Category: Tips & Lore

Get Your Garage “In the Zone”

The American garage is truly a multipurpose space. Part workshop, part storage unit and part garage there are so many demands put on this space there’s no wonder it can get out of control in a hurry.

Easy Closets takes a strategic view by breaking the typical garage into six zones – 1) Transition, 2) Need It Now, 3) Long Tall Thin Storage, 4) Large Item Storage, 5) Frequently Used Items, 6) Workspace.

One brilliant idea that struck me this past weekend – why am I putting heavy tubs filled with seasonal decorations up in the rafters? Instead I cleared out the camping gear shelves, stowed the tubs on the shelves and put the lightweight sleeping bags and air mattresses up in the loft.

[Image by Easy Closets]

Forget Quinoa and Kale – 2015’s Superfood Should Be the Pickle

You’ve heard (ad nauseam no doubt) about the health-giving benefits of garlic. Hot tip: it’s all about the allicin.

For the record, garlic is said to:

  • Fight harmful bacteria
  • Ward off viruses
  • Reduce blood pressure
  • Improve cholesterol
  • Prevent Alzheimer’s disease
  • Boost athletic performance
  • Remove heavy metal from the body (sadly not from the neighbor’s stereo)
  • Fight off osteoporosis

You may also be vaguely aware that apple cider vinegar is supposed to have near-magical healing properties including:

  • Weight loss
  • The ability to moderate blood sugar (especially in pre-diabetic persons)
  • Improving digestion
  • Clearing up sinus problems
  • Curing dadruff
  • Eliminating acne
  • Whitening teeth (or possibly eliminating teeth altogether)

But you may be less aware of the proven bacteria-fighting effects of the lowly cucumber. Among other things, cucumbers are said to:

  • Heal sunburn
  • Remove toxins
  • Repair skin, hair and nail damage
  • Reduce muscle and joint pain
  • Reduce cholesterol
  • Ward off diabetes

All that said, what’s all the fuss about kale and quinoa? Pickles have to be packing at least three times the punch of these supposed superfoods. In fact I don’t know why you’d have to eat anything else at all – except maybe bacon now and then. So why don’t we kinda all get together and agree that the pickle is the superfood for 2015?

Why You Should Never Set Priorities

Every time I open my “Big Box of Stuff” – my instant organiztion system that involves sweeping everything under the rug and declare all problems solved – my head starts spinning with the urgency and cataclysmic busy-ness of everything.

I’m fighting the urge to drag everything out and prioritize it.

But not so fast – the danger of setting priorities is that you set yourself up for endless twiddling.

Also, it turns out that juggling too many priorities takes a huge toll on overall success.

[Photo by Dakota Roos]

NeatDesk or ScanSnap? I Should Have Spent the Extra $50 and Bought the Ugly Scanner

I admit that I bought a NeatDesk scanner instead of the Fujitsu ScanSnap because the NeatDesk is a joy to the eyes and the ScanSnap looks like a discarded toner cartridge.

But after listening to David Sparks and Katie Floyd rattle on about the Fujitsu iX500 as they do, I’m wondering if I made the best choice.

I’ve got two gripes with the NeatDesk. First, it jams too easily. I sometimes have to do a little ninja-origami to get the paper go through the first time. But I’m also concerned about the software. It works well enough but I worry about shoveling all my documents into a system that could vanish at any time.

Deal With It

OK. Well, this is the scanner that I have. And maybe it’s not so bad.

NeatDesk Hacks

Feeding odd sized paper into your NeatDesk

Scan to Dropbox with NeatDesk

Scan to Evernote with NeatDesk

Change the location where NeatDesk stores your data

Everything You Need to Know about Success Is in the Hunger Games

What does it take to become a huge success? Apparently it takes a whole lot of work – and not just any kind of work, but the tough work of self-examination. To put a finer point on it, it takes something called Double Loop Learning.

Most of us probably think of the path to success in the terms of “try, try again.” Think of an archer facing a target, shooting, falling short of the bulls-eye, making an adjustment and shooting again. This is what Chris Argyris identified “single loop learning,” a simple servomechanism approach to fixing what ain’t working.

The second loop adds a lot of complexity. Here you must explore your values, assumptions and your blind spots.

This is where The Hunger Games comes in. If heroine Katniss approached the gladiator-style teen-on-teen combat using single loop learning she would have used a pretty simple decision block:

IS PEETA DEAD? –> NO –> KILL PEETA

Fortunately Katniss goes for the double loop. The assumption behind the Hunger Games is that only one combatant could emerge as the winner. But if you have to sacrifice your core values to survive, are you really a winner? Maybe there are no winners. Or maybe the State is the only winner. Read the book, it will all make more sense.

And if you want to get ahead, go back and question everything.

