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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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.



You Might Also Enjoy:

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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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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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.

Delicious Foods To Eat For Weight Loss

by Kelly R. Smith

Eat a healthy, balanced diet
Eat a healthy, balanced diet
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You might think, like many people, that losing fat weight is always about specific food deprivation and sticking to a banned list. Generally, the list consists of foods that you love the most. Strategies like intermittent fasting really do work; I’ve been doing it for a couple of months and have lost over 10 pounds. But frankly, it’s just not for everyone. But what if I told you about some delicious foods that are assumed by some to be on the banned list but shouldn’t be? Well, it’s true.

Make the Switch Back to Whole Milk

Dairy fat bad; 2% good. Right? So everyone says. In a study by the American Journal of Nutrition, they concluded that, “We observed that higher intakes of high-fat dairy products but not of low-fat dairy products were associated with less weight gain,which seemed to be driven by intakes of whole-fat milk and butter.”1 Why is that? Essential fatty acids are removed when the milk is skimmed. This is the component that can help you feel fuller more rapidly and stay full longer with full fat products, which cuts down on habitual, excessive overeating. Also, when individuals reduce the fat in their diets, they tend to replace it with sugary beverages and other refined carbohydrates.

Spreads Made From Nuts

Peanut butter, Nutella (chocolate hazelnut), and other nut-based favorites deliver healthy fats and an impressive amount of protein and fiber, as well. Peanut butter offers a blend of 8 grams of protein per 2 tablespoons along with 2 grams of fiber. The Harvard Gazette reported regarding a study, “The regular nut-eaters were found to be more slender than those who didn’t eat nuts, a finding that should alleviate fears that eating a lot of nuts will lead to overweight.”2 The best way to get nuts into your diet other than toast spreads for breakfast is snacking on a couple spoonfuls of nut butters in between meals to control your appetite. That’s good news for me!

Pasta Is Your Friend

Low-carb diets like the Atkins and Ketogenic diets will help you lose weight lightning-fast, but they have their own issues. They are not really “lifestyle” diets; they are restrictive and what about when you eat out? They rely on ketosis, a normal metabolic process that will cause even teetotalers to blow positive on a breathalyzer test. But whole grain pasta takes a long time to digest, leaving you with a steadier source of fuel to support energy levels.

Get Cracking With Eggs

They are high up there in high-quality protein, healthy fats, and essential vitamins and minerals. They are a low-calorie, nutrient-dense food when it comes to both snacks and meals, such as a big omelet. They come in at just 70 calories each so there’s no reason not to enjoy the whole egg, yolk and white combined (shell excluded of course). Yes, egg yolks are a significant source of your dietary cholesterol, but recent studies have now proven that dietary cholesterol has less of an effect on blood cholesterol than was once thought. The most recent evidence suggests that eating whole eggs (in moderation) is safe, and some studies even demonstrate that they may assist in your weight loss when they are eaten in lieu of refined carbohydrates.

Chicken on the Dark Side

You should remove the skin but dark meat poultry (leg and thigh) tends to be more tender, juicy, and rich in flavor than its white meat counterparts. This requires not only less butter or oil to cook it up with, but also less of your favorite sauce or creamy condiments that your breast meat requires. To make things even better, it’s a great source of lean protein that will leave you more satisfied at meal time, so you will be less likely to overeat later. Chicken also makes great jerky if you have a food dehydrator.

The Decadence of Dark Chocolate

One or two squares of this rich, satisfying chocolate will reduce your stress levels and help to curb cravings for other sugar-loaded treats as well. High stress levels has been known lead to cortisol hormone spikes. These increase your appetite and emotional eating behaviors. The desirable benefits of dark chocolate (not regular candy bars) are specific to the concentration of cocoa flavonoids. These have been shown in studies to have multiple health benefits, such as improving blood flow to the brain and reducing the risk of heart disease by lowering cholesterol levels, blood sugar and blood pressure. The higher the percentage of cacao, the greater the benefits.



