Landlording 101, Tricks of The Trade

Looking Inside Your Tenant’s Mind

Basic Mind-Reading Report 101 for Landlords

It goes without saying but I will say it anyway. The better you understand your tenants and their personal situation, the better you can serve their needs and your own. Notice that your needs come after your tenants. Always put your tenants’ needs before your own and they will buy real estate for you in return. That’s a fair trade. Take it!

Many cold-hearted, self-serving, money-grudging, want to-be landlords don’t understand human nature. Let me tell you right now, if you can’t put yourself in another person’s shoes and see a problem from that person’s perspective with empathy, you will fail miserably in the “landlording” business and in life. Wise up!

Fear not. If your not quite sure what I’m talking about, here come the stories and details of how to be loved and adored by those kind people called tenants.

Let me first dispel the horror stories about landlording. If you follow my advice and teachings, you should have very few tales of woe to tell. You’ve heard the stories and they sound like this: Those damn lowlife tenants. They trashed our house, they disturbed the neighbors, they ruined our lawn, they were filthy pigs who never paid the rent on time, they never did what we told them to do and it cost us a fortune to get rid of them and repair our investment once they finally did move.

Well, guess whose fault that is. Yep, it is completely and unequivocally the fault of the so-called person that is calling themselves a landlord. The real name for this type of so-called landlord is uneducated dummy and because of these lazy fools the whole industry gets a bad rap!

There is a plus side to the scenario above and that is this: It sets up a perfect opportunity for you to do the exact opposite of the fools and create for yourself an unlimited market supply of excellent trouble-free tenants for life!

Tenants, believe it or not, are human beings. They are not animals or things to be mistreated, abused or taken advantage of. If you will prepare your rentals as if your mother was going to be moving in, your mindset would be realigned in short order. In effect, you will start looking at it from a compassionate point of view. You will not cut corners. You won’t let things go that need fixing. You will use more care, skill and diligence in preparing that dwelling for another decent human being to begin calling home. That’s what you want to achieve.

You want to provide a trouble-free, pleasurable, aesthetically pleasing, creature comfortable, needs fulfilling, safe, secure, affordable and convenient place to live. When you provide those things and screen the population, it’s like striking gold.

The process of getting good tenants begins in your mind. By that, I mean you have to educate yourself to be able to recognize value and acquire properties that are structurally sound, aesthetically pleasing, physically functional and provide safety, security, affordability, convenience and a feeling of pride in your tenant’s mind.

Sounds like a daunting task, doesn’t it? Well it’s not. In fact it is so simple to achieve that once you understand the process you won’t even have to think about it. It will come naturally to you. I promise you that this is true and I intend to prove it to you as well.

I absolutely guarantee that you can do it. So for now, just take my word for it as being a fact, because it is. Here’s an example of using a motto to align your thought process in relation to all the things I just said. Repeat the following:

Landlord’s Creed

I vow never to rent to someone else, something that I myself would not be happy living in.

Mansions not included!

Now apply that to every prospective property that you evaluate as a potential rental property investment. Human nature is immutable. We all have basic needs, wants, desires and expectations that include fear. When you remove fear and provide comfort and security, you will own your market.

So what you first have to do before you can be a great landlord is to find great places to rent to other people. I explain how to do this in the book at [http://www.magicbullets], so I won’t go into it here.

The screening process is also outlined in that book as well. I will hit upon a few things that weren’t touched upon already in the processes in the main body of the book, so here are a few nuggets for you now.

The following observations are done after you have already performed the formal screening procedures. I’m rushing you up to the day that your face-to-face meeting occurs with the tenants who have passed your telephone interviews and have succeeded in getting an appointment with you to see your wonderful rental.

Now, here are some things that your uneducated dummy-type landlords can’t begin to recognize, plan for or evaluate when it does appear before their very eyes.

As soon as your potential renter shows up to view your property, take note of

the time. Are they on time? Can they keep their first promise to you? Can they follow directions? If their late, did they get lost? I’m sure you gave them good directions and also used landmarks like churches, stores or monuments, so they could find you easily. If they can’t follow simple directions, do you think a lease agreement and those directions are going to be any easier? No, they are harder to follow.

O.K. They showed up on time. This says they respect your time, are able to follow directions and are serious about finding a nice place to live. How did they arrive, on foot, by bike, bus, cab, truck, motorcycle or tractor-trailer? Preferably they arrived in a clean, well-kept passenger car that is in a clean condition.

Now who was driving the vehicle? If it’s a couple are they both going to be renting or is your tenant without wheels. Let’s assume your prospect drives up in their own car. It runs fine so you won’t have cars on blocks and a parts yard for a front lawn in six months when they buy more cheap junk to get around with.

So the car looks O.K. on the outside but how about the interior of the car? Do they smoke and have smashed down McDonalds bags pushed so far into the floorboards that it now resembles carpet? Does this vehicle look like a home on wheels, with garbage bags filled with clothes, a crying baby and a cat in the back window? Watch out if you see this type of telltale evidence. I don’t think I need to paint the picture of what will result if you miss this investigative step.

Pickup trucks with camper-shells can also be loaded to the gunnels with personal effects, including small zoo animals. I encourage you to get a look back there, too!

The bottom line here is people will generally treat your property the way they treat their own, if you’re lucky! So see how they’ve done with their own stuff up to this point and choose wisely based on intuition, gut-feeling and physical evidence.

So the car inspection is over now. How are the appearances of the folks? Are they clean and well groomed? Do they seem to fit the profile of what you had envisioned over the phone interviews or are they 180 degrees out? Have they successfully fooled you or deceived you into believing something else up to this point? Now that they have appeared before you, is it blatantly evident that these persons are con artists?

If you get an uneasy feeling within the first few minutes of meeting these people, don’t brush it off as just some crazy thought. That’s your self-preservation instinct operating and you better listen to it. The book, Magic Bullets will help to protect you, so do not fear. Use this information to protect yourself from the events that lead to horror stories. Don’t give it another thought. Let’s get on with our interview, shall we?

So far they are on time. They have a good clean car and they appear to be honest and decent people who indeed do give you the same impression you developed over the phone. In fact, these people are really more than you expected. Yes, if you’ve done it right that will often be your experience and it is almost always a pleasure and privilege to rent to such high quality individuals.

Have you noticed something about the process here? There has been no mention of race, religion, national origin, sex, age or marital status. That is discrimination based on federally protected human rights and it’s against the law to discriminate on those issues. This includes the handicapped and a few others groups I may have overlooked.

My point is simply this: If they meet all the criteria that makes for a good quality tenant, than you would be ruling out a potentially excellent long-term tenant based on preconceived notions and that is dummy landlording in the first degree! So don’t discriminate on basic human rights issues.

So many people screw this process up. They also make mistakes by choosing management companies to do this highly developed type of intuitive researched and planned-for event. I honestly know of no management companies who can be as thorough as an owner who takes the time to protect their own interests in this way.

I don’t care how much management companies protest about the above statement. The fact of the matter is, they are not you, so they can never find a tenant that satisfies your own personal preferences the way you can.

I like to personally screen potential tenants because in all cases, I have total control and that’s what real estate is all about – control!

Think of the opposite of control. That would be the stock market for the small investor. The way I see it, I don’t want to be on the sidelines rooting for someone else to make money for me or more often, hoping they don’t lose it, steal it or mismanage it to my certain demise.

With the way I approach real estate, it is a 100% guarantee every single time that I am going to outsmart, outwit, outperform, over deliver and under promise to the point that I crush my competition. I am in a league of my own.

