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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Gas Saving Tips: Hypermiling Part 1

I wanted to take a few minutes to share with you something extraordinary that can literally double your car's fuel economy, blowing away the EPA mpg ratings. What is it and how much will it cost, right? Well, it's called hypermiling and the techniques are actually free. Just to get started, here's the video that ultimately led me to investigate just what this hypermiling thing was all about:

Now lest you think I'm crazy, I'm not some advanced guru on the subject like this guy. He's the nuclear engineer who came up with the idea. Me? I'm just you're average Joe trying to make sense of the rising fuel costs and figure out any way I can to combat the effect on my bottom line.

The problem actually started about two months ago. As a matter of routine inspection, we randomly check our mpg on our main vehicle every once in a while. The vehicle is a 1996 Mercury Villager with over 160,000 miles on it. It's not in bad shape, but it's not in the best shape either. Well, when we purchased the van used, we were getting somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 mpg, which was right on the mark for the EPA ratings, surprisingly. After a few years and adding over 70,000 of our own miles ... we were getting roughly 12 mpg. Yes, that's right, 12 mpg. I about freaked out, to be honest.

So, I did a complete maintenance overhaul, otherwise known as a tune-up. Turned out that the spark plugs and wires were in pretty bad shape, not to mention the distributor cap than had a broken center pin in it! After it was all said and done, and I replaced the air filter as well, ... we tested again. I spent roughly $100 on the tune-up (but keep in mind, this should be a regular maintenance item anyway) and we were coming in at an average of 18 mpg. An improvement to be sure, and still in range of the EPA rating, but I had been hoping for more. That's when I saw the CNN video with Wayne Gerdes. Talk about inspiring!!!

So I did it. I took the hypermiling plunge and ate the blue pill (or was is the red one - I can never keep it straight). I utilized three or four of the basic techniques that I found on Gerdes' website today and took a trip to pick up some stuff from a Freecycle contact. Since the merchandise was free, I figured it was a steal even though the round trip would be close to 100 miles. So I filled up the tank before I left and set out with a rugged determination to hypermile my rear off!!! Just for the record, our in-town driving prior to this trip (as measured when I topped off) was averaging just over 13 mpg ... pretty crappy to be sure.

So I completed the trip and the detour to top back off when I came back. It took a little longer to be sure, as one of the tips has to do with adjusting and modifying your maximum speed. However, it only added about 10 minutes to each end of a 1 hour trip, so I didn't think that was too bad. The key would be did it help my fuel economy any? Well, the total trip was just over 96 miles, and when I topped off again I put less than 2 gallons of gasoline back into the van. OPEC hates me now, I'm sure of it. But the calculations revealed that I had hypermiled my way to 51 mpg in a 12 year old gas-guzzling mini-van!!! I know it sounds incredible, but it is true!

I'm going to scan in my gas receipts so you can see for yourselves and I will also detail exactly the top three things that I did to get such incredible results. Believe me, I'm as shocked as you are ... but as fantastic as it sounds, it is true!

Stay tuned for part 2!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Moldy and Parasitic Insects

Well, as a relative newcomer to gardening, my worst fears have been realized. We've got discolored moldy cucumbers coming off the vines. Not only that, the squash bugs have found the zucchini plants and they are dying off. Not to be outdone, a new fire ant mount has sprung up near the okra -- which apparently they like.

That's it in a nutshell. I'm researching now for organic methods of dealing with the pestilence that has invaded our little summer garden and I will report back what I find. For now, we are watching the produce very closely and washing anything we do eat really well.

The success story of the week is the cantaloupe, of which we have harvested two thus far - and they are delicious!!!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Checking out

I'm always intrigued by new services online ... this one shows some interesting potential for the podcaster, but in a different way. The service actually offers anyone the opportunity to create their own online talk show, on their own schedule and gives them a blogging format to post articles and other information as well!

It's very interesting and I've heard some good things about it, so I set up an account for A5 Media (the umbrella company for all of my Internet endeavors) and hope to have my first show going very soon. I will keep you updated, but for now you can check out my show at the link below:

Internet Product and Services News and Reviews

Monday, July 14, 2008

A Nice Reminder

My wife sent me an e-mail this morning with a nice reminder of why I don't work for someone else any more. There are other aspects to it, which I will discuss in another post. For now, enjoy this re-print of a 'dear Abby' letter:

DEAR ABBY: I read an article in our local paper a while ago that said good employees who leave a company usually do so because of their boss.

