My second Video Ad.

Please take a minute and 29 seconds to check out my new video!

And then visit my Home Inspector website here.

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Flipping and Inspecting

I find TV shows about flipping properties a source of endless amusement, as the cast of the shows often over look key points a home inspector would focus on.

I am particularly amused by the show “Flipping Vegas” where real estate investor Scott Yancey pushes his way through property flips, with his wife Amie constantly pressuring him to not be so cheap.

In a recent episode, Scott and Amie are nearly done with their flip when Scott thinks he hears something in the attic. I was flabbergasted that they bought a house and never looked in the attic. And more so, that they were about to turn around and sell this house to a buyer with no intention of looking in the attic!

The attic is, of course, vital to the structure of the house. It also generally contains the duct work for the heating and air conditioning, and insulation. Inspecting the attic may reveal evidence of leaks or infestations,  or other factors about the state of the house. To buy a house, or to sell a house, without looking attic is unfathomable to me.

The lesson being, even if you are buying a house that has just been remodeled and has designer touches, you still want to a hire a professional home inspector to go over your house from top to bottom.

Here are just two examples of the many things I have found while inspecting attics:

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Broken roof board in attic

 

 

Broken vent pipe found in attic.

Broken vent pipe found in attic.

You may now also find me on twitter @pro_inspector

 

 

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Video Ad for IM Home Inspections – Your Los Angeles Pro Home Inspector

http://imhomeinspections.com/

 

 

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Even the Pros could use a Home Inspector

I was watching the TV show “Flip or Flop” on HGTV. I realize many of the homes they buy are bought site unseen, but in this particular episode they had a chance to walk through the home. It was pointed out in the show the roof had issues, and they could see visible stains in the ceiling of the master bedroom. Later, in the episode, after they have bought the house, they are “surprised” to find mold issues in the ceiling.

What struck me is they could have had a home inspection. An inspector with Thermal Imaging capabilities could have taken Infrared Photos of the ceiling and used a moisture meter to determine if the ceiling was still wet or merely stained. Further a qualified inspector would have found and entered the attic space and done a visual inspection, which would have surely revealed indicators that the ceiling had moisture issues, and perhaps even seen organic material growing in the area of concern. The lesson is, even the most experienced of home buyers would benefit from a professional home inspection, by a qualified home inspector, like IM Home Inspections at http://imhomeinspections.com/.

Don’t buy a house and be caught by a “surprise” later that could have been detected before you completed the purchase.

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IM Home Inspections

Please come check out my business.

IM Home Inspections, serving the San Fernando Valley and greater Los Angeles area, based out of Woodland Hills, CA.

 

Home Inspector in Los Angeles

IM Home Inspections
23371 Mulholland Dr # 201
Woodland Hills, CA 91364

http://imhomeinspections.com/

http://prolosangeleshomeinspections.com/

http://prolosangeleshomeinspector.com/

Fast Facts About Me:

✓ No Conflict of Interest: I work as a Home Inspector, not as a contractor looking for work
✓ Graduate of the ASHI school I have been class room trained by the best, not just someone who took an online course
✓ Member of ASHI: The American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), founded in 1976, is North America’s oldest and most respected professional society of home inspectors. 
✓ Member of InterNACHI: The International Association of Certified Home Inspectors
✓ Certified Thermographer: Certified Level 1 Thermographer by the Infrared Training Center
✓ Computer Generated Reports with color photos: Emailed to you same day
✓ I Respect Your Privacy: I will not give your information to 3rd parties without your permission
✓ Quality, not quantity: Many firms want to shove as many inspections into one day as they can. I limit myself to one to two a day so I can take my time with you and your home 
✓ I utilize technology: To better serve you. Including a Moisture Meter, video camera and many more devices! 
✓ I utilize a thermal camera: as a standard tool. I have the ability to see more than others can.
✓ Dress Accordingly: Getting into attics and crawl spaces can be a dirty job. I am prepared to do it. 
✓ Location! I am based of out Woodland Hills in the San Fernando Valley 
✓ I accept: all major credit cards! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Strength or Weakness in Business: Are you a Belichick or a Martz?

Change in life happens. Employees come, employees go. Customers come, customers go. The business landscape evolves. It is usually imperative to evolve along. The question then becomes not just how to evolve, but how to evolve and thrive.

In the book “Good to Great” by Jim Collins, Collins explains how greatness in business comes from getting the right people in the company, and putting these people in the right seat where they can use their natural abilities to excell. Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman further expound on this in their great book “First, Break All the Rules”, where the case is made that the average manger focuses on what employees don’t do well and then try to shore up those weaknesses, while successful mangers identify what their employees do well, and focus on making them even better.

