10 Habits of Highly-Successful Runners

A healthy runner is a happy runner.
A healthy runner is a happy runner.

By definition, we runners are creatures of habit. We simply don’t feel right if we miss a workout and sometimes push harder on the next one to make amends. This makes it a healthy habit in our eyes and occasionally just a bit on the kooky side in the eyes of our sedentary counterparts.

We are also goal-setters. This is easy for beginning runners when the opportunities are as open and unlimited as the blue west Texas sky. The first 5K, the first 10K and so it goes until we have marked off our bucket list so many pounds lost, that first marathon or ultramarathon.

But what happens after that? Do we crater? Hopefully not. Although I must admit that I don’t see as many of the old crew at the races as I used to. I don’t do as many as I used to anymore either; I just focus on the Texas Bridge Series.

But I do keep running. My goal now is just to keep running until I eventually lay down for that long, long dirt sleep. Now that is a worthy goal. With that in mind, lets look at some the 10 habits of successful runners. As I define success, it’s keepin’ on keepin’ on; with 5 ultras under my belt more distance isn’t the answer. For you it might be still climbing that ladder of goals.

  1. Do Your Strength Training. Most runners neglect the weights and this is a mistake. Building and maintaining lean muscle mass balances us out and reduces the prospect of injury. There is a good reason that those in the know continually stress the importance of maintaining a strong core. Choose exercises that work the upper body, core and lower body. Shoot for 3 times a week. There is really no reason for a gym membership. Resistance bands are very versatile and will even fit in your suitcase if you spend time on the road.
  2. Chow Down on More Vegetables. You don’t have to adopt Michelle Obama’s school menu, but try to fit more organic veggies into your lunch and dinner meals. The point is that high-quality carbohydrates lend power your workouts, and their antioxidants help keep the potentially damaging free radicals at bay.  Myself, I’m nuts about salad. Try to select vegetables of different colors since that virtually guarantees that you will get a broad range of nutrients.
  3. Make Running Your First Activity of the Day. After your coffee of course. You afternoon runners know the drill; the later it is in the day, the more things arise to threaten your workout. Plus the fact that it gives you altogether too much time to talk yourself out of it. And isn’t it worth the early wake-up call to already be endorphin-saturated when you are faced with the prospect of a boring meeting at the office? Enjoying another cup o’ joe? When you set your alarm before bed, be sure to allow enough time for your warm-up routine. Be sure to set out all your essentials the night before so you can plug ‘n play. That means shorts, shoes, socks, water bottle, etc.
  4. Get in Some Cross-Training. As good as running is for us, it is very stressful on the body. Some swimming, spinning and time on the rowing machine will maintain your level of fitness while at the same time giving your joints a break. With that in mind, a couple of good times to work cross-training into your schedule is on the day before or the day after a hard run. I’ve found that some slow yet long lap swimming is just the thing to elevate my heart rate while also getting a great all-over stretch in.
  5. Dump the Gadgets Once in a While. We have become obsessed with cell phones, GPS, earbuds blocking out the world and God knows what else. It will do your soul good to leave all that junk behind every now and again when you hit the road or trails; get out of your box. Enjoy the sights. Listen to your breathing. Smell stuff. Do something nice and redeeming that doesn’t reek of “me.” I run early in the morning and stop to pick up earthworms that have slithered up onto the sidewalk and lost their bearings. I toss them back into the deep grass before the ants can attack them like so many Lilliputians on Gulliver. Weird? Hell yeah, but you wouldn’t believe my karma bank account. Besides, all this will remind you of why you run in the first place.
  6. Make Your Weekly Long Run High-Quality. If you are not already doing a weekly long run now is the time to start. They are not just to be used as part of a marathon program. The physical benefits are many including beneficial enzyme changes in you legs, new capillary growth, and musculoskeletal strengthening. Remember to follow the 10% rule to avoid injury—don’t bump up the distance more than 10% from one week to the next. If Saturday morning is your long run, Friday is a good candidate for a rest day.
  7. Be Your Own Cook. Try to say goodbye to restaurants, fast food places and greasy spoons, at least for dinner and breakfast. Problem is, you can’t control the ingredients or portions when someone else is doing the culinary duty. Case in point: I tend to have high blood pressure and don’t need all the salt that they seem to administer with a front end loader. Can’t cook? Take a cooking class or just practice, practice, practice.
  8. Warm-up before Your Run and Stretch Afterwards. Many runners neglect these two steps and that’s just wrong. Warming up will loosen the muscles that you need limber in order to hit your stride. You might not feel like you need to stretch afterwards (you are already loose as a goose) but during cooling down your muscles will begin to contract rapidly. Static stretching, not ballistic, can prolong that action and reduce soreness. A foam roller can work wonders. Focus on your calves, hip flexors and hamstrings.
  9. Slather on that Sunscreen. Running for hours and hours is a blessing and a curse as far as the sun is concerned. On the one hand, you don’t have to worry about a vitamin D deficiency. On the other hand, your chances of developing skin cancer go way, way up. As a general population, 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer. Ouch. And that estimate is taking those spooky milky-white goth types into account. Try to use a sunscreen that is made for sports, meaning that it will not sweat off as easily.
  10. Finally, Get Plenty of Sleep. Sleep is essential for all of us but it is especially critical for runners because the body undergoes some major repair action when we check into nod-land. In fact people that are taking statin meds to control cholesterol are advised to take it only at bedtime because that is when the blood really gets cleaned up.  Cutting back on sleep can cut the amount of glycogen that your body will store for fuel and may result in weight gain. And besides all those interesting facts, the dreams are just fun, right? If you want to boost the enjoyment level, work on developing your lucid dreaming abilities.