With that in mind, I would like to bring closure to my recent resignation with the following open letter to my former boss:

"Thanks for asking me to stay on, but I respectfully decline. I will be self-employed from now on. However, if in the future I ever feel the need to be publicly humiliated, blind-sided, ostracized and called a spy, be distrusted and disciplined by superiors for no good reason, fight for wages that are rightfully mine, stabbed in the back by fellow employees, used as a pawn in executive rivalries, or (especially) chewed out when you're having a bad day, I'll get back to you!" -- MOVING ON IN NEW MEXICO

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Time Management 101

How do you strike a balance between work and family, especially when you work from home? In this blog post I will share a few ideas that have worked for me, as well as analyze why it's so difficult, especially in the case of the work at home parent...

The Problem

From my perspective, the problem comes in primarily because we work from home. It's a lot different when you leave the house for 8 to 10 hours a day to work from an office or other away from home facility. Even then people have difficulty sometimes in separating work from their home life, and many even allow the job to take over their lives (i.e., the all-demanding boss becomes the dictator of all of your time). However, the issue seems to actually be compounded when we work from home. Here, every time I check my email there is a chance I will receive a work-related message. Every ring of the telephone could be a client calling about a job. Instead of having at least a physical barrier to help us distinguish work from home, we've actually made the conscious decision to work from home! While this creates a challenging situation in the best of times, during the summer and other breaks from school it can become overwhelming as everything seems to be happening at the home front all at once.

Goal Setting

Goal setting is important for anyone working from home, even more so than someone who works outside the home. In fact, it can be one of the best time management tools for the work at home parent. Let's put it this way ... if you work at home, you had better set some goals, or you will never know if and when you have accomplished what you set out to do! Take the time to think about what you really want out of life and what it will cost you in terms of your time and commitment. Then, you have to decide what is most important. Put your time emphasis on those things that are most important to you! Look, you only live once and your kids will only be kids one time around. If you spend every waking moment working, whether for yourself or for 'the man', you'll wake up one day to find that you may or may not have achieved your financial goals, but your children will be long gone. This doesn't mean they will hate you or not have any respect for you ... but more than likely the whole reason you decided to work from home will have been lost - forever.

I know for me the goal of working from home has always been two-fold. First, it has never really been about the money. I'm always learning new ways to make a living from home and I'm sure my income will continue to increase. However, it is and probably will always be less than I could make as a manager in a corporate environment. I should know. I've been there, done that. So why am I working from home? My goals have always been fairly simple, even though sometimes I lose sight of them fairly easily.

It's My Time, Isn't It?

First and foremost I have always wanted more control of my time. Nothing irritated me more than having to ask for approval to take a day off or to take vacation time that I earned. I was always resentful of the ever-shifting lunch break. Sometimes it would be at the same time, sometimes my boss would suddenly call a lunch meeting literally minutes before I was heading out the door. What would have been a pleasant picnic lunch at the park suddenly became a mandatory lunch meeting will all the company yes men and lackeys. What shift I worked, where I worked, and when I could go to lunch, break, and vacations - all of these things were determined by my boss. It always felt like I had no real control over my own time. So, my first goal in working from home was a selfish one, but I wanted control back of my time. It is easy to lose sight of this goal, especially when working from home. As a freelance professional, suddenly the clients have a direct line to my home, to my personal email, right into my life! But before I share a solution with you regarding this first goal, let's take a look at what is probably the second most common goal for parents who decide to work from home.

Are Those My Kids?

Sometimes when we work away from home we get the feeling that we don't know our own family. We can grow distant from our spouse and especially from our kids. I know for me when I worked as a manager in a plastics factory my days were very long and that was part of the expectation that came with the territory. Most of the time my children were still in bed when I left for work and there were many days that they were already in bed when I got home. On some occasions they would stay up late just to kiss me goodnight as soon as I walked in the door, then off to bed they went! I found myself wondering who these kids really were. After all, I had no idea ... I simply wasn't taking the time to get to know them!

So another goal of working from home for me involved getting to spend some time with my children. Now, I will admit that this hasn't been all roses, as you no doubt will concede if you work from home. The ideal situation is far from reality, especially when the children are smaller, which has been my experience thus far. I have three children all currently under the age of eight, so they are starving for attention and would love to have the opportunity to monopolize my entire day if I were to let them. However, this would be counter-productive too, right? After all, if Daddy doesn't work the bills don't get paid! So there is a fine line here that demands our attention. We don't want to fall into the trap of allowing our children, who are now co-habitating with us in the "office", to monopolize all of our time so that we get nothing else done. By the same token, we don't want to end up working 24/7 so that despite the fact that we are working from home we still never spend any time with the family! So what is the solution? There is one simple thing that has worked for me. It is not without it's own set of problems, but it has helped dramatically in setting boundaries for me while working from home. It is the schedule, or the work calendar.

