What kills us?

Aaron Carroll is a physician and health policy researcher. He produces a series of videos called Healthcare Triage which answer a lot of questions people have about medicine, health, and healthcare. In his recent video, he talks about risk and mortality, saying:

One of the things that baffles me about people is how they completely misunderstand risk. Lots of my friends panic about things that have no real chance of killing them, but ignore the things that will. This can lead us to make irrational decisions, and sometimes irrational policy. What really will kill us? Watch and learn.

Read more about where he got his statistics:

No matter the odds, we never know what life has in store for us … and that’s where insurance comes in. Take reasonable precautions to lower your risk of injury or death and have protection in place to minimize the financial impact of any problems that do occur. If you have dependents who rely on your income, be sure to have adequate life insurance in place.

See our prior related posts

What’s Actually Dangerous?

Beach-goers: Worry less about sharks and more about surf and sand hazards

What are the odds? Mortality calculators

Boston Strong: Hope & Resiliency One Year Later

Portrait of Heather Abbott by @dearworld

Portrait of Heather Abbott by @dearworld

On this, the one year year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing, we revisit some of the lives that were touched by the terrible events of that day and bring you inspiring stories of strength and resilience.

First, we note with pride that Renaissance Alliance Agency Principal, Jeff Helm will be running the Boston Marathon for Mass General’s Emergency Response Fund Marathon Team. He and his teammates, many of whom were caregivers at last year’s tragic bombing, are raising money to support disaster preparedness training throughout the city and state. You can donate to this great cause at MGH Emergency Response Fund Team. You can also read recovery stories and donate to the Boston One Fund or donate blood in honor of the Boston Marathon anniversary.

Here are some stories of a few of the people who were profoundly affected by events last year. They are stories of courage, hope and community.

DEAR WORLD: Boston Marathon is a very moving photo tribute of survivors and responders returning to the finish line. See the short clip below. We opened this post with a portrait of Heather Abbott from this series. She chose the message “Less Leg, More Heart” and explains why:

“…since I lost my leg at the Boston Marathon, I’ve become what the world considers and certainly America considers a handicapped person. And that’s a very new concept for me having been a healthy woman in my thirties before the marathon. I have a new appreciation for people who are considered handicapped and a new compassion for them and the struggles they go through. I think that the experience of losing my leg has made me become more compassionate, so I may have less of a leg now, but I think my heart is bigger because of it.”

Marathon Bombing Survivor Loses Limbs But Finds New Life

Surviving the Finish Line

For Richard family, loss and love

Amid chaos near finish line, bond was forged

For a list of help resources and information about coping with PTSD, see Boston Marathon Anniversary Resources. Also, residents and first responders should note that today and again on race day next Monday, free counseling will be available to residents. The counseling sessions, which will be operated by trained mental health clinicians, are available at the Boston Public Library on Tuesday, the anniversary of the marathon bombings, and at Our Lady of Victories Church in Copley Square on April 22. Additionally, counseling will be available over the phone via the Mayor’s Health Line.

Hug a First Responder today
Last year, 3 people died and 16 lost limbs. The total fatalities could have been far worse if it weren’t for the courage and bravery of first responders, many of whom still struggle with the events: First responders still in grip of Marathon’s horror. While the first human reaction to danger is to run away, our first responders run towards it to save lives. Nothing exemplified the difference that they make like their bravery in the Boston bombing. Hug a first responder today!

A just-for-fun Friday post: animals solving problems

As the week winds to a close, we thought we’d share a few of our favorite recent video finds about animals solving problems.

Lucy the smart beagle figures out how to get what she wants.

Next, here’s how “Ninja cat” solves his problem.

This is one octopus that is determined to figure out how to get dinner.

Finally, this baby moose needed some human intervention to get out of her jam.

We hope you’ll have a problem-free weekend!

