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The Four Hour Body and You Like many of your Tim Ferriss fans out there, I've been very keen to try the Four Hour Body lifestyle change. I'm overweight by quite a few pounds, so I made a New Year's resolution to shed some pounds....

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Improvements and Fixes to WP E-CommerceImprovements and Fixes to WP E-Commerce Like many of you, I am a user of the WP E-Commerce plug-in for Wordpress as well as a Gold Cart upgrade customer. While WP E-Commerce has many excellent features and does wonders for the Wordpress-based...

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Credit cards: a lifeline for cash Hi all. It certainly has been a while since I've last posted. That's because in many ways the 4HWW concept has been shot given the urgency of making ends meet and scrambling to get whatever dollars are...

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Version 0.2 of Show User Level Content Plugin Now Available Making an update to the Show User Level Content Plugin ... finally on version 0.2 This version should allow multiple hide statements in the same post. This is a test of that functionality. The first...

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More on Banking... A while back I posted about business banking accounts, and asked the community what their thoughts were on the best ones for FHWW'ers. I never really did get a good response, but the post is out there,...

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Yom Kippur and a Prayer for the Government

Category : politics

For those that don’t know, yesterday was Yom Kippur, which is the Jewish day of atonement. You’re supposed to fast and attone for your sins, etc. I’ve never really been a religious type, and I’m most definitely not observant. But I usually go to services more as tradition and something to do with family.

Anyways, at every service, whether for the High Holidays or not, there’s always a prayer for the government. I usually gloss that over, since it’s pretty vague. But this time, the words popped out of the page and struck a real chord with me. Somehow, this time, the words of the prayer seem quite relevant to the times.

As excerpted from the Jewish Virtual Library:

The prayer for the government is a biblical prayer, and is read during the Saturday morning service on Shabbat. The concept of praying for the wellbeing of the government was started in 586 B.C.E. by the prophet Jeremiah after the first expulsion from Jerusalem. Seeing as the Jewish people could not govern themselves, they implored God to guide their foreign rulers. David Abudarham first introduced this prayer into the modern siddurim (prayer book) in the 14th century. Jews have adopted different prayers for the governments of the countries in which they live. The prayer is read aloud after the Torah reading, but before the Torah is placed back into the ark. This blessing asks God to guard the proceedings of the government and the nation’s leaders.

Here’s the prayer as is usually translated:

Our God and God of our ancestors: We ask Your blessings for our country, for its government, for its leader and advisors, and for all who exercise just and rightful authority. Teach them your insights that they may administer all affairs of state fairly, that peace and security, happiness and prosperity, justice and freedom may forever abide in our midst. Creator of all flesh, bless all the inhabitants of our country with Your spirit. May citizens of all races and creeds forge a common bond in true harmony to banish all hatred and bigotry and to safeguard the ideals and free institutions which are the pride and glory of our country. May this land under Your Providence be an influence for good throughout the world, uniting all people in peace and freedom and helping them to fulfill the vision of your prophet: “Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they experience war any more.” And let us say: Amen.

How can anyone disagree?

Cool Tools: Rich Internet Applications

Category : business

In my day job, I spend a lot of time creating Internet applications. I guess that’s why I’ve taken to writing a blog like this one. But more importantly, I’m also trying to build my four-hour-a-week business / muse.

I have recently come across a company called Actuate that offers a platform for creating Rich Internet Applications. For folks that are building rich applications that want to get around the difficulties of working with traditional web applications, the company offers a portfolio of content- and application-specific business intelligence products. Business Intelligence offerings, for those that don’t know, are methods for extracting information from the various systems you have in your organization and analyzing and presenting it in a way that can be better understood.

The Actuate system provides a means to meet nformation and online channel application, performance Management and Java Reporting needs. It would probably read like an ad if I wrote more on this, so read here for more information about their business intelligence solution. Let me know what you think — what sort of muses are you working on?

Protected: More tools for tough times: Smart Balance Transfers

Category : finance

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Emergency Cash in a Tight Economy

Category : finance

This is a very funky economic environment and everyone’s tightening their belts. If you have a 4HWW muse, then I hope it’s already providing returns. If you have ditched your job and are in the midst of making 4HWW progress, but haven’t gotten there yet, this is bound to be a tough time.

