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May 04, 2018

What You Need to Know Before Buying a House

Owning your own home has long been considered a big part of the “American Dream”, and there’s a reason for that…it’s a big deal to buy your first (or second) house.  It usually requires months of planning and years of saving money for what is likely the biggest purchase of your life.  In 2014, my wife and I started the process of buying our first house and quickly realized it’s not as easy as looking at houses online, finding a house you love, and getting your offer accepted.

Whether you’re buying your first house or your fourth house; a fixer upper or your dream home; a rental property or weekend getaway house, the steps are almost

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May 02, 2018

How To: Memorize Any Number Using Mnemonics

As if pens and Post-Its weren't enough, the smartphone era has provided a plethora of memory aids. Apps designed to store, sort, and spit out information whenever we want it seem to have rendered redundant the need for a good memory.

But I'm of the mind that tools work best when they augment our skills and strengths, and that when we start to allow machines to fully replace human work, we ourselves begin to atrophy. Since having begun the assembling my memorization toolkit and putting it to use in the last year, I've found that I think more clearly, remember things better, and rely on my physical and digital tools much less. (Not to mention, I'd be lying if I said it didn't feel awesome to perfectly recall a 12-digit number after less than 10 minutes' worth of work.)

We've covered one of those big tools, the memory palace, in a guide here at Man Made DIY. One of the main techniques incorporated in the article, specifically used to memorize numbers, is called the Major System; it's such a powerful in itself that it's worth its own guide. 

So, let's dig in to how you can custom-tailor your own major system to help you remember long strings of numbers!

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Apr 27, 2018

These Are Questions You Should Be Asking Around the Campfire

Have you noticed? It's summer! It's the time of year when we dust off the backyard with friends and linger late into the night. There are so many great conversations I remember around a flickering fire, and I'm looking forward to more this year. But good conversations don't always come easy, so here are a few tips to get into the kind of convos you'll remember for years. 

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Apr 24, 2018

6 Tips for Minimizing Distractions from Your Smartphone

I'm a firm believer that tools are like personal strengths: the user's attitude determines the outcome. You can take a neutral tool and channel it for good or evil; a candlestick can class up a dining room table, or it can kill Professor Plum in the billiard room. Not only that, but the more power a tool holds, the more care you have to take with it. (It's like the main takeaway from Spider-Man: with great power comes great responsibility.)

The smartphone is a prime example. Sometimes when it's better to leave it off, like we suggested in our article on filling downtime without staring at your phone. But lest you label me a Luddite, let me admit that I use my phone all day: emailing, listening to music (currently: Spotify app, Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers), shooting and editing photos, keeping in touch with overseas family on Facebook, professional networking on Instagram and LinkedIn, mobile banking, making note of future ManMadeDIY articles, and so much more.

In fact, I use my phone so much that I need to give myself guidelines to help keep me from staring into it all day. Here are some of those tips.

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Apr 23, 2018

It's Ramp Season, People!

Ramps are magic. It's that simple. They appear of their own free will out of the ground, they bless the landscape with their beauty, their perfect aroma of garlicky-greenness––a combination you might approximate by breathing in deeply a bag of freshly mown lawn clippings while simultaneously crunching down on a double-sized mouthful of sour cream and onion potato chips. And then, just as magically, they disappear after an astoundingly short season, as spring gives way to summer.

A ramp is a kind of wild leek that looks like a cross between a scallion and a flowering weed. The aroma is, to me, something absolutely elemental; once you

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Apr 17, 2018

Get a Tax Refund This Year? Here are 9 Things We Think You Should Spend It On

Ideally, the details following your tax return would be rather uneventful. You'd have withheld the exact right amount, and paid the appropriate estimated taxes, and your post-April 15 results would be pretty neutral: the IRS has its money, you have yours, and the two of you can check in again next spring.

