Latest Posts

Tips and Links for New Bloggers

So far blogging has been a little more work than I expected.  I by no means expected it to be easy, but I thought my engineering background would make the computing part a breeze.  Wow was I wrong!  I probably feel like my dad does when I try to explain to him what the heck e-mail or even the internet is.  There are so many terms that I don’t have the faintest clue what they mean!  The marketing and social media promotion of the blog seems to take up more time than working on the blog itself.  And SEO? What the heck is that? (Search Engine Optimization…would love a guest blogger to explain that one!)

Luckily, there are TONS of other helpful blogs out there.  There are so many topics, it can be overwhelming at times when looking for an answer.  One thing I can’t seem to lock down it Pinterest.  I know its a valuable tool, but literally making a decent pin seems like a mystery.  And for every part of a blog-social media, SEO, etc., there are many blogs with great tips.

Here are just a few that have really helped me get off the ground:

Janice of mostly blogging has really been helpful.  One of her best posts in my opinion is the 89 free blogging tools that will save you time blogging.  She has answered questions, and is very active on Twitter.  She hosts ‘linky parties’ and a link exchange, and is very open to cross promotion.

I have recently discovered the site www.successfulblogging.com by Sue Anne Dunlevie.  She has tons of information on blogging.  What I like about Sue’s blog, is that she tells what apps and websites she uses on her own site.  For example, through her site I discovered Canva, which has lots of ideas for all kinds of graphics.  There are several templates for different kinds of social media, including Pinterest.

Another great blogger is Marc Guberti.  This guy is only 18, and has over 305,000 followers on Twitter! He has lots of great advice on how to grow your blog including Youtube tutorials.

These are just a few of the many helpful sites I have discovered.  You just have to make time.  You can start out and say, ‘Ok, today I will grow Twitter followers’, and the next thing you know you are on your 17th Pinterest page of the day.  Making a schedule would probably help.   Explore all options that are out there.  I use the following:

Twitter:  Myself, I don’t just follow everyone that follows me.  Make sure the topics or person are relevant to your blog.

Pinterest:  The hardest part about Pinterest is actually making a pin!  But like I said above, Canva has a lot of templates and even some free stock photos.  Pinterest is great too, because the titles are right there on the pin.  You have some sort of idea what you are going to be reading even before clicking on the pin.  I am going to be looking into rich pins soon.  I’m still not sure what they are, but I hear they are better than non-rich pins.

Facebook:  Facebook is supposed to be great at driving traffic to your blog.  So far I haven’t really figured out the difference between a ‘page’ and my personal profile.  You can’t just ‘like’ pages as your page without taking a few extra steps.  It shouldn’t be that hard to understand that most people who run a blog or business would want to have a page separate from their personal profile.  Unlike other social media, Facebook will not allow you to have multiple profiles.  And apparently you cannot join groups with a page, just your profile.  Yes, confusing I know.

Google+:  Well, this one is pretty new to me, but I thought what the heck.  To me it feels like a cross between Facebook and Pinterest.  I still have a lot to learn about this one, so I can’t really offer much feedback.  Still, its social media, and worth joining to promote your blog.

Instagram:  This is another social media platform that I am very new to.  For one thing, I take pretty crappy photos!   But if I can snap some things that are relevant to this blog, or that people find generally interesting, then its worth a shot if it will help drive more traffic to my blog.

Stumbleupon:  Stumbleupon is unique, because you are searching mostly topics, not people.  You simply ‘stumble’ until you find something you like.  Then you like it, or save it to your pages.  You choose topics you wish to stumble.  This one really has helped drive traffic to my blog.  I’m still trying to understand why exactly, but I’m glad I joined!

There are still several platforms that I haven’t joined yet.  I’d like to get the feel for a few before I branch out.  But I encourage you to get out there and promote!  If anyone has any other suggestions, feel free to comment.

[USM_plus_form]

Culvert Collapse: Not Only Bridges Can Fail

When you think of a ‘collapse’, you normally think of a bridge. This is not always the case. Pipe culverts can collapse also, leading to devastating consequences. Just because there may not be a ‘structure’, does not mean there cannot be a collapse. I think when we imagine a culvert, we are thinking of a small pipe. But these pipes can be up to 10 feet in diameter, and maybe even bigger. So if a 10 foot pipe culvert would collapse, that could mean a 10 foot hole in the road! There are several factors that can lead to the failure of a culvert, with some failures happening suddenly, and some happening over time.

Culvert Collapse

Culvert Collapse

Some pipe culverts collapse due to material weakness. Metal culverts can become corroded from either chemicals from runoff, or from water sitting in them for extended periods. After time, the bottom may rust, then the culvert may fail.  Even though these culverts are typically designed for a 50 to 75 year service life, and have some type of corrosion protection (galvanization, asphalt coating,) corrosion may take plus much sooner.  This can be sudden, or may take years. Concrete culverts have a tendency to separate at the joints. One section may start to separate, maybe even causing a chain reaction. Sometimes an end section or even more than one, may fall completely off. This can lead to the road being too narrow and steep at the culvert. Groundhogs can even make the joints weak by burrowing on top of them.  Plastic culverts (HDPE, etc.) may also fail from joint separation, or possible material weakness. They can be affected by different factors such as sunlight.  Proper cover must be over the culverts as well, or loads can be transferred directly to the pipe without being distributed properly over the soil/road on top of the pipe.