My tenants are the winners and they know it, too. What kind of loyalty do you think develops in the minds’ of people that look to me for protection? It stands as a testimony and irrefutable, self-evident, empirical fact that I care enough about the people who have entrusted me with their welfare, their time, their money and their trust to deliver on my promises. My tenants don’t move. They either pass away due to old age or they end up buying it from me when I want to sell it. It happens that way all the time.

So think again when you hear a dummy landlord talking about all the trouble they had and then ask yourself one question. Did they read Magic Bullets before they became a landlord? It’s 100% certain they did not. If they had, then their tenants would have loved them and paid for their real estate time and again, and made them rich beyond their wildest expectations…

Snap out of it! Hey, are you with me? OK, your back. Good let’s get back to reality here. What I do works and the only thing about landlording I don’t like is cashing all those darned checks. I’m not kidding. Bank tellers look at you like your some kind of thief because you have so many checks to cash.

Here are a few things that you won’t find out unless you have been around a while but I’m going to save you from the pain of learning the hard way. Now of course you’re going to do everything right by following my advice in real estate but there are a lot of things I don’t know. Yes, I admit it. I don’t know everything but I do know what I’m going to tell you about next and that is…drum roll, please! Watch out for real estate investment property that comes with existing tenants! Here’s why. In general, the new owner takes the property subject to the existing lease and rights of the tenant or tenants. Most often, whatever existing lease or rental agreement that was made with the previous owner will remain in effect.

What could happen if you don’t thoroughly review existing tenants lease agreements? What if the previous owner rented a unit to his good-for-nothing, drug-addicted brother for $1.00 a month for the next five years? That’s a valid lease. You may take them to court for misrepresentation but it’s going to cost you lost rent, lost sleep and maybe your safety.

Anyway, that’s an extreme example of an intentionally designed below-market rent lease agreement but it illustrates my point. Here’s another. Let’s say you’re getting a great deal and you buy it, and find out the reason the owner sold it to you was because the tenants were very difficult and had him over a barrel. And all the while, they are paying lower than average rents and complaining about everything. Now you get them and you can’t raise the rent and they refuse to move. Here comes your eviction lawyer and you have attorney’s fees and more lost rent to boot.

My point is this: Make the seller get rid of bad tenants before you close on the deal. Do a pre-closing inspection and personally walk through the empty apartment, house, condo, trailer or doghouse yourself. Bring extra locks or call a locksmith and have the locks changed the day before closing. An honest seller will not have a problem with that so long as the title company holds those keys until your check is accepted at the closing table.

The lesson here is it’s always better to install your own tenants because you control the process from start to finish. Don’t follow a dummy landlord or by default, you could be a dummy, too!

Remember this too: When you install new tenants, you are generally going to get a higher rent from the property because inflation creeps along and landlords have a hard time raising rents on people. I have seen 10-15 year long-term tenants paying the same price for 15 years. You will go broke if you let that happen.

Adjust your rents accordingly every time you fill a vacant unit and if people want to renew their leases, then inform them of an economic reality that currently exists called inflation, and you are just keeping up with it! The Annual Consumer Price Index may be used as a reference. If they don’t understand, they have an option and that would be to go look for a similar rental to yours at a lower price. If you have followed my advice, this elusive lower rental price will not be found and your tenants will be grateful to you for renting out such a clean place at the new price-adjusted rate.

There is a lot of garbage held out for rent and prices may be lower, but no one wants to live in a pigsty with lime green shag carpet and Brady Bunch orange counter tops, where the roaches tell you what to do.

So the lesson here: Encourage balking tenants to find something comparable to yours at a lower price. If they find it, let them go. Odds are, they won’t. After all I told you, it’s often next to impossible, if you’re a hands-on owner. There is no 10% fee to management companies either. So you can even ask 5% less than investors who use professional management to do their job. So many ways to slaughter your competition…so little time!

Egyptian Brake Pedals

In Egypt what would be considered a road hazard anywhere else in the world is probably the road. Outside of Cairo there are few defined spaces for traffic and pedestrians. Even where there are pavements people, cars and animals share equal access.

Most visitors suspect leaving the sanctuary of their hotels risks being flown home in a box. But as Egyptian street life is gloriously vibrant it seems a shame to miss out when all that’s needed is a little local knowledge.

Walk like an Egyptian: This is easier than you might think. Wear shoes with traction and keep looking over your shoulder to check what’s going on behind, even when walking on what appears to be a ‘safe’ side of the road. There isn’t one. Pot holes without safety barriers regularly appear overnight, so glancing down occasionally helps to prevent unwanted tumbles.

Jay walking: Is entirely legal, encouraged even. Nonetheless if you can avoid crossing the streets, do – you’ll live longer. If you must cross then run as fast as you can in a zigzag fashion while keeping a constant watch on anything that’s moving or could possibly move. Never assume someone will stop for you. They won’t. For really busy areas it’s better to find a place where locals are already crossing and tailgate them as nonchalantly as possible. Suspected stalkers are as unwelcome in Egypt as they are elsewhere.

Remember there’s another way to cope with this. One can either hop on a local mini-bus or take a taxi.

Mini-Bus: Multitudes of honking mini-buses careening to a stop in front of pedestrians will take you anywhere along fixed routes within towns and cities extremely cheaply. By cheap, I mean never pay more than 1 / 2 LE (Egyptian pounds). Ignore any attempts at bargaining. Buses are small and often crowded, so getting in and out can reveal more flesh than is considered suitable and can lead to unwelcome attentions. Modest attire is therefore to be recommended.

Taxis: Collective service taxis are one of the best features of Egyptian transport. They operate on a wide variety of flexible routes and are faster than buses. Taxis can be used for individual trips or shared with others. Prices for all trips, including intercity, must be agreed in advance. On the downside is the often maniacal driving at high speed.

Alternatively, if you have a death wish, you can hire a car.

Car rentals: A number of international companies operate in Egypt. To hire a car you need a valid international driving license, be at least 25 years of age and possess nerves of steel.

Rules of the Road: There are none. But still it’s important to have your facts straight before attempting to pilot anything on wheels. For instance driving is done by constantly blasting horns and flashing headlights – a method known locally as ‘The Egyptian Brake Pedal’.

Honking: Is done to signal intentions and warnings when, for example, anything is blocking the road, something looks like it might, something isn’t and at traffic lights regardless of color. Drivers toot when pulling out, pulling in, stopping, moving, bored or when saying hello.

Lights: Indicators are reserved for use solely at night and then only to alert any following traffic of road bends ahead. In darkness headlights are flashed intermittently to oncoming traffic to alert them of their presence rather than used continuously. Saves on the battery apparently.

It’s wise never to assume any human or animal has seen you – honk that horn and flash those lights even if it’s just to be friendly!

Lane Markings: Are purely decorative. Drivers drive on which ever side of the road appeals, which is generally on your side. The intentions of another road-user should never be taken for granted as there’s a good chance he hasn’t decided yet and, even if has, he’ll almost certainly change his mind again.

Overtaking: Cars, buses, carts and trucks will make every effort to overtake and undertake other vehicles even in what appears to be an impossibly tight space, as this gives them the right of way. Anyone who tries cutting in from behind is ignored as they’re liable for collisions.

Collisions: If you do have an accident, immediately go on the offensive and offer to pay for repairs. The alternative is being screamed at until you’re deaf and you’ll still end up paying. If the local police happen to be around, standard procedure is to chuck everyone in prison regardless of fault and, believe me, you’ll still end up paying.

