8 Benefits of Hibiscus Tea

And How to Grow Hibiscus for Tea at Home

by Kelly R. Smith

Dried hibiscus flowers for healthy tea
Dried hibiscus flowers for healthy tea
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Hibiscus tea (sometimes called “sour tea”) might not be so well known in the USA but it certainly is in other parts of the world. I’ve been drinking it for a few years now, both for the taste and the health benefits; it’s another item in my toolbox to keep my blood pressure in a reasonable range.. I add it to the grounds of my cold brew coffee maker, sometimes with fresh mint from my garden. Yeah, I know; wild, living on the edge. There are several hundred species of hibiscus plants that vary by the location and climate they are grown in, but Hibiscus sabdariffa or roselles is most commonly used to make hibiscus tea. As a bonus, they are stunning in tropical landscape plantings. But we are here to talk about the health benefits of hibiscus tea.

Health Benefits of Hibiscus Tea

  • It lowers blood pressure. This is a big one for me. All blood pressure medications have side effects. For me, I take lisinopril, an ACE inhibitor. It causes coughing and the feeling of being lethargic. Rebekah Edwards says, “A 2013 review by the University of Arizona discovered that hibiscus tea is used in 10 or more countries as a normal hypertension treatment without any reported adverse events or side effects — except in extremely high doses.”1
  • It’s packed with antioxidants. What are antioxidants? They are molecules that help fight compounds we call free radicals, which inflict damage to your cells. The National Library of medicine noting their study says, “Hibiscus anthocyanin extract has reducing power that is approximately 2-fold that of the synthetic antioxidant, butylated hydroanisole.”2 Other than hibiscus, many other foods contain them; tart cherries are a good example.


  • It supports healthy cholesterol and triglycerides. Dyslipidemia is a type of disorder that is characterized by noticeable changes in plasma lipids or lipoproteins, including two you are probably familiar with: cholesterol and triglycerides. As with blood pressure, hibiscus tea’s ability to reduce high “blood lipids” also extends to those with diabetes. A 2009 study had diabetes patients drink hibiscus tea two times a day for a full month and they found a significant increase in HDL (good) cholesterol and a marked decrease in total cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides.
  • It may help to lower blood fat levels. The National Library of medicine citing a study of sour tea (ST) and black tea (BT) says, “The results of the present study showed that ST has a significant effect on blood lipid profile in patients with diabetes.”3 Many studies have shown that hibiscus tea reduces blood cholesterol and triglycerides in people suffering from diabetes and metabolic syndrome. That said, other studies have shown conflicting results. Obviously, more research is needed in the general population.
  • It prevents oxidative stress. Like most healthy teas on the market, hibiscus is chock full of antioxidants that combat free radical damage caused by substandard nutrient diets and frequent exposure to dangerous chemicals. These antioxidants are found primarily in the anthocyanins of the plant, the natural pigments that give this flower its brilliant red color.
  • It may boost liver health. Your liver is essential to your overall health. Some of its jobs include producing proteins, secreting bile, and breaking down fat. One small human research study found that supplementing with hibiscus tea raised the antioxidant load in the bloodstream as well as reducing compounds that contribute to oxidative stress that damages cells.
  • It shows promise in fighting certain cancers. Although this idea is only starting to gain traction, there is already some evidence to support hibiscus tea’s anticancer power. It has been shown that hibiscus extracts cause apoptosis, or cell death, in leukemia cells. Although the exact mechanisms behind this aren’t clear as of yet, this could be a promising step in the ever-going fight against leukemia, which affects about a quarter of the children and adolescents currently struggling with cancer.
  • It reduces obesity and related risks. How? Human and animal studies have found a link between hibiscus tea and an elevated metabolism. Hibiscus extract may even inhibit you from absorbing as much starch and sucrose as you might from a typical meal. One study in particular gave 36 overweight participants either hibiscus extract or a placebo. After 12 weeks, hibiscus extract reduced body weight, body fat, body mass index and hip-to-waist ratio


Growing and Preparing Hibiscus for Tea at Home

Test your soil pH in a well-draining area that receives full sun at least six months before planting if possible, and, if needed, amend it using elemental sulfur or dolomitic lime to adjust the pH to between 6.1 and 7.8. The do best in humus-rich soil and full sunlight.

Harvest your flowers after they have bloomed. You want the calyxes (the main body of the flower). They should snap right off. Once you have your harvest, complete the steps to prepare and dry them. This video explains it in detail.

