Category: Shopping

How to help save water in California from the East Coast

The water in the southern 1/2 of California (not just Southern California, but Monterey, Oxnard, etc) comes hundreds of miles in amazing water projects that take water from the Sacramento River, Owens River, Mono Lake, and the Colorado River. Yet, there is a huge water plant in Ontario that bottles this water using Reverse Osmosis. It’s sold as Niagra Water and Costco Drinking Water. That’s right folks, that bottle of water has traveled 600 miles in the California Aqueduct, pumped 3,000 feet over a mountain near Bakersfield (13,000 cu/ft a second – takes two power plants to power the pumps), through 7 miles of tunnel, to Riverside and the public water systems. Niagra Water has a plant there, and bottles it using Reverse Osmosis to purify, in which about 1/2 goes to the sewer as waste, then it’s shipped 3,000 miles to us here on the east coast. Niagra says the industry uses about 1 percent of the water. If using the flow from the Los Angeles Aqueduct only (from the Owens River), that’s about 420,000 acre feet of water. An acre foot is 325,851 gallons so that’s about 136,920,000,000 gallons of water. so 1% of the LA Aqueduct alone is 1,369,200,000 gallons. Yet the LA Aqueduct supplies on 1/3 of LA’s water so triple that to 4 trillion gallons, 1/2 of which are dumped into the drain.

You can save that water the trouble of being shipped across the US and the related fuel, and California some water by doing was Niagra Water does. Put a Reverse Osmosis system in you own home.

Get one of these Reverse Osmosis water filters and stop buying water [look at the bottle, this is what they do]: Add this on for efficiency:

Mine came with a cheesy faucet. I ordered it two weeks ago. Costco changed it already and offers a kit with better faucet now that has a LED light to tell you it’s time to change the filters (‘monitored faucet’). But its chrome, and there are other faucets on the Premier website. I ordered a brushed nickle one last night. Premier is a subsidiary of Watts. They also offer a zero waste R.O. system that has a pump and pumps the waste water into your water heater. Adds complexity to the system and minerals to water heater. I choose this one and ordered the permeate pump to double efficiency. Oh, you need a spare hole in the sink for the faucet. I drilled one in my porcelain on iron sink. Not for the meek, took an hour, mostly because it was hard to drill the 1/8″ starter hole in the 1/8″ thick porcelain. An 1/8″ diamond bit would have helped. Then I made the hole larger and larger 1/32″ at a time marching up my drill set to get to the 1/4″ size of the pilot bit in the 1 1/4″ hole saw. Wouldn’t be any trouble on a stainless steel sink. But don’t do that yourself if not comfortable with destroying your sink. I watched a couple youtube videos on it.

If you can, install the Reverse Osmosis System itself in the laundry so you can easily change the filters (not under the sink, unless you like working in dark, tight places) and use longer length 1/4″ and 3/8″ poly pipe from Home Depot or Lowes to install it. Don’t use the saddle valve unless you want a leak in a couple years, add a tee to your water line and a tubing connector, drain to your laundry stand pipe. Tee the freshwater line to the icemaker and sink. No more chlorine or other foul stuff. Does waste about 1/2 the water, but it’s only drinking water. Gallon a day maybe. ANd if you are buying bottled water, that water is being wasted already. If you have a septic system, you are not wasting the water as it’s goes back into the ground water.

So Save California some water as the Niagra water (and Costco Drinking water is also Niagra) is bottled in Ontario California (in the desert East of L/A) using water from the Sacramento River.

Setting Up an E-Store

These days it seems everyone wants to set up an e-store. My preference is for total control and I use OsCommerce. It’s widely supported and feature packed. Here’s a brief guide to help you get started thinking. It’s not an easy task, will require lots of work, and planning to get started. First, you need something to sell. Make sure whatever you sell will have enough profit to make the setup work worth your while.

Shopping Cart:

Find a hosting provider by Googling ‘OsCommerce Hosting

You might need to charge sales tax. Try to find a host that supports SEO friendly URLS (i.e. and not — it’s high value to have keywords in URL). To do this find an oscommerce host that uses something called mod-rewrite to do it.

Be A Business
You should run the store as a business. So Set up an LLC and get a bank account for the LLC. This will seperate the stores money and liabilities from your personal liabilities and assets.

Credit Cards
If you want credit cards, you’ll need a merchant account. You should then also consider a dedicated host so that you are not storing credit cards on a shared host. This adds considerably to the cost of web hosting. Shared web hosting can range from $5.00 a month to $40.00 a month. Dedicated hosting is bare bones at $150.00 a month and more likely to be 350.00+ a month. As for the merchant account itself, you can get a merchant account from anywhere — that is it doesn’t have to be with your bank or with the credit card gateway you choose. In the US, Costco and Sams offer discount merchant account fees. This will tie to your bank account and money will be deposited daily (hopefully you’re selling stuff). A good OS/Commerce Host can help you with all of this.