Personal Loans from ThinkCash

Here’s a resource that might help: ThinkCash. ThinkCash is a short term, personal loan company which lends amounts from $250 to $2,500 for emergency times like when the bills have to be paid or to avoid a bounced check. ThinkCash is different than a Payday Loan or Cash Advance Company in a number of different ways:

  • ThinkCash rates are typically 25 – 75% lower than payday loans.
  • Unlike Payday loans, ThinkCash loans loans can be paid in several installments – or pay off completely at any time – with no penalties.
  • At ThinkCash, the application can be filled out online and the money wired by the next business day.

While this solution might not be for everyone, in an environment where credit is getting harder to come by, you need as many tools in your belt (yes, the one that you’re tightening). This provides another option for you. If you’ve had any experience with ThinkCash or have experiences to share with this or other offerings, let me know!

Remodeling a basement: DRIcore and Carpeting from Empire Today

Category : remodeling

As I mentioned briefly in my previous rant on Craig’s List, I’m in the midst of remodeling my basement. I’ll post some more details of all the considerations for those looking to build a waterproof, or at least water-resistant basement. Long story short: yes, it is indeed possible if you focus on all the details and use the right products.

In this post, I’d like to focus on two products I’m using to make this a success:

  • The use of Dricore subflooring system
  • Empire Carpeting products that let you put carpeting in the basement

DRIcore - Isolating the dampness of concrete floor

DRIcore is a unique product that is a sandwich of Oriented Strand Board (OSB) plywood and an impermeable polyethylene layer with feet that separate the potentially damp concrete floor from the flooring on top of it. In essence, DRIcore isolates the movement, cracks, and moisture of the basement floor from the dry flooring (like carpeting) you want to put on top of it. As noted on their website:

DRIcore subfloor panels are engineered specifically for cold, damp environments typically found in basements. DRIcore subfloor panels are manufactured with a high density polyethylene moisture barrier that raises the 5/8″ Random Wafer Board core a 1/4” away from damp, cold concrete floors. Since the panels are raised off the surface, the concrete floor is allowed to breathe. The DRIcore moisture management system allows any seepage or moisture to channel freely under the DRICore subfloor panels to keep floors both warm and dry.

Empire Carpet – “Empire Today”

Empire Today 800-588-2300Many of you are already quite familiar with Empire Carpet (remember the ol’ jingle “588-2300… EMPIRE!”)… well, I decided to give them a whirl for my basement remodeling activity. In particular, I trust their advice and feedback on installing carpet in a relatively moist environment. I’ve heard numerous horror stories about flooded basements, mold, and dampness that can quickly turn a carpet into a biohazard. For those that are looking to put carpeting in a basement… yes, it is possible!

Here’s the key: don’t use padding that will absorb moisture. There are a good number of posts on this subject, but here’s the key advice from a Yahoo! Answers board:

Most carpet fibers and their backings in modern carpets are completely synthetic, but the same is not true when it comes to carpet padding. It’s very important that you purchase a 100 percent synthetic carpet pad in any situation where water or moisture (high humidity) may be an issue. As much as I recommend a high density bonded urethane (multi colored) cushion for any above grade surface, stay away from it in a basement. Bonded urethane pads are constructed by adhering a combination of synthetic and non-synthetic foams together. The non-synthetic foams are known to grow mold and mildew when they become moist. Besides the horrible smell, mold can cause several health issues.

The two most logical pad choices for a basement are felt, or injected (prime) urethane (solid color foam). The injected urethane will initially give you a more luxurious underfoot feel, whereas the felt will be much better for maintaining the original integrity of the carpet. Injected urethane padding is well known in the industry for premature breakdown. The purpose of carpet pad is the same as a vehicles shock absorbers. If your vehicle has weak shock absorbers, your vehicle will have more mechanical problems than one with good shocks. Think of injected urethane as a weak shock absorber and felt as a good one. After all of the above babbling, the answer to your pad question is simple; GO WITH THE FELT.

Anyways, I want to rave a bit about Empire Carpet and their service. Empire Today has been a leading provider of installed Home Furnishings and Home Improvements for more than 45 years, with over one million satisfied customers. Empire Today’s line of quality home products make it easier and faster for you to improve the look and value of your home and provides superior service and world-class customer care to more than 50 major metropolitan areas in the U.S. and Canada.

