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July 25, 2008

Issue #573

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FACTS ABOUT THE BIG RIGS by Jefferson Woodward

This week, Tidbits offers a hearty 10-4 to those big rigs (and the folks who drive them). Thanks for hauling everything from livestock to office supplies across miles of highway to keep this great country of ours up and running! • According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, 72 percent of all freight in the United States is transported by trucks. Between the Federal Heavy Vehicle Use Tax, the Federal Excise Fuel Tax, and the Federal Excise Tax on Tractors & Trailers (to name just a few), truck owners pay an average of $10,000 per year in taxes alone. The monies collected are put back into the system to help improve our federal highways. • If it seems to you that the larger trucks on the freeway drive a bit slower than they did only a few years ago, you’re not imagining it. For each mile-per-hour of speed below 65 mph, a truck saves about 1.5 percent in fuel consumption. With diesel fuel currently priced at more than $4 per gallon, the savings has proven to be enough of an incentive that some fleet owners have installed electronic regulators to monitor their drivers’ speed. • When we refer to an 18-wheeler as a “semi,â€? what we’re actually describing is the trailer that the truck is pulling. A semi-trailer only has wheels at the rear; the front end is supported by the towing vehicle. • Truck drivers often identify themselves by the vehicle they drive and/or the type of cargo they carry. For example, auto haulers are those very specialized two-deck trailers that transport new cars and trucks. Flatbed trucks pull unenclosed trailers that haul large bulky items such as steel coils, lumber, and machinery. “Reeferâ€? drivers drive refrigerated trucks that transport perishable goods. • Taxes and fuel costs aside, how much does it cost just to buy a big rig? Just like automobiles, the cab or “tractorâ€? portion of an 18- wheeler is available in the showroom with a number of different options. Expect to pay at least $80,000 for even a basic vehicle. • The trailer portion of a big rig is less expensive than the cab; it might set you back only $30 grand. If you’ve ever taken the time to read the various stickers on the 18-wheeler in front of you on the freeway, you might have noticed that some advertise jobs for drivers, while others indicate that the truck belongs to an owner/operator. An owner/operator is independent and owns the vehicle he is driving. It means he laid out a lot of cash for his rig, but he is his own boss. • A truck driver is limited to 11 hours of driving over a 14-hour period, after which 10 consecutive hours of rest is mandated by federal law. It’s intended to reduce driver fatigue, which in turn reduces the number of traffic accidents. If you pull into a truck stop or rest area and see several drivers sitting around seemingly doing nothing, they are most likely waiting out the remainder of the required 10 hour rest period. turn the page for more!

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TidbitsÂŽ of Spokane Washington


#Z1BVM(%POPIVF .% Long Plane FITNESS Ride Can Challenge Body


Q: This summer I’ll be taking my dream vacation to New Zealand. I have never flown on a plane for more than four hours, and even then my back and knees begin to bother me. A friend suggested I do exercises on the plane to keep from sitting down for so long. What type of exercises can I do in a cramped airplane?


