Monday, December 15, 2014

Holiday Tips

As everyone prepares to celebrate Christmas (or Hanukkah, or Kwanza, or the Winter Solstice, or simply a few days off from work), the website has some tips for you on celebrating safely, finding seasonal employment, traveling without hassles, watching your weight, and more:

And for those who'd like to track Santa's progress on Christmas Eve, don't forget the NORAD Santa Tracker -  Happy holidays!  :-)

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Senate Report on CIA Interrogation

Yesterday the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released its "Study of the CIA's Detention and Interrogation Program - Foreword, Findings, and Conclusions, and Executive Summary."  The study is linked from the Committee's home page:

The report's findings, that the harsh interrogation techniques used by the CIA right after the 9/11 attacks were "torture" and did not result in significant new intelligence, are quite controversial.  Many current and former CIA officials are defending the effectiveness of the methods that were used.  The report is 525 pages, heavily redacted, and includes graphic details about the techniques used by the CIA.  Simply reading it might well qualify as "torture."

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Unclaimed Money

Are you planning on doing some shopping, or possibly some traveling before the end of the year?  Wouldn't some extra money come in handy right about now?  After you've checked your car and couch cushions for loose change, another place to look is your state or federal government.  They may have money waiting for you and all you'll have to do is claim it.  This site from provides a list of places to look for many types of unclaimed money, from tax refunds, to bank accounts, to pensions, and savings bonds:

If you don't find any money waiting for yourself, look for your family members.  If you find enough loot for them, perhaps they'll pay you a finder's fee.  Happy hunting!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Thanksgiving Food Safety

Yes, there's football, but Thanksgiving is the Super Bowl of cooking.  To make sure you cook your feast safely and ensure that no one pays a penalty for your mistakes, take the advice of the bloggers on the site:

They offer tips on buying and cooking your turkey, as well as general information about food safety.  If you're feeling particularly inept in the kitchen, read their "Top 5 Thanksgiving Turkey Fails" and you're sure to feel much better about your own skills.  Have a safe and happy holiday!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Keystone Pipeline

The proposed Keystone Pipeline has been under discussion for the past few years, but the project seems to have gained some momentum in the last few weeks.  If you're still not sure exactly what the Pipeline would do or where it would be, this page from the Department of State may help to answer your questions:

The project documents are extensive and the links provided lead to other informative sites maintained by TransCanada.  If the project does become a reality some day, we can only hope that the Keystone Pipeline people will be much more efficient and much less accident-prone than the Keystone Cops.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veterans Day

On this Veterans Day, you may be wondering if the correct spelling is "Veterans Day," or "Veteran's Day," or maybe even "Veterans' Day."  This FAQ from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will answer that question for you, and many others:

It explains why some schools close and others don't, why Veterans Day doesn't always fall on a Monday like most Federal holidays, and why poppies are more closely associated with Memorial Day than Veterans Day.  It even provides links to posters and Teacher's Guides that can be downloaded.  As the site says, "Veterans Day is largely intended to thank LIVING veterans for their service."  So, many thanks to all who served and all who are serving now!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Federal Reserve Centennial

The Federal Reserve Act was signed in 1913, but the Federal Reserve banks first opened their doors in 1914.  So, the Fed has been celebrating its Centennial all year.  Although we hear about the Fed Chair all the time in relation to raising or lowering interest rates, the Fed also performs a number of other important functions to keep America's financial system running efficiently.  You can learn a lot about the Fed's current activities as well as its history on its Centennial website:

The site even provides lesson plans about both the Centennial and the basics of personal finance.  Spending some time learning about the Fed might be a wise investment.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Law Enforcement Officers Killed & Assaulted

While the shooting of citizens by law enforcement officers is still controversial, the alarming new trend seems to be the killing of law enforcement officers by terrorists.  The Federal Bureau of Investigation tracks these types of events and produces an annual statistical publication called Law Enforcement Officers Killed & Assaulted:

The report also includes statistics on officers accidentally killed and federal officers killed and assaulted.  According to the most recent statistics, in 2012 almost as many officers died from accidents as from "felonious incidents."  On the classic cop show Hill Street Blues Sgt. Esterhaus used to tell his colleagues, "Let's be careful out there."  Given today's climate, let's be *extra* careful out there.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Midterm Elections

Even if you've been living in a cave, you likely know that the midterm elections are coming up on November 4.  If you haven't yet made up your mind about who to vote for, the Project Vote Smart site may be very helpful:

It's not a government site.  It's run by a nonprofit organization and provides nonpartisan information about "40,000 Politicians" running for offices from the national down to the local level.  After selecting a person you can find biographical information, facts about that person's positions and voting record, and even information about their campaign funding.  With a brief bit of research you can be prepared to elect the person you feel will best represent you and your cave-dwelling neighbors. 

