August 30, 2018

Chicago Fire Update: 10 Children Dead

This post updates my last post regarding a horrific residential fire in Chicago last Sunday morning.

Death Toll Update:  The death toll in the fire has now been updated to 10, all children between the ages of 3 months and 16 years.  It was originally reported that 2 victims were adults; this was incorrect.  All victims died from smoke inhalation.

Residence:  The residence was originally described as an apartment building.  That is a bit in accurate.  It is actually a home (described as a 2-story Coach House) that appears to have been separated into unique rental living units by floor.  Whether or not the building separation was legal and permitted has not been disclosed.  The first floor was vacant, the children were all on the 2nd floor of the residence.  The Coach House sits behind the main house on the property, a 3-story brownstone.  Code Enforcement had issued Code Citations since 2007 on both homes, although the details of the citations have not been made public.

Children:  The children were all at a sleep over.  The children were unattended, no adults were present at the home.  A Child Neglect Investigation has been opened up by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Service.

Smoke Detectors:  It has been reconfirmed that no working smoke detectors were found in the building.  Investigators did find 1 smoke detector on the 2nd floor, but the battery had been removed from it.  Fire investigators have stated that it is the building owner's responsibility to install smoke detectors, but the tenant's responsibility for maintaining the smoke detectors, including keeping batteries in the units.

Cause of Fire:  Not yet determined.  The fire started in an enclosed porch at the rear of the building.  It has been called the deadliest Chicago fire in more than a decade.

As I stated earlier ...

According to Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives spokesperson Larry Langford, the deaths and injuries could have been avoided if working smoke detectors had been in use:
"It was not hard to get out. The fire started in the rear, and the entryway to the front was wide open," Langford said. "Had they been awake or if someone had woken them, they would have gotten out."
The people would be alive today had there been working smoke detectors in the apartment.

During a fire, a person can become unconscious and die from smoke inhalation in as little as 2 minutes.  2 minutes!  This is one life saving issue I counsel clients on when I review residential and business fire insurance.  Make sure your home and business has working smoke detectors.  If battery powered, change the batteries every 6 months.  Replace smoke detector units every 10 years, or sooner if they malfunction.

Smoke detectors.  Inexpensive and life saving. 

About Mary Rae Fouts, EA

Mary Rae Fouts, EA provides tax, insurance consulting, and expert witness services to clients who have technical or complex concerns.  For more information about Mary and her professional services visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

Mary Rae Fouts

August 27, 2018

Fire Safety: Smoke Detectors Save Lives. Make sure you have them, and that they work.

Another completely avoidable fire-related tragedy, this one in Chicago.

Early Sunday morning, 8 people - 6 children and 2 adults - were killed in a residential apartment fire in Chicago.  2 additional children are hospitalized in very critical condition, so the likely death toll will be 10 people - 8 children and 2 adults.  1 firefighter was also hospitalized.

The fire started in an enclosed porch at the rear of the building.  It has been called the deadliest Chicago fire in more than a decade.

And working smoke detectors?  None found.

According to Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives spokesperson Larry Langford, the deaths and injuries could have been avoided if working smoke detectors had been in use:
"It was not hard to get out. The fire started in the rear, and the entryway to the front was wide open," Langford said. "Had they been awake or if someone had woken them, they would have gotten out."
The people would be alive or otherwise uninjured today had there been working smoke detectors in the apartment.

During a fire, a person can become unconscious and die from smoke inhalation in as little as 2 minutes.  2 minutes!  This is one life saving issue I counsel clients on when I review residential and business fire insurance.  Make sure your home and business has working smoke detectors.  If battery powered, change the batteries every 6 months.  Replace smoke detector units every 10 years, or sooner if they malfunction.

I'll post (again) about fire extinguishers in a future post.

Smoke detectors.  Inexpensive and life saving. 

About Mary Rae Fouts, EA

Mary Rae Fouts, EA provides tax, insurance consulting, and expert witness services to clients who have technical or complex concerns.  For more information about Mary and her professional services visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

Mary Rae Fouts

August 23, 2018

Happy National Sandwich Month!

I eat a lot of sandwiches, and what a better month to celebrate doing so.  August is National Sandwich Month!

