Brilliantly Average Yet So Far From Being Normal

As some of you know, my wife and I are the owners of I only mention that because we made a decision when we embarked on the journey of starting a website/company. We decided we could do without newer vehicles so we could afford the cost of running a major website. Personally I have no problem driving an older car and actually enjoy working on them. What I don’t enjoy is paying more for parts and having a difficult time finding parts. We have two vehicles, a 95 Honda Civic (36 mpg) with 282,000 miles and a 94 Honda Civic (35 mpg) with 341,000 miles.

What do you think of the “Cash for Clunkers” program? Is it a great idea or just another example of Government Waste

When it comes to Honda’s I can fix just about anything on them. I just got done doing an engine swap on my Civic where I purchased a used Japanese engine from an engine importing company for $800. My reasoning for mentioning this is because there are so many different companies and industries that are being affected by this waste of US tax dollars. There are unarguably fewer used/older vehicles on the road now due to the “Cash for Clunkers” program which will have a staggering affect on parts suppliers, used car lots, engine importers, auto recyclers, auto parts stores, and middle-moderate-low income households who can’t afford to buy new cars.

I also sit and think about the irony of the program as well as the hypocrisy. The irony of course being that the group of people it’s going to affect the most is the low income. The hypocrisy being the destruction of perfectly good vehicles. I wonder what the average carbon footprint of manufacturing a vehicle is? Those vehicles could have supplied discount parts to thousands of low income people who go to auto recyclers like U-Pullit or an affordable used car for someone who couldn’t afford a brand new one. To give an idea of the money you can save by purchasing parts from auto recyclers: Example: A new Transmission can cost upwards of 3 to 4 thousand dollars when you can find used transmissions for anywhere between $150 to $350 at a recycler.

Yet another ridiculous result of this program is debt. One of the biggest driving forces behind the economic crash the US encountered was Americans taking on too much debt. So what does the government do? They encourage people to go into debt up to their eyeballs (So tax payers go into debt to supply the tax credits and they go into debt to purchase the vehicles). It’s one thing to go into debt to start a business which has the potential of bringing a serious return on the investment but it’s another thing entirely to go into debt on something that is going to do nothing but drop in value. I wonder how many of the people taking on these auto loans will end up in default due to job losses or the inability to pay the large car or insurance payments?

You don’t have to take my word for it, Let’s see what Peter Schiff has to say about it:

So who is Peter Schiff and why should you listen to what he has to say? Watch this video and you’ll see why.

It seems like it was just yesterday. The phone rang and our realtor gleefully said,”You’ve got the house, they took your offer.” As I sit here and think about it I can only think of a couple events that pumped my body full of so much joy; saying “I do” to my beautiful bride and the births of my nieces and nephews to name a few (No kids of my own yet, I know I’m getting old). The pride and joy of becoming a homeowner wasn’t short lived but the lessons learned from purchasing and living in my first home will be etched in my memory for the rest of my life. I hope the following lessons I’ve learned help keep you from falling into the same predicaments that I faced.

1.) Mortgage Brokers, Lenders, Loan Officers, etc…

This is going to piss some people off but it has to be said, they cannot be trusted. I don’t care if it’s a second cousin who’s getting you the loan, do not trust them. Treat them like you would a stranger in your home. At this point with a home purchase, a refinance, and a second mortgage I have adequate experience to tell you to be very wary of anything they tell you. Always read the fine print. I’ve only had one pleasant experience with a lender and he was in fact a friend of the family but don’t think for one second that I let my guard down.

2.) Home Inspection – It’s not a good idea, it’s a GREAT idea! Don’t skimp out on this.
When we purchased our home we opted to save the money and my dad and I did the inspection. No offense but dad, YOU’RE FIRED. (As am I) Everything looked great but boy were we wrong.

