Thursday, October 28, 2010
My Sun colleague and weather wizard Frank Roylance went driving recently on U.S. 50 in Talbot County when he had one of those learning experiences most of us would prefer to avoid.
He noticed two state police cars with flashing blue lights on the right shoulder of the highway, apparently making a traffic stop. He was in the right lane and stayed there, maintaining the prudent 56 mph set on his cruise control.
It was right after that that he noticed those lights coming up behind him. An officer motioned him to pull over.
"The trooper came back to my car and asked me, 'Do you know why I pulled you over?' I said I had no idea," Roylance recounted.
The trooper explained that Roylance had just run afoul of a new law, which took effect Oct. 1 and has been woefully underreported by myself and others, requiring motorists to move over by a lane or to slow down when passing an emergency vehicle on the side of the road with its red or blue lights on.
Fortunately, the trooper let my colleague, who hadn't heard of the law, drive off with a warning. But the trooper explained that Roylance could have been issued a ticket carrying a $110 fine and two points. Had the trooper really wanted to be a hardliner, he could have doubled that by writing a ticket for each of the police cars that were passed.
Roylance figured other motorists might want to piggyback on the benefit of his warning. So here's the story:
The General Assembly, after several years of rejecting the idea, passed legislation without dissent last spring adopting what is known as the "move-over" rule. Maryland became one of the last three states to enact this law, which is intended to protect emergency workers.
Specifically, the law says that unless a motorist is otherwise directed, a driver on a road that is wide enough should merge left when there is an emergency vehicle with flashing lights on the shoulder ahead. If traffic won't allow the driver to merge before reaching the scene, the law calls for slowing to a "reasonable and prudent" speed that takes into account weather and road conditions.
The law does not spell out what "reasonable and prudent" is, but Roylance's report that he was stopped at 56 mph on a 55-mph road indicates that officers interpret that as something below the speed limit. (Mindful of his experience, when I subsequently found myself in the same position and unable to merge left on Interstate 95, I slowed to about 45 mph and attracted no law enforcement attention.)
The "reasonable and prudent" standard is a subjective one that leaves a lot to the officer's discretion, but that's no different from a general speeding charge that has been on the books for eons. If a judge believes the officer's testimony, you can be convicted with or without a radar reading.
Maryland State Police spokesman Greg Shipley said a driver who is speeding in the lane adjacent to the traffic stop faces the possibility of receiving separate tickets for the two violations. He said that in some cases, officers keep their radar on while writing another ticket. Thus, somebody cruising along obliviously at 80 mph while passing just feet from a traffic stop or medical emergency could face a double whammy.
Shipley said the legislation was passed with strong support from police and other emergency response workers from around the state. Little wonder. According to the Department of Legislative Services, more than 150 law enforcement officers have been killed nationwide at roadsides when struck by vehicles over the past decade.
One reason officers want drivers to move over and slow down is the tendency of rubberneckers to fix their eyes on the traffic stop, Shipley said.
"As driving instructors will tell you, you tend to steer toward what you're looking at," he said.
The legislation's prime sponsor, Del. James Malone, is a retired Baltimore County fire lieutenant with 35 years of professional and volunteer experience. The Arbutus Democrat said the way some people drive by emergency vehicles "literally scares you to death."
"You'd be amazed how many people pay no attention to fire apparatus, medic units, police cars," he said. "They are literally flying by at 90 mph."
Roadside safety is a matter that emergency and law enforcement workers feel strongly about, Shipley said. "This is their office. This is where they work."
Shipley said he knows of no written policy that specifies that motorists will receive only warnings for a particular period of time. Whether to give a ticket or warning is up to the officer's discretion, he said.
According to Malone, the purpose of the law is education, not punishment. He's hoping that over time it becomes second nature for Maryland drivers to move over when they see an emergency vehicle on the side of the road.
"I want to make sure everybody knows it's the law," he said.
One detail worth knowing is that the penalty for a violation that causes a crash is three points and $150 — $750 if it leads to death or serious injury.
Malone said an earlier version of the legislation that would have added the same protection to highway workers was amended out of the bill to overcome some lawmakers' reservations. But he indicated that that provision could be added at some future time.
Let's hope it is. Highway workers deserve the same protection as others.
The best strategy is to get used to moving over or slowing down for flashing yellow lights the same way drivers now must for blue. Though it's not the law now, it probably will be soon.
