Grow Your Own Orange Tree, Harvest Citrus Fruit

When Life Gives You Oranges, Make Orange Juice!

by Kelly R. Smith

Making fresh orange juice
Making fresh orange juice
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This article was updated on 12/31/20.

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When my daughter Shannon was very young, she had an appetite for oranges that the local grocery store markets as “cuties.” In reality, they are a type of Mandarin orange. Just easy to peel. This caused me to embark on a journey to plant one fruit tree each year. Year one was that Mandarin orange tree, planted in the back yard.

The next year it was a Republic of Texas orange tree (pictured below). In the photo above, you might notice that the rinds darkened a bit from a slight freeze, but the insides remain fine. This tree bears fruit in the summer and by early December it’s ready for picking. No rush though; the fruit will hang there in suspended animation for months.



Choosing Your Fruit Trees

Many people make the mistake of seeing a tree at Walmart, Home Depot, or some other big box store, buying it, planting it, and then wondering why they never get any fruit. Well, it’s because these trees are sold irrespective of customer location. What works in upstate New York does not work here in south Texas. It is all about the growing zone — how freeze-tolerant the tree is. For example, consider the avocado tree. It is a southern tree but some species do well in moderate freezes.

Republic of Texas orange tree
Republic of Texas orange tree

The best bet is to go to a local nursery, after you do your initial research. They have a vested interest in the community and will likely want to keep a customer base. There are other resources to consider. Here, we have Randy Lemon, graduate of Texas A&M, who does a local radio show. I’ve listened to his weekend show for years and I have to admit, I wasn’t totally onboard initially because he poo-pooed organic, but now that his advertisers have began offering organic products, it’s all good. Imagine.

The bottom line here (I know you’ve been waiting for it) is that it is always a good time to put in your own fruit trees. You might be a prepper or not. You might trust organic produce at the grocery store or not. You might just want to save money. Regardless, there is a lot to be said for self-sufficiency. And, if you’ve got the real estate, why not?

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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, 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.

Introduction to Investing for Profit

Types of Stock and Bond Brokerages, Risk vs Return, and More

by Kelly R. Smith

Warren Buffett vs George Soros
Warren Buffett vs George Soros
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Standard Disclaimer—The author is not a financial advisor and this article is intended as educational material gained from 20 years of stock market investing. It is not intended as advice.

Many people still look at making financial investments for profit as a pastime that only the rich such as Warren Buffett engage in. And perhaps that was true in the past, but no longer. There has been a shift over time from pensions to self-directed retirement plans like the 401K.

These are highly managed plans; you look over a menu of funds and choose an assorted basket of funds, hopefully after doing much in-depth research. Some funds are primarily domestic, some are emerging markets, some are bonds—it goes on and on.

Most people are knowledgeable about one kind of investment–the home they pay a mortgage on and occasionally sweeten their real estate investment by remodeling or doing capital improvements like building out their basement.



Risk vs Return

As a general rule of thumb, funds and individual stock and bond returns range from high risk/high return to low risk/low return. Which is right for you? One of the most important factors to consider is how many years you are from retirement.

The most widely-accepted strategy is to begin with high risk positions when you are young with a long window of taking risks. You then re-balance your portfolio (collection of investments taken as a whole), each year so that you are taking less financial risk as you get closer to your golden years.

Choosing Between Buying Stocks or Bonds

Ideally, you want to own both; the ratio is up to you. Bonds tend to less volatile than stocks; they yield less return than stocks. But generally, when stocks are doing well, bonds perform less well and vice versa. When the market and economy burps, as it tends to do, you might want to make adjustments to your portfolio. Stocks like a bull market and bonds like a bear market.

Taking this approach has the tendency to smooth out the net worth of your portfolio, depending on whether we are experiencing a bull or a bear market. Forbes Advisor says, “According to market ‘astrology,’ a bear indicates the market is in decline while a bull signals the market is growing.”1 See the logic here? Always consider the fees that your broker charges per transaction.

As an example, when the conditions were spot-on I began acquiring Blackrock Municipal Income Fund and I did quite well with it. What makes municipal bonds so attractive? It is very stable, and of course, tax-free. There are always exceptions. Liquor, wine, and beer are called “sin stocks.” They almost always do well because as the saying goes, “people drink when the market is up because they’re happy and they drink when it’s down because they’re sad.”

You have probably voted on a “bond issue” in your community to build a new school or library. Upon approval, your city or county borrowed the money from a municipal bond fund and you and your neighbors paid it back over time with your taxes. It’s sort of like financing a vehicle.

How Much Time do You Want to Spend on Portfolio Management?