But why do the merchant account yourself? Use Google Checkout or Paypal
If you don’t want to get your own credit cards (and this is useful to avoid risk), get a setup of oscommerce that supports BOTH paypal and google checkout. Then those folks will handle the transactions. Google works like a merchant account and deposits money in your account automatically. The only downside to this method is possible loss of sales because people don’t want to use those services. Personally, I love Google Checkout. All of my online purchases are visible to me in one place, and the merchants don’t see my credit card number. Sweet. The differences between Google Checkout and PayPal are major. With PayPal you see a transaction for a dollar amount. With Google, you see an order, including the items, along with the transaction. Checkout Google Checkout and PayPal for details.

Site Content -The Most Important Factor in Being Found
Rule 1: Do keyword research about your niche. Find out what people are looking for. Then create webpages.

Here is where to find what people are looking for:
Digitalpoint Keyword Suggestion Tool

The Overture data is Yahoo! traffic and it is generally assumed to show 1/4 of the searches done on Google so if something shows there you multiply by 4. Word tracker is a snapshot of Google.

Next, search Google with the keywords and see what ranks high, and look at those pages that Google values. Look at the keywords they target (by viewing page source and looking at the tag. For your site, these shouldn’t be stuffed, and should be unique on each page of the site. You should also do a Google search for back links for each of the top 10 sites and see who’s linking there. Google won’t show them all, Yahoo will show a lot more. The command to do this is to search for link://www.your-site-name-here/ in both Google and Yahoo. You can automate this all with a product called IBP & Arelis.

Google Pagerank
I digress just for a second here to mention Google Page Rank. This is the formula that originally propelled Google to the forefront of the Search Engines by using links from one site to another to count as votes about the quality of the site. PR ranges from 0 to 10. 0 is the lowest. Only a few sites are 10, Google being one of them. Now things have come a long way since the early days of Google, and Page Rank is no longer this one link = one vote formula and nowadays they consider quality of the links as well as many other factors. While it doesn’t necessarily matter if you are a PR3 or PR4 site, you will need to get other sites to link to you and for many of those webmasters will look at your PR. How do you get PR when you don’t have any yet? Read on, it’s described farther down.

What’s a Good Domain Name?
Now that you know what people are looking for in your niche, it’s time to choose a domain name. A good a domain name will have good keywords in it about whatever you’re selling. Using your research above, search GoDaddy for available names. It is worth considering buying a parked domain if that domain has good keywords and a Google Page Rank of 3 or more as this will help you get your site indexed faster. If you’re really planning on being in business a while, register the domain for at least 5 years, 10 would be better. This is because the evil spammers of Google and Yahoo use throwaway domains that are useful for only a brief period so they tend to register them for only a year.

Time to Start Building Content with Rich Keywords
You have your domain, osCommerce store, so it’s time to start building content with those keywords. The page title is huge in SEO (Search Engine Optimization). So are H1 tags (page headings). Make sure keywords are in title, h1, and dribbled around in the content. Make the content human readable, and just bear in mind that you need the keywords in there a lot. Final result should be nice reading and lots of keywords.

Keep in mind that the site will be new and it will take time to get ranked. If you bought a domain name that has been around for a while and has Google Pank Rank, you’ll be a little bit father ahead then if it’s a completely new domain. To get PR up, you need to get quality back links from other web sites which lends credibility to your site. Visit the sites you just researched above for keywords, some might be willing to link to you if you email them an honestly written email with something in the email that notes that you actually looked at their site and ask for an exchange of links.

Use Web Directories to Get Initial Back Links
The easiest way to get some links is to use web directories to get started. You can find about 300 directory listings here:

What I would recommend, is you post to say 10 of these that are free so you understand what they are about. Wait for the reviews and see if any accept you. USE A SPECIAL EMAIL ADDRESS BECAUSE YOU WILL BE SPAMMED — GUARANTEED. The only reason I could see for directories not accepting a new site with good content [which incidentally means you have written unique content already] is that it doesn’t have a page rank yet (and sometimes that’s a sign of evilness and being kicked out of Google for being bad and no one wants to link to bad partners.) You need to be accepted by a few of these directories to at least get a page rank of 1.

