Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Invasive Pests

Have you ever returned from a trip abroad and been asked if you're carrying any produce or plants? Have you wondered why they ask that? It's because foreign agricultural pests can sneak into the United States in your fruit basket. Read these tips from the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and ensure that your gifts don't include any nasty surprises:


Your loved ones deserve berries with no beetles and wreaths with no wriggling.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Scam Alerts

During the holiday season, when everyone is distracted by shopping, traveling, and enjoying time with friends and family, scam artists are still hard at work trying to steal your money or your identity. The Federal Trade Commission offers several tips on how to avoid falling for a scam, and even provides alerts to let you know about new scams that have recently been reported. 


So, this holiday season be merry, but also be wise.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Healthy Pets Healthy People

As the winter weather closes in, many people will start spending even more time cuddling with their pets. A healthy pet is happier and less likely to pass a disease along to you during your cuddle time. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers this Healthy Pets Healthy People site with tips on keeping your companions in good shape:


Follow their advice and we'll all be able to enjoy more of those photos of Fluffy and Fido that you like to share on social media.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Presidential Election Process

Though many of you may be tired of hearing about the Presidential election and just want it to be over, here's a page from USA.gov that might come in handy if the results are unusual or contested:


It explains the functioning of the Electoral College and talks about what happens if a candidate wins the popular vote but loses the election, and if no candidate gets the required 270 electoral votes. Even if you're fed up with the Presidential race, please take the time to vote. Remember that there may be important local races and issues on the ballot as well. Your school boards and drainage districts are depending on you.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

LGBTQ Heritage Theme Study

The U.S. National Park Service, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, is charged with researching and maintaining many of America's most beloved historic sites. Some of those sites relate to the civil rights struggles of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) population. A special heritage theme study of LGBTQ sites and history was published this year. It's extensive, peer-reviewed, and covers many sub-populations:


Whether you're interested just in historic closets, or also in the people who emerged from them, this study might well have valuable information for you.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Everyday Mysteries: Fun Science Facts from the Library of Congress

There are many questions that mystify most of us. Is a coconut a nut, a seed, or a fruit? Does your heart really stop when you sneeze? What causes the sound of thunder? The Library of Congress has attempted to answer many of these questions on its Everyday Mysteries page:


One question I hope we'll never be able to answer is, "Where would we be without libraries?"

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Postal Explorer

Do the rules and procedures of the U.S. Postal Service ever confuse you? If so, the sources available on the Postal Explorer site might help to answer your questions. According to the site, "Postal Explorer is a virtual library of postal information and tools designed for U.S. Postal Service customers, business mailers, and employees. It puts a wealth of postal requirements for mailing and shipping domestically, internationally, and to APO/FPO/DPO destinations, at your fingertips in an easy-to-use format:"


If this site doesn't provide all the answers you need, just send Uncle Sam a postcard to complain.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Astronomy Picture of the Day

If you're increasingly tired of events on this planet and would like to imagine living somewhere else for a while, NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day site might be just what you need. "Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer:"


A little "spacing out" each day might be very therapeutic for us all.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Drones and Privacy

Is the annoying buzz you hear outside your window someone trimming their lawn, or is it a drone hovering nearby and spying on you? These days, one never knows. If you're concerned about drones and privacy, you may want to attend/watch the Federal Trade Commission's Oct. 13 workshop/webcast on this issue. Details about how to participate can be found on the FTC site.


It doesn't say, but I'm going to assume you can't "attend" by sending a drone with a camera to sit in for you.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Parents Get Involved

School has started once again and parents may already be helping their children deal with homework, bullying, teachers they don't like, or other school-related problems. Fortunately, the Kids.gov site also has a lot of information for parents:


Even though parents may no longer be in school themselves, having children is always an educational experience.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Antibacterial Soaps and Body Washes

If you're a big fan of antibacterial soaps and body washes, you may want to run out and stock up. The Food and Drug Administration has issued a new rule that manufacturers will no longer be able to sell products with certain antibacterials ingredients. This announcement from the FDA explains why:

Germaphobes can still rest easy--hand sanitizers are not affected by this rule.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Talcum Powder

Talcum powder has been in the news lately because some people claim it causes ovarian cancer. Even if that claim proves not to be true, you should be careful when using talcum powder because it can be poisonous. (Yes, poisonous.) This article from the National Library of Medicine's MedLinePlus Medical Encyclopedia offers details:


Just to be safe, you might want to think about switching to corn starch.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Wildlife and Other Animals

Like humans, wild animals can encounter situations that they need some help to handle. We all know to call 911 if we see a human that needs emergency assistance, but who would you call to get help for an injured bear or to report that you'd seen a moose with six legs? This page from the USA.gov site will lead you to the appropriate resources:


Smokey and Bullwinkle will surely appreciate you sending the right people to help them.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Beaches Database

Even if you aren't an Olympic swimmer, you need to be concerned about pollution and other problems that may be affecting your local beaches. Fortunately, the Environmental Protection Agency provides the BEACON 2.0 (Beach Advisory and Closing On-line Notification) database to help you out: 


Using the database you can discover where beaches near you are located and find out about advisories or closings that are in place for each beach. Then, you can be off for some fun in the sun! (But don't forget your sunscreen.)

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Nuclear Weapons

From automobiles to butter knives, every type of equipment needs to be monitored and undergo routine maintenance. So, who is it that's taking care of the nation's nuclear arsenal? That job belongs to the Sandia National Laboratories. As their site says, they're, "Ensuring the nation's nuclear weapons stockpile is safe, secure, and reliable:" 


The site not only provides information about how the Laboratories carry out this mission, it also includes a video "tour" of the work being done by Sandia. Laboratories' employees are in a rare position--they spend much of their time and effort ensuring the effectiveness of equipment that we all hope will never be used.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Child Heatstroke

Summer heat combined with hectic summer schedules can sometimes lead to child heatstroke and tragic results. This site from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration provides some tips to ensure that your child doesn't accidentally get forgotten in the back seat of a hot car:


Even the best parents are only human. (Though some "children" are not. Four-footed furry children can get heatstroke too.)

Wednesday, July 20, 2016


Events at the Republican National Convention, being held this week in Cleveland, have made some people curious about copyright, plagiarism, and whether or not musical artists have complete control over who can and cannot use their music. One place to start researching these topics is at the U.S. Copyright Office, which is part of the Library of Congress:


Other places worth checking are the sites of the Copyright Clearance Center, the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP), and BMI. For really complicated questions you can consult a lawyer who specializes in copyright (but I'm not sure even they understand it completely).

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

National Insurance Awareness Day

June 28 is, among other things, National Insurance Awareness Day. Here's a site from USA.gov that will help you learn about what types of insurance exist and how to buy it wisely:


Should everyone ensure that they're adequately insured? Well, it surely couldn't hurt.

Monday, June 20, 2016


Between the buzzing and the biting mosquitoes have always been annoying, but with the increase in mosquito-borne illnesses, they're now more dangerous than ever. Here are some tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on how to avoid mosquito bites and some information about why it's important:


If you take the proper precautions, you can enjoy a summer dinner on the deck without becoming dessert for a bloodsucking party crasher.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month

The tragic events in Orlando make it more important than ever that we celebrate June as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month. People in the LGBT community have made invaluable contributions in social sciences and the arts, many of which are described on this page from the Library of Congress. 

American life is much richer thanks to the work of LGBT individuals. They deserve our gratitude and our respect. So, if you're a fan of Truman Capote, Margaret Mead, Cole Porter, Leonard Bernstein, Alvin Ailey, or many others, join in the celebration.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Time-Barred Debts

Debt collectors have gotten both bolder and sneakier as the years have gone by. They may attempt to sue you for a very old debt, but if the debt is old enough, they may not be able to do so legally. To read more about "Time-Barred Debts," see this page from the Federal Trade Commission:


Note that one of the key sentences on the page says, "Although the collector may not sue you to collect the debt, you still owe it." Some things will go away of you ignore them long enough. Sadly, debt isn't one of those things.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

History of "Taps"

Those of you who attended Memorial Day ceremonies yesterday may have heard the bugle call "Taps," which is played for military funerals. This PDF from the Department of Veterans Affairs provides a bit of the song's colorful history:


If you'd like to hear a recording of "Taps," or other bugle calls, see this site from the Army: 


Monday, May 23, 2016

Moving Safely

It's summertime and many people are packing up and getting ready to move. If you'll be moving too, this site from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration provides some excellent advice to help you avoid scams and move safely:


On the other hand, if you've already moved and things didn't go well, the site also tells you how to file a complaint. 

