Sunday, December 27, 2015

American Astronauts and Corvettes:
The Story of NASA Astronaut Alan Bean's 1969 Corvette

This story is an excellent example of the definition of good luck.

Good luck is what happens when preparedness meets opportunity.

This is the story of NASA astronaut Alan Bean's 1969 Corvette, after it was spotted in a used car lot back in 1971 by Texas resident and Corvette collector Danny Reed.

Enjoy the video.



Credit: Michael Brown.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Web Wisdom | December 17, 2015


“Death is nothing at all. It does not count. I have only slipped away into the next room. Nothing has happened. Everything remains exactly as it was. I am I, and you are you, and the old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged. Whatever we were to each other, that we are still. Call me by the old familiar name. Speak of me in the easy way which you always used. Put no difference into your tone. Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow. Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we enjoyed together. Play, smile, think of me, pray for me. Let my name be ever the household word that it always was. Let it be spoken without an effort, without the ghost of a shadow upon it. Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same as it ever was. There is absolute and unbroken continuity. What is this death but a negligible accident? Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight? I am but waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just round the corner. All is well. Nothing is hurt; nothing is lost. One brief moment and all will be as it was before. How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again!”

―Henry Scott Holland, Death Is Nothing at All

Web Wisdom are inspirational or motivational quotes I find during my Internet journeys. I share them because I like them.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Windows 10: Viruses and Malware


A few months ago, I received the offer to upgrade to Windows 10 for free. That offer—along with the caveat that I could revert to Windows 7 if I didn't care for the new system—prompted me to download and upgrade. It was actually easy, and for the most part, everything worked as it did before and the learning curve was not that steep. Or so I thought at the time.

Fast forward a couple of months and one day, for reasons I haven't figured out as of yet, my computer started struggling and locking up from time to time.

After reading a few articles on potential things that could be causing such problems, I removed a bunch of programs I wasn't using. That did nothing to help things. Then—again, based on something I read somewhere—I removed the free AVG anti-virus/malware software I'd been running for at least a couple of years.

About a year earlier, I had to download Malwarebytes in order to rid my laptop of some "crapware" I picked up somewhere on the Interwebs, but I had to purchase the program for it to clean my computer properly. I left the program running automatic updates and daily checks just to be on the safe side.

So, when I read that getting rid of AVG may solve my computer's performance issues, and because of having the paid version of Malwarebytes, Windows 10, and Windows Defender, I uninstalled AVG and my computer started running normally again.

But things took a turn for the worse again, a couple of weeks ago. My computer's performance slowed down to a crawl making it almost unusable. At this point I called a local professional computer shop and brought it in for service.

They kept it there for a couple of days, and told me it had been infected by some nasty malware that was basically hogging all my CPU's resources. They did their thing and—after I handed them a C-note—they gave me back a computer that was running fine again.

At least that was the case for about five days, until the same problem occurred again!

When I tried to run Windows Defender, the system warned me it had been turned off and I had no way to enable it again. It was clear my computer had been infected by a malicious program. I managed to run a Malwarebytes scan which made no difference whatsoever.

It was time to go deeper into the Windows beast in order to try to purge the system of this malady.


WINDOWS DEFENDER AND MALWAREBYTES IN SAFE MODE

When you run Windows in Safe Mode, you are running a very basic version of the system. This keeps viruses and malware inactive, and I immediately noticed how fast and well my computer was running, albeit in the weird-looking safe mode.

The plan was to run both Windows Defender and Malwarebytes in safe mode. Doing this would—I hoped—rid my system of the problem or, at least, do enough damage to it so it would not load and run ever again.

Of course, as a Windows 10 newbie, I had no clue as to how to get it load in safe mode. I restarted the laptop several times, and hit the F8 key for what seemed an eternity until I realized I had to find a better way to do this.


RUNNING WINDOWS 10 IN SAFE MODE

In order to figure how to start Windows 10 in safe mode, I borrowed my girlfriend's computer to search for the right answer since the old F8 trick did not seem to work with the new system.

Sure enough. Windows 10 does not work that way. Instead, I was to learn, you have several options to launch Windows in safe mode, and the easiest way it to press and hold the Windows key followed by the letter R. This opens the Run box.

When the Run box opens, you type msconfig and hit enter.


From there the System Configuration box opens,and you must select the "Boot" tab, then check the "Safe boot" box, followed by the  "Network" option. Then click "OK" and reboot the system.


After going through the rebooting motions, Windows 10 loads in Safe Mode. Finally!


GIVING WINDOWS 10 A COLON CLEANSE

I apologize for the crass comparison and commentary, but when your computer has been infected with a virus or malware for a while, you really want to get rid of that crap for good.

First thing was to try to enable Windows Defender while in safe mode, and I was (finally) able to do so.

I then launched the program, ran a quick update, then allowed it to scan the whole system, which took about 45 minutes.

When that was finished, I ran Malwarebytes for another full scan. At this point I did not want to take any shortcuts.


DID THIS SOLVE THE PROBLEM?

You bet your Aston Martin it did!

But first you have to exit Windows 10 safe mode, and since there's no obvious or easy way to figure this out by clicking or looking at the screen, let me save you some time and aggravation by giving you the answer, since it may not be as obvious to some.

