple of days.  With the San Francisco Bay Area’s micro climates, depending on where you live, the swing in temperature during hot days can be nothing short of incredible.  This is due to the cooling effect of fog near the coast.  I’m thankful that my Pleasant Hill (East Bay Area) home is positively affected by coastal fog, and the cool night temps and breezes if generally brings to us during hot weather. We call this cooling effect “Northern California Air Conditioning”.

Can you believe this? Yesterday my backyard weather station recorded a high temperature of 98.9⁰ F at 5:23 PM.  And a low temperature of 55.0⁰ F at 6:33 AM.

That is a temperature swing of 43.9⁰ F … In a single day. Crazy!

My Faithful Canine Companions Sid and Lexi have got this wacky weather issue figured out, as they happily enjoy the backyard’s cool shade and grass this morning.  Good dogs! 


Stay cool and hydrated, everyone!

Mary Rae Fouts

May 1, 2017

School Lunch Bullying Must Stop: Our public school systems are bullying children who cannot pay for lunches.

With so much emphasis placed on anti-bulling rules in public school systems, the school systems themselves appear to be doing plenty of bullying.  Are our public schools not held accountable for their own very public child bullying?  This cruel process must stop.

Are you aware that our public schools regularly engage in public bullying of students who owe a debt for school lunches?  This nation's public schools employ such tactics as grabbing hot lunch trays from students and throwing the food away.  One school in Alabama even resorts to ink-stamping children on the arm with I Need Lunch Money".

Read today's New York Times article "Shaming Children So Parents Will Pay the School Lunch Bill".  And prepare to be enraged.

Yet another shameful example of this nation's broken public school systems.

April 24, 2017

Late in filing tax returns? Here are some steps to take.

Taxes.  Ugh.  If you are late in filing tax returns, here are some corrective steps to take.

And remember, if you have tax refunds due you, you must file the related tax return within 3 years of the tax return's original due date to claim the refunds.

Tax Concerns?

Mary Rae Fouts, EA, CFP provides tax planning, preparation, and representation services for taxpayers with complex or technical tax issues.  Mary's tax clients include individuals, business owners, business entities, trusts, and estates.  As an Enrolled Agent licensed by the United States Department of the Treasury, Mary is allowed to provide tax services in all 50 states and U.S. territories.  For more information about Mary's fee-only Consulting, Tax, and Expert Witness Services visit Fouts Financial Group.

Mary Rae Fouts

April 20, 2017

A day in the life of a New York Food Vendor: Would you work this hard for $125 a day?

Glad to be back after a recess due to client tax commitments!

Let's start with this documentary article from the New York Times:   "A Day in the Life of Food Vendor".

The article profiles Mr. Kabir Ahmed who immigrated from Bangladesh 23 years ago.  He runs a halal food cart in Manhattan's financial district, along with one business partner and one assistant.  A fascinating read that is part food, part business ... and a lot of hard work.  A lot.  For which Mr. Ahmed makes about $125 a day, after paying expenses and sharing remaining revenue with his business partner and their assistant.

Photo Credit:  newyorktimes.com
Oh, and I cannot wait to try the recipes linked to the article!  They look heavenly.

Mary Rae Fouts

March 27, 2017

Busy! Back after April 18!

Hi all,

Due to an overload of professional and personal obligations for the next few weeks, I'll be away from the blog.  I'll be back after Tax Day rolls around on Tuesday, April 18.

And yes, that is the correct day.   April 15 falls on a weekend, and Monday, April 17 (the next business day) is Emancipation Day in the District of Columbia; it is recognized as a Federal holiday.  So we get a few extra days this year to file and pay up to Uncle Sam.

See you after April 18!

Oh, and by the way ... Does anyone else have a dog who loves celery?  My Husky-mix Sid sure does!

"Celery!  Yummy crunchy good!"

"Ahhhhhh.  I think I will practice my Yoga moves while eating my organic celery!"

Happy Taxes, everyone!

