Archive | April, 2019

High Wildfire-Risk Homes in California May Have New Rules

The Woolsey Fire. The Thomas Fire. The Camp Fire. The entire town of Paradise, California was consumed by flames last fall, with almost 14,000 homes destroyed and 85 people killed, making it the deadliest U.S. wildfire in the last 100 years.

Over the last few years, California has seen some increasingly deadly wildfires, and they have spurred lawmakers to consider regulations that would tighten local governments’ requirements for new housing developments in high-risk areas. Continue Reading →

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Increase the Value of Your Home With Landscaping

Image by toddpharistx from Pixabay

Ever heard of the term “curb appeal”? It’s a real estate term used to describe how attractive a house is from the street, and can affect its ability to attract good buyers. And luckily, there are a few ways to freshen up both your front and back yards to boost both the first impression and the value of your home.

The trick is to choose the landscaping ideas that add, not subtract, value from your home. Think your pool is cool? Yeah, not so much when it comes to return on investment, sadly. But Zillow’s team did some research and found out a few important things: Continue Reading →

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What Keeps Insurers Up at Night?

Your first answer to this question (and maybe the photo suggested it) might be dog bites. And while yes, dogs do remain at the top of the list for generating insurance claims, note that deer, birds, and cats are adding to the number of claims each year.

Allianz Global & Specialty insurance company reviewed over 470,000 claims over the past five years to find out that there’s a new growing liability: bedbugs.

Don’t worry, we said it too. EEEW! Continue Reading →

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America the Beautiful, Our National Parks

The Narrows Trail, Zion National Park, Utah, Zion National Park, Utah.

April is a wonderful time to visit our National Parks and pay homage to our great planet. Our National Parks are high-value entertainment for the money. You might set some goals to discover our most treasured places. Our government offers a variety of passes, including the America the Beautiful Passdetailed below:

America the Beautiful Passes

This pass is your ticket to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites. Each pass covers entrance fees at national parks and national wildlife refuges, as well as standard amenity fees (day use fees) at national forests and grasslands, and at lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. A pass covers entrance, standard amenity fees, and day use fees for a driver and all passengers in a personal vehicle at per vehicle fee areas (or up to four adults at sites that charge per person). Children age 15 or under are admitted free. And the pass is free to the Current U.S. Military and their dependents; volunteers who contribute 250 or more hours; or all U.S. fourth-grade students.

Cost of Annual Pass: $80
It’s available for everyone. And you can buy in person, by phone, or online.

Plan your visit:

Looking to connect with the parks you love, but can’t manage to get away?
Check out the online explorer series:

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Earth Day

Things that might surprise you about our planet

  1. We’re the third rock from the sun
    Our home, Earth, is the third planet from the sun and the only world known to support an atmosphere with free oxygen, oceans of liquid water on the surface, and — the big one — life. Earth is one of the four terrestrial planets: Like Mercury, Venus, and Mars, it is rocky on the surface.
  2. Earth is a squashed sphere
    Earth is not a perfect sphere. As Earth spins, gravity points toward the center of our planet (assuming for explanation’s sake that Earth is a perfect sphere), and a centrifugal force pushes outward. But since this gravity-opposing force acts perpendicular to the axis of Earth, and Earth’s axis is tilted, centrifugal force at the equator is not exactly opposed to gravity. This imbalance adds up at the equator, where gravity pushes extra masses of water and earth into a bulge, or “spare tire” around our planet.
  3. The planet has a waistline.
    Mother Earth has a generous waistline: At the equator, the circumference of the globe is 24,901 miles (40,075 kilometers). Bonus fact: At the equator, you would weigh less than if standing at one of the poles.
  4. The planet moves around the sun
    Earth isn’t just spinning: It’s also moving around the sun at 67,000 miles (107,826 km) per hour.
  5. Earth is very old
    Researchers calculate the age of the Earth by dating both the oldest rocks on the planet and meteorites that have been discovered on Earth (meteorites and Earth formed at the same time, when the solar system was forming). Their findings? Earth is about 4.54 billion years old. (The oldest known rocks on Earth, called the Nuvvuagittuq Belt are on the coast of the Hudson Bay in Northern Quebec, and dating back to 4.28 billion years ago, scientists estimate.)
  6. The planet is recycled
    The ground you’re walking on is recycled. Earth’s rock cycle transforms igneous rocks to sedimentary rocks to metamorphic rocks and back again. The cycle isn’t a perfect circle, but the basics work like this: Magma from deep in the Earth emerges and hardens into rock (that’s the igneous part). Tectonic processes uplift that rock to the surface, where erosion shaves bits off. These tiny fragments get deposited and buried, and the pressure from above compacts them into sedimentary rocks such as sandstone. If sedimentary rocks get buried even deeper, they “cook” into metamorphic rocks under lots of pressure and heat.
  7. Our moon quakes
    Earth’s moon looks rather dead and inactive. But in fact, moonquakes, or “earthquakes” on the moon, keep things just a bit shook up. Quakes on the moon are less common and less intense than those that shake Earth. According to USGS scientists, moonquakes seem to be related to tidal stresses associated with the varying distance between the Earth and moon.
  8. The hottest spot is in Libya
    The fiery award for Earth’s hottest spot goes to El Azizia, Libya, where temperature records from weather stations reveal it hit 136 degrees Fahrenheit (57.8 degrees Celsius) on Sept. 13, 1922, according to NASA Earth Observatory. There have likely been hotter locations beyond the network of weather stations. (The image was created from data collected by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite.)
  9. The coldest place is in Antarctica
    It may come as no surprise that the coldest place on Earth can be found in Antarctica, but the chill factor is somewhat unbelievable. Winter temperatures there can drop below minus 100 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 73 degrees Celsius)
  10. Antarctica is an extreme continent
    The southern continent is a place of extremes, with the Antarctic ice cap containing some 70 percent of Earth’s fresh water and about 90 percent of its ice, even though it is only the fifth largest continent. Did you know Antarctica is actually considered a desert? Inner regions get just 2 inches (50 millimeters) of precipitation a year (typically as snow, of course).
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Starting a Business, Part II