(And for the folks in Louisiana, here's a link to the Public Affairs Research Council Guide to the 2014 Constitutional Amendments: )

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Justifiable Homicide by Law Enforcement

Protests about the shooting of an unarmed teenager in Missouri by a police officer are still ongoing.  Other controversial shootings by law enforcement officers have happened more recently.  Statistics on the number of people who are shot and killed by law enforcement each year are available in the Federal Bureau of Investigation's annual publication Crime in the United States.

The title of the table is "Justifiable Homicide," so the FBI, at least, is convinced that every case is "justifiable."  The folks in Missouri don't seem to agree.  (But, of course, Missouri is the "Show Me" state.)

Monday, October 6, 2014


First off, in the wise words of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, "Don't panic!"  The African outbreak of Ebola has resulted in one travel-related case being diagnosed in the U.S. and a few other American patients being flown to the U.S. for treatment, but according to this site from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, your risk of getting the disease is relatively low unless you're a healthcare worker or a close family member of an infected person:

In general, if you can avoid making contact with the blood or other bodily fluids of an infected person, you should be fine.  It's flu season, so you should be avoiding sick people and washing your hands frequently anyway.  May the hand sanitizer be with you!

Monday, September 29, 2014


Many would argue that every day is National Coffee Day, but today actually is.  As we celebrate the beverage that keeps us alert throughout the most mundane of tasks, you may start to wonder how things are going in the coffee industry as a whole.  Fortunately, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Foreign Agriculture Service keeps track of that for us:

Its semi-annual report on "Coffee: World Markets and Trade" gives us an overview and analysis of international coffee production and consumption.  As you'll see in the June 2014 report, "The United States imports the second-largest amount of coffee beans and is forecast to increase slightly to a record 25.0 million bags as consumption continues to rise."  So, grab a cup and enjoy.  Cheers!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Autumnal Equinox

Happy autumnal equinox! If you've never been able to keep your equinoxes and solstices straight, this page from may be able to help:

At the very least it might distract you from thinking about the fact that the beginning of autumn means, as they would say on The Game of Thrones, "winter is coming."

Monday, September 15, 2014

Domestic Violence

As you may have heard in the news, the NFL has been grappling with how to discipline players who are accused or convicted of being involved in incidents of domestic violence.  This controversy has sparked a lot of conversation about what actually constitutes domestic violence.  The Department of Justice's Office on Violence Against Women has some information about it on their site:

It may help to prepare you for your next conversation about the topic, and the hotline numbers may be helpful if you find yourself either the victim or the perpetrator of abuse.  Perhaps we can all learn to keep the violence on the football field where it belongs. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014


Heroin is apparently experiencing a slight increase in popularity thanks to its similarity to frequently abused prescription medications such as Oxycontin and Vicodin.  It's estimated that about 23% of people who use heroin will become dependent upon it.  To read about the many reasons to avoid using it (such as constipation, collapsed veins, and spontaneous abortion), as well as about treatment options, see this page from the National Institute on Drug Abuse:

As with most drugs that people choose to abuse, heroin will certainly abuse you in return.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Phone Scams

Do you have a telephone?  Most people do, and even if it's just an old-fashioned land line, there are scammers trying to use your phone to get their hands on your money.  Read about some of the most popular scams on this page from (which is maintained by the General Services Administration):

If you haven't done it recently, you might also want to register your phone number with the National Do Not Call Registry -

When you're watching for scams and your caller ID tells you you're calling yourself, you'll know not to answer.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Bureau of the Fiscal Service

Have you ever had trouble getting your checkbook to balance?  If so, just imagine how difficult it must be to get the U.S. government's checkbook to balance.  The agency in charge of making and collecting payments, as well as tracking federal revenue and debt, is the Bureau of the Fiscal Service within the Department of the Treasury:

It was created in 2012 by combining the Bureau of the Public Debt and the Financial Management Service.  The Bureau of the Fiscal Service issues several publications, including the Financial Statement of the United States Government, the Monthly Treasury Statement, and the Treasury Bulletin.  With the quantity of money they're responsible for tracking, let's hope the Bureau's accountants are eating their Wheaties every morning.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


The recent death of Robin Williams has sparked a new interest in depression.  What is it?  What are the causes?  What are the signs?  What can be done to treat it?  The National Institute of Mental Health has attempted to answer many of those questions in this online "booklet" on depression:

The good news is that there are many effective treatments.  The key is getting everyone to realize that just as significant physical pain should trigger a visit to a doctor, significant mental pain should trigger one as well.

