Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Have a safe Halloween!

As the East Coast struggles with power and infrastructure issues, and its people struggle with the loss in some cases of their homes, we celebrate Halloween tonight.  In most neighborhoods, children will go door to door to say "Trick or treat" -- code for "please pass over some candy."

At our house each year, my husband carves a range of pumpkins.  He does the small ones with a scalpel.  And we watch carefully to be sure that a fire does not inadvertently start from a pumpkin that has started to smoulder.

In our neighborhood, parents accompany small children to trick or treat. This is more parents out on one evening than any other night of the year, minimizing the risk to all children. I hope that your Halloween will be bright with children...and that, sometime during the day today, you might stop to make a donation to the American Red Cross on behalf of all those still struggling on the East Coast.
Happy Halloween, from our home to yours!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Hurricane Sandy is moving up the East Coast

This NOAA GOES satellite image shows Hurricane Sandy.
If you live on the East Coast, at least on the northern end of the coast, earthquakes make rare appearances.  It's worth it to check out the emergency preparedness site that FEMA maintains to be sure you have what you need to operate on your own as long as 3-5 days if power goes out and businesses are affected.  This storm is already being characterized as a "Frankenstorm."

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Home energy checklist

It's a good time to combine several seasonal preparation tasks -- while you're checking your emergency supplies kit and replenishing anything you might have used or which has passed the expiration date, you can also double check your gas and water lines into your home.  And you can run through this energy checklist to be sure you're doing everything you can to reduce the amount of energy you use in your home.

Preparing for winter weather almost always has side benefits.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Fall home checklist.

As St. Phil Esterbrook used to say on "Hill Street Blues," be careful out there, folks!

Here's a fall checklist on a new website called  that I ran across, which should be of use to most of us this time of year.  Access to the website is free, and you may want to determine whether or not it makes sense to aggregate all your home information in one place.

Either way, getting ready for winter is always easier with a list.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Online banking risks

Iranian cyber-terrorists have increased their attacks on American banks as a way to continuously object to the you-tube video excerpt from a film made in this country that dis-respected the prophet Mohammed.  Yesterday Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta called more openly for effective legislation that would cause critical infrastructure business sectors to heighten their security around such areas as water, electricity and transportation. (Banking and finance is considered to be the most sophisticated of all critical infrastructure sectors, and already shares information via its information sharing and analysis center (ISAC).

Despite testimony from military officials and former secretaries of defense, Congress has been unable to agree upon legislation in either the House or the Senate.

How does this affect you?  If you do online banking, then keep a close eye over the next several weeks on your account, and be mindful that online service may be disrupted for some period of time.  And remember that financial institutions have other ways for you to transfer funds and make payments through call centers and/or mobile payments programs...or a walk-in visit to a branch.

Be mindful also of emails you may receive purporting to be from your bank, asking you to validate or provide additional account information.  No legitimate bank will ever ask you for this sort of information via an email.  Don't click on links of any sort involving your banking account, or you may find later that someone has been siphoning off funds.

Most of all, if you are concerned, then let Congress know that it's time to get off the proverbial dime where cyber-security is concerned.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Online safety

It's cyber-awareness month, and there are a number of public awareness campaigns designed to help you and your family or business review concrete steps you take to ensure a higher level of security when you are online.  One of my favorites is the Stay Safe Online website, where you can check what you've already done against what else you might wish to consider doing.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Social media posts by teens

If ever you were in any doubt that what you post on the Internet can have severe, far-reaching consequences, here's a Wall Street Journal story that discusses how such posts on Facebook and Google+ can affect admissions into a college of choice.

The article contains pithy descriptions of what college admissions personnel often find when they run an internet search.

As Immanuel Kant would say (in a paraphrase updated for today's world), don't say anything on the internet that you wouldn't be comfortable with anyone hearing or seeing or reading.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


A fundamental tool used by both businesses and individuals to manage certain types of risks and contingencies is an insurance policy.  There are many types of policies -- home, life, renters, travel, to name a few -- and a number of issues to clarify before you make investments in such policies.  Here's a good article on that discusses how to examine options for various types of  life insurance policies.

I carry homeowners and life insurance, happily.  We were saved from financial oblivion by the insurance policy that we had in our home in upstate New York when the top story of the house burned off -- you can find the whole story in the first chapter of Advice From A Risk Detective.  I calculated the amount of life insurance I carry by including the remaining balance on our home mortgage as well as few other charitable gifts I wish to make when I die.  And when I travel, I almost always purchase travel insurance -- a small price to pay against the chance I will be unable to fly when you calculate today's costs of cancelling a ticket.