How to process hibiscus flowers for tea

Can you benefit from hibiscus tea? Of course! There’s something for everybody and if you grow your own supply you will save money and be certain it is organic.

Others are Reading

Reference

  1. .Rachael Link, Dr. Axe, Hibiscus Tea: The Antioxidant ‘Therapeutic Agent’ You Should Be Drinking, https://draxe.com/nutrition/hibiscus-tea/
  2. Taofeek O Ajiboye, et al, National Library of medicine, Antioxidant and drug detoxification potentials of Hibiscus sabdariffa anthocyanin extract, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21314460/
  3. Hassan Mozaffari-Khosravi, et al., National Library of medicine, Effects of sour tea (Hibiscus sabdariffa) on lipid profile and lipoproteins in patients with type II diabetes, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19678781/


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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.

Philosophy of Martin Luther King

Non-Violence in the tradition of Mahatma Gandhi

by Kelly R. Smith

Martin Luther King and Barack Obama
Martin Luther King and Barack Obama
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Martin Luther King Jr., whose birth name was Michael King, Jr., was born on January 15, 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia. He died on April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee. He was a Baptist minister and social activist who led the civil rights movement in the United States from the mid-1950s until his death by assassination in 1968. The central theme of his teachings and leadership was his philosophy of non-violence in the tradition of Mahatma Gandhi.

The King Center explains the Triple Evils that MLK defined, “The Triple Evils of POVERTY, RACISM and MILITARISM are forms of violence that exist in a vicious cycle. They are interrelated, all-inclusive, and stand as barriers to our living in the Beloved Community. When we work to remedy one evil, we affect all evils. To work against the Triple Evils, you must develop a nonviolent frame of mind as described in the ‘Six Principles of Nonviolence’ and use the Kingian model for social action outlined in the ‘Six Steps for Nonviolent Social Change’.”1

The Triple Evils

  1. Poverty. This Evil encompasses unemployment, homelessness, hunger, malnutrition, illiteracy, infant mortality, and slums. Poverty is not something new but we now have the resources to get rid of it. “The well off and the secure have too often become indifferent and oblivious to the poverty and deprivation in their midst. Ultimately a great nation is a compassionate nation. No individual or nation can be great if it does not have a concern for the least of these.”1
  2. Racism. This Evil refers to prejudicial mindsets, South Africa style apartheid, continuing ethnic conflict, anti-Semitism, sexism, colonialism (the one that Obama is frenetic about), homophobia, ageism, discrimination against disabled groups, stereotypes.
  3. Militarism. This Evil concerns war, imperialism, domestic violence, rape, domestic terrorism (Antifa, BLM), human trafficking from undocumented illegal aliens to sex workers, media violence, drug proliferation, child abuse, and violent crime.


King’s Six Principals of Non-Violence

MLK defined these fundamental principals in his book Stride Toward Freedom.

  1. Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people. It is active nonviolent resistance to evil. It is aggressive spiritually, mentally and like happiness, emotionally.
  2. Nonviolence seeks to win friendship and understanding. The end result of nonviolence is redemption and reconciliation. The purpose of nonviolence is the creation of the Beloved Community.
  3. Nonviolence seeks to defeat injustice not people. Nonviolence recognizes that evildoers are also victims and are not evil people. The nonviolent resister seeks to defeat evil not people.
  4. Nonviolence holds that suffering can educate and transform. Nonviolence accepts suffering without retaliation. Unearned suffering is redemptive and has tremendous educational and transforming possibilities.
  5. Nonviolence chooses love instead of hate. Nonviolence resists violence of the spirit as well as the body. Nonviolent love is spontaneous, unmotivated, unselfish and creative.
  6. Nonviolence believes that the universe is on the side of justice. The nonviolent resister has deep faith that justice will eventually win. Nonviolence believes that our righteous God is a God of justice.


Fact: Today over 700 streets in the Unites States are named after Martin Luther King Jr., with one such street in almost every major city.