Of course, that's never what happens, and Tax Day inevitably goes in the two obvious directions: you still owe more, or you get a refund. If you're a small business owner or freelancer, like me, you nearly always end up on one side of that equation. But, every so often, there are those glorious years that go down in history as that-one-time-you-got-a-tax-refund, and you get an unexpected check with which you may do whatever you like.   

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Apr 17, 2018

Your Daily Dose of Inspiration: Marvel at these Expert Craftspeople

Bon Appétit has become a paragon of food media lately with a gorgeous magazine, a wonderful podcast and some serious web content that is standing in where other outlets have stopped putting meaningful content in front of audiences. But they have quietly rolled out a series of videos on highly technical food crafts that are so well done, so well produced and so sharply executed that they serve as both educational content and an opportunity to truly marvel at people who have spent a lifetime perfecting their skills. Bon Appetite really deserves credit for providing a venue to showcase such talent and expertise. 

In these videos you can

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Apr 12, 2018

New Years is Bad for Resolutions! Spring is the Season of Getting Your Act Together.

The beginning of the calendar year is a bizarre time to be making resolutions. But still... we do it. Every year. In early January, it has only been winter for a few weeks, and most people have just spent most of that time stuffing themselves with cookies, candies and rich meals. Whatever you may be willing to commit to on January 1 as you look at yourself through holiday goggles that are covered in ham glaze, egg nog and New Year's confetti, has a poor chance of coming to fruition. Despite the holiday, January does not feel much different than December, and it feels a lot like February. For most of us who live in parts of the country

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Apr 11, 2018

7 Things I'm Totally Obsessed With This Month (April 2018 Edition)

These are thoughts, the artwork, the news stories, the tools, the food, the conversations, and whatever else we just can't get out of our heads this month.   

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Apr 10, 2018

An Embarrassment of Riches: Why You Should Love Your Local Library

It seems like a cliche now, but for what feels like a generation we've been living with the idea that libraries are dead. The idea of a library, for many of us, is of a kind of museum full of things that might be curiosities. But like many brick-and-mortar institutions of old, we don't need what's inside. This point of view is understandable, but it is a huge mistake. Because libraries are not falling behind our digital way of thinking––they were way ahead of all of us in realizing how we would wish information to be available and how we wanted to engage it. Think about it: Libraries collect all kinds of information, all kinds of media

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Apr 06, 2018

Why Do I Ever Eat Beans from a Can?

 

Canned foods are kind of passé these days. And rightly so. If you've ever eaten a real carrot or a fresh green bean, you would never opt for a canned version of either. Canned vegetables somehow end up tasting like boring and extremely soft...pickles: vaguely salty and quickly turn to mush. Canned food has the virtue of being able to sustain your imperial army for part of the distance to Moscow, but they have the downside of basically preserving food that you'd rather not eat unless you are marching across the frozen countryside. (Except for corn. I don't know why, but canned corn is delicious and nearly impossible to re-create from fresh or frozen corn.)

Prevailing wisdom says there are two exceptions for acceptable use of canned vegetables. The first are tomatoes, which seem to have been grandfathered in because of the long availability of really amazing Italian tomatoes like the San Marzano varietal that was so famously grown in Naples and its environs. I'm a big fan of canned tomatoes, but their use as the basis of a nearly ubiquitous kind of sauce makes their role as a canned ingredient unlike other vegetables. No one thinks a canned tomato tastes like a fresh tomato, and no one wants to eat canned tomatoes without doing something pretty aggressive and involved to them. (Or, maybe you do. But why?) 

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Apr 03, 2018

To Build a Garden is to Embrace that Some Projects are Unfinishable. And That's the Point.

The garden suggests there might be a place where we can meet nature halfway.

— Michael Pollan

If you've never gardened before, but you would consider yourself a DIY-er/craftsperson/maker or what have you, there may be some things about gardening that are very different than other kinds of projects. To build a garden entails some kinds of making that are very ordinary and along the lines of any other plan–>materials–>product kind of project. But in other ways, it requires craft and technique that are completely beyond other kinds of skills. But, to build a garden is not to simply make something. It is to embark on an un-finishable

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Mar 29, 2018

Hey, Electric Guitar People! Can You Help Me with Something Real Quick?