Consider this your warning.
By Michael Dresser, The Baltimore Sun
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Friday, October 22, 2010
Everyone has at least one room in their home that is too small. Here are 10 ways to make any room look bigger.
1. Using soft, lighter colors, as opposed to bright or dark colors, makes a room feel larger. So, work with pastels, neutrals, and/or whites.
2. Choose monochromatic color scheme: colors with the same hue but different intensities. (A paint swatch card would provide an example of different tones of the same color). Use two or more of these monochromatic colors on furniture, rugs, and/or walls to create a stylish, pleasant look.
3. Use lighting to open up space. Recessed spot lighting is attractive and practical. A torchiere light allows light to bounce from the ceiling back down to the room. Skylights and solar tubes add natural light.
4. Cut the number of accessories and decorations to avoid clutter, which would make the room feel even smaller.
5. Keep the floor and ceiling light colored as well. Choose a light-colored carpet or light oak to make the room appear brighter. And keep the ceiling white or at least a light color to open up the space.
6. Wall mirrors make the room look larger and reflect images, light, and color. Try mirror tiles on an entire wall, making the room feel double in size.
7. Limit the amount of furniture in small places. Try downsizing a full-size sofa to a love seat.
8. Put up paintings or prints to add depth. Larger paintings work better than a group of small paintings.
9. Keep the room visually balanced. For example, a large and bright element could overwhelm a small room and make the room feel small.
10. Try using a glass table for dining, coffee, or end table. They will keep the room feeling open.
Nala was born October 5, 2009 which makes her just a little over one year old. She was adopted from ARF when she was just a baby. She was returned due to the family could no longer take care of her. She is as sweet as can be, house-trained (rings a bell to go out), crate-trained, up-to-date on shots, on heartworm preventative, micro-chipped and spayed. She does have lots of energy so she would do great in an active household. She does well with children, other dogs and she is just learning about cats.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
I always love to share experiences especially around great food and atmosphere. One of the great fine dining gems is the restaurant Rustico located in Stevensville.
Rustico features gourmet style white table cloth dining with excellent entrée and appetizers. You will be pleasantly surprised with many menu choices including pasta, chicken and seafood dishes.
It’s not just the great food that makes this place enjoyable. The quaint cozy feel provides the prefect back drop for a special date night or drinks and appetizers with friends and family.
If you’re not in the mood for a sit down dinner, try the wine bar which offers a condensed menu offering appetizers, salads and excellent flat bread pizzas. Take advantage of happy hour and weekly specials to stretch the family budget.
To learn more...log on to RUSTICO
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Remodeling is exciting in the beginning, but as the excitement of the renovations begin to take longer than you expect, you struggle to remain sane among the ciaos. Living among the ruins is more difficult than first anticipated. But do not fret, because there are practical ways to keep everything running as smoothly as possible. Try applying a few of the following ideas.
Clearly Communicate with Your Contractor:
Clearly Communicate with Your Contractor:
- Make sure everyone is on the same page as to when the project will be completed and what materials they will/will not use.
- Discuss what their work hours will be and when other contractors are scheduled to come.
- If the contractor is given a key, make sure they know you are giving them responsibility.
- Give guidelines for all workers to follow. Can they use the phone? Where should they park their trucks? Can they listen to the radio, and if so, how loud?
- Create a space for the workers to keep their tools and supplies and make sure they know that space is for them.
- Specify to them which bathroom they can use and where they can clean brushes.
- Alert the workers to schedule times when the power or water will be turned off, so that you are aware.
- Expect delays. Unforeseen problems such as a missing worker, late arrival of materials, and such will keep your project from on time completion.
- If you have to make changes to something the contractor has already done, go straight to your architect, contractor, or their supervisor.
- Offer the workers something to drink and perhaps a snack. Workers that are happy, work harder, go the extra mile, and are more willing to return later when you need repairs.
- Have one person in your family be the spokesperson to the contractor. This will limit confusion and delays.
- Store as many things in the work area as possible.
- Cover everything else with drop clothes.
- Always keep one part of your home work-free, so you can feel at rest in at least part of your home.
- Keep plaster dust in the work area by hanging plastic sheets over doorways between the work area and the rest of your home.
- Plan to go out to eat more frequently.
