How to Manually Migrate a WordPress Site

The instructions below are for migrating a WordPress site on GoDaddy’s Managed WordPress service to a GoDaddy Linux Shared Web Hosting server that uses cPanel. Nevertheless, the instructions still work elsewhere.

Step 1: Back Up (Download) Your Site’s Files

To easiest way to download all your site’s files is to archive (zip / tar) all files into one large file and then download it. You can use a free FTP / SFTP tool like WinSCP to do this or Godaddy’s File Manager or cPanel’s File Manager. Just connect to the server, select all files, right click and choose “Archive and Download”. A file named archive.tar.gz will be downloaded.

GoDaddy’s File Manager
WinSCP SFTP Client

If you are unable to archive all files due to the connection timing out, you can SSH into the server and archive the files from the command line. On Windows 10, you can open Windows Powershell, SSH into the server, and run the command tar -zcvf all.tar.gz *.

When downloading the archive, you may want to connect over ethernet instead of wifi to increase speeds. When I did this, I was downloading at around 23 MB/s.

You can also download files from the command line using the following SCP command if you are on Linux or MacOS.

scp your_username@remotehost.edu:foobar.txt /local/dir

Step 2: Back Up (Export) Your Site’s Database

The easiest way to do this is by connecting to your MySQL database using PHPMyAdmin. Then, click the Export tab, ensure SQL is selected, check the “Save as file” checkbox, and then click the Go button. The database will then be downloaded.

Step 3: Upload Your Site’s Files

On this step, you can use the same tool as in step 1, e.g. WinSCP. If you are going to host the migrated site on GoDaddy’s Shared Linux server, you can just create a new folder on the destination server, e.g. at /home/javanigus/public_html/mysite.com/ where mysite.com is the name of your site.

Make sure to upload the archive (one large file) archive.tar.gz. Don’t unarchive it locally and then upload a million separate files. After you upload the file, you can unarchive it. If you’re using GoDaddy, you can use cPanel’s File Manager to select the archive.tar.gz and extract it.

When you’re done extracting the archive, you can delete the archive.tar.gz file.

Step 4: Import (Upload) Your Site’s Database

For this step, you’ll need to create a new database and a database user who has full permissions. If you use cPanel, you can easily to this step from the control panel.

  • 1. Create a database (e.g. mysite_db)
  • 2. Create a database user (mysite_db_user)
  • 3. Add user to the database
  • 4. Assign permissions to the user

Now that you have a database, you can connect to it using PHPMyAdmin, select the database, click the Import tab, choose your database SQL file from step 2, leave all other defaults, and click the Go button. Your database tables and records will all be created.

Step 5: Edit Your Site’s wp-config.php File

In the step, you can use an FTP client to download, edit, and upload your site’s wp-config.php file. If you can cPanel, you can also use its File Manager to edit the file in the browser. You’ll need to edit the values for 4 variables:

In many cases, like for GoDaddy’s Linux Shared Hosting service, the value for DB_HOST is “localhost”.

Step 6: Add Domain and/or Change Your DNS

You can update the DNS records for the domain to use values pointing to the new host. After DNS has propagated, you should see the same site but being served from the new host instead of the old one. At this point, you can delete the old site.

If your new host is GoDaddy’s Shared Linux hosting using cPanel, you can use cPanel to create a new domain with a root folder path that matches where you uploaded the site’s files in step 3 above. When you do that, if your domain is also hosted with GoDaddy, then GoDaddy will auto-update the DNS for that domain automatically. You could then delete your old site.

Toasted Chipotle Steak n Cheddar Sandwich

So, the other day I went to Quizno’s and had this Chipotle Steak and Cheddar sandwich. It was mighty delicious so I had to try to recreate it.

Here’s how it came out.

It was actually really good so here’s the recipe. Note: I substituted steak with pastrami. You can also use roast beef.

Ingredients

  • Pastrami (from Costco) – may substitute with roast beef
  • sliced green bell pepper
  • sliced onion
  • cheddar cheese
  • Chipotle mayonnaise (substitute with hummus for healthier alternative)
  • Francisco Gourmet Sesame Seed Rolls

Instructions

  1. Slice the bell pepper and onions into slivers.
  1. Heat up some pastrami in a microwave at 50% power for 2 minutes. If the bell pepper and onion are cold from being in the fridge, heat them up along with the pastrami.
  2. Spread some Chipotle mayo on both sides of the bread
  1. Spread pepper and onion evenly on bread, add pastrami, add cheddar cheese and toast in over until cheese has melted

Remove from oven and enjoy!

Garage Organization

Let’s face it. Garages have been storage spaces rather than places to park your car. Here’s one approach to organizing your garage so that you can still fit your car in it.

1. Build a shelf

You can buy shelving, including heavy duty restaurant-grade ones with wheels which are expensive, or you can just follow the instructions at this YouTube video on how to make a simple set of shelves out of 2x4s.

2. Buy transparent plastic containers

These clear boxes from IKEA are great. They’re also cheap. You don’t need to buy the lid.

3. Buy zip loc slider bags

Slider bags are better because they are more secure. I use a few different sizes.

2.5 gallon
1 gallon
1 quart
12″ x 12″ bag – 6 mil thickness

Available on Amazon

4″ x 6″ bags 4 mil thickness

Available on Amazon

3″ x 4″ bags

Available at Walmart

4. Buy twist ties

Twist ties are very useful for tying up cables. Available on Amazon.

5. Place related items together

For example, the picture below is of a bin labeled “Fasteners” which includes nails, screws, bolts, etc. Loose items are placed in appropriately-sized bags. Others are just placed directly in the bin unless their box or plastic container is mostly empty in which case I’d transfer the contents to a bag to not waste space.

In the photo below, the bin is label “Plumbing”. Not everything needs to be in a bag, like the PVC glue. Loose items or small parts that go together with larger parts are bagged so they don’t get lost.

6. Label bins

You can label bins using a label maker. I wanted larger labels so I printed category names on white paper, laminated it, and bolted it to the bins.

