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Mary Mastroeni

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Question of the Day

November 30, 2011 7:36 pm

Q: Do I need to be at the inspection?

A: No, but it is a very good idea to be there. Following the check-over, the home inspector can answer your questions and discuss problem areas with you. This is also an opportune time to get an objective opinion about the home from someone who does not have emotional or financial ties to the property.

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Chainsaw Safety, Part II

November 29, 2011 7:34 pm

As reported in the previous segment, I was among the millions in New England left dealing with a double-barreled punch of post-storm cleanups this fall. With all those cleanups, hospitals across the region saw a significant rise in chainsaw-related emergencies.

So we turned to the U.S. Occupational & Health Administration (OSHA) for some tips on chainsaw safety, and got the full scope on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Your PPE helps protect the head, ears, eyes, face, hands, and legs—and is designed to prevent or lessen the severity of injuries to those using chain saws.

Before you even fuel up your saw, OSHA recommends you inspect your PPE to ensure it’s all in serviceable condition.

One of the least talked about protective measures, even for occasional chainsaw users, perhaps due to cost—are chaps. But Elvex Safety Products (elvex.com) of Bethel, Connecticut recommends that even casual "weekend warriors" consider donning protective chaps when operating a chainsaw.

The company states that the average chainsaw injury results in 120 stitches, and even its unique brand of chaps won't stop or prevent injuries if the chainsaw is running much faster than 2,750 feet per minute. (A full throttle chainsaw is capable of up to 6,000 feet-per-minute, reinforcing the inherent danger of that type of tool.)

Once you are equipped for safety and safely fueled, it's time to dig into the task at hand. Keep in mind these final OSHA chainsaw safety pointers:

• Clear away dirt, debris, small tree limbs and rocks from the saw’s chain path. Look for nails, spikes or other metal in the tree before cutting.
• Shut off the saw or engage its chain brake when carrying the saw on rough or uneven terrain.
• Keep your hands on the saw’s handles, and maintain secure footing while operating the saw.
• Proper personal protective equipment must be worn when operating the saw, which includes hand, foot, leg, eye, face, hearing and head protection.
• Do not wear loose-fitting clothing.
• Be careful that the trunk or tree limbs will not bind against the saw.
• Watch for branches under tension, they may spring out when cut.
• Gasoline-powered chain saws must be equipped with a protective device that minimizes chain saw kickback. • Be cautious of saw kick-back. To avoid kick-back, do not saw with the tip. If equipped, keep tip guard in place.

Hopefully, with this advice as a guideline, individuals including occasional users of chainsaws and chain driven equipment will be prepared to tackle their cutting chores with the utmost safety in mind.

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Attention Holiday Shoppers: Tips to Protect You and Your Vehicle

November 29, 2011 7:34 pm

The race is on! With the holiday season now in full swing, department stores, malls and downtown streets are packed with shoppers looking for great gifts and last-minute deals. Unfortunately, it's that hustle and bustle of long lists and large crowds that opportunistic criminals are counting on to distract holiday shoppers and make them easy targets for vehicle break-ins, carjacking and other auto theft-related crimes. 

According to Help Eliminate Auto Thefts (H.E.A.T.), law enforcement agencies report an increased number of auto break-ins during the holiday season. H.E.A.T. is Michigan's statewide auto theft prevention program that coordinates citizen action with law enforcement agencies through a confidential toll-free tip line (1.800.242.HEAT) and website (1800242HEAT.com). 

"The holidays are a joyous time of year filled with family gatherings and gift giving," said Terri Miller, director of H.E.A.T. "But, with overflowing parking lots and vehicles filled to the brim with purchases, the holidays are also a dream for car thieves." 

The following tips from H.E.A.T. will help you to be more careful and prepared while shopping this holiday season.
• Stay alert and watchful. While walking to your car, take a moment to observe your surroundings. Talking or texting on cell phones, digging for keys or juggling multiple packages can be a distraction, all of which make you an easy target.
• Park in well-lit, high-traffic areas. Try to avoid shopping alone after dark. If possible, avoid parking near objects that block your view of the surrounding area such as dumpsters, bushes, large vans or trucks.
• Place valuables and purchases in the trunk or out of view. Before leaving your car, make sure anything of value is locked in the trunk or out of sight.
• Remember where your car is parked. Walk directly to your car and do not spend unnecessary time wandering around the parking lot. Walk confidently and with purpose.
• Move your car. If you return to your car in the middle of a shopping trip, move to another area of the parking lot, even if it means giving up a prime spot. This will deter a thief who may have been watching you unload your purchases and then return to shop.
• If threatened by a carjacker, give up the car. Don’t resist or argue. A life is more important than any vehicle, and most carjackings involve a weapon.
• If you witness an auto theft or carjacking, call the police immediately.

