9 Essential Programs for Your Computer

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Computer software -- binary tunnel
Computer software — binary tunnel

Everything is online now; it’s been growing for years. As technology advances our computers get more powerful and more sophisticated. Bigger, faster, flashier. A couple of the downsides of this inevitable progress are that it presents an open field for online scammers and the fact that one hard drive crash can make years of work and data evaporate.

The good news is that these risks can be mitigated by taking advantage of software that addresses these issues. The ones below, in no particular order, are my personal picks. Disclaimer: I personally use these apps but I am not compensated for the reviews. Too bad, eh?

  1. Password Safe. This app is a very easy to use password manager. It allows you to define your own categories of sites and their related passwords (Development, Media, Shopping, Bills, you get the idea). Create a new entry and Password Safe will generate a secure password for you to use. Highlight a site entry, click the Browse to URL icon and the site will open in your browser with the password on the clipboard, ready to paste. Best of all, this program is open source, so, free. We like free.

2. System Mechanic. This is an overall system maintenance tool. It’s designed to scan your computer and find issues with available memory, internet junk files, Windows junk files, registry issues, security vulnerabilities, and more. Choose to fix all issues found and your computer will speed up. It also has a defragmentation tool and lists unnecessary start-up programs that sloooow you down. As of this writing it costs $24.95/year.

3. CyberGhost VPN. A VPN (Virtual Private Network) makes you virtually invisible on the web. How does it work? In their words, “You send the data at one end and we receive it at the other end, to encrypt and safeguard it from unwanted prying eyes. You are assigned with a new IP address which doesn’t allow you, the original sender, to be identified. We will then send your Internet requests as usual.” The pricing depends on the package you choose; I opted for the 3-year plan.

4. f.lux. This app is designed to fix the problem of your computer monitor screen looking different at night than it does during the day, which can lead to eye strain and sleep problems. From their site, “f.lux fixes this: it makes the color of your computer’s display adapt to the time of day, warm at night and like sunlight during the day.” It’s free for personal use.

5. IDrive. This is a cloud back-up app for all your data. Once installed, it will do an initial complete back-up of all the data that you specify. Next, just set a time of day and it will perform an incremental back-up and post a pop-up detailing how many files it backed up and how much total space you have stored. I had a hard drive crash a few years ago and my recovery to my new machine went off without a problem. Prices vary. As of this writing, Basic is free, Personal is $52.12/year, and Business is $74.62/year.

6. Tor. Their site says it all, “Tor is free software and an open network that helps you defend against traffic analysis, a form of network surveillance that threatens personal freedom and privacy, confidential business activities and relationships, and state security.” It works by bouncing communication packets around a distributed network of relays that are run by volunteers located all around the world. In doing so, it prevents snoops watching your Internet connection to learn which sites you visit, and it prevents the sites you do land on from learning your physical location. Your computer security is every bit as important as your home security.

7. SUPERAntiSpyware. This app, once installed, scans your files on your hard drive to identify spyware, adware, trojans, ransomware, PUPs, hijackers, and more. Its database is updated on a regular basis (2-4x a day ) in order to keep up with the bad guys. When an update is available it will prompt you to download it. The price? Choose either the free edition or the paid professional edition.

8. CoffeeCup. This isn’t a single app; it is a range of apps that address all things that are web development. I personally use the HTML editor on a daily basis and have for about 10 years. They also offer a Site Designer, a CSS Grid Builder, a Responsive Email Designer, and more. The benefit here is that since all this affordable software is from the same company, all apps play nice together, whether you are just doing a newsletter or a full-blown commerce site.

9. FonePaw iOS Transfer. This app comes in handy if you want to transfer almost anything from your computer to your iPhone without having to delve into the nightmare that is iTunes. Just a couple of clicks will get you what you need. The trial is free; the single-user license is $34.95.

Create iPhone Apps in Minutes.

These are just a few essential programs for your computer addressing security, productivity, and keeping your system healthy. If this info helped you, please share the link with your friends and social media. Thanks for visiting; we’re all in this together!


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About the author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation and financial and energy trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.


