How Tiny Houses Meet Building Codes

by Kelly Smith

This article was updated on 08/09/20.

A tiny purple house
A tiny purple house
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Anyone watching TV these days might think tiny houses are a recent innovation, a minimalist invention of the ultra-hip, resource-conserving, save-the-planet, green-living crowd. And while these diminutive abodes do indeed meet many of these goal, history shows that they have been around for some time.

As a matter of fact, these houses were popular at the turn of the 20th century during an American growth phase and in the 21st century when property values were increasing. Today they must meet building code requirements. They are recognized in the 2018 edition of the International Residential Code (IRC) in Appendix Q where, because of their size they get several special dispensations. This is how tiny houses meet building codes. This article addresses the dimensional aspect of construction, but if you are building know that the electrical code remains the same as for larger structures.


Loft Requirements

A notable IRC guideline is that we shouldn’t be trying to occupy too small an area. This is defined as saying that a habitable room cannot be less than 70 square feet or less than 7 feet in any cross-sectional dimension. Although the main floor in a tiny home must follow these requirements, the loft above that generally acts as the bedroom is treated somewhat differently. 

Bedroom lofts are allowed to be as small as 35 square feet as long as it has a minimum 5-foot cross-sectional area. To give you a rough idea, this just as bit larger than a queen-size bed. Additionally, the ceiling in these rooms shall be lower than 6 feet, 8 inches, Contrast this height with the standard height in full-sized homes of 8 feet.

Committing the ceiling to be this low in a loft instills the expectation to the owner before they even attempt to climb up. Safety is often linked to expectation in building codes, so when you lessen the safety factor, you need to lessen the expectation of said safety.

Specified is an absolute 36 inch minimum ceiling height for lofts but it only applies to the space which contains the minimum 35 square feet. Even so, there is an exception to the exception and here it is. Loft spaces under a roof/ceiling slope of 6-inch-12 or steeper, this area is permitted to have ceilings at the sloped areas as low as 16 inches above the finished floor.

Requirements for Access to the 
Loft

Since stairs eat up a lot of real estate, especially in a tiny home, they must be designed with this in mind. Usually owners don’t employ standard furniture in their loft so the minimum stairway width allowed is lowered from 36 inches to 17 inches above the handrail and 20 inches below it.

The lowest allowed stairway height of 6 feet 8 inches is permitted to be reduced to 6 feet 2 inches. Because many lofts have to be accessed by crawling, stairs ascending to a loft with a ceiling height less than 6 feet 2 inches may terminate at a landing platform. This is a new tiny home term coined by the IRC. Requirements for a normal landing has to be at least 36 inches deep but a landing platform must be between 18 inches and 22 inches deep.

Guardrail Requirements

The purpose of the minimum guardrail height is to protect a standing person from taking a fall, as you might expect. But since the reduction allowed in tiny house loft-ceiling height, a standard-height guardrail is just overwhelming. With this in mind, guardrails in a tiny home are allowed to be at least one-half of the ceiling height at its highest point.

Requirements for Emergency Escape and Rescue Openings

Thee is no window requirement for secondary emergency egress from a bedroom or loft space, but a so-called opening is. Because there exists a particular egress-window expectation of society, the authors of the tiny home appendix to the IRC felt it sufficient that a roof hatch or skylight would also be sufficient to meet that expectation.

If there is a minimalist residence in your future, now you know how tiny houses meet building codes.


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10 Common Turkey Cooking Mistakes

Turkey for Thanksgiving Dinner
Turkey for Thanksgiving Dinner; YUM!
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It’s fair to say that there is nothing quite as emblematic of Thanksgiving as that prince of birds — the turkey. It didn’t make it to be the national bird as Ben Franklin lobbied for, but it did make it to being the savory symbol of one of our favorite national holidays.

That said, the preparation can cause severe anxiety. It’s far too easy to get it wrong; too dry, undercooked, or overcooked. Let’s look at 10 common turkey cooking mistakes.

