June 16, 2011 2:27 pm
‘Tis the season that many of us practice our weekly ritual of lawn mowing. But it’s also the season that accidents with lawn mowers send people to the emergency room. Each year, lawn mowers are associated with an estimated 86,000 hospital-treated injuries and about 100 deaths. Here are 13 steps you can take to avoid becoming one of those statistics.
1. Read and follow the manufacturer’s instruction before using your mower for the first time. Insist that anyone else who uses your mower reads the instructions first.
2. Never circumvent a safety device such as the “deadman” control or discharge chute.
3. Before starting your mower, make sure there are no missing or loose parts. If there is any sign of leaking fuel, don’t use the mower until it’s fixed. Many lawn mowers have been recalled because of fuel leaks. Check www.recalls.gov.
4. To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, never start your mower in a garage or shed.
5. Wear sturdy work shoes with good traction and hearing protection while mowing. Long term exposure to noisy mowers could lead to hearing loss.
6. Check your lawn for debris such as rocks, sticks, or toys that could become dangerous projectiles if you run over them.
7. Keep kids and pets well away from the mowing area.
8. Never let a child sit on your lap on a riding mower or tractor.
9. Never allow children younger than 14 to use a ride-on mower, and don’t allow children younger than 12 to use walk-behind mowers.
10. For walk-behind mowers, mow parallel with slopes; for tractors and riding mowers, mow up and down slopes.
11. Never mow wet grass where you or the mower could easily slip.
12. Always look behind you before reversing a ride-on mower but avoid mowing in reverse.
13. Never refuel a hot engine.
In Consumer Reports’ recent lawn-care poll, folks ‘fessed up to some hazardous mowing practices. In fact, 25 percent said they listened to music through headphones, 8 percent drink beer or other alcohol and 4 percent text or talk on the phone.
For more information, please visit www.consumerreports.org
June 16, 2011 2:27 pm
Today’s business world is more competitive than ever. As the economy continues to struggle, competition for jobs, clients, sales—you name it—continues to be tight. If you’re sure you’ve been saying all the right things, but you still can’t get ahead, author Sharon Sayler suggests you consider what you’ve really been saying to potential employers or customers—not just verbally, but nonverbally.
“True communication goes beyond words, and great communicators use every tool they have to deliver their message,” says Sayler. “When you have control of your nonverbal language, you can communicate confidence with passion, persuasion, credibility and candor—factors that will help you soar above your competition in the business world.”
Sayler offers the following nonverbal do’s and don’ts that will help you win in the business world:
Don’t fill the air with “um, ah, uh,” and “you know.” It is natural to pause when you speak—it gives you a chance to breathe. What’s not natural is to fill the silent pause with um, ah, uh, you know, and other sounds. Verbal pauses are distracting and muddle what you are trying to say, because the audience sees you searching for the next words. Meaningless extra syllables or words make you look less intelligent. Your message will be more effective once you eliminate them. This may take practice.
Don’t use the fig-leaf pose. “When you place your hands in the fig-leaf pose, your body says, ‘I’m harmless,’ or, ‘I’m afraid,’” explains Sayler. “Not exactly the way to convey the level of confidence that a new employer might want to see in a new hire or that a client wants to see in the genius he needs to help improve his business.”
Do use hand gestures systematically. When we use only words to convey our message, we make it necessary for our audience to pay very close attention to what we say. Using gestures systematically, especially when giving directions or teaching, makes the audience less dependent on the verbal part of the presentation. The visual reminder created by gestures allows the listener two ways to remember: auditory and visual. It thereby increases the likelihood of accurate recall.
Don’t put your hands in your pockets. Thumbs hanging off the pockets and hands deep in both pockets say something similar to the fig leaf hand gesture, “Geez, I hope you like me.” Hands deep in the pockets jingling change say one of two things, depending on context: “Geez, I’m nervous and hope you like me,” or, “Geez, I’m so bored. Is this ever going to be over?”