Last month’s blog introduced steps to starting a business. Today we’ll cover the next five steps, including registration; building your team, choosing vendors, branding/advertising, and the launch.

  1. Register with the government and IRS
    To become an officially recognized business entity, you must register with the government. The details of registration will vary, depending upon your decision to incorporate, form an LLC or just be a sole proprietor. Forming a corporation would require the assistance of a CPA or an attorney. If your business name is particularly unique, you may want to take steps to trademark your business name for extra legal protection.After you register your business, you may need to get an employer identification number (EIN) from the IRS. While this is not required for sole proprietorships with no employees, you may want to apply for one anyway to keep your personal and business taxes separate, or simply to save yourself the trouble later on if you decide to hire someone else. The IRS has provided a checklist to determine whether you will require an EIN to run your business. If you do need an EIN, you can register online for free.You also will need to file certain forms to fulfill your federal and state income tax obligations. The forms you need are determined by your business structure. There is a wealth of information provided at the Small Business Administration website, including a complete list of forms you will need, state-specific tax obligations, federal and state licenses and permits. SBA:
  2. Build your team
    Unless you’re planning to be your only employee, you’re going to need to hire a great team to get your company on a firm foundation for growth. Your people are just as important as your products. Your role as the leader involves how the team will work together. Finding the talents and strengths of each team member is important and leads to defining roles, division of labor, structuring a process for feedback and enhancing the overall culture of your company.
  3. Choose your vendors
    Most businesses need to rely on third-party vendors to help with the workload. Companies in every industry from human resources to business phone systems exist to partner with you and help you run your business as best as possible. Your B2B partners will often have access to vital parts of your business, ranging from your books, to patented materials, or your clients. It’s important to have people you can trust. You should interview them as you would a managerial employee.
  4. Brand yourself and advertise
    The first step in marketing is defining and building a brand. Brands are built on the strengths of your product or service and showing your marketplace what makes you unique. Continuity is key. Create a logo that’s easy to define and be consistent in using it across the marketing platforms, including your website. Social media and your website are how many people will get to know you. Engage your followers with interesting and helpful information, some inspirational messaging and then selling. How you market is just as important as how you provide your product or service. We like the following equation: Your story + style = brand.
  5. Launch and beyond
    Your launch and first sales are only the beginning of your task as an entrepreneur. In order to make a profit and stay afloat, you always need to work at growing your business. It’s going to take time and effort, but you will be rewarded.Look for industry partnerships that will help both companies. Reach out to other firms or non-profits to partner with. You might volunteer some of your time or products to get your name out there. You might find an influential blogger to talk about your product in exchange for free goods or services. Be creative.
  6. Now go grow your business
    Your business will become one of your more rewarding, yet difficult relationships. Continue to learn new ways to improve; mentor your employees; serve your clients with enthusiasm; and look to new leaders to model.
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Do You Have a Broken Sewer Line?

It’s every homeowner’s nightmare: sewer water flooding from toilets across the floor. It’s not just water damage, it’s water damage of the worst kind. While not always preventable, there are signs that you may have a clogged or broken sewer pipe, and if you notice these items, do not delay in getting a sewer drain expert to your home immediately. Continue Reading →

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