Raw Tuscan Kale Salad Recipe

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Raw Tuscan Kale Salad
Raw Tuscan Kale Salad

Yes, kale is trendy nowadays, but you don’t have to be a hipster to enjoy this simple dish. It is actually a very versatile dish; how it’s made depends on where you order it. Or, if you’re like me and make it at home, you can add or subtract ingredients. The two constants you will find across the board are kale (of course) and a high-quality extra virgin olive oil. The recipe presented here is the one we had last night.

Kale Salad Ingredient List

  • 5 oz. package of organic kale
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Black pepper (to taste)
  • Red pepper flakes (to taste)
  • Himalayan pink salt (to taste)
  • Juice of one large lemon
  • Diced garlic (to taste)
  • Parmesan cheese (to taste; I used about 3/8 cup)
  • Pine nuts (to taste; I used 1/4 cup)
  • Golden raisins (to taste; I used 3/8 cup)

Preparation

Easy peasy. Starting with the first ingredient listed, add the others in one by one. Toss the salad after each addition. This makes mixing easier and helps with experimenting with the “to taste” ingredients. There’s really no wrong way to do this. If you find you’ve gone overboard on something you can always add more kale.

Some additional ingredients that I would like to make (but will likely be vetoed by She Who Must be Obeyed are, in no particular order, crumbled bacon, feta cheese, anchovies, hard-boiled eggs, jalapeno peppers, etc. Not all at the same time, of course; use your imagination.

Other Recipes to Try

I hope you try and enjoy this raw Tuscan kale salad recipe. If so, please pass the link on to your friends and social media. We’re all in this together!


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About the author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation and financial and energy trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.


Killing the SS — A Book Review

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Killing the SS -- a book review
Killing the SS — a book review

Killing the SS: The Hunt for the Worst War Criminals in History (ISBN: 9781250165541) is the latest in the Killing series of books by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard. Whereas there are a plethora of books about what happened to the Nazi SS during the war, this book puts the focus on what transpired after the war. Specifically, tracking the SS down and bringing them to justice.

Who Were the Nazi SS?

To understand why it was so important to bring these men to justice, it is key to know just who they were. Officially they were the Schutzstaffel or Protection Squadrons. They were a military arm unto themselves in the military of Nazi Germany and were comprised of men who thought of themselves as the “racial elite” of the Nazi future.

They held the responsibility for party security, ethnicity identification, settlement and population policy, as well as intelligence gathering and analysis. The SS also controlled the German police forces as well as the concentration camp system. They were tasked with conceiving and implementing plans to restructure the ethnic composition of eastern Europe as well as the occupied Soviet Union. They were the strong arm of the democratic socialist Nazi party as Hitler envisioned it.

For the most part, it was their brutal and inhuman work in the concentration camps as they did their best too carry out the “final solution” for the Jews in the typical efficient German style. This is the reason that post-war justice had to be sought. Many met their fate at the Neurenberg trials. Others went on the lam; mostly to South America.

Enter the Nazi Hunters

The book goes into exciting and factual detail regarding the exploits of the Nazi hunters; many of them were members of the Mossad. Their mission was to track down and eliminate SS members wherever they were found. Once found they were not hard to verify; their blood type was tattooed high up the underside of their arms.


Killing the SS: The Hunt for the Worst War Criminals in History is a good read and I give it a 9 out of 10. It presents a well-researched, factual account while still reading like a spy novel. It’s best to know the history of monsters such as the SS lest we repeat it. If this book review helped you please pass the link on to your social media friends.


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Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation and financial and energy trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.


How to Lower High Blood Pressure Naturally

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Omron Evolv blood pressure monitor
Omron Evolv blood pressure monitor

They call high blood pressure, or hypertension if you will, the silent killer. That’s because there are no outward symptoms. If you have it you’ll only know if your doctor slaps the arm cuff on and tests it. Your dentist might do it as well.

If you are diagnosed with high blood pressure, the first thing your doctor will do is tell you not to smoke, exercise more, and possibly lose weight. And then comes the inevitable medication. The problem with BP meds is that they all have side effects.

For example, I take Lisenopril and one of the side effects is that it makes me lethargic. I could tell you a thing or two about blood pressure meds and running. It also gives me a persistent cough. Luckily, there are some non-med things you can do to bring down your BP naturally.