References

  1. Susanne Rautiainen, Lu Wang, I-Min Lee, JoAnn E Manson, Julie E Buring, Howard D Sesso, American Journal of Nutrition, Dairy consumption in association with weight change and risk ofbecoming overweight or obese in middle-aged and older women:a prospective cohort study, https://watermark.silverchair.com/ajcn118406.pdf
  2. The Harvard Gazette, Research also shows people who eat nuts weigh less, https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2013/11/eating-nuts-reduces-risk-of-death/

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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.

8 Prepper Tips for Beginning Survivalists

by Kelly R. Smith

A prepper in a devastated landscape
A prepper in a devastated landscape
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From Dictionary.com, “A prepper is someone who actively prepares (preps) for worst-case scenarios, such as the end of the world, by practicing survivalist techniques, including hoarding food.”1 Some would say preppers are living on the fringe, but perhaps the idea isn’t so crazy. Witness the Anifa and BLB antics during the past year. Witness all the left-leaning municipalities de-funding police. But it gets even more mundane; remember when COVID-19 hit? Forget finding toilet paper on store shelves. I had a substantial stock in our walk-in pantry. And, plenty of Spam and tuna fish. Crazy like a fox.

So let’s look at 8 prepper tips for beginning survivalists. They don’t all have to be done right away or in any particular order. It really is a lifestyle shift and just like a fitness program, it’s practical to approach it incrementally.

  • Keep your physical fitness level up. When SHTF you’re going to have to be prepared to do everything yourself or with limited help. Many tasks will be strenuous. If you’ve got to bug out, your backpack may weigh up to 50lbs or more just stocked with the bare necessities.
  • Formulate a variety of plans. Plan for any of the major scenarios that are likely to occur: these include, but are not limited to natural disaster (hurricane, fire, earthquake), government collapse or martial law, and disease outbreak (think COVID-19). Each of these situations would require a slightly different plan of action, modified to reflect what will be lost/needed if that specific event comes to pass.
  • Involve your household. Don’t make the mistake of expecting that one family member can do the prep work of the entire family unit all by themselves. This would put a major strain on you, but it also leaves your family at a at a loss if something were to happen to you. Everyone in the household should be able to fend for themselves as well as playing their designated role as a team member. This means the burden of survival will be somewhat evenly distributed among everyone. A reasonable starting point is by making sure that everyone is familiar of the family plans in the case of an emergency.
  • Stay out of debt. OK, we live in the real world so some debt is unavoidable. Look how fast the federal government curtailed currency production when the pandemic started. Many would-be preppers jump in with both feet and try to stock up right from the get-go. Spread out your purchases on a prioritized basis. Avoid the temptation. Food? Throw a few long-shelf life items into your basket every time you grocery shop. Actively begin to get out of debt. Dave Ramsey has some good advice. For example, “Break up with your barista. If you don’t know where all your money’s going each month, we’re pretty sure your favorite coffee shop can find it for you. Brewing your own coffee at home is a simple way to save money fast.”2 I started doing this a long time ago. I picked up a coffee grinder and order my espresso coffee beans from Black Rifle Coffee. Head and shoulders above Starbucks in quality. Start putting back some physical cash somewhere in your home on a regular basis. Precious metals make good bartering mediums after a crisis.
  • Surround yourself with like-minded preppers and homesteaders. Cooperation will expand your group of resources, which can mean the difference between survival and failure if you’re all left to your own devices. Your own neighbors are your best bet for pooling resources and bartering. In fact, you can allocate responsibility for particular things to different people. One neighbor might be an avid vegetable gardener, another may be adept at ammo reloading. Which one has the MacGyver gene and a garage shop full of tools?
  • Arm yourself. This point is hard to over-state. When disaster strikes and local first-responders are overwhelmed, nobody cares about your 911 call. As a matter of fact, if you live in a place like Seattle, Minneapolis, or Austin, your elected officials are going to tell the police to stand down and green-light the radical mobs. The mobs will come for your stuff. The three most recommended items are a handgun, a rifle with a scope, and an assortment of knives. A stun gun or two never hurts. And ammo; plenty of ammo.
  • Keep things in perspective. Being prepared is important but don’t get overwhelmed. Start with the essentials and take it from there. Focus on defense, food, water, shelter, and medical supplies.
  • Get a dog if you don’t already have one. Rescue dogs are always a good choice. Shelters are always looking to unload them and chances are good that Fido will already be housebroken. If the bad guys have to choose between attacking a home with a big bark and one with no bark, it’s kind of a no-brainer which way they’ll go.