King’s Six Steps of Nonviolent Social Change

  1. Information gathering. To understand and articulate an issue, problem or injustice facing a person, community, or institution you must do research. You must investigate and gather all vital information from all sides of the argument or issue so as to increase your understanding of the problem. You must become an expert on your opponent’s position in order to have empathy.
  2. Education. It is essential to inform others, including your opposition, about your issue. This minimizes misunderstandings and gains you support and sympathy.
  3. Personal commitment. Daily check and affirm your faith in the philosophy and methods of nonviolence. Eliminate hidden motives and prepare yourself to accept suffering, if necessary, in your work for justice.
  4. Discussion/negotiation. Using grace, humor and intelligence, confront the other party with a list of injustices and a plan for addressing and resolving these injustices. Look for what is positive in every action and statement the opposition makes. Do not seek to humiliate the opponent but to call forth the good in the opponent.
  5. Direct action. These are actions taken when the opponent is unwilling to enter into, or remain in, discussion/negotiation. These actions impose a “creative tension” into the conflict, supplying moral pressure on your opponent to work with you in resolving the injustice.
  6. Reconciliation. Nonviolence seeks friendship and understanding with the opponent. Nonviolence does not seek to defeat the opponent. Nonviolence is directed against evil systems, forces, oppressive policies, unjust acts, but not against persons. Through reasoned compromise, both sides resolve the injustice with a plan of action. Each act of reconciliation is one step close to the ‘Beloved Community.’

The philosophy of Martin Luther King is sound and timeless. Unfortunately, his concepts are sadly lacking in today’s society. Instead, the mainstream media, social media, and the monied few seek to indulge in social engineering through fake news, censorship, and rigged elections. We can do better, can’t we?

Others are Reading

Reference

  1. The King Center, https://thekingcenter.org/king-philosophy/#:~:text=Fundamental%20tenets%20of%20Dr.%20King%E2%80%99s%20philosophy%20of%20nonviolence,to%20evil.It%20is%20aggressive%20spiritually%2C%20mentally%20and%20emotionally.


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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.

The Benefits and Side Effects of L-Arginine

A Dietary Nutraceutical Supplement for Better Health

by Kelly R. Smith

Nutraceuticals--ways to get your dietary supplements
Nutraceuticals–ways to get your dietary supplements
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What are Dietary nutraceutical forms of consumables? From Dictionary.com, “a bioactive compound occurring as a food component, additive, or product, including vitamins, dietary fiber, herbal extracts, carotenoids, and probiotics: nutraceuticals are said to promote health and well-being, allegedly helping in the prevention and treatment of disease.”1

Well now, that’s a mouthful. The particular supplement we are interested in this article is L-Arginine. It may not be as commonplace as vitamin C or CoQ102 but the list of health benefits is impressive.

What is L-Arginine?

Under normal circumstances your body naturally produces L-arginine. You can also acquire additional L-arginine as part of your regular diet. But at times, your need for L-arginine may exceed your body’s ability to produce and/or consume it naturally. This nutrient deficiency is often the case for older adults or people with some medical conditions. This is when supplements are helpful, either prescribed or purchased over the counter.

In these cases, you might be prescribed artificial (lab-produced) L-arginine in the form of an oral medication, injections, or skin creams. A number of potential health conditions may benefit from a supplemental intake of L-arginine. It is generally considered safe in moderate and recommended doses, however too much L-arginine carries the potential for severe side effects, up to and including death. Therefore, it is key to consider how the supplement can interact with your body and with other medications prior to taking it. Always consult with your doctor before beginning a regimen.



The Benefits of L-Arginine

It offers two primary effects; First, it turns into nitric oxide and secondly it aids the body in building protein. According to Medical News Today, “These effects give L-Arginine an array of potential benefits that range from heart health and chest pain to helping to build muscles, repair wounds, and improve male fertility. Although there are many claims about the benefits of L-Arginine, not all of them are supported by scientific research studies.”3

However, the following benefits and uses of L-Arginine have been researched:

  • Growth hormone reserve test (a test used if a growth hormone deficiency is suspected.)
  • Correcting inborn errors of urea synthesis
  • Reducing high blood pressure
  • Treating erectile dysfunction (ED)
  • Treating heart disease
  • Easing inflammation of the digestive tract in premature infants
  • Controlling blood sugar in people with diabetes

The Side Effects of L-Arginine

  • Gout
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Blood abnormalities
  • Worsening of existing asthma condition
  • Bloating
  • Airway inflammation
  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Allergies

As with any drug or supplement, L-Arginine has its own benefits and side effects. It always pays to be in the know about what to expect. Additionally, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not, nor does it claim to, monitor the safety or effectiveness of any supplements, so it is important to choose a reputable brand that you know and trust.