Press and hold the Windows key then press "R" to open the Run box. Again, type msconfig and hit Enter. The System Configuration box will open and make sure the "General" tab is selected.

From there you can click the "Normal Startup" option and you're (hopefully) back in biz.



A WORD OF CAUTION

When you boot your computer in safe mode, don't start deleting files unless you know what you're doing, since it's easy to really screw up your computer for good.

If your system is running extremely slow and the mouse cursor locks up for no good reason, there's a good chance your system has been infected by either a virus or malware. If you leave it alone, it won't get better. Actually, chances are it will go from bad to worse.

Of course there's no guarantee that what worked for me will work for you, so my suggestion is that you do some research online (yes, you will probably have to borrow a computer to do this), and learn as much as you can about things you can do.

Again, this article chronicles what worked for me and my Windows 10 laptop, and I hope you find it useful.

Dealing with a computer that's been infected by a virus or malware is a frustrating experience, and punching the machine will not make it snap back to normal.

I tried that and it does not work.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Story of the "DUG UP" 1974 Ferrari Dino

According to the story (see the Jalopnik.com video at the end of this article), the owner of the brand new '74 Ferrari Dino 246 GTS allegedly wanted it stolen and destroyed, so he could collect on the insurance.


But thieves (from 1974 Lost Angeles, CA) apparently were car buffs, too, and they could not bring themselves to taking a chainsaw to tear up the 4-wheel Italian beauty. So... what can a thief—who's also a gearhead—do?

You protect the vehicle with plastic and a few towels. Then you bury it!

When I first saw the LinkedIn post by Karl Pippart III, Founding Owner at Classic Auto Research Service in Chalfont, Pennsylvania, I could not believe it, and then he shared the Jalopnik video below.

So make yourself a fresh cup of coffee (or whatever other beverage you'd like to drink while watching it), and enjoy the story behind the "DUG UP" Ferrari Dino.

Truly worth 20 minutes of your time.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Rust in Peace: 2nd Generation Firebird

Not much "Fire" left in this "bird." 


Rust in Peace are photos of (what appear to be) abandoned vehicles I find and collect during my travels around the Interwebs. When possible, I credit the source. —Luis

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Starting a BBQ Grill Cleaning Business
Part Twelve

WHAT TO POST... ON FACEBOOK, PINTEREST, AND OTHER SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS

This is a question that many small business owners seem to lack an answer for.

And what I see during my Internet travels, are a lot of social media channels that seem to be clogged with pretty much useless, self-promotional posts that totally fail to create any sort of engagement with the audience.

That's only one side of the coin, of course. On the other side you find a variety of sites that hardly offer any content at all.

Consequently, a lot of social media channels end up sort of abandoned. This reflects badly on the business, and the lack of updates may have negative SEO-related consequences.

So what can a business do? What can you post? And how often?

Those are the questions I hear every once in a while, and my answer is pretty basic... even simplistic.

Talk about your customers!

Nicely, of course, but talk about what your business has done for them.

Have them pose with the product they bought from you and snap a pic for your social media site, for example. If your business offers pet grooming services, take photos of their pet and plaster them all over your Facebook page and share that with them. Nine out of ten times, they will share those photos with their friends, and the social media circle is then complete.

If you paint houses, take Before & After photos and—again—post them for the world to see and let your customers know. And the same applies whether you clean windows, detail cars, sell collectible toys, own a hair salon, etc., etc., etc.


BBQ GRILLS AS SOCIAL MEDIA STARS

Every time I clean a grill, I take before & after photos. And when I get back home, I post them to several social media channels I maintain for My Grill Pro.


Since I've been doing this type of work for years, it's become quite easy for me to take care of several channels in a matter of minutes, and the reason I post photos of jobs I've done for my clients, is to show prospective customers what it is I have to offer, and I let the photos do the selling.

I don't use a whole bunch of text to describe the cleaning process step-by-step. Instead, I mention the grill brand and model, a few things I might have noticed during the cleaning (rust, lots of buildup, etc.), and the city and neighborhood where the job was done. I do this for SEO reasons.

By the way, do I have any proof that this helps with my SEO efforts?

Nope!

However, MyGrillPro has gone from not being listed on major search engines at all (I launched the site about 2 months ago), to ranking very well for my desired search terms. But again, I have no idea if my social media posts are the reason for that. Personally I believe they have helped a lot, and the page rankings support that, but I have no specific proof.


USING HUMOR

Laughter—as they say—is the best medicine, and when it comes to social media it can help remedy the "boring post" ills.

The easiest way is to find cartoons related to your business and post those (as long as you don't attempt to claim them as yours), on your Facebook or Google+page.

There are thousands out there, you just have to make the time to find and save them. Then credit the source as needed.

Needless to say, some may be offensive, so you will have to decide which ones are okay for your page.

Another option is to find industry-related memes. But as with cartoons, you want to make sure you respect the author's creative rights.

And you can always try to get creative yourself and make your own memes, which will be a bit more time consuming. However, you can customize those to your heart's content.



POST FREQUENCY

How much is too much? I cannot answer that question, but let me say that posting without a specific purpose is a waste of everyone's time, so make your posts count.

