Thursday, May 12, 2016

Beware, Another FBI Email Spam Scam

It seems the Kings of Nigeria are working overtime in their nefarious pursuits of your money. These jokers are not quite clever by half. Their command of the English language in their emails is spotty at best.

Still, they operate on a shotgun approach. They send out thousands of emails knowing that they will reel in at least a handful of gullible victims. The emails are boilerplate in form but there are a variety of them.

One that I have seen over the years is the "FBI Warning" type and it is seeming to be making a comeback; I suppose it is its turn in rotation. Following is the text of the variation I received this morning:


"This e-mail has been issued to you in order to Officially inform you that we have completed an investigation on an International Payment in which was issued to you by World Bank. With the help of our newly developed technology (International Monitoring Network System) we discovered that you were not able to complete your transfer because of the amount involved. During our investigation we discovered that your fund is still available and we have authorized the fund to be paid to you via a Certified Cashier's Check, ATM or Via Wire Transfer.
You were asked to provide Anti-Terrorism and Anti-Drug Certificate which you never did and that has led to suggestion that you might be sponsoring Terrorism nor Drug.On that note We urge you to open the attached file named YOUR FILE and then click RUN to view which will give you access to your file as we need to confirm you have the correct information for the claim.

We therefore urge you to open the attached file named winning number and then click RUN to view which you would find inside the transfer/delivery time attached.The file is encrypted so you need not worry.

I want you to proceed now and open the attached file name YOUR FILE then click on RUN to view your transfer details pr delivery time.Attached is your FILE."
You might be surprised at how many people get taken in by this scam. The important take-away is that you never want to click on any attachment; this opens you up to any number of viruses and malware.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Comfort Food for Winter Nights

There's nothing better than comfort food to make you feel grounded, especially in the winter. The preparation need not be complicated or expensive. One of my favorites is homemade Mozzarella Mac and Cheese.

Believe me, this is one hundred times better than anything out of a box. I made it for the family last night and the only drawback is that my garden was out of basil. Plenty of cilantro and rosemary but no basil. I'll have to plan my spring herb garden a little better.

I'm also a big fan of soup and stew; it's a good way to use up the leftovers. I love leftovers; my daughter considers them "used food." I don't agree but you have to admit there's something clever in the analysis.

Another of my favorites is homemade bread. When I first began baking bread years ago it was quite a tedious process. Then I learned about fast-rising yeast. I also like baking sourdough bread but it takes a bit of commitment because if you don't refresh the starter frequently it will go bad on you.

Here's a tip -- you don't have to buy an expensive sourdough starter. You can make your own with flour and water. Just be sure to use whole wheat flour because it still has wild yeast in it. That processed white flour is just wrong.

Happy cooking and stay warm!

Friday, February 12, 2016

How to Choose the Right Type of Carpet for Your Home

One of the basic facts of home ownership is that flooring doesn't last forever, particularly carpet. It gets stained, it acquires wear patterns (much like the path in the grass in the back yard that Fido wears on his favorite route). Sometimes we simply want a different look when the current style looks dated.

This means choosing a replacement and then having it installed. There are many home carpet choices considering color, pattern, pile, and so much more. The problem is that the salesman will likely tout price differences and current sales. There is so much more that you should know about the different types before writing that check. Let's look at a few, shall we?

  • Berber. This carpet is made from wool, nylon, or olefin (a synthetic fiber made from a polyolefin). This is a looped carpet that has is known for being long-wearing and durable. One con is that because berber is looped it stands a high chance of snagging. For this reason, don't install it on stair treads.
  • Plush carpeting. Plush is a good choice for your children's rooms. Why? There are two good reasons. First, the loops have been cut so that the chance of snagging and tripping is low. Second, the consequences of a fall are minimized because plush is so forgiving. It also works well in high traffic areas since it is so durable.
  • Frieze and Saxony. These are described as patterned and textured. The way patterns are created is interesting. The loops are either cut or left intact, giving a slightly different appearance. Texture, on the other hand, presents what might be described as the illusion of a pattern. It does this by mingling different kinds of loops throughout the carpet surface. These carpets are durable and generally work well in family rooms, living rooms, and bedrooms.
  • Shag carpeting. Sooooo 60s. Only install this if you are a nostalgic hippie or if your intent is to deliberately reduce the equity in your home.
With all this information in mind, it's easy to see that it might not be a good idea to install the same type of carpeting throughout your home. A good strategy when shopping is to first look at room-specific functionality, next price, and finally, color and pattern. And of course, after making your selection, it never hurts to haggle over installation cost.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Why is Ford Moving Production to Mexico?

You might have noticed in the news recently that Ford is planning to open a large production factory in Mexico. That is where they will build the models that cost less than the most expensive ones. The knee-jerk reaction to this news is, "Big business is greedy! Corporate vultures! Unpatriotic boardroom vultures!"

But wait -- dig deeper to discover the reason why this decision was made. It turns out to be union worker greed. No, no; we're not union-bashing here. Just look at the facts. They just negotiated a new contract that made most production here in the USA financially untenable. And in doing so, they consigned a huge number of their union brothers to unemployment. Union brothers who have families, medical bills, and mortgages.