- Perhaps you could plan to take a weekend vacation during the renovations.
- Check all fixtures to make sure they work before they get installed.
If most of your home is under renovation, you may want to move out for the first month or two for the following reasons.
- The contractors can then work uninterruptedly and not have to worry about working around you.
- You will not have to deal with the thick dust that will coat your house.
- The dangerous debris could seriously injure you.
- If you have children, you have to constantly be making sure they are away from the “under construction” areas.
- Nails always escape initial clean-ups that easily cut into feet.
- Dangerous tools may lie around your house or fall off “out of reach” places that allow little ones access.
- The contractors feel more at ease with you not looking over their shoulder.
- Little one’s naps will be constantly interrupted by the noise contractors need to make in order to renovate with hammers, saws, electric dusters, scrapers, etc.
to search for your next home: Click Here
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Nearly a quarter of a million homes that were in some stage of foreclosure were sold during the second quarter of 2010, an increase of 5 percent since Quarter One. This, however, was 20 percent fewer sales than were recorded in that category in the second quarter of 2009.
According to the 2nd Quarter RealtyTrac Sales Report issued this morning, sales of homes in the process of pre-foreclosure or out of lenders real estate portfolios (REO) accounted for 24 percent of all sales in the country.
Home sales overall increased from the previous quarter, but while actual numbers of properties involved in foreclosure sales increased from 232,959 in the first quarter to 248,534, the market share of foreclosure sales was down from 31 percent. Extrapolating from RealtyTrac's foreclosure sales numbers and percentages, an estimated 1.4 million homes were marketed in Q2 compared to 752,000 in the previous period.
James J. Saccacio, chief executive officers of the Irvine California based firm said, "While foreclosure sales increased in the second quarter, non-foreclosure sales increased even more, spurred on by the homebuyer tax credit that expired during the quarter. That had the net effect of lowering foreclosure sales as a percentage of total sales during the quarter, but that may be a temporary dip as the removal of the tax credit could drive more buyers back to discounted short sales and REOs."
Lenders appear to be moving substantial numbers of properties before they fall into bank ownership. 151,290 homes were sold from REO inventory while 97,244 of sales were of properties in default or scheduled for auction. While the latter were not necessarily "short sales," that is transactions where the lender agrees to take less than the balance owned in order to release its lien, many were. While REO sales were up 3 percent from Q1, they were down 28 percent from one year earlier. Pre-foreclosure sales increased 8 percent from the previous quarter but were down 3 percent from a year earlier. REO sales represented 15 percent of all residential sales in the country compared to 19 percent in Q1 and 20 percent a year earlier while pre-foreclosure sales accounted for 9 percent, 3 percentage points lower than the previous quarter but at about the same level as a year earlier.
A buyer of REO continues to get a substantial discount from market prices. REO sold at an average discount of just over 34.5 percent, a number which was virtually unchanged from both the previous quarter and the figure a year earlier.
A pre-foreclosure property, on the other hand, sold much closer to market price. The average discount was 13 percent, down from 16 percent in Quarter One and 19 percent in the second quarter of 2009. On average, a buyer of distressed properties averages a 26 percent discount.
As usual, Nevada, Arizona, and California posted the highest percentage of foreclosure sales. More than half of all sales, 56 percent, in Nevada were of homes in foreclosure but the actual number of sales was down 30.1 percent from Q1. Buyers in Nevada received an average discount of 16 percent. In Arizona 47.4 percent of sales were foreclosure related and in California 43.2 percent. Discounts in the two states were 24.8 percent and 39.3 percent respectively. It is important to note that discounts in these long-term distressed states probably also reflect substantially depressed market prices.
Other states where foreclosure sales accounted for at least one-quarter of all sales were Rhode Island (37 percent), Massachusetts (35 percent), Florida (34 percent), Michigan (33 percent), Georgia (27 percent), Idaho (27 percent), and Oregon (25 percent). However, in Rhode Island the number of sales was down 54 percent from the previous quarter and in Massachusetts the change was -54 percent. In both states the number of sales were down over 60 percent from one year earlier
The highest discounts were recorded in Ohio (43 percent), Kentucky (40.8 percent) and California (39 percent). Other states with average foreclosure discounts of more than 35 percent were Michigan, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Illinois, and Iowa, along with the District of Columbia.
by Jan Swanson
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