Even though I don't have a set rule, I only make a social media post when I have something of value to share. Whether I am posting grill cleaning photos, cartoons I like, or memes I find or create myself, I tend to space the frequency of posts by a day or two, sometimes longer.

I certainly don't want to give the impression of being a social media spammer, and I also understand that the subject matter I deal with is not the most interesting in the world, so I post sparingly, and so far that approach seems to be working.

The one thing I do is respond to either comments or direct messages in a timely fashion, and so should you.


PINTEREST & INSTAGRAM

If you take a lot of photos, you may want to create a Pinterest or Instagram page for your business.

Since I've been a Pinterest user for a few years, I am familiar with the platform so I chose to create a Pinterest page for My Grill Pro.

As with other social media sites, the post frequency is totally up to you.


IN SUM

The thing to keep in mind is to use consistency when it comes to whichever social media channels you develop. As I've mentioned a couple of times, the frequency of posts is not that important. A constant flow is.

So whether you do this a few times a day or once a week, try to be consistent.

Just don't allow your social media pages to become stagnant.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Web Wisdom | November 17, 2015

The Paradoxical Commandments were written by Kent M. Keith.

Mother Teresa put a copy of the Keith commandments up on the wall of her children's home in Calcutta many years ago, which have since been wrongly attributed to her.


"The good you do today, will often be forgotten by tomorrow. Do good, anyway." 
Web Wisdom are inspirational quotes I find during my Internet travels, which are worth sharing.

Monday, November 16, 2015

LinkedIn Showcase Pages

Own a business? Then you need to have a LinkedIn presence.

If you cater to a business audience, you definitely need a LinkedIn company page. But even if you own a business-to-consumer small biz, having such a page may be beneficial to your online marketing efforts.

First of all, LinkedIn company pages costs nothing more than a few minutes of your time to set up, even if you consider yourself "web challenged." And secondly (and most important in my opinion), is that by having such a page you may derive some optimization benefits for your website.

But LinkedIn does not stop there.

You may also (and you really should), launch a LinkedIn Showcase Page for your business.

As I worked on a LinkedIn business page for company a few days ago, I noticed a link inviting me to create a "showcase" page. By the way, you can create as many of them as you deem necessary.


I decided to use the LinkedIn Showcase Page as a way to highlight the services I offer through My Grill Pro, which in this case involves cleaning outdoor kitchen BBQ grills for local residential customers in Seminole and West Volusia counties in Central Florida.

Here's a screenshot of the new Showcase Page:

My Grill Pro's LinkedIn Showcase Page


HOW MUCH?

Setting up a LinkedIn Showcase Page is free. For how long I have no clue, although I don't think that will change anytime soon. LinkedIn Showcase pages have been around since 2013, if my information is correct, but it wasn't until I created a LinkedIn Business page for My Grill Pro, that I realized they were an option.

Keep in mind that you will need to create a LinkedIn Business Page for your business before you can create a showcase page, since showcase pages are extensions of it.

I also like the fact that you can view a Showcase page even if you're not a LinkedIn member. It will extend an offer to join to those who are not, of course, but they are still able to read the posts. However, if someone wants to post a comment, they must be a registered LinkedIn user.

My Grill Pro LinkedIn Showcase Page when viewed as a non-member


WHAT'S IN A NAME?

Perhaps a great deal!

I had a few issues when I first named my showcase page, and I assume that's because—as mentioned above—they are an "extension" of the company page. However, you can rename your showcase page, as long as part of the original name remains. At least that's how I understood it when I renamed mine.

In hindsight I should've been a bit more careful when choosing the original name, but I did not expect it to look like a full-blown social media webpage. So be careful when choosing a name for yours. Again, you can edit the name after the fact, but it seems the one you choose first becomes the de facto page title.

Of course you can always create a new Showcase Page if necessary, but I don't think you can delete showcase pages once published.


SHOULD YOU LAUNCH YET ANOTHER SOCIAL MEDIA PAGE?

Only you can answer that question.

I like LinkedIn and use it daily. My network includes more than 4,000 members even though I've been very selective about that since day one. Does that mean that the My Grill Pro Showcase Page will have an immediate 4,000-plus followers?

Of course not.

Right now I am the only follower and I am okay with that, as these pages do better when they are allowed to grow organically. I will promote it of course, but the reason I created a showcase page has very little to do with "likes" or "followers."

My rationale is twofold:
  1. To reach a segment of potential customers who may not use other social media channels, such as Facebook or Google+.
  2. Because I believe that a channel connected to the LinkedIn network can be helpful as far as search engine optimization is concerned.
Again, setting up a LinkedIn Showcase Page is quite easy and because of the powerful "social juice," you'd be smart to take advantage of showcasing your business.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Great C3 Video — 1977 Corvette Restomod

I've been a fan of the third generation Corvettes, also referred to as "C3s," since the day I saw one sometime back in the 1970s.

After owning six of them, ranging from 1968 through 1976, I know I am biased. C3s have great body lines, which make them significant even to this day. The "sugar scoop" rear window, also was a great touch, which sadly gave way to the "fastback" window in 1978.

My current Vette is a 1976 model, which I've been modifying slightly here and there, but—for now—it remains stock. Will that change in the future? Well, after watching videos like this one, my guess is that it may.