Monday, August 11, 2014


You've likely heard about the influx of unaccompanied children from Central America coming to the U.S. to escape the violence in their home countries.  If this is an unusually high number of refugees, how many refugees normally come to the U.S. each year?  Fortunately, the Office of Refugee Resettlement within the Administration for Children and Families keeps statistics on the numbers of refugees by their home country and by the state where they're initially resettled.  Its site includes data from 2000 through 2012 and links to more recent data from the State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration:

Obviously, Tom Petty was wrong.  Lots of people do have to live like a refugee.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Waters of the U.S. - Regulations

If you have friends or family who live near Toledo, Ohio, you may be aware that their tap water hasn't been safe to drink for the last few days due to an algae bloom in Lake Erie.  The cause of the bloom is thought to be agricultural runoff and other pollutants.  This incident may increase your interest in recently proposed changes to Clean Water Act regulations:

The period for submitting comments about the proposed changes has been extended to October 20.  Take a look and let the EPA know what you think.  As the people of Toledo would tell you (when they finally get out of the shower), having clean water is extremely important.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Youth Online

Anyone who's ever been a young person knows that young people engage in risky behavior.  Be it sex, drugs, or even rock and roll, all can be dangerous.  So, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does a survey every other year to try to track risky behaviors.  The results from several surveys have been compiled and made available on the Youth Online site:

Take a look and see what vices the young folks in your area are enjoying.  You might be very surprised.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

National Ice Cream Month

Even though we're approaching the end of July, there's still time to enjoy National Ice Cream Month.  This blog posting from the U.S. Government Printing Office provides a nice summary of the frosty treat's history and how July became the official time to celebrate it:

So, have a scoop or two and enjoy!  (But do try to enjoy in moderation, or you might be observing National Diabetes Month in November in more ways than you'd like.)

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Library of Congress

The Library of Congress is the largest library in the world, but it's much more than a collection of materials used by the members of Congress:

It includes the U.S. Copyright Office, which registers and collects copyrighted works, along with a Law Library and the Congressional Research Service.  In addition, it provides cataloging information and services which assist libraries all around the country.  Much as you could spend days roaming the Library's physical stacks, you can also spend days examining its online collections.  Happy exploring.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Drowning Statistics

Every summer weekend seems to bring stories of accidental drownings.  How common is drowning?  From 1999 through 2010, a total of 46,419 deaths from unintentional drowning (including boating) occurred in the United States, an average of 3,868 deaths per year.  The average number of deaths per day was higher on weekends, and men were more likely than women to drown in a natural water source such as a lake or river.  To read more fascinating facts about drowning, see this page from the Centers for Disease Control:

It might convince you to vacation in the desert this year.  (But even the desert has bath tubs.)

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Reverse Mortgages

Henry Winkler is just the most recent celebrity spokesperson to pitch reverse mortgages on TV.  What exactly is reverse mortgage anyway?  Is it really a good idea, or more of a scam?  This page from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development provides a breakdown of the basics:

See the "General HECM Frequently Asked Questions" for a clear explanation about how a reverse mortgage differs from a traditional home equity loan.  And yes, for some people they can be a very good idea.  (Aaaaay, Fonzie wouldn't lie, right?  Exactamundo.)

Monday, June 9, 2014

Federal Theatre Project

Most people know that the National Endowment for the Arts currently provides grants for theatrical productions, but did you know that the federal government once took a much more active role in funding and producing live theater?  One of the Depression-era projects of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) was the Federal Theatre Project:

All told, the Project "employed more than 12,000 people within 150 regional administrative units that produced more than 2,700 stage productions."  Read all about it on this page from the Library of Congress (but don't read it on your mobile device while you're walking, or you might break a leg).

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Young Workers

Whether they're high school students flipping burgers for the summer, or recent college graduates starting their first real jobs, many young people are unaware of the dangers they may face in the workplace.  They may also be unaware of their rights and the responsibilities of their employers.  The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has a page designed specifically to educate young workers:

It's a jungle out there, so make sure the young folks in your life go out armed with the machete and pith helmet of good information.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Free Government Publications

Not only are many government publications freely available online these days, you can also order free or low cost copies of some publications in print.  Check out the selection on this page from the General Services Administration:

Notice that one of the publications you can get for free is the Consumer Information Catalog, which lists other publications that are available for free.  So, if that catalog is metadata, is this web page meta-metadata, or metadata-data?

