Archive | November, 2017

Set Up a Small Business That Appeals to Customers

Posted on 16 November 2017 by sam

When you decide to open a small business, there’s a lot to consider. Do you want to be the sole owner, or do you want to split the business with someone else? What kind of storefront do you want to open, and where do you want to open it? What hours will you be open? What will your marketing budget look like?

In the midst of all that, there’s something else you don’t want to forget: The way you organize your store and lay out your merchandise also matters quite a bit. People want to buy things in an environment that feels welcoming. They want to go into a store and see that the people running the place put some thought into how things should look. They don’t want to go into a place and see a bunch of merchandise strewn around haphazardly. That shows a lack of purpose and competence. And you really want an environment that exudes both, or else you’re going to risk turning customers off as soon as they walk in the door.

Clean and simple design

The way you display your merchandise depends in large part on what kind of merchandise you’re selling. Bookstores use shelves to display most of their products, although they also put out featured titles on tables with the covers facing up. If you walk into a hardware store, you’ll find a mix of shelves, bins, panels, and even things like steel slatwalls. In most cases, it’s best to stick to basic colors like black and white, as they’ll keep the focus on the product where it belongs. You want the display mechanism to be efficient and sturdy without drawing attention away from what you’re actually trying to sell.

The Internet gives you access to countless store designs and layouts as well. You can also think about your favorite shops. What makes them so special? What about them drives you to keep coming back and buying more of their products? Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and while exact duplication should be avoided, there’s nothing wrong with using another business as a rough template, then taking that template and shaping it into something of your own.

Lights, sounds, and smells

A lot of stores go with basic fluorescent lighting for their stores. They figure it’s been a retail staple for a while, so why bother changing it now? That may work fine in some cases, but if you’re selling candles and incense, it’s probably better to try out other, more subtler forms of lighting. Diffused lighting may be an option for your store’s interior or exterior as well. If you’re selling clothing, know that fluorescent lighting isn’t the most flattering option for the people who will be trying on clothes in your fitting rooms.

As far as music goes, you should try something that’s thematically appropriate for your store. Soft classical music works for a lot of stores who don’t want to risk distracting their customers with lyrics. If you go with music that has lyrics, it’s probably best to avoid death metal.

You also want your store to smell good, but you don’t want to smell like the woman on the train home who bathed in perfume. Understated is better than over-the-top. You don’t want people who are sensitive to certain smells to avoid your store, although if you’re selling fragrant soaps and candles, some of that may be unavoidable.

Bathroom Reader’s History of Plumbing

Posted on 09 November 2017 by sam

Plumbing–the most important invention we never appreciate until it’s gone. Plumbing has been around for millennia, and it plays a major role in our health and in our society. Here’s a brief timeline of some of the hallmarks of plumbing.

2600 BCE. Almost as soon as humans switched from a nomadic lifestyle into an agricultural civilization, they started developing systems to carry water. In the Indus Valley Civilization (circa 2600 BCE), citizens developed basic pipe systems to transport water, as well as bathing areas with drains and basic septic tanks.

2000 BCE. The ancient Chinese developed basic pipelines out of bamboo, although we have evidence for deep-water wells in China long before that.

1900s BCE. First evidence of a flushable toilet in ancient Greece. The ancient Greeks also developed pressurized shower systems.

800 BCE to 476 CE. The plumbing system of ancient Rome is one of the most famous examples of early plumbing. The first sewers in Rome date from between 800 and 735 BCE. Roman plumbing grew to include public baths, a complex sewer system, and indoor plumbing. The Roman aqueducts allowed for large volumes of water to be transported to people to use for bathing and drinking and then be flushed away! You wonder if they employed professional drain cleaners. Unfortunately, the Romans built their pipes with lead, and some scientists hypothesize that the “madness” that comes from lead poisoning played a large part in the downfall of the Roman Empire.

1596 CE. John Harington invented a flushable toilet as a present to his godmother, Queen Elizabeth I. Although the Queen was enthusiastic about the toilet, she was apparently terrified of the sound it made when it flushed.

1531-today. “Sewage farms,” some of which still operate today, provide a method of disposing of wastewater by applying it to crop production. Sewage farms were and are used all over the world.