By now, your garage should feel a lot bigger and you won’t keep buying things you already have and you won’t spend forever looking for things.

UPDATE: July 29, 2021

Instead of laminating printed sheets of paper, I found a simpler, more flexible solution. Just buy clear sheet protectors for 3 ring binders. $5.00 on Amazon for thin ones. $20 on Amazon for thick, 5.5 mil vinyl ones (preferred). Just drill two holes in the plastic bins where the 2 outer sleeve holes are and fasten using a small bolt with a washer. Then, print your labels and insert them from the side.

How to Afford and Buy a House For First-Time Home Buyers For Less Than Rent (House Hack)

tl;dr

  1. Increase your credit score as quickly and as high as possible (minimum 680)
  2. Eliminate as much debt (credit cards, loans) as possible, e.g. monthly payments for a fancy car, etc.
  3. Save as much money as possible (minimum $20,000)
  4. Buy a used duplex (2-unit property) preferably with existing tenants where at least one tenant is paying the market rate for rent
  5. Kick out the lower paying tenant and live in that unit
  6. Slowly fix up the property as money becomes available and time permits to increase its value
  7. After a few years, the home’s value will have appreciated and you will have more equity in the house. You can remain in that living situation or you can sell the duplex, take the profit, buy a single family residence or a better duplex or triplex.

Introductory Facts

Homeownership is the number one way for people to move from the lower class to the middle class and to build wealth.

People who own homes are almost always better off financially than people who always rent.

Real estate (e.g. houses) always increases in value over the long term (see graph below). The only exception was between 2008 – 2012 which was due to mortgage fraud and greedy banks which led to a global recession. It is now illegal to commit mortgage fraud which should prevent significant depreciation from occuring again.

Source: https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/CASTHPI

The average rate of appreciation of real estate in California is about 6.77% annually. That means if you buy a house for $300,000, then in one year, the value will have gone up by $300,000 x 6.77% = $20,310. You will have made $20,310 in one year for doing nothing but living in your own home. In 10 years, due to compounding appreciation, your home’s value will have increased by $277,582. 

On the other hand, cars always lose value as time goes on. As a matter of fact, they lose an average of 15% per year.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Depreciation 

Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon and richest person in the world, drove a Honda Accord in the 1990s even though he was a billionaire at the time.

Source: https://www.carwow.co.uk/blog/top-10-billionaires-cars#gref

When you rent, your entire monthly rent payment is spent and you get none of it back. However, when you buy a house and pay a mortgage, you get some of your mortgage payment back in the form of equity in the home. For example, if you borrow money from a bank for $300,000 at 3% interest fixed for 30 years (360 months) with a 3.5% down payment ($10,500), your monthly payments during the beginning and ending years will look like this:

MonthPrincipal & InterestPrincipalInterestPrincipal Remaining
1$1,221$497$724$289,003
2$1,221$498$723$288,505
3$1,221$499$721$288,006
….
358$1,211$1,211$9$2,434
359$1,211$1,214$6$1,220
360$1,211$1,220$3$0 (loan paid off)

As you can see in the table above, in the beginning years, even though you pay $1221 per month for your mortgage, you are getting almost $500 back in the form of equity which is like a savings account but in the form of home value instead of at a bank. Your interest payments in the beginning are around $720 but it’s not money completely lost because mortgage interest is tax deductible which can lower your tax bill.

Rent always increases whereas mortgage payments never increase (on a fixed loan). As a matter of fact, nationally rent prices have increased an average of 8.86% per year since 1980, consistently outpacing wage inflation by a significant margin.

Source: https://ipropertymanagement.com/research/average-rent-by-year

Between 2008 and 2020, annual wage increases for hourly employees maxed out at just above 3.5% which is less than both

  1. the annual rate of rent increase (8.86%) since 1980
  2. the annual rate of California home value appreciation (6.77%)

This means that your income growth is less than your housing expense growth. This also means that if you live month to month, as time goes on you will have less and less money as rent increases faster than your income.

Source: https://www.marketwatch.com/story/at-a-10-year-high-wage-growth-for-american-workers-likely-to-keep-accelerating-2019-03-08 

Property Types

There are different types of properties, e.g.

  1. Manufactured / mobile home
  2. Condo
  3. Townhouse
  4. Single Family Residence
  5. Multifamily Residence (duplex – 2 units, triplex – 3 units, 4-plex – 4 units)
  6. Commercial (5 units or more)

Manufactured / mobile home

Never buy a manufactured / mobile home. Though they are cheap, you will have to rent the land and if the landowner increases the rent on the land, you will most likely have no choice but to pay the increase since it would be difficult and very expensive to move your mobile home somewhere else. Even if you own land and buy a manufactured home to put on it, you will not be able to get a low-interest home loan to purchase a mobile home.

Condos and Townhouses

Condos and townhouses are cheaper than single family residences but you will have to pay an HOA (homeowner’s association) fee which can be very expensive, especially if there is a swimming pool. Also, you are limited in what you can do to your own home, e.g. you can’t paint the exterior, you can’t move walls, build additions, etc. You are better off not buying a condo or townhouse.

Single Family Residence

This type of home is ideal for a single family. However, unless your financial situation is good, it would be difficult to afford one.

Multifamily Residence
(duplex – 2 units, triplex – 3 units, 4-plex – 4 units)

This type of property is usually purchased by investors. However, anyone can buy one and live in one of the units and rent out the other units. Of course, the more units, the more expensive. Therefore, for first time homebuyers with a limited income, it is recommended to buy a duplex. The strategy recommended in this article is to live in one unit and rent out the other unit and let the rental income pay for some, most, or all of your mortgage.

Commercial (5 units or more)

This type of property is usually purchased by big investors or companies who have a lot of money. Most people cannot afford this type of property.

Number of Bedrooms and Bathrooms

Most houses come with either

  • 2 bedrooms and 1 bathroom, a.k.a. 2/1
  • 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms, a.k.a. 3/2

To keep costs low, focus on duplexes where each unit has 2 bedrooms and 1 bathroom.