Duct Work for the HVAC (Heating Ventilation Air Conditioning): If we had paid a home inspector we would have likely saved $1,400.00 in HVAC work. After having our heat pump serviced three times within the first 18 months we started wondering why? The answer was simple, the individual who installed the unit was a pathetic, unintelligent, low-ball, piece of garbage. Okay that may be a bit harsh but this SOB cost me $1,400.00 and counting. 1126080942 00 300x225 Some Things First Time Home Buyers Should be Aware of   A House Inspection is Worth Every Penny

What did he do wrong? Our two ton heat pump required 16” flex duct work from the intake/filter in the house all the way to the outside unit. (50ft away) This genius installed 14” flex duct the entire way which choked my system and forced it to work harder than it needed to. (Causing the repeated service calls for replacing capacitors). His ingenuity didn’t stop there, he also screwed up on the exhaust side (The duct work that sends air into the house) of the system. The exhaust line was supposed to be truncated from 16” to 14” to 12” to insure proper air distribution and pressure. This guy installed 14” duct work.

I wish that’s all he did wrong but it’s not. He also made some horrible transition pieces that connected the duct work directly to the outside unit without any kind of metal extension. I know that sounds confusing but it’s a major fire hazard and someone’s house in our sub-division had caught on fire for this very reason a few months prior.

Moral of the story:
Pay for an inspection! Builders tend to use the cheapest installers they can find. (I know there are some good builders out there)

3.) Wiring – Electrical

IMG 0917 150x150 Some Things First Time Home Buyers Should be Aware of   A House Inspection is Worth Every PennyDepending on where you live you may or may not have building codes that require electrical wiring to be routed and installed in a particular manor. One thing we overlooked was the mess of wiring in our attic. The professional and safe way to run wiring is to secure each romex cable every 12 to 36 inches with a staple or other approved method. As you can see our wiring is a webbed mess of wire with none of them securely fastened to the houses structure (Except for the additions I’ve made).

4.) Drainage – Water Concerns

Again this is dependent on where you live and what kind of home you have but you should always be aware of the effect water can have on your home. We purchased our home with no form of drainage other than the water shoots that come off of our main gutters. In addition to the that we also have a sloping lot that I have had to slightly re-work several times to keep the water from entering our foundation.

IMG 2834 150x150 Some Things First Time Home Buyers Should be Aware of   A House Inspection is Worth Every PennyWe had an event that had me stressing out more than my dad after working a fifteen hour day only to come home to babysit all of the grand kids. We started seeing IMG 2833 150x150 Some Things First Time Home Buyers Should be Aware of   A House Inspection is Worth Every Pennycracks in our homes foundation! I’m not talking small surface cracks I’m talking major cracks, some of which went through both sides of the bricks. After getting two different estimates/opinions my mind was put at ease thanks to the credible, professional, and courteous information I received from Olshans Foundation Repair. I can’t say the same for B-Dry who attempted to extort me for nearly 20k for a problem that didn’t exist. I understand times were getting rough at the time of his estimate but to claim I needed upwards of 16 piers drilled down and installed to keep my homes foundation from falling apart was absurd. It’s now been nearly two years and I our foundation is perfectly fine. Of course along with the help of my neighbor we sealed and repaired all of the cracks.

It turns out that out foundation was just reacting to the initial settling that many homes go through in the first couple of years after being built. This doesn’t mean that the moisture detected under our house wasn’t a concern but it did mean that I could start breathing again and my heart rate could drop a bit.

Moral of this story: Be alert to any possible drainage problems and keep an eye on your foundation. Also, Call Olshans if you ever have any doubt.

5.) Roofing  and the Universal Excuse

IMG 0920 150x150 Some Things First Time Home Buyers Should be Aware of   A House Inspection is Worth Every PennyThis was one of the more upsetting problems we discovered with our home; tar paper. I didn’t even think to look because it’s presumed that anyone who has any common sense lays tar paper down as a moisture barrier/membrane  before installing the roofing shingles. However, as houses started going up all around us I started noticing a trend, I didn’t see any of these roofers installing tar paper. In every instance they were nailing the roofing shingles down straight on the plywood. After prying up one of my shingles I made the discovery; there wasn’t any tar paper on our roof. Even if you catch something like this before you sign the papers it’s more than likely a deal breaker. I don’t know a single builder who would pull the roof shingles off and start over from square one. What are we really talking about here? No more than a couple hundred dollars of material (tar paper) and they are willing to compromise the life span and integrity of the roof to save a handful of change.

