Helping Injured Alabamians Make Great Decisions Regarding Their Legal Issues
Don’t Stress About Being No. 1 Enjoy Your Hobbies for National Hobby Month
I’ve written about my hobbies before because they’re a big part of my life. I enjoy reading, listening to audiobooks and podcasts, and watching Alabama football and basketball games. I even played both sports when I was younger. While I don’t play basketball or football today, I did pick up golf as a new hobby. I didn’t get into golf until I was a little older. When I was growing up, basketball was my sport, and I always thought I would make it pretty big in basketball. I’d be at the gym playing for hours during the week and joined the basketball team throughout my middle and high school years. For me, it didn’t matter that I was only 6 feet tall and could barely touch the rim of the basketball hoop. After I finished both college and law school, I tried to pick it up again, but I didn’t really have the time. That was when a few friends introduced me to golf. While some of these friends had been playing since we were kids, my college buddies and I just wanted to try it out. I thought I could be a pretty decent golfer because I was a good athlete growing up, but I quickly found otherwise. I practiced and played a lot at first and gradually became a little better, but overall, the sport was a bit frustrating to me. Golf is a unique sport that many other athletes don’t or can’t grasp. The game is a lot harder than it looks. Charles Barkley was one of the very best basketball players ever, but his golf swing is one of the ugliest you’ll ever see. Likewise, I never consistently break 90, which,
in case you don’t play golf, is not very good at all. No matter how hard I tried to get better, I just couldn’t. I finally decided that being a great golfer shouldn’t be my priority. So, I gave up on being a great golfer and started to loosen up with each round I played, and something amazing happened. I started having a lot of fun, and when that happened, the games were no longer a source of misery and anxiety.
and keeping my hands and arms loose when I swing the golf club. I’ll head out to the course for an afternoon with a couple of friends and leave my phone in my car. It’s become a fantastic getaway for me. What’s even more interesting is since I started enjoying myself, I play better now than when I was so serious about it, which is a win-win all around. Since January is National Hobby Month, it’s a perfect time to think about what hobbies you enjoy. Does pressure to perform well stress you out? If so, find a way to make your hobby enjoyable again, or try something new. You don’t have to be miserable doing something you want to enjoy.
Whenever I head out on the golf course now, my main focus is on having fun, staying relaxed,
REFERRALS WELCOME We thank you so much for referring clients to us over the years. We are grateful that you have trusted us with taking care of those who need our services. For any referrals, please contact us at (205) 327-8311 or fill out our online contact form at petrolawfirm.com.
Here’s to an amazing new year!
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Social Security in 2020 KNOWWHAT’S CHANGING
If you’re in the appropriate age bracket, Social Security may play a major role in your finances. So, it’s important to know how Social Security will be changing in 2020.
Those near the top of the Social Security income scale in 2019 will see an increase in their maximum payout in 2020. The maximum payout for an individual will be capped at $2,861 per month. That translates to $34,332 per year, so consider how that may impact your finances.
Unless Congress takes some drastic actions in the coming months, the current excess trust fund revenue will be depleted by the year 2034. If that happens, Social Security will only be able to pay 79% of the promised benefits from ongoing payroll taxes. You may need to think about what your financial plan would be like with 21% less income.
Howmuch your benefits are taxed depends on your household income levels. For example, 50% of your benefits will be taxed if youmake between $25,000–$34,000 individually or $32,000–$44,000 for married couples. If you’re above that income bracket, then 85% of your benefits will be taxable.
If you haven’t reached retirement yet, this one is important to consider. If you were born after 1959, the full retirement age is now 67 for you. You’ll still be able to start taking some benefits at age 62, but they’ll be at reduced monthly payments.
Cost of Living
Low inflation means that Social Security benefits will only see a minor cost of living increase. This year, it’s expected to be around 1.6%. It’s not major, but if you’re living off Social Security alone, every penny is important.
Ctrl, Alt, Delete Your Clutter TIPS FOR NATIONAL CLEAN UPYOUR COMPUTER MONTH
Back Up Your Computer
Everyone relies on technology. Computers, laptops, tablets, and phones are staples of modern life. However, it’s easy for these devices to become cluttered with old photos, files, and general disorganization. Luckily, January is National Clean Up Your Computer Month and an excellent time to get your technology in order.
Be sure to back up your computer before you start deleting things. This acts as a safety net in case you delete something you didn’t mean to. Additionally, consider installing a second hard drive. The extra space can help with storing important files without having to worry about how much room is left.
Start by Dusting
Clean Up Space
Over time, computer towers can become clogged with dust, which creates additional, unwanted heat within your computer. Regular cleanings will increase the lifespan of your computer and protect its essential components. Compressed air is great for removing most of the dust and other particulates. If the fans or filters are too dirty, you can remove them from the tower to clean them better. If you use water or liquid cleaning products on them, be sure they are completely dry before placing them back into your computer.
Any files you’ll never use again should be deleted. Likewise, any programs you haven’t used in a while should be uninstalled. Check your hard drive for files that might be taking up unintended space on your computer. And remember to empty the recycling bin — it’s easy to forget just how much goes in there.