A: Air travel can be a challenge, especially if you’re sitting for long periods of time. The secret is to plan before your trip to avoid any discomfort while flying. First, if you have any medical conditions or concerns, speak with your physician before you leave. Be sure to include the length of the airplane ride, stopovers, etc., so he or she will have the information needed to suggest a plan to help you have a smooth trip. Next, begin by getting in shape as much as you can in the weeks leading up to your trip. The fitter you are, the more your body will be able to tolerate the long plane ride to New Zealand. Your muscles, bones and joints are not accustomed to sitting for extended periods of time, especially in the small confines of an airplane seat. The stronger your body, the better you’ll feel upon arrival. Cardiovascular, strength and flexibility exercises should all be part of your pre-trip exercise routine. Walking or jogging, a total-body strength training routine and flexibility exercises or classes such as Pilates or yoga can be a great combination. If you already have an exercise program, continue with your routine and add any needed exercises. Remember to practice good posture in the weeks leading up to your trip. Try to develop a strong core -- which includes your whole trunk region -- and avoid slumping forwarding or leaning to the side while driving or sitting at home. Practicing these habits can help you develop the technique and strength to do this while on a plane. Poor posture while sitting can cause problems with your lower back, neck and shoulders. Sitting for hours on an airplane with this poor posture can begin to cause discomfort. Once on the plane, remember to practice these good posture techniques and continue to move your legs, arms and neck throughout the flight. Many airlines offer exercise suggestions on in-flight screens to remind passengers to move around and move their limbs every hour. Sleeping may seem like the best way to get through a long trip; however, if you plan to sleep, ask someone you are flying with or a flight attendant to wake you occasionally so you can get up and walk, stretch and get the blood flowing throughout your body. While sitting, you can move your legs, roll your ankles, stretch your wrist, shoulders and neck -- and just keep moving. Although the space is limited on an airplane, you can still move enough to keep your body strong and happy on your way to your dream vacation.

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Always consult a physician before beginning an exercise program. If you have a fitness or training question, write to Andrea in care of King Features Weekly Service, P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475 (c) 2008 King Features Synd., Inc.

THE BIG RIGS (continued): • To idle or not? The air conditioning, music system, and other accoutrements in today’s big rigs require ample electricity. Until recently, many drivers left their engine running, even while at a rest stop. But with diesel prices skyrocketing, more drivers are investing in an APU, or Alternate Power Unit. An APU is a small onboard diesel generator. Even at a sticker price of about $10,000, the unit quickly pays for itself in terms of fuel savings alone. • You’ve probably seen signs at the weigh stations on some interstates advising truck drivers to “follow in-cab signals.â€? These instructions are for drivers who use PrePass, which is a transponder installed inside their cab that electronically transmits all their pertinent data to the computer at the weigh station. Pre- Pass also allows the truck to use the WIM (weigh in motion) scale, meaning they can pass over a sensor in the pavement to measure their load, rather than having to pull off at the weigh station and stop. • In the United States, the federal legal maximum weight for a standard 18-wheeler (without any special permits for an oversized load) is 40 tons, or 80,000 pounds. Laws also specify how the weight of a truck’s load must be carefully distributed over each axle. • Most modern truckers no longer use the CB slang made famous in Smokey and the Bandit and “Convoy.â€? So much personnel turnover has occurred in the trucking industry in recent years that many drivers aren’t on the job long enough to learn a whole dictionary’s worth of clever catch phrases. Some of the terms have stuck around, however; a state trooper is still a “smokey,â€? a weigh station is known as a “chicken coop,â€? a mile marker is a “yardstick,â€? and drivers in a hurry are still said to be “putting the hammer down.â€? • Another curious road sign you might see along America’s highways reads “No Jake Braking Allowed.â€? You don’t have to worry about this particular regulation, though, unless you happen to be behind the wheel of an 18-wheeler. Most semis are equipped with compression release engine brakes, generically referred to by truckers as “Jake brakes.â€? (Jacobs Vehicles Systems, Inc., is a major manufacturer of this equipment.) The use of compression brakes causes less wear on the truck’s components, but it does make a very loud and distinctive staccato noise, which is why some areas prohibit them. • Does a career in heavy hauling appeal to you? Currently, the United States is experiencing a shortage of qualified truck drivers, so there are plenty of jobs to be had once you earn your Commercial Driver’s License. New drivers usually start out earning a rate of about 25 cents per mile, driving an average of 3,000 miles per week. Once you get some experience under your belt, the rate per mile (and the miles per week) will increase. • However, there is more to hauling than just driving. You’ll work with inexperienced dispatchers who might give the wrong directions and send you to an urban area. You’ll be expected to deliver on time, no matter the weather or traffic conditions. You’ll usually have to tarp and chain your loads yourself, which means climbing, crawling and lifting. • All of us who grouse and gripe at those big trucks holding up traffic should take a moment and remember that these behemoths are bringing fuel to our gas stations, pharmaceuticals to our local drugstores, mail to our post offices, and fresh produce to our grocery stores. It’s easy to complain that they’re taking up space on our roads, but we’d sure complain a lot more if they weren’t! The End.