Speeding: Strangely speed limits are rigidly enforced in Egypt. Although you wouldn’t think so from the way Egyptians drive. Even minor infringements can result in confiscation of one’s driving license. Getting it returned is an expensive, protracted and laborious business with no guarantee of success even if one hands over wads of hard cash ie. dollars or euros.

Security: One safety feature you can always count on while cruising the Egyptian highways and byways is the road block. To some they seem like an unnecessary hindrance and the endless waiting to be judged friend or foe interminable. Be patient and remember the longer you wait, the longer you live.

Cultural tip for better appreciating the above: The Islamic religion is a critical component in Egyptian life. Therefore, this is a fatalistic culture and one’s destiny is believed to be firmly in the hands of God. Since nothing can be done about this, there tends to be an acceptance of the status quo. In other words, the answer to everything is subject to ‘Insha’allah’ (God willing) and a copy of the Koran is a standard extra in all forms of transportation. On the upside, this fatalism means that it’s rare to meet an Egyptian who’s not smiling.


Getting to Egypt: Alitalia, KLM and Air France all fly to Egypt for approximately EUR300 return or less. However, holiday packages generally work out cheaper than booking flights and accommodation independently. Budget Travel, for example, will fly you to Luxor, luxury coach you to a 5 star hotel and feed you breakfast for around EUR540 per week. If you disappear as I did – resorts not being my thing – they will even come looking for you.

Getting around Egypt: Egyptian public transport is amazingly efficient and inexpensive.

Bus: Inter-city buses are the cheapest way to travel around the country. A ticket from Hurghada to Cairo costs as little as 60 LE per person, one way. In the Red Sea area you will find two main operators – The Upper Egypt Bus Company serves the Red Sea Governorate towns, from Hurghada to Safaga, El Quseir and Marsa Alam, also linking these towns to the Nile valley and Cairo. The Canal Zone and Sinai are served by the East Delta Bus Company. Both companies offer air-conditioned buses and on the longer routes they also have on-board toilets. Schedules change frequently, so it’s better to check personally at the bus terminals.

Rail: Slightly more expensive is the extensive railway network controlled by Egyptian State Railways. The network has a high standard of service and covers the whole country, connecting all the main cities. Tickets can be bought at the station but, as with all matters in Egypt, some patience is required to actually complete the purchase. Take along your student card, if you have one, as I’m told it may give up to a 33% reduction on fares. Personally I doubt this but then I’ve never had the patience to try. Visit for more information.

If you want to take advantage of the overnight train services then it’s necessary to book one week in advance through a travel agent or through Abela Egypt. For more information visit

Planes: For those with money or little time to spare Egypt Air flies daily between Cairo, Alexandria, Luxor, Aswan, Abu Simbel and Hurghada. Being a nervous flyer I always appreciated the traditional communal prayers led by the pilot while on board ie. ‘bismillahir rahmanir rahim’ (in the name of Allah, the most merciful, the most kind) to assist take-off and on successfully landing ‘al-Hámdu lil-láah’ (by God’s mercy) we made it. All of which reminds one just how truly miraculous aviation travel really is. For information on timetables and fares visit

Health & Safety: Adrenaline rush is addictive so proceed with all due caution. Still, no vaccinations are required for tourists arriving from Europe. Pharmacists in the major towns are knowledgeable and are usually tri-lingual.

VIN Number Decoding For Classic Muscle Cars

One of the best pieces of advice I was ever given in regards to buying a classic muscle car was to invest in high quality resource materials so I could crack the code on Vehicle Identification Numbers (VIN) to make sure that I was not getting scammed.

The best way to find a high quality book is to find what the experts are using. With the internet, you can type a subject like Camaro restoration book into the Amazon search box. You can also Google it and follow the links, which will take you to various forums and websites. Chevrolet by the Numbers, by Alvin Colvin, is the best book I have ever found for Chevrolet part numbers, Vehicle Identification Numbers (VIN), trim tags, and model ID. The book is an easy read, with chapters designated to the different components. Again, I used this process in my quest to purchase a rare Camaro. Just Google the car you are looking for and follow the links. The best resources will be obvious.

Here is a list of objects you will need when decoding your car.

Small flashlight, notebook, resource or reference book, mechanics mirror, pen or pencil, cordless or corded droplight, floor jack and jack-stands, coveralls, rags, brass wire brush, brake cleaner, yellow or white colored grease pencil, digital camera or camcorder.

If you are continuing to read this information, I can only surmise that buying a classic muscle car with the proper numbers and matching parts is important to you! Good! It should be! If this is true, I will walk you through an example of decoding a car. This will give you an idea of what it takes to properly decode a car.

Be prepared to take your time. I also discovered a sure fire way to determine who your true friends are. Ask them to go along to help you decode a car! Having an extra body can sometimes cut your time in half. I also recommend finding an expert or consultant on your car, and buying a couple of hours their time, especially if you are looking to purchase a special model classic car. It’s been my experience that an extra set of eyes can only help the cause. I found an expert through one of my reference books. Prior to me going to look at my current car, I spent about an hour talking with him, and making a list of things I should be looking for. (Of course, if you want someone to handle the process from A to Z, services are available. This is a great option if you are buying the car from remote.)

The Process

Before I arrived the owner told me the car was basically a roller project, meaning the engine and transmission were removed from the car. The engine, transmission and other components were placed in a pile where it would be easy to look at the numbers. The owner also claimed it was a limited edition Camaro, yet he didn’t have any paperwork like an original order invoice, or a protect o plate (a special metal plate shaped like a credit card that is used for warranty and repair services). This type of paperwork trail eliminates the need for further documentation. If you do not have this type of paperwork, then follow along. When I arrived at the location where the car was stored, the first thing I did was to check the VIN number. The VIN number is probably the most important number on a car. If you do not know how to decode a VIN on a particular Chevrolet, you will be unable to verify other components or numbers. What is nice about the book is it actually walks you through the whole decoding process, including providing the specific numbers location. As a sidebar, any good resource book on your particular make and model car will outline the way to decode your car, including number locations and decoding info. On 1968 and 1969 Camaros, the VIN number is located on the top of the dash board, on the drivers side. The number is visible through the windshield. I wiped the dirt and dust off of the VIN tag, and copied the numbers into my notebook.

VIN number

I was able to determine that my car was originally a V8, it was a 2 door sport coupe, made in 1969, assembled in Norwood Ohio, and it was the 662,8XXrd car built at that plant in that year.

Trim tag.

In 1969, all Camaro trim tags were located in the engine compartment, riveted on the upper left hand corner of the firewall. I took my rag and cleaned all of the dust and gunk off of the trim tag. Since the numbers were not that clear, I recleaned the trim tag, and removed the rest of the gunk. I used my flashlight to illuminate the numbers, and then copied the numbers into my notebook. Some of the trim tag numbers matched up with the VIN tag numbers, which was a good sign. The remaining numbers indicated that my car body was number 353,XXX to come down this plant’s assembly line. The interior was originally a standard black interior, and the car was built in the first week of June, 1969. The car was originally painted dusk blue and it was equipped with a spoiler package and a chrome trim package. So far everything was lining up. The reason for all of this detail is to illustrate how you can confirm that what you think you are buying is exactly what you are getting.

Before I move on, I want to share how this is relevant. A husband and wife from my car club went to look at a Chevelle. The car was advertised as a Super Sport. During the inspection process, and referencing the above book, they uncovered a number of inconsistencies. According to the numbers, the car had originally started out as a plain Jane 6 cylinder car. The car was now painted a different color, had a different color interior and a different engine. You get the picture. Over the years, one (or more) of the previous owners modified the car and tried to make it into a Super Sport. The point is it may have not been done maliciously, but the car still did not start out as a true Super Sport. And having the Super Sport option obviously raises the value of the car.