More Trending Articles:

Resources

  1. Dictionary.com, https://www.dictionary.com/browse/nutraceutical?s=t
  2. Kelly R. Smith, I Can Fix Up My Home Blog, Should Runners and Others Supplement with CoQ10?, http://www.icanfixupmyhome.com/WPBlog1/2018/12/05/should-runners-and-others-supplement-with-coq10/
  3. Jenna Fletcher, Medical News Today, The benefits and side effects of L-arginine, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318174#_noHeaderPrefixedContent



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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.

Happiness is Not an Emotion: It’s a Moral Obligation

Another Wise Insight from Dennis Prager

by Kelly R. Smith

Dennis Prager explains why happiness is important
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Happiness is such an important concept that it is written into the U.S. Constitution. Firstthings.com says, “The right to “the pursuit of happiness” affirmed in the Declaration of Independence is taken these days to affirm a right to chase after whatever makes one subjectively happy. Further, the Declaration doesn’t guarantee the right to happiness, the thought usually goes, but only the right to pursue what makes you happy.”1

But of course saying “, taken these days,” implies that this this is subjective. Dictionary.com defines happiness as a noun meaning, “1. the quality or state of being happy, and, 2. good fortune, pleasure, contentment, joy.”2

Dennis Prager takes the importance of happiness and drills down much deeper. The importance of it turns out to be much less than simple self-interest. Let’s have a look at his concept as I see it.



Happiness is Not for You, It’s for Others

Individuals that are unhappy shouldn’t inflict that moodiness on others. Doing so is not a right; in fact it is quite a disservice. Case in point — I once worked as the maintenance supervisor at a certain hotel. The corporate name is not important. My immediate boss was a very uncomfortable fellow to be around. He had temper tantrums and was verbally abusive. I ended up being the buffer zone between not only him and my crew, but also between him and the housekeepers since I speak Spanish and he didn’t. And, he always had something to say about their work even though those women were dramatically underpaid. I eventually quit when he cursed me out in the public lobby. I have hypertension (high blood pressure) and don’t need the grief.

What was his issue? The two common thoughts were that he was on some serious steroids (big-time weight-lifter), or he was off his medications for a condition that smoothed out his mood and attitude. The bottom line? He made everybody miserable just by walking into the room. The take-away is that attitude is contagious. If you can’t be happy, make an effort to seem happy.

As an aside and interesting observation, Prager states that, “in most cases, marriages are between a moody and a non-moody. Most are; here’s the proof. Where I have met a couple of non-moodys married to non-moodys, I have never once met a moody married to a moody. Know why? I’ll tell you why. Because the moody may be moody, but they’re not stupid. They never marry one of their own.”

Acting Happy Can Make You Happy

It may seem like a contradiction but acting happy can make you happy. More importantly, unhappiness, if left unchecked, feeds on itself like a malevolent leech. To avoid this, get out of your state of thinking. Psychologytoday.com says, “How to stop the misery: Instead of putting yourself down for your mistakes and failures, make the conscious decision to grow from them. ‘Oh, now I see what I need to do in the future. I’ll look at this as a challenge rather than as a problem.’ This self-talk will help you develop a ‘growth mindset,’ to use the phrase of researcher Carol Dweck. People who can grow from their setbacks are more likely to succeed and to feel better about themselves.”

Fake News Begs for an Attitude Adjustment

Whether you think fake news has an effect on you or not, it does. This is true whether you are on the right, the liberal left, or somewhere in the center. The media has an agenda and intends to change (or affirm) your views. This polarizes us. Question everything. When you find the truth, adjust your attitude. Not necessarily your opinion; that might be a bridge too far. But, don’t take the attitude to work.

So that’s it. If you are an unhappy person, work on losing the attitude. Show a happy face to the world and your family. You will have fulfilled a great moral obligation and made yourself happier in the process.

More Trending Articles:


Resources

  1. James R. Rogers, Firstthings.com, The Meaning of “the Pursuit of Happiness,” https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2012/06/the-meaning-of-the-pursuit-of-happiness
  2. Dictionary.com, Happiness, https://www.dictionary.com/browse/happiness?s=t
  3. Meg Selig, Psychologytoday.com, 10 Ways You Are Causing Your Own Unhappiness, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/changepower/201701/10-ways-you-are-causing-your-own-unhappiness




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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.

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.

