Glascock & Meenan Insurance

10 Tips to Taking Great Photos with Your Smartphone

Michael Kelly

A great moment photographed will always make for a great photograph. It doesn’t matter what the image resolution, composition or lighting is like. Birthday parties, graduations and spontaneous silliness are moments we want to capture forever. Now that our smart phones are equipped with sophisticated digital cameras, we’re more likely than ever to capture these wonderful moments. If you’re looking to go beyond simple point and click photography and make those special moments look a bit more stylish, here’s how to do it with your smartphone.

Adjust The Settings You Didn’t Know You Had

You have a lot more control of your phone’s camera than you may think. Some operating systems give the options to adjust focus, white balance and exposure. If yours doesn’t have these options, you can download camera apps that will allow you to adjust these settings.

Focus tells the camera which depth of field (DoF) on the image should have the most detail. A quick way to adjust the focus is to tap the smart phone screen on the most important part of the subject you’re taking a picture of. For example, if it’s a portrait shot, tap the screen right between the subject’s eyes. Check to see if your camera’s phone can adjust DoF. The larger the DoF, the more of the shot will be in focus and detailed. Ansel Adams great landscape photography demonstrates his mastery of the use of large depth of field. You can also create a shallow DoF and have your main subject clearly in focus and everything else out of focus. This can create a very unique portrait effect.

White balancing refers to adjusting or balancing the temperature of an image’s color so it appears more natural. Lighting conditions can cause color casts in photos. Indoor lighting creates images overcast with warm hues such as orange, pink or yellow. Outdoor lighting is cooler and casts a blue tone to images. Setting the white balance on your camera can help bring color temperatures in line with how we naturally perceive them. This way, indoor photos won’t have an unnatural red tint and outdoor photos won’t have a blue tint. You can also get creative with this feature. For example, you can purposely make a snow landscape more imaginative using the cool blue cast. Or you can make a room lit by a glowing fireplace feel cozier with an image cast in a warm red. Read More

Safeguard your business from data breaches

If you’re like many small business owners, when you hear the words “data breach” you think of the highly publicized incidents involving large corporations that have gotten a lot of attention from the media. Such as:

Target store’s 2013 breach in which up to 110 million records were compromised and hackers made off with roughly 40 million credit and debit card numbers, leaving Target to pay over $250 million in damages.

Sony Online Entertainment, which saw 102 million customer records compromised in 2011 and ultimately paid $171 million in damages. The hackers responsible have yet to be identified.

Anthem insurance, in which nearly 80 million records were compromised, some included Social Security numbers.

What rarely makes the news are the many hacking incidents involving small businesses. The likelihood that a small business will fall victim to a potentially costly data breach is staggeringly high. The fact is that 74 percent of small and midsize businesses reported an information security breach in 2015.

Unfortunately, the underreporting of small business data breaches is likely the primary reason that most small business owners don’t believe they’re at risk for a cyber attack. In fact, 82 percent of small business owners say they’re not targets for attack.

Not only are these attacks incredibly common, but they can also be devastating. With an average cost of a data breach being $4,000,000, it’s easy to understand why 60 percent of small businesses fold within six months of falling victim to data theft. This cost doesn’t even factor in the significant additional and unavoidable costs of investigating and remediating a data breach. Get the booklet

PREPARING YOUR VEHICLE FOR WINTER

With winter’s cold air and precipitation already beginning to show up across the United States, now is a good time to prepare your vehicles for winter. 

Here are a few winterization tips to help keep your automobiles performing well this winter:

General checkup
Consumer Reports, an organization devoted to consumer information, affirms that certain diagnostic checks must be completed, including a thorough test of the battery. Extreme cold temperatures can quickly deplete a battery, so make sure it is in good shape. The nonprofit also suggested checking all fluids, notably oil, and the heating and cooling systems for any irregularities, damages, shortages or otherwise. A quick tune-up at your local service center will generally take care of these matters. 

Tires, brakes, brake pads
If you live in an area that gets a lot of precipitation, you might want to invest in some winter tires and have them installed soon. These tires tend to not only offer the quiet, smooth and fuel-efficient ride of those made for all seasons but can provide you with that extra traction necessary to drive in snowy, icy conditions. If you choose to keep your all-season tires on, check the treads to ensure they are not too worn, and get your brakes and brake pads checked for functionality and wear. 