Not Thawing the Turkey Long Enough

This is a very common mistake, especially for those first-timers. This mistake will lead to forehead slapping and a mad attempt to finish the thawing process in a sink full of warm water.

As a rule of thumb, allow one day in the refrigerator for each 4 pounds of turkey. Using this rule it is easy to determine approximately how long you need to let it defrost before getting busy cooking your turkey.

Over-Brining the Bird

Many recipes call for brining — soaking in a solution of salt and spice. However, many of the most available commercially-produced turkeys, such as frozen Butterball birds, have already been pre-treated with a solution of salt and spices. This is done in order to stretch out the shelf life, not necessarily to please your palate.

If you do this again (just because the recipe says so), you will end up with a salty bird indeed. Just check the label before you proceed. On the one hand, if the producers have already done it, you have less work to do. On the other hand, you can’t hand-pick your favorite spices. Keep this in mind when you are shopping.

Not Drying the Turkey Sufficiently

If your aim is a crispier skin on the outside you’ll want to thoroughly pat the bird down using paper towels before it goes in the oven. Drying the inside cavity of the turkey is also important but not doing so is also a common mistake. Generally speaking, having a well dried turkey inside and outside will yield a more evenly cooked and flavorful bird.

Cooking the Stuffing Inside the Cavity

Whatever Grandma told you, this is not the best of ideas. The main problem here is that to cook the stuffing through fully and guarantee that all of the bacteria inside the raw bird has been eliminated, you will need to cook the turkey for a longer period of time. The result? Dry, overcooked meat. Embarrassing, chef.

The obvious answer is to make the stuffing from scratch or use one of those basic boxed delicacies. I like to bake a loaf using my oatmeal flax seed bread recipe ahead of time and make it from that. Super healthy. Either way, cook it outside the bird. We won’t tell if you don’t.

Trussing the Legs too Tightly

It makes sense when you think about it; closing off the cavity means longer roasting time and possibly uneven cooking. Your only real limitation is the width of your roasting pan.

Not Investing in a Real Meat Thermometer

Sure, it’s tempting to rely on that little pop-up button thingamajiggy, but these are notoriously unreliable. These may be faulty and pop up when the meat is already overcooked. Since you’ve only got one shot at this, go ahead and invest in a real thermometer. You will get more accurate results and as a bonus, you dinner guests will regard you as a professional. 

Cooking at the Wrong Oven Temperature

We all know some cooks that recommend blasting the turkey at high heat (425°F) for about 30 minutes first and then lower the temperature. However, a low, steady temperature of  325°F from beginning to end is preferable.

Certainly, the initially high-heat method may take 30 to 90 minutes off your total cooking time, but remembering to reduce the temperature  is just one more thing to remember on what is already very busy day.

Not Allowing Your Bird to Rest

No, we’re not talking about letting the turkey take a break. Resting simply means taking it out of the oven when it’s done and simply letting it sit there. This should be done with all meats actually. With a turkey the recommended resting time is 15 minutes.

Why do we do this you might ask? Resting time allows the juices inside the turkey to soak back into the meat, instead of dripping out as soon as you you slice into it. This results in a moister bird. It’s still important to keep the turkey warm so tent it with foil until carving time arrives.

Not Preparing the Surface of the Turkey Properly

It’s not clear whether the Pilgrims did this step or not but things have changed since then. It’s not a difficult step; just rub the turkey all over with olive oil or melted clarified butter. The main reason for this is to ensure that the turkey browns evenly. Aesthetics is important; just ask any chef.

Not Inserting the Thermometer in the Correct Spot

You can’t just spear the bird willy-nilly and expect to get the result that you want. Your target is in the thickest part of the thigh, right smack-dab in the crease where it meets the breast. If your bird weighs in at 18 pounds or less, monitor the temperature beginning at 2.5 hours and every 15 minutes following that. For a turkey above 18 pounds, start checking at 3 hours.

Avoid these 10 common turkey cooking mistakes and you and your guests won’t have to be confronted with a foul fowl.