  1. The English Regency Shower was created, which pumped water from a lower basin to a cistern directly above the bathers’ head.
  2. The first commercially available toilet paper appeared. Bless.
  3. The first sewage treatment plant in the United States was built in Worcester, Massachusetts. Water treatment and safety had become a concern with the Industrial Revolution, and more and more polluted water went into the streets, bearing waterborne illnesses. Other methods of treating water include desalinization, chlorination, and fluoridation
  4. The International Association of Plumbing and Mechanicals Officials was established and began work on a sanitation code and code to fight against bad plumbing practices.

1950s. High-pressure water jetting was invented. Hydro jetting is a method of cleaning and unclogging drains and pipes by shooting high-pressure water streams to remove buildup in pipes. Hydro jetting is still used today, and captures, filters, and reuses water.

1974 to present. In 1974, the US passed the Safe Drinking Water Act, and from that point, the US has continued to pass and amend legislation regarding water safety, efficiency, and usage to ensure sanitation and conservation.

  1. The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals include access to plenty of clean water on a global scale.

The Importance of Home Inspections

Posted on 07 November 2017 by sam

Searching for a home can be exhausting. In fact, it can be so tiring that when you find a home you want that’s in your price range, you may be tempted to just skip the home inspection entirely before signing off on the deal. This is not a good idea. Home inspections are a critical step in both buying and selling a house. You need a home inspection to get a full picture of that house you want so desperately to buy.

Knowledge is power

It may help to compare buying a home to dating. Even if you’re not pulling up an app and swiping left on homes you don’t like and right on homes you do like, buying a home is still a major emotional investment. If you don’t act carefully and purposefully, you’re going to end up with a dud.You don’t want to be like your friend who is ready to move in with a girl a week after he meets her. When you fall for a person (or a house), it’s easy to fall hard and fall fast, but you still need to protect yourself. We’ve all seen the cheesy Lifetime movies where a woman meets a guy, falls in love with him, and gets married, only to discover his three previous wives all died under mysterious circumstances. A home inspection won’t reveal any dead bodies in the basement (hopefully), but it might reveal major problems with the sewer lining in your house. If you discover that before you take possession of the house, you may be able to work out a deal with the seller where they pay for some or all of the repairs. That’s a lot harder to do if you’ve already signed all the paperwork.

Yes, a home inspection will cost a few hundred dollars, but it’s better to spend that money now than to spend four times that a few months from now when you discover the roof is crumbling and will need to be replaced as soon as possible.

Get a good agent on your side

Another way to avoid any nasty surprises is to find a good real estate agent. Look around your city and region and ask for recommendations. Remember that local real estate agencies can often provide a better experience than huge national ones. That’s because they know the area incredibly well. Let’s say you’re looking for homes for sale in Fairfield Township when you discover that a work colleague just purchased a home there that she loves. Ask what agent she used, and then give them a call.

An ethical agent will show clients the house that exists, not the house that the clients wish existed. That means they won’t try to hide any ugly details about the home’s past. Most of us would probably want to know if we’re looking at a house that was the site of a double homicide three years ago. We might buy it anyway, but we’d want to know beforehand in case our new neighbors don’t one day greet us with, “So glad to see someone bought the murder house!”

Good agents will also encourage their clients to get a home inspection, even if the bank doesn’t require it. They know that most people buying a house plan to live there for a good long time, and they want to do everything in their power to make your dream home a reality.

Clean Those Pipes

Posted on 07 November 2017 by sam

Indoor plumbing–the most important invention we never remember until we no longer have it.

Nothing’s worse than a clogged toilet or a lack of running water. Indoor plumbing is part of what makes the industrialized world the industrialized world. It’s essential to know what to do to keep our pipes from failing and also what to do if something goes wrong with them.

It’s important to maintain your pipes and address potential issues before they become major problems. Make sure you know the age of your pipes and the material out of which they’re made–older houses often have pipes of copper or cast-iron, while more modern pipes are made of PVC, which actually has a shorter life-span. If any part of your piping is exposed, check it regularly for signs of rusting, dimpling, bumps, or anything else out of the ordinary. As your pipes age, be sure to get them regularly inspected by a professional. If you start noticing discoloration in your water, that’s a sure sign that it may be time to replace the pipes. If you have polybutylene pipes, get them inspected immediately, because this material is especially prone to breakage.

Be sure to insulate exposed pipes so that they don’t freeze in the winter. To keep drains from clogging, use strainers, keep away oils and greases, and use a baking soda and vinegar combination monthly. When you clean your pipes, use enzyme-based cleaners instead of harsh chemicals to maintain the integrity of your pipes. Address leaks immediately, and be sure to get your pipes inspected yearly.