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Postal Service Provides Guide to Mailing Season's Greetings

November 29, 2011 7:34 pm

With 16.5 billion cards, letters and packages to be delivered between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day, the U.S. Postal Service has shipping tips to help make sure gifts are delivered promptly and safely during the holiday season. 

"The Postal Service is making it easier to ship packages to family and friends for the holidays—be it online at usps.com, or by visiting your local Post Office," says Gary Reblin, vice president, Domestic Products. "And remember, proper addressing and packaging will ensure every gift receives the service it deserves. 

Shipping Basics
• Remove batteries from toys and other electronic devices. Wrap and place them next to the item in the mailing box. Customers should include the new batteries in the manufacturer's packaging.
• Place a card inside the package that contains both the delivery and return addresses. This ensures the safe return of an item that could not be delivered should the mailing label become damaged or fall off.
• Include both "to" and "from" information on packages — and only on one side.
• Always use a return address, which tells the Postal Service where to return mail if it cannot be delivered.
• Select a box that is strong enough to protect the contents.
• Do not reuse mailing boxes as they can weaken in the shipping process.
• Leave space for cushioning inside.
• Stuff glass and fragile, hollow items, like vases, with newspaper or packing material to avoid damage.
• When mailing framed photographs, take the glass out of the frame and wrap it separately.
• For Parcel Post packages using a customer-supplied box, the weight cannot exceed 70 lbs. and the combined length and width measurement must be 130 inches or less. Make sure the width is measured around the largest point of the package.

For more information, visit http://www.usps.com.

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Health News: Antibiotic Resistance

November 29, 2011 7:34 pm

Antibiotic resistance is a growing public health concern worldwide. When a person is infected with an antibiotic-resistant bacterium, not only is treatment of that patient more difficult, but the antibiotic-resistant bacterium may spread to other people. 

When antibiotics don't work, the result can be
• longer illnesses
• more complicated illnesses
• more doctor visits
• the use of stronger and more expensive drugs
• more deaths caused by bacterial infections 

Examples of the types of bacteria that have become resistant to antibiotics include the species that cause skin infections, meningitis, sexually transmitted diseases and respiratory tract infections such as pneumonia.
In cooperation with other government agencies, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has launched several initiatives to address antibiotic resistance. 

The agency has issued drug labeling regulations, emphasizing the prudent use of antibiotics. The regulations encourage health care professionals to prescribe antibiotics only when clinically necessary, and to counsel patients about the proper use of such drugs and the importance of taking them as directed. FDA has also encouraged the development of new drugs, vaccines, and improved tests for infectious diseases. 

Antibiotics Fight Bacteria, Not Viruses
Antibiotics are meant to be used against bacterial infections. For example, they are used to treat strep throat, which is caused by streptococcal bacteria, and skin infections caused by staphylococcal bacteria.
Although antibiotics kill bacteria, they are not effective against viruses. Therefore, they will not be effective against viral infections such as colds, most coughs, many types of sore throat, and influenza (flu). 

Using antibiotics against viral infections
• will not cure the infection
• will not keep other individuals from catching the virus
• will not help a person feel better
• may cause unnecessary, harmful side effects
• may contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria
Patients and health care professionals alike can play an important role in combating antibiotic resistance. Patients should not demand antibiotics when a health care professional says the drugs are not needed. Health care professionals should prescribe antibiotics only for infections they believe to be caused by bacteria.
As a patient, your best approach is to ask your health care professional whether an antibiotic is likely to be effective for your condition. Also, ask what else you can do to relieve your symptoms. 

So how do you know if you have a bad cold or a bacterial infection? 

Joseph Toerner, M.D., MPH, a medical officer in FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, says that the symptoms of a cold or flu generally lessen over the course of a week. But if you have a fever and other symptoms that persist and worsen with the passage of days, you may have a bacterial infection and should consult your health care provider. 

Follow Directions for Proper Use
When you are prescribed an antibiotic to treat a bacterial infection, it's important to take the medication exactly as directed. Here are more tips to promote proper use of antibiotics.
• Complete the full course of the drug. It's important to take all of the medication, even if you are feeling better. If treatment stops too soon, the drug may not kill all the bacteria. You may become sick again, and the remaining bacteria may become resistant to the antibiotic that you've taken.
• Do not skip doses. Antibiotics are most effective when they are taken regularly.
• Do not save antibiotics. You might think that you can save an antibiotic for the next time you get sick, but an antibiotic is meant for your particular infection at the time. Never take leftover medicine. Taking the wrong medicine can delay getting the appropriate treatment and may allow your condition to worsen.
• Do not take antibiotics prescribed for someone else. These may not be appropriate for your illness, may delay correct treatment, and may allow your condition to worsen.
• Talk with your health care professional. Ask questions, especially if you are uncertain about when an antibiotic is appropriate or how to take it. 