Mary Rae Fouts

March 21, 2017

Gardening - Here's a video peek at what's happening in my gardens!

A new video to share a bit of what's been going on in my gardens, February - March 2017.  And some gardening with dogs Sid and Lexi, too, of course.  😃  Enjoy!

Happy gardening, everyone!

Mary Rae Fouts

March 20, 2017

Meet Laura Pierson, 17-year-old Math Genius

I typically do not use the word genius to describe someone.

But this young lady deserves the title.

Photo Credit:  eastbaytimes.com

Meet 17-year-old Laura Pierson, a student at the College Preparatory School in Oakland, CA.  And Math Whiz ... Math Genius, more accurately .... extraordinaire.

Laura recently placed 6th among 1,749 high school seniors in the prestigious national Regeneron Science Talent Search.  Her entry? A presentation of the use of theoretical algebra to study the representation theory of mathematically symmetric groups.1

Got that?  And Laura won an $80,000 prive for her 6th place finish.  A few more things about this remarkable young lady:
  • She will attend Harvard University next year.
  • Math has been a fun and interesting passion for Laura since she was a young child. She has been a member of the Berkeley Math Circle since 5th grade, and started taking college level ... yes, college level ... math courses in middle school.
  • But Laura is not just about math.  Among other activities, she is active in theater (as both a performer and technician), enjoys dancing, and loves art.
Read more about this incredible young lady and her award in this East Bay Times article.

Oh, and Laura hopes to use her math skills to solve society's problems. And I just bet she finds success.  And inspires many people along the way.

Congratulations, Laura. You go, girl!

Mary Rae Fouts

1Symmetric group. Encyclopedia of Mathematics. URL: http://www.encyclopediaofmath.org/index.php?title=Symmetric_group&oldid=35368

March 16, 2017

Frankenpoultry Lab Grown Chicken Meat: Would you eat it?

Not just any kind of chicken.
Lab grown chicken and duck meat.  
For eatin'.

Meet Frankenchicken!
Photo Credit:  siliconbeat.com
One thing's for certain:  Kentucky Fried Chicken this is not.

Let's talk about that eatin'.  Would you eat lab grown meat or poultry?  I would not.  Heck, just thinking of Frankenpoultry is enough to make me turn and run ... Fast!

If slow roast chicken - the real thing - was good enough for my Grandma, it is good enough for me.

Oh, and rather ironic that the startup company that developed this Frankenchicken is named Memphis Meats.  Wouldn't the name of Memphis Frankenmeats be more appropriate and honest?

For more info, check out this blog article from the San Jose Mercury News blog techbeat.  At $18,000 a pound, I doubt you'll see this Frankenchicken in your grocer's poultry cases any time soon.

(Note:  original post revised to correct company name.)

Mary Rae Fouts

March 14, 2017

Porto's Bakery and Cafe: How long would you wait in line for Cuban cheese rolls and potato balls?

According to today's California Today column at NewYorkTimes.com, apparently many people would wait.  And wait.  For hours, in fact, at the opening of the new Cuban restaurant Porto's Bakery and Cafe in Buena Park, California.

Porto's Bakery and Cafe features Cuban baked goods and comfort food.  Oh, and Porto's is wildly popular.  Their 3 Southern California locations sell more than 2 million - yep, 2,000,000 - cheese rolls and potato rolls a month.

That's a lot of cheese and potato.  The potato roll is a soft mashed potato ball filled with seasoned ground beef, then fried to a golden brown.  I'm generally not a fan of fried foods, but that does sound like delish comfort food, if I do say so myself.  And all for a budget price of $0.98!  Here's a photo:

Photo credit:  portosbakery.com
Oh, and just how many people waited in line at the opening of Porto's Bakery and Cafe?

1500.  Yep, a line of 1500 people waited hours to get into the restaurant.  Check out the opening day festivities here.

Now if Porto's Bakery and Cafe would only come to Northern California!

