Archive for October, 2008

Eagle eye

October 30, 2008

Fay to Z’s post about the world’s best wildlife photos reminded me of the good fun I had last summer watching the young bald eagles on the wildlife cam at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Maryland.

The eagle cam closed down soon after that because the eagles had progressed past the point of spending much time at the nest.

But, after reading the Fay to Z post, I remembered the Web master of the Blackwater site had told me the eagle action would move to the site’s osprey cam in the fall. The ospreys abandon their riverside nest for warmer climes for the winter and the eagles — and other birds — drop by to set a spell or knock back some fish they’ve caught.

1030-eagles-at-the-osprey-cam2.JPG1030-eagles-at-the-osprey-cam.JPGSo I took a look earlier today and… an eagle was there waiting for me.

Then, though, he (she?) left and a different bird arrived. That’s a golden eagle below, right?

          1030-bird-at-the-osprey-cam2.jpg

And then there were three birds there — or almost there.

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Anyway, it’s an always changing scene — and clearly pretty active now, too.

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Orange you glad?

October 30, 2008

A few readers missed last week’s column about the perennially popular topic of when the Indian River fruit truck is going to be in the area.

So here’s the pertinent info, taken from that column:

oranges.jpgAs usual, the Citrus Unlimited truck will set up shop in the parking lot of U.S. Flea Market Mall at 504 North McPherson Church Road in Fayetteville. It’ll be here from 9 to 11 a.m. on Nov. 18, Dec. 16, Jan. 13, Feb. 10 and March 10 (all Tuesdays).  It will be here from 8:30 to 10 a.m. on April 8 and May 6 (both Wednesdays).

The truck will also stop in Aberdeen on those dates. It’ll be in the parking lot of the Mount Fuji Steak House on Sandhills Boulevard from 1 to 3 p.m. for the November through March dates and from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the other dates.

It’ll be in Sanford on Nov. 14, Dec. 21, Jan. 9 and Feb. 6 — all Fridays — from 9 to 11 a.m. oranges2.jpgIt’ll also be there March 10 from 4 to 5:30 p.m. There are no April or May dates there. In Sanford, the truck sets up in the Kmart parking lot on South Horner Boulevard.

For more info, check Citrus Unlimited’s Web site or call (772) 460-6081. Citrus Unlimited sells fruit grown in the Indian River area of Florida.

Pushing the envelope

October 29, 2008

the-right-stuff.jpgToday’s column is about the origin of this phrase and I wanted to link here to a couple of other explanations.

This one, from 1988, is by language maven William Safire of The New York Times. This one, from the U.K.-based Phrase Finder, has lots of mind-bending math with it.

Another question deals with voting rules. You can find more information on such rules at the Board of Elections’ site. And check out this post from yesterday about how many people have already voted in Cumberland County.

At this rate, who *won’t* have already voted by Election Day?

October 28, 2008

I was talking to a local election-board worker to find out something for a Live Wire reader and asked her how many registered voters had cast ballots so far.

I’m amazed and astounded at her answer: 45,208 out of 206,645 registered voters in the county. Wow! And those numbers aren’t complete. The 206,645 figure was as of Oct. 21 and the 45, 208 figure didn’t include absentee votes or some people who registered the same day as they voted.

That puts turnout at over 21 percent already, a week before Election Day.

You fruit cake

October 28, 2008

A&P is long gone from this area, but folks’ fond memories of the supermarket chain’s Jane Parker-brand fruit cakes live on and on and on — much the way fruit cakes do. Just kidding about that last part.

jane-parker-light-fruit-cake.jpgEvery year for many years, I’ve gotten many requests from people who want to know how to order Jane Parker fruit cakes. You used to have to call a hard-to-find toll-free number to place an order — and hope that you got yours in before the chain ran out of fruit cakes.

Now, though, A&P has entered the 20th 21st century and made it so you can order the fruit cakes online, too. Woohoo. (Thanks to Andy, who recently pointed this out.)

Go here to order a Jane Parker fruit cake. Or call (866) 443-7374.

With the energy-efficiency tax-free weekend approaching

October 27, 2008

energystar.jpgIt’s nearly upon us — it’s next weekend, from 12:01 a.m. Friday to 11:59 p.m. Sunday.