If you feel up to the task, you may be able to handle some basic plumbing maintenance and fixes on your own. With the right tools and a good manual (or YouTube video, or training from your grandpa), the average person can handle tasks such as installing and fixing showerheads and faucets, and fixing running toilets, and unclogging drains.

Attempting plumbing out of your skill set though can turn a small problem into a disaster. Know when it is time to enlist the skills of a professional. Companies, such as these drain cleaners in North Dakota, provide services for homes, commercial endeavors, and municipal buildings. Most services will offer everything from inspection to major repairs. Make sure you look through each company’s services to see if they meet your needs and use up-to-date equipment. Compare reviews and prices–this is going to be a big investment of time and money, and you want to make sure you receive top-notch service.

When pipes fail, it can be a mess–both figuratively and literally. Sometimes, with larger pipes, repair teams have to dig up or rip up parts of the house or yard to access the pipes. Fortunately, technology has improved so much that companies now offer non-invasive forms of repair, such as trenchless pipe liners, which are inserted through drains or toilets, plumbers use CCTV to find the spot that needs repairing, and insert cured-in-place-pipe (CIPP) liner in the damaged portion of the pipe. CIPP has become a go-to product to fix corrosion, leaks, sewer backups, and other common problems.

Sun Smarts

Posted on 04 November 2017 by sam

Without the sun, life on earth would be impossible. The sun is essential to plants and animals. We organize our days by the course of the sun, and the major Western holidays track solstices and equinoxes. No wonder so many ancient cultures worshiped sun gods! But there can be too much of a good thing. Act with intelligence to make the best use of our best resource, without letting it cause damage.


It’s lovely to walk up to the house and see it dappled with sunlight streaming through the trees, but that same sun can also make the view les pretty. Over time, the sun can damage the paint on your house, causing it to fade, crack, peel, or turn to chalk. The next time you paint your house, you might consider investing in high-quality acrylic paint, sunproof paint, and even certain colors. If you’re looking to redo your outer wall or buy a new home, consider brick or rock walls, which don’t require any paint at all!

The sun can impact the inside of the home, as well. Books, paintings, and furniture that get direct sunlight often fade quickly. You might redecorate in order to extend the life of your pictures and books, and you might put less-valuable posters or the china cabinet in the spots that get a ton of sun.


Sun-protection for the skin is something we hear about all the time, and for good reason. Over-long exposure to the sun greatly increases your risk of skin cancer, causes other types of skin damage, and also causes premature aging. If you know you’re going to spend time outdoors, be sure to at least wear a hat, although it’s better if you can also wear sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 15 (although the higher the number, the better the protection!). When wearing sunscreen, reapply it every couple hours or so, especially if you are swimming or sweating hard. Different parts of the world have different UV exposure levels, too, so if you’re traveling, you may want to take extra precaution, or you might find yourself with a sunburn you thought you’d prevented. If you’re so desperate to get a tan, it is still possible to get a tan with sunscreen. But don’t let vanity put you at risk for cancer or death.

Use the sun to your advantage

Even though we should all act intelligently with the sun, it is, in the end, one of our greatest blessings. We can make good use of the sun to improve our quality of life. If you have a lovely suburban home, it’s worth investing in large windows and skylights to make use of the natural light; and you could also take advantage of having enough land to have a garden of some kind! You might consider installing solar panels, which will save you tons on your energy bill and also give a boost to the planet (the sun, unlike fossil fuels, isn’t going to run out, or create pollution). Humans require about 10 minutes of sun exposure a day to get the appropriate levels of Vitamin D.

Heating and Cooling Your House Efficiently

Posted on 04 November 2017 by sam

Winter is a bad time to try and save money. That’s because if you’re suffering through the worst winter your city has seen in a decade, you probably aren’t going to be thinking about things like the price of your electric or gas bill. You’re going to be thinking about how you can stop the shivering. You’re going to be wondering if your feet will ever be warm again. No, your electricity usage definitely won’t be at the forefront of your mind.

At least until your monthly bill arrives, at which point your blood pressure will probably skyrocket. This may make you feel warmer, actually, but not in a good way. There’s got to be a happy medium, right? You have to be able to find a way to keep your house warm without spending half of your paycheck on heating bills.

