Sunday, March 22, 2015

Free Rhododendron Thermometer

On a cold day, when you want to know what the temperature is outside, look no further than your rhododendron bush.  Thanks to a process called thermotropism, the leaves of this evergreen begin to curl as the temperature nears freezing and curl even tighter as it drops about another ten degrees.

Rododendron leaf curl at 30 degrees

At about 30 degrees, the leaves of the rhododendron plant droop slightly and curl to about the size of a cigar.  Thats when I know a warm jacket is needed and to watch out for ice on the roads while driving.

When the temps drop close to 20 degrees (or below), the leaves droop so they hang
Rododendron leaf curl at 20 degrees
like pendants and they curl tightly so they look like green beans.  Time to add a thermal layer before venturing outside!

As the air warms, the leaves will uncurl until they are flat, and raise up to a more
Add Rododendron leaf curl at 40 degrees

horizontal position. As soon as rhis occurs, the temperature is 40 degrees or above. So just peek out your window on cold days at your (or your neighbors) rhododendron bush to get an idea of just how cold it is.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Money Table

Shopping for a table can be enlightening.

You learn about all the different table styles and shapes.  There are different types of wood that can be stained a variety of colors.  The tops can be made of glass, wood, metal, concrete, and stone.

You can have the table made with your choice of base (and color) to match your decor, and combine that with any top.

You also discover the price for this "custom" (or not custom) table.  In my case, that price was $1600.  That did not include the four chairs that also needed to be bought.

After seeing the table I wanted (and when I say "I", I mean my better half...what do I know about decorating a house)...a counter height, round, granite topped wonder...I walked out of the store.

I explained to my wife that I could put a granite-topped table together for way less money.  And so began the table project.

The first step was to buy an existing table as the base for the granite top.  Target had just the table.  It was a counter height drop-leaf 39 inch wide round table for about a hundred dollars that had to be assembled...the bonus came with two chairs!

Meanwhile, I was looking around for granite (the second step)...I needed a 42" round slab that I could install myself.  The first three quotes yielded prices around $800 (which I thought were too much).  I talked to some friends about granite suppliers they used or knew of and found a supplier that would cut the top needed from "remnant" granite left over from other jobs.

I talked to my resident decor expert to find what colors would be good for the top and went to visit the Granite Guy.  He gave me a couple of chip samples to show my wife, and told me the top would be $400...Perfect !  <$500 total, so far>

The Granite Guy made the top and I picked it up in my pick-up truck.  A friend helped me lift it out of the truck and carry it into my house.  A tube of clear silicone was applied to the table to glue the granite down.  Clamps were used to keep it from sliding off center before the silicone dried.

The next day the clamps were taken off and a bead of clear silicone was run around the perimeter of the table on the underside, where the granite and wood table tops met.  The granite top was cut three inches larger than the wood top (a 1 1/2 inch overhang around the table) so you would only see the granite edge.

We really wanted four counter height leather chairs for the table (and I wasn't about to try and build them), so back to the furniture store we went.  Four hundred dollars later we had awesome chairs to go with our awesome (and inexpensively built table).  We also had two extra wood counter height chairs that came with the table for when guests come over.

Five hundred dollars were spent on the table in total, not counting my sweat

42 inch granite table
42" Round Counter Height Granite Table
with 4 Leather Chairs
equity.  Add to that $400 for leather chairs you get a total cost of nine hundred dollars for a table & chair set that would have cost over two thousand with tax and delivery.  Thats $1100 savings...  

Saturday, January 18, 2014


Intel's stock price has been hovering in the low $20 range for years now, with an occasional bump up to the 25 to $27 range.  The cost of the stock makes it a low barrier for buying in, and a great stock to buy over time (always buying at the lower end, of course).  With a 3.5% dividend yield, whats to not like?

As you build your position (adding more shares over time) you get the long term equity gain  ...and the dividends?   ...its like having your own personal App that makes cash for you...

Check out this article for more insight:

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Put Wealth Building On The Fast Track

There are many ways to invest and build wealth, but to maximize investment, you must invest as much as possible.  The best way to do that is to watch how much is being spent on things other than investment.  There is only so much money available from income to work with, so allocate it wisely and you will be rewarded in later years.

Eating less can help (with a diet and with spending), but you still have to eat, so there is a limit to how much you can save with this option.

Economising on utilities such as electric, water, and heat can likewise allow you to redirect income towards investment.  Knocking down the cable bill by removing premium channels and streaming with devices like Roku and Chromecast will also help.

Spending on things should be prioritized by NEED, not want.  Do you really need that new slicing kitchen gadget, when the knife does the job (and burns more calories)? Gifting should be not fall into the guilt trap and spend too much to make yourself feel better...after all, isn't it the thought that counts?