The average home burglary is a hit and run affair – burglars generally spend 8 to 12 minutes ransacking a home to find cash and valuables. Experts say that bedrooms are one of the first places checked – in bedside tables, in bureaus, and under the mattress. Bathrooms and kitchens are a high search target – often burglars are looking for drugs or money hidden in the “sugar bowl.” Also, home offices and desks are often the place where safes or valuable documents are kept.

Deadbolt locks, lights and alarms are all good deterrents. You should also take precautions before going on a trip. Plus, if you have any prized or valuable collections, make sure you tell your agent and talk over a rider to your homeowners policy to ensure they are covered should your security measures fail.

All that being said, we enjoyed some of the ideas presented in 8 Secret Spots to Hide Valuables at Home. We particularly liked the “Head of Iceberg Lettuce Safe” pictured above which is linked in the article. This is an unusual version of what are often called diversion safes – common household objects either hollowed out or with hidden compartments.

This article reminded us of some creative ways to camouflage your laptop if you worry about theft at the airport or the coffee shop.

Laptop Pizza Box disguise

How to make a laptop sleeve from a FedEx envelope

Make your Macbook a classic

Foreign newspaper disguise

Learn the “best times to buy” to unlock the best deals

best times to buyYou probably know that the late summer/early fall is a good time to buy a car. The new models are out and dealers are often willing to deeply discount any remainders from last year’s stock. You may also know that January is traditionally a time for “white sales,” with good deals on sheets and linens. But do you know the best time to buy cameras, cruises or jewelry? Every industry has it’s annual cycles and a time when new products are introduced — but other than a few well-promoted items like cars and linens, most people don’t know the inside timing info to get the best deals.

Lifehacker has a handy feature covering the best times to buy anything in 2014, broken down by month and by quarter. They offer a handy chart, along with a more in depth explanation and links to other resources that offer more details on the item. It’s pretty handy. They also have a great infographic on the best times to shop online.

Don’t forget about insurance for new purchases
If you are making a purchase of an expensive item, you may want to talk to your agent about any insurance considerations. Cars or vehicles require an update to your coverage. Expensive jewelry or collectibles may require a special rider on your homeowners policy. You can always call your agent to ask – better to be safe than sorry. And for normal household goods, remember to update your home inventory. Here are some prior blog posts with more  information on these topics.

Insurance tips to protect expensive electronic gifts

New Year’s Resolution: inventory your possessions

Home inventories: There’s an app for that!

Hiding your valuables

Don’t let scammers intercept your tax refund!

scam bait

If you have a tax refund coming, you are anxious to get it as soon as possible, right?

That’s what smart thieves are counting on and they are posing as the IRS in phone calls, emails, texts and websites to promise a faster return hoping you will supply sensitive information so they can intercept you tax refund.

There are also tax phone scams with fake IRS callers saying you owe money and threatening immediate arrest, deportation or fines if you don’t pay instantly or supply sensitive information to prevent some dire consequence.

Be very skeptical of any calls or emails from the IRS. At this time of year in particular, it may be criminals trying to intercept your tax refund. Tax fraud is surging. The government estimates that scams will cost taxpayers $21 billion this year. Don’t be one of the victims! See the current IRS Tax Fraud Alerts.

If you get a threatening phone call or a phone call promising a faster refund, do these two things:

Not all scams are by phone
Similar rules go for emails or text messages purporting to be from the IRS. Phishing emails and phishing sites can be very sophisticated and look surprisingly realistic. PCWorld offers common-sense security advice that everyone should know: 10 tips to protect your tax return from theft and fraud

Today, the Portland Press Herald reports on a number of stolen identity tax refund scam victims in Portland’s medical community. The article says it works like this:

“From a home computer, with tax software or free forms from the IRS, an identity thief can submit a fake return that generates a substantial refund. That refund can be deposited electronically in any bank account, to multiple bank accounts or even to a prepaid debit card. By the time the legitimate taxpayer or the IRS discovers the scheme, the thief can be long gone. “

It can happen to anyone. People are all righteously angry when personal data is leaked by a large corporation’s security failures, but it’s all too common for individuals to be duped into willingly handing over sensitive data to criminal phishers. It’s essential for all of us to take the time to learn how to be secure and skeptical online and off.