I’ve written several times about this new sales-tax holiday for purchases of certain energy-efficient appliances, including qualified clothes washers, freezers and refrigerators, central air conditioners and room air conditioners, air-source heat pumps and geothermal heat pumps, ceiling fans, dehumidifiers and programmable thermostats.

You can read about the specifics of it here and a bit more about it here.

A couple of readers didn’t really believe me on all this. All I can say is: It’s for real. The N.C. Department of Revenue has its summary of the holiday here.

central_ac.jpgMeanwhile, you may save even more money on purchases of heating and cooling equipment through a federal tax-credit program.

In a press release, the Alliance to Save Energy says tax credits are available for certain investments in making your home more energy efficient.

They include a credit of up to $300 on the purchase and installation of a central air conditioner, heat pump, water heater, or bio gas (e.g. corn) stove. But, ASE notes, the equipment must meet stringent efficiency requirements. Not even all Energy Star products will qualify.

ASE says there is also a separate credit, through 2016, for qualified geothermal heat pumps – 30 percent of the cost, up to $2,000.

I haven’t had time to check how these federal tax-credit requirements square up with the state’s tax-holiday requirements but, if you’re making one of these purchases this weekend, you may want to. Meanwhile, if you’ve already invested in this equipment this year, you’ll want to know about the tax credit. ASE has information about it here.

energy-star-windows.jpgThere are also other federal tax credits available for certain energy-efficiency-related home improvements, which aren’t covered in the upcoming sales tax holiday.

They’re for purchases (and sometimes installation costs) of such things as insulation, exterior doors, or roofs; exterior windows, including skylights and storm windows; and a furnace or boiler. See the ASE Web site for all the details.

Catching up

October 24, 2008

Whew. While I was away from Live Wire, covering the Fay to Z blog while Greg Phillips was on vacation, the questions really stacked up. I have well over 100 in the pile and will do my best to get to as many as I can as soon as I can.

In the meantime, I’m going to post some information here that might help some questioners until I can get them complete answers. These were e-mailed questions so I know the askers have Internet access.

morganton-road-bridge.jpeg*L.L. has noticed the preliminary work on the area around the Morganton Road bridge, which is to be replaced, and she wonders if she can get some of the plants that will be necessarily removed or if they’ll be used somewhere else and not simply tossed away.

I’m told that generally — not always — the plants are at the disposal of the contractor doing the work. That may be the case here but I haven’t confirmed it (people are unavailable). But if you’re driving by and see a worker from the contractor — Balfour Beatty Infrastructure — it can’t hurt to ask.

Sometimes, apparently, ownership of the plants can revert back to the person/entity who owned the property before the state acquired it.

star-wars.png*D.M.’s son wants to write George Lucas. He should so so in care of Lucasfilm at P.O. Box 29901, San Francisco, CA 94129.

apple-orchard.jpg*D.G. wonders if there’s a pick-your-own apple orchard relatively close to Fayetteville. Answer: Not that I know of. Apples don’t grow that well around here. Here are some reasons why. Here‘s a tremendous resource for finding pick-your-own farms for any sort of crop, as well as farm stands, farmer’s markets, and nurseries and garden centers.

Personal note: A friend who lives in the mountains brought me a Honeycrisp apple last weekend. Mmm. Really delicious!

lemoncar.jpg*G.T. feels he was ripped off by a car dealer over a 1999 Jaguar that he paid about $8,700 for. He says its engine quickly went bad and the dealer should have known it and warned him about it. The sale was “as is.” I’ve written many, many times about the legalities surrounding purchases of used cars, the due-diligence that consumers ought to perform before plunking down their cash, and the particulars of the state’s lemon law. Info on those topics is here.

girlsense.png*B.R. is looking for information about the GirlSense Web site because her granddaughter wants to set up an account there. This story has some extremely basic information about the site and here‘s a little more. Meanwhile, there are tips in this previous Live Wire column for parents (and grandparents) whose underage kids want to go on social-networking sites such as GirlSense.

Money matters — boy, does it

October 10, 2008

You may have noticed I was also tackling questions in the business section this week — having to do with how the rotten stock market and its corresponding corrosive effect on the economy might affect your investments, your bank, your credit needs and your job.coaster-1.jpg

Here, I wanted to give some links to more info that you may or may not find useful as the stock market swoops steeply up or down — mostly down, though, of late.