But what’s my Page Rank?
To see Page Rank, get the Google Toolbar, install it, and activate the Page Rank Display in the Options section of the Settings menu. Once active, you’ll see a bar indicating Page Rank in the toolbar. Every page you visit from then on will be sent to Google and the Page Rank shown, so it does have privacy implications. But you should have it installed, and visit your pages often so Google sees the visitor — better if he has several friends do this and if you can do this from other places like work and on many computers and connected via different IPs such as via cable and dialup so it looks like different people. Don’t go overboard, but you want Google to see traffic on your site, and they will send spiders to see the pages you visit — this is one of the reasons that you can’t hide anything on the web (i.e. there is no secret URL, they’ll be found via the toolbar or because ISPs, doubleclick, paypal, etc sell traffic data (anyone that you link an image from will see your traffic and be able to sell it).

Toolbar Page Rank isn’t Real Time
Oh, I should note that Google has an internal always up to date PR that they use, and only push toolbar PR out as snapshots about once a quarter. And the Page Rank at the snapshot update is usually a month old already. So the PR shown in the toolbar takes time to show up and won’t necessarily show the value Google currently is using.

While waiting for PR1, visit Digitalpoint SEO Forums and read and read. Also they have great set of free tools at:
Digitalpoint SEO Tools, one of which you’ve already used, the Keyword Suggestion Tool.

Besides that one, you should try to get the Digitalpoint Keyword Ranking Monitor working and check it daily:

(the only caveat is that it needs to use the Google API and so needs a Google API key. I heard somewhere that Google stopped issueing API keys but don’t know that for certain). There are setup instructions on the ranking monitor page, so follow them. If you get the key, you’ll need to check the tool daily to cause the tool to get your rank(or if you can afford it, donate $500 to the company. Then you can set it up to run automatically at 4:30am PT and you’ll still need to check it once a week or the folks at DP will automatically disable the automatic checking. A plus too, if you’re considering donating and can afford it, is you’ll be able to get a PR6 link from the donors page and make sure to choose a good keyword set.

Besides the Digital Point keyword ranking tool, there are other tools available for doing the same thing that run on your computer. Google ‘SEO Tools‘ for find some.

Be A Webmaster
Get a Google Webmaster account and verify the site. Check the Webmaster tools often, Google will give feedback to you.

Going Forward
Don’t do anything evil. The goal is to get backlinks and traffic. Rank will come naturally thereafter. Quality content will drive traffic.

Consider a forum or blog to discuss topics. These bring repeat traffic, traffic the visits many pages, and free content. There are some free forum software, and there is paid from Vbulletin. VB is the best and has lots of features. But any forum is a task to set up and keep out the bad viagra and porn spammers. Plus you need to market the site to get visitors or else it’s empty. Some tips for operating and marketing forums can be found at The Admin Zone

WordPress is a simple easy to install blog (you want this on your site not hosted elsewhere because it needs to be part of your domain). If you are familiar with pkzip, you can do it yourself for free. Make sure to use SEO friendly URLS. These are set under Permalinks in the Options area.

Once you get Page Rank 1 for your homepage.
Ok, once you get to Page Rank 1, it’s time to start adding more directory submissions. You don’t want to start earlier because of the PR0 and the bad guys will result in a lot of rejections.

When it’s time for this, you should have 3 – 5 sets of keyword variations, 3 – 5 site title variations with keywords in them and 3 – 5 different descriptions. These should be from the top keywords shown above in the keyword suggestion tool. The content on the pages should be written with those searches in mind too — it’s looks like it is a natural fit now.

There are basically 3 types of web directories: 1) Free, 2)Reciprocal, 3) Paid.

I pay someone to do the free directory submissions because it gets old fast and it’s cheap, about $20/hundred listings. So you can get about 900 listings for $180.00. If you are considering this, don’t submit to more than 10 directories yourself. Because the submitter needs to know where you’ve submitted to. Keep track of the directories you submit to.

I don’t bother with the reciprocal, and do a few paid. is one of those. Consider Yahoo Directory if you can afford the $300/yr they want — it has credibility (make sure your site is filled out — you want to be accepted — the $300 is for review and if you are rejected too bad). Also submit to the open directory project at (this one takes a while to get into and is what Google uses for their directory).

That will get you started.

Fitzgerald Auto Mall – Frederick, MD

There was a time about 15 years ago when I had trouble with a new car, and had it in for service. When I went to pick it up later that day, it seemed to me that all of the customers picking up cars were arguing with a service writer. It hadn’t been very long since I went through the ordeal of shopping for a car and dealing with two car dealerships. I came to the conclusion at that time that the car industry needed a shakeup, that they didn’t care about customers expectations, and I dreaded the day when I’d have to buy another car.

Fitzgerald Automall Sign
However, not all car dealerships are the same. When the time came to purchase a new car, we went to the local Chevrolet dealership in Frederick, MD. It’s one of those mega dealerships where they sell many brands of cars at one location. This store is called the Fitzgerald Automall. Since that time, we have purchased 4 vehicles there, 3 from the same sales consultant, Craig Johnson.

