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Friday, January 27, 2012

I Need a Current List of My Credit Cards

“I want to cancel some of my credit cards, but I need to find a current list of all of them, especially ones I don’t use any longer. Is there a way I can find out that information? And then how do I tell the companies I want to cancel the card?”  The Newton Falls Public Library staff understands the need to do a financial inventory and possibly downsize.

The Federal Trade Commission allows an individual to get a free credit report once each 12 month period. Our patron needs to go online to  Following the instructions, he will receive a report which will include all the credit cards in his name.

There are many interesting websites dealing with this topic. In the online article at, How To CancelA Credit Card Without Hurting Your Credit Score by Meg Marco Craig Watts, public affairs manager for FICO (Fair Isaac Corp., the company who invented the FICO score) advises readers "To close card accounts without impacting one's credit score, you need to only have zero balances on your credit report for all of your active credit cards. That's because if you have zero balances your credit utilization rate is therefore zero, and you can't raise it — and potentially hurt your score — by closing one or more of the active card accounts.” has several articles with advice on canceling cards, as well as a worksheet which includes guidelines to and a sample letter for closing accounts.

We also showed our patron some of the financial materials we have in the library. Two resources they considered were Master your Debt: Slash your Monthly Payments and Become Debt Free by Jordan Elliot Goodman and Survival Guide to Debt: How to Overcome Tough Times & Restore YourFinancial Health by Mitchell Allen.

To assist patrons in making wise financial and purchasing decisions, the Newton Falls Public Library subscribes to the following magazines: Consumer Reports, Forbes, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, Money, and ShopSmart.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Where Can Families Without Health Insurance Get Eyeglasses?

“Do you know any group that assists families without health insurance in getting eyeglasses, especially for my daughter?” The Newton Falls Public Library staff is very aware of the importance of being able to see clearly in order to read.

The first step taken was to contact the county’s Job and Family Services [JFS]. They informed us that the individual should fill out a state of Ohio Request for Cash, Food, and Medical Assistance application. The application may be accessed online at or by visiting their county’s JFS office.  Even if the parents do not meet the income requirements, the child may be eligible to receive the aid needed.

JFS also recommended that our patron phone 211. 211 Ohio can be reached by simply dialing 211. In Trumbull County the caller will reach Trumbull 211, Community Solutions; in Mahoning County, Help Hotline Crisis Center; and in Portage County, United Way 211Portage. The appropriate local information and referral agency will give the caller contact information as to groups and government agencies which may be able to assist her in getting the necessary eye exam and glasses for her daughter.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Why Does the Flag Have Stars With Seven Points Instead of Five?

“I noticed the display with books donated in memory of deceased members by the American Legion Post 234. There is a flag on the table with the number 76 and thirteen seven pointed stars. Why do the stars have seven points instead of five?” The Newton Falls Public Library staff wondered about this difference from the more familiar five pointed fifty star flag and asked the owner. He informed us that it is a Bennington Flag and he had purchased it during the Bicentennial

Flag: an American biography by Marc Leepson has a picture of this flag. It is “the Bennington Flag, one of several militia flags with thirteen stars and thirteen stripes . . . thought to have been flown by the Green Mountain boys at the August 16, 1777, Battle of Bennington in Vermont.[color insert pages]” It is also known as the Fillmore flag after the original owner Nathaniel Fillmore who fought in the Battle of Bennington. Leepson also says there are differences of opinion about this flag. Some feel that was actually made in the 1800s and dates either from the war of 1812 or the nation’s jubilee celebration in 1826 [p.26].” In Saga of the American Flag: an illustrated history by Candice M. DeBarr and Jack A. Bonkowske notes that Nathaniel Fillmore was the grandfather of Millard Fillmore, our 13th president [p.20].

We still had not discovered the significance of this flag’s seven pointed stars, so we extended our search online. The Bennington Museum states that the stars may have Masonic significance.  The website Revolutionary War and Beyond says that seven point stars were common on flags in colonial times. The 13 Stars and Stripes: a survey of 18th century images by David Martucci published in NAVA NEWS  Number 167(April-June 2000) says “Considering the number of points on the stars, it is a mixed bag and would appear that any number was used, even different numbers of points on the stars of a single flag. . . After the Revolutionary War, the star arrangements are very mixed.”

We were not able to find definitive historical information for our patron as to the reason the Bennington Flag has seven pointed stars. The description at lists a variety of reasons for selection of seven pointed stars.  “In mythology and some religions it represents integration, the unity of mind, body, and spirit. Seven is a lucky number. This star is also used to represent the seven liberal arts of classic antiquity: geometry, astronomy, mathematics, logic, grammar, rhetoric, and music. In engineering, the seven-pointed star represents the supremacy of reason.”

Friday, January 6, 2012

I Think We Have a Skunk Under Our Shed

“I think we have a skunk under our shed; the dog is going crazy. How can we get rid of it before it meets up with the dog?” Skunks are a critter none of the Newton Falls Public Library staff wants to meet, so we can understand the urgency of this request

All the editions of Harold E. Bailey’s book, The Friendly Trapper say that skunks find ammonia to be repulsive and cower away from it. He also suggests a poison gas cartridge like ones used for groundhogs. Our patron preferred the former option, as she only wished to discourage the skunk from living so close to her home.

If her dog should meet up with the skunk before she is able to remove it, we also searched for how to deal with the results. The Merck/Merial Manual for Pet Health recommends dealing with skunking while the spray is still wet as it is an oil. They encourage using a commercial product, as many homemade concoctions can be too harsh especially in the eye and ear areas or will bleach the dog’s coat. A recipe for a homemade treatment can be found at the Humane Society’s website. The instructions do come with cautioning notes not to get it near the pet’s eyes, leaving on too long and bleaching his fur, and premixing as it can explode if left in the bottle. It also includes follow-up instructions for cleaning the owner’s clothing by washing in laundry detergent and baking soda.

Does Turning Off TV During Commercials Save Electricity?

“By turning off TV at each advertisement would I save electricity, prolong the life of the TV, or would this do harm?”  The Newton Falls Public Library staff is always interested in money saving ideas.

Energy usage certainly depends on the television owned. A chart of energy efficiency at CNET
shows HDTV power consumption costing yearly anywhere from $10.59 for the calibrated settings on a 32” Sharp LCD to $108.07 for a 58” Panasonic plasma television. But this did not tell us if the cost would go up or down by turning it off frequently.

Unable to find the exact information for our patron online, we decided to contact a television repair business. Our staff phoned Portage Electronics in Ravenna. They informed us that each time the power button is pushed it creates a 5 volt spike of electricity, which in time will burn out the microprocessor. They recommended that turning it on and off would cause more damage to the television than would save her money in electricity.

We did find that conversely avoiding the viewing of commercials can save you money. “According to Boston College sociologist Juliet Schor, ‘Television viewing results in an upscaling of desire. And that in turn leads people to buy.’ Her study found that every additional hour of TV viewing per week boosts spending by roughly $200 a year.” 

It seems that leaving your television on during commercials will protect it, saving you money in repairs. Leaving the room or muting the commercials when they come on will keep you from being tempted to spend money.