Engine code identification.

The engine is stamped in (2) places on a 69 Camaro. One is on the right front engine pad. The other location is on the rough casting portion on the rear of the engine, just above the oil filter. Again I wiped off the areas I just described with brake cleaner sprayed on a rag. You need to have a clean surface, and normally brake cleaner will do the trick. The front engine pad numbers appeared to have been restamped at one time, maybe after the engine block was decked (Decking in a machine process to check the flatness of the block deck for irregularities that cause compression and water leaks.) The tricky part is reading the numbers on the area above the oil filter. I recommend a really bright light and a magnifying glass. If that doesn’t do it, then I suggest taking a little muriatic acid an applying it to the numbers. This should make the numbers readable. The reason this number is sometimes hard to decipher is because these engines were hand stamped, and punched onto a rough surface. According to the numbers, I determined the engine was a 425 horsepower high performance engine, with a 4 speed manual transmission. The last numbers also corresponded with the last numbers in my VIN, which meant this was the original engine to this car. The numbers told me the engine was assembled June 14, which fell in line with the build date. The engine block part number that is cast into the rear of the block was cleaned with a rag and brake cleaner as well. The block part number indicated ahigh performance block used for Camaros. Another piece of the puzzle confirmed.

Rear axle identification.

The numbers on a Camaro rear axle are stamped on the top of the right axle tube. My experience has been that this area is normally pretty crusty and rusty. And this rear axle was no exception. After considerable wire brushing, I wiped the area clean with brake cleaner. Laying on my back, I shone the light on the area, while holding a mirror. It still wasn’t clear enough for me to read accurately. I then took my grease pencil, and ran it over the numbers. The purpose of the grease pencil is to provide contrast with the metal of the axle tube. When I put the mirror back over the area, I was rewarded with a very sharp image of the part numbers, which I copied into my notebook. According to the numbers, this rear axle assembly had a 4.10:1 gear ratio, limited slip. The axle was assembled June 16, 1969. Are you seeing a pattern starting to appear here? The axle numbers also indicated the axle to be original to the car based on the dates codes referencing June 1969 build date. I took the same approach with the other parts.

Here are my findings. The cylinder heads, intake manifold, carburetor, and transmission were the correct part numbers for the car. However none of these parts were date coded to the car. One of the heads was manufactured in April 1968, the other head was manufactured in February of 1969. The transmission was manufactured Jan 24th 1969. The reason I know all of these parts are not correctly date coded to the car is I decoded each one, by researching the part numbers, and date codes. All of this information is important, because not only did it verify what the owner had told me, and it also showed that the other parts were in line with the build date. Thereby providing further confirmation of what I was looking at. During my investigating, I took pictures with a digital camera of all of the parts and part numbers, as best as i could. I spent about 30 minutes walking around the car with a video camera and editorializing what I was taking footage of. I also took the list of things the Camaro expert had told me about and checked them off one by one. Later in the week I called the Camaro expert and shared my findings. I reviewed all of my research, including going over the individual part numbers, and the “things to look for” checklist. By the end of the phone call, I was 99 percent positive that this Camaro was what it was being advertised as.

The last thing I did was to have the car documented and certified by a Certified Camaro appraiser.

GM also stamped hidden VIN numbers in (2) different places on the car. The reason for the hidden VIN numbers was to add another step in preventing and identifying a stolen car. Because it is fairly easy to remove and swap out the VIN tag on the dash, the hidden VIN’s provided a back-up system of check and balances. For example, someone could possibly swap out a VIN tag, but if they didn’t know about the Hidden VIN numbers, a person in the know could easily identify the numbers not matching up. Because the car was bought a roller project, it was easy to check these hidden VIN’s, against the VIN tag on the dash. I wanted the appraiser to check them personally, and he confirmed the numbers as matching and authentic. In other words the certificate authenticates the car. Many appraisers will also supply you with a report on their findings. The nice thing about having a car certified is this type of paperwork is normally viewed as iron clad documentation. It normally raises the value of the car, because of the authenticity certificate. And if you ever go to sell the car, now you have documentation to provide the seller that the car is a real (Super Sport, Rally Sport, Z/28, etc. You fill in the blank)

Some people may wonder why would anyone go through all of this work.

However, keep in mind that many of these muscle cars are 20 plus years old and have gone through numerous owners and modifications. All of that history is prior to it being restored back to showroom original condition. In other words, many parts are bolt on and interchangeable from other models and different years. So just because the parts look ok, doesn’t mean that they even belong on the car. In the above example about the couple and the Chevelle, the car was priced as a Super Sport, yet the trim tag and other numbers reflected a totally different story. Even though the car was beautifully restored, it was really nothing more than a modified 6 cylinder, base model Chevelle that someone converted over to a V-8 at some time in it’s life. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with modifying a car to an individual owners taste. The issue is when the car is sold and the seller forgets to mention (consciously or unconsciously) and inform the new owner of the modifications. Our Chevelle couple would have gladly paid the asking price if the car was a true Super Sport. But, because they knew how to decode the car, they were able to save themselves a lot of time, money and aggravation. At the time the difference between a plain Jane Chevelle and a real Super Sport was over $10,000. Just to throw some numbers out there, let’s be conservative and say it takes 6 hours of research to decode a car. Using our $10,000 figure, that equates to approximately $1,600 an hour. Not a bad return on your time investment. As muscle and classic cars have become more popular, I have seen many cases where just for the fun of it, an owner will start to do research on a car he or she owns.

Discovering your car isn’t really what you thought you purchased can really knock the wind out of you. By investing a small amount of money, and time, in researching and decoding your prospective muscle car purchase you can sleep at night knowing that you received the value you paid for. Anyone else interested in investing a couple of hours for peace of mind when purchasing a classic or muscle car???

Smart Cities Expanded

There is no doubt that Smart Cities hold a lot of promise to help make our communities safer, better places to live. But, as with every new technical development, there are risks. What are the components of a Smart City? What are the problems? More importantly, can governments keep up with technology?

People, when they hear the term “Smart City” for the first time, tend to think of energy, specifically, the arguments surrounding the move toward sustainable and ecologically-friendly energy. But energy generation is just one part of the Smart City concept. “I don’t like talking only about energy when talking about Smart Cities,” said Mr. Yasuhiro Kawai, a researcher over at Nikkei Business Publications, the organizer of SCW 2014. “Smart Cities are much more than that. A Smart City is, at its heart, a concept which introduces technology to create positive changes and make people’s lives better.”

There is no one template for making a city smart, and the first step each Smart City program has to take is a local approach to solve local problems. Those approaches can then be expanded to include a larger area, but it is important to start small. The opportunities to apply technology in a community are numerous.

One major example in Japan right now is how many commuter rail companies in the country have integrated their monthly train passes with an RFID chip, which provides consumers with an electronic wallet of sorts. Each major railway company had their own system about seven to ten years ago, and each system was fundamentally incompatible with others. The Suica network of JR East, for instance, could not work on the Icoca terminals operated by JR West. Pasmo, operated by Tokyu, worked only on Tokyu-operated lines. A casual observer might be forgiven for thinking that this attempt at deploying smart city technology wasn’t very smart.

However, since 2009, most systems created reciprocal agreements and now riders can transfer across railway lines using only one card. Point-of-purchase has been integrated as well. Mr. Kawai raised this as a point of starting small. “It looked really disorganized at the beginning. You had all these systems and they didn’t work well together. Now, as the technology and the operations supporting the technology improved, they are almost seamless,” he said.