A Grammar Rule We Know But Not Taught

The English Language is Both Fickle and Structured

by Kelly R. Smith

Word structure in the English language
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The English language is quirky. The rules are generally spelled out but they don’t always apply. Take that “i before e” thing, for example. The grammar rules we learned in school, elementary or college, are fairly pliable but that does not give us license to flunk a test, did it? Then there’s the word order grammar rule we know and use every day but were not taught in school.

At least that’s true if your first language is English. If your native language is something else and you are learning English, this rule is in your text book and you will be drilled on it. I’m not sure about how they handle the Oxford comma debate. I’m firmly for it but I know many writers who are not. So, what is the mysterious rule this article is concerned with?



It’s All About Revering the Noun

The noun is quite the thing, isn’t it? All the other elements, the adjectives in particular, exist to serve it. Their structure and order are critical or else we risk sounding like goofballs. Mark Forsyth, author of The Elements of Eloquence: How to Turn the Perfect English Phrase says that adjectives, “absolutely have to be in this order: opinion-size-age-shape-colour-origin-material-purpose Noun. So you can have a lovely little old rectangular green French silver whittling knife. But if you mess with that order in the slightest you’ll sound like a maniac.”

Native English speakers understand the rule intuitively but not so others. For example, in English I might say, “The big house,” but in Spanish, “La casa grande.” In English I would say, “There are many rooms here.” In Irish Gaelic I would say, “Tá seomraí go leor anseó.” It certainly seems that English is the odd man out here.

Here is an example of a textbook page for English learners from the book English Grammar in Use:

From the book English Grammar in Use

How Does English Rank in Languages Difficult to Learn?

According to Language Next, it doesn’t make list. None are easy or trivial, it’s true, but, as they put it, “The language difficulty depends on multiple factors — Native or related Languages, methodology, convolution, interest, and available resources. Some are difficult languages to acquire, whereas many are relatively straightforward. I’ve only considered major world languages here, which means no less taught languages.”1 Here is their list:

  1. Mandarin Chinese (no surprise there.)
  2. Korean (both North and South, we can assume)
  3. Japanese (I can attest to that; I tried it when I was stationed on Okinawa)
  4. Russian
  5. Arabic
  6. Turkish
  7. Persian (Farsi, Dari, Tajik)

These did not make the list but got honorable mention: Cantonese, Croatian, Czech, Finnish, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Icelandic, Mongolian, Polish, Slovenian, Ukrainian, Vietnamese, and Thai.

Our cognitive abilities don’t come into play when we learn or use a new language but that doesn’t make it any less difficult. The word order grammar rule can be perplexing, but luckily, it’s intuitive for native English speakers.



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Resources

  1. Vikash Gupta, Language Next, 7 Most Difficult Languages to Learn in the World, https://www.languagenext.com/blog/difficult-languages/

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Visit Kelly’s profile on Pinterest.

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.

Chronic Fatigue Immune Deficiency Syndrome

A Debilitating Disease that Might be Transmitted by a Virus

by Kelly R. Smith

A woman suffering in pain
A woman suffering in pain
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Chronic Fatigue Immune Deficiency Syndrome (CFIDS) is believed to be not just one but a collection of diseases that together manifest the primary symptom of persistent, overwhelming, and debilitating fatigue. Of course it is tightly-bound to chronic fatigue syndrome and is also associated with the Chronic Epstein-Barr Virus Syndrome. A newer term is Myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME). Confused yet?

There is an organization known as the National CFIDS Foundation1 has proposed criteria to be used in establishing a positive diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Deficiency Syndrome. The two major criteria must be satisfied and a number of minor criteria. The two majors are:

  1. New onset of persistent or relapsing, debilitating fatigue or easy fatigability in a person who has no previous history of similar symptoms, that does not resolve with bedrest, and that is severe enough to reduce or impair average daily activity below 50% of the patient’s premorbid activity level for a period of at least 6 months.
  2. Other clinical conditions that may produce similar symptoms must be excluded by thorough evaluation, based on history, physical examination, and appropriate laboratory findings. These conditions include malignancy; autoimmune disease; localized infection (such as occult abscess); chronic or subacute bacterial disease (such as endocarditis, Lyme disease, or tuberculosis), fungal disease (such as histoplasmosis, blastomycosis, or cocci-dioidomycosis), and parasitic disease (such as toxoplas-mosis, amebiasis, giardiasis, or helminthic infestation); disease related to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection; chronic psychiatric disease, either newly diagnosed or by history (such as endogenous depression; hysterical personality disorder; anxiety neurosis; schizophrenia; or chronic use of major tranquilizers, lithium, or antidepressive medications); chronic inflammatory dis-ease (such as sarcoidosis, Wegener granulomatosis, or chronic hepatitis); neuromuscular disease (such as multiple sclerosis or myasthenia gravis); endocrine disease (such as hypothyroidism, Addison disease, Cushing syndrome, or diabetes mellitus); drug dependency or abuse (such as alcohol, controlled prescription drugs, or illicit drugs); side effects of a chronic medication or other toxic agent (such as a chemical solvent, pesticide, or heavy metal); or other known or defined chronic pulmonary, cardiac, gastrointestinal, hepatic, renal, or hematologic disease.