One tip you should keep in mind either way--always lift with your legs.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Civil Air Patrol

The Civil Air Patrol (CAP) is an auxiliary organization of the U.S. Air Force and it's celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. It was founded in 1941 just six days before the attack on Pearl Harbor. "Over 18 months, CAP anti-submarine coastal patrols flew more than 24 million miles, spotting 173 U-boats and attacking 57. They also escorted more than 5,600 convoys and reported 17 floating mines, 36 bodies, 91 ships in distress and 363 survivors in the water:"


Today there's a "Wing" of this organization in every state, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico continuing to help by searching for disaster survivors, reporting forest fires, and many other activities. So, keep watching the skies. There are good folks up there watching out for you.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Mount St. Helens

Mount St. Helens has recently experienced a series of small earthquakes that have some people speculating it may erupt again soon. It's been almost exactly 36 years since it last erupted on May 18, 1980. If you'd like to keep an eye on the volcano to make sure you don't miss anything exciting, the U.S. Forest Service provides this handy "VolcanoCam" which allows you to see "near real-time" images:


If it does erupt, please keep in mind that you'll likely need to seek permission from the Forest Service in order to use the volcano for sacrificing virgins or disposing of evil jewelry.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Amusement Rides Injuries

Amusement rides most often live up to their name, but some people do get hurt or even killed while attempting to have fun. This page from the Consumer Product Safety Commission provides statistics on those types of incidents.


It also links to a Directory of Amusement Ride Safety Officials that has an entry for each state. If ride inspectors, ride operators, and the riders themselves all stay aware of safety, the worst possible impact of an amusement ride should be that you'd lose your lunch rather than your life.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Life Expectancy

As the deaths of the famous and quasi-famous continue to dominate the news, you may be starting to wonder about your own mortality. Perhaps when people reach a certain age, a larger percentage of their peers, both unknown and well know, simply start to pass away? How long can we all expect to live? The Life Expectancy page on the FastStats site from the National Center for Health Statistics may provide the data you'd need to answer those questions:


But, if you don't want to spend what little time you may have left digging through the site, average life expectancy as of 2013 was 78.8 years.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Retirement Preparation

Mentally and physically you may be more than ready to retire, but are you ready financially? If not, or if you're not sure, check out this list from the Department of Labor on the Top 10 Ways to Prepare for Retirement:


In addition to specific tips, the list also offers links to many other resources. Even if you were never a Boy Scout, it pays to "be prepared."

Monday, April 11, 2016

Data USA

The Federal government produces massive quantities of statistical data. In addition to producing reports and databases on specific groups of people or industries, the government makes its data available for other entities to use for their own purposes. Data USA is a good example of a project that has tried to make government data a bit more user-friendly:


The stated purpose of the site is "to understand and visualize the critical issues facing the United States in areas like jobs, skills and education across industry and geography. And, to use this knowledge to inform decision making among executives, policymakers and citizens." So, if you're trying to make a decision of some sort, maybe this site will help.

Monday, April 4, 2016

National Poetry Month

If you've recently found yourself waxing poetic about the spring flowers or April showers, you're in good company. April is National Poetry Month, so people across the country are exploring rhyme, meter, and the construction of poems. A lot of those people are still in school, so the National Endowment for the Humanities offers this site with resources about poetry tailored to the Common Core State Standards:


To the best of my knowledge, very few people have actually waxed poetic about the Common Core Standards themselves.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Travel to Cuba

President Obama is making an historic visit to Cuba this week. If his trip has made you wonder who exactly is allowed to visit Cuba these days, this site from the U.S. Department of State should answer your questions. See particularly the section on "Entry, Exit & Visa Requirements:"


If you would love to visit Cuba but don't meet the criteria for approved travel, you may have to make do by renting a classic car, going out for a Cuban sandwich, and watching some "I Love Lucy" reruns.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Women in Congress

As it's both an election year and Women's History Month, this site from the U.S. House of Representatives which highlights women who served in Congress between 1917 and 2006 may be of interest.


