Sunday, July 25, 2010

Saving On Air Conditioning During this Heat Wave

With the record heat covering the country right now it's important for people to think about how to efficiently and effectively use their air conditioning. By simply using your air conditioning properly you reduce what is, for many of us, one of our largest house hold summer expenses.

Even better is that it's good for the environment and it takes some of the burden off of our overloaded electrical grid. For it is these peak times of electrical usage in the summer, as we all seek some relief from the sweltering heat, that the electric companies and their aging power grids face a crisis in delivery. This it no better shown than in the many areas that have constant black out or brown out problems during these seasonal heat waves every year.

So keeping that in mind I ask you all to do two things.

First check with your electric provider and see if they have any programs such as we have here in Kansas to help. In Wichita and many other parts of the state serviced by Westar Energy they will come in and install FREE electronic thermostats that greatly reduce cost since these state of the art units allow them to control the cycling of a home owners unit. Just being able to not have every unit in an area come on at the same time prevents spikes in electrical usage that benefit us all.

Better still they will promise to reduce your electric bills by 20%. Which from my own personal experience has happened. That's a win-win situation if there ever was one. (Kansas residents you can read about the WattSaver program here on Westar's website.)

And Second take some time to really study up on just what are good air conditioning practices. So may false ideas and misconceptions are out there that no one article can address them all. But by simply doing some on line research you can find lots of information that will help you to be a better more aware electrical consumer and stay cool in the process.

A good article to start with is one that is on Yahoo right now about air conditioning myths. You might be surprised at some of the things you believe that simply aren't true.

So start with this article Five air-conditioning Myths.

And PLEASE remember to be careful in this heat and be sure to check up on those neighbors, family, and friends you know that might be at risk due to age, health, or economic hardship. No one should die from the summer heat but every year many do.

In fact this article came about after I learned of a friend who just this last Thursday lost their mother due to the heat. She had apparently been trying to save money and not running her air conditioning during the day. That mistake cost her life. And it will forever haunt her children who by not checking on her feel they allowed it to happen. Go with Gods' grace Edna Brown you will be missed by many!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

What Plastic Bottles are Safe from Leaching Chemicals

With all the rumors and confusing information you hear about plastic bottles today (especially plastic water bottles) what are the facts and are any of them safe.

Well fortunately a great article on the subject can be found at Trusted MD a site that is respected and contains information that is known to be from reliable sources.

And while I think you should really read the whole article the basics of what was conveyed were as follows;


To be certain that you are choosing a bottle that does not leach, check the recycling symbol on your bottle. If it is a #2 HDPE (high density polyethylene), or a #4 LDPE (low density polyethylene), or a #5 PP (polypropylene), your bottle is fine. The type of plastic bottle in which water is usually sold is usually a #1, and is only recommended for one time use. Do not refill it. Better to use a reusable water bottle, and fill it with your own filtered water from home and keep these single-use bottles out of the landfill.


It then goes on to discusses those bright Lexan plastic water bottles with the following information and warnings;


Unfortunately, those fabulous colourful hard plastic lexan bottles made with polycarbonate plastics and identified by the #7 recycling symbol, may leach BPA. Bisphenol A is a xenoestrogen, a known endocrine disruptor, meaning it disturbs the hormonal messaging in our bodies. Synthetic xenoestrogens are linked to breast cancer and uterine cancer in women, decreased testosterone levels in men, and are particularly devastating to babies and young children.


And then discusses plastic baby bottles with the following information and warnings;


Unfortunately, most plastic baby bottles and drinking cups are made with plastics containing Bisphenol A. In 2006 Europe banned all products made for children under age 3 containing BPA, and as of Dec. 2006 the city of San Franscisco followed suit. In March 2007 a billion-dollar class action suit was commenced against Gerber, Playtex, Evenflo, Avent, and Dr. Brown's in Los Angeles superior court for harm done to babies caused by drinking out of baby bottles and sippy cups containing BPA. So, to be certain that your baby is not exposed, use glass bottles.


So there you have it on this whole plastic bottle issue. I do think that it's terribly wrong that this danger isn't being resolved nor addressed by our Food and Drug Administration. We should be protected from such plastics and they should not be allowed to be used in food containers nor be allowed to come into contact with foods.