Potential Rental Income

Since the recommended strategy is to buy a duplex and live in one unit and rent out the other, you need to know the potential rental income you will get to offset your mortgage expenses. To determine this, you can go to Rent-o-meter.

www.rentometer.com

For example, the 2/1 duplex at 8420 Don Ave, Stockton, CA 95209 has an average rental income of $1493 for each unit. Therefore, if you buy this duplex, you could potentially get $1493 per month from your renter to help pay for some or all of your mortgage.

Determine Costs

As a first-time home buyer, you are entitled to the FHA First-Time Home Buyer program. This program allows you to borrow money to buy a house and only put a down payment of 3.5% as opposed to 20% for non-first-time home buyers and 25% for investors. However, if your down payment is less than 20%, you will have to pay private mortgage insurance (PMI).

https://www.fha.com

When you buy a house with a 3.5% down payment, you will borrow money and pay interest. You will also have to pay for 

  • Private mortgage insurance
  • Fire insurance
  • Property tax

To determine these expenses, go to Zillow > Home Loans > Mortgage Calculator.

https://www.zillow.com/mortgage-calculator

For example, for a loan with the following numbers:

Purchase Price:$300,000
Down Payment:3.5% (10,500)
Loan Type:30-year fixed (always choose this type)
Interest Rate:3%

your total monthly mortgage-related expenses would be $1734.

However, since your rental income will be on average $1493, then your net monthly mortgage-related expenses will be 

$1734 – $1493 = $241 per month

In other words, your monthly housing costs become ONLY $241 per month! But, that depends on 

  • whether you can find a 2/1 duplex for $300,000
  • whether your credit score is good enough that you can get a loan with a 3% interest rate
  • whether you can actually rent out the other unit for $1493 per month

Interest Rates

Interest rates on your loan make a very big difference in your monthly mortgage expense and your lifetime loan cost. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the federal government lowered interest rates to almost zero to stimulate the economy and avoid a recession. In doing so, interest rates on home loans have been very low. As a matter of fact, interest rates have never been lower than now as indicated in the graph below.

Source: https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/MORTGAGE30US 

Therefore, now is THE BEST TIME to get a home loan because the interest rates are at the LOWEST they have ever been. If you wait 2, 4 or 6 years from now, interest rates may go back up to 4 or 5% which means your monthly mortgage payments will be much higher.

Credit Score

Your credit score has a VERY BIG impact on the interest rate of your home loan. The higher your credit score, the lower the interest rate, and the cheaper your monthly mortgage expenses. Therefore, you want your credit score to be as high as possible. 

To determine the interest rate you can get for different credit scores, you can go to Zillow > Home Loans > Mortgage Rates
https://www.zillow.com/mortgage-rates/

For example, for a loan with the following numbers:

Purchase Price:$300,000
Down Payment:3.5% (10,500)

you will find the following interest rates for different credit scores.

Credit ScoreInterest Rate
560 – 599No loans available
600 – 619No loans available
620 – 639No loans available
640 – 6593.5%
660 – 6793.25%
680 – 6992.75%
700 – 7192.75%
720 – 7392.75%
740 – 7592.75%
760 and above2.75%

The rates above were valid on July 4, 2021. Interest rates change daily and throughout the day.

As you can see above, if your credit score is below 620, you can’t even get a loan. Also, the higher your credit score, the lower the interest rate. 

In order to improve your credit score, sign up for a free Credit Karma (https://www.creditkarma.com/) account, enter your information, and under “Credit Scores”, you will see your score for Transunion and Equifax followed by ways to improve each score.

Notice that there are 6 factors that affect your credit score, 3 of which are high impact.

FactorImpactDescription
Payment HistoryHigh Percent of payments you’ve made on time
Credit Card UseHigh How much credit you’re using compared to your total limits
Derogatory MarksHigh Collections, tax liens, bankruptcies or civil judgments on your report
Credit AgeMediumAverage age of your open account
Total AccountsLowTotal open and closed accounts
Hard InquiriesLowNumber of times you’ve applied for credit

From here on, we will assume you have increased your credit score to 680 and since interest rates change all the time, we’ll assume you can get a rate of 3%.

Interest Rate VS Loan Cost

Interest rates affect the cost of a loan and your monthly payments. Following are monthly mortgage costs and total loan costs for a $300,000 home loan at 30-year fixed at various interest rates.

Interest RateMonthly Mortgage PaymentTotal Loan Cost Over 30 Years
2.5%$1,190$123,000
3%$1,227$151,000
3.5%$1,307$180,000
4%$1,389$209,000
4.5%$1,474$240,000
5%$1,562$271,000
5.5%$1,652$304,000
6%$1,745$337,000

As you can see, the interest rate makes a big difference in your monthly payment and loan costs. For example, for a 5% interest loan, you’ll be paying an extra $335 per month and an extra $120,000 over 30 years compared to a 3% interest loan for $300,000.

Mortgage-to-Income Ratio

Lenders require that in order to give you a home loan, your mortgage expenses (PITI) must not be more than 28% of your gross monthly income before taxes. PITI stands for

  • P = Principal
  • I = Interest
  • T = Taxes
  • I = Insurance

Let’s say that your total monthly income is $3000 per month before taxes. That means your PITI may be no more than 28% x $3000 = $840 per month. However, if you buy a duplex, then your total monthly income will increase by the rental income of, say, $1400 per month, which would bring your total monthly income to $4400. Therefore, your PITI for a duplex can be no more than $4400 x 28% = $1232 per month.

Debt-to-Income Ratio

Lenders also require that your total debt (including mortgage expenses) be no more than 43% of your gross monthly income before taxes. For example, if your monthly income is $3000 per month and your fancy car’s monthly payments are $350 per month and you are looking at buying a house with an estimated PITI expenses of $1000 per month, then your debt-to-income ratio is

Debt-to-Income Ratio = Debt / Income = ($350 + $1000) / $3000 = 0.45 or 45%

Since 45% is greater than 43%, you would not qualify for a loan.