If you need to work on one or more of these 10 habits of highly-successful runners, now is the time. Start working them in one at a time and chart your results. And have fun.

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Running Recovery for any Distance

Upper thigh muscle pain from running.
Upper thigh muscle pain from running.

Experienced runners have learned how to listen to their bodies and know all too well how to tread the thin line between injury and the optimal health that leads to peak performance. They understand and implement running recovery methods for any distance.

The Physiological Reasons for Recovery

First the good news—running causes your body to produce endorphins. These are the chemicals responsible for the so-called “runner’s high.” There’s no need for recovery there.

Not surprisingly, of all the elements of your physical makeup your muscles sustain the most damage during a run. The longer the run is, how challenging the route is and your present level of conditioning are the main factors that determine the amount of damage.

The larger muscle groups such as the buttocks and the thighs shoulder most of the load and consequently sustain the most damage. Generally the damage is temporary and nothing to worry about. This is often referred  to as DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness). This is usually experienced after adding mileage to your weekly long run or tackling a marathon.

Running Recovery Guidelines for Different Distances

As you might imagine, the longer the distance is, the more involved and important recovery techniques become. Here are some to consider:

  • Typical training runs. Most of your mileage is of the familiar day-in, day-out variety. These workouts may not cause any soreness but it is important to follow these 7 basic running recovery tips. Cooling down properly, stretching and dehydrating will go far in ensuring that you can lace up tomorrow injury-free!

  • 5K, 10K and half-marathon races. Any of these will impose more stress on your body than a training run. You still need to follow the basic tips but you might find it beneficial to take a very slow cool-down run after re-hydrating. Also, do some light stretching before climbing in the car for the ride home.

  • Full-marathon and ultramarathon recovery. Now you are entering into a more complex recovery situation; your muscles are almost certainly experiencing some micro-tearing and need some serious TLC. This calls for a multi-day recovery. Of course you will be building from all the recovery actions listed for shorter distances but you should add more rest to begin with.

Be generous with the ice packs for the next week or so, whenever you note soreness or a twinge of pain. Feel free to be a lazy bum (no activity) the first day following the event but eat copiously and nutritionally. Begin light stretching on the second day. Beginning on the third day short, easy recovery runs are in order but only if you feel like it.