Connecting Towns and Lives

Further, Mr. Kawai points to the pilot program in the city of Katsuragi in Japan’s Nara prefecture, east of Osaka, where a group of seniors have signed up for medical monitoring wristbands. As Mr. Kawai explained it, the population of the village has thinned out over recent decades, as most young people have fled for the larger cities of Osaka and Tokyo to make a living. That has left behind a sparse population of older folks who are not as connected to the community as in previous generations. The medical bracelets monitor a person’s vital signs and will notify a nearby hospital over the Internet if a problem is detected. It is just a pilot program, but it is also a very real example of how even a small, rural town can gain from Smart City technology.

Perhaps the most inviting target for Smart City upgrades involves the infrastructure of a community and the cars which drive its roads. There have been several remarkable advances in infrastructure science recently, the most notable of which is perhaps the concept of a solar roadway.

A couple of entrepreneurs in Sandpoint, Idaho (USA) have developed a 1.5 meter hexagonal solar panel encased in heavy-duty tempered glass which can withstand the elements and the constant pounding of cars and trucks on the road. Thousands of these panels, interlocked and connected by software, can provide a smart driving surface which can do everything from illuminate driving lanes at night to outline pedestrians crossing a street, all while providing electricity to the community and, of course, to the electric cars which will drive on those roads.

Cars, as well, are getting a makeover, and human drivers may soon be obsolete. Autonomous cars, as they are called, are cars with sophisticated navigation software onboard which can choose the most efficient or safest routes to take their passengers. Although Google has stolen most of the limelight in this area, Audi, Volvo and even MIT are researching self-driving cars. Many of the cars themselves have just made it out of the lab and are on limited street trials. However, it doesn’t take much to put these two developments together to imagine a city where electric, self-driving cars are navigating on illuminated roads which generate power for the community.

Challenges and Opportunities

For all its advantages, though, Smart Cities do have several obstacles to overcome. Perhaps foremost among those is the acceptance of some people in the community. What could be the issue? The problem, it turns out, is two-fold. First, people usually want to see a tangible economic benefit from an investment in the community. “For instance,” explained Mr. Kawai, “if you invest community resources to place sensors on a bridge to notify maintenance of needed repair ahead of time, that’s great. It actually saves money. But, the people don’t usually see the benefit. Sure, the bridge gets repaired before small problems become large problems, but it doesn’t mean that people recognize that as a tangible improvement.”

While getting people to see that matters like civic maintenance are taken care of before they become big problems is one roadblock to Smart City rollouts, another, larger concern is about what the technology represents. The ubiquitous placement of technology in everything someone does, from point-of-sale smart cards to mass transit to street cameras, in addition to the geolocation functionality present in today’s smartphones, has raised fears of creating a “Big Brother” state where the notion of privacy becomes a forgotten relic of the past.

Implementing a Smart City program is a delicate operation. Mr. Toshiya Mochida, also of Nikkei BP, suggests starting small. “Start with a small area of your town, with a technology for a very specific purpose. Trial it for a while, then invite feedback. Most importantly, governments and organizations should be transparent about their goals. What information will they collecting, and why?” Information collection by governments and organizations is a prime concern, notes Mr. Kawai. “A vast majority of the information will just be archives, shut away somewhere, never to be seen or heard from again. But still, it’s out there. Will it be managed? Will it be destroyed? These are things to consider, too,” he said.

Governments, too, pose a potential problem to Smart City development. Laws often do not keep pace with change. Technology usually advances faster than governments can react, leaving many technological advances in a legal gray area. The greatest example cited is copyright law when faced with the rise of the Internet in the late 1990s. Copyright laws created in the mid 20th century did not foresee the complexities discovered when the record companies fought Napster and other download services, and legal frameworks are still being developed to insure artists are fairly compensated for work.

Self-driving cars look to be the next chapter where technology is advancing quicker than the government’s ability to regulate it. A California Highway Patrol officer interviewed for this article said, “This opens up a whole new area of road rules. We need to review licensing, insurance, safety standards, all these areas. Until we get that worked out, I can’t see this going mainstream.” At present, even with a smart car, a qualified, licensed driver has to be in control of the vehicle.

The jackpot question, of course, is, “Where will Smart City technology be in 5 or 10 years?” Although tempting to do so, you can’t really use technological achievements over the past decade as a roadmap for the future. If you were in 2004, then tried to map out what things would be like in 2014, could you really see how a simple cell phone, which had basic calling and, perhaps, mail/text functions back then, become the “computer in your pocket” that smartphones are now? Groundbreaking technologies now being researched – and those not even conceived of yet – will doubtless change the world and the way we live by 2024. Technological developments are at once iterative and explosive. Even a certain technology can branch out into multiple applications. Wearables, for example, look to be fading in the exercise and fitness circuit, but they are proving value among elderly and people who require constant monitoring.

One thing is for certain – technology and those who develop it will continue to change the way we live. The Smart Cities concept is being tested and it is an exciting and ongoing experiment.

How to Inspect a Corvette For Rust Before You Buy It

This isn’t going to be a huge article that drags on for hours and hours, I will cover the areas that you need to look for rust in 1963-82 corvettes. It will be a basic article designed to help you save money on the purchase of your corvette. A corvette can be a very illusive thing, you think rust, how is that possible it made out of fiber glass, for this article we won’t be talking about the body of the car we’ll be talking about the frame, and a few other areas of America’s sports car. I know you love corvettes, and I do to they are without a doubt a very special car, and considered to be America’s only sports car, but when your buying one what you don’t know can hurt you, and it probably will, so it’s time for me to lend a helping hand.

Obviously the entire car is not fiber glass, the car sits on a frame made of steel, and steel will rust it that can’t be changed, but it can be fixed, so let’s dive in to this article head first, if your thinking of buying a corvette this will help you for sure. First of all let’s start with the windshield of the car, it is fiber glass wrapped around steel, and obviously steel will rust, so lets begin by looking around the frame of the windshield, if it’s rusted badly it may show as fiber glass separating from the post at the bottom of the windshield. Just because you can’t see the rust in this area doesn’t mean that it’s not there, you may need to discover this rust after you have bought the car and have begun to restore it, if these areas are rusted you’ll need to rebuild them, they are a part of the structure of the car.

Corvettes also have heavy steel reinforced doors, to look at the doors of your corvette you’d never know that they have any steel in them at all, the doors in you corvette are actually wrapped around a steel frame, this means that you need to inspect the edges of the doors. You’ll be looking for bubbles in the fiber glass, or areas that appear to be raised, also look for cracks in the fiber glass that rust is creeping through, fiber glass has the inherent problem of stress cracking under pressure, and water can seep in through these cracks, and it will.

Look at the door latch, this can be a very telling area of a corvette because they aren’t hidden, all you have to do is open the door and look at it, also look the hinges, and the hinge mounts for the doors these are also tell tale areas of a corvette. Sometimes rust can hide in a corvette, so don’t get in a hurry, the best thing you can do is to take your time wile inspecting the car, ask the owner if you can take it to you mechanic and have the once over done, use this time to inspect the car. Now we’ll look at the frame it’s self, a floor hoist would be nice here, if you need to go to a shop and rent one for a couple of hours, one of the most common places for the frame of a corvette to rust is just in front of the rear wheel on each side of the car.

Pay very close attention here, make sure that you take notes so you don’t forget what you have found, usually you’ll find the rust that I speak of on the out side of the frame just in front of the rear wheels, in bad cases it will creep down to the bottom of the frame.