Visibility
To help to maintain visibility even when the salt, snow and other hazards pound on the glass, it is advised to get a windshield treatment. This can be done at your auto body shop, or at home with a variety of windshield solutions. Along with that, DMV.org, a website devoted to automobile-related matters, suggests making sure your windshield wipers are in good shape, your defrosting system is fully functional and your windshield washer fluid is filled to the brim, especially if you are driving through heavy snow. DMV.org recommends using a freeze-resistant windshield washer fluid for maximum effectiveness.  Read More

WINTER PREPARATION: A CHECKLIST FOR YOUR HOME

Winter can be very tough on a home, especially if you have not taken the necessary steps to prepare for the harsh weather that is right around the corner. 

Here are some key preventative measures you can enact to prepare and protect your home for winter. 

Energy-efficient improvements
The very same steps you need to take to keep your heating costs down can also be viewed as protective for your home’s structure and systems. Popular Mechanics, a publication devoted to technology news and tips for consumers, suggests the following steps to boost your home’s efficiency and protect it from common damages associated with winter weather:

  • Bring in a professional service provider to prepare your air conditioner, water, fuel, vent and all other systems and pipes. 
  • Consider replacing normal doors and windows with storm-proof products. 
  • Get your furnace serviced, and change out filters that were used last winter. 

You will also want to thoroughly evaluate your home for drafts and leaks, which are most common in attics, crawl spaces and basements, but can be found virtually anywhere. One of the easiest ways to check for drafts is to light a candle in the center of each room of the home and watch to see if the flame flickers or bends. Once you’ve identified the drafts, use weatherstripping and caulk to seal them up. 

Roof and drainage
To prevent flooding both in the home and outside, you will need to prep your roof and irrigation system. Here are a few tips:

  • Cleaning and removal: Clear all gutters of leaves and other debris before the first snowfall. Remove snow from the roof during times of very heavy precipitation.
  • Ice dams: If you have a sloped roof, ice dams can be an issue. This Old House, a home improvement website, suggests putting ice melt products that contain calcium chloride into a porous material, such as a stocking, and placing it on ice dams for safe, easy removal.
  • Avoid floods: Always make sure the roof’s drain pipes are pointed away from the house, and that your irrigation system and lawn have been winterized to avoid damage from the increased precipitation. Read More

The History of New Year’s Resolutions and Ideas for Creating Your Own

Michael Kelly and Sarita Harbour

A new year is upon us. With that comes the opportunity for a fresh start at becoming the best you yet. Setting New Year’s resolutions for self-improvement isn’t something new, though. Cultures have been setting yearly resolutions for the last 4,000 years. You’d think that after so many years we’d be pros at New Year’s resolutions—but we’re still working on it. Learn how our ancestors handled resolutions, areas of your life you can improve on for the new year and some of the best ways to meet your goals.

History

Committing to “be better” in a new year may have started with the ancient Babylonians 4,000 years ago. Babylonians believed that if they didn’t follow through with their resolutions, they’d fall out of favor with the gods. Around 46 B.C., ancient Rome introduced a calendar with January 1 as the start of the new year. January was named after the Roman God Janus, who looks both forward and backward. Romans believed January was a time to review their behavior of the past year and commit to bettering themselves.

In 1740 in England, The Methodist Church introduced the Covenant Renewal Service. This service was usually held on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day. It was a more spiritual alternative to the typical rambunctious celebrations of the day. The service encouraged participants to reflect on the previous year’s mistakes and resolve to “do better” in the upcoming year.

These traditions aren’t so different from how we view New Year’s today. Almost half of the US population makes resolutions to better themselves in the coming year. Culturally, we’ve also made New Year’s a time to reconnect with family and friends. This is often noted by the celebratory singing of Auld Lang Syne, a lyrical poem about reconnecting with old friends and looking back at past events of the year.

Are We Keeping Our Resolutions?

Many of us still make New Year’s resolutions today. According to a 2017 survey, 41% of Americans say they typically make New Year’s resolutions, 17% saying they infrequently make resolutions, and 42% saying they never make resolutions.

In 2017, the top resolutions in the United States were:

  • To lose weight or eat healthier (21.4%)
  • To make life or self-improvements (12.3%)
  • To make better financial decisions (8.5 %)

This same survey found that just 9.2% of respondents reported they were successful in achieving their resolutions. Read Full Story

Why Hands-Free Devices May Still Distract Drivers

Nancy Mann Jackson

Think your Bluetooth or other hands-free technology makes it safer to use your cell phone while driving? Think again.