Investors come in different flavors. They vary from the timid and/or time-challenged to the type that wants to self-manage. If you’re the first type then you might stick with a relatively hands-off completely managed portfolio, like the 401K that your employer might offer.

If you are the hand-off type, keep in mind that you will be swapping convenience for potentially high management fees. Another strategy is to establish a personal account with a brokerage firm like JP Morgan Asset Management. As they say on their website, “We have a deeply resourced global network of investment professionals who take a research-driven approach analyzing every detail to uncover opportunities and risks to help our clients build stronger portfolios.”2

You will be paying for personal attention and remember that your broker is possibly more motivated by his commissions than with your profitability.

Exchange Traded Funds: What Are ETFs?

Forbes Advisor puts it this way, “Exchange traded funds (ETFs) are a type of security that combines the flexibility of stocks with the diversification of mutual funds. The exchange traded part of the name refers to how these securities are bought and sold on the market like stocks. The fund part refers to how an ETF provides easy access to diversification and exposure to a wide variety of asset classes.”3

The financial services company buys a basket of assets, stocks or bonds, currencies or commodity futures contracts, that make up the fund. Buying shares in an ETF doesn’t mean owning a portion of the underlying assets, as it would with shares of stock in a company. The financial services firm that runs the ETF owns the assets and manages them.



Invest at Your Pace with a DRIP Fund

I really like these. When I first started researching, I had rather shallow pockets meaning not much disposable income but I was eager to join in. DRIP funds (Dividend Reinvestment Plans) offer several advantages.

To begin with, they are very affordable. Brokerages operate like this: they charge a nominal fee such as $10 dollars per month for 2 trades. Unlike other types of brokerages, using this approach you can buy a percentage of a single stock. For example, if a stock is trading at $100.00/share, you can get in at half a share for a mere $50.

Another advantage is that in many cases you can sidestep a stock broker altogether and deal directly with the company you are buying into. The best way to identify participating companies is to look through a DRIP fund directory.

When your positions (individual companies you own) pay a dividend, the company (or DRIP brokerage) automatically uses it to purchase yet more percentage of shares and credits your account automatically. It is a frills-free brokerage so you must do your own research.

Play the Market like a Pro

Finally, there are on-line brokerages such as TD Ameritrade. You pay for individual trades, but again, you must do all your research. One good thing is that their on-line tools are extensive. You can drill way, way down when you are analyzing a potential position. You can trade options or you can choose from an extensive line-up of trading options including market, stop market, limit, stop limit, and more.

I hope you found something good to take away from this article on stocks and bonds, brokerages, and the risk vs return of investments.

You Might Also Enjoy:

Resources

  1. Kat Tretina, Forbes Advisor, What Are Bear And Bull Markets?, https://www.forbes.com/advisor/investing/bear-market-vs-bull-market/
  2. J.P. Morgan, The path to stronger portfolios, https://am.jpmorgan.com/us/en/asset-management/adv/about-us/
  3. Miranda Marquit, Forbes Advisor, Exchange Traded Funds: What Are ETFs?, https://www.forbes.com/advisor/investing/what-are-etfs/

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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, 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.

Is Tuition-Free College an American Right?

Should Government Force Taxpayers to Pay for Other People’s Children’s Education?

by Kelly R. Smith

Is tuition-free college a fair trade for tax-payers?
Is tuition-free college a fair trade for tax-payers?
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This article was updated on 01/08/21.

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Tuition-free college is one of those concepts that can be labeled as a “political football” just as topics such as abortion and drug criminalization are. Whether the ideas gain any traction and effect legislation after any given election is doubtful but they are certainly bandied about for the purposes of pandering and invoking the dog whistle.

Painting with a broad brush, it is a safe bet to say that liberals, leftists (yes, there is a difference), and Democrats favor some form of “free” college while those on the right, libertarians, conservatives, and Republicans oppose it. None of this is surprising since the left favors collectivism and the right prefers independence and personal responsibility. But in the end, the question looms — is tuition-free higher education an American right?

Does the Constitution Name Education as a Right?

No, the US Constitution does not express an opinion on the subject of education. You surely have an inherent right to get an education, the have the right to educate yourself, and the right to provide an education to others if you desire. That’s covered under the 9th and 10th Amendments:

  • The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
  • The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

So the Constitution, by deliberate omission, negates the notion that free tuition is a right. The only way the concept could hold water at all would be if the United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) somehow made an interpretation and rendered a decision. Not that that is beyond the pale; consider how Justice Roberts allowed Obamacare by somehow interpreting the meaning of the words tax and penalty. Through what lens of reality does that man peer?