So, there it is. These 8 prepper tips for beginning survivalists are in no way an exhaustive list but they will certainly give you food for thought. Take your time, educate yourself, and be safe out there.


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References

  1. Dictionary.com, https://www.dictionary.com/e/slang/prepper/?itm_source=parsely-api
  2. Dave Ramsey, Ramsey, 25 Ways to Get Out of Debt in 2020, https://www.daveramsey.com/blog/ways-to-get-out-of-debt

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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 to Stop Overeating

Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Everyday Feasting to Excess

Photo of Kelly R. Smith   by Kelly R. Smith

The results of chronic overeating
The results of chronic overeating
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This post was updated on 04/17/21.

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It may seem odd — many of us eat way too much at Thanksgiving dinner. And then again on December 25th as if it was a Christmas tradition. And then what? According to the site Wild Simple Joy, the number 1 New Years resolution is to practice intuitive eating. This means, “Make a resolution to sit down and focus on your eating instead of multitasking. Practice listening to your body when you are thirsty, ACTUALLY hungry, and full (or something else, like just tired!)”1 Basically, pay attention and stop overeating!

Strategies to Stop Overeating

  • Don’t wait until you are starving. Many of us are not very good at knowing when we’re hungry until it’s too late. This leads to overeating by over-filling the feed bag and then scarfing it down, going past our fullness level before we realize it.
  • Pose the question — am I hungry enough for an apple? Why? Most of us can always find room for more desert but a piece of fruit? Not so much.
  • Drink a glass of water, ice tea, or cold brew coffee. This will partially fill your gut and trigger the “full” signal sooner. It will also begin to kick in your digestion process.
  • Enjoy your first few bites of your meal. Really tune in to the first few mouthfuls. “Your taste buds desensitize to food within the first few minutes, which make food not taste as good after that last bite threshold,” explains Stephanie Grasso, RDN. “Chewing slowly during those first few bites will not only delay overeating, but also allow you to appreciate the flavor of food at its peak.”
  • Remember that your eyes are bigger than your stomach. Swedish researchers found that, “When blindfolded, subjects ate 22% less food (p < 0.05), had shorter meal durations (p < 0.05), and had less decelerated eating curves (p < 0.05). Despite a smaller amount of food consumed when blindfolded, the reported feeling of fullness was identical to that reported after the larger meal consumed without blindfold.”2 This is most likely because when blindfolded, eaters relied more on internal satiety signals.
  • Eliminate distractions. Turn off your TV, get away from your computer, put your cell phone on silent. It’s difficult to tune into your body’s quiet taste and satiety cues when digital distractions take our focus off of the task at hand: simply eating. It’s easy; just sit at your table with a chair and a plate. This will ground you in a good environment and mind-set for eating intuitively.



  • Balance your meal. The ideal meal includes a mix of carbohydrates, fat, and protein. This is more likely to satiate you more rapidly and keep you feeling full longer. When meals are balanced, we get shorter-term energy from starchy veggies and grains and longer-term energy from healthy fat and protein. Furthermore, healthy fats (olive oil, avocados) and proteins slow your digestion process, giving your satiety hormones a chance to multiply, signaling that you are getting full. As far as carbohydrates go, shoot for a mixture of whole grains, starchy vegetables, and non-starchy vegetables.
  • Take your time already. As you eat your meal, take time to pause and put your fork down. This will give you an opportunity to pace yourself and determine how full you are. Engage in conversation if you’re dining with someone. Take deep breaths, and have a sip of water or wine. Repeat this process as you eat. Allow yourself visual reminders; after you’ve finished a quarter of your food, to set the fork down and so forth.
  • Manage your stress in other ways. Many of us eat as a reaction to stress as much as we do when we are hungry. The solution? Siphon off that stress at regular intervals. Take myself for example. Here I sit all day long producing hopefully interesting content for you, esteemed reader. My Garmin 235 watch sends me a “move” signal when I’ve had too much butt-time. So I go for a stroll and listen to Audible.com audio books on my iPhone. Sometimes a quarter mile, sometimes a mile and a half. When I get back, bingo! Stress gone, the well of creativity duly refreshed.