[Via Swiss Miss]

Anxious? Why “Stay Calm” Might Be the Worst Thing to Tell Yourself

Anxious woman bites nails

What’s your go-to move when you feel yourself on the verge of a freak-out? Telling yourself to take a deep breath and chill out might be exactly the wrong strategy. PysBlog reports on research by Alison Woods Brooks that suggests that hitting the emotional gas pedal might get you into the clear. Subjects who told themselves “I’m feeling excited” out-performed those who told themselves to “calm down” when faced with anxiety over public speaking.

I don’t know why this would work, I don’t have the $12 to download Brooks’ report. A barely educated guess is that anxiety bathes your neurosystem with cortisol, the “fight or flight” stress hormone that makes you cramp up and totally choke when you step up to a podium. And guess what hormone is also responsible for the rush that comes when you’re totally stoked, bungee jumping or riding down a steep hill on your fixie? Yep, it’s cortisol.

What differentiates cold-sweating fear and jubilation? Seems like the physiology might be the same – it’s how you interpret what’s happening that makes the difference.

[Photo via MaxwellGS]

How Now Brown Cow: Chocolate Milk as a Recovery Drink

After hearing for years that water is the best thing to drink after exercise I was surprised to hear that the latest thing in recovery drinks is…chocolate milk!

I don’t know if it’s my imagination – or the placebo effect – but my knees do seem to feel better if I follow a run with a big glass of low fat chocolate milk. One thing I’m sure of, it’s been a great motivator. On days that I’m struggling with an extra helping of “doan wanna” it’s a little easier to get out on the trail knowing that there will be a big frosty mug of chocolate milk waiting at the end.

The Pros

According to WebMD chocolate milk has the following benefits over most sports drinks:

  • 3-to-1 ratio of carbohydrate to protein
  • Easily digested whey protein that can begin rebuilding muscle tissue immediately
  • Casein, a protein that is digested slowly and reduces amount of muscle breakdown well after the workout

Livestrong, a site that seems completely sold on the idea of chocolate milk after working out, cites a number of studies showing that runners recover faster after downing a glass of choco milk than a carbohydrate loaded sports beverage.

The Cons

As awesome as chocolate milk is, it might not be for everyone. Livestrong also posts anti-milk articles that suggest (strongly) that any dairy consumption might be cramping your style. The best way to know whether milk might be causing muscle or joint pain for you is to keep a food diary. Try two or three weeks dairy-free and record your aches and pains. Then re-introduce dairy and see if there is a difference in the way you feel.

All I know is that chocolate milk makes me feel like a kid again.

What about you, what’s your favorite post-workout drink?

[Photo by Alice Birkin]

How to Avoid Blood-Sucking Vermin (Ticks, Not Lawyers)

If you hike then sooner or later you will have to deal with ticks. These cunning relatives of the spider wait on the ends of leaves and grasses for an unsuspecting mammal to brush past and then climb aboard for a free lunch.

Alicia MacKleay provides a comprehensive guide to dealing with ticks on and off the trail, including ways to tick-proof your clothing.

There are also a number of natural tick repellents you might try, although the most promising, nootkatone, won’t be commercially available for a few years.

A careful tick-survey of your clothing and body is your best bet after each hike. Otherwise you could wind up bringing them into your house where they can sneak-attack your family and friends.

I’ve never had a tick on myself, but my dogs and my sister have. Folklore states that the best way to remove a tick is to encourage it to leave voluntarily, either smothering it with oil or burning it with a match. Both these methods, it turns out, are terrible. They don’t work and they can cause the critter to “barf” its stomach contents into your bloodstream. Ick.

We also were once instructed to remove a tick by twisting it in a counterclockwise direction. It worked like magic. Or was that clockwise?

Twisting might work but it also might leave the tick’s head embedded in the skin where it can fester. The recommended way to remove a tick is to grab it very close to the skin and pull straight back. See Bug Girl’s suggestions for the correct approach to removing a tick. It’s a good idea to carry tweezers or a tick remover every time you hit the trail.

Image By André Karwath aka Aka (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

Turbo-Tune Your Gas Grill

Chevy V-8 Grill

Our gas grill recently reached the point where it was more blowtorch than barbecue. We figured it was time to pony up for a new outdoor cooker. But face it, a barbecue is a pretty simple machine. Not much more than a bucket with fire inside. So why not fix the old one?

The first thing to go on most barbecues is the vaporizer, the tent-shaped piece of steel that protects the burners from drippings and keeps the heat flowing evenly. If you’re handy with sheet metal cutters you can replace a worn vaporizer with a piece of galvanized flashing. Personally I always worried about the possibility of zinc toxicity from using galvanized metal while barbecuing. Apparently zinc poisoning is a matter of debate amongst grilling gurus. While zinc toxicity is unlikely unless your food is in direct contact with galvanized metal, you can put your mind at rest by using a food grade stainless steel replacement vaporizer. The benefit is that the heavy duty stainless steel will outlast galvanized flashing by a long shot.

