August 14, 2017

Big Ben: Famous Clock Shut Down Four Years for Repairs

Bummer.  The world famous 157-year old Big Ben clock in London will be stopped for 4 years for repairs, beginning August 21.

Yes four years.  Four years without Big Ben's towering 315-feet (96 meters) presence, hourly bong, and quarterly chimes to remind you of the time.

Photo credit:  www.theguardian.com
What an environmental, and perhaps emotional, change for people in London who frequent Big Ben's area:  the silence of this stately and ever-present constant, Big Ben.  Not to hear Big Ben's majestic hourly bong, nor his more delicate quarterly chimes.  Not to see his magnificent hands rotating around his captivating face.  However, Big Ben's chimes will be made available for special events, including New Year's Eve.

Read more about this fascinating restoration project in this Guardian article.

Rest east, Big Ben, and look forward to your full return in 4 years!

Mary Rae Fouts

August 10, 2017

Obamacare: What happens if people have no Obamacare health insurance choices?


Obamacare:  What happens if all insurance companies exit the Obamacare marketplace, and people have no Obamacare health insurance choices?

Good question, given the number of insurance companies fleeing the Obamacare marketplace, including Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield.  With Anthem's Nevada exit, 17 Nevada counties currently have no Obamacare health insurance coverage choices for 2018.

And the answer?  Right now, no one knows. The Obamacare law (technically the Affordable Care Act, although the insurance coverage has proven to be anything but affordable for many people) is a mega 961 page document.  But nowhere ... nowhere ... does the law address remedies for consumers who are legally required to purchase Obamacare health insurance coverage, yet cannot do so because no insurance companies offer coverage in their area.

Yes, the politicians who drafted this law thought that scenario would never happen.  They thought insurance companies would be lining up outside the door to provide coverage in the Obamacare insurance exchange, when just the opposite is happening.  And remember, our politicians also assured us that Obamacare consumers would be able to keep their current doctors and health plan, with lower costs to us all.  Turned out to be a bold faced lie.
"If you like the plan you have, you can keep it.  If you like the doctor you have, you can keep your doctor, too.  The only change you’ll see are falling costs as our reforms take hold."  -- President Barack Obama, June 6, 2009.
Concerns about Health Insurance or Related Obamacare Matters?

Mary Rae Fouts, EA, CFP assists clients throughout the United States who have concerns about insurance, tax, and related financial issues.  For more information about Mary's fee-only Tax, Consulting, and Expert Witness Services visit Fouts Financial Group.  She welcomes your call at (925) 979-9972 or email to Mary@FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

Mary Rae Fouts

August 9, 2017

Anthem pulling out of many Obamacare markets, including the entire state of Nevada.

What a mess.

If you have health insurance coverage through Obamacare (technically the Affordable Care Act), your coverage options continue to decrease, access to doctors and hospitals continues to decrease, while premiums continue to increase.  Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield (Anthem Blue Cross in California) is fleeing the Obamacare marketplace, leaving some counties with no Obamacare insurance options in 2018.

Consumers deserve much better.  Obamacare is a mess, and has been from the start.

Click on the photo below for more information about Nevada's Obamacare plight.  I welcome your call or email if you have questions about health insurance matters.



Mary Rae Fouts

August 7, 2017

Foxtails can be deadly for dogs ... Here are some safety tips.

Foxtails
Foxtails.  The dangerous, spring-through-autumn threat for our Faithful Canine Companions in the Western part of the United States.

What are foxtails?  They are grasses with seed awns (see photo) capable of boring into a dog's body ... ears, eyes, nose, paws, belly, you name it.  Foxtails can be dangerous for dogs, to the point of deadly.  With the heavy winter rains in the San Francisco Bay Area, foxtails grew with great abundance and are simply terrible this year.

Below is a great article on Canine Foxtail Safety posted by my primary Veterinarian, Hillcrest Veterinary Hospital in Pleasant Hill, California.



Mary Rae Fouts


August 2, 2017

Got Physics? Planetary Protection Officer Position Open at NASA.