  • Avoid “The Last Supper Effect.” Whenever we put a particular food on the banned list, the desire for it goes up. That’s just human nature. If you forbid yourself from eating certain things, you are very likely to overindulge in them while you still can, a phenomenon also known as the “last supper effect.” This can also carry over after you stop eating a given food, during those furtive sneaking episodes.
  • Be aware of and manage trigger foods. We all have foods that trigger overeating and avoiding them can help minimize your chances of overeating. For example, if you know ice cream is likely to trigger a late-night binge or a ravenous episode of overeating, it’s not a good idea to keep it stocked in your freezer. The more difficult it is to get at something, the less likely you will be be to overeat that particular item.

Keeping these tips in mind will help you to stop overeating, during the holiday season and beyond. Get a head start on those New Years resolutions and get a handle on that weight management program you keep telling yourself about.

You Might Also Enjoy:

References

  1. Dawn Perez, Wild Simple Joy, New Year’s Resolution Ideas for Your Best Life in 2021!, https://wildsimplejoy.com/new-years-resolution-ideas-for-personal-development/
  2. Dr. Yvonne Linné, Britta Barkeling, Stephan Rössner, Pål Rooth, Wiley Online Library, Vision and Eating Behavior, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1038/oby.2002.15

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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 Considered Opinions 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.

Increase Energy with These 10 Habits

In a Slump? Missing That Get-up-and Go? Turn It around with These Behavior Changes

Photo of Kelly R. Smith   by Kelly R. Smith
Sponge Bob rarin' to go
Sponge Bob rarin’ to go
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We all have times when we feel that our batteries are less than fully-charged. In the dumps. Only firing on four pistons. The mayor of blahville. Whatever you call it, it can be an occasional or chronic disorder. The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the number of people reporting both an elevated feeling of loneliness1 and the lack of energy.

The INDEPENDENT says, “The way in which our lives have transformed in such a short space of time has heavily impacted our daily routines, as many individuals no longer have to wake up at a certain time in order to be punctual for school or work. This has seemingly resulted in an increasing number of people experiencing “grogginess” amid the coronavirus pandemic2.

In a large part, your habits define your energy levels. If you have good habits, you’ll feel energized and be more resistant to burn out, both physically and mentally. On the other hand, if your habits are not lined up properly, you easily fall into a repetitive cycle where you feel worse and worse, until it’s a struggle just to keep up. Let’s look at 10 habits designed to increase your floundering energy levels.