It’s true that stuffing is the most traditional side dish and that’s fine. But if you like to step out of the box and add a very non-traditional dish, you won’t go wrong with Spaghetti Carbonara.

If you are worried that your guests are getting too hungry due to the extra preparation time it takes to do it just right, why not put out an appetizer? I’ve found that Panamanian-Style Ceviche hits the mark rather well.


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Omron Evolv Blood Pressure Monitor Review

Omron Evolv Bluetooth Blood Pressure Monitor
Omron Evolv Bluetooth Blood Pressure Monitor
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If you are like me, have high blood pressure (hypertension), and have a doctor that wants you to keep records, you really need a blood pressure monitor. My old one was a typical Omron with the cuff, electronic unit, and the associated tube and wires. 

All that made it a bit unwieldy to use or take out of town. Unfortunately, it fell victim to the flood that Hurricane Harvey bestowed on me. So it was time for a replacement.

Enter the Omron Evolve

I knew that I wanted an Omron. Omron blood pressure monitors are the #1 recommended brand by doctors and pharmacists for clinically-accurate home blood pressure monitoring, and the #1 selling manufacturer of blood pressure monitors for over 40 years.

The one I bought and use daily is the Evolv Bluetooth Wireless model. It is affordable and offers many benefits:

Since it is basically just a cuff with all the electronics built in, it’s convenient and portable.

No power wires, just 4 AAA batteries.

It’s compatible with Amazon Alexa.

The free Omron Connect app allows you to upload your readings immediately and wirelessly. The app also features a graph and stores an unlimited number of readings.

Why it’s Important to Monitor Often

If you have hypertension and you are on medication (I’m on Lisinopril), you know that your dosage has to be right. It may not be an issue for many people but I run a lot, sometimes long distances and the meds can affect me in a goofy way.

Another reason to monitor your blood pressure and keep accurate records is that it can vary wildly throughout the day depending on many factors. If you only check in with your doctor every 3 months, what he measures at that one sitting may not even be your normal. But with the Omron Evolv you can just whip out your phone, open the app, and show him your stored data.

So play it safe and take care of yourself so the “silent killer” won’t trip you up.


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The Importance of Rituals

Charles Darwin's Daily Rituals
Charles Darwin’s Daily Rituals
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So. This is the most important bit. Insomnia. Can’t sleep, brain runs like a freight train right through the night. But the thoughts keep coming, the leftover refuse of books recently read and audio-books droning on I assume.

So here it is. I’ve been thinking about how important rituals are. Sometimes the big ones that your church orchestrates. Sometimes the little ones that we do everyday.

One of my big ones: when she-who-must-be-obeyed is home on the weekend, in the morning, I always say “Do you want some coffee?” Of course she says,”yes.” That’s part of our morning ritual. Then I make it for her.

And so it goes.

Rituals and Monotheism

Rituals have been around since the beginning of time. They can keep things the way they are or they can change things. A good example is in the years after Moses brought the Jews out of Egypt. Egyptians believed in many nature-centered Gods. All societies were along those lines. But things were about to change.

When God revealed his existence to Moses, he also started laying out many rituals — the Feast of Ingathering, resting on the Sabbath, the redemption of the firstborn son, observation of Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and many others.

What is the reason for all these detailed rituals? In his book The Rational Bible: Exodus, Dennis Prager tells us, “One way people guard against the temptation to create idols and other false gods is by observing regular rituals that keep them focused on the One True God. One of the appeals of idols is that they exist physically, whereas God does not. The practice of physical rituals helps keep people attuned to the reality of God’s presence; otherwise, God can become too abstract and difficult to connect to.”

Rituals in Sports

Some rituals in sports can seem downright quirky but they do serve a purpose. Good luck and the idea that if things are done ritualistically, the outcome will be favorable. For example, Michael Jordan wore his North Carolina shorts under his Chicago Bulls shorts in every game; Curtis Martin (New York Jets) reads Psalm 91 before every game.