I don't have a favorite sandwich, as I have very broad tastes and enjoy many different sandwich fixings.  Lately I've been making homemade refrigerator bread and butter pickles to have with my lunch sandwiches.  That's been a treat!  Also, I bake all of our bread, all sourdough with my own sourdough starter made with only bread flour and bottled spring water.

And what about this yummy sounding sandwich?!  A dynamite looking chicken sandwich that incorporates one of my favorite fruits:  pears.  Here is a link to the Casablanca Pear and Chicken Sandwich recipe, courtesy of USA Pears.   Doesn't this sandwich look delicious?!

Photo credit:  usapears.org
Happy National Sandwich Month, everyone!

About Mary Rae Fouts, EA

Mary Rae Fouts, EA provides tax, insurance consulting, and expert witness services to clients who have technical or complex concerns.  For more information about Mary and her professional services visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

Mary Rae Fouts

August 21, 2018

Nancy Pelosi: A Poster Child for Excessive Cosmetic Surgery Procedures

Normally I don't publicly discuss the appearance of other people.  After all, we all have our own look, body figure, and style.  But I occasionally make an exception to this rule (uh, guideline) with one issue:  People who have ruined their appearance with excessive, or botched, cosmetic surgery procedures.

And on the subject of excessive cosmetic surgery procedures, I now present a poster child for this topic:

California's own Congressional Representative Nancy Pelosi.

You know, the 78-year old politician who claims she hasn't had any cosmetic surgery done.  But pictures taken over the years show a markedly different, and obvious answer:

Pelosi clearly has had a lot ... A LOT ... of cosmetic surgery work done through the years.  She's starting to remind me of Michael Jackson.


Here is a picture of Pelosi taken last month in July.  (You can look online to find additional historic photos of Pelosi from years ago that present the same excessive-cosmetic-procedures evidence.)  Does she look absolutely horrid, or what?!

I mean, it's almost painful to simply look at her.

Face Lifts:  Nancy Pelosi has had so many face lifts that her hairline is now pulled back to halfway up her head.

Eyebrow Lifts and Other Cosmetic Eye Surgery:  Pelosi has had so many eyelid lifts done that her eyelids don't even fit correctly over her eyes anymore.  And as for Pelosi's actual eyes?  Well, she's had so much work on them (probably some type of fat removal around the lid area), that her eyes are so sunken, they look as if they have been excavated with a melon ball scoop.

What happened to the old fashioned concept of aging with grace and dignity?  Guess Nancy Pelosi finds that simple concept to difficult to adhere to.  But the end result has turned her into a woman that looks like a freak show.

About Mary Rae Fouts, EA

Mary Rae Fouts, EA provides tax, insurance consulting, and expert witness services to clients who have technical or complex concerns.  For more information about Mary and her professional services visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

Mary Rae Fouts

August 18, 2018

Flowers: A simple flower arrangement can bring so much joy to a room.

A very simple flower arrangement, in a drinking glass, from my summer gardens.  My gardens are suffering with the poor air quality.  Air is smokey from the inferno of Northern California wildfires.



Struggle my gardens may do, but not without glory.  A simple flower arrangement brings so much joy to a room.  A reminder that tomorrow is, indeed, another day.

About Mary Rae Fouts, EA

Mary Rae Fouts, EA provides tax, insurance consulting, and expert witness services to clients who have technical or complex concerns.  For more information about Mary and her professional services visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

Mary Rae Fouts

August 16, 2018

Avocados: My Favorite Reed Avocados are In Season!

If you are an avocado fan, take note:  California Reed Avocados are in season!

These nearly larger than life avocados are one of my favorite seasonal produce items.  They are in season for just a few months, typically from early August to October-ish.


Reed Avocados are sublime.  Very creamy, with a smooth, nutty flavor that reminds me of Swiss Cheese.  The skin is sturdier than other avocado types, such that you can actually use the skin as its own bowl!  They are delicious by them selves, in salads, sandwiches, Mexican dishes, eggs, and much more. 

And another bonus:  Reed Avocados do not turn brown when sliced.   That alone is reason to buy them!