Monday, May 19, 2014

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome

MERS, or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, has been in the news quite a bit recently because the first cases were just discovered in the U.S.  The disease causes fever, coughing, and shortness of breath, and about 30% of the people who've been diagnosed with it have died.  Read more about it, including the latest updates on cases in the U.S., on this page from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

And, as always, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue if you cough or sneeze and wash your hands thoroughly and frequently.  Cleanliness may or may not be next to godliness, but it certainly is next to healthiness.

Monday, May 12, 2014

National Mental Health Awareness Month

May is National Mental Health Awareness Month.  The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) web site provides a great deal of information about various mental health problems, their treatment, and their prevention:

According to the site, "It is SAMHSA's mission to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America's communities."  So, if you're stressed and you're stressing out about how stressed you are, or even if you have a more serious condition, SAMHSA may have some information or advice that will help.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Cinco de Mayo

Happy Cinco de Mayo!  As people around the country today celebrate the 1862 victory of Mexican peasants over French invaders in Puebla, Mexico, their minds will naturally turn to tacos, margaritas, and Denver, Colorado.  Why Denver?  Read all about it on this page from the Library of Congress:

If your celebrations today will involve Tequila, please remember to designate a driver.  Andale!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Hiring a Contractor

Whether your house has recent tornado damage and needs repairs, or you're just planning to add on a new rumpus room, hiring the right person to do the work (or to help you do the work) is vital.  The Federal Trade Commission has some important advice to help you hire wisely:

If you take the proper precautions, improving your home sweet home need not be a sour experience.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Wheel Well Passengers

If you've watched the news recently you may have heard about the 15 year-old boy who stowed away in the wheel well of an airplane that flew from California to Hawaii.  He endured extreme cold and a lack of oxygen, but he survived.  I thought surely the Federal Aviation Administration would have statistics on this sort of incident, but all I found was a report from 1996 that summarizes incidents from 1947-1993.  See report #96/25, "Survival at High Altitudes: Wheel Well Passengers:"

And for those of you who might be thinking about stowing away, please reconsider.  Even though airplane seats are nearly as uncomfortable as the wheel well, you do at least get heat and oxygen on most flights.

Monday, April 14, 2014


Happy National Library Week!  Whether you're a librarian or not, you may find something to interest you on the Libraries page maintained by the Archives Library Information Center (ALIC) at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).  It features NARA library resources, searchable catalogs, selected academic and public library web sites, resources and discussion groups for librarians, and much, much more:

But, before you go explore the page, please join me in the librarian's traditional celebratory battle cry:  Shhhhhhhhh...

Monday, April 7, 2014

U.S. Secret Service

According to its not-so-secret web site, the United States Secret Service "was established in 1865, solely to suppress the counterfeiting of U.S. currency. Today, the agency is mandated by Congress to carry out dual missions: protection of national and visiting foreign leaders, and criminal investigations."  Apparently, in our current era of rampant self-promotion, even a secret agency can't help posting some selfies.  So, please enjoy one of the most oxymoronic of all federal web sites, the United States Secret Service Photo Gallery:

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Autism Awareness

Do you know someone who has an autism spectrum disorder?  Chances are getting better that you do.  As you'll see in this blog posting from the Director of the National Institute of Mental Health, the most recent statistics "reported a prevalence of autism of 1 in 68 children in 2010 (based on children born in 2002), up from 1 in 88 in 2008 (based on children born in 2000):"

Whether the increase is due to better diagnosis or an actual increase in persons with the disorder, it's clear that additional funding will be needed for research and treatment.  (And I'm not fooling.)

Monday, March 24, 2014


As we were reminded over the weekend, "Landslide" is not just a catchy tune written by Stevie Nicks.  Landslides "occur in all 50 states and U.S. territories, and cause $1-2 billion in damages and more than 25 fatalities on average each year." The U.S. Geological Survey monitors landslides and offers a great deal of information about them on their Landslide Hazards Program page:

Take a look and be prepared in case a rain-soaked hillside tries to strangle you.

Monday, March 17, 2014


It's fortunate that the U.S. census isn't conducted on March 17, because on St. Patrick's Day, everyone is Irish.  That raises the question, how many people claim to be Irish the rest of the year?  According to the Census Bureau's "Facts for Features" page for this month, 34.1 million U.S. residents claim Irish ancestry.  That's more than seven times the population of Ireland itself.  Learn more fascinating facts about Irish-Americans and St. Patrick's Day by visiting the page yourself:

And, as the Irish would say, slainte!