Before every serve, Serena Williams bounces the ball exactly five times. 
Wade Boggs, third baseman (Boston Red Sox), woke up at the same time each day, ate chicken before each game, took exactly 117 ground balls in practice, took batting practice at 5:17, and ran sprints at 7:17. (Boggs also wrote the Hebrew word Chai (“living”) in the dirt before each at bat.

Rituals and Superstitions

Many rituals are performed to keep bad things from happening. Remember step on a crack; break your mother’s back? Is it still applicable from beyond the grave? No sense in taking any chances. The advent of the Fitbit has created a new ritual — get those 10,000 step in or wallow in guilt.

Here are a few more: knocking on wood to bring good luck or to bring rain. Avoiding walking under ladders or crossing paths with a black cat. Unlucky Friday the 13th can cause anxiety in even the bravest and most rational souls. If you happen to look at the clock when it shows same figures for hours and minutes (10:10 for example) you can make a wish.

If you are walking with someone and you are forced to separate and each of you walk around either side of a pole, you have to say “Bread and Butter” three times or else it brings bad luck.

Daily Rituals

One reason to indulge in daily rituals is to keep our lives in balance; routine breeds stability. For men, a morning shave is not just good hygiene. It also prepares us for the upcoming day.

A daily walk or run is a healthy ritual. Doing it in the morning can clear the night’s cobwebs and prepares us for the day. Doing it in the evening can relax us and help us to unwind. It’s common to tackle emails the first thing when arriving at work. With that task in the rear view mirror the real work can begin.

The bottom line is that the importance of rituals can’t be understated. They give life a comforting stability in a chaotic world. Now, I’m off for my morning run so I can get on with my day and be productive. Knock on wood.


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Troubled Times for Google

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The Google Logo
The Google Logo

Social media sites are the mega-industries of this generation. They are high-tech with more storage and computational power than we could have dreamed of a mere twenty years ago. However, with enormous power comes enormous responsibility. In many cases, these social media powerhouses don’t police themselves and take on arrogant personalities. 

Social Media Data Breaches

Just recently it came to light that Facebook was using user’s personal information for financial gain, specifically to influence political outcomes. CEO Mark Zuckerburg was called on the carpet before Congress where he apologized, but of course his check had been cashed and the damage was done.

But Facebook is not alone when it comes to handling user information. It has recently come to light that Google’s G+ app had left vulnerabilities wide open.  The software glitch gave outside developers possible access to private profile data of thousands of Google+ users.

The fact that this happened is not particularly surprising. I used to be a software developer and it is just a fact that with thousands of lines of code, things slip through no matter how much testing is done. The problem with Google is that they chose to put the hush-hush on the data breach rather than  being up front with users and the media.

Their solution? They plan to shut down G+. It’s a shame because myself, like many others, enjoy the platform. This, despite the fact that it sometimes takes some wading through a sea of anti-Semite activists, antifa thugs, and pornographers.

Irresponsible Employees Given a Pass

This is another example of shameful corporate positions. Just recently,  Dave Hogue,  a design lead at Google, has slammed Republicans in an angry Twitter rant over the nomination of now-Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

His Twitter rant?  “You are finished, @GOP. You polished the final nail for your own coffins. F–K. YOU. ALL. TO. HELL. I hope the last images burned into your slimy, evil, treasonous retinas are millions of women laughing and clapping and celebrating as your souls descend into the flames.” Google’s response?

“What employees say in their personal capacity has no bearing on the way we build or operate our products,” a Google spokeswoman told Fox News, via email. In other words, even a design lead has no moral or personal responsibility to act as an adult and has leeway to post this garbage that is even viewable to children. Great corporate culture, Google. And did he post it on your company computer, on company time? Just hear crickets on that one.

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Protection Against Information Harvesting

Most social media is free to users which is one reason that antitrust regulations have not been brought to bear against them. They profit by profiling users, selling their personal data, and serving up targeted ads. But there are ways users can protect their privacy.

Don’t be completely honest in your profiles. Change your birth date, location, employer, etc. Use the Tor browser to protect yourself from tracking. Use Privacy Badger to block spying ads and invisible trackers.