There are many other areas where spending can be curbed.  Just look at your credit card statement to see what those items might be costing you every month.  Also think about downloading an app on a smart phone or tablet (like Mint or Money Lover - Expense Manager) that can be used as a spending journal to track will be surprised what you find.

DIY and reap the rewards:

An area I dabble in to save money is DIY..."do it youself" on household repairs and auto repairs. I have a thirst for knowledge anyway, so this activity helps with that. The satisfaction you get with completing a task feels great, and you save a LOT of money over time...even if you do not tally it up so you can watch the amount grow over the years.

Every time you have to call a "Professional" there is the service fee, then the paid time to figure out the problem, then the cost of materials (which is normally higher than you could buy them for), then the paid time to fix the problem...meanwhile, you have to wonder sometimes, if they actually know what they are doing...I could do it wrong all by myself, for less (after gaining knowledge over the years, you actually start to know how things are supposed to be done, and can easily see when they are going wrong. Even though the repair person is supposed to be qualified, it does not mean their work will be up to par).

There is also the amount of time it takes to fix the people have other customers with needs...and your needs may not be at the top of their list.  I may take longer, but the dollar clock is not running, and I just may finish before the professional would have.

There are some things nobody should try to tackle on their own.  With scary repairs it may be helpful to enlist a friend in the trades.  An example might be electric repairs:  depending on the size of the repair, the voltage, and the amount of primal fear you have about the "magical power in the wire", you may not even want to touch it.

Each sizeable repair you avoid paying for will add hundreds of dollars to your investment potential.  Any other dollars saved from using your "disposable" income wisely will add to this amount.  All that remains is to redirect this income wisely by investing in great companies that pay dividends.

Some articles in this blog are about repairs in and around the home.  If you have the skills to do repairs, or would like to acquire them, these articles will help.  Googling how to do these and otherrepairs will also help.

I always google repairs I want to tackle, even if I know how to do them.  Often, I pick up additional hints and tricks on how to do the job easier.  We are in the information age...why not make use of it to build your wealth?

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

How to unclog your kitchen sink drain when you have a garbage disposal (the easy way)

The Plunger:  An Under-Rated Magical Device

The easiest way to unblock your kitchen sink drain is with a Plunger.  There are some steps you need to follow to make sure the plunger is is pushing and more importantly PULLING the water next to the blockage in the drain pipe to dislodge it.

If you have a disposal installed under your sink with a dishwasher connection, you will have to clamp the rubber part of the dishwasher hose that empties into the disposal:

  • The hose that runs from my dishwasher (and probably yours) to the disposal, is a plastic translucent corrugated type that ends in a rubber fitting that is attached to the disposal.
  • Clamp the rubber in the area between the corrugated plastic and the disposal (squeeze it to find the soft part).  This ensures the water you plunge will have all its force aimed only at the clog.
  •  This will also keep the plunged water from forcing into your dishwasher - if too much water is forced into your dishwasher, it will overflow onto your floor and create a nice mess for you.
If you have a double sink, put the drain stopper in the sink without a disposal, and have someone hold it tight while you use both hands to plunge.

Run hot water in the disposal sink until the disposal fills up and you have about three inches of water in the bottom of your sink.

***See Note below before proceeding.***

DO NOT use a regular plunger:  
there is not enough volume in it to maximize the water force, it is harder to
Bulb Type Plunger
keep a seal over the drain, and it may not dislodge the clog (I found this out the hard way after many more steps including unsuccessful snaking attempts and some pipe modifications over the course of 2 days).  GET A LARGE bulb type plunger.

The bulb type Plunger fits nicely into and over your sink drain to seal it can feel the greater force it puts into the water.
  • Fit the plunger into your sink drain and plunge up and down without breaking the seal.  You should feel (and hear) the water moving in the drain pipe.  Continue for 10 to 15 plunges.
  • After the last downward plunge, pull the plunger away from the drain (with some force) to break the seal, and lift it away from the drain.
  • The last pull will lift the water out of the pipe and away from the clog, and then slam the water back into the clog breaking it free (I had to do this only once <The Magic> to clear the pipe, and my clog was stubborn...the snake would not even work).  The sink should drain quickly down through the disposal.
While you are setting up the sink for plunging, boil a full kettle of water.  After the clog is dislodged, pour the boiling water down the drain with the disposal and then follow up with hot water from the faucet for 5 minutes to break up any remaining part of the blockage and melt any grease, etc...

You are now the HERO of the day...take all the compliments offered to you...

If you fixed the drain in your own house, set aside the $300 saved on the plumbing fee and service call towards a nice meal on your next vacation.

Friday, January 3, 2014

How to do a manual reset on an Epson printer

The BEST manual reset instructions for an Epson printer

I did this on my Epson stylus photo 825 after reading the instructions I found online (they were not very straightforward).