Other things you can do to restore a perfectly good BBQ are to replace the burners as well as the piezo igniter. You can also get replacement cooking grids for most grills.

If your old grill suited your outdoor cooking needs you can save a bundle by giving it a tune-up instead of pitching it into the landfill.

Image from Wired Blog | Gadget Lab via Mega BBQ, Great BBQ Food, Grills & More

Hone Your Knife Skills

Rules for a Knife Fight

There are no rules in a knife fight

Recently I tried cutting a crusty baguette with a sharp, serrated bread knife. Instead of placing the bread on a cutting board like a reasonable person, I simply held the loaf in one hand and the knife in the other while thinking “this is a bad idea.” Which it was. Ouch.

Make: Online has a great set of tips for using and maintaining knives in your kitchen, including tips for using a sharpening steel, that metal rod that you so often see coyotes and wolves using as they prepare a helpless bunny for dinner.

You Will Be a Newbie Forever – Mastering Technology

I’ve reached a place in my life where I don’t want to learn one more stoopidly designed interface. Take the Shoretel phone system…please. (Although it’s a big improvement over Rolm phones).

Former Wired editor and technology guru Kevin Kelly explains that the technology we need most is not necessarily the technology that’s available today. Instead, we need to become expert at adapting to the speed and revolution of new technologies as they arise.

The life skill you need most is not the mastery of specific technologies, but mastery of the technium as a whole — how technology in general works. I like to think of this ability to deal with any type of new technology as techno-literacy. To be at ease with the flux of technology in modern-day life you’ll need to speak the language of the technium.

Kelly’s insight yields some surprising fruit. For instance, today’s technology is already obsolete, so don’t buy a gadget until you absolutely need it. Limit your options to avoid overload. Get by with the least amount of technology that works for you.

The Technium – Techno Life Skills

Beyond First Aid: The Ultimate Emergency Manual

Here’s an excellent, free downloadable first aid resource designed for ships at sea where there is no doctor present. As expected, it is mostly aimed toward the seafarer, but much of the advice could be used in any type of expedition.

Fishermen are particularly prone to infections of the hands
and fingers because of their working environment and the
things that they are required to handle during their work.
For instance, they may be injured by fish spines and bones, by
broken ends of warps and many other things. Minor cuts and
grazes often go unnoticed at the time of injury. Bacteria are
carried into these wounds from fish slime and guts and also
from pieces of metal etc. Infection then develops with
inflammation of the infected area and the formation of pus.
Prevention is always better than cure and it is
recommended that Chlorhexidine Gluconate 20%
(HIBISCRUB) is used to wash hands and forearms after
handling fish of any kind. The Hibiscrub can be used as a soap
or in solution.

The Ship Captain’s Medical Guide via Lifehacker

Book Recommendations: 20 Strange Books You Might Like to Read. Or Not.

runningafterantelope

 

There’s nothing like a book to take you into different worlds, experience different lives and in the doing learn something about yourself. Here’s a list of offbeat books by some very worthwhile authors, including one who lives to chase animals:

The wildly various stories in Running After Antelope are connected and illuminated by a singular passion: the author’s attempt to run down a pronghorn antelope. His pursuit-odd, funny, and inspired-is juxtaposed with stories about sibling rivalry, falling in love, and working as a journalist in war-torn countries. Scott Carrier provides a most unique record of a most unique life.

20 Even Stranger and More Wonderful Books via Metafilter

50 Books Every Child (and Adult) Should Read

For my money Collodi’s The Adventures of Pinocchio is one of the most marvelous books ever written. Full of dry wit and dark humor, much of which is lost on children, the story is a developmental cautionary tale. For children the take-away is “see what happens when you don’t listen to your conscience” but for adults the story is a little more complex. With a little compassion even a dull boy can make good.

Pinocchio is one of 50 classic books that the Independent’s hand picked group of authors tap for must-reads. Other books on the list: Emil and the Detectives, Treasure Island, Animal Farm, Sherlock Holmes, and Beano Annual.

The 50 books every child should read via kottke

Pooping: U R Doing it Wrong

I’ve heard this before – that humans, like bears, were meant to squat in the woods. But finding the proper bathroom posture is danged inconvenient. It means going outdoors with a trail shovel and bundle of “quail tickets” or leaving sneaker prints on the potty seat.

All the other tips featured by this article in Cracked are equally unhandy – or antisocial.

7 Basic Things You Won’t Believe You’re All Doing Wrong via Metafilter