Great Business thrive when the business itself and the employees are playing to their strengths. But as the landscape evolves, one has to change so to always being applying strengths and minimizing weakness.

A great example of how applying strengths in an evolving landscape comes from the tale of two coaches in the NFL. One had a great idea, applied it, found success, but it was short lived as he could not evolve. Another found success, but was not afraid to change directions to stay successful.

When Mike Martz was hired to be a first time Offensive Coordinator for the Saint Louis Rams, he quickly became the hottest name in coaching. In his first season at the position, the Rams became the highest scoring offense of the year, and won the Super Bowl. Martz was promoted to Head Coach the next season. In his second year as head coach, he once again lead to the Rams to a Super Bowl. But then a curious thing happened. The opposing coach found a weakness in the Martz’s system and exploited it. The Rams lost the Super Bowl. After that, Martz struggled to keep the team successful, and was fired in 2005. He went back to being an Offensive Coordinator, but routinely found himself getting fired after one or two seasons. The game, the opponents, and the players are forever changing and evolving. Martz continuously ran his system his way, and he expected players to adapt to him, even when his way appeared to no longer be very successful.

The head coach that beat Martz in that Super Bowl was Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots. Belichick played to his teams strength, the defense, and found a way to minimize mistakes by his very young and inexperienced quarterback. As the years went by, Belichick’s team evolved. Many of his defense stars retired, or moved on to other teams, while his young quarterback matured. Belichick refocused on playing to his new strength, the passing offense, while minimizing problem with turn over in his defense. This past season, facing many uncertainties due to player turn over with his passing offense, he refocused on a power running style offense.

Belichick applied all the concepts of “Good to Great” and “First, Break all The Rules” by always being aware of what his players strengths and weaknesses were, and designing his game plan accordingly, even in the face of an ever changing roster and ever evolving opponents. All of which has made him the most successful coach of the last 13 years, bar none. Martz never adapted to his players, and expected them to adjust to his one way of doing things, which appeared to never evolve. As such, he consistently found himself out of a job, and never once got close to returning to the glory of his early success.

If you manage a business, ask yourself, do you adapt to an ever changing world, or do you try the same things over and over? Do you put your employees in positions where they can excel and minimize their weaknesses, or do you put employees in positions where their weakness are exposed and just hope they evolve?

Are you a Belichick or a Martz?

 

 

 

 

 

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Is Your Marketing Passive or Engaging?

I recently read the book “The 24 Hour Customer” by Adrain C. Ott. In the book, the author explains a phenomena we all experience but perhaps do not realize. The human brain is so bombarded with advertising, that the brain has learned to filter out much of it. We do not read our spam email, we delete it. We do not read pop up ads, we automatically close them. We ignore web banners because we know it is not part of the information on the page we came to read. In effect, our brains have learned to not see what is right in front of us.

This ability serves us well in navigating through our day. But for a business trying to grow, it becomes an interesting barrier to break through. How do you advertise to those who’s brains have evolved to ignore advertising?

The best way is to engage the customer. It is no longer enough to just have a website, a facebook and such, and just put it there and hope a potential customer reads it. That is just being passive. Engaging the customer means making posts that invite conversation, and joining in on the conversation itself.

An example of very engaging marketing happened to me recently. I saw a thread on a music forum I like to visit. The thread was created by a guy who works for a music instrument company, and his posts referenced upcoming product releases. I posted a comment, and it came up we would both be at the upcoming trade show, and we should meet up. So we did. I was upfront and told him I have a mental block with his company’s products, because even though I know they are great now, and I have friends who use them and love them, the fact remains the company’s product used to be really poor, and there were problems in the past. I admitted, my brain is still stuck on their problematic past. He acknowledged this is a common issue the company has. We talked further. And then I walked off thinking “wow, this company makes great products!” And for the first time ever, I would even consider owning one.

Many years of having a set in stone opinion about a company was suddenly reversed by having a conversation!

For the last few years, I have observed how some companies use social media compared to others. Some companies just post something on their company’s social media, and they think that is engaging.  But without following up on the post, the post itself is really just another example of being passive. Other companies really make it a point to update often, ask questions, and reply to conversations, making communication with the customer a two way street. This engages the customer, and ads much more value. Customers then feel like they are a part of something.