Organize Your Files
Naming and arranging the files on your computer in such a way that they’re easy for you to find can end up saving you a lot of time. Declutter your workspace by creating one file for pictures, one for Word documents, one for spreadsheets, and one for programs to eliminate the hassle of frantically searching for the files you need.
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TAKE A BREAK
Imagine you’re navigating a vast airport on a busy Saturday, shouldering your way through crowds and struggling to hear the PA system over the clatter of 1,000 wheeled suitcases. Suddenly, you see a pig wearing a hot pink sweater waddling toward you on a leash. Do you stop in your tracks? Does your stress level drop? Do you laugh out loud when you see its pink nail polish? If you answered “yes” to any of the above, then you can sympathize with the passengers, pilots, flight attendants, and staff at the San Francisco International Airport. They get to enjoy visits from Lilou, the world’s first airport therapy pig, on a regular basis! As part of the Wag Brigade, the airport’s cadre of (mostly canine) therapy animals, Lilou wanders the airport with her humans, bringing joy, peace, and calm to everyone she meets. Lilou may be the only pig of her kind, but airport therapy animals have been a growing trend for the last few years. According to NPR, as of 2017, more than 30 airports across the U.S. employed therapy dogs, and these days, estimates land closer to 60. The San Jose and Denver airports have therapy cats, and the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport even offers passengers the chance to play with miniature horses before boarding their flights. Therapy dogs started appearing in U.S. airports after the 9/11 terror attacks, which changed American attitudes about flying. They did so well at helping passengers calm down that airports began implementing permanent programs. Some have pets on hand 24/7 to assist passengers, while others host animal visits every few weeks or months. These days, regular travelers have fallen hard for their local therapy animals, many of whom even have their own Instagram accounts and hashtags. So, the next time you’re traveling, keep an eye out for a friendly pup, cat, pig, or horse to pet. A bit of love from an animal just might improve your trip! MEET THE WORLD’S FIRST AIRPORT THERAPY PIG How Lilou and Animals Like Her Calm Stressed-Out Travelers
A traditional New Year’s favorite in the South, Hoppin’ John includes black-eyed peas that are said to represent coins, a sign of prosperity for the coming year. It’s usually served alongside collard greens, which represent cash.
1 cup dried black-eyed peas
1 smoked ham hock
5–6 cups water
1 medium onion, diced
1 dried hot pepper, optional (arbol and Calabrian are great options)
1 cup long-grain white rice
1. Wash and sort peas. 2. In a saucepan, cover peas with water, discarding any that float. 3. Add pepper, ham hock, and onion. Gently boil and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until peas are just tender, about 90 minutes. At this point, you should have about 2 cups of liquid remaining. 4. Add rice, cover, drop heat to low, and simmer for 20 minutes, undisturbed. 5. Remove from heat and let steam for an additional 10 minutes, still covered. 6. Remove lid, fluff with a fork, and serve. Inspired by Epicurious
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INSIDE THIS ISSUE
Don’t Stress About the Game
Changes to Social Security in 2020 Enter 2020 With an Organized Computer
Hoppin’ John Meet the World’s First Airport Therapy Pig
The Sweetest Crime in History
HISTORY’S SWEETEST THEFT THE GREAT CANADIAN MAPLE SYRUP HEIST
Maple syrup holds a proud place in the history and culture of Quebec, Canada. It’s also a big part of Quebec’s economy, with 72% of the world’s maple syrup produced in Quebec alone. Due to tactics employed by the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers (FPAQ), the NPR-backed podcast“The Indicator”estimates that maple syrup is valued at approximately $1,300 per barrel —over 20 times more than crude oil. The FPAQ controls the available syrup supply, never releasing enough maple syrup to meet demand, which increases the price. As a result, most of the world’s maple syrup is stored in various reserves. Between 2011 and 2012, a group of thieves decided to liberate the syrup from an FPAQ facility in Saint-Louis-de-Blandford, Quebec. Stealing syrup from Canada doesn’t sound as glamorous as stealing cash from a Vegas casino, but their plan could rival the plot of “Ocean’s Eleven.”
At the FPAQ facility, syrup was stored in unmarked metal barrels and only inspected once a year. The heist, led by a man named Richard Vallières, involved transporting the barrels to a remote sugar shack in the Canadian wilderness, where they siphoned off the maple syrup, refilled the barrels with water, and returned the barrels to the facility. The stolen syrup was then trucked east to New Brunswick and south across the border into Vermont. Wisely, the thieves sold their ill-gotten goods in small batches, avoiding suspicion from legitimate syrup distributors. In what is now known as the Great Canadian Maple Syrup Heist, thieves made off with 10,000 barrels of maple syrup valued at $18.7 million. This remains one of the most costly heists in Canadian history. Vallières himself became a millionaire and took his family on three tropical vacations in one year.
Unfortunately, the thieves got sloppy and stopped refilling the barrels with water. When an FPAQ inspector visited the targeted facility in the fall of 2012, he accidentally knocked over one of the empty barrels. The inspector
alerted the police, who would go on to arrest 17 men in connection to the theft, including Vallières himself.
Police were then able to recover hundreds
of barrels of the stolen syrup, but most of it was never recovered — likely lost
to pancake breakfasts far away.
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