  • Go to Bed Early. Ben Franklin famously said, “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” It was true then and it’s true now. Regardless of what some night-owls might tell you, seven to eight hours of snooze-time are the gold standard if you’re going to stay cognitively sharp in the long-run. Sleep deprivation is cumulative. WebMD says, “The amount of sleep a person needs goes up if they’ve missed sleep in previous days. If you don’t have enough, you’ll have a “sleep debt,” which is much like being overdrawn at a bank. Eventually, your body will demand that you start to repay the debt.”3 All sleep is not created equal though. You should aim to get as “deep” sleep as possible. How do you know? I use my Garmin 235 GPS sports watch. See the screenshot from the Garmin Connect site below.
Garmin 235 GPS sports watch sleep analysis screenshot
Garmin 235 GPS sports watch sleep analysis screenshot
  • Work Out at Least Six Days a Week. Working out, like weight loss/maintenance, is is a long-term investment in your energy levels. There is no finish line. It’s easy to slack off in the short-term, but over the long haul you’ll not only be less productive daily but you’ll reduce your overall fitness level, making it harder to think straight and stay alert throughout the day. Furthermore, recent research shows that aerobic exercise improves memory and grows brain cells.4 The reason for six days of activity rather than seven is to give your body a time for rest.
  • Nap Daily. Afternoon naps are not just for kids. Why do we forget that when we turn into “big people?” A twenty-minute nap in the afternoon after lunch is just the thing to top off your energy fuel tank for the afternoon to come. A siesta, if you will. As a special treat, come back with a good cup of strong coffee.
  • Plan Tomorrow’s Schedule of Accomplishments. Don’t make your first morning’s activity planning. It’s counter-productive. If you write down a schedule on the prior afternoon, in the morning you can hit the road running. Start with energy, work on your checklist, and keep up the momentum. Will you get it all done? No; not if you’ve given yourself enough work. Prioritize and do what you can. When it’s time to pull down the shutters and you’ve made the next day’s schedule, put it behind you and relax.
  • Set Long-Term Goals. Why long-term goals? Because they are made up of the sum of a line-up of short-term goals. If you focus on the the energy needed for the short-term goals, the long term ones will take care of themselves.
  • Pay Close Attention to Your Diet. Our primary source of physical energy is the food we eat. So, if you are aiming to keep your energy levels up, you should eat healthfully and organically and try to integrate the most nutritious foods into your diet. The energy that you derive from food is measured in calories. MedicalNewsToday says, “If we don’t consume enough calories our bodies may feel tired, as they don’t have enough ‘fuel’ to run on. At the same time, however, if we get too many calories, there’s a system overload, and we may end up feeling sluggish.”5
  • Indulge Yourself in Some Put Yoga, Meditation. Practicing yoga and meditation will also boost your energy levels. Why? Because these practices focus on techniques like mindful breathing that promote a state of calm which in itself is regenerative. It follows that if if your fatigue is due, at least partially, to elevated stress levels, making time for yoga or meditation as a routine self-care approach will make you more resistant to stressors.


  • Learn to Delegate Tasks. You probably feel stifled by your day-to-day responsibilities — from the small daily chores like as doing the dishes, to the less mundane like an important work project that comes with many ramifications. But if you fail to find a comprehensive strategy to redistribute some of your overwhelming responsibilities, at least from time to time, it will likely result in creeping burnout and a constant sense of fatigue in your day-to-day life. This is not at all conducive to your productivity, happiness, and energy level.
  • Do Your Hardest, Most taxing Work in the Morning. The benefits to your energy here are primarily psychological. Your energy level tends to depend a lot on your mood. If you’ve got some important work to do, your mood is likely to be good which fosters productivity. If your are forced to tolerate wasted time on playing email tag, drawn-out meetings, calls, or fail to produce something of substance, you will be frustrated and exhausted as you enter the second half of your work day.
  • Read Better Books! One of the greatest benefits of reading books isn’t just to impart to you new ideas and information. Consider that it’s to reinforce a state of mind that often occurs at your subconscious level. The best books to indulge in aren’t necessarily those that teach you facts, but those that subtly change your entire thinking patterns.

Adopting these 10 habits will increase your energy level right away and raise it to its full potential as time goes on. It will take constant reinforcement, but what worthwhile endeavour doesn’t?

References

  1. Kelly R. Smith, Loneliness as an Effect of the COVID-19 Pandemic, http://www.icanfixupmyhome.com/WPBlog1/2020/07/12/loneliness-as-an-effect-of-the-covid-19-pandemic/
  2. Sabrina Barr, THE INDEPENDENT, Coronavirus: Why do people seem to feel groggy and tired during lockdown?, https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/coronavirus-lockdown-tired-sleepy-fatigue-daylight-routine-a9450196.html
  3. WebMD, How Much Sleep Do I Need?, https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/sleep-requirements
  4. Kelly R. Smith, I Can Fix Up My Home Blog, Running Improves Memory, Grows Brain Cells, http://www.icanfixupmyhome.com/WPBlog1/2020/11/14/running-improves-memory-grows-brain-cells/
  5. Medical News Today, How can you boost your energy levels?, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321938

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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.

