Beijing Olympics

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If you are heading to Beijing to support our atheletes, you might want to check out this blog site before packing your bags. Globespotters offers urban advice from reporters who live there.

Beijing Basics are for smart travelers who plan ahead - with information from airports, getting into town, using the subways, to finding an English-speaking doctor.

If your travel plans include other equally exotic locales such as Mumbai, Bangkok, Moscow or Istanbul, you will be glad you did you homework. Travel safe.

Save at the Pump with Consumer Reports

Save at the Pump with Consumer ReportsSave at the Pump with Consumer Reports

The July issue of Consumer Reports, available at all locations, rates 31 new small sedans and picks the top 21 used cars with the best fuel-efficiency.

This issue also includes a special section testing digital cameras, ratings for air-conditioners, 6 ways to help keep the home cool and comfortable, and more.

Flood Facts from FEMA

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Local governments throughout Washtenaw County, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and FEMA will host a Flood Risk Information Open House for residents on Wednesday, April 30, 4:30 - 6:30 p.m. at the Ypsilanti Township Board Room. County residents will have an opportunity to review a recently completed preliminary Flood Insurance Study (FIS) and its accompanying preliminary Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs). Take advantage of this opportunity to learn more about flood risk and hazard mitigation.

Your Home, Your Future

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Your house is one of your most valuable possessions. If you are facing financial uncertainty which could threaten making your mortgage payments on time, there is a source of free advice that could help. MSU Extension is holding a series of free seminars at various locations across the county on preventing foreclosure. Register now because space is limited.

The monthly horror that is your cell phone bill

If you're an NPR listener, you might have noticed a veritable media blitzkrieg for Bob Sullivan, popular columnist for MSNBC business exposé blog The Red Tape Chronicles. Recently, Sullivan has appeared on Marketplace and Fresh Air. Could Talk of the Nation be next?

Sullivan has been plugging his new book on something near and not-so-dear to all of our hearts: hidden fees. Whether they be from your bank, your credit card company, or your cell phone carrier, fees seem not only like a way of life for consumers, but a viable business model. And a source of higher blood pressure. Gotcha Capitalism details these pocketbook-draining schemes, and how to avoid them.

Of course, you've already proven yourself an intelligent consumer. You can avoid all sorts of hidden fees from bookstores and credit companies alike by checking out the book from us. Providing you return it on time, of course!

Tired of Google?

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Like a lot of locals I’m thrilled to have the Google Company move to town. However when I’m looking for information I’ve grown tired of the typical search result of millions of hits. Too many answers are useless to me. Maybe you’ve got time to go thru them all. I don’t.

Fortunately I’m not alone in my frustration. Try Clusty search engine. It searches for your requested information and presents the results in clusters. It’s a refreshing way to get the answers. Try it! You’ll like it. I did.

How Green Is Your Computer?

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Power consumption and sustainability methods being used locally were the focus of the 12th Annual University of Michigan Energy Fest. The Library’s Malletts Creek Branch’s green roof was highlighted. For suggestions on energy management and green computing, check out the web site of the host of the Energy Fest, the University of Michigan Utilities and Plant Engineering.

Foreclosure Assistance

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Local, state and federal agencies are providing assistance and information for homeowners having difficulty meeting their mortgage payments or facing foreclosure. Washtenaw County's Mortgage Foreclosure Prevention website gives you the names and phone numbers of the people in the Treasurer's Office that are trained and ready to help. There's plenty of online information at the site too. The state government's Office of Financial Services offers more tips for consumers. The FHA, Federal Housing Administration is launching the "FHASecure" refinancing program effective immediately and expects some 240,000 homewowners to qualify.

Measuring Energy Consumption

Do you ever want to measure how much electricity something uses? With an energy meter you can find out just how much electricity your appliances are using. Simply plug the appliance or device into the meter, plug the meter into an outlet and then read the display. Sounds handy, doesn’t it? If this is of interest to you, the AADL has energy meters that you can check out for home use.

Real Time Water Watching

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How much water are you using at home? More than last year or last month? If you live in Ann Arbor you can now find out all kinds of info about your water usage and billing by following the My Property link on the City's web site. This new web service gives you daily, quarterly, monthly, multi-year usage charts and graphs. Notice a sudden spike in usage? A dripping faucet or leaky pipe may be the cause. Time for a plumbing repair book.

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