CFIDS Symptoms a Patient Might Experience

Finding a doctor who is well-versed in this condition and understands the diagnosis protocol can be difficult. How can a prospective patient justify her suspicions that she might be afflicted? According to Solve M.E., simply confirm these symptoms:

  • Post Exertional Malaise (PEM). PEM is a prime indicator of ME/CFS. PEM manifests following mental and/or physical exertion. It is described as steadily worsening symptoms that last 24 hours or even longer. Malaise is defined as a condition of overall bodily weakness and/or discomfort, which often marks the onset of a disease and a vague and/or unfocused feeling of mental uneasiness, lethargy, or discomfort.
  • Un-refreshing Sleep. Sleep that is disrupted as well as un-refreshing is another common indication of ME/CFS which is indicated by patients awakening with a tired feeling even following substantial periods of rest, to experience more than usual drowsiness during the daytime, and to have difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep.
  • Concentration Problems. Many ME/CFS patients find concentration issues to be the most serious and debilitating indicator, making things like driving a car problematic. They live with difficulties with attention, concentration, and memory. These symptoms have been linked to problems in ways the brain handles information—in particular the processing speed and complex information processing.
  • Pain. In the past, pain was not thought to be a prime indicator of ME/CFS, but muscle pain, joint pain, and headache are now recognized as common in ME/CFS patients.

It’s very likely that these four major symptoms of ME/CFS are interwoven, each one building on the other and undoubtedly exacerbating the overall illness. This is why doctors who are well-versed in ME/CFS focus on treating pain and sleep disturbances with medicine, in an attempt to give some degree of solace to the severity of the overall ME/CFS symptom complex.



History, Causes, and Methods of Coping with CFIDS

No one is positive exactly when Chronic Fatigue Immune Deficiency Syndrome (or Myalgic encephalomyelitis) first began but it became defined late in the 1970s. This was also about the time when AIDS began its spread. It is not clear precisely what triggers CFIDS. It seems highly likely that it may be caused by a virus, but mysteriously enough, it has yet to be determined how it spreads from individual to individual.

This condition afflicts women in the majority of cases, estimated at 75% to 80% of total cases, so males are in the mix as well. The age range in which it most commonly strikes is 25 to 50. Some of the triggers for CFIDS are thought to be digestive system stress, depression or emotional stress, exposure of the immune system to some toxicity, and an over-work/under-exercise situation. It certainly describes our modern world.

Even though there has been no cure discovered at this point, a point of light is that there are a number of things that are beneficial in the coping process. For example, mild exercise is of great help in most cases. Why? because it allows the blood flow to increase and gives a boost to the the immune system.

The elimination of certain things from your diet may minimize the symptoms. The list includes includes caffeine, alcohol, and highly refined flour and sugar. The last thing to be is a compulsive over-eater.

Another technique to cope with this disease is counseling. Having solid, reliable moral support is a huge asset when one is coping with depression and stress. Using these techniques and working for solutions under a doctor’s care and supervision will keep the patient on the road to good health and reduce the symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Immune Deficiency Syndrome.

You Might Also Enjoy:

Resources

  1. GARY P. HOLMES, M.D., et al., National CFIDS Foundation, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: A Working Case Definition, https://www.ncf-net.org/patents/pdf/Holmes_Definition.pdf
  2. Solve M.E., About the Disease, https://solvecfs.org/about-the-disease/

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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.

Will You be Visited by Krampus this Christmas?

by Kelly R. Smith

Impending doom at the hands of Krampus
Impending doom at the hands of Krampus
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When the holiday season begins to unfold, we begin to indulge in our favorite Christmas traditions. These vary greatly depending on locale and culture, but they’re all fun and grounded in tradition. Everybody is familiar with Santa Claus and his cohort, Rudolf, he of the illuminating red nose. But if you’ve been naughty this year, don’t be surprised if you get a visit from Krampus. Pity you.