Don’t hide your hands behind your back. Depending on the situation, grasping your hands behind your back can be interpreted as meaning, “Geez, I hope you like me,” or, “You better fear me.” Neither interpretation leaves a very good impression of you, so avoid this position altogether.
Don’t cross your arms. This stance is most frequently understood to indicate that you’re upset or uncomfortable. In business, others often interpret it as, “I am not open to discussion,” or, “I am annoyed.”
Do know when to put your hands on your hips. This is a ready-to-take-action gesture. It makes most people appear bigger, because they are actually taking up more space. Yet, it is often given negative labels by others, such as meaning you are annoyed, closed, or won’t listen—similar to placing your arms across your chest.
Do remember the eyes have it. Of all the nonverbal messages one can use, the eyes are the most expressive and really are the window to thoughts and emotions. Little or no eye contact is often thought to be associated with lying, but this is not always true. Experienced liars will look you right in the eye every time. It might also indicate lack of self-esteem or interest.
Do stop fidgeting. Unintentional gestures are emotional reactions or the result of the body’s desire for physical comfort and are often lovingly called fidgets. Even though fidgets can calm us, those pesky, jerky movements or anxious behaviors often make others uneasy.
“When it comes to inspiring and influencing others, we can say all the right words, but if our nonverbal postures send a different message, that is what others will understand and take away,” says Sayler. “True communication goes beyond words, and great communicators use every tool they have to deliver their message. When you learn to communicate not only through what you say, but also through what your body says, you can build stronger relationships, become a more influential leader, and receive enthusiastic responses from potential employers, clients and colleagues.
June 16, 2011 2:27 pm
For many families, times are tough, and the budget may not stretch far enough this year for a family vacation or summer camp. But, says life coach Valorie Burton, there are many ways to plan a summer of fun without spending a lot of money—even without a swimming pool in your own backyard.
Burton suggests starting with the following five questions, and plan your fun based on the results of your answers.
• What gives me joy? Are you happiest at the seashore? At a picnic in the woods? Playing with the kids at the park? Make this the year to plan family outings at the places you enjoy.
• Who do we want to connect with? Are there cousins, friends, or grandparents you don’t see often enough, even though they don’t live far away? This might be the year to plan a car trip—or invite other people to your own home—for a few days of visiting fun.
• What do tourists do around here? Often, we travel long distances on vacation while passing on the local attractions other people come to see in our region. Is there a national park within easy driving distance? A state or county fair? A museum? Plan a few picnics or an overnight stay at a few of these local treasures.
• Who can we team up with? Plan a block party or barbecue with neighbors. Teaming up and sharing the cost can be more fun than planning a party on your own.
• What can we do for someone else? Volunteering is a great way to feel good about yourself while helping those in need. You can volunteer at a home improvement project, read to the elderly at a senior facility, or organize a school supplies donation project before school resumes. Have a family conference and let the kids help choose what projects they would like to do.
June 16, 2011 2:27 pm
A recent survey conducted by NPD Group, a leading market research company, showed a significant increase of consumers who are opting to bring the party home.
One trend that is flashing back to grab the “retro” market, and the attention of hip hosts, is slipcovers. And these ain’t your mom’s slipcovers, either.
The folks from SureFit, (www.SureFit.com), a leading provider of decorative and protective ideas for the home and office say slip covers are the perfect option for entertainers looking to upgrade their mismatched and worn-out furniture without breaking the bank.
From your couch to your recliner and for under $200, SureFit says these machine-washable home solutions provide a smart and efficient way to create a well-designed, well-furnished venue for any gathering. Sure Fit also carries a wide variety of home-furnishing accessories, including decorative pillows, mood-setting window treatments and lamp shades that can spice up the drabbest décor.
Another source, best-slipcovers.com has some great ideas for using slip covers to create a fresh look with your existing furniture, or for simple and economic home staging. First, think like a home stager by looking at what design of slip cover would coordinate well with the color scheme in your home, or various rooms.