Mary Rae Fouts

March 9, 2017

Nike has a new product, and it's not a shoe! Introducing the 'Pro Hijab' for female Muslim athletes.

Gotta tip my hat to Nike for developing much needed sports appeal Muslim women:  a lightweight hijab for athletic training and events.  According to the New York Times (link to the article here, which interestingly appeared in the newspaper's Fashion and Style section, rather than the Sports section.)
"This week, Nike announced that it would release a Pro Hijab for female Muslim athletes in spring 2018. The hijab, which is expected to cost $35, is made of a lightweight, stretchy mesh polyester and will come in gray, black and obsidian. Throughout several stages of development, the product was tested by a group that included Zahra Lari, the first figure skater from the United Arab Emirates to compete internationally; Manal Rostom, a runner and triathlete currently living in Dubai; and Amna Al Haddad, an Olympic weight lifter from the United Arab Emirates."

Here's a peek at what the Pro Hijab looks like:

Photo Credit:  newyorktimes.com
Nike's new hijab will surely be a liberating moment for female Muslim athletes who observe traditional Muslim attire guidelines.  Heck, if nothing else, the Pro Hijab looks like a darn comfortable piece of clothing for casual wear.  I so enjoy the outdoors and gardening, outdoor exercise, and outdoor recreational activities.  I hope more Muslim women will now be able to experience these same joys.

Mary Rae Fouts

March 7, 2017

The Owl Nesting Box has a new occupant. Can you guess what it is?

Hint:  It's not an owl.

Some years ago, we installed an Owl Nesting Box in our backyard, hoping to attract an owl to help with rodent control.  We hear screech owls at night, and have seen them in the neighborhood.  My husband Jim installed the nesting box, 10 feet high on a post set in concrete.

What happened?  Well, we waited ... and finally got an occupant.  Screech Owl?  Barn Owl?

Nope.  A squirrel.  As in a pregnant squirrel.  Followed by a litter of baby squirrels.

And the squirrel occupation and baby squirrels during spring nesting season has repeated itself several time since.  Based on observations yesterday and today, looks like we'll have a mama squirrel occupant again this spring.  She sure is hanging on the roof of the owl box a lot, thoughtfully checking out the vacant digs.

One thing, though ... Hope she understand dogs Sid and Lexi have very high small prey drives.  Lexi has caught 3 backyard squirrels, and proudly brought them to me to show me.  Sid tries, but he lacks the patience that Lexi has, who literally patiently lies in wait for the squirrels.

Here is a photo of a past year's squirrel-occupied owl box.  I'll let you know what happens this spring!

Never a dull moment in my backyard gardens!

Mary Rae Fouts

March 6, 2017

Capital Gains and Losses: Know the rules to avoid a big headache!

Awwwww, good old capital gains and losses.  If you think the tax topic of capital gains is an easy one, think again.

Long term?  Short term?  What rate?  How about capital loss carrybacks?  Or loss carryovers?  And what about the gain on the sale of a home?  And just what is basis, and how in the heck do you calculate the basis of the capital gain or loss item?

And don’t forget … for tax purposes, you can no longer rollover all of the gain from the sale of one personal residence (home) into the purchase of another personal residence.  That law changed way back in the 1990s.  I still get questions from people who are not aware that tax law changed decades ago.

One more kicker:  not all state and local tax regulations regarding the treatment of capital gains and loses conform to federal tax code.  Always be certain to check state and local tax regulations when planning for capital gain and capital loss issues.  For more information about federal tax treatment of capital gains and losses, refer to IRS Tax Topic 409.

Tax Concerns?

Mary Rae Fouts, EA, CFP provides tax planning, preparation, and representation services for taxpayers with complex or technical tax issues, including those involving capital gains and losses.  As an Enrolled Agent licensed by the United States Department of the Treasury, Mary is allowed to provide tax services in all 50 states and U.S. territories.  For more information about Mary's fee-only Consulting, Tax, and Expert Witness Services visit Fouts Financial Group.

Mary Rae Fouts