Calculations

To help see all important numbers in one place, you can create a spreadsheet similar to the one below.

Loan TypeFHA – First-Time Home Buyer
Purchase Price$300,000
Minimum Credit Score680
Down Payment (%)3.5%
Down Payment ($)$10,500
Interest Rate3%
Term30 years fixed
Mortgage – Principal$497
Mortgage – Interest$724
Mortgage – Insurance (PMI)$236
Property Tax$170
Insurance$105
Total Monthly Cost (PITI)$1,732
Property TypeDuplex
Income – Work (Annual)$60,000
Income – Work (Monthly)$5,000
Income – Rental (Monthly)$1,300
Total Gross Monthly Income$6,300
Max Monthly Mortgage to Income (%)28%
Max Monthly Mortgage Allowed ($)$1,764
Max Monthly Total Debt to Income (%)43%
Max Monthly Total Debt Allowed ($)$2,709

Finding a House for Sale

As mentioned above, the strategy is to buy a “used duplex”. To find these, go to Zillow and do a search.

www.zillow.com 

The search criteria can be

  • Stockton, CA
  • For Sale
    • By Agent
  • Home Type
    • Multifamily

You can save this search as “Stockton Duplex” so you get notified whenever a new listing goes on the market.

Sort the search results by price from cheapest to most expensive. We’ll use the following listing as an example:

$449,000 2 bd– ba 2,340 sqft
3012 Amherst Dr, Stockton, CA 95209
For sale  Zestimate®: $423,300

https://www.zillow.com/homedetails/3012-Amherst-Dr-Stockton-CA-95209/15288727_zpid

The color is ugly but maybe that’s why no one has bought it. You can always paint it.

Rental Income:

This duplex may already have renters in both units. If you buy it, you can kick out the renter who is paying the lower amount and then live in that unit yourself.

If the duplex isn’t rented, you can check Rent-o-meter to determine average rent. After entering the address in www.rentometer.com, we see that the average rent is $1686.

Mortgage Expenses:

Now, we need to calculate our mortgage expenses by going to Zillow’s mortgage calculator. For a loan with the following numbers:

Purchase Price:$449,000
Down Payment:3.5% ($15,715)
Loan Type:30-year fixed (always choose this type)
Interest Rate:3%

we get the following 

This means that your total monthly housing expense will be $2596.

You net monthly housing expense becomes

$2596 – $1686 = $910 per month

$910 / month is very cheap for 2 bed 1 bath housing in Stockton and is much cheaper than renting. Also, as time goes on, the value of the property will go up on average 6.77% per year.

To reiterate, for the example above, 

your net monthly housing expense would be$910 per month
you need a down payment of$15,715
you need a credit score of at least 680
you will need to pay for loan closing costs in the average amount of $5000

Get Pre-Approved

Before making a move to buy a house, you increase your chances of success by first getting pre-approved. Don’t simply get pre-qualified because that doesn’t carry as much weight as a pre-approval. A pre-approval will verify your financial situation so you can feel confident you will be able to afford a house at a particular price. When the time comes, you can and should include your pre-approval letter with your house purchase offer so the sellers know you are serious and can afford to buy their house. When getting pre-approved, mention that you are interested in buying a duplex and renting out one of the two units so that the rental income is accounted for.

You can get pre-approved by Zillow Home Loans.

https://www.zillow.com/pre-approval/#/pre-approval

Find a Real Estate Agent

Since you are new to buying a house, you’ll want a real estate agent to guide and help you. You can easily find a real estate agent by searching Google for “Stockton real estate agent”.

Once you agree to work with an agent, you can tell them the type of property you want to buy (used duplex) and give them your pre-approval letter. You can then tell them which active listings on Zillow (or Redfin – www.redfin.com) you are interested in. The agent may also have pocket listings / off-market listings that meet your criteria.

Make an Offer

Once you decide to put an offer on a house, you need to decide how much you are willing to pay for it. In a hot market, there could be competition driving up prices. If Zillow estimates the house to be worth $360,000 and the seller is asking for $360,000, then you may want to offer $370,000 to beat the competition. Note, however, that in a hot market, values can go up quickly. I offered $30,000 above the asking price and I still got outbid by someone who bought the property for $40,000 above asking. 

Your agent can help you determine the value of the house and draft up a purchase offer. You will review the offer letter for accuracy and then sign it. Your agent will then submit the offer to the seller’s agent and wait for a response. If the seller accepts your offer, then you’re locked in and the seller cannot change their mind and sell to someone else. 

NOTE: 

Get a Loan and Fire Insurance

Home Loan

I have not purchased a home using the FHA First-Time Home Buyer program. However, I have found LoFi Direct to offer very competitive rates for home loans. 

https://www.lofidirect.com

You can also compare lenders and rates on Zillow’s Rate Comparison page.

https://www.zillow.com/mortgage-rates/#/ 

Fire Insurance

For fire insurance, I recommend using a broker to shop around and find a deal for you. They usually can offer lower rates than if you go directly to the large insurance companies. Just search Google for “home insurance broker”.

Close Escrow

Once everything is in order, you will “close escrow” which means you finalize the deal. It takes about one month from when your offer is accepted to when you close escrow. Once you close escrow, you become the legal owner of the property and you can move in. Just make sure you pay your mortgage payments and property tax so the lender and government don’t take your house from you.

Dwarf vs Regular Italian Cypress Trees

I’m bad with plants, and you probably are too. Whatever I plant just seems to die. And even with Home Depot’s 1 year return return policy, who’s gonna wanna dig up and return a plant with its roots and all and dirty up their car to take it to the Home Depot for $50.

There is one plant (or tree, actually) that anyone (in California) can plant without worry of it dying. This set-it-and-forget-it tree is the Italian Cypress. There are so many great things about this tree, it’s no wonder it adds value to your property.