Anyway, if—like me—you are a C3 lover, I think you will enjoy watching this video.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Old Racing Pics: The Original GoPro?


Old Racing Pics are photos of race cars—and other race-related noteworthy items—I find and collect during my Internet travels. 

Whenever possible, I credit the source. —Luis

Friday, November 6, 2015

Web Wisdom | November 6, 2015

"Seven Cardinal Rules for Life."
Web Wisdom are inspirational or motivational quotes I find during my Internet journeys. I share these because I like them.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Starting a BBQ Grill Cleaning Business
Part Eleven

THE IMPORTANCE OF BUSINESS DIRECTORIES

The list of online business directories is long, and it is obvious the major search engines put a lot of trust on them—at least as far as I can deduce—by seeing how high biz directories rank when you conduct a search for a specific business, especially small businesses.

A while back I created a very basic website for a friend of mine who needed one, but lacked the financial resources to have one professionally designed. I built his in a matter of hours thanks to a customized Blogger template.

After a few weeks, I checked Google to see if his new site was ranking at all. It was, but it was buried so far down the list as to make it near impossible to find. But it was a start.

However, I did notice right away that business directories, such as Manta, Yellowpages, and others, were ranking for my friend's company name and on the first page for that specific search.

I contacted most of the directories in order to update some of the info they had, which was both dated and, in some cases, wrong. Fortunately the great majority complied in a timely fashion and that had—I believe—a positive effect on the ranking of my friend's "official" website.

It's been about a year since I created the Advanced Interior Concepts website, which now ranks number 1 when you search for it by name, even though my friend didn't even spend the ten or twelve bucks to get his own domain name. The URL still reads bobdostalek.blogspot.com, which is okay for a personal blog, not so much for a business.

Also, when I created the site for my friend, I setup a Google+ page for him, knowing that having such page would help with rankings, and from the image below, you can confirm this.


It's also interesting to notice on the image above, that both the yellowpages.com and manta.com links still rank very high, which helps illustrate the point as to why it's so important to register your company with such directories.

And speaking about the importance of registering your company with business directories...

Down the same page, appear three listings for a company with the exact same name but located in New York state. From the Yelp listing it appears that company closed its doors, which does not look very good if someone who is searching for Advanced Interior Concepts in Orange City, Florida, thinks they're one and the same.



So if you have not registered your company with as many of the local business directories as you can find, or at minimum with the largest ones, you may end up in a similar confusing situation.

The good news is that you can register with these directories at any time, to make sure they have up-to-date information about your biz. That way when they get spidered by Google and Bing bots, the search engines will know what info goes where, and those instances will start to vanish.


BUSINESS DIRECTORIES...
WHICH ONE TO CHOOSE?

The list keeps getting bigger every day, but there always are a few that are a "must," in my opinion.

For starters, popular sites such as Angie's List, Yelp and HomeAdvisor are the absolute minimum for any small business. Even Google (in partnership with another company) has been making inroads for a few years now, albeit in a slightly different direction, with Get Your Business Online.

And like I've mentioned in previous articles, a business page on LinkedIn should always be a consideration. And let's not forget Google My Business and Bing Places for Business.

For the rest of business directories, I'd have to say that Manta.com and Yellowpages.com are the ones that usually rank pretty high on both Bing and Google. From there the list gets pretty long with directories such as:

  • MerchantCircle
  • Citysearch
  • Thumbtack
  • Handy
  • DexMedia
  • Insiderpages
  • Superpages
  • Factual
  • Foursquare
  • and many more.

Directories like Manta and services such as Moz Local, for example, help you automate updates to a group of directories... for a fee. But that is something to consider as it not only saves you time and money, but it can also guarantee consistency of your listing across different directories.


IN SUM

Thanks to popular small business websites such as Angie's List, HomeAdvisor, Yelp, and Get Your Business Online, combined with business directories such as Manta, YellowPages.com and dozens more, there's no reason why your small business cannot rank high for select search terms as well as the name of the business itself.

Getting listed in most of the sites mentioned in this article is easy. And with the exception of automation tools as those offered by Manta and Moz Local, most offer a basic free listing.

You will encounter a few sites that require payment, but that's an decision only you can make based on what your research may tell you.

As the number of small businesses trying to secure a web presence continues to grow, you'd be smart to formulate a plan of action and make the time to get your business listed properly on as many business directories you can find. Again, most will list your basic information free of charge, while others will extend offers to "enhance" your listing.

You DO NOT need to be listed on every single directory out there, but the main ones are almost mandatory, in my opinion. By doing so your business may start to rank high on search engines, and that can have a huge positive impact on your bottom line.

We all have a certain degree of control when it comes to being found online. And now you know a little more on the subject.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Starting a BBQ Grill Cleaning Business
Part Ten

ADDITIONAL SERVICES

As any business person knows, it is easier (and cheaper) to upsell an existing customer than it is to find a new one. And with that in mind, you may want to consider offering a few related services to your clients. This allows you to make a bigger sale at the time of service without the need of an additional trip, which saves everyone time and money.

VENT HOODS

A few customers may want—in addition to their BBQ grill— their vent hood cleaned. Those can be a bear to clean, which is the main reason why I charge a premium for that service.

