Mindfulness. It's a buzz word, and we're all after it, even if we aren't totally sure what it is. But, the benefits are obvious — the ability to be wholly present, cognizant of where you are and what you’re doing, and not being concerned or overwhelmed by what’s going on around you, seems, well, kinda the whole point of life, right?
Good news. This is something we are all capable of achieving, and like any craft or skill, we'll become better when we practice daily. Here's how to start:
Have you ever marked out a board, went to cut, and re-checked your measurements after hearing the words "Measure twice, cut once" echo in your ears? It's remarkable how nuggets of shop wisdom can stick with you and save you a ton of trouble on a project.
At ManMade, we're big on collecting aphorisms, witticisms, and maxims that deliver helpful lessons in tidy packages. Sometimes, they're just what we need to stay productive, and get motivated to try something new. So, we're providing a few of our favorite in the form of free downloads: printable artwork to hang in your home, office, or wherever you create your DIY projects.
Okay. It's time to call it. The long days of summer are gone, and with them went the endless opportunity to take on a new project or adventure, no matter the time. For the next few months, the daylight hours will be spent mostly at work, with our free time coinciding with the dark, crisp nights of the season. The perfect time to do a little whittling or carving by the fireplace, or perhaps time to start a pot of your famous chili and cast iron cornbread. Or, when you just have a few spare minutes to yourself, read a great book.
For my whole life, the idea of foraging has had a romance that I can't quite put my finger on. Way before it became a punchline about hyper-local hipster foodies, to be a forager was a signal of a deep wisdom about the land. To know what could be eaten was to have access to riches that were all around us. In a world beset by industrial foodways, foraging is a reminder that the world can sustain us (or at least some of us) without our machines, if we would simply let it.
The trouble with foraging, though, is that unless you grew up in the style of Katniss Everdeen or the Girl of the Limberlost, most of the earthly wisdom and insight needed to forage well is beyond you. And this is definitely a wisdom that you need to gain through practice. Ideally, some Italian-born wood elf––someone like Angelo Pellegrini or Angelo Garro (who at least is still alive)––would appear to teach a willing learner how to gather and find and hunt out the best things available on the earth. But that's pretty unrealistic. So, the only thing to do is to just do it––after all, if we start small, build up some confidence and awareness, and then keep going, before long we might rediscover some of that lost knowledge so that we can pass it along ourselves.
So, from the experience of one free food fan who hopes to be more, here's how to get started as a forager.
Rolling up your sleeves. It's a fitting metaphor for getting stuff done because of its roots in literally protecting your shirt during activity. It's a practice reserved for when you're shifting out of the formal occasion that requires a button-up shirt, but you're not yet going to change into casual clothes: dinner after work at a restaurant with family, lunch at the pub with co-workers, traveling on business, in the later hours of a wedding reception.
When you strip it down to its elements, there's really not much to the process of rolling your sleeves. But remember that clothing is nonverbal communication, and when you make intentional decisions about you wear, you project purpose. So if you're going to roll your sleeves, don't just shove 'em up your arm... do it with confidence!
Read on for your three main options for rolling up your sleeves.
Dirty dishes in the sink. Putting your clean socks away. Replying to that one email that's been sitting at the top of your inbox for longer than you'd be willing to admit out loud.
We all have that small handful of tasks and chores that weigh the heaviest on our souls and our to-do lists. Most often, they're the things that occur multiple times a week, so that when you look at them, you think, "Didn't I just do that? And doesn't it take forever?"
And that's where our brains lead us astray. Because, although, yes, you did probably just do that – no, it doesn't take forever.
I spent solid twenty-five years of my life in school. It began in kindergarten and I then headed straight from high school into undergrad, a master's degree, and then a Ph.D (I know, I know...) One of the things I truly miss now that I'm no longer an enrolled student is the optimism and excitement that comes with shopping for school supplies. Nerd or not, there is something that is just exciting about having fresh notebooks, new pens and pencils, bags, folders––all the "stuff" of school. Adult life may entail the occasional new notebook, but there isn't a season for it in the Fall where everything is potential, and all the success and mistakes are in the future.
