Category: Opinion

Consumer Counselor – May 23, 2018

The benefits of water features in garden landscapes
Many homeowners aspire to make their homes appear as beautiful and welcoming as possible. Exterior renovations may be high on homeowners’ to-do lists, and landscaping is oftentimes a key component of those projects.
When planning gardens, homeowners may benefit by considering more than just flowers and shrubs while giving thought to other elements that can breathe vitality into their landscape designs. Water features can do just that, as such features provide more than just visual appeal.
Aesthetic appeal: Water elements stand out against the greenery and foliage and can be used to create focal points around the garden or yard. A single fountain can draw the eye, while a trickling stream or waterfall can deliver water to various spots in the landscape.
Soothing sound: Rain drops on a rooftop or waves lapping on a shoreline elicit feelings of harmony and relaxation. Water features can bring that gentle sound close to home, further enhancing the ambiance.
Brings texture: Water has its own unique and fluid texture that can provide stark contrast to blades of grass or the hard lines of architectural elements, such as pergolas or retaining walls. A pond or fountain can soften lines.
Enhance the natural ecosystem: Water features can attract wildlife to a property. Birds may visit to take a quick sip, and dragonflies are sure to dart and hover over the shimmering ripples. Inviting natural wildlife to the yard can add hours of entertainment by enjoying the animals and insects.
Remedy problem areas: Rather than fighting with the landscape, homeowners can adapt it. An area of the yard prone to soggy conditions or flooding can be transformed into a pond or waterfall to work with natural surroundings.
Foster a passion: Many people turn to water features so they can explore the hobby of nurturing an outdoor aquarium. Koi ponds are relatively easy to install and maintain, and the vibrant fish add visual appeal.
Add a personal touch: Water features are as unique as the homeowners who create them. To set landscaping apart from neighbors’ homes, homeowners can add fountains, ponds or flowing water elements to their properties. Decorative water features also can be melded with pools and spas to help these manmade recreational areas seem like they were carved right out of the natural landscape.
Water features can take landscapes to the next level with sounds, texture, movement, and beauty.

Letter to the Editor – Justin Parson

To the Editor:
Union Community Schools is home to one of the finest track and field facilities in Northeast Iowa. While the ability exists to host home track meets, timing methods are done manually. It is the vision of the Union track program to host more meets with the opportunity to host districts numerous times in the future. In order for that to happen, the track and field facility needs to be equipped with a proper fully automated timing system. Currently, a fully automated timing system can range in cost from $13,000 to $23,000 depending on types. The girls track team sold cookies to raise $5,000 towards the purchase of a new system. While those funds are readily available and a great start towards our goal, we are still in need of funds. Our hope is that we can graciously accept generous donations from the Union Community family and local businesses in pursuit of a new timing system. It is our vision to put up a unique design of a track on our concession stand and list donors on it as follows:
Bronze Donor: $25 to $99
Silver Donor: $100 to $499
Gold Donor: $500 or more
Customary to seeding heat times in track events, Gold donors will have a gold medal with their names on it, and that medal will be placed in lane 4 on the display. Silver donors will have a silver medal with their names on it, and that medal will be placed in lanes 3 and 5 on the display. Bronze donors will have a bronze medal with their names on it, and they will be placed in lanes 1,2,6,7, and 8.
Union High School Track and Union Middle School Track would like to say thank you for your consideration of a donation, and we look forward to displaying your name proudly as we pursue funding towards a fully automated timing system.
Mail Checks to:
(Please make checks payable to UCSD)
Union High School c/o Justin Parson
200 Adams St.
La Porte City, IA 50651
Justin Parson
Union High School