The universal excuse I heard in reply to my questioning the lack of tar paper was,”We don’t need tar paper in this climate.” Really? You don’t need a moisture barrier in an area where there is plenty of moisture and humidity?

It obviously wasn’t cost effective for us to replace the entire roof so I did the next best thing and installed an attic ventilator. The ventilator is a powerful fan that activates once a preset temperature or humidity point is reached in an effort to dispose of heat and damaging humidity/moisture.

To be continued!

The following pictures are over six years in the making. Shortly after moving to East Tennessee I saw something that I just had to photograph. Don’t ask me what took so long but the opportunity finally presented itself so I figured I’d share the pictures in hopes that it puts a smile on your face like it has mine so many times as I’ve driven past this location.

Whoever said you can’t get saved, butchered, and buried all in one convenient location?

To say that Rachael is unique dog is the understatement of the year. Rachael can be a brat, a sweetheart, and just plain crazy. Needless to say this is one of those crazy moments. We have a rather large plecostomus fish which Rachael has developed a love hate relationship with. After watching the video you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about.

After being motivated by watching Gary Vaynerchuk do his thing with some sniffy sniffs and tasty tastes, we decided to give it a shot. Gary is of course a wine genius and these videos are in no way mocking him. Hope you enjoy.


Let the Wine Tasting Battle Begin. Out of the two of us wine amateurs, which wine tasting video did you enjoy more?

You can get involved with this rivalry by

clicking here.

Here’s the master at work, Mr. Gary Vaynerchuk

70  120x100 dennisgzm Our Final Day in New York Was a Day of Remembrance and Reflection

68  120x110 crystalgzm Our Final Day in New York Was a Day of Remembrance and Reflection September 11th was one of those days that will never leave your mind, it’s etched into memory like a first kiss, wedding day, or death of a loved one. They’re not all bad memories; in the depths of the heartache and pain rose hundreds of stories of heroism and love. This was one of those events that affected everyone who witnessed it but unless you lived through it I’m sure it would be impossible to understand just how bad it was. I was living with my parents in California at the time. My mother rushed into my room to wake me up with the following words, “the world trade center has been hit by an airplane.” Thinking about it right now gives me chills. 76  120x100 museum1 Our Final Day in New York Was a Day of Remembrance and Reflection

77  120x100 museum2 Our Final Day in New York Was a Day of Remembrance and Reflection For a 21 year old who had no idea what the world trade centers were, my life has never been quite the same since. It’s not too much to ask to take a few minutes each year to remember those who were lost, those who rose from the ashes to motivate and inspire, and equally as important, reflect on yourself and who you were before and after that fateful day.

Sure our vacation was about getting away, having a great time with friends, but for Crystal and me it was also about remembering what happened. We visited Ground Zero on our first trip to New York last year and did so again on this visit. However, we failed to find the Ground Zero Memorial workshop on our first visit but with the help of Dennis had no problem finding it this time around. Out of all the things we had on our list to do while in New York this was by far the one thing Crystal wanted to follow through on.

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72  120x100 tccalendar Our Final Day in New York Was a Day of Remembrance and Reflection It’s actually a very fascinating back story behind the Ground Zero Memorial Workshop. The museum is filled with photographs taken by the museums owner Gary Marlon Suson as well as artifacts from ground zero. Mr. Suson was asked to document the recovery efforts by the Fire Fighters union and was the only photographer allowed at Ground Zero. It’s not my place to document every ounce of the museum or it’s back story but I will say it is something everyone should witness at least once. A large majority of the images have numbers that correlate to an audio track on their electronic media player that tells a back story to each object. The museum is small in size, it’s basically a studio apartment but as they say it’s the “smallest big museum in New York.” Don’t let it’s size fool you, there is a lot of images, stories, and artifacts. 74  120x100 tcglass Our Final Day in New York Was a Day of Remembrance and Reflection