But the current FDA is more interested in allowing the plastics industries to continue unabated while Europe has taken strong measures outlawing all of the plastics in question.

The full article can be found here: Which plastic water bottles don't leach chemicals? | Trusted.MD Network

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

To Those Living and Suffering On the Gulf Coast

To those who are now going through the horror of the Oil in the Gulf and all it means to a way of life that may be lost forever I would like to reprint a poem I wrote after Hurricane Katrina as it also applies to the suffering and pain being experienced again in the Gulf.

So while no words can take away your pain or bring back either your your property or your way of life may God help you to continue to rebuild both.

One Man's Prayers and Tears

If one man's prayers could heal your lives,
You would be healed. As I pray for you now.

If one man's tears could wash away your pain,
Your pain would be gone. As I cry for you now.

If one man's hope could lift you up.
You would be lifted above the devastation. As I hope for you now.

But only God and faith can see you through this time of trouble.
He is with you now through all our prayer and He will heal you.

His tears he sheds for you will wash away your pain.

He will lift you up and carry you and all will be made whole again.

Dedicated originally to victims of Katrina (and now to victims of the Gulf Oil crises)
By Frank Woodman Jr (9/2/2005)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

941 Pitfalls Await Employers This Year

Well here it is again time for the 2nd quarter 941 to be completed and filed for 2010. And while 941’s are notorious for being hard to file even for those who have filed them in the past this year’s 941’s are especially tricky.

This is due to the added new problems and possible errors created by the Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment Act (HIRE) passed as part of the stimulus package earlier this year.

Under the provisions contained in HIRE employers hiring new employees after February 3rd of this year no longer have to pay the employers portion of Social Security due on the wages of these new employees.

Employers figure the total Social Security and Medicare due on all employees’ wages and then claim “forgiveness” for their portion of the Social Security due on new employees qualifying under HIRE. And while that sounds simple enough the IRS reports that they are seeing a large increase in the number of mistakes being made. These mistakes range from putting the forgiveness amount on the wrong line to claiming the credit for non qualified employees.

Due to these problems the IRS is increasing audits of 941’s and more closely examining all 941’s received. They will also be doing compliance audits to insure that employers haven’t fired employees just to replace them with new workers to claim the HIRE credit.

So a word to the wise take great care with your 941’s this year and expect possible fees or fines for mistakes that would have been waived in the past to be enforced.

Also be very sure that you claim only one credit for each new hire. Often the IRS is finding that employers are also claiming the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) as well as the HIRE credit on the same employees. You can only claim one or the other not both.

Usually the HIRE credit will be the one to take since it has simpler qualifying rules, is much easier to figure, and usually results in the largest credit. But in some cases the WOTC will result in a larger credit and will therefore be the one to use.

Just be sure you understand the qualifications for the WOTC credit are more restrictive than for the HIRE payroll forgiveness credit. The WOTC rewards keeping a qualified new hire employed for 52 weeks. The max credit is the lesser of $1000 per employee or 6.2% of the wages they earned during those 52 weeks. You can take the HIRE payroll forgiveness or the WOTC but not both for the same employee.

If you have taken the HIRE payroll forgiveness and then realize that the WOTC would have been a better credit for any employee, you can amend your 941’s with the new 941X to make the adjustment.

You can get more information and details about these credits and the qualifying rules here on the IRS web sites HIRE information page.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Todays Food for Thought

"Evangelism is selling a dream." - Guy Kawasaki

"No wild enthusiast could rest, till half the world like him was possessed." - William Cowper

"Opposition always inflames the enthusiast, never converts him." - Friedrich Schiller

Microsoft Offers BizSpark Program for Start-Ups

Have a new business and need software development tools. Well consider taking advantage of Microsoft’s BizSpark program for new start-up companies. They will give you full featured Microsoft development tools, licenses for server products, and other useful tools and software to use for three years at no cost. Yes free! All you need is to have is a new and innovative business idea you are bring to market.

Microsoft describes the qualifications as follows:

"Most privately held software development start-ups in business for less than three years who generate annual revenue under USD $1 million can join. Enrollment carries no up-front costs. Just pay a USD $100 fee at program exit."