Running Improves Memory, Brain Cells

Aerobic Exercise Produces the Cathepsin B Protein


by Kelly R. Smith

Running and brain functionality
Running and brain functionality
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Runners might not all consider themselves to be superior to sedentary people but in all fairness, in our heart of hearts we might suspect it. As it turns out, running and other aerobic exercise does elevate us above the masses, at least with respect to health and mental functionality, all other things being equal. Let’s see how that works exactly.

Scientists now believe that running may help boost memory. This is because the aerobic activity produces a protein which boosts brain cell growth. Researchers at the National Institute on Ageing discovered that when our muscles are exercised they produce a protein called cathepsin B. This makes its way to the brain and triggers neuron growth.

Dr. Henriette van Praag, a neuroscientist at the National Institute on Aging says “Overall, the message is that a consistently healthy lifestyle pays off.” The key word to focus on here is consistently. It should come as no surprise that one of the fundamental aspects of this healthy lifestyle is what we eat and drink. It is therefore important to follow a diet for body and brain.

Initial Findings on the Cathepsin B Protein

Praag explains the research this way, “We did a screen for proteins that could be secreted by muscle tissue and transported to the brain, and among the most interesting candidates was cathepsin B. Moreover, in humans who exercise consistently for four months, better performance on complex recall tasks, such as drawing from memory, is correlated with increased cathepsin B levels.”

Of Mice and Men

Praag’s team initially found that the protein increased when they were studying mice that exercised regularly on wheels. The protein level increased in the blood and muscle tissue the more the mice ran. They next found that when cathepsin B was applied to brain cells in their lab it initiated the production of molecules related to neurogenesis, meaning the growth of neurons.

Additionally, they found that the mice that were genetically modified so that they no longer produced the protein performed less well in memory tests. Dr. van Praag concluded, “We also have evidence from our study that cathepsin B is upregulated in blood by exercise for three species—mice, Rhesus monkeys, and humans.”

How can we as runners reap these benefits? Dr van Praag says, “People often ask us, how long do you have to exercise, how many hours? The study supports that the more substantial changes occur with the maintenance of a long-term exercise regimen.”

Exercising on a Regular Basis Helps Reduces Memory Loss

A Number of health experts have believed in the benefits of running or involved in some other fitness regimen for a quite some time now. Elisa Zied, a member of the American Dietetic Association says, “It’s a no brainer, we know that exercise is something everyone should try to incorporate.”

Another study was undertaken at Columbia University Medical Center that also suggested that exercise may elevate a person’s memory capacity. Researchers in that study were the first to track brain cells in a living brain in an attempt to find the exact area that is the most affected by exercise. What they found is that exercise targets the very region that is associated with the unfortunate age-related memory decline that usually starts around the age of 30.

Participants in this study who were consistently physically active performed better on memory tests than were the participants who neglected exercise. Many health and nutrition experts propose that it’s just one more reason to get active. Zied said, “We’ve known for a long time you get this burst of energy and feel-good chemicals when you exercise, so its not that much of a stretch that it is actually going to preserve your mental function as you get older.”

Increased Blood Flow is an Essential Part of the Process

Webmd.com says, “Researchers found that exercise boosts blood flow to a brain area involved in memory—even in people who aren’t in top shape.” This study shows that just three months of physical exercise was all that was needed for people starting with low levels of aerobic fitness to build up the blood flow to that specific part of their brains and increase scores on memory tests.

In yet another study performed at the University of British Columbia researchers found that consistent aerobic exercise seems to increase the size of the hippocampus. This is the region of the brain that is involved in verbal memory as well as learning.

Running Improves Memory Both Directly and Indirectly

From a direct point of view, some of the primary benefits of running come from its capacity to lower insulin resistance, lower inflammation, and stimulate the production and release of growth factors. These chemicals in the brain are at least in part responsible for the healthy maintenance and operation of brain cells, the growth of new blood vessels internally in the brain as well as regulating the number of, and survival of, new brain cells.