We’ve talked about this repeatedly on the blog because it’s such an important topic. For more information, see our archive of posts on tax scams and tax fraud.

How the web celebrated April Fool’s Day 2014

After a bit of investigating, we are prepared to state that our favorite April Fool’s Day fun is LinkedIn for Cats. We are totally disappointed that this is not a real thing.

kitty-linkedinWe considered pranking you, our readers, with an announcement of 20% MA auto rate increase but we didn’t want risk the wrath of the regulators or the actuaries. (It’s totally false, but there are some rumors afoot that actuaries are humor impaired. )

Instead, we offer a roundup of some of the Web’s best April Fool pranks of 2014. Be warned – we’ve tried to screen most, but we can’t be 100% sure that all of these are safe for work. It is April Fool’s, after all.

April Fools’ Day jokes 2014 – the best on the web
The Guardian gathers many global pranks, including announcements that a penguin at a zoo in Devon has laid a golden egg, that a new vegemite-flavored soda is being launched, that experts are baffled by a square egg, that farms are breeding lambs with six legs and that Great Britain is banning selfies, among others.We were amused by by this message from the Choir of King’s College Cambridge saying that, that from now on, high vocal parts will be performed by altos breathing helium.

Here in the US, Time.com offers The Best April Fools’ Pranks of 2014, including announcements about a new line of Presidential underwear line, a Cheetos-scented perfume, a travel service that reviews the best bathroom stalls, an edible Domino’s pizza box, a bourbon-scented sunscreen and more.

TNW covers some of The best tech April Fools’ Day jokes of 2014. We enjoyed many, but we particularly liked the new Opera browser designed specifically for cats.

And if you just can’t get enough, check out the Museum of Hoaxes huge April Fool Archives. It’s a year-by-year catalog of the entire history of April Fool’s Day. You can browse the archive by year and time-period, to find out what pranks, jokes, and hoaxes were perpetrated on all the various April Firsts throughout history. Or you can browse it by category.

Water in the basement: What does insurance cover?


With the heavy rains over the weekend. we’ve noticed an increase in site visitors searching for insurance information about water damage in cellars and basements. If you’ve had water problems from the recent rains, check out our prior post  Does homeowners insurance cover a flooded basement? The post includes an short overview, a video on water damage and some helpful links.

For more information, visit the Insurance Information Institute’s article on Flood Damage Vs. Water Damage

Also see Flood Insurance: Are You Covered? from the  Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS).

If you have severe damage, you may want to seek the help of a professional restoration service. For Do-it-yourself crowd, see Drying Out a Wet Basement and How To: Dry a Wet Basement.

Two common household items that are very dangerous to your kids


Button batteries are toxic and may cause serious injury to your child if swallowed. We find these micro batteries in more and more common products from remote controls to greeting cards. While some used in toys are secured, many are more accessible and parents need to take particular care to keep products with batteries away from small children.

Single portion laundry packets are also alluring to young children – they often are packaged in bright, colors, are squishy to the touch and also smell good. They are attractive and may seem like candy or toys to kids. It’s important to store them properly.

Calling 1-800-222-1222 will connect you to a poison center that serves your area. Poison centers are open to take your call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, in 161 languages, as well as from the hearing impaired. You can also find a Poison Center near you on this clickable map.

You Had One Job: Funny on-the-job flubs

Mistakes happen in life, even big ones. Insurance can help you with the costly ones.

carrotsWe can’t think of a better site to kick off the work week than “You Had One Job.”  This is a site that documents  on-the-job blunders, flubs and screw-ups. We see photo after photo of poor workmanship – poorly designed products, stairs that lead to nowhere, embarrassing sign typos and mislabeled products. While some are no doubt mistakes, we have to think that many must be passive-aggressive in the “take this job and shove it” genre. We’ve included a sampling of a few of our favorites below – click for more. (And here’s hoping your work week goes better than it did for these hapless workers!)