75  120x100 gzglass2 Our Final Day in New York Was a Day of Remembrance and Reflection A couple of my favorite artifacts was the glass from the World Trade Center, a portion of one of the American Airlines fuselages that hit the twin tower(we were politely asked not to to take pictures of the fuselage which we respectfully obliged), and several crosses and Stars of David cut out of the steel beams from Ground Zero. I could tell you the whole back story behind the glass, fuselage, and crosses but I’ll let you visit the Museum on your own so you can experience it first hand.

69  120x110 dennisdinner Our Final Day in New York Was a Day of Remembrance and Reflection

71  120x100 dinnerwine Our Final Day in New York Was a Day of Remembrance and Reflection After an emotional visit to the museum we headed back to the apartment where Dennis fixed some delicious pork chops, fresh vegetables, and fresh salad. Of course we toasted our last night in New York with some good wine and some great company including discussions ranging from Asian’s having shorter intestines to vegetarian having better smelling gas. We had a wonderful trip and are very thankful to Dennis and Yuki for hosting us and being so generous with their time and money. Crystal and I are looking forward to returning the generosity when Dennis and Yuki make it out our way for a visit.

67  240x200 nyempire1 On Day 3 We Traveled to the 86th Floor of the Empire State Building and Had Some Great Pizza Day three shall be known as a lazy day, we all got a very late start. More than likely from the amount of walking and staying up so late visiting. Either way we made the best out of the day and Dennis treated Crystal and I to the observation deck of the Empire State Building, seeing New York City from that view is simply breathtaking. As you can probably tell from the picture of Crystal and me, it was extremely windy and cold outside but well worth it to witness the views in this elevated, panaramic fashion. 66  120x100 nyempire2 On Day 3 We Traveled to the 86th Floor of the Empire State Building and Had Some Great Pizza

65  120x100 nypizza On Day 3 We Traveled to the 86th Floor of the Empire State Building and Had Some Great Pizza After soaking the scenery in for about an hour we headed back towards Brooklyn to meet up with Yuki to grab some dinner. We went to a pizza resturaunt, Fornino. The menu was a bit much for country folk like Crystal and I but we knew we were in for a treat with the aroma of delicious pizza cascading through the resturaunt. I’m assuming we visited Fornino during a non-peak time because it seemed they had more staff sitting/standing around than actually working. Our waitress was nice but only checked in on us once in between delivering the food and delivering the bill. One thing that is a sure fire way to irritate Crystal and myself is to let our diet coke run dry.

64  120x100 nypizza1 On Day 3 We Traveled to the 86th Floor of the Empire State Building and Had Some Great Pizza 63  120x100 nypizza2 On Day 3 We Traveled to the 86th Floor of the Empire State Building and Had Some Great Pizza Overlooking the lack of personal attention, the pizza was delicious. The four cheese pizza was almost too much, even for a cheese fanatic like myself. I bet they could market the four cheese pizza as an over the counter laxitive. Dennis and Yuki ordered a combination pizza that featured fennel sausage, cherry tomatoes, spinache, and more. I tried a piece of that and it was a bit spicy but overal was quite tasty. Not being a fan of tomatoes I was very surprised to find that I actually liked the cherry tomatoes on their pizza. Overal, day three wasn’t as action packed as the first two days but we had a wonderful time and it was probably a much needed break from the busy, non-stop couple of days we had prior.

55  150x140 brooklynlabel1 Day Two Consisted of Dylans Candy Bar, World Trade Center, and Some More Great Food. Our second day in Brooklyn started out with an amazing breakfast at Brooklyn Label. Despite the 30 minute wait in a crowded entrance and strange debris constantly falling from the ceiling the food was good enough to overlook the negatives. Crystal had a monster cast iron waffle while I had their very unique French toast which was delicious. 56  150x140 brooklynlabel2 Day Two Consisted of Dylans Candy Bar, World Trade Center, and Some More Great Food.