The use of handheld devices while driving is rejected because it limits a driver’s ability to operate a vehicle properly, and recent research shows that having your hands free isn’t the only thing that matters for safety. It’s equally important to have your mind free of distractions while driving. A study published by the University of Sussex in England found that talking on the phone, even with a hands-free device, requires much of the same brain processing resources needed for driving. Doing both at the same time caused participants in the study to detect fewer hazards, respond to hazards more slowly and fail to register seeing things that were right in front of them.

Cell phone use is just one of many culprits that lead to distracted driving, but in recent years, it has contributed to a growing number of crashes. That’s largely because of the limitations of the human brain: Our brains simply aren’t able to do everything we may expect of them at the same time.

Are You Paying Attention?

If you’ve ever been irritated by a family member who appears to tune out your voice while he is reading the newspaper or trying to attend to a crying grandchild, you may be surprised to learn that he may not be ignoring you purposefully. Instead, his brain may be simply unable to pay attention to what you’re saying while focused on the newspaper or a small child’s whines.

Through extensive study, researchers have found that attention is a limited resource. Each person only has a certain amount of attention available, and when focusing his or her attention on one thing, he or she is unable to focus on others. Nobody is able to attend to everything at once, so when we apply our attention resources to one thing, we are always doing so at the expense of other things. That’s why, as you attend to the crying toddler, you may miss hearing what your spouse is trying to tell you. Read More

5 Cool Tips for Heating Your Home Safely

Alaina Tweddale

One cold January day, Mark Scott brought his teenagers into the backyard, struck a match to their old, dried Christmas tree, and watched as it was set ablaze within six seconds. (Please, don’t try this at home.)

“Every year you see Christmas tree fires,” said the Cabin John, Maryland-based owner of Mark IV Builders. Throughout the season, cut trees dry out and become easily combustible. What starts as a small fire can ravage a home in a matter of minutes.

“That’s why we never leave any type of heater anywhere near the tree,” he added, driving the point home for his teens. That includes a space heater, a lantern or even a lit candle. Keep your tree a safe distance from the fireplace, too.

Christmas tree fires are just one mishap that can occur when heating your home during winter. Keeping warm doesn’t have to be daunting, but it can be dangerous, especially if proper safety precautions aren’t taken before you open the fireplace flue or light the furnace fuse.

To stay safe, use these simple tips to get ready for winter, no matter what type of home heat source you use.

1. Schedule an annual check-up for your furnace.

To keep carbon monoxide (CO) gas from leaking into your home, make sure your furnace is exhausting properly, warns Danny Lipford, home improvement expert and host of the Today’s Homeowner television and radio shows. CO can be fatal and, because it’s odorless, homeowners may not even know they have a problem until it’s too late.

Lipford notes that sometimes homeowners can “bump something loose” when moving stored items in or out of the attic, and roofers can inadvertently damage furnace exhaust vents. The moral? A CO leak can come from areas of the home many homeowners wouldn’t even think to consider.

Get your furnace cleaned and inspected annually by a knowledgeable technician who can make sure it’s running as safely and efficiently as it should. Make sure the technician inspects the vent pipe—both where it’s connected to the furnace and where it protrudes through your roof. Read More

9 Ways to Minimize Holiday Fire Risks

Johnna Kaplan

The winter holidays are beloved for the warmth and light they bring to a cold, dark season. But this wondrous time of year isn’t free from danger. According to the American Red Cross, almost 47,000 fires occur during the winter holidays, taking over 500 lives, injuring thousands of people, and resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars in property damage.

Fortunately, many holiday fire risks can be minimized with a little care and planning. Here’s how to avoid some common causes of holiday fires.

1. Be Safe with Christmas Trees

Place trees (and fir wreaths and garlands) three feet away from heat sources like fireplaces and radiators, and never use lit candles to decorate a tree. (Use battery-operated ones to achieve that effect.) Check that artificial trees, as well as decorations, are made of flame-resistant or flame-retardant materials.

If decorating a live tree, choose one that is freshly cut, with intact needles, and water it daily to prevent it from becoming dry. Once it does begin to dry out and drop needles, it’s time to discard your tree. Although Christmas tree fires are not common, the explosiveness of dry trees makes them very dangerous if they do occur.

Use a tree stand that can’t tip over and be sure to unplug tree lights overnight and whenever you leave the house.

2. Give Candles Their Distance

The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) reports that 56% of candle fires happen because something flammable is left too close to a burning candle. Always keep candles at least a foot away from anything else that could catch fire like ornaments or curtains. (Give other sources of heat, like portable heaters, even more space.)