Going from a cool to a warm season, throw open the windows and don’t fret that your once cozy sofa and chairs look dark and heavy in the room. Go for a lighter look by dressing your upholstered furniture in slipcovers made of fabrics that are lighter or brighter.
Change the texture from that nubby woven fabric or heavy velvet to a crisp linen fabric or vividly patterned cotton print. Not only will the change look fresher, the new fabric feels refreshing to the touch.
Then, toss on a colorful pillow or two and you've got a great new look in minutes. The folks at best-slipcovers.com have a lot more information and tips about the best ways to “go retro” with hip new slipcover designs and styles to make any piece of furniture, or your entire house, look brand new.
June 15, 2011 5:27 pm
Q: Does the seller take the furnishings once the home is sold?
A: Normally. This is because the fixtures—personal property that is permanently attached to a home, such as built-in bookcases or a furnace—automatically stay with the house unless noted otherwise in the sales contract. Anything that is not nailed down is negotiable, including appliances that are not built in, such as washers and dryers.
June 15, 2011 5:27 pm
Assessment. Tax or charge levied on property by a taxing authority to pay for local improvements such as sidewalks, streets, and sewers.
June 15, 2011 5:27 pm
As wildfires continue to rage in Arizona and Florida, every state in the country now has the potential for a wildfire. According to the National Interagency Fire Center, nearly every state in the U.S. has already experienced a wildfire this year. Wildfires during the first five months of this year have burned 3.2 million acres, due to soon surpass the 3.4 million acres of land and property that burned during all of last year.
Wildfires are a serious risk to life and property throughout the United States and Canada. As the weather becomes hot and dry, so is the increased potential for wildfires. State Farm® wants to remind you that the best way to reduce property loss due to wildfire is to plan ahead.
One of the most important steps to reduce wildfire damage is to clear and maintain a defensible space around your home and structures. Clearing or trimming vegetation reduces the chance of fire damage and provides a safety zone for firefighters. Here are several easy and inexpensive ways to create a defensible space:
• Remove dead shrubs, dried grass, fallen branches and dried leaves 30 - 100 feet around your house.
• Keep trees and shrubs properly thinned and pruned within the defensible space.
• Remove ladder fuels—plants, low branches, and fire wood that let a fire on the ground climb into the trees.
• Clear five feet around the base of the house and fill the space with fire resistant plants or materials such as rocks or gravel.
• Take care of the clean, open space around your home on a regular basis by raking up pine needles and removing downed branches or trees.
• Keep your roof and gutters clear of debris and remove overhanging branches.
• Keep grass and weeds mowed at a low height.
In addition to protecting your home, review your homeowner’s insurance coverage with your agent, especially if you have made recent changes to your property. Insuring your property to at least 100 percent of its estimated replacement cost affords the greatest protection to the policyholder in the event of a loss. Remember to document your belongings by creating a home inventory. An accurate inventory and proof of ownership can make your claim settlement easier and faster.
The Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS) provides regional information on wildfire risks and ways to reduce loss to your home and business. State Farm is a supporter and member company of IBHS.
June 15, 2011 5:27 pm
School is out, graduations are over and the official start of summer is near. More than 3 million Californians are expected to hit the roads on the Fourth of July weekend—one of the busiest travel holidays of the year. Whether you have longstanding travel plans, a last minute road trip in mind, or just sticking around town this summer, the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) reminds you to give some thought to your summer travel to ensure everyone arrives safely and can enjoy the trip.
Plan Your Trip
• Plan, map and estimate the duration of your driving ahead of time and let others know your plans. You can estimate the cost of gas for your trip at http://fuelcostcalculator.aaa.com/.
• Expect to encounter roadwork, delays & detours —'Slow for the Cone Zone'
• Check road conditions, including possible road closures. Visit www.dot.ca.gov for real time highway conditions.
Prepare Your Vehicle
• Check the tires, including the spare—proper inflation and good tread can save money, time and lives.
• Inspect the engine, battery, hoses, belts and fluids for wear and proper levels. Check the A/C.