But from an indirect point of view, a regular fitness routine has been shown to improve your mood and regenerative, restful sleep as well as reducing your levels of stress and anxiety. Problems in these areas often cause or contribute to cognitive impairment.

A number of other studies suggest that the regions of the brain that are responsible for controlling thinking and memory (specifically the prefrontal cortex and medial temporal cortex) have a larger volume in individuals that are runners as opposed to those who are not.

In a nutshell, if you are a runner, you are doing a lot more for yourself than just keeping the weight off. If you are not a runner, why not start? We can all use an improved memory, and more brain cells as we age.

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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.

Birthday and Christmas Gifts for Runners and Fitness Enthusiasts

by Kelly R. Smith

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Best Christmas gifts for runners and fitness enthusiasts
Best Christmas gifts for runners and fitness enthusiasts

Everyone loves gifts. It’s better to give than to receive. What do you give the person that has everything? All very true, but when it comes to birthday and Christmas gifts for runners and fitness enthusiasts, there’s always something new on the market. Marketers know that running gear and gadgets are powerful motivators and that is a good thing for gift-givers. So, how to choose?

Cold Weather running Gear

The weather outside is frightful, as the song says. Well, maybe not so much here in South Texas, but there’s the odd 40° morning here and there. Given that many runners are smack dab in the middle of training for a winter marathon, some cold weather gear is in order.

  • Compression Arm sleeves. You might have heard them called sports sleeves. They’re really getting to be a thing for those of us who are thermally challenged. They might look odd, but so were Bluetooth ear buds when they first came out; go figure. Compression arm sleeves can be handy when a runner’s core temperature doesn’t warrant a long-sleeved shirt isn’t needed; just go with a singlet and sleeves.
  • Technical running gloves or mittens. These work in our area since you can wear them when you head out in cold running weather, and then take them off and tuck them into your waistband when you warm up or catch a tailwind.
  • Running jacket. Although any windbreaker will do the job, a specialized running jacket is preferable because it’s engineered for the job — pockets, detachable hood, water-repellent, etc. I bought the Adidas Men’s Running Supernova Tokyo Jacket last winter; here is my running jacket review.

Christmas Gifts that Keep on Giving all Year Long

Some fitness gear spans all the seasons. that’s a good thing. Check these out.

  • Water bottles and hydration devices. Hydrate or die is the phrase that springs to mind. This market has really expanded with customers involved in all sports. The most basic variety is the hand-held. Then there’s the one I like, the Fuelbelt Sprint 10-ounce Palm Holder with Pocket. It’s a regular bottle but it comes with a cushioned strap. This means you don’t have to keep a tight grip on it as the miles roll by. CamelBak “backpacks” used to be just a cycling thing, but more and more runners are wearing them. I suppose they would be handy for fastpacking, but it seems a little extreme otherwise. Plus, in the summer it reduces available exposed skin area for cooling by evaporation.
  • Running safety gear. This is one item that’s isn’t used as much as it should be. We train on the roads and we sometimes get out there in the dark; people drive disconnected, what with texting and such behavior. Obviously, despite all cautions taken, runners and cyclists do get hit. At the very least have your contact information available. I’ve been wearing a Road ID emergency information bracelet for years now. Its got a metal tag stamped with my name, address, two contact phone numbers, and my blood pressure medication.
  • Technical running socks. Unless you’re a barefoot runner, you’re always going to need a pair or two in the drawer and one on your feet. Shop for socks that are specifically designed for running to minimize the chance of blisters.
  • Body Glide or another anti-chafe lubricant. Back in the day we had to settle for Vaseline. It worked but was temperamental on very cold or very hot days and what ratio of days does that constitute in your world? And, it stained clothes. No more; now we’ve got Body Glide, possibly the most effective anti-chafing product available. It comes in a handy applicator resembling a deodorant stick. No more dipping your fingers into the Vaseline tub.


Hopefully, this article provided a good jumping off point in terms of ideas for birthday and Christmas gifts for the runners and fitness enthusiasts in your life. The good thing is that they are all functional and sure to be appreciated.

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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.

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