Why Tuition-Free Higher Education is Morally Wrong

Let us assume for a moment that all Americans (and as Bernie Sanders and AOC champion, even illegal aliens) have the right to a “free” education. In life, nothing is free. In this case, it’s all tax dollars, baby. This means that applicants would have a “right” to the labor of others. What is the definition of that? Slavery. As per the 13th Amendment, you have no right to the labor of others. Look it up.

Walter Williams nails social justice
Walter Williams nails social justice

So who does end up paying? Obviously, there are those who simply have chosen to go straight into the workplace after high school. They’re paying their own way; why should the law mandate that they shoulder the financial burdens of those why simply want a free ride? Consider these others:

  • In school year 2017–18, the national adjusted cohort graduation rate (ACGR) for public high school students was 85%. Those without a diploma are not headed to college; at least not right away. They will be too busy paying for middle-class kids.
  • Retirees, many of which have already paid to educate their children. Enough already.
  • Members of the workforce making minimum wage or fighting for commission sales.
  • Entrepreneurs taking financial chances and providing jobs for others.
  • Citizens who go by choice go into the trades after high school, becoming carpenters, plumbers, electricians, painters, etc.
  • People that choose the military or police track. Why should they pay to educate those that they are defending? What an insult.


But Don’t We Pay for Free Elementary and Secondary School?

Yes… it’s apples and oranges. Elementary and secondary education is administered and financed on a local level, not federal. Communities have a self-interest in getting their citizens through this level of life-preparation for local economic, cultural, and security reasons.

How do you now feel about tuition-free college being an American right? If you are looking forward to having someone else support you while you pursue a college degree it’s probably because it’s like free candy and you’ve got a sugar tooth. But the path already exists. Do your bit and take advantage of the G.I. Bill. Get a part-time job. Apply for Pell Grants. Apply for scholarships. Take out low-interest college loans. Take responsibility. That’s my take. Many readers might wonder how I justify my opinion. Well, just to be transparent — I worked part-time at the local library while I used the G.I. Bill. When that ran out, I was a full-time carpenter during the day while attending night school. And after it was all done, no student loans.


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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, 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.

Geothermal Energy as the Next Alternative to Oil and Gas

by Kelly R. Smith

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How geothermal energy is produced
How geothermal energy is produced

Geothermal energy is nothing new; it’s been around for decades. During the 1890s, the city of Boise, Idaho accessed a naturally occurring reservoir of geothermal heat close to the earth’s surface and created the US’s first district heating system. This is where one central source of heat feeds into multiple commercial and residential buildings. It’s still in use.

This type of energy production is far more intensive than ground-source heat pumps, which take advantage of steady shallow-earth temperatures to heat buildings or groups of buildings. This type is most likely to be found in single-residence or multi-residence abodes.

Why Geothermal Now?

So why is this alternative energy coming into the limelight just now? I makes sense for a society that wants sustainable energy but is frustrated by other technologies that have been tried.

  • Solar energy. It only works when the sun shines. Solar panel farms take up a lot of real estate. When they get dirty/dusty (as out in the wide, open spaces), water must be trucked out in hydrocarbon-fueled trucks to spray them down. Forms of storage media like batteries save captured energy for when it’s needed, but this is expensive. They require rare earth minerals such as Cadmium telluride (CdTe) and copper indium gallium deselenide (CIGS)1.
  • Wind power. It’s noisy. It threatens wildlife; gold eagles and tailed hawks notably have a propensity to fly into the blades. Studies show that approximately 45,000 birds have fallen victim over the last 20 years due to these wind turbines. They are inefficient; the functional part of the turbines are only able to extract about 59% of the wind’s power. Not much ROI. Installation is expensive; just one can be as much as $2 million or more, and that is before maintenance begins2.

Geothermal carries none of these burdens but it is just as plentiful as sun and wind. Vox.com says, “The heat is continuously replenished by the decay of naturally occurring radioactive elements, at a flow rate of roughly 30 terawatts, almost double all human energy consumption. That process is expected to continue for billions of years.3” What’s not to love?

Vikram (Vik) Rao is the former Senior Vice-President and Chief Technology Officer at Halliburton and is now the Executive Director of the Research Triangle Energy Consortium. He says, “Deep very hot geothermal development looks approachable. Suddenly we are talking about building on a new technology base to exploit heat reservoirs rather than fluid. What this all means is that geothermal is no longer a niche play. It’s scalable, potentially in a highly material way. Scalability gets the attention of the industry. Scalability is required for industry to pursue the opportunity profitably.”4

The Four Fundamental Types of Geothermal Energy Tech

One of the great things about geothermal is that any level of heat can be used directly; there need not be any waste. For example, it can operate pond fisheries or all-season greenhouses, to dry cement, or to make hydrogen. Taking it a step further, we can convert this hydrogen into liquid hydrocarbon fuels.