My printer stopped printing and gave me an error message that said "Parts inside your printer are reaching their end of service life" (or some such nonsense).  The message relates to a foam pad located under the area where the print heads travel.  I could easily see the one in my printer by opening the door that allows you to change print cartridges.  I carefully pulled one end of the foam pad out to see if it was saturated and found it was not.  If there is an excessive amount of ink in and on this pad, it might leak out the bottom of the printer and onto something you do not want it on.  Mine was fine.

First, turn your printer off.  Next, press and hold the paper feed button and the paper/ink button (this button has a light above it and it was blinking because the ink waste pad counter was maxed out).  While continuing to hold these two buttons in, turn on the printer.  The light above the paper/ink button will blink twice, pause and repeat this pattern. Release both buttons. Now quickly press and HOLD IN the paper feed button for an extended period of time (approximately one minute, to be sure).

The printer will initialize and the ink carriage will move.  The error message in the display should go away, indicating you have reset the waste ink pad counter.  You will now be able to print on your Epson printer.

This worked for my Epson model, and it should work for yours, since Epson uses the same manual reset on many of its printers.

I tried the program offered online that was supposed to reset my printer, and it did not work.  I also tried many button combinations and lengths of time before this worked, because the online instructions were not clear enough.  This is the easiest way to reset your Epson printer.

The money you save by not having to buy a new printer can be used to buy some more of your favorite dividend paying stock !!  There is a lot of upside in the Market still to come in 2014 !!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Eight Ways To Help Your Company Succeed in this Economy

In this economic downturn, many companies are still spending. To capture this new business and gain market share, market your company wisely. Focus on markets that show the most promise and maintain marketing frequency and consistency there. Understand what your customers are dealing with in this economy and how their buying processes and mentality are affected by it.

Eight Strategies For Success:

1. Communicate: Create Event Equipment Spec Sheets and Alternative Equipment Use Sheets related to the types of events that your current and prospective customers are working on and may need your equipment and services for. Put yourself in their shoes to figure out what is most important to them…being green: saving energy and reducing waste…or saving time, saving money, etc. List these benefits in the sheets mentioned above to gain greater acceptance. Then put these documents in their hands.

2. Get to the decision maker: Your customers are closely watching the costs for events and deciding which events they will even continue hosting. Discover who the higher-level decision maker is and appeal to their financial concerns. Explain the return on investment their event will create for their company. Show financial reasons for buying/renting your equipment/services. For example, how does working with your company improve their image or brand, save them money, or foster team building in their company?

3. Show value or savings: Become more important to prospects with limited budgets who have had to cut back on Event Services by showing value or cost savings you can provide in terms of customer support, flexible delivery and pick up, complimentary event design services or other value-added services.

4. Look at all your markets: If you have multiple markets you sell to, reduce the time and money spent on the markets that are not doing well in this economy (Car dealerships, Computer Parts Makers, Computer Systems) and spend more time and energy on industries that have the money to spend (biotechnology/ pharmaceuticals, utilities/energy, aerospace/defense).

5. Discover new markets: Your event equipment and services may be a good fit in a market where you don’t have a large presence and where companies are spending. Rewrite marketing materials in ways that appeal to these prospects. Use industry specific e-newsletters that are aimed directly at prospects in those markets. Explore new ways your products and services can be used in these new markets.

6. Frequency and consistency: Get on your prospects’ short list for event projects being researched now. Maintain frequency and consistency in your marketing so you will be found whenever prospects are searching for event equipment and services you offer. Keep your message clear and useful to your prospects and the repetition over time will cement your company in their minds.

7. Use “PUSH” and “PULL” Marketing: Push marketing: direct snail-mail, e-mail marketing, and e-newsletters that reach out to customers and prospects. Pull marketing: searchable online catalogs showing equipment/services, online directories, Web sites, and search engines your customers and prospects use when looking for information, products and services like those you offer. Find and advertise in media aimed at your target prospects that offer both push and pull marketing you can take advantage of.

8. Do Not Waste your marketing dollars: Do not waste money where your audience isn’t looking (print ads, trade shows and other traditional media) these are not as effective as they used to be. Customers and prospects are Internet savvy and are looking online. This is where you will find them and win their business. An online presence will put you in front of potential customers whenever they are ready to look for your event equipment and services (even at 2am). Internet activities from prospects are measurable: you can see how many clicks they made and how many conversions there were. Using this information, you can reallocate your marketing dollars on the fly and get immediate feedback. You needn’t spend thousands of dollars to make this happen. Learn about SEO (search engine optimization) and apply the techniques (or get some help from a knowledgeable friend) to get your company noticed on the web.