  • Fast Growing
    Tall trees are expensive. You can buy this tree short and the regular Italian Cypress tree will grow up to 3 feet per year.
  • Very Hardy
    The Italian Cypress tree is hardy (will survive) down to 10° F. Obviously not a problem in California where it seems to just get hotter and hotter every year.
  • Drought Tolerant
    With increasing temperatures and less rain in California by the year, water is becoming less available and more expensive. Some locations may even prohibit watering your lawn or garden during certain periods. This is not a problem with the Italian Cypress tree. I stopped watering mine and they still look alive and green.
  • Evergreen, Non-deciduous
    The Italian Cypress tree is an evergreen tree meaning that it’s green forever (all year long). It is non-deciduous meaning that it doesn’t lose its leaves for part of the year. This is great because it’s low maintenance. My neighbor’s trees are deciduous and every winter, their leaves dirty up my front yard and I have to clean it up. With the Italian Cypress tree, there’s nothing to clean up and it looks alive all year long – no temporary death!
  • Fertilizer
    The Italian Cypress tree doesn’t even need fertilizer. Just dig a hole, put the tree ball in, back fill, give it some water, and you’re done.
  • Readily Available
    The Italian Cypress tree is readily available at the Home Depot all year long. It’s also available at Costco for about half the price but Costco only has it in early Spring 🙁

Most places sell the regular Italian Cypress tree but there’s also a dwarf version. Here are the specs for each.

Dwarf Italian CypressItalian Cypress
Botanical NameCupressus sempervirens CompactaCupressus sempervirens
Deer ResistantYesYes
Drought TolerantYesYes
Mature Height7-9 ft. in 10 years
25-30 ft. at maturity
35-40 ft. in 10 years or
Trim to Desired Height
Mature Width2 ft.5 ft.
SunlightFull SunFull Sun
Growth Rate:SlowFast
Grows Well In Zones:7-10 outdoors7-11 outdoors
HardyDown to 10° FDown to 10° F

Planting and Care for Dwarf Italian Cypress Trees

1. Planting: First, select a location with well-drained soil and full sun – any area with 6 to 8 hours of sunlight is ideal.

When you’re ready to plant, dig a hole that’s about one and a half to two times the size of your plant’s root ball, place the Dwarf Italian Cypress in the hole, back fill the soil and water to settle the roots.

2. Watering: Once established, your Dwarf Italian Cypress is moderately drought tolerant, but it’s important to have a regular watering schedule for the first couple of growing seasons. Water about once weekly or check the surrounding soil near your Cypress – if the surrounding soil is dry about 2 or 3 inches down, it’s time to water.

3. Fertilizing: Apply a well-balanced, general purpose fertilizer to your Dwarf Italian Cypress in early spring, before new growth begins.

Planting and Care for Regular Italian Cypress Trees

1. Planting: Italian Cypress Trees are drought tolerant and like to be on the dry side, so choose a location with full to partial sun (4 to 8 hours of sunlight daily) in well-drained soil.

Then, dig a hole that is just as deep but twice as wide as the root ball of the plant. Place the plant in the hole to check the depth. If the soil of the root ball is below the level of the soil of the surrounding ground, pick up the tree and add more soil to the hole. Fill in the hole with the same native soil you removed then water the tree by counting to 20 or by giving it five full watering cans full of water.

2. Watering: Irrigate your newly-planted tree twice a week for the first month, once a week for the next two months and every two weeks after the first three months. Water your Italian Cypress if you have warm, dry, and windy weather during the winter in your area.

3. Fertilizing: This tree isn’t fussy about soil. It grows equally well in clay, loam, or sandy soils. It also does not need routine fertilizing.

Pictures of Dwarf Italian Cypress Trees

Pictures of Regular Italian Cypress Trees

Ridiculous Traditions

Tradition /trəˈdiSH(ə)n/

  • a long-established custom or belief that has been passed on from one generation to another. of customs or beliefs from generation to generation
  • a doctrine believed to have divine authority though not in the scriptures.
    • (in Christianity) doctrine not explicit in the Bible but held to derive from the oral teaching of Jesus and the Apostles.
    • (in Judaism) an ordinance of the oral law not in the Torah but held to have been given by God to Moses.
    • (in Islam) a saying or act ascribed to the Prophet but not recorded in the Koran.

Many people uphold and follow tradition as if it were some sort of law. Many traditions have nothing to do with religion yet people continue to follow them. Some traditions don’t have negative consequences if not followed, but others can be outright ridiculous and even life-changing. Following are some outrageous and even deadly traditions that still happen today.

Honor-Based Abuse and Violence

Female Genital Mutilation

Forced Marriage

  • In Afghanistan
    Afghan woman forced to marry her rapist
  • In Kurgyzstan
    Brides by Force. Marriage by kidnapping pushes Kyrgyz women to suicide

Child Marriage

Breast Flattening

Bride Price

Discrimination

  • Based on caste system in India
    Dalit is a name for people belonging to the lowest caste in India, characterized as “untouchable”. They are discriminated against on many levels and even murdered.

Killing Babies and Infants

  • In Ethiopia
    Children born out of wedlock and children with perceived and true physical abnormalities are considered ritually impure. These children are disposed of either through drowning, putting soil in their mouths and strangling or leaving infants in the forest.
  • In India
    Baby girls are being killed in the Tamil Nadu area of India, so their poverty-stricken parents can avoid paying large dowries when their daughters marry.

Face Mutilation

Foot Binding

Foot binding was the Chinese custom of breaking and tightly binding the feet of young girls in order to change the shape and size of their feet; during the time it was practiced, bound feet were considered a status symbol and a mark of beauty.

The Last Golden Lotus: The Secret of Chinese Food Binding

Force-Feeding Girls

Leblouh (Arabic: البلوح‎, romanized: lə-blūḥ) is the practice of force-feeding girls from as young as five to nineteen, in countries where obesity was traditionally regarded as desirable.[1][2][3] Especially prevalent in rural areas and having its roots in Tuareg[4] tradition, leblouh is practiced to increase chances of marriage in a society where high body volume used to be a sign of wealth. The practice is being done in several African countries, such as Mauritania, Niger, Uganda, Sudan, Tunisia (specifically Jewish people), Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa.