For more information, visit www.fda.gov.

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Word of the Day

November 29, 2011 7:34 pm

Real estate salesperson. Person who has passed a state examination for that position, and must work under the supervision of a broker.

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Question of the Day

November 29, 2011 7:34 pm

Q: How do I select a home inspector?

A: Begin by only hiring one who is qualified and experienced, someone who belongs to an industry trade group, such as the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI). This organization has developed formal inspection guidelines and a professional code of ethics for its members. Also, membership in ASHI is not automatic; members must have demonstrated field experience and technical knowledge about structures and their various systems.

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Home Improvement Safety; Chainsaw Edition

November 28, 2011 7:32 pm

I was among millions of New Englanders who were ambushed this fall by storms Irene and Alfred—along with the double-barreled punch of post-storm cleanups.

With all those cleanups progressing, hospitals across the region saw a flood of chainsaw-related emergencies. And this year there were still a number of fatalities across the country resulting from chainsaws.

This may sound like the lead-in to a horror movie, but the issue of safety when operating a chain saw is serious business. Chainsaws, loppers and other chain cutting devices are inherently hazardous, According to the U.S. Occupational & Health Administration.

But OSHA says injuries can be minimized by wearing proper personal protective equipment (PPE), and employing safe operating procedures that begin even before starting your chainsaw.

OSHA recommends:
• Check controls, chain tension, handles and all bolts to ensure they are functioning properly and that they are adjusted according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
• Make sure that the chain is always sharp and the lubrication reservoir is full.
• Start the saw on the ground or on another firm support. NO “drop starting.”
• Start the saw at least 10 feet from the fueling area, with the chain’s brake engaged.

In addition, OSHA says when fueling a chainsaw:
• Use approved containers for transporting fuel to the saw.
• Dispense fuel at least 10 feet away from any sources of ignition when performing construction activities.
• No smoking during fueling.
• Use a funnel or a flexible hose when pouring fuel into the saw.
• Never attempt to fuel a running or hot saw.

In our next segment we'll continue our focus on chainsaw safety with tips on PPEs and getting into the job at hand.

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Managing the Holidays when You’re the Manager

November 28, 2011 7:32 pm

When you're the boss, the holidays can mean more than a long-awaited vacation. Managers, supervisors, and executives often find themselves having to set the tone for the holidays for everything from determining who gets time off to hosting the holiday party. Wake Forest University's Evelyn Williams says finding the balance can be the difference between leading through the holidays and landing in the pitfalls. 

Williams, who is associate vice president for leadership in the Wake Forest University Schools of Business, teaches undergraduate and graduate students about leadership. Her research into conflict management and team dynamics prepares her to offer three tips for leaders to thrive through the holidays. 

The best gift you can give employees: gratitude
"At the holidays we're very focused on family and friends," Williams says. "But shouldn't we take this time to express gratitude to people we may see for more hours each day than our family and friends? Take the time to tell your employees how special they are. List their accomplishments or share your appreciation for their effort." Williams says the message of gratitude might accompany a holiday gift, or stand alone.
• A handwritten note or card giving personal and specific feedback will have a huge impact.
• Gratitude is inclusive and isn't subject to religious or cultural beliefs.
• Don't forget to thank internal partners or other departments who help you throughout the year.

"Sending a thank you to internal folks that serve your department or your customers used to be the tradition, but budget cuts and organizational changes may have changed that," Williams says. "We should bring that back. Tell them specifically how they have helped you through the year and you couldn't imagine doing the good job you do without their help. It really makes a difference in how they'll perceive your department and interact with you in the future." 

Williams says some might leap on this idea of expressing gratitude while others scoff at it as a way to avoid holiday bonuses or gifts. "Who doesn't want to hear from their boss how special they are? It's a rare employee who says they get too much good feedback." 

The best gift at the office party: sobriety
"From a leadership aspect, you're never off duty. People have different expectations of you," Williams says. "People weight your words differently. An off the cuff comment after three cocktails might be taken as devastating by a junior employee, or give them reason not to respect you." While it's natural for the boss to want to mix and mingle with employees at the holiday office party, Williams suggests you remind yourself the leadership mantle never leaves. 
• Be 100% in control of your own behavior.
• Remember women lose more credibility than men do around drinking situations when there is a loss of behavioral control.
• It's okay to delegate certain tasks around the holiday office party, but leaders should set the tone and make sure behavior and gifts (such as secret Santa) are kept appropriate.