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Vacations Promote Healthy Heart If you hope to get in a short vacation before the end of summer, there’s still time. And if you’re like me, the idea of an inexpensive getaway is most appealing. To avoid driving long distances (and incurring all that expense for gas), I’ve decided to spend a long weekend camping out at a national park. Besides, a short time away is easier to justify when even Harvard University says that vacations are good for us, and that those of us who get away are less likely to develop heart disease. Do you have a senior park pass? These are lifetime passes to national parks for U.S. citizens age 62 and over. The only place to get a pass is at a park. Some of the benefits include free admission for you and a few others in your car, and a 50 percent discount for you only on expanded amenities such as camping and swimming. The old Golden Age Passports for park admittance have been discontinued, and the replacement is called America the Beautiful -- National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass. Cost is $10 each. Have a photo ID handy when you buy one. As I was preparing for my short vacation, a handy booklet caught my eye at the Harvard Health Publications Web site: “10-Minute Consult -- Healthy Travel.� It’s full of helpful tips on preparing to travel, but the most important concern being prepared with all medications you take and others that might be needed, such as laxatives and antacids. The same Web site carries low-cost special reports that can be purchased on a wide range of topics such as high blood pressure, Alzheimer’s disease, home safety, osteoporosis and nutrition. Check edu and click on Special Reports for the whole list of topics. Or call 1-888-386-7220 for customer service. Matilda Charles regrets that she cannot personally answer reader questions, but will incorporate them into her column whenever possible. Write to her in care of King Features Weekly Service, P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475, or send e-mail to columnreply@gmail. com. (c) 2008 King Features Synd., Inc.

