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.
Actor Michael B. Jordan grew up in a household in a military household. His father was a Marine, and valued a well-made bed with tight corners, and all fabrics needed to crisp and tight. Under his guidance, young Michael learned to iron his own clothing to spectacular results.
He recently shared his technique with Vanity Fair, as part of the press tour for his film, Black Panther. (I hear it's pretty amazing. Has anyone seen it yet?)
In the normal research/note-taking/formatting process of working on a upcoming gear roundup post this morning, I went to check the price and availability of one of my favorite tools: the cast iron skillet. I've always known cast iron is a pretty amazing value, performing nearly perfectly for generations if you follow a few simple rules. At $30, an American-made Lodge skillet is a great buy-it-for-life piece of cookware that works for nearly everything.
I'm a life-long fan of Alton Brown. Recently, I've loved his post-cable TV Youtube videos in which he revisits topics and techniques that he was not allowed to demonstrate on network television. These have included things like "dirty steaks" where you cook a hanger steak directly on natural wood coals, the most efficient way to light a grill (spoiler: it's by using what is basically a flame thrower), and, my favorite,
If you've ever walked down the greeting card isle during February, you know it can be a sensory overload of 100's of pink and red frou-frou Valentine cards. Somewhere between the cheesy one-liners and floral designs maybe a descent card awaits for $5, but by the time you settle for it, loved ones have already filed a missing persons report and you've contemplated arson because they're out of the correct envelope size. Avoid the hastle, skip the corporate-generated professions of love and print one of these simple Valentine's Day cards at home...
How to Create a Meaningful Valentine's Day You'll Actually Want to Celebrate (No Cheesiness Allowed)
"See I'm all crooked feet, Saint Valentine" – Gregory Alan Isakov
Valentine's Day sometimes feels like a conspiracy. It's a holidays front loaded with expectations that are onerous, distracting and just waiting to be disappointed. And all the while — with you and your partner/spouse/significant other/whomever are running around trying to meet these expectations by spending money and time and creative thinking — it is supposed to be a chance to pause and really appreciate the most important person in your life. If that isn't a setup for a cruel joke, I don't know what is.
In a world of clichés, Valentine's Day is supposed to involve
If you're not familiar with SpaceX by now, maybe Tuesday's launch of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy will spark your interest. SpaceX, a private company that builds and launches rockets/spacecraft, will test-flight their most powerful rocket yet (and one of the most powerful rockets period) - the Falcon Heavy. Success or failure, it will be an awesome and potentially historical launch....
Years ago, I'd meet mine a friend at a bar in New York's Upper East Side that was between our two apartments––just close enough for each of us that we could walk home safely while being substantially into our cups. When we would stay late, the bartender would get friendlier and friendlier with free drinks and generous pours. It was jovial and warm and a fine place to spend some time with good company. When we were ready to pay our tab, the bartender––who was well past friendly at that point––poured us a trio of shots to send us on our way. Inevitably, as with bars throughout the U.S. (unless you are from the very South and West), he was pouring from a bottle of Jameson's. By and large, that is how whisky works in America. If you mean to order Scotch or Bourbon or Rye, you name those specifically. But if you just order "whisky" there's a good chance it'll be Irish.
Your socks. You probably rarely think about them. They spend most of the day completely hidden. And yet, they can be the crucial ingredient that gets us through so many important moments: a brutal hike that seems to go nowhere but straight up, or a particularly harsh winter week where you feel so cold and wet you imagine you might never be able to be warm again.
Why It's Important We Still Print Our Own Photographs...and Why You Should Be Taking More in the First Place
We live in an era when everyone has a camera in their pocket at all times. One that would have cost $500-700 a decade ago. And you can use it literally with a click of button, and chances are, you'll get a decent exposure.
So it’s easy to see our photographs as only pixels on a screen. This is why a community like Instragram works so well: it makes photography special again. When you can take a photo of anything at any time absolutely free and be able to send it up into the cloud with zero effort, editing, curating, and capturing become the new acts of care that give smartphone photos a new sense of meaning.
For me, getting into podcasts was like easing into a warm tub on a cold winter's day. At first it seemed uncomfortable and a little too much, and now I can't imagine getting out. I'm in deep. And it might be too deep if I hadn't worked out a way to take control back from the unending feeds of too many good shows. Liberation is possible when we take control of our own podcast destinies and create a program for how to listen––to make podcasts work for you, instead of sitting on your phone or computer like a homework assignment you dread to complete.
Whether you're loading up your podcatcher for the first time or are a seasoned pro, you're familiar with the mass of stuff available. The waves and waves of quality content, the extraordinary, out of the box topics, the brain-tickling, the heart-tearing, and the tear and laughter-inducing episodes that begin to fill your playlists can freeze you in your steps.
For the sake of this article, let’s just assume for a moment that you’re convinced of the merits of listening to bluegrass and old-time string music...
“… my landlady, by the way, doesn’t like the Germans because when some playful Nazi pilots lived in her house some months ago, they threw a hand grenade into her chicken coop, and they had to eat the winter’s supply of chickens all at once.”
This is one of my favorite lines from our family's treasure: my grandfather’s back-and-forth correspondence letters during World War II. Frank T. Waters was an editor of the military newspaper, Stars and Stripes. At several instances during the war, he sent correspondence back home to his mother, family, and friends sharing daily life overseas and fighting the biggest war of the 20th century.
Going through these letters is a truly amazing glimpse of a soldier's life during war-time Europe in the 40s. I counted 207 letters, official correspondence, orders, postcards, etc, so far. Reading these, I discover my grandfather was smart, curious, and pretty funny. Here are some of my favorite bits:
It happens. Going about your life, you come across memorable sayings. In movies.. books... pasted on top of inspirational images on your friends Facebook feed. And every once in a while, one of them sticks.
If forced to pick one, I suspect my greatest fear is regret. You know the image: an old man sitting in a chair, thinking back over all the the chances he never took. And that's why this quote hit me. It goes like this:
Last night, my wife poked me in the ribs, and showed me this image. "Guess what that is," she said.
"Oil paint mixed with water?" I guessed.
"No...those are clouds hovering over Jupiter."
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.
If you’ve attended elementary school in the last 30 years, you’ve heard of haiku: three-line poems with a 5-7-5 syllable pattern, usually about nature, often cutesy. I’m happy to report that despite some grains of truth, you’re wrong. Haiku is a lean, muscular form of thinking, and the discipline of writing haiku is a rich addition to a full life.
When I was a kid, my parents' old Mr. Coffee broke. Because money was tight, it wasn't replaced for some time. I remember waking up one morning and finding my mom making a cup for herself by perching the brew basket from the broken maker over a mug and pouring boiling water from a kettle.
For me, seeing this bit of kitchen MacGuyvering became a truly paradigm-shattering moments. Until then, I thought coffee required an electric drip machine — that it was the only way coffee could be made at all. But seeing this patient pouring of water over grounds, it became clear that the machine wasn't necessary. Some things you really can make yourself.
Every so often, a new idea is presented to the world that seems to have already belonged there for years. Like a perfect pop song, it's fresh and exciting, yet feels like it's been part of you for your entire life.
More than seventy years ago, folk singer and activist Woody Guthrie opened up his notebook to write down a set of "New Years Rulin's" his own self...complete with illustrations.