As soon as you feel up to it, get back to your normal base. To insure staying injury-free, don’t neglect to incorporate your warm-up routine prior to every run. It may be tempting to skip but it is one of the best investments you can make.

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Maximize Your Home’s Energy Efficiency

These air leaks in your home also leak money.
These air leaks in your home also leak money.

One thing nobody likes to do is throw away money. But if your home is a perpetual slacker on its attempts to restrict energy usage, that is exactly what you are doing. As a general rule of thumb, the older a home is the less energy efficient it is. There are many reasons for this but the two main ones are:

  1. In days gone by, utility expenses were not what they are today. For one thing homeowners didn’t have all those confounded contraptions that we just can’t live without today.
  2. The building technology wasn’t what it is today. Our forebears knew nothing about tight envelopes, radiant barrier foil and passive solar concepts.

Keep in mind that in the long run it is not necessarily one big thing that will reduce your bills, but the sum total of a lot of smaller home improvements. Let’s look at a few, shall we?

Insulation is a Bargain

In most cases insulation is a good place to start, especially if you are a frequent rider on the climate change bandwagon. It gives you the most bang for the buck. Your attic should have the recommended number of inches for your location. Even if your home started with the suggested amount, remember that the fiberglass settles over time. If you want to take your savings a step further, roll out some radiant barrier foil over it.

Exterior walls are also a concern. This involves a bit more expense and hassle because obviously these walls are closed on both sides. The best solution is to hire someone to install blown insulation between the studs. Can you do it yourself? Yes, but a pro has the right equipment and knows how to make it look like there never was an intrusion.

Use Thermal Mass to Your Advantage

OK, the term thermal mass doesn’t mean what you might think it does; let’s not go there. Thermal mass simply refers to an object that absorbs and retains heat. Some examples are brick, concrete, ceramic tiles, and eco-friendly cork flooring.

In the winter of course, we want those objects to absorb heat during the day and release it at night. This can be accomplished by the sun coming through the windows or from areas where the home’s heating system affects the objects.

In the summertime the opposite is true; we want to shield these objects as much as possible.

Seal All Air Leaks

Checking for and sealing all air leaks in your home’s exterior is an easy, inexpensive project that can be done twice a year. Just pick days before the weather transitions from cold to hot and visa versa.

Possible leak culprits include windows, doors, even things like recessed light fixtures on your ceiling. The materials to put things right are inexpensive and readily available. Most likely things like caulk and floor sweeps will do the trick.

Keep in mind that the tighter your home’s envelope becomes, the greater the danger of radon is. What is radon? Radon gas is a radioactive, invisible toxic vapor that results from a natural process which is the radioactive breakdown of the uranium isotope. It pays to test for it.

Consider Installing Energy Efficient Windows or Window Film

Today’s higher-end windows are head and shoulders above those flimsy contractor-grade windows. Yes they will cost you more money but isn’t it worth it to be able to see outside and save on utility bills?

If your bank account isn’t flush don’t despair. Solar window film is an acceptable alternative. It won’t perform as well as the new super-windows but they will still make a huge difference. If you have tinted windows on your car you know what we are talking about.

Finally, if your electricity company allows it, get on one of those plans that averages your bill so you don’t get slammed on those peak months.

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Trump and Kim Jong Un Played Chicken; Kim Blinked First

Kim Jong Un's ballistic missile policy
Kim Jong Un’s ballistic missile policy

This morning we awake to yet another chapter in the unfolding global melodrama between President Trump and Kim Jong Un, the unhinged dictator of the hermit kingdom.

Kim Jong Un, or the “Pillsbury Doughboy with a really, really bad haircut” has been very vocal about his plans for the U.S. unincorporated United States territory of Guam. Specifically, he has been threatening to fire four missiles in order to surround the U.S. territory of Guam in “enveloping fire.”