Lower Blood Pressure by Slowing Your Breathing

Sounds like magic, doesn’t it? Well it’s not. The Resperate device has been proven to lower blood pressure. The idea is that using ear buds , a chest sensor strap, and the small device, it guides the user to breathe ever more slowly using guiding tones. The sensor monitors breathing and slows the tones accordingly. This has the effect of relaxing the blood vessels, thereby lowering blood pressure. Using the device over time has a cumulative effect. It is the only FDA-cleared device on the market to do this.

Foods to Lower High Blood Pressure

  • Watermelon. The important component here is citrulline . Once consumed, it’s converted to  L-arginine which is the precursor to nitric oxide. In the body nitric-oxide relaxes the blood vessels which causes the blood pressure to decrease.
  • Ginger- Cinnamon – Cardamom Tea. Ginger and cinnamon are both warming spices that improve circulation. Cardamom is an herb used to treat many conditions. In addition to high blood pressure, it is also effective with liver and gallbladder issues, bronchitis, urinary issues, and more.
  • Onions. The key ingredient is a powerful antioxidant known as quercetin. Quercetin helps lower blood pressure. It also helps to treat chest pain, and angina. It effectively lowers the risk of stroke and heart attack. The best way to get as much of this enzyme as possible is eating your onions raw or lightly cooked.
  • Hibiscus Tea. And you thought it was just a pretty flower! Tufts University conducted a study during which participants sipped three cups of a hibiscus tea daily. They lowered systolic blood pressure by 7 points in a 6 week period on average. These results are on par with many prescription medications.
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  • Pomegranate Juice. This fruit contains natural ACE inhibitors. These prevent those enzymes from damaging your circulatory system. The juice of the pomegranate performs like the medications doctors prescribe for high blood pressure.
  • Dark Chocolate. Good news for me and perhaps for you too! A Harvard study found that consuming just one small square of dark chocolate daily can assist in lowering blood pressure. The higher the cacao percentage the better. Look for over 70%. This study concurs with the growing body of research into the heart-healthy benefits of flavonoids. These compounds present in unsweetened chocolate cause dilation of the blood vessels.
  • Flaxseed. In 2013 a study was published in Hypertension that reported that flaxseed consumption lowers blood pressure in hypertensive patients. Over 100 patients that had been diagnosed with peripheral artery disease were in the study. This condition is associated with hypertension. The patients were assigned to either the flaxseed group or the placebo group. The former ate 30 grams of flaxseed every day for 6 months. There are many ways to add flaxseed to your diet. I even add it (milled of course) to my homemade hot sauce. Omelets? Oatmeal? Salad dressing? Yes, yes, yes.
  • Beetroot Juice. Although some of pressure-lowering effects are due to the minerals it contains, like potassium and magnesium, the real powerhouse here is the high concentration of nitrates. Consuming beetroot juice results in these nitrates being rapidly converted into nitrites by bacteria that live on the surface of the tongue, and in saliva. Next the nitrites are absorbed into the circulation system. Here they make a gas called nitric oxide (NO). This is a cell-signaling molecule which has a powerful relaxing effect on the small muscle fibers in your blood vessels. Consequently, the blood vessels dilate and your blood pressure falls.
  • Nuts. Who doesn’t like nuts? Pistachio nuts seem to have the strongest effect when it comes to reducing high blood pressure. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 21 clinical trials, all carried out between 1958 and 2013 bore out this conclusion.

This list will get you started on a delicious way to control your high blood pressure. If you have been diagnosed with it (or just are interested in tracking your health, like you do your weight), it’s a good idea to monitor it on a regular basis. Personally, I use the Omron Evolv Blood Pressure Monitor

It is very accurate and eliminates all the hoses and units. It’s just the cuff that has its own readout. It communicates to your phone by a Bluetooth app if you want to keep a running record of your results.

I hope you enjoyed this article on lowering high blood pressure naturally and found it helpful. If so, please share the link with friends and social media. And if you have some related ideas please share them with our readers in the comment section below. Thanks for visiting!


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About the author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation and financial and energy trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.


Companion Planting Guide for Your Veggie Garden

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Swiss Chard Garden
Swiss Chard Garden

Many people put in their vegetable gardens every year and do their best to do the proper fertilization, watering, and weeding. Yet, no bounty for the table. It might be that the neighboring plants are the wrong types.