  • Conventional Hydrothermal Resources. In some areas on earth, water or steam heated by the earth’s core rises up through somewhat permeable rock formations that are full of fissures and fractures, only to become trapped under a solid caprock. These mammoth reservoirs of pressurized hot water usually betray themselves on the surface through fumaroles (holes in or near a volcano, from which vapor rises) or hot springs. Here, a well is drilled. The hot water rises and can be just over ambient temperature up to 370°C. The heat is extracted from it, the fluids are cooled, and then returned to the field by way of an injection well. This maintains pressure.
  • Enhanced geothermal systems (EGS). The limitation of conventional geothermal systems is that they are limited to specific locales where heat, water, and porosity join together just so. Those areas are limited. The way to broaden that scope is to drill down into solid rock, inject water at very high pressure through one well, fracture the rock to give the water a passageway, and then collect the heated water through another well.
  • Super-Hot-Rock Geothermal. The goal here is to tap into extremely deep, extremely hot, rock. The water here exceeds 373°C and 220 bars of pressure, it is called “supercritical,” a new phase that is neither liquid nor gas. It holds anywhere from 4 to 10 times more energy per unit mass than water or steam. It is possible to get more power out of three wells on a 400°C project than out of 42 EGS wells at 200°C. All this efficiency using less fluid and a fraction of the physical footprint. Win-win. Economics shows that that the hotter a geothermal gets, the more competitive its power price becomes, so that super-hot EGS could be the cheapest baseload energy available.
  • Advanced Geothermal Systems (AGS). This is an exciting new generation of “closed loop” systems. No fluids are introduced to or removed from the earth; no fracking is involved. Fluids circulate underground in sealed pipes and boreholes where they absorb heat by conduction and direct it it to the surface, where it can be used for a custom mix of heat and electricity.


It seems logical that geothermal energy could well be the next alternative to oil and gas, at least from a technical point of view. The political realm is another story altogether. Environmentalists and radical democratic socialists like AOC and her squad will surely find something to protest against.

References

  1. The Earth Project, Solar Farms Pros and Cons: 7 Facts We Can’t Deny, https://theearthproject.com/solar-farms-pros-and-cons/
  2. Udemy, 10 Disadvantages of Wind Energy: Not as Clean as You Thought, https://blog.udemy.com/disadvantages-of-wind-energy/
  3. Vox, David Roberts, Geothermal energy is poised for a big breakout, https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2020/10/21/21515461/renewable-energy-geothermal-egs-ags-supercritical
  4. The Heat Beat, ‘I Hated Geothermal. Then I Realized it is Now Scalable’ – An Interview with Vik Rao, https://www.heatbeat.energy/post/i-hated-geothermal-then-i-realized-it-is-now-scalable-an-interview-with-vik-rao

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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, 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.

Cooling Paint Could Cut Emissions From Buildings

Reducing Carbon Dioxide Via Scheduled Building Maintenance

by Kelly R. Smith

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Commercial building with a painted exterior
Commercial building with a painted exterior

The World Green Building Council tells us that combined, buildings and construction account for, “39% of energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions when upstream power generation is included.”1 In a previous post, I discussed how HVAC units2 (heating and cooling) systems are responsible for the lion’s share of this and a proposal to capture that carbon dioxide to generate hydrocarbons. This article discusses using paint to minimize CO2 in the first place.

The Quest: Finding an Effective Paint

Researchers have been attempting to come up with products to raise the efficiency of cooling and heating for years. Many types of reflective paint have been developed for the exteriors of both homes and office buildings that would reflect away sunlight resulting in a reduction the temperatures on the interior.

Up to this point, none of these reflective paint products have been successful in deflecting enough of the Sun’s rays that would result in the building’s temperature lower than the ambient conditions. That may be changing.

Researchers in the US say they have developed a white paint with strong cooling properties. Prof Xiulin Ruan, from Purdue University in Indiana says, “In one experiment where we put a painted surface outside under direct sunlight, the surface cooled 1.7C below the ambient temperature and during night time it even cooled up to 10C below the ambient temperature. This is a significant amount of cooling power that can offset the majority of the air conditioning needs for typical buildings.”

The Tech Behind the Paint

The researchers found that the key is adding calcium carbonate. By utilizing a high concentration of this chalky substance, differing the particle sizes, they developed a paint that reflected an astounding 95.5% of sunlight.