That we don't do this as adults is a shame. Because there is every reason for all of us to be ready for school. The longest project in a any maker's life is the constant, endless craft of oneself. And there is no way to make progress on this project without the proper tools. I think most people dedicated to craft have slid into a life of learning whether consciously or not. And there's no reason not to prepare ourselves with supplies to complete this project well. But, of course, a life of learning is not the same as preparing for a school year. It has a different set of requirements and it calls for some different kinds of supplies.
Guys—I love space.
Growing up, I was always the kid with my head in the clouds (I'll admit I've been called a "space cadet" more than once) but my actual interest in the objects outside of our atmosphere didn't launch until I fulfilled my college science credits with two semesters of astronomy. It was one of my favorite classes of all time: learning about different planets and galaxies, observing the moon through powerful telescopes, and—shockingly for an artist—working the calculus of space physics. These days, I dip my toes into the pool of astronomy with a set of apps.
Read on for our top picks of best free apps for space fans!
I really should kick this off with a big disclaimer: I'm a book guy.
I grew up in a book house—my dad is a professor and the author of several books, and my mom worked in a library when I was a kid. Bibliophilia is in my genes—my toddler already goes straight to her books immediately on waking up. I love places where books live—I've haunted libraries, bookstores, and free book spots in every town I've ever lived in. I read books in multiple languages—I'm literate in German, with passable French and Spanish skills. I even write books—I've got several novels in progress, including one story with a finished draft that I completely scrapped instead of sending to an agent because it wasn't quite there yet.
But recently, I've ditched at least 300 volumes from my personal library, some of which I had owned for over 15 years.
If you're trying to downsize too, read on for 10 tools to help you winnow the chaff from your personal library. But first, a brief aside to answer the why.
For years now, Michael Pollan has become the authority on the relationship that human beings have to food in the modern mechanized, industrial world. He has written on gardens, the inter-relationship between specific plants and their human users, the food systems that operate in our world, the ethics of our diets and the deeper meanings behind our cooking traditions. In short, he has become one of the most influential authorities on what we put in our stomachs. In the process he has helped foster a whole new approach to food that has manifested in artisenal pickle shops, kombucha in every store, and a renewed focus on locality in our food
Fact: the physical space that we inhabit on a daily basis, especially our homes, is an extension of our minds and attitudes. Your thoughts influence your actions, your actions influence your environment, your thoughts respond accordingly, and so on.
I don't need to offer a strong argument that the passive life—that is, the life where other people and random events have determined your course—is no life at all. Bearing that fact in mind, your surroundings shouldn't be an afterthought, but a map of the deliberate decisions you've made to make the best use of your time, energy, and resources.
I recently wrote about how you can hack your habits by deliberately organize your home; this is one specific application of that precept. The goal here is to reduce clutter, and the tool is a simple, easy-to-memorize maxim:
"One does not inhabit a country; one inhabits a language. That is our country, our fatherland –– and no other." –– Emile Cioran
We're living at a weird time when it comes to the question of learning a new language. On the one hand the world is becoming so globalized, so intercultural, and so communicative, that there has never been a more relevant time to learn Korean or Farsi or Finnish. On the other hand, digital tools for translation––both in written and spoken forms––are becoming so capable and intuitive that language is no longer the high water mark for understanding a culture.
For centuries of especially European history, learning languages was a crucial part of being an educated and informed person. After all, in a world full of different languages, it was a necessity to be able to communicate. But in a bizarre way, global society has actually made us LESS dependent on learning a foreign language. English has become the internet's lingua franca, and tools like Google translate and other translation software has made navigating multi-lingual spaces easier. And tools like Duolingo give us exactly the amount of language access we need, which seems to be enough Spanish or French or Mandarin for our vacations. Language courses and requirements are disappearing from schools and unless you are born into a family that speaks a language different from the culture around you, its harder and harder to learn.
I guess you could put something else other whiskey in a pocket flask. Maybe some nice sipping tequila in summertime, or perhaps a bit of brandy around the holidays. Whatever you fancy.
But whatever goes inside, our vote is: you should own certainly own one. Not because you should be sneaking spirits in places you shouldn't have them (although...) But because its summertime, and you should be headed out on adventures. And once you've achieved whatever goal you set, it's good to celebrate a little.
One of the books in my current stack is Let My People Go Surfing, written by Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard. The book is structured into two parts: the first half is a brief history of the company from its origins as a beachside blacksmith shop producing climbing equipment. The other is a company handbook on the founding principles and values on which the billion-dollar company makes its decisions.