As in most cars the corvette will rust in the radiator support area, so pay close attention to this area of the car your looking at inspect this area very carefully, rust can go unseen in here for years, and you don’t want that in your corvette. Look for puffy, or flaking steel in the rear suspension trailing arms on your corvette, this is a very common area for the corvette to hide rust, and as you can imagine you don’t want your rear suspension to give out on you, so pay very close attention here.

I hope this helps you with the purchase of your classic corvette, now you know that they do rust and you’ll more then likely be fixing some rotted areas of your car, don’t let this discourage you, let it be a reason to learn about your corvette.

Great Fiction: Flutie by Diane Glancy

Diane Glancy’s Flutie (1998)

In the annals of imaginative literature it’s not uncommon to encounter an author making use of things found in nature functioning as symbols of events in human affairs – as archetypes. For example, since human beings first began to tell stories water has been employed as a symbol of life itself, of cleansing, of rebirth and renaissance; dust has often been employed as a symbol of death, or of the passing of something old into something new; and lastly the wind has often been used to symbolize change, or the passage of time. Of course, an author in command of the craft of fiction utilizes these elements of nature in a plausible, realistic way within the setting of the story first and then introduces or implies the double meaning, or the symbolic meaning, secondarily. Diane Glancy’s novel Flutie starts with an unattributed epigraph that points the way towards an employment of this sort of strategy:

“There’s the sky and the ground with nothing between them but a landscape of stories you can hear if you hold your ear to the air to the land -“

Nature, the earth, the heavens, the universe – these things are at the epicenter of understanding this novel. So is psychological alienation; lastly, the novel attempts to examine the complexities of family relationships within a given social structure. The cerebral energy, the vastness of the author’s understanding of issues both cosmic and personal, crackles on the pages here. The idea of controlled examination of issues of very large scope is in full play. At certain points Glancy almost lurches off completely into outright cosmology, but it’s never pretentious or forced, never fake. “Sometimes she looked down the highway and it was like a corridor into space.”

Flutie Moses is the thirteen year old daughter of a Cherokee father and a mother with German ancestry. Her brother, Franklin, is five years older. Both Franklin and the father work at Hampton’s Garage, where they are pretty good mechanics. The mother is something of a volatile hellion, constantly in a condition of nervous agitation, though the source of her personality is never really explained (she neither parties much nor chases men, the usual sources, but she does constantly get speeding tickets on the highway, and throws a fit of fury when her driver’s license is finally revoked). The family is poor – “Nothing else could be counted on. Except poverty… ” “Flutie’s father wouldn’t let up. If Franklin finished high school, he could go to college and learn accounting. Then they could buy the garage and run it. They wouldn’t always be at a loss.” “Flutie realized they didn’t have any money. But maybe they could get it.” And most tellingly:

” They were all poor in Western Oklahoma. There was only the hope of marrying, having children, and continuing the struggle with her nose pushed into the dirt.”

This is their existence, the sum total of what they can expect, all that there is. But Flutie aspires to more. Her family doesn’t, and in this regard Glancy follows the novel I always think of as really the first by a Native American author to gain serious literary attention among the cognoscenti and the literati, Winter in the Blood by James Welch. Native Americans trying to assimilate into America, eking out their livings at menial jobs, drinking heavily, passing day by day by boring day in the gigantic open spaces of places like Montana, Wyoming, Oklahoma. Essentially there is nothing else to look forward to. Texas has magical connotations for Flutie, as if it were some profoundly exotic place, but when she goes to the border it is just a simple wooden sign with the word Texas on it, and the other side looks exactly like Oklahoma.

I think it’s most profitable to take a glance at Glancy’s novel by means of the three points I outlined above, in a slightly different order:

Psychological Alienation – Flutie is completely cut off from the world around her, existing almost like a fish in a bowl, and for reasons that are not fully explained she has trouble speaking, even choking out a sentence. A stranger comes out of a car, asking where a certain highway is, and all she can do is point. She can’t speak before her class when the teacher calls on her to give a report or do a math problem. “She tried to talk in front of the class, but there was no air. The teacher looked at her. The students stared. Their eyes were fish eyes.” Although sometimes Flutie’s inability to speak seems to resemble familiar troubles of this kind such as stage fright or fear of public speaking, there really is no suggestion that it’s a common speech dysfunction such as stuttering, apraxia or dysarthria – its a consequence of her loneliness. Our hearts of course go out to this intelligent, sensitive, feeling, pure little girl who is so traumatized by experience that she can’t even talk, but upon reflecting there ‘s a much deeper point here that knocks us flat on our backs, which is this – the author’s incredible facility with language, her virtuosity with means of expression, exists right in our faces, in spectacular contrast to Flutie’s inability to communicate, and in this way our own sharing of Flutie’s pain is made even more acute because we intuit all that she’s lacking and missing. She seems to be paralyzed by everything – the landscape, her family, her dreams that bring to her frightening visions of mysterious spirit women and deer. All these things seem to act upon her psyche to choke back her speech. She’s only at total peace when she collects rocks or builds a paiper mache volcano for a school project. When she enters college she does so with the intention to study geology, which at least means she’s following her passion, the thing that has interested her since childhood.

Family (and some friends) – in addition to Franklin and her parents a few friends and neighbors also surround Flutie – the old brother and sister, Luther and Ruther Rutherford; her brother’s two wives, Geneva and Swallow, respectively; a literalist minister; and Jess Tessman, a suitor whom everyone but Flutie herself has decided she should marry.

Her family is problematic and not particularly supportive, and we’ll look at the three now.

Franklin wants to do nothing but work on cars and go to car shows, drink with his friends (a group of leather clad motorcycle toughs) and pick up women (he actually runs around with his second wife, Swallow, before he marries his first, Geneva – “Swallow was a girl every boy wanted but Franklin got her with his car.”) In typical circumstances, Franklin meets Geneva when he repairs her car, and he has to repair her car because it was sideswiped by his own mother. Franklin and his father argue constantly, to the point of physical confrontation. The father throws his toast at Franklin, Franklin hurls a plate at him. At age twenty Franklin is still in high school, then he gets arrested for stealing auto parts and is put away for two years. Flutie knows he’s a thief – he and his friends steal the hood ornaments off cars, and his room is filled with these pilfered artifacts. At one point Flutie confronts one of Franklin’s pals, whom she knows is about to steal an ornament off a car, and she is greeted with curses and insults. He sneers “What can you do?” – a question that people ask her throughout the novel. (At one point she goes for a job in a store and the owner asks her, “What can you do? Can you count?” The fact that she’s being asked if she can count implies that she appears to many people to be slow, or mentally disabled.) In a particularly uncomfortable moment, when Franklin returns from his hitch in prison, he violently makes love to his wife upstairs while the others, eating breakfast, can plainly hear through the cheap walls. He doesn’t learn. After he marries Swallow she bales hay in the blazing sun in a bikini, with dozens of male workers around, and in the end fate deals him an excessively ironic blow. The depth of feeling Flutie feels for her wayward brother is very strong, almost tearjerking:

“Flutie’s mother was upset that Franklin was restless in Stringtown. The last time Flutie drove her there, he cried in frustration. He hit the wire window between them in rage. The guards had taken Franklin back to his cell while his mother yelled at them. Flutie felt queasy. Franklin, Fluite cried in her room. She wanted to be a deer for him. Put him on her back. Tell him to hold on to her antlers. Take him out of Stringtown. Out of Vini. Give him something to do. Give him hope.”

We should note, in that passage, that the mother is shown in one of her habitual conditions – yelling.