Some vegetable plants will benefit their neighbors; others will hinder their growth and yield. The answer is to plant correctly paired species. Sometimes even certain flowers will provide great benefits. This applies to both traditional and raised bed gardens.

First, Plan Your Garden

To take advantage of companion agriculture in order to get more bang for your buck, you first need to choose which vegetables and then mate them up with something else you want to bring to the table.

Personally, I choose the things that I love to eat but are either hard to find or expensive. For example, so far this year I’ve put in tomatoes, basil, strawberries, Brussels sprouts, rosemary, and chocolate mint (goes great in my espresso grounds).

As a side note, it never hurts to have fruit trees. When they are blossoming, that means more bees which will also pollinate your vegetables. My “mini-orchard” contains two fig trees, a plum tree, a Republic of Texas orange, a mandarin orange, a Sam Houston peach, a mulberry tree, and an improved Meyer lemon. All organic.

Recommended Companion Plants

There are a lot of popular plants that have plant friends. Let’s look at some of the most popular.

Asparagus. Good with basil, tomatoes, and parsley. Asparagus in the home garden is a good investment, it is low-maintenance, less expensive than at the store, and a bed will produce for years.

Basil. Good for most garden crops except rue. It improves the growth and flavor of many vegetables, especially tomatoes and lettuce.

Beets. Plant with broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage bush beans, onions, cauliflower, chard, and kohlrabi.

Bush Beans. They like cauliflower, cucumbers, corn, beets, potatoes, carrots, cabbage, strawberries, catnip, marigolds, and savory. Why catnip if you don’t own a cat? It repels flea beetles.

Brussels Sprouts and Broccoli. Good friends of thyme, mint, chamomile, dill, hyssop, beets, buckwheat, onions, rosemary, sage, wormwood, marigolds, nasturtiums, calendula, carrots. But not strawberries.

Cantaloupe. Likes sunflowers and corn, but not potatoes.

Carrots. Plant near cabbage, chives, early potatoes, leeks, salsify, wormwood, peas, radishes, rosemary, lettuce, onions, and sage.

Corn. Compatible with early potatoes, melons, beans, cucumbers, soybeans, squash, peas, and pumpkins .

Cucumbers. Plant near cabbage, corn, radishes, sunflowers, early potatoes, and beans. Not compatible with late potatoes.

Eggplant. Pair up with beans and marigold. Avoid potatoes as companions.

Onions. They like the companionship of beets, carrots, strawberries, tomatoes, summer savory, and cabbage. Avoid beans and English peas.

Parsley. Great with asparagus and tomatoes.

Soybeans. The ideal plant. They work with and help anything.

Squash. Good with corn, radishes, marigolds, and nasturtium. Not friendly with Irish potatoes.

Tomatoes. Works well with onions, marigold, asparagus, cucumbers, basil, carrots, and parsley.

Use marigold flowers for pest control
Use marigold flowers for pest control and beneficial companionship

More gardening tips

There are many other things to tip a generous harvest in your favor. This spring I took up rainwater harvesting for garden and tree watering. There are two main reasons that this is a good idea in my humble opinion. First, rainwater is free. Secondly, plants prefer the Ph in rainwater as compared to tap water.

Another good tip is to apply beneficial nematodes to your lawn and garden during the spring. On your lawn they will eliminate fleas without using pesticides. In your garden they will organically control sod webworms, cutworms, maggots, various types of ants, and many more. Pesticides are a bad idea; they kill beneficial ladybugs. They will also kill the earthworms that keep your garden soil aerated. Also, pesticides are taken up by the plant roots and kill the microscopic microbes that keep the roots healthy. Eventually, those toxins will make their way to your dining room table.

Did this post on companion planting for your garden help you? If so, feel free to share the link with your friends and your social media contacts.


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About the author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation and financial and energy trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.


How to Determine the Correct Size for a New HVAC System

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Servicing an HVAC Unit
Servicing an HVAC Unit

Homeowners today have a good selection of different types of HVAC systems to consider. The best type is usually determined by your environment. Swamp coolers are made just for use in hot dry locations. Central air conditioner and heaters work well for most of the country. Heat pumps are very efficient but are expensive to install. The list goes on and on. The thing they all have in common is that they should be properly sized for the structure they will serve.