Who says science is boring?  If you have an advanced degree in physics, this job just may be for you:  

Planetary Protection Officer at NASA.

Job responsibility?  

To ascertain that Earth's space travel does not contaminate outer space, and conversely to insure any celestial bodies do not contaminate Earth.

How Cool is That?  A real life Defender of Earth!  And a nice six figure salary - up to $287,000 - plus benefits, to boot.

And to think this job was created when the United States ratified the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 ... yes, 50 years ago.  Click on the Business Insider post below for more information.



Mary Rae Fouts

July 31, 2017

Happy National Mutt Day!

Because there is nothing more lovable than a Mutt!

Happy National Mutt Day from my Faithful Canine Companions, Husky-mix Sid and Chow-mix Lexi.  Both former "pound" dogs; Sid was a stray, Lexi seized by police for severe abuse and neglect in a backyard puppy mill.  Faithful, loyal, and simply spectacular dogs!

Sid

Lexi

We are so lucky to have Sid and Lexi as our Forever Canine Companions.  Please adopt, don't shop!

Mary Rae Fouts

July 24, 2017

Honorably Discharged Military Veterans Get Much Deserved Benefit: Tax Free Online Shopping at Military's Exchange Service

About time. The United States Military is embracing online shopping, extending the brick and motor tax free military base shopping (aka the Military PX or Commissary) to the online shopping site, the Army & Air Force Exchange Service.  This benefit will soon be available to all honorably discharged military veterans, for all military branches.

The driving reasons for the military's embrace of online shopping?  (1) Necessity.  And (2) Amazon.  Yep, Amazon.  According to this Associated Press article in the New York Times:
"Adding 13 million potential new customers will give extra ammunition to the group that runs the stores on U.S. Army and Air Force bases worldwide as it fights Amazon and other retailers for veterans' online shopping dollars."
Shopping at a United States Military Commissary, Date Unknown.

The Benefit:  It's Not Just About Tax Free

Brick and mortar Military Commissary stores sell goods to military personnel not only tax free, but at prices generally about 30% lower than local grocery and similar stores.  Having this same purchase power for online shopping will be a wonderful financial benefit (not to mention the convenience) for our retired service men and women, particularly those who lack local access to a Military Commissary store.

Interesting how shopping has evolved simply due to Amazon's presence.  Who would have thought an online book store would grow into the powerful, nearly invincible retail and shopping force Amazon is today?

Concerns about Tax Matters?

Mary Rae Fouts, EA, CFP assists clients throughout the United States who have concerns about tax planning, preparation, and representation issues, including audit and collection matters.  For more information about Mary's fee-only Tax, Consulting, and Expert Witness Services visit Fouts Financial Group.

Mary Rae Fouts

July 17, 2017

Pet Fire Safety: Do you have home safety procedures in place for your pets?

Do you have home fire safety procedures implemented for your Beloved Canine Companions?  Below is a great ... and timely ... post on the topic originally posted on Facebook by SAGE Centers for Specialty and Emergency Care.  We use their nearby Concord, CA location; SAGE is the best!  I added a couple of additional fire safety suggestions at the bottom of the post.

Wildfires are roaring once again in California and the United States Northwest.  The San Francisco Bay Area has also seen a number of very destructive residential fires recently.  If you do not have fire-related emergency procedures in place at your home for both humans and pets (this also includes working smoke detectors and visible fire extinguishers), do so today.  It just might save the lives of you and your pets tomorrow.



Concerns about Fire Insurance or Other Insurance Coverage?

Mary Rae Fouts, EA, CFP assists clients throughout the United States who have concerns about insurance coverage and related issues.  For more information about Mary's fee-only Tax, Consulting, and Expert Witness Services visit Fouts Financial Group.

Mary Rae Fouts

July 12, 2017

Pascal Rigo: Self-Proclaimed French Bread Savior Needs to Practice What He Preaches

Pascal Rigo
photo credit:  newyorktimes.com
Oh, the irony.  And all about loaves of bread.