Undoubtedly this is a trick right out of his father Kim Jong-il’s playbook. Rattle that rusty old saber, make a few headlines, and sit back and wait for humanitarian food aid.

Historically, US presidents back down from North Korean threats. For example, as recently as 2009 the Obama administration said that it will not enforce a UN resolution allowing the interdiction of North Korea’s shipping when suspected of illegal arms traffic.  Instead, the US will ask permission to inspect, and retreat when refused. This weakness did not bode well for Obama’s legacy.

Donald Trump is the New Sheriff in Town

No doubt Kim Jong Un imagined this tried and true strategy would keep working with his threat to attack Guam as he sipped 100-year old whiskey and cavorted with his concubines. However he was ill-prepared to hear President Trump warn Pyongyang last week that the U.S. military was “locked and loaded” and could engulf the North in “fire and fury.”

Kim’s response after having a look at a military plan presented to him by his senior officers was telling. He seems to have had an uh-oh moment and realized he wasn’t dealing with Obama anymore. This isn’t the former guy that spends his working hours playing on the golf course, this is the guy that owns the golf course.

Kim is now in full backpedaling mode and says he has resolved not to launch the attack on Guam just yet but instead advised the U.S. “to take into full account” whether the current standoff was to its benefit. He also said it was incumbent on the U.S. to “stop at once arrogant provocations against the DPRK and unilateral demands and not provoke it any longer.”

He went on to say, “If the Yankees persist in their extremely dangerous reckless actions on the Korean Peninsula and in its vicinity, testing the self-restraint of the DPRK, the [North] will make an important decision as it already declared.”

Sanctions Against North Korea Also a Factor

The recent UN-mandated sanctions against North Korea are likely a factor figuring into Kim’s come-to-Jesus moment. Although he usually scoffs at sanctions, this time even Russia and China committed.

China is the real surprise. It is Kim’s largest trading partner and cheerleader. The Chinese customs agency specified that on Monday it will cease processing imports of North Korean coal, iron and lead ores and fish at midnight on September 5.

The latest sanctions, considering all the nations that are participating, are expected to block exports valued at more than $1 billion. This is significant since total exports are valued at $3 billion last year.

Over the years Kim has used various means (other than ruthless treatment and starvation of his countrymen) to keep his grip on power. One of these is the state propaganda of the Kim Jong Un as a mystical figure. Perhaps he can use some of that mojo to channel his father and ask for advice.

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Why the American Liberal Wing of the Party has the Democrats Floundering

Liberalism defined by Norman Thomas
Liberalism defined by Norman Thomas

The policies and philosophies of both the Democrat and Republican parties are always in flux. At times this is such a slow process that it is hardly noticeable except in retrospect. The Republicans still identify as  conservatives but in action they have become Republicrats. They still talk the talk but they don’t walk the walk. Both John Boehner and Paul Ryan rolled over and gave President Obama everything he wanted.

And the Democrats? They’ve lost their way as well. They have lost the White House, the Senate, the House, most of the state governor slots, and many seats on the municipal level. The party today is disjointed, comprised of the mainstream, the liberals, and the truly unrealistic liberals such as Bernie Sanders. Well, he’s not technically a Democrat but he ran as one and caucuses with them so the point is moot.

The Democrat Party Players Have Outlived Their Usefulness

One of the reasons the party has been experiencing a meltdown is that there are few new players of any caliber. And the old guard is hanging on like frayed bookmarks. They are old and it shows.

Take Nancy Pelosi for example. She has lapses of memory leading to stuttering or mumbling, “Uh, uh, uh.” She has taken to giggling like a 5-year old at the most inappropriate and solemn moments. And when referring to the sitting president Trump she had this to say, “There’s nothing I can work with President Bush on.” Um Nancy, that was over eight years and two iterations of Obama ago?

And Maxine Waters seems to have some neural synapse issues as well. Speaking of the Russians she said, “They have hacked our D-triple C, uh, DNC.” Maxine, it’s your party’s infrastructure; you should know the acronyms by now.  And continuing she said, “As Putin is advancing into Korea.” If she ever had a grasp on basic geography or international politics, it’s faded away like the morning dew.