Hi, guitar players. I've been trying to figure something out this week, so I thought I'd turn to some of the smartest, most awesome people I know - the ManMade readers. 

So here's the deal...      

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Mar 26, 2018

How To: Build a Memory Palace to Memorize Virtually Anything

If you've watched the recent four-season BBC Sherlock series, you may recall that the titular character expertly played by Benedict Cumberbatch goes spelunking deep into his "mind palace" for details to solve his cases. The idea of an eidetic memory (the ability to recall information after mere moments of passive exposure to it) is debated, but if you watch carefully, it seems that Holmes constantly, actively stores information in imaginary places in his mind.

This is a tool grounded in reality, it's older than dirt, and you can use it to memorize virtually any set of information, from bank account numbers, to anatomical terms for med school, to Brazilian jiu-jitsu moves.

Let's go diving!

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Mar 22, 2018

The (Still Existing) Power of a Handwritten Letter

When was the last time that you wrote a meaningful handwritten letter to your spouse, parents, siblings or friends?  Do you remember the last time you received a handwritten letter from someone significant in your life?  The odds are, you’re much more likely to remember the answer to the latter of those two questions because it felt like a special occasion.  Ever since the mid-1990s when “you’ve got mail” became a familiar tagline, handwritten letters have fallen by the waste side - being replaced with emails, texts, and tweets.  For so many reasons, putting down the phone and picking up the pen can be substantially more impactful.

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Mar 20, 2018

7 Things I'm Totally Obsessed With This Month (March 2018 Edition)

These are thoughts, the artwork, the news stories, the tools, the food, the conversations, and whatever else we just can't get out of our heads this month.    

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Mar 19, 2018

Crafting Yourself: Why the Stoics Will Help You Become a More Productive and Creative Maker

 

“As is a tale, so is life: not how long it is, but how good it is, is what matters.” – Seneca

 

The Project

Suppose you are getting ready to start a really big project––a project that will require an immense amount of time and effort, a project that has so many parts and components that you are certain that you will lose your way and make mistakes. It is just that big. And yet the one thing you can be certain about is that the materials for this project are precious and you will not be able to re-start the project once you begin––you'll have to keep forging ahead even if you make mistakes. It will be the summative production

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Mar 13, 2018

Yes, Every Man Needs A Journal. Here's Why.

I spent some time last week making a few DIY journals, and it made me think a bit about why I always have a stack of them filling my shelf. After looking through a few in the pile, I decided yes, they're definitely worth the effort. Here are a few reasons why.  

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Mar 12, 2018

A Diet of Early Worms: the Case Against Procrastination

For those of you who have mastered denying the temptation to pick at procrastination's bountiful buffet, this article will be a waste of your time. I'd suggest moving on to something else—this handy jazz album primer, how to turn an old shirt into a pocket square, or this awesome list of 14 burger recipes

But for those of you who find it difficult to resist the siren song of putting stuff off until the last minute, or who (worse yet) willingly delay working until the 11th hour, let's take a moment to examine the evidence that procrastination is a horrible idea.

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Mar 05, 2018

A Beginner's Guide to Woodcase Pencils

All hail the mighty pencil: a powerful and beloved tool with a fanbase as sophisticated as the legions of jazz enthusiasts, yet so ubiquitous and humble that it all but escapes notice. The pencil is an incredibly simple device—essentially, a rock-and-dirt mix smashed together between some cut-up tree pieces—but the iteration that know today is a collaboration between hundreds of pencil makers over the course of 500 years. With their pen cousins, the elegant fountain and the pragmatic ballpoint, pencils are a founding member in the groundswell of interest for tangible, analog tools in an increasingly virtual, digital world.

If all you know of pencils are the Dixon Ticonderogas and plastic Bic mechanical pencils you carted around in your schoolbox, read on for a basic primer and some great resources for further exploration.

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