Friday fun post: 1,000 working ducks with a job to do!


photo: Mike Hutchings / Reuters

Spring is in the air, so your thoughts may be turning to your garden. If so, you may enjoy this fascinating story about an army of working ducks. It’s a story that may have particular interest to gardeners who are thinking ahead to garden planting and maintenance, including the age-old battle of pest control. One South African vineyard has the ultimate organic solution to control slugs and snails: Ducks. Reuters features a must-see pictorial by photographer Mike Hutchings and correspondent Wendell Roelf, called Quacks Squad on the Hunt. The story includes an amusing video of ducks on the march – turn on your sound for the full effect – and a slideshow of photos.

Here is a clip narrated by the duck farmer that offers a little more detail.

If you’re getting started on your garden, but a thousand ducks don’t seem like a practical pest control solution for you, check out these great videos on gardening from local meteorologist and horticulturalist Dave Epstein – search for “pest” to get tips on controlling garden critters. It’s just one part of his site called Growing Wisdom, a one-stop shop for New England weather reports and gardening tips. You can also follow Dave on Twitter.

‘Tis the season


Portrait of Santa Claus carrying huge red sack with presents

 

It’s Friday afternoon in the middle of the holiday season, a perfect time to offer a seasonal serenade – a medley of songs and carols for your amusement!

If you’ll be shopping on or offline this weekend, be sure to check out our post from last year on seasonal fraud: Scam-apalooza! Don’t let fraud ruin your holiday

3 important things converge this month: Pets, Insurance and National Preparedness Month


It’s National Preparedness Month, your annual reminder to plan in advance for how you’d weather an emergency or natural disaster such as a hurricane, wildfire, flood or crippling winter storm. Ready.gov urges us all to prepare in advance for emergencies, and offers great tips for how to do that. Part of that planning includes preparing for your pets. Every time there’s a national disaster, we hear heartbreaking stories of pets that were left behind in the rush to safety. Thankfully, dedicated pet rescuers join the recovery efforts and manage to save many of these animals – but they are sometimes never reunited with their humans. Planning for your family includes emergency planning for your family pet.

There’s another kind of pet planning you might consider this month, too: It’s National Pet Health Insurance Month. Pet veterinary care can be costly: “A report from the American Pet Products Association (APPA) shows that Americans spent $60.59 billion on their pets last year, a quarter of which was spent on veterinary care.” (See Before Your Dog Gets Sick, Consider Pet Insurance).

Today, there are more and more pet insurance or veterinary financing options available than ever before. Why not pick up the phone and talk to your independent agent about insurance options for taking care of your pets?

And as a bit of motivation, and because it’s Friday, here are some pet videos that might melt your heart.

Anticipation … you couldn’t leave this poor fellow at home alone in an emergency, could you?

Your moment of Zen – these kittens are still in the pet store but they need your care.

“These sure are funny looking leaping puppies,” thinks Maymo …

This bird will never let you hear the end of it if you forget about him in an emergency

Without human help, cats could take over the world

Fraud alert: Thieves are trying to steal your medical identity!


medical id theftYou’re no doubt aware of the dangers of identity theft, but have you heard of medical identity theft? It appears that thieves are not only eager to steal your personal information to make purchases, intercept your tax returns, open accounts or commit crimes, they’d also like to pose as you to get expensive medical services. It’s a serious, growing crime that can put your financial and physical health at risk. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) describes medical identity theft this way:

A thief may use your name or health insurance numbers to see a doctor, get prescription drugs, file claims with your insurance provider, or get other care. If the thief’s health information is mixed with yours, your treatment, insurance and payment records, and credit report may be affected.

Consumer Reports offers a good article on The Rise of Medical Identity Theft, noting that there were an estimated 2.3 million cases identified in 2014. They explain that it’s a crime that can go well beyond financial repercussions:

But there’s another, far more dangerous problem with medical identity theft: The thief’s own medical treatment, history, and diagnoses can get mixed up with your own electronic health records—potentially tainting and complicating your care for years to come. And that isn’t a hypothetical problem.

“About 20 percent of victims have told us that they got the wrong diagnosis or treatment, or that their care was delayed because there was confusion about what was true in their records due to the identity theft,” says Ann Patterson, a senior vice president of the Medical Identity Fraud Alliance (MIFA), a group of several dozen healthcare organizations and businesses working to reduce the crime and its negative effects.

Scary, right? Even scarier is that the thieves may be in your house right now! Consumer Reports notes that medical identity theft is sometimes called “friendly fraud” because it’s often perpetrated by family members. They cite a study by the Poneman Institute in which 47% of the respondents said the theft was perpetrated by a relative or someone else they knew, while only 10% was attributed to a data breach and 12% due to having been tricked into providing personal information.

Like identity theft, anyone can be a victim, but two groups are at particularly high risk:

  • The elderly, who may be more susceptible to scams
  • Children, whose health and financial records may not be guarded as carefully they should be

What can you do to protect yourself against this type of theft? Here’s a good place to start. Consumer Reports offers 10 Ways to Guard Against Medical Identity Theft. As with anything else, half the battle is awareness. Understanding the danger and taking basic precautions can help. Here are some other good medical identity theft resources:

Thinking about home renovation? Three words: Planning, planning, planning


Home renovation can increase the value of your home, protect your investment, and make your home a more enjoyable place to live. But if you’re thinking about renovating, it’s really important not to shortchange the planning process.

Consumer Reports has some good start-to-finish advice for you in a recent issue. In addition to the short video clip in this post, they offer advice in the article, Home Renovation Without Aggravation. They outline steps you should take in the planning phase through the work phase, with tips to to help combat shady contractor practices and avoid common and costly mistakes many homeowners make.

The feature also includes these useful articles:

One important consideration in any home renovation is maximizing your investment, particularly for resale value. Not all renovations are created equal, some yield a better return than others. We like the infographic and accompanying article from Fix.com: Six Renovations that Actually Increase the Value of Your Home.


Source: Fix.com Blog