The point of all this is not to invest in paranoia. The point is that as free citizens we deserve and are entitled to privacy. We are people, not commodities. It is just as important as our home security.


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Running in the Cold Weather

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Running in the Winter Snow
Running in the Winter Snow

When I headed out the door this morning to put out the trash and the recycling bin I noticed a small change in the air. OK, the temperature was almost exactly like yesterday and the humidity was not giving me a break, but the air had a certain feel to it. We have turned the corner.

Fall Season Running

Here in South Texas, fall is the best time for running. Spring is good but fall is the best. Maybe it’s just a feeling of relief from the summer heat. Whatever, as long as it cools off.

This doesn’t mean I’m ready to start breaking out the singlets or t-shirts yet (those that I still have left after the flood from Hurricane Harvey) but not having to carry a water bottle is a relief.

I favor trail running in the fall. The trails can be stifling in the summer heat but in the cooler temps with the leaves falling it can be a mystical experience. One caveat–I still have to remember to keep moving; the mosquitoes will find idle bodies.

Winter Running Clothes

When it gets really cold it’s hard to decide what to wear. I like watch caps (or beanies if you prefer) but they can be itchy depending on what they are made out of.

Long sleeve t-shirts work well for me. A windbreaker and a pair of gloves are also nice since they can be put on and removed as the situation calls for. Generally, I don’t need anything on my legs. I don’t know why. Even when I was stationed in the tundra-like state of Maine I didn’t need those long johns on my pins.

That said, I am no stranger to running tights. The better quality ones are light enough to be comfortable without being stifling. Remember that what feels warm enough when you start will quickly become uncomfortable.

Don’t Change Your Running Routine Too Much

When the weather turns cold, it’s tempting to modify the successful training routine. This can be a mistake. What worked before will continue to work. If you are doing marathon training you can still continue your yoga or stretching, just do it inside.

Rather than shortening your workouts, search out better locations. As mentioned above, trail running is excellent in cold weather because it cuts down on chilling wind. But there are other possibilities. The Weather Channel and other sites can give you detailed info on wind direction and strength. Plan in advance.

Running in the cold weather does require a shift in technique but it does no mean abandoning your training plan. It might help to pick a race goal to train for. Setting your sights can also set your outcome.


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Choosing the Right Trees

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U.S. Hardiness Zone Map
U.S. Hardiness Zone Map

Trees in our yards serve many purposes. Some are ornamental, some bear fruit, some are for privacy, and some provide shade which reduces energy bills. With that in mind, when choosing the right trees you must ask yourself what purpose they will serve.

How to Choose Fruit Trees

Many people want their own fruit trees and why not? Free food is great. Also, for some of us it’s a nice, fuzzy feeling that comes with the assurance that the fruit is truly organic. I myself fall into that category; I once made the commitment to plant one fruit tree per year. Now, I’ve about run out of real estate.

The mistake many people make is neglecting to research the required chill hours the trees need. I see it all the time; people buying trees at the local big box store. They plant them and wait. No fruit cometh forth. The map at the top of this page will show you the zone you live in and the corresponding temperature range. You might pay more for trees at a nursery but you will know what you are getting.

Republic of Texas Orange Tree
My Republic of Texas Orange Tree

Choosing Shade Trees

Shade trees are very beneficial. They help to maximize your energy efficiency. When they shade your house from the sun, you save money.  Basically, the southern side of your home will receive up to three times more sunlight than the western and eastern facing sides in the wintertime, and just one third as much during the hot summertime. Deciduous trees are a better choice than evergreens because they lose their leaves in the wintertime when you benefit from the warming sun.

Planting trees with this in mind is called a passive solar concept. One note of caution–do not plant them too close to the house or you risk root damage to your foundation. Large trees should be no closer than thirty feet away and small ones no closer than eight feet away.

Choosing Privacy Trees

Privacy trees keep those pesky peeping neighbors at bay and deter crooks from seeing what property you have on your property. Some good candidates are Thuja Green Giant, Leyland Cypress, Emerald Green Arborvitae, and Italian Cypress. Since they are relatively fast growing, the benefits arrive quickly.