Monday, March 10, 2014

National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics

Many people know about the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), but have you heard of the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES)?  NCSES was established within the National Science Foundation in 2010 and is "the nation's leading provider of statistical data on the U.S. science and engineering enterprise:"

Through their site you can find information about "research and development, the science and engineering workforce, the condition and progress of STEM education, and U.S. competitiveness in science, engineering, technology, and R&D."  If you want to do a scientific study of science or scientists, this would be the place to start.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014


Whether you call it "Ukraine" or "The Ukraine," there's no doubt that tensions are high in this former part of the Soviet Union.  If you'd like to keep track of the rapid developments in Ukraine, the U.S. Department of State maintains a page on the country:

In addition to highlighting the latest diplomatic news, the page provides links to fact sheets, remarks, major reports, and other information.  There are similar pages available on other countries, so you may want to brush up on the region in case the Russian Army decides to extend its tour.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Carbon Monoxide

Recently one person in a New York restaurant was killed and several others were hospitalized due to inhaling carbon monoxide.  How can you avoid exposure to dangerous levels of this colorless, odorless, poisonous gas?  The Consumer Product Safety Commission has several tips in its Carbon Monoxide Information Center:

At home you need to keep a close eye on any equipment or appliance that burns fuel.  In a public building like a restaurant you can inquire about their most recent safety inspections, but you may also want to consider the charms of dining on the patio.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Bermuda Triangle

Many ships and planes have disappeared over the last several years in an area of the Atlantic Ocean commonly referred to as The Bermuda Triangle.  Speculation about the causes of these disappearances has ranged from aliens, to sea monsters, to wormholes.  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has a few theories to offer which are somewhat more firmly rooted in science:

Although, "oceanic flatulence" is certainly something I wish was science fiction rather than science.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Surgeon General's Report on Smoking

1964 was an important year for America.  It brought us not only the Beatles, but also the Surgeon General's first report on the dangers of smoking.  In recognition of the 50th anniversary of the original report, a new report has been issued to review the progress we've made:

The report reveals that in 1964, 42% of the adult population smoked.  In 2014 that number has dropped to 18%.  Still, "5.6 million children alive today will ultimately die early from smoking if we do not do more to reduce current smoking rates."  George Harrison died from lung cancer.  Let's hope the mega-talents of tomorrow will avoid the pitfalls of smoking and survive to see the 50th anniversaries of their legendary bands.

Monday, February 3, 2014


Are you a small business owner, or do you hope to be one some day?  Do you need help or advice on how to grow your business or obtain financial assistance?  If so, you may want to explore the BusinessUSA site:

It's a joint venture of the White House and 13 other federal agencies.  It will direct you to resources such as government loans, the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE), and the Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) in your area, as well as providing you with information about hiring, exporting, and taxes.  So, make it your business to check out BusinessUSA.  It will be a good investment of your time.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Weather and Road Conditions

Have you driven on ice or snow this week?  Were you involved in an accident?  If so, you might be interested to know that, according to this page from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), "thirteen (13) percent" of weather-related crashes "occur on icy pavement and eleven (11) percent...take place on snowy or slushy pavement:"

But, don't think that summer driving is safer, because "the vast majority of most weather-related crashes happen on wet pavement and during rainfall: seventy-five (75) percent on wet pavement and forty-seven (47) percent during rainfall."  So, even though "on freeways, light rain or snow can reduce average speed by 3 to 13 percent," you may want to reduce your speed more than 13 percent so you can avoid being in that 75 percent.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

U.S. Chemical Safety Board

As we've recently seen in West Virginia, chemicals seem to have a knack for escaping from their containers and wreaking havoc on the environment.  When that sort of thing happens, who investigates?  In addition to agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, there's an independent agency called the U.S. Chemical Safety Board that leaps into action:

Their site tells you not only about their mission and the incidents they're investigating, it also has a running list of chemical accidents in the news.  It's a frighteningly long list.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014


If you are bravely battling a cold or the flu right now, you may be wishing you had some antibiotics to help you with your fight, but would they really help?  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's "Get Smart: Know When Antibiotics Work" page, "Antibiotics cure bacterial infections, not viral infections such as colds or flu; most coughs and bronchitis; sore throats not caused by strep; or runny noses:"

It can, in fact, be dangerous to take antibiotics when they aren't necessary because it may lead to more antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria and viruses.  Read all about it here, then take some over-the-counter painkillers and a nap.

Monday, January 6, 2014

The Sun

As we start 2014, most of the country is freezing its collective behind off.  Therefore, to counteract the cold let's look at the sun (not literally of course).  The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has a series of pages devoted to the planets of the solar system, including the sun:

Here we can learn fascinating facts such as the sun "makes up 99.8% of the mass of the entire solar system" and its core temperature is "about 15 million degrees Celsius (27 million degrees Fahrenheit)."  There's even a nice gallery of solar images.  If you hold your fingers near enough to your computer monitor you can almost feel the warmth.