Prof Xiulin Ruan said, “Sunlight is a broad spectrum of light wavelengths. We know that each particle size can only scatter one wavelength effectively so we decided to use different particle sizes to scatter all the wavelengths. This is an important contributor eventually resulting in this very high reflectance.”

The paint may have a broad range of applications, in particular data centers, which require large amounts of cooling power. Because this particular paint doesn’t contain metal, it is not likely to interfere with various electromagnetic signals. This makes it ideal for cooling telecommunications equipment.

Of course, it goes without saying that there will be a number of steps to go complete before this product can be put on the market, because like any other product, it needs to be tested for its reliability and efficiency in the long term. The researchers remain optimistic; they have already filed patents and there is already a strong interest from major manufacturers. Cooling paint that can cut emissions from buildings of all types will lower costs across the board.

References

  1. World Green Building Council, Global Status Report 2017, https://www.worldgbc.org/news-media/global-status-report-2017
  2. Kelly R. Smith, I Can Fix Up My Home Blog, Can Climate Change Be Minimized Using Air Conditioners?, http://www.icanfixupmyhome.com/WPBlog1/2020/07/29/can-climate-change-be-minimized-using-air-conditioners/

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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, 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 Health Care Systems Use Clinical Empathy to Support Patients

by Kelly R. Smith

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Surgeon and nurse operating on a patient
Surgeon and nurse operating on a patient

Introduction: What is Clinical Empathy?

What is clinical empathy? The Journal of General Internal Medicine1 defines it this way, “the act of correctly acknowledging the emotional state of another without experiencing that state oneself.” Note that patients desire empathy from providers, and providers want to make it available. As opposed to the layman’s concept of empathy, professional empathy must be purely cognitive, in contrast with sympathy. Otherwise, the professional risks identifying too closely with the patient, endangering the relationship and clouding the judgement needed for proper medical condition diagnosis and treatment.

Of course, this is not to say that the concept of clinical empathy is limited to the relationship between the provider and the patient (although that is the focus of this paper). It affects the entire medical community in one way or another. It applies to all, from the ophthalmologist to the surgeon and everyone in between.

The Role of Social Media

More patients are going online to discuss what they are experiencing. Such as, “Did you have this side effect from your flu shot? Were you warned?” This is having a relatively new influence on the patient/doctor relationship. The question is – how can this situation be managed in the most productive way possible? Empathy skills can be honed by understanding real-life situations and concerns. In order to get a grasp on what kind of relevant concerns are floating around on the internet, data analysis must be . At first glance, due to the sheer magnitude (and “noise”) of the data set, the problem might seem overwhelming.

This is where specialized software comes into the picture. Specifically, data analysis software that has both the statistical and analytical capacity to inspect, clean, transform, and model data in order to derive important information for decision-making purposes.

What sort of patient concerns crop up often in social media? Wait-time is always a big issue that leads to patient frustration. They see a lot of activity in the hospital or clinic, but nobody has a sense of urgency for their care. Another common concern is doctors and staff that are distracted, aloof, and impersonal. It is also quite common for someone online to seek out others that have had their condition and they want advice or confirmation that their treatment protocol will result in a high level of efficacy. Conversely, some patients reach out to share without being asked. This can be considered empathy in its own right.

Providers have noticed an uptick in this type of social media use during the COVID-19 pandemic. Group norms play a large part in this; while spending more time indoors and online researchers have found that individuals gravitate towards similar age groups, lifestyles, and socioeconomic groups that are similar to their own.

In many cases, the provider realistically can’t spend a great deal of time with one individual, or the volume of information is so large that the patient does not absorb it all. The patient may decide to fill in the gaps, and discover other points of view, via the internet. Social media used properly is a benefit to the medical community.2

Improving Clinical Empathy and Setting a Standard

The first step is to reach a consensus among the group of providers involved. Next is to define the current dynamic. and define specific methods to achieve the level of improvement needed. Some things to consider are:

  • Is there a current system of training for the group to ensure that a standard level of knowledge and application exists.
  • Is emphasis being adequately put on communication skills? There are many times when the provider must deliver negative news to the patient. Empathetic skills are extremely important in these situations.
  • Are providers experiencing “burnout” due to stress, administrative duties, long hours, etc.? This will have an adverse effect on providing empathetic care.

The Importance of Clinical Empathy

The importance of empathy in the provider/patient relationship cannot be overstated. In many cases, a patient who harbors the perception that the provider is not caring or involved will not present sufficient information for a proper diagnosis to be made. Empathy creates a communication bridge between the provider and the patient.

An end-game consequence is fewer situations where a patient does not feel like he or she received the expected level of care. More successful case outcomes translate into greater provider satisfaction and fewer issues with burnout.