A Row of Privacy Trees
A Row of Privacy Trees

Trees are not only helpful; they also add a lot of equity to your home. Select and plant them properly and they’ll take care of you. Remember to care for them with pruning and a fertilization schedule and your investment will be protected for years to come.


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Common Grammatical Mistakes Not to Make

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Don’t Make Grammar Blunders

There are two types of people; those who regularly make grammatical errors (and sometimes don’t care) and others who pull their hair out when they see them in print. There seems to be an increasing number of errors online. Are there no Yahoo editors or are we being dumbed down? Anyway, we have compiled a list of some common errors, because, as with many other things, we should know the rules before we break them.

This article was updated on 03/04/20 in honor of National Grammar Day.

Capitalize Properly

Almost everyone knows to capitalize proper nouns and adjectives derived from proper nouns, such as the Grand Canyon. However, with the passage of time the requirement is sometimes dropped, such as the evolved word herculean (from the Greek Hercules).

Capitalize brand names but not necessarily the product type itself. For example, Tabasco sauce.  Capitalize days of the week and months of the year–a Sunday in September.

Religions can be tricky. Capitalize the Bible but not biblical. But do not capitalize the words heaven, hell, the devil, or satanic. Extraterrestrial objects are also tricky. The names of planets are capitalized but not the moon or the sun. Confused yet?

Capitalize specific geographical regions. Do not capitalize points of the compass. You might live in the Northwest but specifically in the northwest area of your burg.

Titles are simple yet not exact.  Capitalize the title’s first and last word.  Capitalize all adjectives, adverbs, and nouns.  Do not capitalize a coordinating conjunction (and, or, nor, but, for, yet, so) unless it is first or last in the title. These rules vary so check house rules with your editor.

Who vs Whom

Although it might just seem pretentious to use whom, there is also a good reason. Basically, who is subjective (he, she, it, they, etc.) while whom is objective (her, us, them, etc.). Test your prose.  When in doubt, substitute who with the subjective pronouns he or she, (Who loves you? He loves me. Similarly, you can also substitute “whom” with the objective pronouns him or her. I consulted with a consultant whom I met in L.A. I consulted him.

Lie vs Lay

This one should not be difficult but it shows up all the time. Lay is transitive and calls for a direct subject. On the other hand, lie (or its past tense lay) is intransitive meaning that it needs no direct object. Example: The Rocky mountains lie between the East and West coast.

Comma and Semicolon Usage

Commas and semicolons are used interchangeably by many authors but this is really just sloppy writing. The rule is really fairly simple. If the two phrase fragments are really related but can stand on their own, use a semicolon (see what I just did?) otherwise use the comma.

Another point of contention is the so-called Oxford comma. This is the final comma in a list. There are apples, oranges, and limes. Or, there are apples, oranges and limes. Should you use it? It depends on who you are writing for. I prefer it because it makes the writing more clear and less ambiguous; others do not.

Know the difference between i.e. and e.g.

The term i.e. is a shortening of the Latin phrase id est, which in English means “that is.” It’s used to introduce a rephrasing or elaboration on something that has already been stated. The term e.g. is a shortening of the Latin expression exempli gratia, meaning “for the sake of example” or more simply, “for example.” This term is used to refer to something that has already been stated.

Affect and Effect

The problem with the confusion over these two words might be the fact that they sound so similar. But in reality they are somewhat related but completely different.

Affect is almost always a verb (as in., Twitter affects people’s attention spans), and effect is almost always a noun (as in, Facebook‘s effects can be politically selective). Affect works to either influence or produce an impression. Effect is the thing produced by the affecting agent It describes a result or outcome. The effect of Hurricane Florence was primarily on the coast; but even communities inland were affected.

Is This a Moot Point?

How often have you heard moot misused? More often than you think. It does not mean the “point” is unimportant or irrelevant, it actually means it is up for debate. So when you see “The city council thinks speed bumps in our neighborhood is a moot point,” it means it is still up for debate.