• Do a "once around" —test all the lights, wipers and clean the windows (inside and out).
• If you're not sure of what to do, consider a quick inspection by a qualified technician. A few dollars up front can mean peace of mind and safe arrivals, as well as no costly on-the-road repairs and trip interruptions.
• Prepare an Emergency Roadside Kit, including jumper cables, a flashlight and plenty of bottled water.
Safety First and Always
• Buckle Up. Every Trip. Every Time.
• If you have a flat tire, engine problems or a fender bender, drive out of traffic lanes and off the highway if possible—freeway shoulders are not safe for repair work.
• Always plan ahead, and use a Designated Sober Driver.
• If you see drunk or dangerous drivers, it is legal and encouraged for you to call 911. Clues can help motorists detect a drunk driver: excessive weaving/swerving, especially in and out of the lane; traveling at speeds much slower than the flow of traffic; braking erratically or stopping in the lane; sudden stops for signal lights and slow starts once they change; remaining at the signal lights after they turn green—asleep at the wheel; making wide turns and/or cutting the corner striking the curb.
Buckle Up Drivers & Passengers
• Parents, grandparents and caregivers need to use the correct seat for young passengers and be sure the seat is installed properly. NHTSA and the Office of Traffic Safety recommend keeping infants, toddlers and older children in the car seat for as long as possible, as long as the child fits within the manufacturer's height and weight requirements. Visit www.ots.ca.gov/Child_Passenger_Safety.asp for assistance with proper car seat installation in advance of your trip.
• Remember that long trips can be particularly tough on your kids, especially in the heat—pack plenty of snacks and cold drinks for the road (consider freezing juice boxes or water bottles overnight).
• Use books, toys, DVDs and video games to keep children occupied and the driver focused.
• Keep children 12 and under in the back seat—it's the safest place.
• Stopping along the drive gives everyone a chance to stretch and makes the trip easier. If you have a fussy baby, do not take them out of their car seat while driving to soothe or provide a bottle. If your child needs that level of attention, pull over in a safe place, such as a rest stop.
• Older children need to ride in a booster seat from about age four until a seat belt fits them correctly. Be sure to try the 5-Step Test at www.ots.ca.gov/Child_Passenger_Safety.asp before graduating from a booster to a seat belt.
Focus on the Road
• Don't text or talk on your cell phone while driving—even hands-free. If you need to make a call, check road or weather conditions or respond to a text, wait until you stop in safe place, such as a rest stop or parking lot.
• Don't program your mobile GPS while you are driving. Either have a passenger do it or stop in a safe place.
• Share the driving with other passengers to avoid fatigue.
• Rest—driving while drowsy can be fatal. Even a 30 minute nap can help.
• Stop for food or beverages. Avoid eating while driving.
• Don't fall into the trap of driving while angry—aggressive driving kills.
Never Leave a Child Alone In a Car—Not Even for a Minute
• Never leave a child unattended in a vehicle, even with the window slightly open. An outside temperature of 101 degrees can easily result in an interior temperature of 140 degrees.
• If you see a child unattended in a hot vehicle, call 911. EMS professionals are trained to determine if a child is in trouble.
• Place your cell phone, purse or other important item needed at your next stop on the floor in front of a child in the backseat. This triggers adults to see children when they open the rear door and reach for their belongings.
• Set your cell phone or Outlook reminder to be sure you dropped your child off at day care. Have a plan that if your child is late for daycare, you will be called within a few minutes.
• Always lock your car and ensure children do not have access to keys or remote entry devices.
• If a child is missing, check the pool first, and then your car or any other vehicles at your house, including car trunks.
• Teach your children that vehicles are never to be used as a play area.
A little advance planning and preparation can keep you, your family and our roads safe during the summer months. This effort is part of the ongoing California Strategic Highway Safety Plan, where hundreds of state and local agencies, advocacy groups and private industries help develop tactics to significantly reduce deaths and injuries. For more traffic safety information log on to www.ots.ca.gov.