Young bands tend to be good as this train of thought. Most bands understand how competitive the music landscape is. Most bands understand that today, they have to engage the music fan to keep themselves relevant. Just making an album and going on tour is not enough. They understand they have to stay connected with the fans. A small business could actually learn a lot from how bands market themselves online.

Of course, many will read this and think, “that’s fine and dandy, but I can’t afford to spend that much time engaging customers!” But in a competitive market place, can you really afford not to?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My 2014 NAMM Report

The theme this year seemed to be “expand up” and more and more manufactures abandon the main floor for display booths in the upper floors of the convention center. Which left Hall D open for marketing firms and and a video camera company to get involved in the music industry showcase. I won’t cover every thing I saw, but I will hit the more interesting things I saw in the world of drums.

Pearl

The most interesting product, and the clear winner of the show, was something so small that it would be easy to miss: the new tension rod from Pearl!

The center of the rod is drilled out, and partially split. A 2nd screw is then inserted into the rod. Once the drum is in tune, you use Allen Wrench to turn the inner screw, which goes down into the rod and expands the rod where it is split, to hold the rod in place. Making it impossible for the tension rod to loosen up. Dozens upon dozens of products have come out over the years to prevent tensions rods from coming loose, but this makes all prior products irrelevant. A marvelous invention!

Also Pearl were showing new brackets, that will easily convert any bass drum into a gong drum or floor tom.

In drums themselves, Pearl features a new snare drum made from aerospace materials. It is supposed to be super strong and hard, yet very resonant. Despite the resemblance, it is not carbon fiber.

 

Tama

Tama says if you’re going to do a wrap, do it right with this beauty in their B/B line.

They also featured a new all black Iron Cobra pedal, and several “re-issue” snare drums, including the legendary bell brass model.

Ludwig

Ludwig debuted their new Signet 105 line of drums, that you assemble yourself. They ship you the shells, you attached the lugs, brackets, and heads yourself. They are a 6 ply all USA made maple shell. The DIY aspect is so the end user can get a USA made maple shell pack for under $1000 because there is no labor cost in assembling the drums.

Rather than screw on lugs, the lugs simply slide into the shell like so:

And then the tom bracket attaches via two drum key screws, and then you assemble as normal.

My issue with the lugs is, given how easily they slip in, they also easily slip out. This could be a problem if you have to change heads in a dark corner of a club or a poorly lit rehearsal room. The bigger issue was these slip in lugs require drilling a larger hole into the shell. While on the above drum this was not an issue, only every other drum at the booth there was visible damage to the shell where the wood had flaked and splintered from improper drilling. The glare of the lights hitting the drum head made this hard to photograph, but it was quite noticeable. 

 

Given the drums are aimed at the intermediate and semi-pro market, I don’t see what benefit the end user gains from lugs that slip on. You already have the use a drum key to screw on the tom bracket, and put on the heads, why not the lugs too? The 20 minutes or so time saved in assembly by a slip in lug over a screw in lug is not a big deal in the grand scheme of owning a drum set. And given how many low end kits come shipped without heads attached, it is not as if this kit requires much more assembly than an average kit in this price point.

Further, I though the 3 finishes offered looked like bad  1970’s wood paneling. And I won’t even mention the cheap bass drum spurs.

I give Ludwig an “A” for thinking outside the box by offering a USA made maple shell at a lower price point. I fully get behind the DIY aspect. But the final product has far too many problems, is not something I can recommend. In 2012 and 2013, Ludwig blew me away with their new products, but not this year.

Mapex

Mapex featured there new new Soniclear bearing edge on two lines of drums. 

In pictures, it is hard to see how this makes a difference, but I was given a demonstration on how the head seats better on their new edge.

The best part is this edge is not just going to be there highest end line. It will featured on the Mars line with 6 ply birch shells, and the Armory line (pictured) featuring birch/maple hybrid shell. Despite being on par with high level pro kits, these come in at low and mid level price points respectively. 

Yamaha

Yamaha unveiled their new Absolute Hybrid Maple. Quality on these drums was top notch. I had the chance to hear several different people demo these drums, and they do sing!

Also they upgraded their Stage Custom line with several pro features, making these drums on par with drums that would usually cost much more.

Gretsch

The Gretsch booth featured Phil Collins actual touring kit:

A very vintage looking 3-ply prototype:

And many interesting snare drums. Two caught my eye are being particularly unusual. The first one featured Gretsch’s famous silver sealer on the outside of the drum, with the finish wrap on the inside of the drum!