What the union needs is a healthy dose of reality. They were already among the highest paid laborers in the country before the new contract with some of the best benefits in the work force. Now they've killed the goose that lays the golden egg. And, further strained an already bloated unemployment and food stamp system.

No company in any sector of the economy can survive if they can't compete in their market niche. But wait, you say, they can still compete because GM and Chrysler will be affected too, right? While that is true, low cost imports also figure into the competition equation. Staying here in the US would be suicide. With the economy the way it is, buyers might want bling but the bottom line is what they can afford. So the move was inevitable.

This will all be a bit transparent to new car buyers because now they can buy a Mexican Ford for roughly the same price they would have paid pre-contract. The difference is that a Mexican worker will be feeding his family whereas an American will not. Thank you, union.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Save Money when Remodeling

As those income tax refunds start rolling in many homeowners will be tackling remodeling projects. One of the primary things to consider is your budget. Many jobs have to be farmed out to local contractors and service companies due to licensing and code requirements. Learn more.  But the good news is that there are many parts of the job that you can do yourself. Here's a few.

Drywall texturing is a good example. This need not be a difficult or expensive job. In fact, for some techniques you don't even need specialized equipment like a compressor and a hopper. Perhaps the simplest method only requires a paint pan and paint roller. Which brings us to our next topic.

Be your own painting contractor. Many people find painting (both interior and exterior) to be a tedious business but it doesn't have to be. Straightforward painting is typically what you get with most remodels and new construction. But did you know that it's easy to do specialty finishes like faux finishes for a fraction of the cost that a contractor would charge?

Some flooring projects are well within the reach of the average DIY enthusiast. It's easy enough to pull up old carpeting and padding. It's usually a dusty job but hey, if you're saving money, what's not to like?

Probably the easiest kind of new flooring to install is laminate flooring that simply snaps together. Layout is very easy. Next up on the difficulty scale is tile. Layout is a bit more difficult and one specialty tool you'll need is a wet saw. You might never need it again but you can rent one on a daily basis.

For more information on these and many more home improvement topics and projects, please check out I Can Fix Up My Home. Not only will you learn how to complete projects yourself but you can learn about what is involved on those parts of the job you are hiring a contractor for. Prior knowledge before getting a bid is always a good thing.


Thursday, January 28, 2016

Chill Out but Say Warm this Winter

For most of us in the northern hemisphere, winter weather can be a very serious business. At the core of our concerns is the ability to keep our homes heated and our families comfortable. We can eat canned food and drink bottled water but when the temperature drops we must be prepared.

The biggest issue for many of us is what to do when our central heat goes out due to a loss of electricity or gas. It behooves us to have a redundant system, which can either be used as a primary system during extreme temperature drops because of lower energy costs or a back-up during a fuel supply failure. Let's look at a few options.
  • Pellet Stoves and Furnaces. These units are becoming increasingly popular. Pellet stoves can effectively heat your home using pellets made from scrap wood so burning this fuel saves items like scrap pallets from going to the landfill. Economy and eco-friendly; win-win.
  • Convectional fireplaces. Certainly, in many modern homes fireplaces are just decorative fixtures and not often used as long as the central HVAC heater is performing up to par. But in a pinch we can always return to the good sense that our forefathers had. Keep some logs or fire-logs in the garage. And keep the bear-skin rug handy.
  • Three Dog Night. Yes, the speculation never ends to whether the name of this popular 60s band was based in the (Eskimo?) tradition of having your dogs sharing your bed for body heat. Regardless of how you think about bunking with Fido, in this case he or she can be your greatest friend. And, what a bonding opportunity!

The key to any of these solutions is being proactive. Don't be that person that waits until the last minute, standing in line at Walmart, and discovering that there are no batteries or bottled water left. Being a prepper does not make you a crazy. It makes you a reasonable person.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Troubleshoot and Repair Electric Range, Oven

I received a frantic email from a reader on Thanksgiving Day. It was from a lady whose oven had stopped working. It turns out that it was just the bottom oven heating element that had gone south.

That one is an easy fix since most heating elements are plug and play. That's the good news. The bad news is that I doubt she could find one on Thanksgiving Day in time to cook Big Bird. Also, they can be hard to find sometimes since there are so many models. The search box below is the one I use to find hard to find replacement appliance parts.

Appliance Model Number

As long as you have a few basic tools, it's actually easy to troubleshoot an electric range. Of course, there's the electricity to beware of (that's my disclaimer) but other than that, it's fairly straightforward.

I've got a Maytag oven myself. I bought it when Maytag was it's own company and they still made quality appliances. They make shabby goods now and forget about getting service in a timely manner. Oh Maytag repair man, where have you gone?

Other appliances are a bit more complex. Refrigerator troubleshooting, for example, involves compressors and refrigerant. Some of this work requires a license. But there are still many things a homeowner can repair.

The bottom line is that it sometimes pays off and saves money to try to repair appliances yourself.