Who is Krampus?

The malevolent and mythological Krampus is represented in the form of a hairy half-goat, half-demon. His job? To discipline wee children in the weeks prior to Christmas. His primary stomping grounds are in Germany, Austria, and neighboring Slovakian countries.

While the various Santa Claus representations are jolly old blokes who instill good behavior with the promise of gifts and candy, Krampus punishes naughty kids with whips and birch branches. He threatens to pull them down to his underworld in the event that they misbehave. St. Nicholas, a traditional Santa Claus figure, and Krampus, often work together, with St. Nicholas tending to the good children and Krampus menacing the naughty ones. It’s kind of a “good cop, bad cop” thing. To further increase anxiety, the Krampus goat-demon is traditionally depicted as a devil having a long, prehensile tongue and his feet are a curious mixture of human and hoof.

The History of Krampus

The term Krampus originates from the German word krampen which means “claw,” and the legend is old, pre-Christian in fact. During the 12th century, the Catholic Church not surprisingly tried to ban Krampus celebrations around the Christmas holiday because of the horned character’s resemblance to the devil. Krampus was also booted out of Austria during the 1930s at a time when the country suffered under fascist rule, as the Christian Social Party contended that the character, as represented, was unholy.

Modern Day Krampus

But in the end, it is hard to fight the will of the people and Krampus persisted in popular seasonal lore, with contemporary traditions featuring parades folks dressed in demonic-looking Krampus outfits in some European countries during December. In some countries Krampusnacht or “Krampus Night” is celebrated on December 5.

Today, the proliferation of the internet has exposed the traditional, and unusual-seeming Krampus lore to a multitude of people all over the world, giving Krampus a greater and more international presence during the Christmas season. Because of the figure’s pre-Christian roots, many neopaganists have come to embrace Krampus as one of their own.

So will you be visited by Krampus this Christmas? There might still be time to correct your naughty behavior. He’s watching; you can run but you can’t hide.

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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.

Scroll Saw vs Band Saw: What’s the difference?

by Kelly R. Smith

A Ryobi 16 in. scroll saw.
A Ryobi 16 in. scroll saw
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We can’t have too many power tools in the shop. The extent of our acquisitions can be guided by 3 principles — budget, storage space, and frequency of use. There are exceptions. For example, you may not use your biscuit joiner often, but when you need it, nothing else will do. Some tools are similar enough that they can have almost overlapping functionality, when some ingenuity and/or woodworking jigs are used. You might assume that the scroll saw vs band debate saw falls into this camp. You would be partly correct but there are some important differences.

Benefits of a Scroll Saw

We’ll look at the scroll saw first. It has certain benefits for certain projects.

  • It can make internal cuts. All you have to do is drill an entry hole in your work piece, insert the blade, and cut away. Then you can clean up the internal edges with the sanding implement of your choice.
  • It is a better choice for small detailed work and parquetry and inlay work, as it cuts tighter than a band saw.
  • It can be used to cut the cheeks of a dovetail joint and to divide a wide tenon into two smaller ones.
  • It can make angled cuts up to 45 degrees.
  • They are available in various throat sizes. The throat size when it comes to the scroll saw is the distance between the blade and the rear part of the saw. A larger table surface handles larger projects.

Benefits of a Band Saw

A Ryobi tabletop band saw
A Ryobi tabletop band saw
  • Like the scroll saw, it can make angled cuts up to 45 degrees.
  • It can cut much thicker stock than a scroll saw.
  • It’s more powerful than a scroll saw. Since the table is open on both ends, throat size is not so much of a consideration, although table size still is.
  • Using the right band saw blades you can even cut metal, but I never have so I offer no opinion on this point.

The Million Dollar Question: Should You Invest in a Scroll saw or a Band Saw?

In the spirit of full transparency, I own both. Why? Because it’s easier to use the right saw for the job. But if you are limited to one or the other, consider which will better fit your woodworking needs. Most of the tasks suited to a band saw can also be done on your table saw. Another consideration is your shop configuration. I have 2 large work benches, one stationary and one wheeled so I use a lot of bench-top tools and just swap them out as needed. Whichever saw/s you purchase, look for a reliable brand name and a heavy base.

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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.