"Make sure you reflect the culture of your group, not just your own interests," Williams says about the holiday party. "Be inclusive of all your employees, since not everyone celebrates the same holidays." 

The best gift to give yourself: networking
"Networking during the holidays presents a wonderful opportunity to expand and deepen your connections just by saying thank you," Williams says. "At a holiday party, don't make it about your agenda. It's a great time to practice inquiry vs. advocacy. Use your listening skills to really bond on a relational level."
• Reflect what you're hearing back during conversations: "Sounds like you're doing a really amazing job," or "Gosh, sounds like it's been a frustrating year," to enhance your listening skills.
• Be heartfelt and real. Give people in your circle something homemade like fudge or cookies, or even a small package of chocolates to let them know you're thinking of them.
• Send a holiday card with a genuine message of appreciation. Emails with earnest messages of thanks can work too, in a pinch. Consider sending a sincere message to a colleague and copying their boss because you want their manager to know how much their help has meant.

"So much of the year we are focused on solving problems at work," Williams says. "The holidays can be a time that passes by in a blur if we aren't careful. Taking a step back and focusing on the people we work with, really listening to them, saying thank you and respecting their contributions might be the best way to manage through holidays." 

For more information, visit www.wfu.edu.

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Traditions with a Twist

November 28, 2011 7:32 pm

Traditions, whether passed down through generations or newly invented, help keep family and friends connected and close. Holidays are full of traditions, from the decorating of the tree to that annual winter getaway. But what happens when a tradition can’t be continued? When budgets or lifestyles change, you may be forced to find an alternative way to celebrate.

A recent Bing survey revealed that revamping holiday traditions is on the minds of many this year. Reasons vary; A major life change—such as marriage or a new baby—is the most popular reason (33 percent), with a change in financial situation coming in a close second (30 percent). No matter your reasoning, if you're looking to create new ways to celebrate and entertain this holiday, Bing's lifestyle expert, Karin Muskopf, offers the following tips:

Create Your Own Holiday
The holidays are one of the busiest party seasons of the year, and it can be tricky to get everyone together on one specific day.

"To me, it's less important what day of the year it is," said Muskopf, "and it's more about being together with good food and lots of laughs."

Muskopf suggests hosting an “Ever Before the Eve” party, held the day before the actual event so more people will have space in their schedules. Or turn your tradition into a mini competition, so guest will get into the spirit of healthy competition and look forward to the event each year.

"Our annual holiday party has turned into a highly anticipated event—Pie Night," Muskopf said. "Each guest bakes his/her own pie to bring to the party for a taste test. Everyone samples a piece of each pie, and we award the 'Most Delicious,' 'Most Festive' and 'Most Fattening' titles in a hilarious ceremony."

Spice Up the Holiday Meal
Food is the ultimate holiday tradition. Nearly half (45 percent) of survey respondents felt that eating and drinking holiday fare is the most cheerful holiday tradition. Muskopf presents the following tasty ways to enjoy holiday feasting:

· Make it a potluck—Rather than burden one family member with all the cooking duties, have everyone bring their own specialty to the table, and ask everyone to bring copies of their recipe to share. Everyone will go home with a full stomach and a delicious keepsake for holidays to come.

· Serve healthier options—"My mom's classic holiday recipes are comforting and delicious, but often come with loads of extra calories and fat," said Muskopf. "These days, it's so easy to tweak recipes so they still taste like home but won't leave you five pounds heavier come February. We use Bing Recipes to quickly calculate the nutritional value of our favorite dishes and search for new, healthy options to try!"

· Add in games—Incorporate old traditions like holiday poppers as a fun way to kick off the festivities—just be sure to make each guest wear the paper crown found inside for the rest of the night. Silly pictures and lots of laughs to follow.

Decorate with Holiday Flare
Muskopf notes that holiday decorations are no longer restricted to evergreens and twinkling lights. Show your personality through your decorations this year.

Embrace the rainbow—While red and green are the traditional holiday colors, nearly any shade can take on a holiday feel when used correctly. Hang pink and white stockings above the fireplace or set the table with plenty of gold accents.

Blend the seasons—Snowflakes and reindeer might best symbolize the winter season, but bend the rules this year by using decorative fruit to spruce up your holiday décor. Fruits wrapped in sugar or plastic ones from any store can add an interesting, colorful aspect to any mantle, table or wreath.

Personalize your space—Don't let all those embarrassing holiday portraits from years past sit in the photo album—create a holiday gallery wall to display all those fun memories. "Photos are a great way to remember what the season is all about," Muskopf said. "Displaying them creates a fun tradition each year as I go through old photos and decide which ones will make the wall."

Source: www.Bing.com


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