Furnaces that are too large tend to cycle off and on continuously. A central system that is too large may be less effective at dehumidification than a correctly sized AC unit. And it goes without saying that a larger unit costs more going in. A too-small system works too hard to keep up. But a properly sized system will do the right job for the environment at maximum efficiency.

Contractors Shouldn’t Rely on Rule of Thumb

Too many contractors rely on “experience” or an “educated guess. Bad idea. It’s much better to use worksheets designed by the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA). They are far more accurate because they take into account individual actual conditions. These include the amount and type of insulation, the size of the home, the size and glazing type of windows, air leakage, lighting, and home appliances.

To make these calculations, the International Residential Code, which is the dominant building code in the U.S. should be followed. It requires that heating and cooling equipment be sized with the help of Manual J, or a similar approved methodology. However, the rule is too often ignored. Studies have demonstrated that heating and cooling equipment is far too often over-sized, often by as much as 200%.

So before you hire a contractor, this is one thing you should quiz him about. Does he follow this protocol (even though your local code may not require it)? After all, a new HVAC system is a big investment and it’s your investment, not his.

Other Ways to Determine HVAC Size

If you really want to be sure that all the factors are being figured correctly, do it yourself and follow Manual J. You will need to determine the U-factors of building components such as windows, doors, insulated walls, determine the “outdoor design temperature” for your area, take an estimate about airtightness, and finally use a heat-loss formula to determine how much energy in Btu your home loses through the building exterior.

You can also hire a pro. This might be a certified HERS rater, a mechanical engineer, or an energy consultant. You may be spending a bit more time and money up front, but generally speaking, contracting a trained professional third party who has no vested interest in selling you a particular brand or size of unit is far preferable to trusting a seat-of-the-pants estimate that might be questionable.

In any event, always be sure that you and any contractor are on the same page before any work begins. Whenever this much money is involved it is always in your best interest.

I hope this information on determining the correct size for a new HVAC system has helped you. If so, pass the URL along to your friends. Thanks for visiting!


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About the author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation and financial and energy trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.


Was Obama the Worst US President?

The Obama Presidency. Hope and Change?
The Obama Presidency. Hope and Change?

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Simply put, there are supporters and detractors of the work Barack Obama did during his two terms as president. The matter is extremely polarized. But it’s the facts that matter, not dogma or personal opinion. It takes a while for all these facts to come out. After all, his administration was never as transparent as he pledged it would be. President Obama’s legacy is fairly well fleshed out at this point. Let’s look at the hard facts.

The White House Transparency Issue

Obama told the American people, ” My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government. We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government. “

One of his campaign promises to meet this goal was to post all bills online for a full five days for review by citizens before he signed them. Sounds good, yes? But it only took nine days in office to break this “promise.” January 29, 2009: Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. No online posting.

Next up? February 4, 2009: Obama signed the S-CHIP law. Again, nothing online. Reporters understandably were beginning to ask why not. The White House response? It’s “too difficult,” they said, but they were working on the issue. Apparently, the high-tech whiz-kids in the administration never could solve the mysteries of cut-n-paste or HTML or even user-friendly platforms like WordPress because NO legislation was EVER posted for the promised five day citizen reviews of any bill that passed the Oval Office desk. There was never even an attempt to allow citizens to participate in the process.

As Sergeant Schultz Would Say, “I Know Nothing!”

This was one of Obama’s most notable evasion of personal responsibility ploys, played over and over again. Despite the fact that he has access to all manner of classified material and daily briefings, he claimed to be unaware of things that happened that he had personal responsibility for and an obligation to be aware of.

The list is impressive. The VA waiting list scandal? Fast and Furious? The Clinton email server? His DOJ stealing Associated Press phone records? His NSA spying on other world leaders? The IRS targeting conservative groups?

Here is one embarrassing quote, “I first learned about it from the same news reports that I think most people learned about this,” Obama said in June 2013 when he was asked about the IRS scandal. “I think it was on Friday.”

Living the Lavish Lifestyle on the Taxpayer Dime

Nobody would deny that the job as the president is extremely stressful and demands some downtime. But there’s reasonableness and then there’s reasonableness. Whereas President Bush took time out to play golf about one hundred times, Obama treated himself over four hundred times!