First of all, you'll have to contort your body in funny and unnatural ways in order to reach those areas; and secondly, most ventilation hoods have grease traps (or baffles) that are never cleaned, which means you'll have to spend a lot of time getting them free of gunk.

The baffles or filters are intended to keep grease from entering the ventilation ducts, and they trap quite a bit of grease. They can be cleaned in the dishwasher (by themselves), but very few people know or do this, so they end up clogged with grease, which is a fire hazard.


If you decide to tackle a vent hood, be prepared to spend at least an additional hour cleaning it. And if the baffles are made out of thin aluminum, DO NOT throw them in the hot tank, as any strong solution may etch and, possibly, discolor them.

If the outdoor kitchen area has a sink with hot running water, ask the homeowner if it's okay for you to use the sink to wash them. The degreaser will help loosen most of the grease, and you can also use any dishwashing detergent to get them as clean as possible.

Just be patient and soak them for as long as possible, as this will make your life easier. Then use a sponge or shop rag as you rinse them, in order to remove stubborn grease.

You will also need a step ladder in order to reach the vent hood. I usually borrow one from the homeowner, if they have one, or use the large bucket supplied with the equipment so I can reach the vent adequately. I just turn it upside-down and it allows me to reach most vents comfortable.

Not the safest way to do this, but it has worked well so far, although I am thinking about buying a small 2-foot step ladder and keeping it in the trailer.


STAINLESS STEEL CLEANER/POLISH

The spray stainless steel cleaner by Ovenu and available to The BBQ Cleaner techs, is a fantastic product. The moment I used some of it to polish our s.s. fridge, stove and dishwasher, I lost a bottle to my girlfriend who was amazed at how beautiful the appliances looked.

The product is formulated not only to clean—and it does an excellent job at that—but also to return a factory sheen that I had no idea was possible. I've used plenty of other products over the years that come labeled as polishes for stainless steel appliances, but they always leave streaks which look horrible.

On the other hand, the cleaner/polish by Ovenu leaves no traces and evens out the whole area being treated. Plus, its anti-splatter properties make clean up, easy.


Retailing at $39 for a 16.9 oz. bottle, the Stainless Steel Cleaner & Polish is not cheap. However, to the average homeowner, a bottle of the product will last at least a year, if not two, since a little bit goes a very long way. Besides, when your customers see how beautiful the grill and vent hood look when polished, they'll want to know where they can buy the cleaner/polish solution, and you can make another sale.

Keep in mind, however, that items such as the stainless steel cleaner may be subject to sales tax, so check with your local and state taxing authorities to make sure you are reporting those sales appropriately.

Alternatively, you may also want to offer stainless steel appliance polishing services to your customers. This would also allow you to bring the total of the sales ticket up, without adding too much time to the job.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Web Wisdom | October 21, 2015


"Laughing at our mistakes can lengthen our own life. 
Laughing at someone else's can shorten it. — Cullen Hightower.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Web Wisdom | October 19, 2015


"You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks at you." —Winston Churchill.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Collector Cars... Collecting Miles or Dust?


As a kid growing up in the late '60s and 1970s, I never understood why some of my friend's parents, chose to cover their furniture with clear plastic. I considered it dumb and never really cared for the look or the resulting static electricity shock, after sitting on the furniture.

I can only assume that these folks were just frugal, and they sure came from a different generation. One that lived through a World War.

But furniture preservation aside, I think that many classic car owners have their own "wrap-it-in-plastic" hangup, when it comes to mileage.

Who are they saving these cars for?


I admit it; it works great for me when I am the buyer. So thank you for storing it for free and not driving your vehicle, so I will be able to enjoy it.

I am speaking tongue-in-cheek, really, as cars that sit around for long periods of time can develop a bunch of issues. Some more severe than others, but all requiring money to fix. So, buying an older vehicle that hasn't been driven in ten years, for example, may not be such a great deal or idea after all.

And God only knows what other problems cars that have been collecting dust instead of miles—for twenty, thirty, or more years—will have.

What started me thinking about this subject was a brief conversation I had a while back with the owner of a 1980s car during a show. It wasn't anything special, really, but the car was all original and looked great. At some point during our chat, the owner blurted out that he was concerned about his car's odometer rolling over 15,000 miles.

Fifteen thousand!?!, I asked incredulously, and he confirmed the statement. He then said that he would just keep it parked so it wouldn't cross the 15k mileage point. Honestly, I had one of those WTF moments, and walked away wondering what prompts someone to make a decision like that.

If someone has the money and space to store a never-driven collector car, more power to them. But just as a reminder, we're all "in transit" on this planet and, as far as I know, we cannot take stuff with us.


Having said that, I understand that some cars are looked upon as investments. I recently read that a classic Ferrari sold at auction for$38 million, for example, but that's the exception, not the rule.

Besides, cars of that caliber (read "irreplaceable"), are not always bought and sold by true car lovers. Investors belong in a different group.

Regardless of how much money someone may have, I still think it's silly to own a great car, keep it in a garage, and never drive it.

Sure, some are just plain gorgeous, and the sound of a V12 motor can be as beautiful as music. But these machines belong on the open road, not parked in some sort of shrine where the only thing they'll do is "look pretty" while developing flat spots on the tires.