58  150x140 parkingticket Day Two Consisted of Dylans Candy Bar, World Trade Center, and Some More Great Food. Unfortunately the buzz we got from a great meal was quickly spoiled when we arrived back at the apartment. As we were about to head back into the apartment to freshen up I asked Dennis, “What’s that note on my car?” His reply, “oh shit you got a parking ticket” was all I needed to hear. It’s still annoying me as I write this post. The ticket states that I was parked three feet from the fire hydrant; I’ll let you be the judge.

57  150x140 dylanscandy1 Day Two Consisted of Dylans Candy Bar, World Trade Center, and Some More Great Food. After I had about a twenty minute breather we all jumped on the subway and headed towards Dylans Candy Bar which was a destination recommended to us by Crystals brother. This place quite honestly makes an adult feel like a kid in a candy store, literally. The prices are a bit high but then again it is New York we’re talking about here. Dylans consists of three different levels of candy, candy, and more candy with a candy bar on the top level. Still feeling the sting of receiving a $115 parking ticket we only spent about $25 dollars but if we had the money it would have been easy to leave with a $100+ of candy in our possession.

Here’s an great interview with the founder of Dylan Candy Bar.

continue reading…

After a very long drive crossing through Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey we finally made it to Brooklyn, NY yesterday around three in the afternoon. For a couple of small town people like Crystal and I, New York almost seems like a different world. I can’t say we’d ever want to live in this environment but it is safe to say we love visiting the big city. Working on a project like JealousBrother for such a long period of time has formed a strong working relationship as well as a great friendship between our web developer and us. Dennis and his wife were so kind to let Crystal and I invade their home and they taking the time to show us around New York City for the next several days.

61  150x140 rarebar Our Second Trip to New York Started With Some Good Food and the Grand Central Station On our first day in Brooklyn we got settled in, relaxed, and did some grocery shopping. Around seven o’clock we met up with Yuki (Dennis’s wife) for dinner at Rare bar and grill. For those of you who don’t know me very well I tend to be a bit cheap when it comes to everything except electronics and to spend $21 dollars on a burger was a huge leap for this penny pincher. 62  150x140 rarebar2 Our Second Trip to New York Started With Some Good Food and the Grand Central Station The restaurant itself which is also a bar was very loud and not typically a place I would go for a nice sit down meal but the fries and burgers were quite good. The burger I ate was the “Chef’s Special” which had kobe meat, huge slices of bacon, three types of cheeses, several types of lettuce, and was soaked in ajus prior to being cooked. For me the only question that comes to mind is, was it worth $21 dollars and here is how I responded to Dennis when he asked me that same question last night, “I wouldn’t buy it again but I would do it again for the first time.” I still don’t know if that makes any sense but it did to me when I said it. I guess it would have been easier to say I don’t regret giving it a try for $21 dollars but you wouldn’t catch my cheap ass buying it on a regular basis. continue reading…

thumbs img 2777 The JealousBrother Office Gets a MakeoverSince the beginning of the JealousBrother project we had planned on turning one of our guest bedrooms into the Official JealousBrother Office. For those of you who don’t know me I tend to be a bit on the cheap side. I guess you could say I’m a bit frugal with my money except for electronics where I tend to go a bit overboard. We had been pricing hardwood and engineered hardwood for quite a while when I came across a bargain that had my name on it. I was walking through Home Depot in Oak Ridge, TN (The Nuclear City) when I spotted an end cap with clearance signs all over it. I couldn’t believe my eyes, Pergo engineered hardwood marked down to $10.99 a box from $33.99. Sure I didn’t have the money at the time but I couldn’t pass this deal up.

thumbs img 2788 The JealousBrother Office Gets a MakeoverSo it began, another project in our house that had my wife cringing with doubt. I can only imagine the questions that traveled through her mind, how long with this room be torn up? Is he going to mess something up? How much is this going to cost? Once again I came through but it wasn’t easy and I don’t know if my knees will ever be the same. (Wear Knee Pads) continue reading…