And let us not forget Sheila Jackson Lee saying, “I stand here as a free slave.” If memory serves, all slaves were freed before her time. These examples are just the tip of the iceberg but they demonstrate that no young guns are stepping up from the ranks.

Societal Changes Have Morphed the Democrat Party

It can be said that President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his policies ushered in the age of American liberalism. His New Deal put those policies into practice. This spirit of liberalism embodied the philosophy that citizens were united in a collective enterprise. They banded together to construct a strong nation and protect each other. The mantra they marched to was, “Solidarity, opportunity and public duty.”

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Both sides of the isle will admit that this construct served the country well in its time of need. But times change, technology advances, citizens embrace new concepts of self-identity and relationships, and American liberalism has hardly had feet of clay.

Things really began to change when Reagan ushered in the concepts of self-reliance and small government. The country flourished economically and suddenly traditional liberalism lost its sheen.

The days of all working together for the collective good were gone. The various groups of progressive activists splintered off and began to direct their efforts away from mainstream party politics and toward a broad range of single-issue social movements that provoke liberal anger. The politics of identity is now the name of the game.

Nowhere is this more obvious than on college campuses across the nation. Liberal, tenured professors mold the young minds not with Roosevelt’s all of us together attitude, but encouraging separation along identity lines. Rather than encouraging these young adults to grow up and take responsibility, they provide “safe spaces” where they can play with Legos and finger-paint. And some of these spaces are segregated.

These are the snowflakes that the Democrat party is inheriting.


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Al Gore– The P.T. Barnum of Climate Change

Al Gore expounding on global warming
Al Gore expounding on global warming

This post was last updated on 08/17/17.

It used to be “global warming.” When that catchphrase came under question the buzzword shifted to “climate change.” The idea was to make the term so vague that if the temperature in any given area got cooler or warmer, the True Believers from the Church  of Carbon Defiance (CCD) could wag their warm/cool fingers at skeptics and mutter, “I told you so.”

But the political correctness and the search for a more palatable phrase continues. www.the guardian.com says, “Staff at the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) have been told to avoid using the term ‘climate change’ in their work, with the officials instructed to reference ‘weather extremes’ instead.”

A couple more examples of rhetorical manipulation include substituting “resilience to weather extremes” for “climate change adaption” and “build soil organic matter” for “sequester carbon”.

I earlier mentioned the CCD because climate change really is a faith in the sense that any other religion is. The so-called “real science” that backs it up is nebulous science and conjecture at best.

When did Meaningful Weather Records Begin to be Collected?

Older weather records are only as accurate as the instruments used. In the US, Thomas Jefferson made regular observations at his home Monticello from 1772 to 1778, and participated in taking the first known simultaneous weather observations in America. But that is one solitary location and hardly gives us the “big picture.”

That didn’t begin to happen until the invention of the telegraph so that weather observations from distant points made by volunteers could be collected in a reasonable period of time, plotted, and then analyzed at one location. In 1849 this location was the Smithsonian.

Weather Projections from Past, Present, and Onward

There are three time frames in weather analysis. First, the past as outlined above up until today. While the early technology was primitive, the resulting data can at least demonstrate trends and patterns that can be loosely correlated with advances in industry and manufacturing (e.g., the increase in carbon emissions).

The second frame is a snapshot of today. At any given moment we have an accurate comprehensive view of what is happening worldwide. Finally, we are left with the third frame, computer projections of the future which is where we really begin to get into trouble.

Anybody on the gulf coast biting their nails while watching the dozen or so computer-generated hurricane path possibilities during the next few days knows how accurate that can be. Given that dose of reality, can we bank on what is going to happen 50 or 100 years from now? Which brings us to…

Al Gore, Alarmist and Profiteer

As an analogy, if Jesse Jackson can be described as a poverty pimp, Gore can certainly be described as a climate change pimp. It boils down to taking a popular issue and using it for personal gain rather than making a meaningful difference. After a lackluster performance as Vice-President and failed Presidential candidate, he had to cast about for something new to do.