Probably the most important and valuable service is Empire’s in-home demo and in-home shopping. This is key especially in a tricky environment like a basement that requires a “see it to believe it” approach to purchasing. Here are the key elements to the Empire Today process:

  • Make an appointment for a free, no obligation in-home estimate.
  • On the day of the appointment a friendly, professional Empire Today Representative will arrive at your home to show you samples, allow you to match the samples with your existing décor, measure and give you a fully installed price to give your home a new look. The rep will also discuss credit and payment installations and schedule an installation, which can happen as soon as the next day.
  • On the day of the installation, experienced professional installers will arrive at your home. After the installation is complete, they will review the job with you to make sure you’re completely satisfied and give you a customer care package that includes the care and service information you may need in the future.
  • Within 2 weeks after the install, an Empire Representative contacts you to make sure you’re completely satisfied

Rather than put words here to describe, figure I’d link to a few videos that explain the overview of services and offerings:

For those not looking for carpeting, you can also check out their hardwood flooring options. Also, those who are doing work on their bathrooms and not basements can also get benefits from working with Empire. Check out their “Empire Today Bath Stories”.

In my next posts, I’ll post photos of pictures of the remodeling project as its underway and you can see these products and services in use!

Craig’s List: Flakes, Scammers, and Ho’s

Category : muse, outsourcing

The Decay of a Social Network

Has anyone else had this experience? I am in the midst of remodeling my basement (I’ll have a few posts on that subject, so sorry to bore you all if you don’t care). In the process, I had to get rid of a washer/dryer combo that was not going to fit the new space. More importantly, I just wanted some new equipment. Anyways, I didn’t just want to put the washer/dryer out on the street or give it to charity, since perhaps someone would want a great washer/dryer set for just $100 as well as an old tub for the same amount. I was pretty much willing to part with it for whatever I could get, as long as they would haul it out themselves.

So, I decided to post my washer/dryer item up on the local Craig’s List. I figured if someone in the area would want it, this would be the quickest and easiest way to find out.

Lo and behold, 2 days later I get my first response:

Hi do you still have them thanks when good time to stop by

Disregarding the bad grammar, I replied:

Yes, I still have the washer and dryer (separate units). Are you interested in purchasing them?

He responded fairly quickly:

I want them can you hold them for me thanks – I have Blood donation tuesday and my dad gets home around 6pm what area are you at thanks can you give me number can get in touch [phone number]

Ok, so I understand now that he’s a student or some such. No problem. So, I email him my phone number and await his call. Didn’t get it that evening. Or the following day. Or the day after that. So, I email him asking what the status is. No response. So, I decide to give him a call on the number. I finally get a hold of him, and he says he’s still interested, and he’ll come that weekend. I wait for him that weekend. He never shows up. I call again, this time, no answer. I give up and chalk it up to a flake. Hopefully I’ll get another bite.

Sure enough, just a few days later, I get the following inquiry from someone new:

Is it still available?
I respond:
Yes! But it needs to get out of here this weekend. Can you come and pick it up?
Get a response back fairly quickly:
My husband is in XXX tomorrow dropping my step-daughter at college. We actually are renovating a farmhouse in YYY but I thought possibly he could load in his car & drive back…I’ll need to have him coordinate with you. Is there a # you can be reached at?
So, I respond with my phone # and coordinate a pick up later that weekend. The weekend comes and goes, no pickup, no call. So, I email asking what happened. Here’s the response:
My husband wasn’t able to be in touch–our loss…
Oh well. I guess another flake. Maybe I just hit a bad batch, and I’ll get a real buyer soon. In just a few days, I get this inquiry:
Is the tub still avaliable? i am getting ready to buy a house and a clawfoot tub is a must for me. thank you.
My response:
Yes, but it must go tomorrow! Can you come by tomorrow to pick it up? It’s on the third floor and needs to be taken down (carefully!). It’s quite heavy and I can’t help to carry it down, but I’m sure you can (perhaps along with a small crew and a dolly). Let me know if you can come and get it!
As you can see, I’m getting quite wary already of the Craigslist responders and wondering if these people are for real. I get my reassurance via email:
what time would be good for me to come and get it? im free after 5?
I’m sure the person didn’t mean that to be a question, so I responded that after 5 is fine and come pick it up ASAP. The time comes and goes. Nothing happens. No email, no phone call. I email asking what happened. No response. Geez. Flakes: 3, Me: 0.
At this point, I’ve all but given up. Just as I go to find a charity to donate the appliances to, I get this email:
Hello, Is this still available?  I own an antique and refinishing shop in XXXX and am putting a vintage style kitchen and bathroom on the upper level.  thanks so much for your response.
Ok, so now I’m thinking this has a chance. A real professional. Someone who has a need. Someone who knows better than to yank my chain and waste my time. So, I respond:
Yes it is, but you’ll need to haul it from our third floor. It’s quite heavy – do you have folks who can get it and bring it?
Yes, I do, my husband has a truck as well.  How much are you asking again? and could you send me the link or ad # I am so sorry I have responded to about 15 ads today for clawfoots and am trying to keep them straight..
Hmm, now I am starting to see what might be going on here. I respond with the right information, a time, and my number. Should I be surprised? The buyer never shows up. Doesn’t call, doesn’t email. I’m just stuck waiting for her at the allotted time. I send out a very frustrated email asking what happened. And here’s what I get back:
Hello Again,  I was able to find one with a kitchen sink also, so I won’t be coming by.   Thanks again

