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May 17, 2018

Put Your Social Life to Work: Join a Voluntary Association

There is a new phenomenon where lonely people have finally found a voice to express their loneliness. And wouldn't you know it - they found it on the internet. Of course, the internet is not the reason we are lonely and it is not the source of loneliness, but it certainly is the vehicle that allows people to talk about how lonely they are. But it is the internet that has turned it into something universal, something memetic. (Though I spare you examples here, the internet abounds with them. You've seen them.)

Members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee of Atlanta, a voluntary organization of civil rights workers in 1963

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May 16, 2018

Check This Out: The Museum of Online Museums

HQ of the Museum of Online Museums. (Photo credit: chicagomag.com)

 

Author Seth Godin, in his book We Are All Weird, argues that the Internet era has busted open the starting gate and let the tribes out: information has truly become democratized, so now it's much easier for niche interests to connect and collect. One great example of this is the MoOM, or Museum of Online Museums. Coudal Partners, a Chicago design firm who created the famous Field Notes brand of notebooks with design guru Aaron Draplin, have run the site for about 10 years, which is basically just a big list of links, and in it you'll find the full gamut of niche stuff: from major institutions' virtual presence, like Amsterdam's famous art collection at the Rijksmuseum, to the most overlooked stuff like Manhole Covers of the World, it feels like it's all here. 

If you're a designer looking for visual inspiration, a novelist on the hunt for a random detail to spark a story, or a just fan of vintage eggnog labels, look no further than this treasure trove. I first discovered it way back in college and, though I did waste a lot of time combing through it, I was also able use it to do a lot of research on package design.

Read on for some of my favorites in the collection!

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May 10, 2018

It's Time to Clean Your Coffee Station. Here's What to Do.

As anyone who has worked in a high volume coffee establishment will tell you––and I am one of those people––keeping coffee equipment clean is a huge job. And while a professional shop has to maintain its equipment with a daily regimen of daily cleaning, descaling, urnexing and polishing, what I realized when I came home from my coffee shop was that my personal coffee equipment was some of the LEAST attended to items I had in my kitchen. I think for many people, coffee is such a utilitarian part of life, it is easy to lose track of how many brews your machine/grinder/kettle/aeropress may have gone through. And of course, coffee is not

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May 09, 2018

10 Years Later, We're Still Catching Up With "The Wire"

"Have you seen 'The Wire'?" has somehow managed to become a cliche question and an earnest inquiry. On the one hand, for a long time, especially during the end of its TV run and right after it concluded, it was a question meant to signify one's own highbrow-yet-gritty tastes in high end television. Talking about the Sopranos was something that fit in too neatly with other mob-genre films like The Godfather and Goodfellas.

"The Wire," by contrast, was idiosyncratic. And as with most under-acclaimed media that gains a following, it is easy for it to become a signifier of taste and turn into something overrated and under-criticized. In

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May 08, 2018

Hey! Do You Want to Go to Alaska with ManMade? Here's Everything You Need to Know

This summer, ManMade is going to Alaska, and we want you to come with us. 

In an effort to continue to build community, I decided it might be fun to do something together. Like, in real life, with actual handshakes and conversations that don't involve QWERTY keyboards. And, if we're going to do something, we might as well connect somewhere amazing.

So, we chose Alaska for its mix of natural beauty and DIY attitude. We'll spend seven (or ten) days in Anchorage, Seward, and Denali going on hikes, craft beer tours, woodworking workshops, staying up late, and seeing some of the best terrain in North America.    

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May 08, 2018

How I Finally Became a Morning Person

Let it be stated, for the record, that I'm naturally a night owl. I hate waking up in the morning.

I'm not one of those people who are wired to pop out of bed, to the tune of that Rossini piece that plays at sunrise in cartoons, with a spring in my step and a grin on my face. (Being a morning person is so out of my orbit that I don't know if that's how early birds actually feel, or if it's just my pre-coffee-grump perception.)

You know what I do love? The feeling of accomplishing so many of the day's to-dos, especially the things that are both short-term urgent and long-term important, and looking up at the clock to realize it's barely lunchtime. I love reaching the end of a work day with the relief that comes with giving the whole day my full effort. I love the feeling of being proactive, which means that, though being an early bird isn't my natural inclination, I love its effects.

So, how did I ditch the hoot owls and start rising to catch the proverbial worm? Read on for some tips that helped me.

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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 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 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 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 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 21, 2018

The 7 Local Haunts Every Man Needs in His Life

I’ve technically lived in five cities so far if we include my college town (Minneapolis, New Haven, London, Brooklyn, and Los Angeles). And I’ve come to realize that as a creature of habit I eventually start frequenting a couple different venues that all have similar things in common. I think every man should have a couple of these. Let me explain…      

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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 15, 2018

ManMade Recommended: I Think I Just Found My New Favorite Spring Jacket


Some days, I wish I just had to wear a suit to work. I probably don’t actually mean that, and I’m sure you true 9-5ers would laugh at the possibility of giving up working in sweatpants for wingtips. A hardhat and steel-toed boots would work just as well. See, I'm interested in the ease of it. "Oh, I'm at work. Here's my work uniform." Instead, on any given day, I could be several different diverse work environments, both indoors and out, wet and dry spaces, with temperature fluctuations of upwards to thirty-five or forty degrees. 30° F when I leave in the morning, and 65° by 3pm.

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