The Work At Home Schedule

So how does it work? It's simple really - you just have to take the place of your boss! Set yourself a schedule and a limit to how many hours you will work each week. Make a commitment to your clients that you will be available for a certain number of days each week and then for specific hours of each day. Now, be flexible - after all, you did decide to work from home to get back some control of your time, right? I'll share with you part of my schedule so you can get an idea of what I'm talking about.

Officially, my work day starts at 12:00 noon and ends at 8:00 p.m. Yep, that's right. First off, I've decided that I like to sleep in. Is there anything wrong with that? Not really, not when you work from home! Next, I work straight through lunch and breaks. I don't smoke, but even if I did I would probably do it from my desk rather than go outside. I do use the restroom (why do we call it that?) and make a "tea run" to the kitchen every so often. However, breaks always used to irritate me at work. They came at inopportune times and always seemed to interfere with my thought process and work flow. So, since I'm working from home, I cut them out. As for lunch, I usually eat before I start working and if I decide I want a small snack during the work hours, I'm lucky enough to have a lovely wife to fix me something I can eat while working through lunch. On some days I will take a lunch, but guess what? It's entirely up to me!

This schedule allows me to spend some personal time alone in the mornings as well as spend some time with the family. In addition, after work I can spend some time (although less during school months) with the children as well. However, most of the evening time after my officially scheduled work hours I allow for time with my wife or time on personal projects, whether they be income related or other areas of interests (read: hobbies). The only kicker here is that if I get too carried away in the evenings I sometimes stay up waaay to late. Oh, well I guess that's ok because I do get to sleep in.

Finally, it's up to me what days of the week I work and when I take a vacation. As a freelance professional, I have found that most clients are respectful of this concept. After all, I did decide to work from home for a reason, right? For me, Saturdays are always off limits. We observe a seventh-day Sabbath and so we don't do any work related stuff from Friday night at sundown to Saturday night at sundown. For many people, Sunday would be their day of religious observance. Others may not have any such preference at all. Whatever your view on this point is doesn't really matter, as long as you set aside what days you will have off - no matter what. You have to make time to take time off, or working from home will take over your life. It can be worse than a job if you're not careful You thought your old boss could be a hard task-master, wait until you meet your own dark side! So for me, Monday through Friday are the standard work days. I do work on Sundays, on occasion, however I fully reserve the right to take every Sunday off.

As for vacations, most clients don't care when you take vacation - just be sure and notify them ahead of time that you are going to be out of the "office". Working from home, I find that vacation time is more a function of me having the money saved up to do something or go somewhere. After all, since I'm working for myself from home, I don't have the luxury of a 'paid vacation' benefit. I have to make sure I budget appropriately and set aside enough money so that once or twice a year I can take time off without feeling the pinch of no money for a week.


I know this has been a long post, but I'm hoping you really got something out of this. Just to recap, I want to go over the things that have helped me manage my time better while working from home.
  1. Set Goals - why are you working from home? Put every work decision into perspective in light of these goals. For me it was more control over personal time and more time with the family. If your goals are similar, then set boundaries around these things and protect them from your work!
  2. Scheduling Calendar - Set a work schedule, and stick to it! This will help you keep a balance between work and play. Before I had a schedule I had weeks were I would not get any work done. Other weeks I would flip-flop the other direction and work my butt off, but never see my family. Having a daily schedule and weekly set-in-stone "off" days has allowed me to be more productive and to ensure time with my family.
  3. Enjoy Yourself - This one wasn't covered earlier, so consider this a bonus - your reward if you will - for reading this far into the blog post! Anyway, you have to enjoy yourself. You were miserable at work at a regular job, right (most people anyway)? So why be miserable at home? Find something that you enjoy doing, and do it from home to make money. I can't stress enough the importance of being happy with your "work", especially now that it takes place in your home. Before, you could make the effort to leave your work problems at work. Now, the live with you. So enjoy yourself, enjoy your work and enjoy your family!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

First Time Garden Plot

Well, this year marks our first attempt at a semi-regular garden plot. I say that because we did try a garden several years ago, but it was more experimental than practical. This year we decided to lean towards the practical side.

Using some of the methods for spacing and crop layout based on the book, "Square Foot Gardening" by Mel Bartholomew, we've planted and even experienced our first harvest. Now as novice gardeners, we were way late on the draw getting this thing in the ground. Around here in our neck of the woods, it's not uncommon for folks to start planting some things in March as our last frost is usually no later than March 30th. Unfortunately, because of our dependence on someone else's tiller, our plants didn't get into the ground until the last week in May - so we missed all the great springs showers for free watering.