The other was a snare drum finished by Fender Guitars Custom Shop, to give it a pre-aged vintage look.

I just personally can not imagine paying $1499 for a drum that looks like was rolled down a hill back in 1973 and has been sitting on a shelf ever since.

Premier

Premier has this beautiful duel finish kit with custom inlay on display:

Also Premier updated their XPK line, with all birch shells. They were advertising a 5 pc kit, with 2 additional toms for a mere $799 MAP. Great value, and great looking drums.

 

 

Natal

In only there third year at NAMM, Natal continues to show they can play with the big boys. Of interest was their new stave construction snare drums, available in maple, ash and walnut.

 

Zildjian

The big news was the introduction of the new Zildjian Kerope line of cymbals that look and sound like the K cymbals of the 1950’s and 60’s.  My first thought is, wasn’t the K Constantinople line designed to do this? The big difference is the K Constantinoples still have the modern cymbal bell and profile shape.
These “new” Kerope have the flatter bell and flatter overall profile found on cymbals from the 50’s and early 60’s. From my perspective: Constantinoples are modern made K’s that are hammered to sound like vintage cymbals.  Kerope are designed to actually replicate how vintage cymbals were made.

I love how they even look like they came out of a pawn shop.

 

Zildjian also had on display a cymbal from the 1970’s and 1960’s to compare to the Kerope:

You can see how the bell in the 1970’s cymbal is more pronounced, leading toward how modern cymbals are made. While the 1960’s cymbal and the Kerope have a less pronounced bell.

Also Zildjian has updated their Gen-16 cymbals. Gone is the nickle finish, and instead they now have a regular cymbal finish. They are also lightly lathed for better tone.

Sabian

Sabian does such an amazing job with their marketing of their Cymbal Vote campaign, I do not feel like I have much to add. But I did take notice of the rock weight cymbals in the Xs20 line. Finally, the hard hitter has cymbals that will sound good, cut through, will take a beating, and do not cost an arm and a leg.

Paiste

Paiste had Danny Carey’s custom Paiste shell drum kit. The bass drum is so heavy, one person can not pick it up!

Pasite also displayed their Twenty Master Series, which combine the dark sound of old Turkish cymbals with a hint of that traditional Paiste sound.

Drum Workshop

DW has entered the direct drive pedal market to compete with Axis, Trick and the Pearl Demon Drive.

Other Stuff:

Speaking of Axis, I have no idea who Alfred Berengena is, although I did run into him at the Zildjian booth. But his new signature pedal from Axis is amazing. I have not practiced my double bass in a while, yet I was able to sit down and play complex figures with ease. Wow, what an amazing pedal!

Roland debuted their new TM-2 Module. It has just two stereo inputs, which can be split into 4 mono triggers. It is designed for the working drummer who just needs to trigger kick and snare, or just a few sounds, without the hassle and expense of carrying an entire electronic drum set up. And the best part is it has the capability to load your own custom .wav sounds into it via a card.

Ray Ayotte is back at Ayotte drums, with a kit on display:

Stone drums bought out all of Slingerland’s shell making machinery, and is now making drums out of Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Crush has this amazing one-of-a-kind rack at their booth.

Gaai is a small custom drum maker. If you can not decide between a sparkle or a wood grain finish, they offer both at once! More amazing is their little 18″ bass drum that sounds like a much bigger and deeper drum.

Sonor drums had this truly out of this world finish on display.

Their was speculation as to what Sakae would offer after their public divorce from Yamaha. Nothing really stood out as a “Yamaha equivalent” though.

Meanwhile, the Turkish Cymbal company said, who needs  drums when you can play an all cymbal kit? It actually sounded really good.

Latin Percussion displayed drums that are a cross between a Cajon and a snare drum. Really nice sounding instruments. While the obvious use is “un-plugged” gigs, I was stuck by how useful they would be in the studio to make interesting sounding tracks, particularly in the pop world, or looped to be the basis of a dance track.

And that’s a wrap!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Action Figure HQ: Christmas on a Budget

Christmas is about love, family and being together. But of course, kids tend to think of it as a time to get stuff. But giving stuff does not mean you have to spend money when you add in love and make it yourself.

This Christmas,  I decided to make an Action Figure HQ; a dollhouse for boys, so to speak. A large building scaled to  typical 3 & 3/4″Star Wars and Super Hero action figures. And I wanted to build it by only using items I got for free or found around my garage.