These are just a few of the common grammatical mistakes we see in writing today, both online and offline. The takeaway is that it is important to sharpen your writing skills because you can’t always trust your editor to catch everything. This is not a moot point.


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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.


Fitbit and the Myth of 10,000 Steps

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The Japanese Manpo-Meter Step Counter

Who doesn’t recall the obese prison guard on Orange is the New Black several seasons ago monotonously stepping in place because, “10,000 steps a day will cause weight loss.”

Well, that’s not rocket science. Sure, calories burned vs calories consumed will result in weight loss. But although Fitbit has capitalized on that and put 10,000 out as a magic number, it is still just an arbitrary number. There’s no there, there. On their site they say, ” When you join Fitbit, the default goal we set for each member is the magical number of 10,000 steps a day.”

Where the Fitbit Myth Started

Although 10,000 steps is just a number grabbed out of thin air, it does have a history and it didn’t start with Fitbit. Back in the 1960s, following the Tokyo Olympics, a Japanese company began selling the MANPO-METER which was basically a pedometer. They decided that 10,000 steps per day was just what the doctor ordered for better health.

Of course, there was no doctor; this was pure marketing and it worked like a charm. And after all these years, modern marketers have put lipstick on the pig and the Fitbit phenomenon has been the result. It’s hard to walk down the street and not see a handful of people checking their wrists.

The Good News; it Doesn’t Matter

Alright now that the myth-busting is over let’s get down to science. Yes, for fitness and better health we do need exercise. 10,000 steps is a worthy goal but not all steps are created equal. As a rule of thumb, it has long been bandied about that you have to burn 3,500 calories to lose one pound of fat.

But some researchers now cast doubts on that fact. Like everything else, there are just too many variables involved. Bottom line, not all steps are created equal.

To make your effort count:

  • Increase your speed when walking; this will increase your heart rate and metabolism.
  • If you are running, do intervals or some form of speedwork once a week.
  • Consider training for a race. This will motivate you and put you in the company of like-minded people.
  • Hit the hills. This will work you harder.
  • Bump up your mileage/time. To ward off hitting a plateau, increase your effort daily.
  • Change your eating habits. Eat quality food, not junk. Small snacks like nuts are good to keep your blood sugar stable.

So, Should You Invest in a Fitbit?

Absolutely! Most people need some sort of device to see where they are in their training. You aren’t limited to any one type of device.  For example, I use a Garmin. It gives me elapsed time, distance, pace, elevation, cumulative mileage on my shoes so I know when to change them, and more. As a bonus it’s nice enough to be worn as an everyday watch. It also downloads my data to the computer.

It is also quite possible to get your phone to do all this but cell phones don’t always get along with sweat and rain so there will be times when that is not a good option. Today there are any number of training and weight loss apps available to motivate you and keep you on track.

So go ahead and start with Fitbit’s mythical 10,000 steps as as baseline. It is as good as any other number. And remember, there is nowhere to go but up.


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How to Make Homemade Wood Putty

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Homemade Wood Putty
How to make homemade wood putty

In a perfect world our woodworking projects wouldn’t require wood putty, filler, or grain filler. But wood is a natural product so some defects are inherent and as woodworkers we are prone to small mistakes. That’s where this homemade wood putty (and wood filler) comes in.

And if you are concerned, this is a small way to build green since you already have the sawdust and you are not paying for the production and shipping of little metal putty cans.

What You Need to Make Wood Putty

This is a simple procedure and the results are more accurate and less expensive than commercial putty and filler products. Here is what you will need.

  • Sawdust from your woodworking project
  • Elmer’s glue
  • Popsicle stick or something similar to mix with
  • A piece of scrap cardboard

The Process

This short video demonstrates the process; it’s not complicated and you just have to work the mixture until you achieve the desired consistency.

I hope this woodworking tip on homemade wood putty has helped you. Feel free to leave any comments that improve the process or just prove helpful.


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