The word yell is constantly associated with her and might even be her primary mode of verbal behavior. In relation to Flutie she is often making cruel or demeaning remarks and it’s abundantly clear that she loves Franklin more, or at least in a different way. But she’s mostly a mystery. Glancy offers little in the way of psychological explanation or background in regard to her, and in this fashion she remains sealed off from the reader in the same way that she seems sealed off from the other characters. Her essence appears to me to be impenetrable.

This is also somewhat the case with the father, but at least in his instance we’re supplied with some information. He keeps a sweat lodge in the back yard, and when his wife demands he get rid of it he fights her vigorously, declaring it to be the only reminder of his people that he has left. Fluite begs for affection, for simple fatherly attention – he appears incapable of giving it. When she simply asks him to tell her a story he refuses, or can’t do it. His discourse with Franklin is always either harsh, condemning, or else they bypass talk to resort to physical violence. Communication between the two parents, too, is limited to insults or biting comments about each other’s worst habits. This family environment isn’t conducive to positive growth at all.

Nature and the earth. Throughout the book when Flutie tries to speak in uncomfortable situations Glancy introduces water metaphors into the text, and Flutie is constantly thinking about, or observing, situations of nature. Just a small sampling:

“Her head felt full of water. If she tried to talk the words moved like waves on an ocean”

” (she heard) The wind and water from the dried sea that had once covered the Great Plains”.

“There was a rock buried in the road. Sometimes Flutie could see it after a wash out. But rain didn’t come that often or hard in western Oklahoma. She liked knowing the rock was there. It was a barrier. A protector… In fact, she imagined that the rock held up all of Oklahoma from the aquifier that tried to climb above the land.”

“Her voice moved inside her like a a boat.”

“The Salt Plains were the giant mouth where everything was swallowed. The sink where the ocean had drained with a sob in its chest.”

“Somewhere under the heavens, somewhere, something was happening. But she couldn’t see it. The prairie was in her way. The whole world groaned in western Oklahoma. The emptiness sucked the sounds into itself.”

“A child dying in Africa. A woman crying in Bangladesh. Franklin turning in his bed in Stringtown. A man without hope in Wales. Russians flatten a Chechan Village… “

Virtually every page contains writing of this quality, allusions to the natural world that seem to occur wholly within Flutie’s mind (no one else is capable of this kind of interior poetry). The effect is almost as if her brain is the receiving station for the antenna of the universe. Remarkable!

This is a somber, deeply meditative novel whose layers can be peeled and peeled like the proverbial onion. It holds out cautious hope for its heroine and offers countless textures of possibility to the reader, making a reading experience that’s hauntingly uneasy to forget.

Lowes Garage Door Installation Cost Will Save You Money

Lowes Home Improvement stores are well known for their low prices and quality products. If you own a home you probably have used Lowes to find the products you need to improve, maintain or repair it.

Searching for and finding the right garage doors for your home can be a nightmare even if you use the Internet to conduct your research. The best garage doors available are frequently the most expensive however you should not use garage doors pricing alone to make your selection.

Your selection process should carefully consider installation costs, construction materials, removal of any existing door, type of garage door opener and warranty. Lowes garage doors installation costs are considered one of the best buys on the market today. Lowes installers are considered and called partners and they must meet Lowes strict standards. Every installation is rated by the purchaser to assure that customers are receiving the quality services they are paying for.

Lowes garage doors installation costs range from as low as $199 to $599 depending on the size of the door and where the door is being installed. Obviously installing an oversize garage door will require more skill and time. If you need to install a garage door opener as part of your installation you can expect additional cost. Over all the, Lowes garage door installation cost is slightly lower than the average installation costs.

As an alternative to purchasing your garage door from Lowes you should consider comparing prices and services with Home Depot. Both Home Depot and Lowes sell quality garage doors. Just as with Lowes Home Depot provides garage door installation services that are comparable. In addition you have the option of installing a garage door yourself. Both home improvement stores will assist you in your efforts. The downside of self installation is the time it takes to complete the installation and the cost of disposing the old door which normally part of any professional installation cost. Self installation will also require you to have the assistance of at least one helper.

We feel that the Lowes garage door installation cost is very reasonable and provides the home owner the peace of mind knowing that the installation was done correctly. Occasionally installation cost can be included in the purchase price of your garage door. Be sure to check with you Lowes sales representative on the latest sales offers.

Mobile Oil Change Business – Keeping Track Of Your Business And Customers

Let’s say you have a solid mobile oil change business and you want to make sure you keep track of your customers and keep them from migrating to competitors who put out low-ball coupons or fixed site locations with low-cost come-ons. What’s the best way to do this? Well, not long ago a successful mobile truck repair and oil changing entrepreneur asked me if “there is a program that will help with keeping track of customers, and help keep track of when to send out a flyer/postcard for repeat business.” Turns out the answer; is yes and this is a very good question. Let’s talk shall we?

Yes, there are several “Contact Management Software suites for small businesses” in fact, just search that phrase, better yet there are Apps now that do the same thing, store it all in the cloud and do nearly everything for you, inexpensive service companies, usually they are quite good. Also if you do mobile oil changing there are several companies in the Industry that will do this for you, sometimes the companies that sell you the oil will give you such software, others are Industry Vendors and often at trade shows, but if you don’t have time to go to one, just subscribe to NOLN – National Oil and Lube News; you can find them online because these contact software companies advertise with them.

Also there are such data bases for the auto detailing business and especially nice and sophisticated systems for carwashes. Subscribe to Professional Carwashing Magazine; also online. All these are great places to find the tools to keep track of customers.

Now then, what about integration of this data with financial spread sheets for forecasting and preparing accounting statements and taxes? This was the entrepreneur’s next important question; “What type of financial programs are out there besides Quickin Books. I have used it in the past and I figure there might be a better one out there that I may not know of. What did you use?”

Personally, I like Quicken and QuickBooks a lot, easy to work with and all the CPAs can use this information to help you. However there are Quicken “partners” that are industry specific, which makes it really nice to do spread-sheets, projections, proformas, and forecasting – also building nice P&Ls and Balance Sheets, and other misc. business financial documents. It’s nice to be all-connected, with a data base system including everything, even down to the end user information, of course security is very important for any platform, as you can NEVER allow yourself to be hacked or have a laptop stolen with personal customer information on it – right? Think on this and continued success in your mobile oil change business.

How to Start Your Own Home Business Business

Searching for ways to make money online usually result in a load of rubbish such as getting paid to read emails or complete surveys; or paying money to buy useless e-books and courses for that magic formula. You should ignore all that “easy way to make money online” nonsense. Remember if it seems too good to be true then it probably is.

So how do you build a business and make money? Basically there are three ways which are: Affiliate Marketing, Selling your own Product or Offering a Service. I will go through these options with you so you can choose the one that is right for you.


If you haven’t got a product to sell or a service to offer affiliate marketing is a good place to start. The general idea behind affiliate marketing is that you promote someone else’s product and that person (the vendor) pays you a commission. The vendor will supply you with a webpage that you can promote which is commonly known as a “gateway” page. This way the vendor knows which affiliate got the sale as they can track which “gateway” the order came through. The vendor deals with all the order processing and delivery while you just focus on the promotion of your gateway page.

Search for “affiliate companies” using Google and scan the listings for anything that says “Top Paying Affiliate Programs” or something similar. Look for products that you think you could offer on your website or blog. Some companies offer different size banners that you could put on your website which could result in a sale if one of your visitors clicks on the banner and makes a purchase. Look at what the product is and much commission is being offered.