The truth of the matter is, I think we're all hoarders to some degree. It doesn't matter if it's cars, shoes, tools, collectible toys, sports memorabilia, Lladro porcelain, paintings, wine, etc. We all have our own "collections" of stuff.

But when it comes to collector cars, mine will collect miles for as long as I own them. If that affects the resale value, so be it. Otherwise it's like marrying a gorgeous woman and never... well, you know.

So I'll continue to drive my cars and put miles on the odometer.

After all, that's what cars are built for, right?

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Old Racing Pics: Come Fly With Me



Old Racing Pics are photos of race cars—and other race-related noteworthy items—I find and collect during my journeys around the Interwebs. Whenever possible, I credit the source. —Luis

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Rust in Peace: 1963 Split-Window Vette

While fiberglass is immune to rust, it does become brittle with age, especially when left to the elements. Of course, C2 Vettes had a full frame made out of metal, and rust will attack and, eventually, completely destroy those components.

No '63 Sting Ray deserves a fate like this.


Rust in Peace are photos of (usually) abandoned vehicles I find and collect during my travels around the Interwebs. When possible, I credit the source. —Luis

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Which Side is the Gas Cap on?

You're driving a rental car, and as you pull up to the pump to get fuel you realize that you have no clue as to which side the gas cap is on. It happened to me today.

Well, modern vehicles have a very simple yet effective way to let you know, but even to this day, for many, it remains a mystery.

All you have to do is look at the fuel gauge, and right next to the fuel pump icon there will be a little arrow. If it's pointing left, the fuel door is on the left. If the arrow points to the right, then that's where you'll find it.

So now you know!


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Starting a BBQ Grill Cleaning Business
Part Eight

BUYING FACEBOOK "LIKES" FROM FACEBOOK

Once you launch a Facebook page for your business, you can't help it but wonder where the "Likes" are going to come from. And while they do, they seem to take forever and a day to materialize.

You may even look at other business pages boasting hundreds or even thousands of "Likes," and you probably wonder how they did it.

Well, there are two answers to that question...
  1. They are organic "Likes."
  2. They were purchased.
The organic or natural approach takes time; usually a long time. Especially when you own a small business that serves a local clientele. There's nothing wrong with growing your fan base slowly and steadily, but if you are like me, and post at least a few times each week, you cannot help it but feel like you're talking to yourself.

Option number two: The paid approach, which can be broken into two segments.
  1. "Likes" you purchase from a broker.
  2. "Likes" you purchase through a Facebook ad.
In my case—and as an experiment—I chose to use the second approach.

Okay, the fact that I only had 12 "Likes" was reason enough to find a way to (legitimately) bolster my Facebook "fan" base.

The first option, which involves buying "Likes" from brokers or companies that offer hundreds or thousands of "Likes" for a few bucks, is useless in my opinion.

Sure, they can make your Facebook page look impressive in a matter of days (if not hours), until you realize that there's absolutely no engagement or participation at all, big numbers notwithstanding.

This practice can have a negative effect on how your site ranks, according to many search engine optimizers, and trust me, you do not want to rattle the Google cage when it comes to "creative" SEO practices.

But if you decide to pursue this venue, regardless of the possible negative consequences, you have PLENTY of places to buy from.

Screen shot of Google page showing sites that sell Facebook "Likes"

The second option is totally legit and it can certainly help augment your Facebook numbers as well as participation by helping you acquire individuals who may have a real interest in what you are offering. 

When you buy a "promotion" through Facebook, you can pick and choose the target audience you want to market by age, interests and location. By doing so, you are guaranteed that those who see your ads are pre-qualified. At least in theory.

Screen shot of Facebook page promotion tool

You can also edit your promotion as needed and at any time, which makes this approach very user friendly. Plus I also like that you can start your promotion for as little as $5 a day, and you decide how long you want your campaign to run for. You can also temporarily pause or completely stop it as needed.


HOW TO LAUNCH A FACEBOOK PROMO

Screen shot of Facebook website promotion offerGetting a promotional campaign started on Facebook is very easy. And as the screen shot shows, you can also set one up to promote your website.

You will need to set up some form of payment, then it's a matter of a few clicks and your ads are created on the fly.
Once they are approved (takes about 15 minutes), you're good to go.

For my business I chose to allocate $5 per day, and for a period of two weeks. The results of this promotion were decent, with a total of 100 "Likes" from a total investment of $55.06, at a cost of about 55¢ per each new "Like." 

From looking at the profiles of those who "Liked" My Grill Pro's Facebook page, I can see that most are from the Central Florida area. However, the coverage radius seems to extend far beyond from the cities I listed in the "location" field when I designed my ad. I've seen "Likes" from Orlando and Kissimmee, for example, which are areas I do not serve.

So even though, so far, the geo-targeting parameters that Facebook uses seem to be a bit "generous," (not sure what other term to use), at least they are in the general vicinity, albeit not exactly where I'd clearly indicated when I created the promo.


FAN PARTICIPATION

"Engagement" so far, or lack thereof, seems to be in line with what you would expect from buying bulk "Likes," so I am not sure these "fans" will actually help my Facebook page.

Ultimately, buying "Likes"—from any source—should be looked upon as a quick and easy way to get over the 100-Likes-barrier and nothing more.