What Are Some Relevant Barriers to Achieving Clinical Empathy

  • Lack of emotional intelligence, being unaware that one isn’t being perceived as empathetic.
  • Younger providers during training can seek to emulate more established colleagues who themselves are not empathetic.
  • Trying to balance the need to be objective and the need to show empathy and falling on the left side of the scale. This can be especially problematic when delivering bad news.
  • When a provider is experiencing burnout or has simply become jaded due to the long time spent on the job; enthusiasm to help others can get lost over time.

Empathy Gaps

Empathy gaps occur when the patient has seen his provider but comes away unsatisfied, feeling misunderstood. This can occur when:

  • They feel misunderstood or that the wrong assumptions were made.
  • They feel that the advice was boilerplate rather than personalized.
  • They feel that the level of service was substandard. This can be a problem for doctors that accept Medicare and Medicaid and try to book as many patients as possible.
  • No advise was given for supplements that could help their conditions or interfere with current treatment.

Changing behavior that causes these gaps can be done through MAPS (Motivation Ability Processing). This is formal training that providers go through that touches on areas of concern that have been identified.

Summary

Clinical empathy is not a recent phenomenon but advances in technology present new and powerful tools to identify issues and correct them. A suitable attitude is, “never be satisfied nor complacent.” Empathy has affected the medical community in many ways and is itself being affected by ever-changing conditions. Two of the prominent recent ones are the expanding presence of social media and the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown. Ways to alleviate it in order to provide a better experience for the patient and the provider are being explored and implemented.

References

  1. Jodi Halpern MD, PhD. What is Clinical Empathy? Journal of General Internal Medicine. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1046/j.1525-1497.2003.21017.x
  2. Katherine Chretein and Terry Kind, Social Media and Clinical Care, Circulation, https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/circulationaha.112.128017

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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, 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.


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Home Office Build-Out Tips

by Kelly R. Smith

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A home office
A home office

Recent estimates report that 33% of Americans are self-employed in some capacity. Now, the report didn’t break it down into full-time or part-time details, but it means one thing for certain — lots of home offices! You might need one for the first time because of being locked down thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether you’re remodeling a bedroom into your office, or remodeling your current one, you can use these home office refurbishment tips.

Office Interior Lighting

All interior lighting is not the same. In the office, in particular, it falls into three distinct categories: general, task, and accent lighting. How much of each you use depends on your needs. General lighting is often implemented with overhead fluorescent fixtures. Most home offices just use task lighting.

Task lighting is used to focus on your work area to avoid eye strain. Good choices here are undercabinet fixtures, or track, monorail, or Y lighting systems with halogen or LED bulbs. Accent lighting usually illuminates artwork. This is taken care of with ceiling-mounted fixtures.

Buy Ergonomic Furniture

This is important for your comfort and long-term health. The two most critical pieces are an ergonomic office chair and computer desk. Adjustable standing desks are getting to be more popular. Before shopping, know what you need. Draw a detailed plan noting where things should be situated. Size is important; be sure everything will fit into your space.

Although it might be tempting to do so, I wouldn’t recommend placing the fax, copier, and printer where you can just reach over to make a quick paper grab. Why? Because you need to get out of your chair now and then to get the blood flowing! My Garmin 235 GPS watch actually lets me know when I’ve had too much butt-time.

Flooring – Choose Wisely

You’ve got many choices when it comes to flooring. Carpet is the best choice for sound control and it is forgiving; you’ll be spending a lot of time on your feet. The downside is that occasionally you’ll have to hire carpet cleaners or rent a machine at the store. If you’ve got a lot of carpet in your home, go ahead and buy a carpet cleaning machine. It will quickly pay for itself. Who knows how nasty those grocery store ones are.

Are you after a a more contemporary look? You might consider hardwood or laminate flooring. When it comes to sprucing up your home office, consider that you’ll be spending more time in there than you would a conventional office (Netflix). Plan accordingly.

Upgrade Your Office walls

Your office walls are important. You should choose a color that you like, of course, but it should also be a color that is soothing enough to allow you to focus on your work. Small office? Here are some paint illusions to make the space seem larger.

I hope these home office build-out tips have inspired you and given you some food for thought. Always check the latest IRS guidelines to maximize your deductions. It’s like getting a pay raise! Please participate in the poll on the right-hand sidebar of this article. Thanks!



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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, 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.

