Q&A / 

April 18, 2013 AsktheBuilder Newsletter & Tips

I'm alive. But I'm not completely well. I want to thank you if you were one of the countless friends I have here on the list who emailed me wondering if I was injured or worse. I sincerely appreciate that concern. It affected me deeply.

This morning I opened my email and staring at me was a very important email from the Boston Athletic Association (BAA). Here was the Subject Line:

A Message From The B.A.A. About Post Traumatic Stress Management

The second sentence of the email said:

Events of mass violence can trigger overwhelming feelings of anxiety, anger or fear.

The email went on to say that the BAA would have a special team of mental health experts available for counseling.

I can tell you that I felt all of those emotions above in the past 72 hours once I floated back down to the ground after my adrenaline high of Monday afternoon and evening. No doubt I'll read the BAA email and reach out for some help.

If you're a new subscriber to this newsletter since last week, you probably think I'm really crazy, and what have you gotten yourself into.

What you'll discover, if you continue to subscribe, is this weekly newsletter is probably one of the most unique ones you'll ever get. Each week I try to share with you something about my life that has little or nothing to do with home improvement.

I was one of the 150 or so volunteer ham radio operators at the Boston Marathon on Monday that provided life-saving communications for the runners - and spectators.

I was working at First Aid station 12 with two other ham radio operators. You can see me with Noah and Shirley below in the photo taken about three hours before the bomb blasts.

I wrote a fairly long story at my W3ATB ham radio blog about my experience that day. Feel free to read it and leave a comment if you have something to say.

Feel free to share the link to the story with anyone if you want to give them a different perspective of what happened behind the scenes at the Boston Marathon.

I've decided that this issue of the newsletter is going to be dedicated to disasters and what you can do to prepare and cope with one that could happen to you and your family.


What an odd headline. How could my recent deck stain test results and Google be connected, and what in the world do they have to do with disaster? Believe it or not, you're about to discover something about yourself. Read on and stay with me.

The day before I left to work the Marathon, you received my latest announcement. In it was a link to my 2013 Deck Stain Test Results.

I got a mixture of email responses about that email blast on Sunday. You may be one of the countless subscribers that purchased the results and thanked me for the work and effort in conducting the test. I appreciate your business, and I truly appreciate your kind comments.

But there were a handful of subscribers like John from Cincinnati who felt differently. He wrote:

"Your last note about deck sealers was quite disappointing. It is starting to appear you are just interested in $$$. I doubt I will be following you much longer. Your letter has changed a lot since you left Cinci."

John, I'll be sorry to see you leave. I'm puzzled why you would unsubscribe from a free newsletter, especially one where I still dispense free tips each week. But what the heck, I'm no expert on human psyche.

Several other subscribers were not too happy about paying for the results of the deck stain test.

Susan was one. She wrote:

"I am floored that I need to pay $9.97 to get the results of your deck stain/sealer tests. You have advertised specific products in the past, and I have used Defy at your recommendation and also Stain Solver for years. You should make clear why you can't disclose the products you are testing for free -- I have enough Defy for now. Please explain. I do take your advice, but this is really a gouge."

Susan, you know what? That's a very good idea. I'll explain.

I suffered a major personal disaster a little over two years ago. Practically overnight my income was cut by 90 percent by Google. Tens of thousands of other website owners like me suffered the same fate.

Yes, I can already hear some of the emails streaming in. "Suck it up Tim. or: You think you have problems Tim, well let me tell you.... or: I don't care about your problems. I don't want to hear about your life. Stay on topic. Just give *me* home improvement tips."

I didn't make a big stink of it because for the most part many people don't care about the problems of others. Everyone has their own problems. They can be health related, financial, or relationship based. I get that.

My loss of income pales in comparison to what happens each day to many others. Two years ago when I woke up on that late February morning and saw what happened my very close friend, Mike had no idea he had less than 594 days to live. Robin would be left without her soul mate. I'd lose a friend that was like the brother I never had.

My friends Keith and Cindi were also suffering with health challenges. Many, many others had far worse problems than me. Many of my friends don't have any jobs.

But John saw the transformation in this newsletter. Maybe you did too, but I never bothered to tell you what was going on in my little bubble. I figured it would be an exercise in futility.

What happened? What caused the change in this newsletter and what I do?

In a nutshell, Google changed the search algorithm so that thousands of my AsktheBuilder.com pages that used to appear at the top of page one of search results now showed up much farther back in the index. That's the Cliff Notes version.

If you want the War and Peace version, read all of the details about what happened at a blog post I wrote about a year ago. Believe me, it's affecting you on a personal level. Yes, you.