Do try Reed Avocados if you can find them.  Generally sold by the pound, rather than by the piece.  The Reed Avocado in the photo was $3.99 a pound.

About Mary Rae Fouts, EA

Mary Rae Fouts, EA provides tax, insurance consulting, and expert witness services to clients who have technical or complex concerns.  For more information about Mary and her professional services visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

Mary Rae Fouts

August 13, 2018

Transportation: San Francisco Bay Area's Broken Public Transportation System

This is the first of occasional posts I'll be making discussion Transportation Issues.  And anyone who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area knows there are a lot ... A LOT ... of transportation issues to rant about!

Take public transportation for instance.  Or the lack thereof.  In the San Francisco Bay Area, the public transportation system is downright broken.

It's true that huge amounts of money are thrown at public transportation, including gas tax money, ballot proposition money, and money from the 5 Bay Area bridge tolls .  However, but a person often can't get where the person needs to go using public transportation.  Or if the person can get the the location, she can't get to the location in a reasonable amount of time, or at the time she needs to be there.

And then there's the public transportation crime and safety issue, but that's a whole other discussion.

Take this example.

I volunteer at the Bray Courthouse in the county seat of Martinez, California.  If I left my house this morning at 11:10 and drove to the Courthouse, the 11.1 mile trip via Interstate 680 would take me about 18 minutes.

No complaints there.  But heck, what if I wanted to use public transportation.  A person should be able to get to the main Courthouse in the county seat using public transportation, and do so  with little hassle in a reasonable amount of time ... Right?

Nope.  If I were to use public transportation, here is the Odyssey From Hell trip I would have.

First off, I'd have to walk 0.8 miles from my house to the bus stop.  I get on a bus at 11:51 AM, and ride the bus for 16 minutes to downtown Pleasant Hill.  During that 16 minutes, the bus makes 11 stops.  (Oh, and by the way, downtown Pleasant Hill is a mere 1.3 mile drive by car from the bus stop.)

I than wait get off bus #1 and wait 23 minutes for bus #2.  I get on bus #2 at  12:23 PM.  I ride bus #2 to Martinez for 29 minutes, during which the bus makes 31 stops.  I finally get to Martinez, and get off at the bus stop on Marina Vista and Court streets.  I then walk 0.2 miles to the Bray Courthouse, eventually arriving at the Courthouse at 1:18 PM.

And this assumes the buses are running on time.

So here are my options for a Monday trip from my Pleasant Hill home to the Bray Courthouse in Martinez, CA at  11:10 AM:

(1)  Drive my car to the Bray Courthouse  via Interstate 680.  Route is 11.1 miles.  Trip would take about 18 minutes; I would arrive at  11:28 AM.

(2)  Take public transportation to the Bray Courthouse.  Trip would require that I walk 1.0 miles, and take 2 different bus connections that travel God knows how many miles.  Cost for each bus connection is $1.  Oh, and during the time I'm wondering the Pleasant Hill/Martinez area on the buses, the buses would make 41 stops during the combined 39 minutes I'm on the buses.  Total time for the trip (assuming the 2 buses are running on time), from leaving my home to arriving at the Bray Courthouse?  1 hour and 27 minutes, arriving at 1:18 PM.

Why would anyone use this grossly inefficient public transportation?  A 11.1 mile car trip that would take 18 minutes is turned into a 1 hour and 27 minute odyssey with public transportation, including a mile of walking and 2 buses?  That's 1 hour and 9 minutes longer.  And 1 mile of walking to boot.  Crazy!

Just one example of public transportation that can't get you where you need to go, when you need to get there.  And do so in a timely and efficient manner.  I hate to drive, and would love to use public transportation.  Sad to see so much money wasted on the broken and inefficient San Francisco Bay Area public transportation system. 

About Mary Rae Fouts, EA

Mary Rae Fouts, EA provides tax, insurance consulting, and expert witness services to clients who have technical or complex concerns.  For more information about Mary and her professional services visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

Mary Rae Fouts

August 9, 2018

Happy National Book Lovers Day!

Photo credit:  nationaldaycalendar.com
I love to read, both books and print newspapers.  Always have.  When my husband Jim and I built the addition onto our home, adding a library area was an absolute must!  Also love to do crossword puzzles, which I count as part of my reading.