Flakes: 4, Me: 0. Ok, I’ve had it. I donate it to a local good will and get $300+ as a tax write-off. I guess I win.

Here’s what gets me about this whole thing. I understand that there are lots of choices on Craig’s List and maybe my appliances and tub weren’t the best, but it seems that the ratio of flakes to real buyers is quite high. NONE of the buyers bothered to let me know that they were either not interested or found another option after they set up a specific date and time to come by and pick it up. They had absolutely no consideration for my time. I thought this might be just my bad luck, but apparently, after doing a search on “Craigslist flake” on Google, this is so common, it even has its own Urban Dictionary definition!

It seems that it is the exception that someone is able to find a buyer on Craig’s list rather than the rule. Geez, if there ever was a decay of the value of a social network, here it is.

Craig’s List: Good for Nothing

Digging into Craig’s List deeper, I found that Craig’s list provided very little tangible value to anyone. I saw blog posts and forum comments about people who couldn’t even give away items on Craig’s list. Even more worrisome is the trend that people are using Craig’s List for scams and criminal activity. Craig’s List provides a great anonymous front for the very sort of criminal element you don’t want near the items you have for sale.

Indeed, that very anonymous front might result in probably the only community that gets value from Craig’s List: Pimps and Hos. In the personal’s section called “Casual Encounters“, you will find a deluge of advertisements for thinly-veiled offers of adult services of all sorts. There must be a lot of buyers, because there’s a heck of a lot of sellers. If many legit sellers of goods, like myself, are having such a hard time getting real people to buy goods, and if scammers are pushing out the good sellers in droves, then it must be that the Pimp-n-Ho audience is what Craigs List caters to the most.

But even in this area, Craig’s List is a danger zone. Police the world over now know that Craig’s List is an open market for sex trade, and both buyers and sellers are targeted in Craig’s List oriented raids and stings. Over time, even the Pimp-n-Ho audience is bound to leave Craig’s List when the pressure is too much to bear.

Where does that leave Craig’s List? With no value whatsoever. When a good social network that provides a real value proposition is left to decay without any quality enforcement, it rapidly becomes an abandoned, crime-ridden, and flake-prevalent destination. Just like many of our good urban cities — when the real value generators leave the community, all that’s left is decay.

Am I wrong?

Is it just me? Am I bitter because I had a quadruple-flake experience and over-generalizing? Has anyone had any luck (recently!) with Craig’s List? Have you been burned? Have you had the same experience? Please tell me I’m not alone or off my rocker!

How Young Democrats become Old Republicans

Category : politics

Recently, I was musing about how some of my friends who were idealistic, can-do attitude type Democrats in their youth became jaded, self-interested, dogmatic Republicans in their aged years. I’m pretty apolitical as much as I am arelgious because I believe organized politics makes just as much (or little) sense as organized religion. After all, just how can we expect people to really believe the same things, even when we try to group them together? Not gonna happen.

Anyways, I wanted to dig further to find out why the change of perspective happened. After some prodding, here’s what I found out. A picture is worth a thousand words:

How a Young Democrat becomes an Old Republican

How a Young Democrat becomes an Old Republican

Agree? Disagree?

Or maybe it’s all biological.

The Best WordPress Theme Sites (A list of Lists)

Category : DHFW Site

Did you notice? We have a new theme here at the DHFW site! In looking around for free WordPress themes, I encountered lots of sites touting their top lists of WordPress themes. I would have expected a lot of overlap between these sites, but I was surprised — there are more themes than sites talking about them. As such, I’ve put together this somewhat non-authoritative list of lists of the best WordPress themes out there. Let me know if I’m missing any lists of themes or individual themes to add!