Live Free or Die by Sean Hannity — a Book Review

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Sean Hannity -- Live Free or Die
Sean Hannity — Live Free or Die

My book review of the new Sean Hannity book — Live Free or Die; America and the World On The Brink (ISBN-10 : 1982149973). I’ve got the Audible.com version which I enjoyed on my 5-mile daily dog-walks, but the hard copy is also available.

So. Sean Hannity. People either love him or hate him, they are rarely on the fence. What I like about him is that like me, at the end of the day, he’s just a working class stiff. 20+ years as a carpenter will do that to you. He was a painter and waiter among other things. Contrast that with Joe Biden who likes to project the image but has no gravitas. Hey, Man!

What the Book Covers

The title is not all that descriptive of the content in my opinion. But, in a broad sense it does describe what’s going on. The book is reminiscent of an extended Sean Hannity radio show, minus the commercials and weather reports. In other words, he gives his conservative opinion but all backed up with hard facts. In my view, this work is just as important as The United States of Trump by Bill O’Reilley. Opinion backed up with hard, documented facts.

This book is a timeline history, compare and contrast, with previous administrations and Trump’s. So how are all these facts a clarion call to Live Free or Die, you might ask yourself? The answer of course, is Trump’s vision to make all citizens more free and prosperous.

Forces Dragging America Down

Yes, there are forces dragging America down even as Trump’s economy is building up employment and home ownership. As Hannity points out, these forces are deeply embedded in and guided from the far left.

Don’t take my word for it. Hannity lays it out in excruciating detail in this book, fact after fact. If you are not a fact and trivia junkie like me, this book might not be for you. On the other hand, if you seek verifiable truth, dig in.

I really found Live Free or Die to be very informative and entertaining but it’s not light reading/listening. Take your time with it and allow time to look up references, if you like. This book is particularly timely considering tat the general elections are almost upon us. Vote Socialist or American traditional values. You have a choice.

What is Covered by Standard Homeowners Insurance?

by Kelly R. Smith

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Home damage from Hurricane Harvey in Seabrook, Texas
Home damage from Hurricane Harvey in Seabrook, Texas

Homeowners insurance is essential for all homeowners. It doesn’t matter if you own outright or still hold a mortgage. Dictionary.com gives the origen of the word mortgage as, “Old French mortgage, equivalent to mort ‘dead’ (from Latin mortuus ) + gage ‘pledge.’” That’s about as morbid as it gets. It’s certainly not a witty phrase, is it? But I digress; what is covered by standard homeowners insurance?

Coverage for Your Personal Belongings

Your personal belongings include things such as sports equipment, clothing, furniture, appliances, ect. You get the idea. They are covered in the event that they are stolen or destroyed by insured disasters such as fire, hurricane, and others. Generally, the coverage is going to be 50% to 70% of the insurance you carry on the structure of your home, depending on the company that carries your policy.

The preferred way to determine if this is enough coverage is to conduct a home inventory. Take pictures, make entries in a database, etc. The more detailed, the better. Your belongings coverage includes items that you store away from your residence; this means that you have coverage anywhere in the world. There are some companies that limit the amount to 10% of the amount of insurance you have for your possessions. You may also have up coverage for unauthorized use of any credit cards.

Items on the higher end such as jewelry, furs, art, collectibles, and silverware are covered, but usually there is a monetary limit if they are stolen. There is a way to insure these items for their full value; buy a special personal property endorsement (or floater) and insure the items for their officially-appraised value.

Coverage for Your Home’s Structure

Your homeowners policy will pay to renovate or rebuild your home in the case that it is damaged or destroyed by incidences of fire, hurricane, hail, lightning, or other disasters that are enumerated in your policy. Most policies cover detached structures as well, such as your tool shed, garage, or a gazebo. In most cases, for about 10% of the amount of insurance you have on the structure of your home. A good rule of thumb is this–buy enough coverage to rebuild your home. Revise this yearly.

Liability protection

What does liability cover? It protects you from lawsuits citing bodily injury or property damage that you or family members cause to others. Additionally, it covers damage caused by your pets.

In many cases, limits begin at around $100,000. That being said, it’s prudent to palaver with your agent whether you should purchase a higher level of protection. You may have significant assets and therefore need more coverage than is available under your policy. If this is the case, consider purchasing an umbrella or excess liability policy, which provides broader coverage and higher liability limits.

Your policy also provides no-fault medical coverage. If one of your friends or a neighbor is injured in your home, he or she can submit the medical bills to your insurance company. So, expenses can be paid bypassing a liability claim being filed against you. Note that it doesn’t pay any of these bills for you or your family.

Additional living expenses (ALE)

This is for the the additional expenses of residing away from your home if you can’t live there because of the damage from a disaster that is insured. It covers restaurant meals, hotel tabs, and other miscellaneous costs that are over and above your normal living expenses. These are paid while your house is being restored. ALE is not open-ended; it has time and cost limits.

