Spring Cleaning…getting rid of the wood burning fireplace

Spring is the time of year when many engage in a little extra cleaning around the house.  This year we added another item to the annual work order—Get rid of the wood burning fireplace!

1Before 1 IMG_0039

After a winter of “spare the air” days last winter, we decided it was time to move on…and away…from toasty wood burning evenings in the family room.  This, of course, required contracting with professionals to carry it out.  We still wanted a supplemental heating unit in that room and elected to go with an electrical unit instead of a natural gas unit.

So we got out of the way, so to speak, and within a few days, Ohana Construction  of  Petaluma presented us with this…

DSCF6274WEB

Now, when we want to take the chill off the room, we merely have to click a remote! No more kindling…no more ashes…no more checking on whether it is a “Spare the Air” day.

_____________________________

 Work Photos

Photo Gallery (Click to Open)

 

 

Shopping Cart Protest in Petaluma!

Given the unrest in various quarters of our society, both locally and nationally, it was no surprise that a group of shopping carts decided to occupy a local shopping center. They were objecting to the tracking devices, wheel locks, and other restrictions being placed on some of their fellow carts, thus inhibiting their unrestricted movement around and about town… 

CARTS HAVE RIGHTS! © Frank Simpson

The protest was also a warning to future carts at shopping centers under construction that it could happen to them also if they did not stand up for their rights to freedom of movement…

Carts on Strike! © Frank Simpson

What will happen next? I hear rumors that plastic bags are organizing! They are angry about proposals to ban them and to otherwise limit their freedoms. They are particularly upset over treatment such as this…

Shopping Bag Abuse! © Frank Simpson

Yes, indeed! Things are very interesting in Petaluma on this April 1, 2012.

Happy April Fool’s Day

The Drug Problem in Your Medicine Cabinet

The proper disposal of leftover or out of date pharmaceuticals is receiving more attention as part of a national concern over contamination of our water tables.

Think this is not a problem in your household? Just for fun, check your medicine cabinets, dresser drawers and cupboards to determine how many pill bottles and medications are in your home…

  • How many are current?
  • How many are out of date?
  • How many are no longer being used?

In Sonoma County, local officials from many jurisdictions and agencies have developed a joint program to remedy the problem by creating recycling locations around the county–The Safe Medicine Disposal Program.

Background

According to the Centers For Disease Control: Almost 50% of the US population has taken at least one prescription drug in the last month. In the United States, 2.34 Billion prescriptions are issued annually. 

Add the volume of over the counter (OTC) drugs and household inventories can build up dramatically.

While most drugs and pills are consumed, many are not due to changes in treatment, recovery, or death. If discarded drugs and medicines are not kept out of our landfills and waste-water systems, they will contaminate our water table by leaching out from the landfills or passing through (in whole or in part) even the most sophisticated waste-water filtering systems.

So, what do we do with the household inventory of out of date or unused medications and drugs? In the past, the advice and practice was to simply throw them in the trash or flush them down the toilet. Today, such disposal practices are not recommended–if not illegal in some jurisdictions.

The better practice is to gather all of your unused or out of date medications, pills, lotions, liquids, etc. and take them to a location that will ensure their safe disposal.

Sonoma County water agencies are now providing such convenient disposal options…

Sonoma County Safe Medicine Disposal Program

The Safe Medicine Disposal Program is a countywide pharmaceuticals recycling program jointly managed by several agencies providing convenient locations for you to safely dispose of unwanted medicines without charge. It has been in operation since 2008. For more infomration on the program and disposal sites, go to Safe Medicine Disposal and Sonoma County Drop-Off Locations

Heather Johnson, Santa Rosa Environmental Compliance Inspector, provided numbers measuring the growing effectiveness of the program: 

Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park, Cotati, Sebastopol

  • 2008–2552 pounds
  • 2009–4492 pounds
  • 2010–7475 pounds
  • 2011–4612 pounds to date

To fully appreciate these numbers, note that they are exclusive of bottle or container weight.

In Petaluma, Jamil Harb of The Medicine Shoppe advises that his take back program is currently processing 100 pounds a month.