After working as a visiting professor at various universities he drifted off into the global warming movement. He was no stranger to this world; he had been involved with environmental issues beginning in 1976, when as a freshman congressman, he held the first congressional hearings on the climate change, and co-sponsored hearings on toxic waste and global warming.

Carbon credit: any tradable certificate or permit representing the right to emit one ton of carbon dioxide or the mass of another greenhouse gas with a carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e) equivalent to one ton of carbon dioxide.

Seeing an opportunity, he jumped into the carbon credit business, founding Generation Investment Management (GIM) along with David Blood. The firm’s focus is on a research agenda including global sustainability and renewable energy issues.

GIM took a big position in the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX) for carbon trading and Gore used an alarmist position to attract investors.

According to forbes.com, “Between May of 2008 and October of 2009 the CCX market value for one metric ton of carbon plummeted from $7 per metric ton to $0.10 along with the shareholders’ investment values. Losers included the Ford Motor Company, Amtrak, DuPont, Dow Corning, American Electric Power, International Paper, and Waste Management, along with the states of Illinois and New Mexico, seven cities, and a number of universities. But GIM was in a winning position.

“Never give a sucker an even break” – P.T. Barnum

Arctic ice to be gone by 2012
Guess we dodged the bullet on this “real science” prediction.

Al Gore, Hypocrite

The face that Gore presents to the world is that of a planet-saving messiah. The truth is far from that. It’s a case of do as I say, not as I do. Case in point—his home in Nashville, Tennessee.

Al Gore's energy-guzzling home
Al Gore’s energy-guzzling home

According to Drew Johnson, National Center for Public Policy Research (NCPPR) Senior Fellow, “The past year, Gore’s home energy use averaged 19,241 kilowatt hours (kWh) every month, compared to the U.S. household average of 901 kWh per month. During the last 12 months, Gore devoured 66,159 kWh of electricity just heating his pool. That is enough energy to power six average U.S. households for a year.”

“There’s a sucker born every minute” – P.T. Barnum


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5 Effective Dynamic Warm up Techniques

A high leg kick
A high leg kick.

Dynamic warm up techniques should not be confused with either dynamic or static stretching. These warm up techniques are designed to not only increase blood flow to your muscles and raise your heart rate to a level which will allow you to begin working out efficiently, but they also prepare you mentally for the upcoming workout; giving you the eye of the tiger, so to speak.

That said, a good session of static stretching before beginning is always advised in order to minimize the chance of injury. Further, adding these techniques to your primary routine might just give you an athletic advantage.

There are a number of these warm up techniques that you can use to prepare for the type of workout that you are training for. Your personal trainer or coach will guide you in the right direction but here are some of the techniques that you might expect.

  1. Jogging. This one doesn’t need much explanation. Everyone knows what jogging is (slow running) and it’s a very efficient way to bring your heart rate up and loosen up your leg muscles. The trick is to do it slowly enough so you can carry on a conversation without wheezing. Running in place used to be highly recommended, but that’s a little boring, isn’t it? Just head outside to the parking lot for a few laps.
  2. Leg kicks. There are numerous variations of this technique but the basic idea is to raise your knee up to waist level and then kick your foot out. To warm up a variety of muscle groups, vary the direction of the kick; alternate between front, side, and back. This is a very ninja-like move that will psych you up for your workout. Take that, Bruce Lee!
  3. Stationary bike. The bike is a great way to elevate your heart rate and intensify your blood flow. This is not a spinning class though; be sure to start out taking it easy. Make sure the bike seat level is properly adjusted in order to avoid injury to your knees. At the bottom of your pedal stroke your knees should still be bent only slightly; your legs should not be fully extended.
  4. Bodyweight squats. With this technique you will start by placing your feet shoulder width apart. Your toes should be pointed straight ahead or only slightly outward. Holding your hands together in front of you, descend slowly maintaining an upright torso. Going back up, squeeze your quads and glutes for maximum effect.
  5. Lunge and twist. If your preferred sport requires balance and lower body strength, this technique is for you. Begin with your feet shoulder width apart and your arms pointed forward. You may use an item such as a medicine ball for added weight and resistance. Step forward with one foot and get your knee over that foot. Now twist your torso and arms in the direction of that knee and to the side. Now bring your arms back to center and repeat with the opposite leg.