I enjoy reading many genres, including nonfiction, books about human events and experiences, historic fiction, and crime dramas/mysteries - as long as the crime dramas are not gory.  Oh, and don't forget recipe books and reading the dictionary to improve your vocabulary!  And we get daily delivery of the New York Times and San Francisco Chronicle newspapers.  (Yes there are still print newspaper readers out there!  )

Along that line of thought ... Today is National Book Lovers DayWhat do you enjoy reading or puzzling?

About Mary Rae Fouts, EA

Mary Rae Fouts, EA provides tax, insurance consulting, and expert witness services to clients who have technical or complex concerns.  And yep, she loves to read!  For more information about Mary and her professional services visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

Mary Rae Fouts

August 5, 2018

San Francisco: The once great city has become a cesspool of filth.

San Francisco.  Tony Bennett may have left his heart in San Francisco, but today many other less desirable things are being left on San Francisco's streets, sidewalks, and alleys.
  • Human feces.
  • Human urine.
  • Used syringes with needles attached.
  • Oh, and don't forget about people openly shooting up heroin and other drugs in public.
The above issues are the result of San Francisco's ballooning homeless population.  A population of people driven by San Francisco's weather and very generous public handouts, plus the enablement of City leaders who ... well ... often just let the homeless people do whatever they want to do.

Oh, and don't forget about San Francisco's Needle and Syringe Exchange Program.  The problem with this program is that it, well, it actually isn't a needle and syringe EXCHANGE program. It's a needle and syringe GIVE OUT program, as the City of San Francisco does not require used needles and syringes to be exchanged for the new, clean needles and syringes.

Today's San Francisco.  A disgrace.
Photo credit: sfchronicle.com

And just how many new needles and syringes are given out every year in this program?  At last count, between 4.45 to 4.80 MILLION needles and syringes each year, to an estimated 22,000 intravenous drug users that live in the city.  These 22,000 drug users represent about 2.6% of San Francisco's population, estimated at 846,816 people.  So yep, 2.6% of the population making it miserable for other San Francisco's residents, workers, and visitors.

To hell with the rest of San Francisco's residents, workers, and visitors, right?

And I haven't even mention other safety issues in San Francisco, including the estimated 30,000 auto break-ins in 2017.  Yep, 30,000.

And as far as coming off the streets?  In the last significant attempt by the City of San Francisco to get homeless off the streets, nearly all homeless people contacted refused the shelter and related supportive services offered by the city outreach workers.

I don't go to San Francisco anymore unless I absolutely have to for business purposes.  And I know I'm not alone in that decision.

San Francisco.  Sad how derelict, miserable, and broken a once beautiful city has become.

About Mary Rae Fouts, EA

Mary Rae Fouts, EA provides tax, insurance consulting, and expert witness services to clients who have technical or complex concerns.  For more information about Mary and her professional services visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

Mary Rae Fouts

August 2, 2018

Natural Disasters: Do you have an Emergency Evacuation Plan?

Photo credit:  sacbee.com
Wildfires are raging once again in California, including threatening urban areas.  Given the early start to the wildfire season this year - generally the worst fires are in September and October - this year may end up being the worst in history for California.

 While California's current concern is wildfires, different disasters can strike around the United States, including floods, hurricanes, and tornadoes.  If you had to evacuate on short notice to save your life, could you do it?

The Sacramento Bee newspaper has published a very helpful article providing 5 key steps to implement in your evacuation plan.  They are:

  1. Know your risks where you live and work.
  2. Pack and store a Go Bag, containing at least 3 days of food and water, clothing, medicine, and other necessary provision such as a portable phone charger and a flashlight.  And don't forget provisions for any pets you have.
  3. Organize important documents for quick retrieval.
  4. Identify possible escape routes.
  5. Come up with a family communication plan.

The article also contains additional information and links to emergency-related websites.  Read the entire article here.

Stay safe, everyone. 
About Mary Rae Fouts, EA

Mary Rae Fouts, EA provides tax, insurance consulting, and expert witness services to clients who have technical or complex concerns.  For more information about Mary and her professional services visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

Mary Rae Fouts