Stargazing is a hobby that comes with a bit of a learning curve. It requires real intellectual engagement, specialized (and expensive) equipment, and a lot of free time when the sky is dark. So its understandable that only the truly dedicated might get into it in a meaningful way.
Or...is it? Because looking at the stars at night is one of the cheapest, oldest, and most egalitarian hobbies that's out there. Because the sky belongs to everyone, and people have been marveling at it for a very long time.
Friends are important. And long-standing friends are so rare and so precious that they can hardly be overvalued. But if humanity, as a species, were to name one friend that had been there since the very beginning, it would be certainly be...well, dogs. They were our evolutionary companions from early on. They are a part of our mythologies, our legends, and our tall tales.
But while we can imagine that people have always loved their dogs, there's actual evidence to back it up as well. As Indiana Jones would tell you, archeology is the path to many abilities some would consider to be unnatural. (Wait, I think I messed up that quote
Remember that old clubhouse in the vacant lot of your childhood neighborhood that the local kids hand-built from scrap wood and castoff rusted sheet metal, with "KEEP OUT" scrawled in red paint on a sign nailed over the threshold, which you could only cross by whispering the secret phrase of the day?
OK, my childhood never really had that, either. But as this millennium's second decade blazes to a close and the tangible machinery of my life increasingly vanishes into the vapory world of binary code, it feels like several new secret forts pop up every month. Not only does each online account demand its own covert entry key, but with cybercriminals stomping on the gas for data breaches every year, it's becoming more and more important to be able to create unique, hard-to-crack passwords for each one. It's a tall order to balance security with memorability—let's explore how to do it!
For whatever reason, summertime often gets left out of the seasons of love. Fall is a time of cuddly hand-holding, and winter has been dubbed the season of cuffing. Summer, however, often ends up being the season of: "oh my god it's so hot stop touching me!" It's also the season of tacky patriotic decor, sunburns, and sand in unmentionable places - to bring up only a few of the key highlights. When there is a romantic dimension to summer, it's usually under the guise of "Summer Love," which is defined not so much as a healthy romance, but more so as a remorseful memory to haunt your barcalounger years. Basically, it's a total bummer for anyone over the age of 19.
And yet, summer is the most fun season! It's a time for blooming trees, ripening foods and flowers of all kinds, beaches and water and sunburns – plenty of things that are suitable for romance. So, before you prepare for a fall and winter full of pumpkin spice everything, and crackling fires, and hot cocoa under blankets, consider some of these awesome summer dates to make the most of a season so often lost to romance.
My tears. Since I was in my late 20s at least, they've come more easily than ever before. Sad things can bring them on, sure. But mostly, it's the beautiful things. The profound things. And things that are just poignant and stirring. But whatever the cause, they come with frankness and in real earnest.
Sometimes I wonder if I should listen to Sufjan in public anymore. Always an emotional songwriter, his last few efforts, Carrie and Lowell and Planetarium, have been especially frank, incisively autobiographical and completely leveling (especially when you get clued into his autobiography.) It is inevitable that my eyes will become wells in a coffeeshop. But I guess I believe that it's not reasonable to blubber in public or have a crying fit while I'm at work, there is a deeper sense of shame that, if I'm honest, rests down in the nether regions of my psyche, and it is activated when my tears come. I am brought to tears in public by openness, but then shame comes and closes me up again.
There are times I feel trapped by men's clothing. It feels sometimes like my options are, 1.) an imitation of the Brawny paper towel man 2.) a skater pining for the good-ole-days of 2004, or 3.) a retiree who wears primarily golf shorts and pleated khakis. Of course, there are other options than these, but if you are on a budget and don't want to commit a ton of time to meticulously curating your wardrobe, its easy to feel like you are working against your clothes choices rather than embracing them.
Nothing is as scary as men's clothing in the summertime. In the summer, everything is more brash, more colorful, more dramatically what it is. Skater shorts now come with embroidered dragons, and the golf shirts are somehow incandescently shiny and metallic.
And shoes. Ooph. Shoes are the worst. Because when it is hot and humid, having feet that are sweaty and uncomfortable is particular kind of awful. And if you are looking to be comfortable without completely foregoing a sense of style and taste, shoes can be a minefield. So, with that in mind, here's my take on how to navigate summertime footwear.