Beginning your workout, whether cross training or your primary sport  with stretching and dynamic warm up techniques will not only help to prevent injuries but will also enhance your core strength which is important not only for general health, but also for excelling in your sport of choice. It’s a good idea to consult with your trainer to develop a routine that is geared toward your particular goals.


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How to Find and Adopt a Rescue Dog

Dogs playing tug-o-war
Eddie and Maggie playing tug-o-war

There’s no doubt about it—people love their pets. The most common pets are dogs and cats. How they go about selecting and acquiring their pets varies. Usually, one of the following methods are used.

  • Taking ownership from a friend or acquaintance. This happens when the current owner moves, loses interest, or simply can’t care for the animal properly any longer.
  • Buying one from a pet store. The problem with this method is that the buyer always runs the risk of getting an animal from a puppy mill. Not only does this often come with potential inherited health issues but the puppy mill industry is usually just a legal form of animal abuse.
  • Buying from a local breeder. This is a good solution if you want a pure-bred animal but it can be quite expensive.
  • Adopting an animal from a shelter. These are often referred to as “rescue animals” and in my mind this is the preferred method. It may be my imagination but these animals seem to appreciate being saved from life in a caged setting or often euthanasia. This blog post focuses on this method, with dog adoption in particular since that is my experience.
Dachshund and rat terrier on guard duty
Dachshund and rat terrier on guard duty

Adopting a Rescue Dog—the Process

Rescue dogs find themselves in the “system” in a number of ways. They might be strays, drop-offs, or victims of animal abuse. Once they enter the system they are relegated to municipal dog pounds, shelters, or foster homes.

Today the process of selecting your future pet is easier than ever, right from the comfort of your own home. This is because most shelters and rescue organizations have websites complete with photos and descriptions. You can narrow down your selection before making a physical trip.

Actually, this works out well for people like me. When I walk by the kennels and they are all barking for attention I’m the kind of guy that “wants to take them all home.”

There is likely to be an adoption fee; $50 dollars or so is not unusual. This fee covers things like shelter upkeep, heartworm treatment, and neutering or spaying. Still, this is a small price to pay considering that most of shelter workers are volunteers. And what can you say about foster homes? Those folks are downright saintly.

Will Your New Pet Fit in?

It is extremely important that your new dog (or cat) fit in. If you already have a pet and you are just adding to your menagerie, you should arrange a “meet and greet” where the animals can do the sniffing ritual; be sure they get along.

Another consideration is whether you have small children. The shelter workers can sometimes tell you if the dog is child-compatible. However this is not always possible if the dog was a stray and its history is non-existent.

Finally, it is important to have a backyard fence. This will ensure that your dog can run around and get exercise without escaping. This serves as a great addition to your home security as it provides a burglar disincentive. Some shelters insist on it when they screen your adoption request.

My household has three rescue dogs, a rat terrier (Eddie), a dachshund mix (Sammie), and a border collie (Maggie). They all get along famously.

Eddie was a no-history dog. When this happens the shelter workers simply assign the dog a name. Eddie got the moniker “Spencer.” Well, that wasn’t going to work. So, when we got him home my wife just started calling out names. When she said, “Eddie”, his ears perked up. And that’s how he got his original name back.

The bottom line is this: when considering getting a dog, a rescue dog is often the most frugal and compassionate choice. Plus it has the added advantage that the dog is often house-trained.