  1. 30 Free Professional WordPress ThemesMy favorite themes are here…. notice one in particular ;) ?
  2. 100 Excellent Free WordPress Themes - Another great list from the same folks who put together the above list
  3. 21 Fresh, Usable and Elegant WordPress Themes
  4. TopWPThemes – Hundreds of free themes
  5. Best WordPress Themes – “Cool free and premium WordPress themes”
  6. FreeWordPressThemes – “Collection of free quality WordPress themes.”
  7. Freewpthemes.net – “Totally free WordPress themes for your enjoyment”
  8. WordPress Themes Directory – Directly from the source
  9. SiteGround WordPress Themes – A few more from SiteGround, a web hosting company. “The SiteGround Design Team has created professional WordPress Themes that you can use for free!”
  10. Aslamp Themes – A few interesting themes here
  11. H4x3d – Some very artistic themes here

Know of any other good lists of themes that I should post here? Let me know!

One other quick note: time and weather

Category : time management

How to know what time it is when you don’t even know where you are.

Following up on the previous post on efficiency, I just want to point one other item out. I travel a lot. I mean a LOT. At one point, it was cheaper and easier just to fly around the world for 4 weeks straight than to return home between trips. I have to say, this is one area that the 4HWW doesn’t have quite figured out. How can you get to four hours a week when the plane flight itself (for business, mind you) is 12 hours long? Go figure.

One of the tools that I use while I’m traveling is the website at Weather and time. It’s often that I don’t know what time it is in my own city, but to know what it is when you are traveling is tough. Even more important is to know the time difference so that when you set up a call, with say, India, you realize that it’s 10 and a HALF hours ahead of the East Coast of the US. That’s right — it’s off by a half-hour increment. Some countries adjust their time zone up by 45 or 15 minute increments. Who came up with that?

Anyways, the website I mentioned above allows you to check not only the time and date, but also the weather in the some of the most important cities of the world. They have a particular fixation with Spain, and you can see all the time and date in all Spanish cities. But even better, when you get that information, you can print it so it appears on just one page. Slip it into your itinerary, and off you go.

Just make sure to miss the monsoon season in Mumbai. It ain’t pretty for us east coast US folks. Any other good tools or tips for the world traveler (or even for those that spend their time talking on the phone to other time zones)?

Optimizing for efficiency: Online Printing

Category : productivity

Quick bit on Microsourcing (yes, still a tease)

It’s been a short while since my last post, but let me tell you why: I’m still trying to figure out how to make Microsourcing work. The key idea with microsourcing is that you should break up any outsourcing task into small chunks that can quickly be outsourced, easily measured for results, and then paid in smaller increments. This should alleviate any of the problems traditionally associated with outsourcing: poor communicaton, poor control, and lack of visibility. But, that said, it’s hard to know just how small a task should be. So, I’m still working on that.

Get efficient. Do Online Printing.

But more to the point, I want to discuss what has recently been a bit of a god-send to us four-hour-a-weekers: online printing. What is online printing? To us 4HWWers, it’s a way of outsourcing your printing needs to a third party at a cost and complexity much lower than you can do on your own or with a local print shop. Online print shops, like PsPrint give small shops and small businesses (or the muse that you are creating) a way of delivering high-quality print products (such as business cards, brochures, flyers, posters, booklets, catalogs, CDs, and even things like calendars) with short-turn around times, online convenience, and very competitive prices.

I’ve worked with many local print shops, and while I always love the small guy, the truth of the matter is that they really can’t compete. I’ve been very frustrated by the large “print shop” chains that are even worse than Wal-mart equivalents since they are higher price, poor quality, worse service, and fewer offerings than the online print shops can offer. In truth, no traditional printer or local copy shop can really match the breadth, capability, price, and quality than online print shops can offer.

Here’s how I use them: need to quickly put together a booklet or flyer for an online product or print offering? Want to quickly put together some sales sheets for that muse you are working on? Need some business cards to create your in-person identity? Quickly put together a sketch, or even better, use the online design tools provided by these online printers to create custom print products in minutes. Many of these online printers offer customizable templates. Some even go an extra step and will handle mailing and deliver logistics for you as well, including providing mailing lists and custom mailing services.

Why am I saying this now? I’m still surprised at how little is mentioned about the power of the Internet not only for delivering online goods, but also for printing and distrbution of real-world items. Online print shops really provide a way of getting your ideas and concepts to market quickly…. and more importantly, keeping you to your four day a week goal.