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Your pet is the focus

r i8IFOFWFS * XBML NZ EPHT  BMPOHXJUIEPHHJFCBHTGPSDMFBO JOH VQ UIFJS NFTTFT  * BMTP CSJOH BOFYUSBQMBTUJDHSPDFSZCBHXJUI NF * PŃŤFO TFF FNQUZ CPUUMFT  PAWS CORNER DBOTBOEPUIFSUSBTIUIBUIBTCFFO By Sam Mazzotta IBQIB[BSEMZ UISPXO UP UIF TJEF PG UIF SPBE CZ FOWJSPONFOUBMMZ Dogs Need Love, Not Treats VOGSJFOEMZNPUPSJTUTBOEQBTTFSTCZ*MMQJDLVQXIBU*DBOBMPOHUIF SPVUFBOEUISPXUIFCBHPGHBSCBHFBXBZJOUIF%VNQTUFSXIFOUIF DEAR PAW’S CORNER: I just read your column about EPHTBOE*SFUVSOIPNFu$&GSPN'MPSJEB rewarding dogs with “treatsâ€? for good behavior. Treats are fine if you’re teaching them to sit up, roll over or jump r"OPUIFSHSFBUJDFQBDLJEFB,FFQBCBHPGVOQPQQFEQPQDPSOLFS through a hoop. In my almost 80 years I’ve had many dogs OFMTJOUIFGSFF[FSUPVTFBTBOJDFQBDLGPSCVNQT CSVJTFTBOETXFMM that were all well-mannered without giving them treats. A JOH*UTFBTZUPNPMEUPBOZCPEZQBSU BOEUIFSFTOPNFMUJOH pleasant voice, a big hug, a pat on the head and “good r5PEFUFSHSBTTGSPNHSPXJOHJOUIFDSFWJDFTPGQBUJPTUPOFT TQSJOLMF dogâ€? work nicely as a reward. UIFTUPOFTXJUIBMJUUMFTBMU UIFOTXFFQJUJOUPUIFDSBDLT#FDBSFGVM My reasoning is that you don’t give your children candy when you are teaching them proper behavior. My dogs get OPUUPVTFUPPNVDI UIPVHI treats when they least expect one. That’s a “treatâ€?! ri*NBTINZHVBDBNPMFXJUIBXIJTLJOTUFBEPGBGPSL*UEPFTBTVQFS I’ve shown dogs in dog shows and never “baitedâ€? them KPCu0-JO/PSUI$BSPMJOB with treats. Being in the show was a treat, because we r5PNBLFQPUBUPFTMBTUMPOHFS EPOUTUPSFUIFNXJUIPOJPOTŃŽFPO were having fun. We won many ribbons and “Best of Breedâ€? without them. Being a champion is its own reward! JPOTHJWFPÄ’BHBTUIBUDBOTQFFEEFUFSJPSBUJPOPGUIFQPUBUPFT Dogs are smart, and they sense your feelings, whether it’s r*GZPVIBWFBOPMESVCCFSHMPWFUIBUIBTKVTUBCPVUPVUMJWFEJUTVTF fear, anxiety or pleasure, and react to your attitude and GVMOFTT EPOUUPTTJUZFU$VUPÄ’UIFĂŞOHFSTBOETMJQUIFUJQTPWFSUIF body language. Kindness, patience and consistency work IBOEMFTPGCSPPNTBOENPQT8IFOMFBOFEBHBJOTUBXBMM UIFIBOEMF well without using treats. XPOUTMJEFEPXOJUTJOTUBOUOPOTMJQ:PVBMTPDBODVUTUSJQTGSPN The real reward for a dog is being loved and cared for. UIFXSJTUQPSUJPOBOEVTFUIFNBTMBSHFSVCCFSCBOETGPSCVOEMJOH Sincerely, -- K.H.S., Fairport, N.Y. OFXTQBQFSPSPUIFSNBUFSJBMT DEAR K.H.S.: Well, I can’t argue with that. Great ad4FOEZPVSUJQTUP/PX)FSFTB5JQ DP,JOH'FBUVSFT8FFLMZ4FS vice, and something to consider when training your dog, WJDF 10#PY 0SMBOEP '-PSFNBJM+P"OOBU whether for basic obedience or for a show. You said it all, IFSFTBUJQ!ZBIPPDPN D ,JOH'FBUVSFT4ZOE *OD and I thank you!

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Send your tips, questions and comments to Paws Corner, c/o King Features Weekly Service, P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475, or e-mail them to (c) 2008 King Features Synd., Inc.

TidbitsÂŽ of Spokane Washington

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TidbitsÂŽ of Spokane Washington (relative needs help!) Dear Dave,

My uncle’s wife died last year. An attorney handled probate for him, but I don’t think it was an estate attorney. He doesn’t know if she had life insurance, and now he’s left with medical bills totaling about $8,000. There are also credit card bills of $11,000. The house is paid off, but he wants to get a loan and consolidate the bills. He currently receives about $3,000 a month income between pension and social security, and he’s a little confused about financial matters. What can we do? Sheila Dear Sheila, You’re right about one thing. A consolidation loan isn’t the answer to his problem. You need to sit down with your uncle and very clearly think through everything that’s going on right now. Whenever someone passes away, their estate - anything they owned - stands good for any bills owed. In this situation, her portion of the house has to stand against her bills that she owed. If her bills go unpaid, the companies owed - medical or credit card - could take a lien against the house. That means if he ever sells it, they’ll take what’s owed from the sale before he sees any money. But this is not a huge mess, and he can get out of it if he’ll make a plan and stick with it. You need to sit down with him and work out a really tight budget that he can live on. List all of his debts from smallest to largest and map out a game plan for how he’ll attack the debt every month. If he would live very frugally - on about $1,000 a month for a while - and use the balance to pay off debts, he could be debt-free in a year. If he’s lives a little higher on the hog it could take a year and a half. You’ve identified the biggest problem here, which is disorganization and no game plan. Creating a budget is setting out realistic mathematical goals, and as a loving family member it would be a good idea for you help him work this plan - at least for the first few months. Dave (two mistakes in one!) Dear Dave, I was dating someone that I expected to marry, and then we broke up. Before that, she was having car problems and I co-signed a lease with her. She still has the car, and so far she’s made one payment and I’ve made one. We have a forfeiture agreement on the car that states if she doesn’t make a payment by the end of the month, I come get the car. Now, her parents have offered to buy her another car and she wants to just give me the leased car. I’ve already got a leased truck, so what’s the best thing to do? Darrell