Only time will tell if having a Facebook page, or any other social media for that matter, will make a positive difference as far as profits are concerned.


WAS IT WORTH IT?

Screen shot of Facebook Promotion results
Personally, I am still very much on the fence at being able to discern the value of spending effort, time and money in social media. I hope it helps make my website more prominent when it comes to search engine results, but that's about it.

It seems to me that whatever algorithms Facebook uses to target potential business fans, are more in line with those you would use to find potential friends.

Filters such as household income, for example, would be extremely helpful for those of us who are targeting specific demographics. And if I am given the opportunity to select specific areas, well then my "Likes" should be limited to those cities.

Again, My Grill Pro services residential customers in Seminole and Volusia counties at this time, yet many of the "Likes" are for people who live in Orange and Osceola counties. Granted, both located in Central Florida, but if we do not travel to those areas, what's the point?


SO, YEA OR NAY?

If you want to quickly augment the number of "Likes" for your Facebook page, I would recommend using the Facebook built-in promotion system rather than those offered by brokers.

I am pleased with the results of this experiment. I started with a grand total of only 12 "Likes" and, by the time I paused the promotion, that number had increased to 112 in about a week and a half. But then again it goes to show you that "Likes" can be easily manipulated. So, when you look at your competitor's website, you have to question if the numbers shown are natural "Likes" or not.

When all is said and done, all you get are meaningless numbers.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Cars I Love: 1964 Shelby Cobra Daytona

Some classics never go out of style, and the Shelby Cobra Daytona is one of them.


Cars I Love are photos of automobiles I find and collect during my journeys around the Interwebs. Whenever possible, I credit the source. —Luis

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Pre-1980 Classic Cars as Daily Drivers

As a young man growing up in the 1970s, I fell in love with cars of that era. And even though my preferences are more in line with cars manufactured by "the General," I pledge allegiance to no car maker in particular.

Cars of the 1960s and 1970s were cool.

The 1980s also gave us some great designs and much improved manufacturing techniques, as well as better aerodynamics, brakes, suspensions and more.

Vehicles—regardless of date of manufacture—are utilitarian. They are designed and built with a specific goal in mind and intended for daily use. It is only when we decide to turn them into "collectibles," that they start accumulating dust instead of miles.

I am not judging anyone for doing so. After all, I currently have a '76 C3 Corvette in my garage. It is not a daily driver and it only sees duty in fair-or-better weather. But even though I only drive it every once in a while, I try to put as many miles as I can on the odometer, since my plan is to enjoy it.


Having said that, if I had to drive my Vette every day, I am not so sure I would enjoy it as much. So, when I see posts on online forums where people ask about recommendations about which classic car to buy and use as a daily driver, I have to wonder if they've thought the whole idea through.

Granted, I mostly read C3 Corvette-related forums, but I think this article applies to most (if not all) classic vehicles.

First let me state that in my book, a vehicle has to be at least 25 years old to be considered a classic. But whether you call them classic or collector cars, vehicles of that vintage are just plain old. They can be fun and cool to drive, of course, but practical they are not.

I get a lot of compliments every time I take my Vette out for a spin, but as much as I love it, sometimes it is more of a pain in the ass than anything else.

Comfort and safety were not at the forefront in the minds of designers and engineers a few decades ago, so things like good brakes, comfortable seating, and air conditioning and heating, to name a few, are not even close to what we see and get in today's vehicles. Even important safety items such as seat belts, don't come close to those we presently use.

In my case, my Vette is a tight fit, even though I only am 5' 9" and 175 lbs. Still, the steering wheel is big and too darn close to the driver, for example, so it is not what I would call comfortable, especially for long road trips.

The 4-speed manual tranny was one of the reasons I bought the car, but every time I drive it on the highway I wish it had a fifth (and even a sixth) gear. Rolling down the Interstate doing 70 mph with the motor revved up to 3000 rpm is not what you'd call relaxing.

The air conditioning system, something that is a must-have here in Florida, has cost me quite a bit of coin. It's been to the shop twice for service, new parts, and more. And to this date, it does not work correctly.

The brakes are okay since it has discs on all four corners, but cars of that era were notorious for having caliper issues, so a reasonable fix would be to install Wilwood calipers, which are not cheap. Needless to say, 1976 and older Corvettes did not come with ABS... or any sort of computers for that matter.

The lack of computers means that "fuel economy" is not a term that's applicable to such a vehicle.

The usually unreliable gauges make engine function monitoring more of a guess. The water and oil gauges can be calibrated of course for more reliability, but that means removing them from the car and sending them somewhere to be calibrated. Not the easiest or cheapest thing to do.

And fluid leaks are something that you chase pretty frequently.

For the record; I did own another 1976 Stingray which served duty my daily driver for a few years, but that was back in 1982 when I was in my early twenties. Comfort and safety at the time, did not rank high on my list of priorities.

On the other side of the coin, I think that a lot of people assume that a classic car is a safe investment. That is rarely true.

First of all, Detroit usually builds as many cars as they think they can sell, so age alone is no guarantee. And second, people usually drive their cars until the wheels fall off, or darn close to it, and the same mentality applied back when these classic cars were showroom new.