As long as we are making this distinction, it is important to note that Bush took trips to his personal property in Crawford. Almost always he continued to work while relaxing. Obama, on the other hand, tapped the taxpayers (many unemployed in a very down economy) to lavish retreats in places like Martha’s Vineyard and Hawaii. That’s thirty eight vacations just by March, 2015.

According to judicialwatch.org, “The known total expense to the American taxpayers thus far for all Obama travel is now $70,880,035.78! And of course at times it wasn’t even Obama himself decompressing. In 2010, Michelle Obama entitled herself and her entourage to a luxury vacation in Spain. The cost for that one trip alone ran up a taxpayer tab of $467,585. Thank you, Mr. and Ms. unemployed taxpayer.

Then there was the “African Safari.” That one was $424,000. The twenty-day Hawaii vacation alone set the taxpayers back $4 million dollars. In 2013 alone? Obama averaged over one vacation every month. This included a trip to make an appearance and yuck it up on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. That’s a total of $7.4 million dollars for one year alone. And nothing was being done about creating jobs for citizens who were footing the bill. Nothing says, “I’m entitled” like this kind of narcissistic behavior, typical of the new breed of democratic socialists in America today.

Questionable Ambassador Appointments

It is no secret that in the world of politics ambassador appointments are made as a type of “reward.” The problem is that Obama took this practice to an unprecedented level and used it as his personal campaign cash-cow machine.

In fact, prior to his second campaign, he took time to make up a special set of rules so big donors and bundlers would be clear about the process (if you expected an appointment after the election). Qualifications did not matter. Cash is king; show me the money.

The rules were simple. Express your interest in more than one country. Ambassadors may only serve for only two years because there were so many big donors and jobs had to be found for all.

The list was embarrassing. George Tsunis: nominated for Norway but didn’t even know what system of government they had. Max Baucus: nominated for China; admitted that he was “no real expert on China.” Caroline Kennedy: nominated for Japan; couldn’t speak Japanese, no foreign policy experience, knew absolutely nothing about the country. The list of incompetency goes on and on. Even a less-than-astute observer would suspect a thinly veiled game of job-selling.

So was Obama the worst US president? That’s for each person to decide; I simply point out facts as they happened. We know that he gamed the system, circumvented the constitution many times, and treated the office as a permanent vacation while not getting any real work done. Even though the economy was stagnant under his administration, he blamed it all on Bush. He “inherited” it. But now that Trump’s economy is roaring, he takes credit, claiming that he laid the groundwork. He demonstrated a penchant for dismissing any sense of national sovereignty. His “apology tours” were embarrassing and cost us international credibility. History will judge.

About the author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation and financial and energy trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.



Looking for more great content? Visit our partner sites:

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How to Build a Raised Garden Bed

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Raised Garden Bed
Raised Garden Bed

A raised garden bed (or raised bed garden if you prefer) is a great way to grow your own organic produce. It’s a simple weekend DIY project. The picture above shows the one I just built. It still needs a bit of tightening up but the basics are there.

Types of Raised Bed Gardens

The one I built was made using cinder blocks. The benefits are low cost of materials and the ability to expand easily. Kits are also available but they cost a bit more and not all are expandable. They can also be built using wood (cedar is a good choice) and stakes.

Height is also a consideration. The cinder block height works well for me but people with back problems do better with elevated garden kits. It’s all a matter of convenience and personal preference.

Preparing the Garden

A garden laid directly on the ground, like mine, will benefit from a layer of newspaper laid on the grass surface. This will inhibit grass and weeds from making their way up through the dirt.

On top of this goes your dirt with compost added in. It’s easy to mix using a hoe. What type of dirt? I have heard some gardeners swear by rose soil but in my experience regular garden soil works fine. If you already know what you are going to plant this is a good time to test the soil pH and adjust it using the appropriate soil amendments.

Planting Time!

You’ve got two choices–start your plants from seed or buy bedding plants. Seeds are less expensive but using plants will mean you can harvest sooner. I prefer plants. Just plant them at the recommended depth and water them in well.

Next add a couple of inches of mulch to the surface. There many varieties available. I prefer hardwood mulch because of the way it decomposes over time and feeds the soil. Whatever you do, do not use dyed mulch. That dye is chemical and you certainly don’t want roots to be taking it up!