Make sure nothing’s wrong

If your electric bill has doubled since last month, it’s not a bad idea to call your electric company and (politely) ask if there’s been a mistake. It’s possible that your city went through a major ice storm that really sent your electric meter soaring, but if there haven’t been any extreme weather events, then someone may have goofed up. Companies are a lot like consumers: obsessed with efficiency. More and more businesses are using devices like the Abest Meter to test things like flow and energy, thus ensuring they’re getting the most bang for their buck. Electric companies are also trying to cut back on sending out metermen in favor of having meters report usage numbers automatically, but that doesn’t mean the system is perfect. Mistakes can and will happen as long as humans are involved with any stage of the process.

Don’t be rude or accuse your utility company of trying to screw you over. That won’t get you anywhere. If you want to ask them to recheck your usage levels, that’s fine. But if the numbers come back the same, you’ll have to explore other avenues.

Check your home heating system

It’s possible that your home heating system is the problem here. Your boiler or furnace may be having issues operating properly. If the equipment has to run twice as hard as normal just to provide you with the same level of heat, then that’s something you need to get checked out as soon as possible. Ask around for recommendations (because the search for residential heating services in Morris County, NJ, is going to look different than the search for residential heating services in Morris County, KS).

The problem could also lie with your house. If there’s a door that won’t quite close or a window that’s always open a crack, that means you may be losing heat to the outdoors, which in turn means your heating system will have to work even harder to keep your house at a comfortable temperature. The sooner you identify the issue, the sooner you can get it fixed, and that means more time to sip hot cocoa while you relax under a pile of blankets on the couch.

From Bachelorette Parties to Baby Showers

Posted on 01 November 2017 by sam

From Bachelorette Parties to Baby Showers

There comes a time in almost every woman’s life when she’s asked to help plan a party for another female friend. These events are event held to commemorate a big event in someone’s life, whether it’s an engagement, wedding, or a new baby. Each occasion demands different things, although there are also plenty of similarities as well.

Here comes the bride

The news of a friend’s engagement is often met with cheers and requests to see the ring (if there is a ring). Then talk to shifts to wedding dates, and usually it doesn’t take too much time after that for people to start discussing the bachelorette party. The party depends on a lot on the bride’s personality. Friends of the bride shouldn’t hold the type of party they want; they should instead think about the bride-to-be’s wishes and desires. If the bride says she doesn’t want a male stripper, then by all means, don’t get her a male stripper. Some brides will want a night of hedonism; others will be perfectly content drinking red wine and watching old romantic comedies.

One thing most brides can agree on? The bar is played out as a bachelorette party venue. That’s why a night at a casino in Oregon might be just what the doctor ordered. If you’re feeling brave, take a few chances at the card table. It’ll probably be a lot more fun than simply drinking yourself under the table. You may lose a little money, but as long as you budget properly and don’t go over a set amount, you’ll be fun. Treat it as entertainment and don’t feel like you absolutely must walk away with a jackpot. That all-or-nothing thinking probably isn’t going to work out well. So have some fun, then head to one of the casino’s premier restaurants for some good food and a couple of drinks with friends before one of you becomes a Mrs.

Hey, baby

Speaking of weddings, the old playground song “First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in the marriage” is a bit outdated at this point. It’s certainly nice if love comes first, but more and more couples don’t feel the need to get married before starting a family. Regardless of the couple’s legal status, a baby is still considered something worth celebrating via a baby shower. Ideally, you’ll be able to plan the shower with some input from the expectant mom. It’s a good idea for her to set up an Amazon baby registry so well-wishers from all over can buy something for the little one. If you know your friend is having a baby girl and plans to decorate the nursery in shades of yellow and purple, then it’s a good idea to make purple and blue the dominant colors at the baby shower as well. Have the parents picked out a baby name yet? If so, get a cake from your local bakery wishing the kiddo a happy birthday by name. A few personal touches will go a long way towards making the mom-to-be feel like she’s surrounded by love and support as she prepares for a monumental moment in her life.

Unexpected Sources of Sickness

Posted on 01 November 2017 by sam

Unexpected Sources of Sickness

We hear the warnings every winter as cold and flu season approaches. Don’t touch doorknobs. Wash your hands frequently. If you can’t access soap and water, carry around hand sanitizer. Don’t go to work if you’re sick, because then you’ll just get everyone else sick.

But catching the flu from a sick child in a coffee shop isn’t the only way to get sick. There are also some more under-the-radar ways to get sick that a lot of people don’t spend much time thinking about.