Investment talk

money-running-away.jpgSurviving it all: Money mag suggests 9 ways to tough it out, including how to earn a yield of nearly 5%, how to “ladder” CDs for safety and income, how to know when a stock is a bargain, how to rebalance (what’s left of) your portfolio, and so forth.

401k advice: This not-unexpected advice is from an exec with a company that makes its business of advising and managing accounts in defined benefit plans.

When you’re ready to dip your toe back into the market: Yeah, some of you are saying: as if. But c’mon, you will one day. They’re chewing over ideas all over the place, including at The Motley Fool, The New York Times Economix blog, and The Street.

Bank safety

Consumer information from the FDIC: This is the agency’s gateway site for such info. FYI: Here’s the site for the N.C. Commissioner of Banks as well.

piggybank.jpgBank rating services: You can find the links to many such services here. Among the sites listed there is one operated by Bankrate.com, which is itself a very worthy site for all kinds of consumer-oriented financial information. It has a special section devoted to ensuring that your money in the bank is safely insured by the FDIC.

Info about the federal insurance program for credit unions: This program really is backed by the federal government. You can learn all about it at this site, which is operated by the National Credit Union Administration. Here’s the site for the state agency that regulates credit unions.

Credit info

Need a credit counselor? Check the Federal Trade Commission’s tips on choosing a credit counselor first. The National Foundation for Credit Counseling represents more than 900 nonprofit credit-counseling offices around the country.

Your credit score: How to improve it and why it’s so important.

Job tips in a tough market

find-a-job.jpgIf you’re unemployed: Check in with the N.C. Employment Security Commission or, at least, the job listings on its Web site.

Wanna protect your job? Tips from a columnist at U.S. News & World Report.

Wanna stay in your career — at your same job or somewhere else? A blogger at the San Francisco Examiner offers some ideas.

If you’re looking: Tips for older job seekers, tips if you’re going to be attending job fairs, even more tips if you’re going to be attending job fairs, networking is important, but be careful how you network at online social sites.

Free antennas!

October 10, 2008

Today’s column deals with the alert that DLee gave here on the blog earlier: Yes, WRAL gives antennas away to folks in its designated market area who need that equipment to pick up a TV signal off the air.happy-tv.gif

And no, you don’t need this if you have cable or satellite service.

Go here to download the application for a free antenna.

If you want more info on the coming digital TV changeover, I’ve written about it many times here on the blog. You can do a search for “digital” and pull up a bunch of posts. Here are a couple of the most recent ones, from Sept. 17 and, well, from later that same day.

Don’t miss WRAL’s tips for receiving over-the-air digital TV.

Is your money safe?

October 6, 2008

(note: I originally posted this on Sept. 30 but I’m reposting it so it’s at the top of the blog. More info will be posted later.) 

And other financial questions that may be in your mind these days. fdic-logo.jpg

What kinds of bank accounts are insured and up to what amounts? This is addressed in today’s column and you can check this Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. site for more detailed information.

ncua-logo.jpgBut what if my money’s in a credit union? The National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund, which is run by the National Credit Union Administration, insures share accounts at all federally chartered credit unions and most state-chartered credit unions up to the same amounts as with the FDIC and its member banks.

stock-market-down-777.jpgI’m just a regular person. What am I supposed to think — and do — about all this? The “Your Money” column in The New York Times addresses a number of saving/investing questions that are on people’s minds. MarketWatch has six suggestions on how to handle the crisis. And Consumer Reports has ten suggestions on what to do — and not do.

What will this do to my credit options? It will almost certainly reduce them — and credit standards have toughened. This Newsweek story lays out the situation.

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Are we in for a depression? Things aren’t that depressing (yet), according to a bunch of economists.

What’s the difference between a depression and a recession? There’s the old jokey definition: If your neighbor loses his job, it’s a recession. If you lose your job, it’s a depression. This site, which reminded us of that joke (or “joke,” as the case may be), has the info on that. Whatever the term, times are tight, so you might want to check this Consumer Reports site on ways to pinch pennies.

What’s the Oracle of Omaha think? Widely regarded as one of the greatest investors ever — and as a paragon of good sense — billionaire Warren Buffett is among those supporting a bailout. Of course, he just sank $5 billion into troubled market player Goldman Sachs — but he’s noted for buying when others are afraid to and making money off his moves.