Pascal Rigo should practice what he preaches.  

Who is Pascal Rigo?  He's the guy who founded the San Francisco Bay Area La Boulange cafe/bakery chain, which he sold to Starbucks in 2013 for some $100 million.  There was a La Boulange in Walnut Creek, just a few miles from my home.

What's Mr. Rigo doing now in the bakery world?  Glad you asked.  In his current bread-related project, he has christened himself the go-be savior of bakery bread in France.  Read the New York Times article on the topic here.  

Self-proclaimed Savior of bread produced by small bakeries in France?  
Oh, the irony!!

Mr. Rigo laments the closure of local bakeries in France, caused in part by competition from mass-produced grocery store bread, while he himself employed mass production of bread for sale to large retail outlets including Trader Joes and big box Costco.

Mr. Rigo, don't you kinda think your mass production of bread for large retail chains hurt small bakeries, the same type of bakeries across the pond that you now proclaim you will save?

Just sayin'.

And the reason Mr. Rigo’s current La Boulangerie shops in San Francisco each sell only about 50 baguettes daily, as stated in the NY Times article?  Simple.  The bread is just not that good.  One only has to look at the cult-like bread following at San Francisco's Tartine Bakery for comparison.

I am an avid baker, including baking all sourdough breads, rolls, buns, and pizza, so I am aware of the work involved in artisanal bread baking.  One can't be both artisanal and cheap at the same time; quality costs.  Mr. Rigo needs to decide if his current venture is going to compete on (1) quality or (2) price.  He can't compete on both.

And perhaps Pascal Rigo should look in the mirror and decide if he truly intends to practice what he preaches.  He certainly did not do so in the past.

Bake on, everyone.  But if it's bread, make it sourdough!

My Sourdough Bread, a recent bake.
My own recipe.
Tender crumb and golden but not hard crust.
Not too holey so your butter and other spreads don't fall through.
All sourdough, no active yeast.

Sliced homemade sourdough bread from the loaf in above photo.
Want some?

My sourdough starter after I fed it yesterday.
Made with bread flour and bottled spring water.
It  is VERY vigorous, tripled in volume as shown by original rubber band mark.
These are 2 half gallon mason jars nearly full of bubbly sourdough starter.


July 10, 2017

Fyre Festival's Billy McFarland: Arrested and Charged with Wire Fraud

Fyre Festival founder Billy McFarland arrested by federal agents.  That didn't take too long, did it?

I previously posted about the cancelled disastrous Fyre Festival and its founder Billy McFarland.  At that time I opined Mr. McFarland appeared to be a criminal Con Artist rather than a brazen 25-year-old pretty boy salesman.

Looks like my opinion may very well be accurate.

Federal agents recently arrested Billy McFarland and charged him with 1 count of wire fraud.  (But come on, just one count?!)

Anyway, what gets my craw now is that Mr. McFarland was able to make his $300,000 bail.  Ok, I get that; according to the New York Times he lives in a $21,000 a month Manhattan penthouse apartment and drives a $110,000 Maserati automobile.  So clearly Billy McFarland has sizable assets.

photo credit:  newyorktimes.com

Question:  So why is Billy McFarland currently represented by a public defender?  You know, the taxpayer-paid-for defense attorney who represents criminal defendants that cannot afford legal representation.

Does public defender representation for Mr. McFarland make sense to you? 
Sure doesn't to me.

This sordid story only continues to grow more tentacles.  Once again, truth is stranger than fiction.

Mary Rae Fouts

July 6, 2017

Date Lunch with Husband Jim at Corners Tavern in Walnut Creek

Jim and I have a Date Lunch every month at Corners Tavern in Walnut Creek, something both of us really .... REALLY ... look forward to.

Corners Tavern is hands down by far our favorite restaurant in Walnut Creek.

Here is what we enjoyed yesterday, soooo delicious!

Want some?

