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?

Chicken?
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

March 2, 2017

Smith v City of San Jose: California Supreme Court decision a victory for government transparency

The California Supreme Court got it right today.  As in way right.  As in a victory for the public and government transparency.

The matter at issue in this case involved government officials and employees use of private electronic devices and accounts while conducting government business.  Smith sued the City of San Jose after he made a public record request for emails, voice messages, and text messages pertaining to a redevelopment agency matter, which were sent through San Jose officials' private electronic devices and accounts.  The City of San Jose refused Smith's request, stating that government business conducted on personal electronic devices or accounts was not public record.  The issues addressed by the California Supreme Court (case #S218006) were:
"This case presents the following issue: Are written communications pertaining to city business, including email and text messages, which (a) are sent or received by public officials and employees on their private electronic devices using their private accounts, (b) are not stored on city servers, and (c) are not directly accessible by the city, "public records" within the meaning of the California Public Records Act?"
Let the sunshine in!

The court unanimously overturned the appellate court ruling today, finding that government business conducted on private electronic devices and accounts is public record, and subject retention and public record requests.  Download today's ruling here.

And may the sun continue to shine onto government transparency.

Mary Rae Fouts