Note: some companies offer a “network marketing option which is often referred to as a Pyramid Scheme. I am not suggesting these companies should be avoided but I would suggest you be very careful, especially if they are asking for a membership fee. If you are unsure about a company I recommend you enter a search term such as “(company name scam)” and see what the public says. There are many people who use the line “Is (company name) a Scam” as part of their review of the company in order to promote it. Make sure you read as much as you can from other people.


Your own product could be something you create yourself such as a book or a piece of software. You can earn a good income if you can write or program. Information marketing is quite popular as people are often searching for how to do something. Maybe you can make fancy jewellery and you want to teach others how to do it. If you have a good knowledge of something or a skill then you can share it with the world via an e-book. Amazon allow you to submit your book to them and will offer it for sale on their websites.

Basically anything you can create yourself can be sold online either through yourself or through a retailer who is willing to stock the product for you. I remember selling games I programmed on the Atari ST through PD Libraries as Licenceware where they paid me a commission. Of course the product doesn’t have to be something you made. You can buy and sell items through eBay and Amazon. There are wholesalers who offer products in bulk which you could sell on the market or on a car boot sale. You can also pick things up cheap from car boot sales and make a profit on them.

Everyone likes to eat so if you can cook or bake you can sell food. Of course you will need to make sure you have the necessary health and hygiene certificates before you start. Only the other day I was looking for halal pies and the two places I found were wholesalers who require me to buy pallets of pies. Well as I don’t have a big freezer or fridge then this is no good to me. So one idea could be to buy them direct from the supplier and sell them on the market, or in smaller qualities to local people if you have a car or van.

The general idea is to offer products that people want. There was a story of one Muslim woman who liked to eat ready-made meals. However there were no halal versions so she started a business selling halal ready-made meals. With Islam officially the world’s fasted growing religion there could be a good market there for halal foods. After all there are many people who are limited to their local takeaway and may want to eat other meat products other than kebabs or curries. Another popular trend at the moment is retro-gaming. The younger generation taking an interest in older computer games.


Have you got a skill you could offer people? Maybe you can repair computers or cars. Maybe you are good at gardening. Maybe you can offer custom-made furniture? If you are a dab hand with a set of tools or you are good at painting and decorating then that is something you can turn into a profitable business. Build yourself a website, get some cards printed and spread the word in your community. List your services in your advertising and make sure your prices are competitive in your area. Think of your talents and how you can use them to make money.

Paintless Dent Repair – The Truth, Myths and Misconceptions

PDR, a better repair!

First let me start by explaining what PDR or Paintless Dent Removal is for those of you out there that have never heard the term. PDR is conceptually simple, put simple it is the process of removing damage from an automotive body panel without the need for sanding, grinding, body-fillers or painting (hence the term Paintless).

The process of removing damage to vehicles without then need for painting is actually not new at all, though industry folk lore varies from tale to tale, Mercedes Benz allegedly began having “metal-men” work small imperfections in panels while still on the assembly line as long ago as the 1950’s. Today’s PDR technicians have adapted various techniques for removing dings and dents from vehicles without the need for fillers and re-painting almost as an art form. Better tools, training and advances in automotive clear coat durability have led to miraculous results for even large dents.

Why can’t I just use a dent popper like the ones you see on TV?

Unfortunately the dent poppers, suction cups and (this one makes me chuckle) dry ice simply don’t work. First let’s explore the “screw out dent poppers”. You’ve probably seen the late night Ding King infomercials showing you how easy it is to just glue on the tab, place the lifter on the tab and turn. POP! the dent’s gone! right? Wrong! the commercial never shows the large high spot, low spot still left or heaven forbid the high spot surrounding a low, or as i like to call them a “volcano”. The main reason this is a gimmick, missing tools and knowledge. Professional PDR technicians actually do use a method of removing some select dents from the front of a panel with tabs, special adhesives and a lifting apparatus.

The main difference? a technicians main assets are their eyes, reflective source, and hand-eye-coordination. a professional technician assesses the dent with a reflective source, be it a light, line board or reflective pole, and targets the “dead-center” of the dent. Once located the technician places a tab directly at this zero point and then uses a lifting device to bring the depressed metal as close to level as possible in one pull. Once the pull has been made the technician removes the tab and assesses the area to determine the next course of action. Usually, the area will require some work with a tap down device to level any areas that were pulled higher than level. This process may go on for several pulls and taps until the area is as close to level as possible. The do-it-yourself-er doesn’t get a reflective source, tap down or training in how to use each of these items and more often than not makes the once small door ding a variable mess when finally deciding to throw in the towel. The suction cup is simply ineffective.

Damage very large and gradual may actually move with a strong enough suction and it may actually look somewhat better than the original dent, but it effectively “locks” the metal into place and the distortions or buckles around the area that have not been properly removed before addressing the main low areas of the dent are now cementing everything into place. The remaining topic (and my favorite) dry ice and a hair dryer seems to get rave reviews on you-tube and the like. Unfortunately this once again doesn’t address the buckles and only sometimes removes a portion of the dent.

The main down side to this method is the process it uses. Dry ice or the “computer duster” propellant will rapidly cool the substrate and paint. The hair dryer is then used to rapidly bring the panel temp. above 150 degrees F. The rapid contraction and subsequent expansion of the substrate is what actually makes the dent pop but what’s happening on a much smaller level is paint damage. The paint is almost always micro-fractured which leads to paint cracking, peeling and corrosion. Much of this damage will not be seen for several months down the road when the elements have had time to breach the fractures and make them worse.

One PDR company is as good as another, Right?

All dent companies are not created equal and actually let me expand on that by saying all pdr technicians are not created equally. One of the main reasons for the boom in pdr company growth is the “claim to fame” or “gold rush” mentality. We’ve all seen the commercials for get rich quick schemes. Some very talented technicians have and still do make a very good living repairing dents. Most earn moderate incomes that do not carry bragging rights though. Every Tom, Dick and Harry tired of their 9-5 job learns about the alleged 6 figure income made by pdr technicians and heads out for two weeks of training at a mis-information factory such as Ding King or Right Look and thinks they will set the world on fire directly thereafter. In reality they spend two (or even one) weeks learning little about real world dents and almost always pick up bad habits that will doom them from ever being able to repair a dent properly.

The “Mills”,as they are affectionately referred to in the industry, also sell the aspiring technician a “package” deal complete with every tool needed to repair any dent out there. Unfortunately what they are actually getting is the cheapest set of Chinese made coat hangers good money can buy. The aspiring technician returns home after training and (after being told they are ready) begins selling their service. The problem being they often cannot see the dent properly to repair it and do not have the acquired skill set to fix the smallest of dings. The end result is a moderate improvement with high spots throughout the dent and even cracked paint. The technician either continues on frustrated, trying to do better (or not if they don’t care enough about the quality) or will lower prices justifying to themselves that a lower quality repair is still worth something.

And more still will throw in the towel all together after making such a bad name for themselves that they can no longer find work. This surge of low end “technicians” has led to a misconception that PDR is an inferior repair process as compared to a body shop. In fact, this conception is true when it pertains to someone performing such gross butchery. The general rule of thumb for a PROFESSIONAL Paintless Dent Repair is that it should cost between 1/2 to 1/3 that of a conventional body shop repair. Professional technicians have spend many hundreds, if not thousands, of hours perfecting their craft and don’t sell themselves short. If you find yourself shopping for the best deal (lets face it, in this economy who doesn’t) be leery of a rock bottom price. More often than not you WILL get what you pay for and will end up wishing you had paid a little more when rust starts to appear where the dent was, due to the hack cracking your vehicles paint!

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