It "contains biographical profiles of former women Members of Congress, links to information about current women Members, essays on the institutional and national events that shaped successive generations of Congresswomen, and images of each woman Member, including rare photos." And, as it's the Ides of March, I'll point out that most, if not all, of these women ended their political careers a bit more peacefully than Julius Caesar.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Patent and Trademark Resource Centers

Have you invented something wonderful? Do you want the world to know that you were the first one who created that wonderful thing? Do you want to start a small business to sell your invention, or some other wonderful thing? If so, a Patent and Trademark Resource Center (PTRC) may be able to help you learn about owning and registering those types of intellectual property:


Before you file a new application, you'll want to search the existing patents and trademarks to make sure no one else has already claimed or registered the same thing. PTRCs can help you do that. Sadly, being the second or third person to invent the telephone isn't nearly as exciting as being the first.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Colon Cancer Awarness Month

March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month. Is it time for you to get screened? If you're not sure, this page from the Centers from Disease Control and Prevention describes the screening tests currently in use and tells you how often they should be performed:


If it's been too long since your last test, please get your rear in gear and call your doctor today to schedule an appointment. It may be the best booty call you'll ever make.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Presidential Campaign Finance

As the 2016 Presidential campaign continues to heat up, many political pundits seem to be citing campaign contributions in their predictions of who will do well in various primaries. If you'd like to examine some details about campaign contributions and draw your own conclusions, this Presidential Campaign Finance map from the Federal Election Commission provides several ways to locate data:


You can see contribution totals and where contributions for each candidate originated nationwide, or you can search for lists of contributors by name, employer, city, or ZIP Code.

Based solely on contributions thus far, it appears that our next Commander in Chief may be a Ma'am rather than a Sir.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Presidents' Day

While most federal websites are designed for use by adults, many are also directed toward younger audiences. Here's an example from the U.S. Mint. It has some interesting information about Presidents' Day and even offers some educational games:


You may learn a lot about both Presidents and coins, and it won't be a "coin"cidence. ;-)

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Taxpayer Advocate Service

Dealing with any government agency usually involves cutting through a certain amount of red tape, but the Internal Revenue Service seems to have a particularly thick layer. As tax season approaches, please be aware that there is a place to turn if you're having problems with the IRS. Most states have a Taxpayer Advocate who may be able to help you sort out any stubborn or serious issues you're having with the IRS:


So, if you have a tax problem you haven't been able to resolve through regular IRS channels, give the Advocate a call. As the IRS site itself says, "Remember, the worst thing you can do is nothing at all.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Zika Virus

The spread of the Zika virus was recently declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organization. For the latest news on the impact and outlook for this virus, see this page from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:


If we have the early spring that the groundhog predicted this morning, you can help to slow the spread of Zika by ensuring that those spring rains don't turn into "standing water" where mosquitoes can breed. This virus is just one more good reason to stay vigilant and "fight the bite."

Monday, January 25, 2016

Legal Services Corporation

The legal landscape in this country is difficult to navigate without an expert guide, and many people simply can't afford to hire a lawyer when they need one. That's why the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) was established by Congress in 1974:


Its purpose is to "provide financial support for civil legal aid to low-income Americans. LSC promotes equal access to justice by providing funding to 134 independent non-profit legal aid programs in every state, the District of Columbia, and U.S. Territories." So, if you have a low income, need help with a legal problem, and don't happen to be related to the type of lawyer you need, the LSC site can help you find a legal aid organization in your area.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Constitution Annotated

The upcoming Presidential election and a number of other recent events have raised many questions about what is and is not "constitutional." Is Ted Cruz qualified to run for President? Is President Obama legally empowered to take executive action on gun control? One of the best places to seek an answer to those questions, and others, is the Constitution of the United States of America: Analysis and Interpretation, popularly known as the Constitution Annotated:


If you don't have the time to go get a law degree or the money to hire a lawyer to answer these questions for you, doing a bit of research here may help to put your mind at ease. If nothing else, it's an impressive source for you to cite the next time a debate breaks out at the dinner table.

Monday, January 11, 2016

International Lottery Scams

This week's $1.3 billion Powerball prize may have given you a case of lottery fever, but this page from the Federal Trade Commission can help you avoid getting caught by an international lottery scam:


Whenever you get a solicitation that sounds tempting, just keep in mind that it's against federal law to play a foreign lottery.

There's additional information from the U.S. Department of State here:


And from OnGuard Online here:


Even when you gamble, you should try to minimize your risks.

Monday, January 4, 2016

National Wildlife Refuges

You may have heard on the news that a group of armed individuals has taken over part of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon. The reason they've done this seems to be a dispute over the use of federally-owned lands. If you're curious about what uses the federal government is making of that land, see this site from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the agency that runs the National Wildlife Refuge System:


The Malheur Refuge is closed for the time being, but every state has at least one Refuge and Oregon has 17 in addition to Malheur. Feel free to visit one near you, and don't forget your bird-watching binoculars.