Fed to Wed: An ancient tradition of force-feeding girls in Mauritania

Dowry Death

Dowry deaths are deaths of married women who are murdered or driven to suicide by continuous harassment and torture by their husbands and in-laws over a dispute about their dowry, making the women’s homes the most dangerous place for them to be. Dowry deaths are found predominantly in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Iran.

Australia’s Dowry Deaths

Bride Burning

Bride burning is a form of domestic violence practiced in countries located on or around the Indian subcontinent. A category of dowry death, bride-burning occurs when a young woman is murdered by her husband or his family for her family’s refusal to pay additional dowry. The wife is typically doused with kerosene, gasoline, or other flammable liquid, and set alight, leading to death by fire.[1][2] Kerosene is often used as the cooking fuel for dangerous small petrol stoves, so it allows the claim that the crime was an accident. It is most common in India and has been a major problem there since at least 1993.

Bride-burning claims hundreds in India

Tool Portability and Organization

Let’s say you want to do some home improvement somewhere besides your, e.g. at one of your rental properties. You may be tempted to just bring a few tools related to the job you’re going to work on. What often happens, though, is you end up realizing you need another tool that you didn’t expect to need. Once you do that a few times, you then realize you need a way to just bring ALL your tools so you don’t waste time going back and forth. But how can you bring all your tools? Below is how I bring most tools to a remote worksite. I find this setup works very well.

Heavy Duty Stackable Tool Boxes with Wheels

There are many toolboxes on the market but some are overpriced. I went with the Ridgid ones below.

In the photo above, I have stacked four boxes. The problem, though, is the handle is below the top-most box and it tends to hit your hand which is painful. So, I just stack 3 boxes and the small parts box is lightweight enough to carry by hand.

Following is a description of each box.

Small Parts Box

Unlike other small parts boxes, this one has a robust locking mechanism so when you carry it around, the latch doesn’t accidentally open and spill all your parts everywhere.

I only put the parts I use the most like

  • screws in various lengths (T-25 star head in lengths 1-1/4″, 1-5/8″, 2″, 2-1/2″, 3″)
  • drywall screws
  • various metal screws shorter than 1-1/4″
  • zip ties
  • metal washers
  • Wago wire connectors (better than wire nuts)
  • plastic wire clamps in 3 different sizes
  • plastic ribbed drywall anchors
  • rubber bands
  • etc

For small or few items, I put them in 4 mil 4″ x 6″ clear zip lock bags.

Using a label maker, I label the screws by length.

For the plastic basket, I use this for long items like the 2′ long level and for items specific to a particular task, e.g. if I’m building a new fence, I put string, plumb level tool, knee pads, etc.

In the toolbox below, I put various small tools grouped by category in 12″ x 12″ 6 Mil Zip Lock clear bags. These are relatively thick plastic bags so they don’t puncture easily. In the tray, I put things that don’t fit into the other categories, e.g. because they are too long. The categories of items are

  • electrical (wire stripper, multimeter, outlet tester, voltage sensor, voltage tester, small pliers)
  • reciprocating saw blades
  • writing (pencils, markers, pencil sharpener, eraser, pen)
  • cutting (scissors, tin snips, utility knife, pvc pipe cutter)
  • gloves
  • various sizes of flathead screwdrivers
  • various sizes of philips screwdrivers
  • socket set and socket adapters
  • various sizes of chisels
  • various sizes of hex keys
  • measuring tools (hard tape measure, laser distance measure, angle measuring tool, soft tape measure)
  • various drill / driver specialty bits
  • various angle grinder blades and attachments
  • various mini circular saw blades
  • stud finders (magnetic, electrical)
  • various oscillating tool attachments
  • various wrenches

The bottom-most box that has the wheels is used for power tools and a few other tools.

  • hammer
  • sledge hammer
  • rubber mallet
  • paint stirrer
  • drill
  • driver
  • reciprocating saw
  • oscillating tool
  • angle grinder
  • orbital sander
  • mini circular saw
  • jig saw
  • clamps

Why Some Countries Are Poor

Every now and then I come across a documentary which shows extreme poverty in many places around the world. I can’t help but wonder why many of these countries don’t appear to be progressing whereas others which used to be poor, like China and Singapore, have become rich in a relatively short period of time. This article examines some of the reasons that prevent countries from growing.

High Levels of Corruption

According to Transparency International, there tends to be less corruption in rich countries and more corruption in poor countries. This makes sense since growth would be limited if governments steal their people’s money.

The problem with corruption is if you elect a new leader / president who isn’t corrupt, they will have a hard time eliminating corruption if other government officials are used to being corrupt. You likely need to sack all government officials and hire new ones who hopefully aren’t corrupt.

No Access to Education

According to this UNESCO study, it’s clear that there’s a correlation between poverty and education.

Pupil-to-Teacher Ratio

If we look at the countries ranked by primary school pupil-to-teacher ratio, we find, unsurprisingly, that there tends to be a smaller percentage of teachers in poor countries than in rich ones.

Source: UNESCO Institute for Statistics (http://uis.unesco.org/)

Literacy Rate

Another interesting metric is literacy rates. According to this map, we see consistent results showing poorer countries tend to have more illiterate people.

Tuition Costs

Another issue is the cost of education. While most countries offer free primary school education, most require tuition for a college education. Many rich European countries offer free college education and some, like in the U.S., offer very affordable college tuition. U.S. students can also get free money (grants) and low interest loans to help pay for college.

High Population

In high population countries, there aren’t enough resources (jobs, schools, teachers, etc) to support the large population. This situation becomes one of supply and demand where there is a large supply of unskilled workers and a short supply of resources. This results in a large percentage of the population becoming poor because, for example, they are unavailable seats to a nearby school or they are unavailable jobs.

According to this article by the World Economic Forum, there is a correlation between population size and a country’s wealth. In rich countries, people tend to have fewer children whereas in poor countries, people tend to have more children.