ViewPoint: Stop the summer slide

By Cheryl Carruthers, Service Area Supervisor of Information & Technology Services with Central Rivers AEA
Teachers and parents know that with the joy of summer also comes the lazy days of potential summer learning slide. Sitting idle for as long as three months could potentially undo the gains made throughout the year and affect how successfully a student will adjust to the coming new school year. Central Rivers AEA, in cooperation with Mackin, has developed two summer reading resource websites called I Want To Read. One website has materials for grades K-5 and the other is for middle and high school students.
On both websites there are links to eBooks within your school’s MackinVIA portal, as well as links to a summer reading journal and other book-related activities. These resources are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, all summer long.
There is also a webpage on the Central Rivers AEA web site called Media Services GetMedia Resources with materials to go along with these summer reading resources, including a sample parent letter and templates for bookmarks and posters.
MackinVIA is an online eBook resource that is provided by Central Rivers AEA for access by students and teachers 24-hours a day, year round. Parents interested in accessing this resources should contact their child’s school building/district teacher librarian for more information regarding login. Parents can also contact staff at Central Rivers AEA at
If you have more specific questions regarding the Central Rivers AEA summer reading resources, please contact Cheryl Carruthers or Cari Teske, Central Rivers AEA librarians. Cheryl can be reached at

Consumer Counselor – May 16, 2018

Print and share digital family photos
Smartphones and digital cameras have compelled many people to take up photography. But digital photos are often snapped and never seen again, or posted on social media and then forgotten.
People who want to make more of their digital photos can preserve their favorite moments by tackling photo projects, such as having photos printed for posterity, in a timely manner. Today’s photo processing apps and services mean tech savvy (and tech not-so-savvy) people can create beautiful photo products on home computers, at digital kiosks or even on mobile devices.
One advantage to printing photos is that families will have tangible pictures to view and share. Uploading photos to a service such as Snapfish or Shutterfly also serves as a way to back up prized images.
The following are a handful of ways to use photos to prolong special memories.
Create photo books. Photo books are a fun way to preserve cherished memories. Such books save people the time it takes to manually put prints into a photo album or scrapbook. Software can allow people to auto-fill layouts, add text and embellish photos with graphics.
Make canvas wall hangings. Families can make their homes look like art galleries by making canvas prints. These products can be produced in various sizes and will look like fine pieces of artwork when the project is completed.
Explore removable photo squares. One of the latest advancements in photo printing is adhesive photo squares that can be removed and then repositioned as needed. Squares come in various sizes, but 8 x 8 and 10 x 10 are common measurements. These work well for people who do not want to damage their walls or those who live in apartments and cannot put holes in the walls.
Turning digital photo files into actual prints can help preserve memories.

Consumer Counselor – May 9, 2018

Smartphones have changed the world in many ways, including turning many of their owners into amateur photographers. Smartphone cameras are never far from reach, and people are using them to chronicle everything from milestones to more mundane moments.
Estimates by InfoTrends indicate a total of 1.2 trillion digital photos will be taken worldwide this year. The vast majority of those pictures will be snapped on mobile phones.
While purists may advocate for classic SLR cameras as the best tools to take photos, smartphone users can capture complex, detail-heavy photos by relying on a number of tips to improve their mobile phone photo skills.
Focus on the simple. Practice taking photos with just one subject and utilize negative space in the photo’s composition. Keeping photos simple helps the audience enjoy them more, especially when they are viewing them on the small screens of their phones on social media.
Experiment with apps. Innovators continually come up with new photography apps that can put greater control in the hands of smartphone users. For example, Apple recently enabled third party apps to offer controls on shutter speed, ISO, exposure, and white balance, giving amateur photographers greater manual control of their photography. Other apps can instantly change hues, add filters and remove imperfections.
Try snapping without flash. Even though smartphone flashes are much improved over those of their predecessors, sometimes they can still cast a poor tone on photographs. Photographers can experiment with natural light or boost the exposure to let more light into the photo.
Accessorize as necessary. As with any camera, there are plenty of accessories that can improve smartphone photography. Phones can be enhanced with telephoto and wide-angle lenses that can add depth and field of vision to photos. Specialized cases improve grip on the phone and may come with a dedicated shutter button.
Snap fast for action shots. Phone cameras may be equipped with multiple succession photo capabilities that enable users to catch action shots and moving subjects more easily.
Explore panoramic images. Take in the majesty of a landscape with panoramic settings that will piece together multiple photos into one wide-length image.
Shoot for the end product. Try adjusting the settings with the final product in mind. For example, for those looking to fill a landscape frame at home, make sure the camera is positioned in landscape mode. For Instagram or other social media posts, taking the picture in square mode can maximize placement of the subject.
Smartphones have turned photography into a passion for many people, and amateurs can employ various strategies to make their photos look better.


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