Despite this fact, we have experienced some dramatic success and I thought I would share it with you here on the blog. Learning as we go, I'm taking notes for next year, that's for sure. (Actually, i've discovered quite a few crops that I can grow through the winter here because of our mild climate!) So if you've never planted a garden before, take heart dear reader, it can be done! This is just our latest and most visible step toward more self-sufficiency. Next year I'm hoping for two things: (a) to be on our own land, and (b) to have a large enough garden to do some basic canning for food storage.

Zucchini Squash...

Cantaloupe Melon ...

Onions ...

Okra ...

A wonderful family ...

The Hydrogen Gas Saver: Fact or Fiction

The Hydrogen Gas Saver: Fact or Fiction?

With the rising cost of fuel, people everywhere are looking for something to help them save on their costs at the pump. From fuel boosters to super magnets to the hydrogen gas saver, it almost seems like people are willing to try anything. In fact, you are probably reading this article right now because you are trying to find out if such a thing as the hydrogen gas saver really works, right? Well, let’s take a quick look at the science behind the idea and then we can go from there.

Free hydrogen gas saver information

The concept has been around for years actually. Producing HHO (hydrogen-hydrogen-oxygen) gas from an electrolysis method applied to water was first discovered by a guy named Brown. So that is why you will hear HHO referred to sometimes as Brown’s gas. It’s just another name for the gas that is produced when electrolysis is done correctly. The hydrogen gas saver is simply a method of creating this HHO gas as a fuel booster for your car. Now there are some folks out there claiming that they can run the car completely 100% on HHO ... that is something I would have to do some more research on.

However, as for the hydrogen gas saver actually helping your car get better gas mileage? It’s really not that hard to believe ... there are tons of people all over the world posting their findings on the Internet, and most of them aren’t looking to sell you anything. They are simply ‘bragging’ about what a great savings they are experiencing at the gas pump with their hydrogen gas savers in use. Just a cursory glance over many of these testimonials will give you reason to believe in this new concept of a water hybrid car. People are posting gains of anywhere from 25% to 250% from their original m.p.g. values.

Free hydrogen gas saver videos

That brings up another good point. Before you go installing a hydrogen gas saver on your car, you want to make sure that you find out how many miles you are getting to the gallon now. This will give you a good baseline to know whether or not the device is working properly (or any device, for that matter). While there are fancy gadgets out there that will give you an instant reading on your m.p.g. ratio, I prefer the old school methodology myself using those time honored tools called pencil and paper. Here’s how you do it. Fill up your tank and reset your trip odometer. If you don’t have a trip odometer, write down your regular odometer reading. Drive normally and don’t fill up until you are close to a quarter of a tank or less. The more driving you do, the more accurate your results will be. Next, when you fill up again, record the trip odometer reading or regular odometer reading (before you reset it!). Also, you will want to record how many gallons of gasoline it took to fill back up your vehicle. Then it’s simply a matter of dividing the number of miles driven by the number of gallons it took to refill the tank. This will give you a baseline m.p.g. so if you install a hydrogen gas saver you can really quantify your savings.

So what’s the bottom line on the hydrogen gas saver? From everything I’ve seen, it works. Some cars adapt better than others, and some cars seem to require add-on computer controls, etc. But to get a 50% or more increase in gas savings ... wouldn’t it be worth it? Now a word of caution about the hydrogen gas saver: you can find these things all over the Internet. However, HHO gas is highly flammable. My point being that you should get the best information available when researching and making your decision to build your own hydrogen gas saver. Don’t accept everything you come across as being ‘the real deal’ either. Just remember, as is often the case, you get what you pay for. Free information is out there, but when it comes to being safe, is free really the way you want to go?

Get a great set of plans to build your own hydrogen gas saver here:

The Water4Gas Book

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Balancing Priorities and Keeping It Real

Well, it's been over a week since I posted my 'average Joe' post. Geez ... that was depressing, wasn't it? Sorry, just keeping it real ... even in what some would call a great situation (ie, working from home) there are still times when things just don't gel right. Can't explain it, probably never will be able to.

But, for anyone who's interested, I'm moving past that now.

Still working full time, trying to build my little Internet empire and diversify my income all while taking time out for myself and my family. The balancing of priorities with someone who wants more out of life can be truly exhausting. Will it be worth it in the end? I think so ...

So, what am I doing now? Well, I'm still writing search engine pages and I recently picked up a somewhat paid blogging gig with I'll be posting a link to that blog here soon. I'm also starting another blog that caters to a niche that I am interested in ... and I'm trying to relax by doing some reading, and eventually, some writing of my own (again).

So there you have it ... see you on the flip side, 'average joe' ;-)