There is also a correlation between population size and education. Education leads to lower birth rates and slows population growth. This makes it easier for countries to develop. A more-educated workforce also makes poverty eradication and economic growth easier to achieve. Of course, economic growth brings with it another problem: increased consumption.

In one study, it was found that uneducated Malian women gave birth to almost 7 children whereas educated ones only gave birth to 4.

In order to slow population growth, some countries have tried to limit the number of children born. However, when China did this, it just turned a problem of population growth into one of an ageing society.

According to an article on the US National Library of Medicine
National Institutes of Health website, fertility rates tend to be higher in poorly resourced countries. In developing countries children are needed as a labor force and to provide care for their parents in old age. In these countries, fertility rates are higher due to the lack of access to contraceptives and generally lower levels of female education. When children are put to work, e.g. by selling water or tissue at busy intersections, they are not in school and end up following in their parents’ footsteps, i.e. having many kids to make them work. Also, couples don’t expect help from the government when they’re old so they have kids who they expect will take care of them later on in life.

Low Taxation & Tax Evasion

Low tax revenues means that a government can only fund basic services such as policing, the courts and the armed forces. In order to provide universal healthcare, education, and a social safety net for all of a country’s residents, higher tax revenues are required. According to the UN, this can be achieved if a country’s tax revenues are at least 20% of their GDP [1]. If achieved, this would result in an increase in a society’s quality of life. The Human Development Index (HDI) [2] is a ranking of a society’s quality of life by country. The index groups countries into 4 categories. Following is a 2016 listing of those categories with a sampling of countries. The listing also shows each country’s 2015 tax revenue-to-GDP ratio [3]. Each country’s estimated 2017 GDP per capita per the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is also listed to give an idea of the average individual’s annual income for that country [4]. In addition, I note whether a country is an Islamic country.

[1] Why developing countries need to toughen up on taxes
[2] List of countries by Human Development Index
[3] List of countries by tax revenue to GDP ratio
[4] List of countries by GDP (PPP) per capita

RankCountryIslamicHDITax Revenue-to-GDP RatioGDP per capita
Very high human development
1Norway0.94954.8$70,590
2Australia0.93943.4$49,882
3Switzerland0.93927.8$61,360
4Germany0.92644.5$50,206
5Denmark0.92550.8$49,613
5Singapore0.92514.2$90,531
6Netherlands0.92439.8$53,582
7Ireland0.92330.8$72,632
8Iceland0.92140.4$52,150
9Canada0.92131.7$48,141
10United States0.92026.0$59,495
19Israel0.89936.8$36,250
30BruneiYes0.865?$76,743
33QatarYes0.8562.2$124,927
38Saudi ArabiaYes0.8475.3$55,263
42UAEYes0.8401.4$68,245
47BahrainYes0.8244.8$51,846
51KuwaitYes0.8001.5$69,669
High human development
59MalaysiaYes0.78915.5$28,871
69IranYes0.7746.1$20,030
71TurkeyYes0.76724.9$26,453
86JordanYes0.74121.1$12,487
90China0.73820.1$16,624
97TunisiaYes0.72514.9$11,987
102LibyaYes0.7162.7$9,792
Medium human development
111EgyptYes0.69115.8$12,994
113IndonesiaYes0.68912.0$12,378
123MoroccoYes0.64722.3$8,612
139BangladeshYes0.5798.5$4,561
147PakistanYes0.55011.0$5,354
Low human development
168YemenYes0.4827.1$2,300
169AfghanistanYes0.4796.4$1,889
187Niger0.35311.0$1,153

Interestingly, the top 10 countries with the highest quality of life are the countries that collect the most tax from their residents.

If we take the average tax revenue as a % of GDP for all countries in each category, we get the following table.

Country GroupAverage Tax Revenue as % of GDP
Top 10 Very High Human Development36.75
Very High Human Development31.92
High Human Development22.08
Medium Human Development17.09
Low Human Development15.08

Based on the two tables above, it appears that, in general, the more taxes a country collects (higher tax-revenue as % of GDP), the higher the quality of life of its residents.

In addition to higher taxation, tax policy should be progressive such that the poor do not may as much or more as middle and upper class people. Also, corporations and rich people should not be able to evade taxes using loopholes.

Case Studies

How China Went From Poor to Rich

China has 1.4 billion people. 1/5th of all humanity. Chinese was successful up until the 17th century when China closed its doors and decided it didn’t need Western gadgets. Many people ended up dying due to starvation. 14 million Chinese people died in WWII. Mao Tse Dong ruled China and closed all universities. Deng Xioping had a vision to make Chinese prosperous. His slogan was “To be rich is glorious”. Like Mao, he believed in that to ensure stability and to prosper, you needed one party rule. When Mao Tse Dong died in 1976, Deng asked to be in charge of China’s education and science. Deng allowed everyone to take university exams for free. The first exams started in December of 1977. 5.7 million people applied for exams but only 5% could be admitted. In 1978, Deng emerged as preeminent leader. In 1978, Deng went with a delegation of 30 people to Europe. He witnessed how advanced Europe was and how far back China had fallen behind. Deng then went to Singapore and Japan. He noticed that trains in Japan could travel at 210 kph whereas those in China could only go up to 60 kph. He saw robots making cars in Japan. Deng wanted Chinese people to see how people in Japan and Singapore lived so he showed them on TV. Chinese people were in shock to see Japanese people work and have their own refrigerators at home. China embarked on an economic and social experiment – mixing the Community command economy with the energy of capitalist enterprise. Chinese students were sent to foreign universities. There was a concern that Chinese students may not want to return to China. There was a huge investment and primary and secondary education – especially for women. By the early 80s, the signs of reform were everywhere from the schools to the cars on the streets where there were once only bicycles. The rural population of China had been moving to the cities at a rapid pace. In just 4 years, China’s agriculture, education and industry were reformed. Private business was allowed to flourish. China’s low production costs offered huge opportunities to the outside world. With it’s fast, expanding urban workforce, China’s GDP would increase nearly 70 times in 40 years. The Chinese way was a marriage of one party rule with capitalist enterprise. China didn’t want to be dependent anymore on outside people for technology.