In my head, the building could serve as the interior of the Death Star one day, a rebel base the next, the Avengers headquarters another day, or just the buildings Spider Man swings between. I realized such a building would need a garage big enough to go between being a space ship hanger or a place to park Tonka trucks. The building would need one or two main conference rooms that could also be the mission control rooms. And then I decided I wanted to have two towers to be suites, bedrooms, or whatever other rooms can be imagined.

I started with a cabinet I found in alley, a CD shelf I got for free off of craigslist, and piece of MDF left over from a prior project.

hq_01

I also added in a warped shelf board from some old shelves I used to have.

The MDF was cut in to three pieces. One for the base of the garage, one for the top of the garage, one piece was split to be dividers that would break up the garage into sections and add structural support. Along with short pieces of 2×4 and 2×2 I found in my garage, I had a base. I cut the bottom off the cabinet, removed the door, and that became the main two rooms. One of the rooms was rather larger in height. I got the idea to take what had been the door of the cabinet, cut it into a U shape, and made loft area with in the larger of the main rooms.

hq_02

I realized the CD tower was not as tall as I had thought, and was not going to make two towers taller than the cabinet.

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So I used an old shelf board to make two bonus rooms for the towers to sit on. The shelf board was slightly warped, but I used that to my advantage to add slightly rounded roofs to the twin towers.

I also adding a back board. I was going to use a backing board from a bookshelf I found on the side of the road, but at the last minute, I decided to keep the book shelf, and bought backing board for $10.

Once assembled, I primed it inside and out. I then tinted the primer with blue paint to make the exterior color. I bought a cheap can of blue spray paint for an accent color.

The end result:

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A close up of the loft. Yes, that really was the door of the cabinet I found in an alley way.

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My wife used pictures cut from magazines and catalogs and glued them to the walls for decoration.

She painted a landing pad on top of the main room, and two more on top of the towers. Also note doorways that lead from the main landing pad to the towers.

hq_08

Here you see the two tone paint. The doorways were cut before the structure was assembled or painted. I also found some red spray paint in my garage from a previous project, and used it to add an accent stripe to the side of the building.

hq_07

Overall cost: About $10 in primer, $10 for a backing board, $3.50 on spray paint, and $4 for “L” brackets I used to attach the pieces of the building together. It was a big hit at Christmas, as it was homemade, and it was pointed out that no other kid could say they have one just like it!

 

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How much do you pay to go to work?

How much do you pay to go to work?

At first it seems like the question is backwards. After all people go to work to get paid.

OK, so what if I said you can work an 8-hour day, but you are only going to get paid for 6 hours? Most people would scoff at such a preposterous offer.

Yet, I have observed many people willing doing just that.

Work does come with some expenses. You have to pay for the bus, or pay for gas for your car to get work. You may have to pay for clothes you otherwise would not buy to meet the company dress code. And depending on your situation, you may not be able to avoid paying these expenses.

On the other hand, there are costs that can be controlled. Coffee is a main one. Now, I love a cup of Starbucks as much as anyone. But a cup a day adds up quickly. Most coffee drinkers have a coffee maker at home. Most even make their own coffee on the weekends. When I ask someone why they buy their coffee everyday when they could make coffee at home, the answer is inevitably that it’s just not worth their time to make it at home. But what is your time worth? If you spend $3 a day, that is an average of $64 a month. For most people, that is anywhere from 2 to 6 hours of their pay, before taxes. When you could spend far less to make coffee at home.

A big expense is lunch. Of course, we have to eat. I certainly would never advocate skipping lunch. But how much do you spend on lunch per day? My rule of thumb is one should never spend more than they make in a ½ hour of pay. Yet I observe most people spend closer to 1 hours worth of pay. Assuming an 8-hour workday, then 1/8 of your daily day is gone just to be there for the other 7.

Before the economic downturn, I used to work in a nice office where plenty of people were making great money. I observed so many of my coworkers had little to show for their incomes at the end of the month. Every morning, they would get a cup of fancy coffee. Then they would go out to a nice lunch. Then in the afternoon, it was time for a blended juice and/or another coffee drink. And sure, $3 here, $5 there, and throwing down $15-20 for lunch seems like no big deal when you are earning a nice paycheck. But when you add it all together, the costs becomes staggering. On average, many people were spending 2 to 3 hours of their daily earnings for the right to work every day just in food and coffee. Add in gas, and clothes to meet the office dress code, and that means 1/3 to nearly ½ of their days pay was spent just to be at work.

So ask yourself, how much do you pay to go to work?
How many hours of your day do you spend just to work the rest of your day?
You may be surprised.

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