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Jan 19, 2018

Banjo on My Knee: A Primer on Listening to Bluegrass and Old-Time String Music

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...

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Jan 18, 2018

That Time When I Found My Grandfather's Letters from WWII

“… 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:

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Jan 17, 2018

As a Grown Man, This Quote Scares Me More than Any Other

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:   

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Jan 17, 2018

I Can't Stop Looking at These Amazing Images of the Planet Jupiter

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."  

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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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Jan 16, 2018

Fact: Writing Haiku Will Make You a Happier Person. Here's Why.

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.

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Jan 15, 2018

On Coffee Makers: Don’t Put a Machine Between You & the Most Important Drink of the Day

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. 

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Jan 08, 2018

The Best $15 You Can Spend for Your Kitchen This Week

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.

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Jan 05, 2018

17 Things You Should Probably Give Up This Year

The first week of January is often about adding things to our list. "This year, I'm going to do this every day, or execute a hundred of those..." Instead, perhaps 2018 is the year you drop some of the stuff that just isn't serving you well. We have a few ideas.    

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Jan 04, 2018

Use Benjamin Franklin's "13 Virtues" to Help You Be a Better Person in 2018

As far as the truly great characters from U.S. History to which we might look for timeless advice, it's hard to beat Benjamin Franklin. (We still love you, Mark Twain!) Franklin was born into a family of very modest means, but he manage to use his basic education (he stopped going to school at age ten) to become a successful author, scientist, statesman, printer, politician, inventor, humorist, civic activist, diplomat, and $100 dollar bill appearer.

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Jan 03, 2018

Sick Day

When you work from home and don't have things like paid time off, it's tough to decide when to take a day off if you're not feeling well. There's no one you actually "call in sick" to, and since you're simultaneously both always and never "at work," there really isn't anything from which to stay home. You're not at risk of infecting any office mates, and, for many of us, not working means not getting paid. 

And then there days like today. When you get up, acknowledge you feel truly terrible, but still manage to open the laptop and pretend like you're going to get something done. And then it's horrible and you're so completely ineffective that you finally admit it would just be better to try to rest, heal up, so you can actually accomplish something tomorrow. Because if you don't, you'll just be muddling through at compromised strength for the next week, which is a much bigger loss than just taking a nap in the first place.    

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Dec 29, 2017

If You Actually Want Your New Year's Resolutions to Stick — Do This, Not That

There is lots of scientific research on why setting goals on January 1 never really works out, and why, by March or April, we've all backslid into our old habits. Often, it's because goals aren't specific enough, or we haven't found the best way to track the work we've done. Or, perhaps we don't actually believe we can achieve that new version of ourselves for the long term.   

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Dec 28, 2017

This is The Only Cheap "Champagne" You Should Be Drinking This New Year's Eve

If you, like me, were born between 1975 and 1990, your first exposure to the idea that "champagne" has technical regulations and restrictions likely came from Rob Lowe's odious Benjamin character in the original Wayne's World. ("Actually, all champagne is French. It's named after the region.") And you, like me, probably play into/totally own his snooty accusation that Americans don't recognize the convention, and call all their sparkling whites "champagne," and don't care. Because only a true b-hole shames somebody while handing them a drink.    

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Dec 27, 2017

Woody Guthrie Really Knew How To Do New Year's Resolutions

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.    

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Dec 19, 2017

Fact: Old Newspaper is the Greatest Gift Wrap of All Time

I think I was eight. Maybe seven. It was my birthday, and a family friend who'd taken a mentor role with me stopped by to give me a small gift. I don't remember what was in inside, but I can so perfectly and vividly recall that it was wrapped in the full, CMYK color of Sunday comics section, and it blew my freaking mind.   

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Dec 14, 2017

7 Actually Listenable Versions of Truly Terrible Christmas Songs

Okay... Christmas music. It has the simultaneous ability to both 1) make you feel all present and warm inside and 2) repel you as far away from any valuing of tradition and seasonal good will as possible. The good songs are good because they're classics, or because some clever band you'd already like in non-December contexts decided to take their turn at a holiday record.

But the bad songs are bad in so. many. ways. At one extreme, they're aggressive mall music that only ever appealed the most simplest of you-can-buy-happiness consumerists. At the other, they're treacly, brusk and brash melodies whose only chance of working at all is being sung by large groups of squirmy children, and you've contributed DNA to at least one of them.

But, just for the fun of it, let's see if we reclaim some of those unbearable, seasonal drudges. Are there tolerable, even enjoyable, recordings of even the most noxious of holiday tunes? Challenge accepted.  

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Dec 05, 2017

Okay, Let's Settle This: What's the Greatest Christmas Movie of All Time?

Many are schmaltzy, a few actually festive, and plenty completely unwatchable, but like it or not, the annual viewing of many a holiday film classic just comes along with the season. And if someone in your house is going to watch one anyway, you might as well make it something worth revisiting year after year.    

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Dec 01, 2017

Hey, ManMade Readers: Can You Please Help Me Pick a New Remote Control?

Hi, all. Chris here. I spent a bunch of time trying to research something last night, and I'm still not sure I'm any more informed than I was before I started. So, I thought I might solicit the very smart and helpful ManMade audience, and let the experts weigh in.

My household needs a new remote control. We've been using the stock one that came with our receiver, plus all the individual remotes for our streaming devices. Currently, it requires at least two of them to select a source, start a show or movie, and ride the volume. The main remote, which used to work with most features, has been slowly dying, and now it can't even select a source or change the volume. I tried opening it up and cleaning the contacts, but it didn't really make a difference. So, new remote time. 

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Nov 27, 2017

Okay, Let's Talk: What Do You Carry Every Day?

Yesterday afternoon, I was putting a load of laundry together, and I took out all of the various bits and items from all my pockets before placing my clothing in the basket. By the time I'd doubled checked everything for errant tubes of lip balm and bonus dollar bills, I had a pile sitting on my dresser that, when I looked down, simply ignited this thought in me: 

Yep, there's all my stuff.    

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Nov 21, 2017

How to Clean Your Entire House in 45 Minutes: A Modern Man's Guide

created at: 04/16/2013

Your bachelor pad. Your family home. That apartment with all the architectural detail and the amazing view. Wherever you live, houses get messy. And they stay that way, until you clean them. When your plans to let someone inside ends up happening before your hopes of getting your home back to normal, then it's time to clean it. Quickly. 

created at: 09/02/2015

You don't have the time to deep clean and scrub, so make the little bit you have count. If you're smart and focused, you can pull it off in the running time of your favorite record.    

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