Classic cars cost money to operate and maintain, and many of them usually need frequent repairs that can turn a "deal of the century" into a money pit.

Not only that, but oftentimes finding a mechanic qualified to work on older vehicles, can be as hard or frustrating as locating parts for that same car.

Does that sound like a good, sensible plan, if you are in need of a daily driver?

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Someone Wants to Split $550 Million with Me!

Just spotted this gem in one of my junk email accounts.
Do people still fall for this kind of garbage?!?

You gotta love the use of capital letters.
They look so convincing. haha.


Saturday, September 26, 2015

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Starting a BBQ Grill Cleaning Business
Part Seven

MARKETING THE NEW BUSINESS
Reaching Customers

Getting any business off the ground is challenging. And doing it on a small budget can be daunting. But at the end of the day, and as the old axiom says, it takes money to make money.

If someone believes that a free website combined with a dose of social media is the cure to the advertising ills, they are in desperate need of a reality check.

A business needs customers to stay busy and, ideally, return a profit.

And so I turned to "old media" in order to reach potential customers, or prospects, and my first effort involved an EDDM campaign.

EDDM is short for Every Door Direct Mail, which is a program of the United States Postal Service. A well planned EDDM campaign can be both affordable and very effective. Unfortunately, in my case, my first effort was not successful.


Out of a grand total of 4,624 (6½ x 9-inch) postcards, I only received 4 (yes, FOUR) phone calls. Only three of those calls resulted in actual paying jobs. Talk about a flop!

But I am not blaming the USPS for this. After talking to other grill-cleaning operators, I am learning (the hard way), that the month of August usually is the worst month in this industry, followed by December. I guess the end of summer and school classes starting keep most people focused on other things.

Of course that EDDM campaign wasn't the only marketing approach in my arsenal. I also signed up an agreement with a local ad magazine that offers a far larger monthly distribution (10,000 homes), in the same demographic group.

The first issue with my ½-page ad just went out a day or two ago, and I've already received two calls, one of them an actual appointment for next week, at a cost that is a fraction of what I spent on my first EDDM campaign. As a matter of fact, that one job pretty much covers the cost of the ad.

I also found another local ad magazine, which has a much larger circulation in surrounding areas that I'd like to reach and, again, for a fraction of what an EDDM campaign would cost.

I can reach 35,000 homes, mostly in West Volusia county (where I live), also with a ½-page display ad.

The other reason I like these type of magazines—versus stand-alone EDDM postcards—is because the great majority of the ads are home-improvement related, which (hopefully) means that homeowners, looking to have some work done, will keep them around for a while.
Plus, I am the only one advertising a grill cleaning service.

After meeting with the publisher of the West Volusia ad magazine, I decided to let them create an ad for me since she made some valid points when studying mine. We also made the decision to list the price of the service, since the ad copy will explain that the process can take up to three hours at the customer's home. Listing the price also serves as a filter to keep those customers who are not willing to spend the money if their grills are the throw-away kind.


TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS

My first job was to clean a built-in Viking Professional grill, part of an outdoor kitchen in a beautiful back yard, right next to the swimming pool and tennis court. When I was done—the job took about 2½ hours—the customer was ecstatic and asked to be put on the schedule every three months!

The following two jobs also resulted in very happy customers who want to receive service reminders every six months.


LOOKING THE PART

Another important part of marketing has to do with presentation.


I invested in having my company's logo digitized and had golf shirts embroidered, which looks professional. I also had the trailer covered with a very nicely designed custom vinyl wrap, along with custom-cut magnets for my pickup truck.

As I drive to and from jobs, I notice people look at the trailer, and I hope that some will eventually call to set up an appointment. Also, last week, as I was getting my equipment out of the trailer for a job, a woman walking in her neighborhood asked me for a business card, so the vinyl wrap and magnets work.

During the starting phase I will use a combination of EDDM and print advertising, which I hope will allow me to service enough monthly customers to reach the break-even point so I can build from there. This is why it is so important to create a spreadsheet where you can list all the monthly expenses, so you can figure out how many jobs you need to perform daily in order to reach profitability.

Business—large or small—is a numbers game, so make sure you know your numbers well. Then figure out a way to control those numbers, not the other way around.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

My Grill Pro's Facebook Page is Live!

I recently launched a new page for My Grill Pro, my new and latest business enterprise on Facebook. The page has been open for a couple of weeks, and I am using this channel to post lots of before and after photos, along with commentary, of barbecue grills I clean in towns and neighborhoods in Seminole and West Volusia counties in Central Florida.

My Grill Pro on Facebook

So, if you happen to live in Alaqua Lakes, Heathrow, Lake Mary, Lake Forest, Longwood, Sanford, DeBary, Victoria Park in DeLand, or surrounding areas, please take a minute to visit my new Facebook page to see what My Grill Pro has been up to. And if I happen to clean your grill, you may see it featured on our Facebook page, as well as our website.

Thanks!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Cars I Love: Lyonheart K

The Lyonheart K model, supposedly powered by a 5-liter Cosworth V8 motor. The beautiful body lines remind me of a Jaguar XKE.


Cars I Love are photos of automobiles I find and collect during my journeys around the Interwebs. Whenever possible, I credit the source. —Luis