Jim's Manhattan

Jim's Steak N' Fries

My County Line Organic Greens Salad with
Smoked Chicken added.
The strawberries were fabulous.
The Italian Pinot Grigio Jim picked out for me
was spot on, too.  ðŸ˜‹

Be good to yourself.  Treat yourself soon with a special date lunch with your significant other, or simply an extra special lunch by yourself or with a friend.  You'll be glad you did!

Life is short.  Be happy!

Mary Rae Fouts

June 30, 2017

Dog Safety Tips for the 4th of July Independence Day Holiday

The 4th of July Holiday can be a deadly time for dogs as they become very frightened and may attempt to flee from loud firework noises.  Here are a few tips on how to keep your Faithful Canine Companion safe during Independence Day festivities:

Stay safe inside.  Keep your pets safe and secure inside of your home.  Close windows, lower blinds, and turn on music or the TV to help drown out the sound of fireworks and firecrackers.

Lexi says:   "I am scared of loud firework noises.
My Daddy and Mommy always make sure I am calm and safe
inside the house, away from 4th of July firework sounds."

Do not leave your dog outside.  If leaving home - even for a short period of time - do not leave your dogs outside if there is a possibility of firework or firecracker noise.  Dogs can become very frightened at the loud sounds, and may attempt to dig out of the yard, or tear down fencing to escape.

Potty time?  Use a leash.  If your dog needs to go outside to potty and firework sounds are possible, do not let your dog go outside unattended.  Keep your dog on a leash, and bring him or her back inside after potty time.

Current identification, including a microchip.  Be sure your pets have proper identification on at all times, as well as current microchip information.  Check ID tags to be sure they are readable (not all scratched up from wear), and have current phone and address information.  Also check your microchip online to be certain it is activated, and that all information is complete and accurate, including a current photo of your pet.

If your pet is not microchipped, get him or her microchipped, and make sure the chip is activated, and that all information is complete and current.  A lost pet can also slip from a collar with his or her identification tag.  In this event, no chip = no identification.

Scared pet?  Talk with your vet about a sedative for your pet.  If your pet is very scared by loud noises, talk with your vet about the use of a sedative.  Give any sedative to the pet before fireworks start, leaving enough time for the sedative to start working before loud noises start booming.
Happy Independence Day, Everyone.  Stay safe.

Mary Rae Fouts

June 28, 2017

New York Times Cooking Website: No Longer Free for Non-NY Times Subscribers

The wildly-popular New York Times Cooking website portal has a wealth of  18,000 plus recipes.   Its 10 million monthly readers .... Yes, 10 million.  Who said people no longer cook? 😊 ....  all have enjoyed free access to the entire site.

Until now.

This morning, Food Editor Sam Silton announced that access to most of the the NY Times Cooking website will require a paid subscription of $5 per month for non-NY Times subscribers.  NY Times subscribers will continue to have access as part of the newspaper subscription.

Credit:  https://cooking.nytimes.com

I am an avid cook and baker, with particular emphasis on seasonal fresh ingredients and my passion for my homemade all-sourdough breads, cinnamon rolls, and pizzas.   Many of my recipes are my own creations.  I have been a daily subscriber to the NY Times for years, and enjoy visiting the Cooking site for ideas.

Confession:  my husband Jim would most likely tell you that I am obsessed about sourdough baking; that our home typically smells like bread; and that he finds bits of sourdough starter in some unusual places in the house!

On Charging for Access to the NY Times Cooking Website

And what do I think about this change?

I could not agree with it more.  

Studies consistently show people place less value on something that is free versus a paid-for item.  Whether the item is financial advice, a companion pet, or in this case recipes and related items, the same outcome applies.

If a person refuses to pay $5 a month for access to the Cooking site, or refuses to subscribe to the New York Times newspaper, what value does the person place on the Cooking site or the newspaper?  Free = No Cost = Zero, doesn't it?

Happy Cooking and Baking, Everyone!

Mary Rae Fouts

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!  ðŸ˜‰  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.

Yuck.

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.

Decorum.

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.
Now.

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