Now toss out some organic fertilizer and some agricultural dried molasses. The molasses stimulates all the beneficial microbes and earthworms, both of which are important for the health of your soil. Microbes share a symbiotic relationship with plants. Worms will keep your soil aerated which helps in water distribution and root growth. Another consideration is spraying out some beneficial nematodes to control fleas and many other pests.

I hope you found this article on building a raised garden bed helpful. If so, please pass it along to your friends. Comments or ideas? Add them in the comment section below. Thanks for visiting and happy gardening!

About the Author:

Kelly R. Smith
Kelly R. Smith

Kelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelors Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation and financial and energy trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients.


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Ryobi 20 in. 40-Volt Brushless Mower Review

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Ryobi 20 in. 40-Volt Brushless Mower
Ryobi 20 in. 40-Volt Brushless Mower

I have had one of these mowers for a little over a year now and I’m still impressed. Even though it is battery-operated it is every bit as powerful as the gasoline mowers that I have owned in the past.

I have a normal-sized front and back yard and only once did the battery run out of power before I got done. In other words, it offers plenty of endurance for typical home use. The grass was particularly high that day so I wasn’t surprised. The picture above shows the bag attached but I don’t use it. Instead I use the mulching option.

Why? It doesn’t make sense to deal with disposing of grass clippings. I’ve been on an organic program for both my lawn and fruit trees for about 10 years or so and the mulched clippings decompose and feed the soil. It’s a win-win.

Advantages of The Ryobi Electric Mower

At $299, it is priced competitively with gas mowers.

It offers bag collection or mulching options.

By not using gas or oil, it saves money in the long run.

One battery and charger are provided in the purchase price.

It is quiet so you won’t disturb neighbors and hearing protection is not required.

All in all, the Ryobi 40V mower is recommended. I would rank it a solid 9 on a 0-10 scale. It cuts just as well as any other mower I have owned and I estimate that I have saved at least $120 in gas costs so far. In time the mower should pay for itself.


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About the author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation and financial and energy trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Habanero Hot Sauce Recipe

Habanero Pepper Plant
Habanero Pepper Plant
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This article was updated on 03/04/19.

I don’t make any bones about it; I like hot sauce and spicy food. I’m not sure if this is something masochistic or not–I try not to overthink it. We have a lot of hot sauce choices here in South Texas; we are not limited to the ubiquitous “Tabasco” brand. But I wanted something different. So here is what I came up with and I think you’ll like it too.

I have to tell you in advance that I am, as much as possible, a stickler for homegrown and organic ingredients (the photo above is one of the habanero pepper bushes I have been cultivating for the past year).

To be honest, I’m not sure about the name of the pepper. It depends. The one I bought called it habanero but they are also called Scotch Bonnet. Back home in Panama we called them Aji Chombo which is likely not a politically-correct term anymore so if you do not want to be called racist do not use it. Whatever you call them, they register, on the Scoville heat unit (SHU) rating, 350,000, which is 100 times hotter than a 3,500 SHU jalapeño. Hungry yet?

I am always looking for more seasoning and sauce recipes for dishes like low-carb egg noodles so here we go.

The Hot Sauce Ingredient List

I did a lot of research and took what I considered to be the best ideas for the ingredients. This is not to say that I plagiarized any other cook’s recipe. I simply developed my own and is quite simple.

  • 6 habanero peppers
  • 6 oz. balsamic vinegar (other recipes favored regular but I just prefer the flavor of balsamic)
  • Juice of 3 limes
  • (optional) 1/4 cup ground flaxseed. High levels of Omega-3 fatty acids is great for cardiovascular health.

Making the Hot Sauce

This is easy as well. Simply whip up all the ingredients in your food processor or juicer. I used my Ninja Bullet that I use to make spaghetti sauce, pesto, and smoothies.

To store the sauce I used one of those glass salad dressing carafes that you can find on the grocery store shelf. I haven’t researched it but I know that when I make hot pepper dishes like Panamanian ceviche I always have to use either glass or metal. It has to do with the acidity, hotness, etc. In any event, I don’t want to be melting a plastic container.


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About the author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation and financial and energy trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.