Characteristics of Singapore

  • Education in Singapore is obligatory
  • Education is mostly free
  • Almost everyone in Singapore is literate
  • Real-life skills are prioritized
  • Singapore is a leader in science and reading
  • Teachers work longer days
  • No corruption

Easily Add Exterior Outlets To Your Home

Many homes come with one or, if you’re lucky, two exterior outlets. Depending on the shape and layout of your house, this may not be enough. You can pay someone to add exterior outlets but that could be pricey. Instead, here’s a simple way to add exterior outlets using components rated for outdoors.

Materials

Leviton 15 Amp 125-Volt Duplex Self-Test Tamper Resistant/Weather Resistant GFCI Outlet – $19

Cantex 1-Gang FSE Electrical Box – $7

Note that this plastic electrical box only has an opening on one side unlike others that have a open on the top and bottom. Since we don’t water to get in, we use this single hole box and install it such that the hole is at the bottom.

1-Gang Extra Duty Non-Metallic While-In-Use Weatherproof Horizontal/Vertical Receptacle Cover with Wasp Guard – $9

Gardner Bender 3/8 in. 1-Hole Plastic Cable Clamps – (15-Pack) – $1

HDX 50 ft. 16/3 Indoor/Outdoor Landscape Extension Cord, Green – $15

Instructions

One exterior outlet

  1. Cut off the female end of the extension cord,
  2. strip about 3 inches of the green outer jacket to expose the 3 wires (green, white, black) inside,
  3. strip 1/2″ of the 3 wires and screw them into the appropriate terminals on the outlet.
  4. screw the outlet into the electrical box
  5. screw on the outlet cover
  6. if you have an existing exterior outlet, you can simply plug the other end (male end) into that outlet. Otherwise, you can cut off the male end, drill a hole through the exterior wall where an interior outlet is and connect the wires to the interior outlet. WARNING: Turn off power to the interior outlet before doing this to avoid electrocution and a short circuit.
  7. Secure the extension cord to the exterior of the building using the cable clamps. Or, bury the extension cord under dirt or rocks. Or, put the cord into a gray outdoor-rated PVC pipe and clamp the pipe using the gray plastic clamps.

Two exterior outlets in series

In this case, one of the electrical boxes will have two extension cords coming into it as shown in the picture below.

In this case, strip the wires again and connect them as usual. The outlet I’m using supports two wires for each black and white terminal so that was straightforward. The green (ground) terminal, however, only support one wire so I made a jumper wire, connected it to the green terminal, then connected the 3 open green wire ends to a 3-terminal Wago connector as shown below.

Different Tools To Dig a Hole

If you need to dig a hole to, say, plant a tree, there are a few different tools available to get the job done. Depending on the size and number of holes you need to make, here are some tools to consider.

SDS Plus Hammer

An SDS Plus rotary hammer uses an SDS Plus bit. It has 3 functions

  • drill
  • hammer drill
  • hammer

You can use the hammer function with an SDS spade bit to break up hard soil. I have the Bosch Bulldog xTreme which is a popular SDS Plus rotary hammer.

Amps8
Max speed1300 rpm
Blow energy2 ft lb
Blows per minute5800 BPM
Chuck typeSDS Plus
Weight11 lbs
Price$200

Some SDS Plus bits you can use are

Bosch Bulldog Xtreme 2-1/2 in. x 10 in. SDS-Plus Hammer Steel Self-Sharpening Wide Chisel – $26

3 in. x 6.5 in. SDS-Plus Scaling Chisel – $25

If you need to longer bit, you can buy an SDS Plus bit extension. But, be careful as I believe it’s designed more for drilling rather than hammering.

Milwaukee PLUSLOK 18 in. SDS-PLUS Carbide Bit Extension – $100

SDS Max Hammer

The next step up from an SDS Plus hammer is the SDS Max hammer. This one is from Harbor Freight. It also has 3 functions.

HERCULES 12 Amp 1-9/16 In. SDS Max-Type Variable Speed Rotary Hammer

Amps12
Max speed515 rpm
Blow energy6 ft lb
Blows per minute2900 BPM
Chuck typeSDS Max
Weight15 lbs
Price$230

This hammer is 4 lbs heavier than the previous one but has 3 times the blow power.

Some SDS Max bits you can use are

WARRIOR 4-1/2 In. SDS Max Type Clay Spade Bit – $43

This bit is 18 inches long.

1-1/8″ Hex Jackhammer

Next up would be a full on 1-1/8″ Hex Shank Jackhammer. This is normally used for breaking concrete. This is only a hammer. It cannot drill. For example

XtremepowerUS Heavy Duty Demolition Jack hammer – $180

Amps15
Max speedN/A
Blow energy55 ft lb
Blows per minute1800 BPM
Chuck type1-1/8″ hex shank
Weight45 lbs
Price$180

This hammer is MUCH heavier (by 30 lbs) than the previous one but has 9 times the blow power.

Some 1-1/8″ hex shank bits you can use are

Neiko 02627 Clay Spade Chisel Bit for Demolition Hammers, Alloy Steel | 1-1/8″ Hex Shank | 17.5-inch Length – $43

Gas-powered Auger

You can rent a gas-powered auger from the Home Depot for $78 per day or buy one from Harbor Freight.

PREDATOR Gas Powered Earth Auger – $230

It comes with a 6 in. diameter x 31 in. long auger bit and offers 45 ft. lbs. of torque and fast drilling speeds up to 320 RPM.

There are different bit sizes as well as an bit extension available.

If you use an auger, or any digging method for that matter, it’s good to soak the ground with water first. You can create a small hole first and then fill it with water so the water will seep down to soften the ground you want to remove.

You can also rent this towable auger for $118 per day but I found it very heavy and difficult to use.

You can also rent a mini skid steer with auger attachment. They cost $300 per day from the Home Depot.

Excavator

You can also rent a mini excavator from the Home Depot for $300 per day.