Your house

Yup, your house or apartment can make you sick, and we’re not referring to the old shag carpeting the previous tenants installed on the garage walls. Dust and allergens can build up in your house and turn you into a sneezy, sniffly mess, especially if you’re already prone to seasonal allergies (it counts as seasonal if you get them all four seasons, probably). You can fight back by vacuuming your carpets regularly, and by mopping and sweeping hardwood floors. If you use a window unit air conditioner, make sure to replace or clean the filter regularly, since you don’t want the nasty stuff that builds up in your filter to be dispersed into the air in your house.

Another, more serious problem comes in the form of mold that can invade houses, then spread like a virus. Know the warning signs of mold, and be ready to attack it if you see it. In addition to giving you a sore throat and making you sneeze, mold can also give you a rash that subsides when you’re out of the house. If your symptoms get better when you’re travelling, and if you’re doing all you can to keep the house clean and dust-free, you may have a mold issue. You can look up information on remediating the mold yourself, or you can call in mold removal experts.

Your mental health

This is a more indirect cause, but it’s still worth paying attention to. In the year 2017, just reading the newspaper or watching the evening news can make people queasy and anxious. Smartphones put all the world’s news right at our fingertips, which means people who can’t sleep can spend the night looking up all the ways in which we might end up in a nuclear war. That, in turn, makes it even harder to sleep. If you’re anxious and tired, your body’s immune system is weakened, which makes it easier for viruses to take hold and wreak havoc.

There’s no doubt that a lot of people feel like America is on the wrong track, but it may help to try and do something about it rather than just worry passively. Go to town hall meetings held by your local representatives in Congress. Go to marches, rallies, or other community events. And put down the phone after a certain hour. Read a book and get lost in another world instead of getting bogged down in ours.

Make sure to see your doctor regularly as well. If you’re on Medicare but find that it doesn’t cover as much as you would like, look into supplemental Medicare plans that will give you more peace of mind. In times like these, a little more security is worth a few extra dollars.

When Your Marriage is Crumbling

Posted on 01 November 2017 by sam

When Your Marriage is Crumbling

The vast majority of people who speak wedding vows mean them, including the “until death do us part” stuff. That’s one of many reasons why it can be so devastating to realize that your marriage is in trouble. Once your relationship begins its descent, it’s really hard to reverse the fall and start heading in the right direction again.

The biggest thing you can do is decide just how much fight you have left. Your partner need to decides that as well. There’s a saying that it takes two people to make a marriage work, but only one person to ruin it. Neglect, indifference, and contempt are poisonous to relationships. Both of you have to care, and both of you will have to really work to make sure that the marriage can be salvaged.

In some cases, marriage counseling is a good option, but only if both partners are fully on board. Be wary of a spouse who says, “Why would I want to pay a stranger to listen to my problems?” Spouses who are resistant to counseling probably think everything is fine. Or if they don’t think everything is fine, they don’t think it’s bad enough to seek professional help. They’re telling you that they’re OK with the way things are right now. If you’re not OK with the status quo, then you’ve got some tough decisions to make.

When you suspect infidelity

Has your spouse been “working late” an awful lot lately? Are they getting text messages from strange numbers? Do they act defensive when you ask who they’re texting? All of these are signs that some sort of cheating may be occurring. It could be an emotional affair or a physical one (although it usually doesn’t take very long for the former to turn into the latter). If your spouse won’t give you answers, it may be time to bring in someone trained at finding answers to uncomfortable questions.

The decision to hire a private investigator shouldn’t be made lightly. It shouldn’t be used as an attempt to control or abuse your partner. But if you’re on the way to divorce and need proof of an affair for whatever reason, a private investigator can provide you with that proof. It may be useful if you’re anticipating a child custody battle, but before you spend a lot of money on a private eye, call a family law attorney. A good attorney will be able to tell you whether or not an investigation would be useful in court. No-fault divorce laws mean many states don’t particularly care if one partner cheated on the other. Thankfully, we’re long past the days when you had to prove that your spouse was cruel or unfaithful before a judge would grant you a divorce. It’s up to you if you want to know for the sake of knowing, but realize it may not get you the leverage you desire in court.

Finally, think of the children. That doesn’t mean you should “stay together for the kids,” though. That’s usually a terrible idea, because the relationship between you and your spouse is going to be the model your kids use for relationships in general. Don’t teach them that marriage has to be full of distrust and anger. But if you’re divorcing your spouse, you should take care to do it as carefully and ethically as possible. Don’t sling mud just for the sake of scoring points. Kids absorb way more than you realize.