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Should You Do Your Own Electrical Repairs or Upgrades?

This can be a tricky issue. Usually it boils down to:

  • Are you competent to complete the task?
  • Does the local electrical building code specify a licensed electrician and building permits?
  • What is the scope of the remodeling project?

Regular Maintenance or Full-Blown Remodeling Project?

We all have situations where we are simply fixing small issues. These usually involve tasks such as replacing GFCI receptacles in the bathroom or kitchen, replacing ceiling fans, and hard-wiring a new oven. These are likely considered regular maintenance.

These are all things that the average homeowner can handle. A project that goes beyond that may involve having to pull building permits and having the job inspected and signed off on. In this case you will likely have to hire a licensed electrician. Always check you local code to be sure.

For example, if you are doing a kitchen remodel, there is likely to be some electrical work. Kitchens are very electric-intensive because of all the appliances. Plus, there is the issue of water and electricity. They don’t usually play well together.

Bathroom remodels face similar issues. There might not be so many appliances but the water issue is at least, if not more, critical. With kitchen and bathroom issues you will likely have to hire a licensed electrician..

Preventative Maintenance for Electrical Repairs

We never know when electrical problems will arise. Who among us has had a circuit breaker or fuse trip in the middle of the night? (It’s always at the worst possible time, right?)

Anyway, now is the time to cover your backside, before fate slaps you upside the head. The most basic thing you can do is to map electrical circuits. This way, when you do have an issue in the wee hours or you are wiring an appliance, you will know just which breaker is involved. The builder made these decisions and they don’t always follow logic.

Speaking of the circuit breaker box, I always keep a padlock on mine. Why? Well, it just happens that one of the things that would-be burglars will do is to flip the main switch to cut power to your house.

Does this qualify me as a bona fide paranoia whacko? Perhaps, but at least I’ve got my (imaginary) ducks in a row (or mallards in a queue if you are reading this across the pond).

The bottom line of this post is that you should know which electrical projects you can and should tackle from both a legal and frugal standpoint. Stay safe and enjoy your kilowatts.


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Choosing and Maintaining Residential Fences

Almost all homes will benefit from a backyard fence. They offer privacy, they let your children and pets romp without running off, and they serve as a deterrent to would-be thieves and vagrants. If the home contractor did not install one during construction, it is up to you as the homeowner to take care of it.

Even if you already have a fence, it may be old and in extreme disrepair. Or perhaps you just don’t like the look of it and want a different style. Either way a new fence is a great home improvement project.

Types of Fences

But that is not a bad thing. There are many types to choose from. In fact, there are at least 10 types of popular residential fences. Just choose the one that fits your style and budget. Consider these:

  • Chain link. Not the most attractive but affordable, durable, and porous in those high wind areas.
  • Vinyl-coated chain link. This is a bit of an upgrade that allows for a wide range of durable colors.
  • Fence slat. A modification of chain link where plastic slats are inserted through the openings in the fence, offering privacy, security, and protection from the wind.
  • Aluminum fencing. Its benefits include low-maintenance and weather-resistance.
  • Wooden pickets. Very popular because they are easy to install and are attractive.
  • Post and rail. This will give your property a more country look, similar to the split rail type fence.
  • Decorative lattice. If you are going for an attractive style that you can train climbing roses on this might be the one for you.

Maintaining Your Fence

Seeing as how your fence lives outdoors in the elements, it will require some maintenance from time to time. Some types require painting, some require pressure washing and some require picket replacement.

If you have to repair or replace a section that intersects at a corner, you might wonder how to do it right. Not to worry; here is a detailed explanation on how to construct the section and tie a picket fence in at a 90° angle.

Fence gates can also be an issue. Not only are they subjected to the elements but they also get a lot or wear and tear from opening and closing. I found an easy solution to replacing my own gate recently using an Adjust-A-Gate Steel Frame No Sag Gate Building Kit.

In short, when it comes to fence choice and maintenance, you have decisions to make!


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