You can find out the full details and what you need to do to sign up for BizSpark here: BizSpark

So check it out you don’t have anything to lose and it may be your ticket to making that dream come true.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Wi-Fi Hot Spots and Security Risks Go Hand in Hand

Recently I had a client contact me wanting my help in resolving some identity theft problems and the resulting losses his business had incurred. It seems that two of his bank accounts had been accessed and over $30,000 was taken through fraudulent transfers.

Of course he was surprised when he contacted his bank and found that the bank would make good on none of the losses. It seemed that my constant reminding him that commercial accounts don't receive the same protection that private accounts do had fallen on deaf ears. (That will be the topic of another article.)

But as expected he was really mad and was just certain that he knew the person responsible for the theft and wanted me to help him prove it.

It seems that he had recently fired a young man that had been with his company for about two years and this young man had be involved in both handling tech and maintenance on his computers. So this young man would have had the knowledge and the ability to access the bank accounts in question and he felt he must be the one who had done the crime.

As in most cases of forensic accounting and security investigation a good rule is to never jump to conclusions. Far to often it's not the one we suspect that is the guilty party.

So the first thing that I did was to look at the records and then begin to study the security and protection in place for the companies computers. Of course what I found was both a surprise and an embarrassment to my client.

For the truth of the matter was that in the end I discovered that both he and his office manager often met at a local club for breakfast and to go over issues that they wished to discuss out side of the office. They just loved this place because, you guessed it, they had Wi-Fi and free Wi-Fi at that.

Well after some careful investigation it seems that one of the young people that worked at the restaurant in question had left his job. He had left to go back to college in another state. The police are still investigating but it seems almost certain that this young man was the thief. I'm not certain that he will ever be charged (Computer crimes are very often never solved or if solved no one is charged due to their complex nature.) but with everything we know he's the guilty party.

So what's to be learned from this?

1. Wi-Fi isn't secure. Everything that you do, send, or have on your computer is at risk while you are on a Wi-Fi network. And that risk extends to paid Wi-Fi as well. The only part of paid Wi-Fi that is encrypted all the way to the ISP is the sign on screen. So while paid Wi-Fi is more available it's not safer. There are a couple of easy answers to this problem. First is to use a VPN secured gateway to access a Wi-Fi network any time you use one. And Second is to go with a wireless ISP, which is much different, over using Wi-Fi. Providers like AT&T, Version, Sprint, T-Mobil, and the other big wireless providers protect your connection and make sure it's private from your computer to their computer.

2. That not having important data encrypted on your computer means that this data can be accessed by others even when you aren't using it. It seems that up on checking credit cards and other company assets were compromised as well and all were items of information contained on the owners laptop in clearly visible files. So the owners computer had been accessed not just the data that was transmitted over the Wi-Fi network.

3. That everyone in a company needs to be aware and trained in security issues. Bosses and others at the top are often the worst offenders since they don't usually answer to anyone. That's part of the $30,000 lesson my client learned in this case. He can be a security risk just like everyone else.

4. That not paying for and implementing security and the proper training of your personal may well be much more expensive in the end. Security is a constantly changing and increasingly important part of your companies operations. It's not something to be left to chance or circumstance.

So a word to the wise DON'T USE PUBLIC WI-FI WITHOUT VPN PROTECTION and use encryption on files that contain important data or risk losing that data.

As a point of information the client involved in this issue knows of this article and approved it's content. He allowed it's publication with the hope that it could prevent others from leaning these lessons the hard way as he did.

Monday, July 05, 2010

The 10 Commandents and The Work Place

After careful though I've come to the conclusion that the real reason that we can't have the Ten Commandments posted in a government building is this --you cannot post 'Thou Shalt Not Steal' 'Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery' and 'Thou Shall Not Lie' in a building full of politicians .... it creates a hostile work environment.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Mad Cow's and Illegial Aliens

Think about this:

Is it just me, or does anyone else find it amazing that during the mad cow epidemic our government could track a single cow, born in Canada almost three years ago, right to the stall where she slept in the state of Washington?

And, they tracked her calves to their stalls and were able to follow them and their offspring.

But this same government claims they are unable to locate 11 million illegal aliens wandering around our country.

Maybe we should give each of them a cow.