Other Circumstances

Your standard homeowners insurance policy will not pay for damage caused by an earthquake, flood, or routine wear and tear. These all require separate policies. Let me use myself as an example. During Hurricane Harvey, we flooded due to the city mismanaging drainage issues. We got about 2 feet of water inside the house.

Flood water rising in the street
Flood water rising in the street

Luckily, we have always carried flood insurance ever though the mortgage company did not require it since we are not in the flood plain (or zone if you will). But, as I tell my wife, “God doesn’t care about those maps.” So we ended up getting 100% on personal belongings and what the insurance adjuster estimated for structure. That only paid for material, not labor. That’s like getting 50 cents on the dollar. So, the majority of the reconstruction became a DIY project for me.

Neighbors without flood insurance just got the bare minimum from FEMA, and let me tell you, that ain’t much. Let that be a lesson–invest in appropriate insurance policies.

References:


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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, 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.

Our American Society is Now All-Black, 24-7, a Cultural Shift

by Kelly R. Smith

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Martin Luther King and Barack Obama
Martin Luther King and Barack Obama

As the COVID-19 pandemic rolls along so does another social phenomena — the machine that is the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement and their partners, Antifa. It might seem like this is a recent development, but in fact, it has been fomenting for quite a while.

Long before white people were only acceptable if they were “woke,” and you might notice that’s woke not awoken or woken up (incorrect grammar is NOT cool), things were not as revisionist history portrays it today.

Which Party is Socially Progressive?

That’s a good question and one that has been decided. The Democrats are for the crazy stuff (does the New Green Deal strike a nerve?). It should. The spearhead are the so-called Democrat Socialists, people like Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, and Rashida Tlaib. Just prefixing democrat to socialist doesn’t change anything. Socialism is Socialism.

It’s true that people like Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, and Joe Biden are still wandering the halls but they are not leading anymore. They’re mouthpieces and fund-raisers.

The term progressive is misleading anyway. Returning to Marxist ideology and Saul Alinsky mob tactics is not making progress. Job growth, prosperity, and a renewed military presence under the leadership of President Trump is progress.

Enter Black Lives Matter, Colin Kaepernick, and Antifa

All the rioting, burning, and looting have very little to do with the death of George Floyd, although that was clearly a tragedy. The chaotic domestic terrorism is a means to push a social agenda. Part of that agenda, from blacklivesmatter.com, says, “We disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and “villages” that collectively care for one another, especially our children, to the degree that mothers, parents, and children are comfortable.”

Sound familiar? It should. Disrupting the family unit and transferring allegiance to the central state is what the Soviet, Chinese and North Korean communists did too. How did that work out?

Colin Kaepernick entered the game focused on shining a bad light on the police when he showed up to football practice wearing those cute cops-are-pigs socks. There is some credibility to the theory that this was the impetus to the defund-the-police movement. As a side note, although he riles against the ills of slavery in the past, he stills shills for Nike (paycheck!), who uses child labor in sweatshops to make their shoes. Oh, the hypocrisy is under-whelming.

Antifa is the cadre of domestic terrorists in all this. They are much more organized than many people think, as this article on the history of Antifa shows.

Being All-Black in a Capitalist System

I liken this to curbside grocery pick-up, at least where I live. Once one grocery store chain started doing it, the rest scrambled to get in the game. It’s understandably about market share. And, this was before the COVID-19 pandemic with its social-distancing woes. As one of the order-fillers at Kroger told me, “It’s a blessing for moms with 2 screaming kids. Why would they come in?”

Commercial companies across the board are imitating this model with their pandering to black interests and customers as well as social warriors of all stripes. Just the other day, Discover card announced that they are gifting $5,000,000 to black-owned restaurants, saying, “In an effort to support the restaurant industry as it rebounds from the impact of COVID-19, Discover announced today that it will be giving $5 million to Black-owned restaurants.”

Wait — did I read that right? How is this social justice? What about Mexican restaurants? Chinese? White-owned diners? How about Thai and sushi shops? And Lord help me, pizza shops. I assumed all businesses were on the COVID-19 pandemic chopping block. No sir, only blacks qualify; this is pandering at its lowest.

If you’ve got Discover plastic in your wallet, you’re the patsy here. That $5 million is coming out of your 25% monthly high interest rates, not the CEO’s annual bonus. It doesn’t matter where you stand on non-blacks losing their livelihood while only blacks get the lifeboats. This is life as we know it in the new all-black, 24-7, cultural mode.



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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, 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.