In addition, an official of Petaluma’s Water Resources & Conservation Department advises that they are setting up a disposal site program at “…two public building locations (one to serve the western sections of the community and one to serve the eastern portions)…Our goal is to have the full-time program in place by the end of the summer in time to be announced in the fall newsletter.” 

The Department recently sponsored a one day take back program at the Petaluma Senior Center that recovered 114 pounds.

Below are related links providing additional information on medicine disposal and related recycling issues.

Sources & Reference Links

REDUX–First Your Home…Now Your Pension?

My article of September 21, 2010 regarding pension overpayment recoveries produced several e-mail responses and inquiries, particularly concerning the 76 year old female Alzheimer’s patient who had been receiving a pension for 11 years.

I can now provide a few additional facts.

The pension in question started with a 1999 letter from the employer’s pension administrator that opened with, “This will confirm that you are entitled to receive a vested accrued benefit under the…Plan in the amount of $… per month…for your lifetime.” Then, as I reported previously, on September 17th of this year, she received a letter from the bank currently administering the pension advising that she had been overpaid and they were asking her to repay $42,814.42.

The bank in question is Wells Fargo. To be precise, the letter came from Wells Fargo Institutional Retirement and Trust in Minneapolis, MN. Wells Fargo recently took over administration of the pension after acquiring Wachovia. The underlying pension is an employer plan subject to the rules and regulations of  ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act).

The pensioner’s 81-year-old husband, as Power of Attorney, has filed an appeal of the decision in accordance with ERISA.  In addition, he has contacted an attorney familiar with this area of the law.

I also became aware of an advocacy group for pension rights and I am including a portion of a recent e-mail from that organization:

“Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention.  As you may have seen in the Wall Street Journal article you mentioned in your blog, we work in conjunction with several legal assistance projects across the country.  The lead attorney for the Western States Pension Assistance Project was also quoted in that article.  This project, with funding from the U.S. Administration on Aging (AOA), provides free pension assistance to individuals who live in California (among several other states).”

Pension Rights Center in Washington, DC (www.pensionrights.org).

That’s all for now. I will keep you up to date as circumstances warrant.

First Your Home…Now Your Pension?

You can’t trust anyone or anything…

Except for my landscaper and my computer guru, this is my motto.

The front page article in last Sunday’s Press Democrat, System stymies mortgage fix simply reinforces my world view when it comes to banks and other financial institutions and their recent mortgage practices.

But for those who may not have mortgage woes, take no comfort.  You, too, may soon be subjected to the whims of financial institutions and insurance companies in other aspects of your life.

Consider this story from somewhere in Northern California as it may apply to you or someone you know…

YOUR PENSION

You are retired. Note

You’re collecting your pension….perhaps for many years. Red rose

Then, one day you get a letter from the institution paying your pension saying: “Oops! So sorry, we miscalculated and have been overpaying you. Please forward $42,814.42 within 10 days.”  Storm cloud

Impossible, you think. Unfortunately, such tactics are becoming a common practice. Wilted rose

In a current local case, a 76 year old pensioner had been receiving a pension for 11 years until presented with an overnight letter on September 17, 2010, advising that she had been overpaid and she had 10 days to accept the repayment terms outlined in the letter.  What really adds spice to the story is that the pensioner is an advanced Alzheimer’s patient in an assisted living facility.  There are a lot of other very “interesting” facts associated with the story. I am holding them back until it matures further…also in the hope that the bank comes to its senses and I can drop it.

The Wall Street Journal recently published an excellent article detailing this new phenomenon of recalculating pensions and how some people are fighting back.  I recommend it to you. In fact, if you are currently receiving a pension, it is essential that you read it.  Click on ‘Overpaid’ Pensions Being Seized.

There are ways of resisting such claims for repayment. However, one needs to hire a lawyer familiar with ERISA (The Employee Retirement Income Security Act) and benefits law to negotiate and litigate.  In many instances, the pensioner can rightly claim equitable estoppel if they can prove that it was reasonable for them to rely upon the original representation of their pension amount.  

There are no guarantees, and frankly, I suspect many people will not realize that they need legal assistance, much less have the resources to hire a lawyer.  Notwithstanding, I think that lawyers may stand in line to take this one on…

Stay tuned…