Culverts that become obstructed can also pose a problem.  If debris is blocking a culvert, the water will find the path of least resistance.  The water may try to go around the culvert, or even under it.  In these instances, the pipe may be intact, but the soil around the culvert may wash out, creating a hazardous situation.  This could happen during a flood, at which point the soil may wash out and cause a sudden collapse of the road.

It is a good idea to set up some kind of inspection schedule and inventory when it comes to pipe culverts. If you notice a dip in the road, or cracking above a culvert, it probably needs to be inspected.

 

The Power of Water

This is an older post I have written, but with the recent hurricane Harvey affecting the Gulf coast, I thought it would be a relevant reminder.  Please, everyone affected by flooding, heed the officials call to evacuate, and do NOT try to drive through flooded roads!!

Last week I wrote an article on flooding.  Today I am giving a specific example of just what too much water too fast can do.

This occurred during a heavy spring rain.  There was over 4-1/2″ of rain in just a few hours.  This location had a 10′ diameter pipe that had over 3 feet of earth and rock cover over the top.

20140404_084554

This was the hole that was left after the wash out.  Notice the traffic control by a local resident.

20140404_084617

Finally, this is where the culvert ended up.  Again, this culvert was 10′ in diameter, and 20 feet long.  That put its weight at over 3,000 pounds.  Adding two feet of dirt adds 67,000 pounds and a foot of rock adds another 34,000 pounds.  That is a total of 104,000 pounds, or 52 tons.  It didn’t just move the culvert; it ended up about 60 feet downstream.  According to the EPA, the weight of the average car is 4,079 pounds or just over two tons.  So the water at this location moved 13 times that much material.

20140404_084614

Please do not underestimate the power of moving water when trying to drive through flooded roads!

Types of Road Oil

I have written a little review here of the different kinds of road oil our county uses for oil and chip projects.  I explain the differences between Rapid Set, High Float Emulsion, and High Float Polymer.

Feel free to comment on any kind you might use, or any suggestions for oil and chip roads in particular.

[USM_plus_form]

Money-Making App Reviews

There are tons of apps out there that can help you earn a few extra bucks.  There is definitely no shortage of money-making apps, and I have hardly tried them all.  But I have tried Checkpoints, Ibotta, InboxDollars, Receipt Hog, Slidejoy, Swagbucks, Ebates, Cartwheel and Perka.  Please click HERE for the in-depth review.

[USM_plus_form]

Growing your blog

Well, I have had my blog for about a month now, and I can honestly say I have learned a lot.  Maybe most importantly is that it is not just as simple as having a blog and hoping that random people decide to visit your site.   I cannot put enough emphasis on how important social media is in driving people to your site.  And the more platforms, the better.  Don’t expect to publish your site and the hits just start coming.  Here are a few things that may help you get started on your own site and maybe even help grow your existing blog.

  1.  You will have to put in the work.  Maybe even before your start, you should set up your social media accounts.  I started with an email, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+.  I just added Stumbleupon.   Tell your friends.  Tell their friends.  Search for similar pages and blogs that are in your area of interest.   I’m not even sure exactly what I am doing yet, but just put yourself out there.  You will need to check your accounts several times a day, as well as make sure your blog is functional, and has a nice flow.  You will get frustrated.  Unless you are already a professional website developer, you will have questions.

2.  Don’t be afraid to try.  What seems like should be a simple task may be more difficult than you think.  Before you throw in the towel, Google it.  Bing it.  There are THOUSANDS of websites out there about whatever topic it is you are searching for.  For me, the WordPress.org forum has been a huge help.  It may take some sifting, but there are tons of topics out there, and you will find out pretty quick you aren’t the only person with that same question.  You will be saying things like ‘I just want to change my font!??’  You will find an answer and in a short time feel at home editing your page.

3.  Ask for help.  No one assumes that you are going to be an expert right a way.  There are thousands of bloggers out there, and they all had to start somewhere.  If you get stuck, just ask.  There will be more than a few who are willing to help.

4.  Take notes.  Before you know it, you are 27 topics away from what it is you set out to do.  I keep a notebook full of my login information, websites, or anything else that I think can be helpful.  Yes in the computer age we can pin it, link it and do many other things digitally.  But jotting down an idea on paper is still a great go to way to keep track of your thoughts.

5.  Like and Share.  After you have set up your social media accounts, seek out similar pages and people.  You have to be proactive.  There are tons of folks that will be happy to reciprocate your like and maybe even retweet or repost an article you share.  A big part of growing your blog will be visiting others.  Don’t forget to comment on their blogs too.  A lot of bloggers will help you out if you leave your blog address, and will probably at least give your site a visit.

6.  Give props.  I have received some shares and likes simply because I said a specific site was helpful.  There will be bloggers that appreciate the shout out, and may return the favor.

7. Share what you know.  Whatever your blog topic is, then by all means share what you know.  No one expect you to be an expert.  Unless your blog is expertadvice.com.  Just be honest, and speak from your mind and heart.  Be confident but not cocky.  Your way isn’t the only way.  But it may be a better way, so let people know what is locked up in your brain.

This is definitely NOT a comprehensive list by any means, but just some suggestions that will hopefully get you off the ground.

Best of luck!

Matt

[USM_plus_form]