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.
"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.
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
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
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!
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
Podcasts. You know 'em. You listen to 'em. You're moved by them. You laugh and are entertained by them. But are you inspired by them? Do they light a fire under your butt and make you want to get into your work space as fast as possible? Do they make you want to complete your workout faster so you can get home and make stuff? Do they make you thankful for your creative bent, and the creative work of others?
Here's our thinking: podcasts, as a medium, are great accompaniment for a lot of things. There are certain podcasts you listen to on your commute, specific shows that work best for cleaning the house or cooking dinner, those to
Yesterday I had the wonderful experience of driving a manual Fiat up and down a single-lane highway through the mountains of California with a special lady I was trying to impress. Luckily I only stalled the car at two points, but I think stalled it about 8 times at both of those points and that is not an exaggeration. It was fairly emasculating for me, but she seemed to enjoy my shame...
It's an interesting contrast. Vodka is among the most simple and pure of spirits, distilled many times to show off the basic essence of its grain (or potatoes) and water source. But perhaps there's no other bottle that carries with it such a variety of contexts in which its imbibed. Because of its straight-forward, back-to-basics presentation, you can drink vodka like, say, a college student who wants to mask the taste. Or a James Bond-inspired martini drinker who hasn't learned about gin yet. Or for its, um, less-hangover-y nature and overall lower impact to your systems the next morning. And countless other ways.
Or, you could drink vodka like those people who invented it - those from Northeastern Europe, where long, cold winters mean grapes won't really grow, and the best source of sugar to ferment and distill are hardy cereal grains.
If you're a consistent reader of ManMade, you're probably someone who's investigated a fair number of TED talks. From classics like Do Schools Kill Creativity? and The Psychology of Evil, I'm guessing you've been around the proverbial TED Talk block. So now, here are 10 great ones on to add to your list, and 8 of them are one's I'd never heard of before.
As any quality chef will tell you, presentation is of vital importance. And it's no less true when it comes to the pairing of cocktails and glassware. Each glass has its own connotations of class and style, completely aside from its own functionality, and so here's a little history behind it all.
If you've ever entertained the question of which books you'd take to keep you sane on a deserted island, you'll want to check this out.
Ritualized finger-shortening, or “Yubitsume”, is the ancient tradition of cutting off the end of one's own pinky finger just above the joint to atone for mistakes. Traditionally this was done on the left hand making it harder for the culprit to wield a katana properly; the ritual was then so eagerly adopted by the Japanese mafia that ex-mafia members have an incredibly hard time re-integrating into society due to the stigma against their obvious deformity.
The art of the memory palace (or method of loci) dates back to Ancient Rome with rhetorical treatises on how to memorize anything based on the art of visualization and associating the things needing to be remembered with those imagined spaces. Believe it or not, this is still one of the most famous methods used by Memory Champions today (yes that is a real thing).
I've recently become fascinated by the artistry that goes into objects that I interact with on a daily basis but normally consider too quotidian to think about. And manhole covers definitely fall into that category. They're an essential part of any city's infrastructure and their design and manufacture isn't something that should be overlooked. And now, thanks to this National Geographic short, you can pull back the curtain and see how the majority of manhole covers in the US are made... in India.
I was reading Justin's piece from earlier today on building an electric guitar from scratch, and the title got my wheels spinning. What does "made from scratch" actually mean? Is it slang for some cheap material like sticks or straw? Is it related to using "scratch" as colloquialism for money?
Words words words, as the Bard said. All around us and packed with meaning despite the fact that many of us never stop to think about the other design aspects of the world around us. But that's where this little city exploration tour from Quartz comes in to unpack the hidden meaning behind everyday street signs.
Each Wednesday, I post some of my favorite can't-miss links, images, and otherwise mindblowing goodies from across the web.
Perhaps you've seen this go by this week, but I'm pretty fascinated with this theory on why time seems to go by so much quicker as you get older.