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Oct 18, 2018

Let's Talk: What are You Reading This Fall?

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. 

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Sep 14, 2018

School Supplies: The Essential Tools You Need to Remain a Lifelong Learner

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. 

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Sep 12, 2018

Meet Angelo Pellegrini, the Original Maker Almost No One Knows About, but Totally Should.

You can barely imagine what the world was like in the proto-suburbs of the Pacific Northwest for a child who had traveled there––entirely on his own, with his mother at home and his father awaiting him––from a small Tuscan village. This was before "a small Tuscan village" was even a thing on the radar of America at large. And it was before America had its culturally and politically dominating century. It was before anyone knew what the Pacific Northwest would become, foodwise.

And yet, that is where Angelo Pellegrini settled. His childhood of 12 or so years in Tuscany gave him an uncanny experience to bring to pre-depression America, including an adult life that coincided with the Cold War in which his heritage could not have been less relevant. He was born at just the right time to enjoy America in a way that few others had. But he was also born just a bit too early to have been the celebrity he would have been if he had emerged in the age of Alice Waters and the Food Network.    

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Sep 07, 2018

How (and Why) to Get Rid of Books

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.

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Aug 27, 2018

Book Review: Michael Pollan Turns from the Stomach to the Mind

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

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Aug 15, 2018

It's Never Too Late to Learn a New Language, and It's So Completely Worth It

"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.  

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Jun 28, 2018

Ten Great Food Moments from Ten Great Books (with Recipes!)

The best kind of writing, fiction or otherwise, is the kind that produces a strong mental image of what you're reading about. It's vivid and concrete; it's why metaphors and parables exist. To quote Strunk & White: "The greatest writers—Homer, Dante, Shakespeare—are effective largely because they deal in particulars and report the details that matter. Their words call up pictures."

One of my favorite ways that writers bring their stories closer to reality is when they plop descriptions onto my mental dinner table. Maybe it's because I just love eating, so I don't need a lot of arm-twisting to think about food; maybe it's that I like it when the lines between fiction and reality blur, like Mac Barnett waxes about in his TED talk "Why a good book is like a secret door." Regardless, I'm fascinated with collecting moments of characters interacting with their victuals.

Here are some of my favorite food mentions in books, linked up with recipes.

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Jun 13, 2018

The Joy of Unpacking your Library

I am unpacking my library. Yes, I am. The books are not yet on the shelves, not yet touched by the mild boredom of order. I cannot march up and down their ranks to pass them in review before a friendly audience. You need not fear any of that. Instead, I must ask you to join me in the disorder of crates that have been wrenched open, the air saturated with the dust of wood, the floor covered with torn paper, to join me among piles of volumes that are seeing daylight again after two years of darkness, so that you may be ready to share with me a bit of the mood - it is certainly not an elegiac mood but, rather, one of anticipation - which

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May 25, 2018

Old School Burns: Ancient People Had Some Amazing Insults and Jokes

Here's something that is completely useless for your everyday life. It will not help you dress well, or create a perfect mothers day gift, or fix your shoelaces, or build a dynamically-planted garden, or anything of the sort. But if you are at a dinner party or out with friends or in a mixed group and you wanna bring out something funny, erudite and pretty out of the ordinary, nothing works like an unexpected joke from an ancient figure whose quotes usually end up chiseled into marble.

Fair warning: some bawdiness follows. Despite the editors of ancient manuscripts, real people in the ancient world weren't above off color jokes.

 

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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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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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Jan 24, 2018

18 Essential Cookbooks That Belong In Your Library from Now Until the End of Time

Let's start with this: I like to eat. Really, really like it. I have all the respect in the world for people who can live by the adage "consume for nutrition, not for taste," but I will never be able to count myself amongst 'em.

I'm a level-10 introvert who works from home, and often, the process of procuring food for myself is the only thing that gets me out of the house during the dark days of winter. I live in Portland, Oregon, one the greatest food cities in the country, and I have a list in my phone of to-be-visited food establishments a digital mile long. It's updated almost daily. 

And, because I like to eat, I like to cook. I'm a full-time DIY blogger who gets to make cool stuff, photograph and write about it every single day, and, yet, a Tuesday night dinner compiled from whatever's in the fridge often feels like the most creative thing I do all week. 

So... cookbooks. They're fantastic, and they provide both inspiration and a depth that you can't find on food blogs or Pinterest. (And I love food blogs.) You don't have to buy all of these, but you should definitely check them out from the library or peruse next time you're at the bookstore. Because they read as well from cover-to-cover as a novel, and they'll actually teach you how to eat better.    

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Jan 16, 2018

8 Things I'm Totally Obsessed With This Month (January 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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Nov 27, 2017

The Best IKEA Hack I've Ever Seen

Laura and Craig from The Makerista take these Billy bookshelves that we've all seen before and transform them into what looks like an entire built-in wall unit. This really is the most impressive DIY IKEA renovation I've seen yet.   

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Nov 06, 2017

What Cultural Icons Did You Experience Too Late to Appreciate?

I burned out early on Halloween movies this year. I watched mostly duds with a few mediocres sprinkled in, and realized I'd spent enough time in shakycameraland for one season. Not being even remotely ready for the annual sacrament of candy cane-fueled holiday classics (it's too early, even for me), I decided to spend this season of limbo - cold enough to need to be inside at night, but too early for Christmas merrymaking - raiding the public library, and watching that list of films I've been meaning to see for twenty years, but simply hadn't gotten around to it. 

It hasn't gone as planned.    

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Sep 17, 2017

Okay, Let's Talk: What's Your Favorite Stephen King Novel?

So... I realized something over the weekend. I was listening to a podcast that had intended to have a conversation about the new Dark Tower movie, but since it was, apparently, completely boring and not worth discussing, they decided to chat about their favorite Stephen King books, movie adaptations, mini-series, etc. And it hit me:    

I have never actually read a Stephen King book.    

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May 17, 2017

8 Things I'm Totally Obsessed with This Month (May 2017 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 04, 2017

Five Shakespearean Speeches Every Man Should Know

created at: 02/19/2016

So, I'm gonna throw down and get controversial for a sec: William Shakespeare was the greatest playwright and poet who ever spoke English, and I'd relish a comment-fight-to-the-death in the comments anyone who disagrees (not really, but I encourage the conversation).

To argue the man's merits feels redundant; the work speaks for itself. The Bard's plays are so influential that he's taught us how we understand storytelling and character development in the modern and post-modern world. His words have become so ubiquitous that I'd bet good money everyone reading this knows unique phrases from at least 4 of the 5 speeches below (also lots of movies take their titles from his phrases). I challenge any man considering himself an educated member of our society read these speeches and attempt committing them to memory. You'll find them helpful in more than a few settings. 

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