What sets this dealership apart from any of the 10 or so I’ve had encounters with over the years is their focus on Customer Satisfaction. Everything from pre-sales to post sales to service is on the straight and up. There are no hidden fees, no haggling over the price, they’re patient, informed, and simply want to make a good deal.

Craig Johnson
One of the most unpleasant experiences for most people is the trip to the car dealer to buy a car. I can state with certainty that is not the case at Fitz-Mall. Pictured here is Craig Johnson, the Sales Consultant at Fitz-Mall that we have purchased 3 cars from, 2 Chevrolet’s, and 1 Toyota (incidentally, the Frederick Fitzgerald Automall doesn’t sell Toyota’s. Craig had it brought in from another dealership of Fitzgerald’s located 20 miles away).

We met Craig right after our car was totaled in an accident. We were looking for a vehicle that could tow our RV trailer better than our prior vehicle. For about 10 days we talked with Craig, looked at the options he researched for us, and finally choose the Chevy Avalanche. We still have this vehicle today, and it was the correct vehicle for us to buy to replace our Chevy Blazer which didn’t really have the proper suspension for towing a large RV trailer.

A few years later our Pontiac Bonneville was aging. Even though it ran reliably, with no major problems ever, the 360,000 miles on it were finally taking their toll on the car and it was time for a new car. We again visited Fitz-Mall, Craig showed us some small 2 door, and small king cab pickup trucks that we thought would fit our needs. In the end, though, we purchased a standard Chevrolet Blazer (not the Trailblazer) because there was more utility in having more enclosed area for carrying products for our business. It was a very smooth transaction, pleasantly and professionally handled by both Craig Johnson and the business office.

With fuel prices rising, we decided to get a Toyota Prius. We contacted Craig, and asked if he could sell us one, even though the Fitz-Mall he worked at didn’t offer Toyota’s. Craig was able to arrange for a Prius to be shipped to his location in Frederick, and have all of the paperwork prepared and signed at Frederick. He even came in on his day off to do this. We bought our Prius this way because we are comfortable with Craig, and have become somewhat casual friends along the way. Occasionally, I’ll stop by the store and visit Craig, sometimes I bring him some honey from our bee hives. There aren’t too many car sales consultants I’ve had such pleasant dealings with that I’d ever consider doing something similar with. Oh, that’s the back of our new Prius Craig is standing next to. A magic car and Craig’s first Toyota sale.

Some other reasons to buy from Fitzgerald Auto Mall
Besides being treated comfortably, here’s a short list of reasons to buy a car at the Frederick Fitzgerald Auto-Mall:

  • No-Haggle Pricing – The prices are on the car and are at dealer invoice. Sure, you could probably haggle with another dealership for 10 hours and save a few hundred but there is something to be said about honest, comfortable, and pleasant handling of a sale.
  • The Sales Consultants are knowledgeable and are not pushy.
  • You get a free loaner car from them when you take your car in for service.
  • Every other oil change is free.
  • The service department is operated professionally too.
  • Parts Department is well stocked and pleasant to purchase from.
  • You get a coupon for $50.00 off your next car purchase — and they honor it without question.
  • You can shop for cars online at, see the vehicles they have in stock, what’s on order, and see their prices [and yes, they are the real prices]

How about this — They’re Honest
When we bought our third vehicle from Fitz Mall (our second from Craig Johnson) they accidently mis-calculated the vehicle registration fees. We were pleasantly surprised to find a refund check for the overpayment in our mailbox one day. I think most car dealerships would have pocketed that money.

Frederick MD Fitzgerald Auto Mall

This is a very large car dealership, which is part of a larger organization, so it’s a significant player in the Washington DC – Baltimore local car market. The owner was interviewed this year on NPR about the troubles in Detroit and to paraphrase Jack Fitzgerald’s response “they’re too far separated from the customer.” Here is a direct quote from that interview:

“(If) we don’t take care of our customers, we don’t stay in business, and the problem with Detroit is they are insulated from that,” he said. “The union leaders don’t have to take care of a customer with a complaint, and management doesn’t have to take care of a customer with a complaint, they leave that to people like me and the people that work in my dealerships.”
Jack Fitzgerald

See or listen to the complete story: ‘Project X’ Marks Chrysler Restructuring Bid on National Public Radio.

So you can see that from the top down in this organization, their focus is on the customer.

Having purchased 4 cars from Fitzgerald’s Auto Mall we have had positive experiences and with almost all parts of the company. From Sales to Finance to Parts to Service to Body to the free rental cars, the Fitzgerald Company employs pleasant, happy people whose job it is to just make things work. These folks, while out to make money, aren’t out to get you. They say what they’ll do and they do it — without exception.