June 15, 2011 5:27 pm
Following the recent severe weather, "storm chasing" contractors may begin showing up in affected areas, offering questionable products and services to homeowners looking to repair or replace a roof. Promising rock-bottom prices and quick turnaround for a new roof, these often unlicensed and untrained home improvement renegades prey on consumers when they're most vulnerable.
Unfortunately, this is a common practice that usually results in poor installations that later cause trouble, when the installer has moved on to the next town.
Choosing a new roof to protect your home and family is a big decision, and deserves careful consideration.
The nonprofit Metal Roofing Alliance recommends homeowners ask these questions before signing a contract for a new roof:
1. Is the company licensed, and are the employees bonded and insured? How long has the company been in business?
2. What types of roofing materials does the company offer? The industry has evolved—there are many choices beyond the old asphalt shingle.
3. Will the contractor provide a written, final estimate?
4. Can the new roof be installed over the existing roof?
5. What are the environmental considerations of the new materials and disposal of the old roof?
6. What company manufactures the roofing material the contractor will use?
7. How long with will the new roof last? What does the warranty cover?
8. Will the company use subcontractors? If so, how will they be managed/supervised?
9. Is there pending legal action against the company?
10. Can you speak with former customers?
Even without storm damage, most homeowners will have to buy three or more roofs in their lifetime.
A growing number of homeowners are avoiding the chore of several roof installations by choosing durable and environmentally-friendly metal roofs. Resistant to cracking, shrinking and eroding, metal roofs stand up to hail, high winds and even wildfires. Today's residential metal roofing is made to look exactly like common roofing material—such as asphalt shingle, cedar shake, clay tile or slate roofing—only stronger and more durable. No matter the style, most homeowners who choose a metal roof will never have to worry about re-roofing again.
For more information, visit www.metalroofing.com.
June 15, 2011 5:27 pm
89.9 percent of those who currently have a job say they are not counting on a salary increase next year, according to the latest American Pulse™ Survey of 5,242 respondents. Consumers are still struggling with high fuel prices and the rising cost of goods while incomes will likely remain unchanged. Only 10.1 percent think they will see a pay increase while the rest are planning to have less disposable income.
In order to prepare for higher prices and stagnant incomes, most Americans (70.5 percent) are planning to buy just the necessities. Driving less and spending less on clothing are also popular penny-pinching activities.
How to Prepare for Rising Food/Gas Prices If Salary Stays the Same :
Only buying necessities: 70.5%
Driving less: 63.4%
Spending less on clothing: 58.9%
Comparison shopping: 53.1%
Sticking to a strict budget: 50.0%
Buying more store brand/generic products: 49.9%
Spending less on groceries: 42.0%
The vast majority of consumers who expect their salaries to remain the same are planning to cut back—only 6.6% are not planning to make any changes to their spending habits.
Further, 3 out of 4 Americans (75.7 percent) have little or no confidence that the government’s economic policies will get the economy back on track while 24.3 percent say they are confident or very confident. Confidence was at its lowest in March (21.5 percent), and has been steadily declining since June 2010 (31.2 percent).
In addition, the majority of American consumers (68.6 percent) are somewhat/very worried that the U.S. government will slip into another recession this year. 11.8 percent are not very or not at all worried while 19.6 percent are unsure.
The Federal Reserve has suggested printing money as a way to help get the economy back on track, but most Americans don’t think this will work. While 18.0% think creating more currency will boost the economy, over half (61.0 percent) say flooding the market with new bills will hurt the economy in the long run (21 percent aren’t sure).
Speaker of the House John Boehner’s policy that would match any increases to the debt ceiling with equal spending cuts is mostly favorable among Adults 18+. 44.2 percent somewhat or strongly agree with this plan; 21.7 percent disagree and 34.1 percent are neutral. In order to balance the budget, Americans are willing to make cuts to public workers’ salaries and benefits (49.0 percent), welfare programs (38.9 percent) and military spending (33.8 percent).