Home & Garden THIS IS A HAMMER By Samantha Mazzotta

Don’t Toss That Paintbrush Q: I enjoyed your recent article on techniques that make it easier to restore paintbrushes. You didn’t mention oil-based paints and varnish. What would you recommend? -- Mario F., via e-mail A: Naturally, the best way to keep paintbrushes in top shape is to clean them immediately after use. But even the most disciplined painters will leave a brush out too long or store it bristles-down, so that it becomes misshapen. It happens. Brushes with dried oil-based paints should be dipped into a container of paint thinner, mineral spirits (also called white spirits) or another solvent such as turpentine. These thinners put out a lot of fumes and are very flammable, so use only in a well-ventilated area (away from common living areas) and well away from all other flammable materials. Dip the dried brush into the solvent and keep it in just long enough to saturate the bristles. Then, either place it on a flat surface (protected by newspaper) or suspend it bristles-down by passing a wire through the hole in the handle and hanging the wire up. Don’t soak the brush in the solvent container, and don’t rest the brush on its bristles. Periodically check the brush to see if the dried paint is softening up. Dip it in the solvent again if necessary. When the paint begins to soften, carefully run the spiky side of a cleaner tool (available at paint stores) through the brush, being careful not to tug out bristles. Repeat this process as needed. Brushes that have become misshapen can be very difficult to straighten out. The only thing to do is clean them thoroughly, store properly, and then use on your next job. The painting action often works the bristles into a somewhat straight position. HOME TIP: Paint thinner, mineral spirits and solvents can be reused. Let the thinner rest in a closed container until the solid materials have settled to the bottom. Carefully pour the clear thinner into another container and save it for the next job. Send questions or home-repair tips to, or write This Is a Hammer, c/o King Features Weekly Service, P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. (c) 2008 King Features Synd., Inc.

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Well, you’ve already done two of the biggest things I tell people not to do - you’ve leased a vehicle and you’ve cosigned. That two big no-no’s at once! If it were me, I wouldn’t take the car as fulfillment of the amount she owes. She needs to find out what the buyout amount is on the car, sell it and pay the difference to the lender. If she doesn’t have the money, her parents could pay the difference since they’re offering to buy her a car anyway.


The reality, Darrell, is that you are going to have to take controlof this situation. If she won’t do something right away, you’ll have to take the car, sell it and finance the difference. Let her know if it comes to that, she’ll be seeing you again because you’ll sue her for the amount you had to finance.



The lender will call her once or twice, but they’ll call you a dozen times because they know you’ve got the deep pockets. She’s not good for the money, and they know that. That’s why they wouldn’t lend her the money without you as a co-signer! Don’t let the car be repossessed, either. They’ll take the car and sell it for less than wholesale value, then come sue you for the difference. I know you were just trying to help her, but now you’re legally responsible in this mess, too. This is a great example of why you should never co-sign for someone - even if it’s someone you’re planning to marry! - Dave * For more financial advice plus special offers to our readers, please visit or call 1-888-22-PEACE.






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Spokane TIBITS Issue #573  
Spokane TIBITS Issue #573  

General Interest Paper