Google's algorithm change is HURTING YOU big time because Google is depriving you of very important information you need to make smart informed decisions before you buy something.

Surely you've noticed how the quality of search results has changed over the past two years. You have to work much harder to find great information.

Google did that to make their shareholders happier. Go back up and read my blog post if you don't believe me. I pretty much have the smoking gun.

I met personally, for about an hour last fall, with Jon Leibowitz, the Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission about all this. He asked me to come to Washington DC to talk about all this as he was keenly interested in my take as an Internet publisher.

He pretty much agreed with my assessment of the whole situation. Google is not breaking the law, but their business practices are making life more difficult for you.

Before the algorithm change, I was able to give away for *FREE* lots of information because I was making a living from the advertising revenue each time people clicked an ad on one of my website pages.

Well, if your traffic is cut by 80 percent, that means your ad revenue goes down too.

I had to change my business model from free to paid - and in a hurry - if I wanted to survive.

That's why you've seen more ads in my newsletter, John. That's why you've seen the Kickstarter projects where you have to pay to get access to videos.

John, that's why you see me pushing my fantastic Stain Solver product each week - especially the new best seller Sample Size that costs just $9.97 delivered to anyplace in the USA, even Guam or the Virgin Islands! I've got bills to pay just like you do.

Susan, that's why you have to pay to get access to test results. I've got an employee payroll to meet each week. I've got to make a profit so I can create more helpful products for you.

Me selling my products is what's keeping this free newsletter going. Some don't buy products. Some people click the Donate button way at the bottom of this newsletter and use it to help keep this free newsletter going.

But I digress. Here's how I can help you.

The disaster I suffered that was triggered, not caused, by Google.

It taught me that I needed to diversify. I needed to switch to a business model where small silos of knowledge I've accumulated from years of hard work need to be converted into tiny ATM machines. I needed to radically diversify my income stream to prevent another disaster.

That's why the DIY Video Series category at my shopping cart now has 32 products and is growing. A year ago it had two.

Google didn't cause my problems. I was primarily responsible because I became far too dependent upon them for my livelihood.

How does that relate to you?

Look around you. What/who are you too dependent upon? How could you survive if there was a radical change in your life tomorrow?

That may require some deep introspection on your part. STOP and do it.

Ponder your destiny like I've been contemplating mine for the past 26 months, and especially since Monday afternoon.


I just watched this video.

One minute all is well, then a fire breaks out in a fertilizer plant. Minutes later, BOOM. She's lucky, she's alive. But she has no house - possibly no belongings.

This happens everyday in the USA and around the world. You could be next. It could be a tornado, it could be a fire, it could be a flood. It could be a hurricane.

I've got a virtual friend Liz who's house was flooded by Hurricane Sandy. I'll never forget her desperate posts last November on Facebook as the storm surge started to overtake her home.

Eighteen months ago my friends Julie and Gary had their lives changed by Hurricane Irene here in NH. In less than two hours, high waters from the raging Pemigewasset River flooded their cottages, motel and their home. There was not enough time nor help to save everything.

What are you doing to prepare for the day you become homeless?

Last November, after Hurricane Sandy, I made a comment about doing a class about getting ready. I discovered much in the CERT training I took last fall.

Do you want me to do that class and create a DVD about it? I can do it. But you need to tell me you want it.

Will it be free?

No. I need to manage your expectations.


Let me help you get prepared for a disaster. Think about how you would answer these questions:

How quickly can you recreate all the contact information on your cell phone?

Do you have multiple bug-out bags in your house, car and at work?

What the heck is a bug-out bag, and what's in it?

Your phone rings and the police say you have 45 minutes to evacuate from your home. What do you take with you?

Can your entire basement fill with water in less than ten minutes? I'll help you. Yes.

Are you ready to transport your pets to a safe area in less than 30 minutes? Where and how?

Where are all your important papers?

What are important papers?

What will you do when cell phones don't work?

What will you do when you can't access the Internet for more than a week?

When ATM machines run out of cash, what will you do?

How much gasoline do you need, at a minimum, each week?

Do you have enough water to survive for a week? How much water do you and your family need each day?

Do you really have enough food to survive for a month? Where is it?

If you were only allowed to take ten things with you in an evacuation, what would they be?

How will you contact your friends and family that are spread out all over the USA and the world if there was a major catastrophe? Is it even possible?

I could go on and on and on with questions.

Here's a new Spring chore for you:

STOP and think about getting prepared.

I'll ask again. Do you want me to create a course based on what I've seen and what I've been taught? If so, reply to this newsletter and change the Subject Line to: Get Prepared

Till next week.

Be Safe. Get Prepared.


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