If placing candles in windows, choose battery-powered lights. Don’t leave candles burning when you’re asleep or away from home; in fact, you should extinguish flames whenever you leave the room. Whenever you burn candles, place them in sturdy holders that can’t tip over, and situate them where they are unlikely to be accidentally knocked over. Read More

How Distracted Driving Can Increase Your Premium

Emily Guy Birken

Most drivers are aware of the dangers of driving while distracted. However, something that many drivers do not realize is that in addition to the legal ramifications, these distractions can affect the premiums you pay for your car insurance.

While any number of things can distract a driver from the road — including eating, adjusting the sound system, or talking to people in your vehicle — the distraction that often has the biggest and most dangerous impact is using a cell phone or other mobile device while driving.

According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data, driving while distracted killed 3,477 people in 2015 and injured an additional 391,000. The vast majority of those accidents occurred because the driver was using a cell phone.

While concern about accidents should be enough to deter drivers from engaging in this risky behavior, state legislatures are also adding financial penalties to distracted driving.

Here’s what you need to know about the financial and legal penalties for driving while distracted.

Distracted Driving and State Laws

With the exception of Arizona, Missouri, and Montana, all U.S. states, as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, have instituted a ban on texting while driving for drivers of all ages.

Most states have made texting while driving a primary offense, which means law enforcement has the right to pull over an offender simply for violating the ban.

In states where the texting prohibition is a secondary offense for those over the age of 18, such as Florida, Nebraska, Ohio, and South Dakota, the texting ban can only be enforced if the driver is also violating a primary offense. For example, if a driver fails to stop at a stop sign because she is distracted by her cell phone, the officer who pulls her over for failing to stop can also cite her for texting while driving. Read More

Finding Your Best Used Car Bargain

Nancy Dunham

It’s still a golden time to buy a used car thanks in large part to the number of late-model cars, trucks and SUVs that have poured into dealerships due to the end of a large number of lease agreements, according to an analysis by NADA Used Car Guide, a division of J.D. Power.

The good news for shoppers is that the glut of gently used cars provides you with an unusually large selection of vehicles from which to choose. Plus many prices are lower than they have been since 2010. But that doesn’t mean every car on the lot is a gem.

“People get themselves into real trouble when they go into car shopping unprepared,” says Matt Jones, Edmunds’ Senior Consumer Advice Editor. “This is a major purchase. It’s not like a TV, where if you get it home and don’t like it, you can return it. You owe it to yourself to do research.”

That research should include calling various dealerships and finding a salesperson with whom you mesh. Work with the person on the phone or computer to ensure they’re attentive, return your calls and communicate well.

Choose the right salesperson

Do you want a detail-oriented salesperson? A laid back salesperson? Most of us aren’t sure. Many car experts recommend you walk into a dealership cold, tell the receptionist you want to work with the best salesperson. He or she will know whom to call.

A good relationship with a salesperson is vital — especially when you are considering used cars that have a wide range of vehicle histories — because they are the ones that can steer you to a car you hadn’t previously considered but that best suits your needs.

“You won’t be able to tell a car salesperson a scenario they haven’t heard before,” says Jones, noting they work with hundreds of customers each year. “They’ve heard ‘I recently got a divorce and need a low payment,’ to “my wife’s pregnant with triplets’ hundreds of times before. Those life changes are why people shop for cars.” Read More

From THE BLOG
  • 10 Tips to Taking Great Photos with Your Smartphone
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  • Safeguard your business from data breaches
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  • PREPARING YOUR VEHICLE FOR WINTER
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  • WINTER PREPARATION: A CHECKLIST FOR YOUR HOME
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  • The History of New Year’s Resolutions and Ideas for Creating Your Own
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  • Why Hands-Free Devices May Still Distract Drivers
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  • 5 Cool Tips for Heating Your Home Safely
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  • 9 Ways to Minimize Holiday Fire Risks
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  • How Distracted Driving Can Increase Your Premium
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  • Finding Your Best Used Car Bargain
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  • 7 Tips to Prevent Your Pup from Becoming a Liability When Renting
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  • Finding the Best Commercial Auto Insurance
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  • The Car Insurance Cheat Sheet
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  • Winter Flooding: Know Your Risk and How to Prepare and Respond
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  • Valuable Items Blanket Coverage: Lavish Gifts Deserve Protection as Special as They Are
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  • The 5 Biggest Financial Threats to Your Small Business
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  • Distracted Driving: It’s Not Just Your Cellphone
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