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63. Tidying up my living room with DIY boxes

To be honest, I am living in a very messy condo. To make the matter worse, the condo has a lot of shelves without cover. This is one of the primary reasons why the room looks cluttered.

To solve this problem, instead of storing stuffs on the shelf,  I made two boxes for the shelf and placed stuffs inside the boxes. It looks nicer this way.

By the way, even for a very simple DIY project like this, I still did not cut the pieces right and straight. It must have been the cross-cut sled that caused the trouble. So, it’s time to made a new one.

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What I got from woodworking

I started woodworking because I had always been interested in DIY.

Then, I realized not many DIY projects lasted long. They were not cheap, either. You had to buy a lot of tools, but you were not producing a lot of outputs to average down the costs.

Later, I moved to craftsmanship. I wanted to build stuffs that were really work and beautiful at the same time. This has become my woodworking philosophy ever since, although I still make some DIY projects once in a while.

Apart from artistic pleasures, woodworking, like other hobbies, offers great lessons for personal developments and growths. It also teaches great lessons about problem solving. Most projects are done for the first time, so you are likely to encounter a lot of problems along the way. When you practice woodworking on regular basis, problem solving becomes your second nature. This is remarkably helpful if you aim to do great things later in your life.

Woodworking also teaches me about patience and perseverance. You cannot rush in a woodworking project, because it will turn out badly. You cannot overlook some imperfections especially in the early stage of the project, or else you will run into bigger problem towards the end. These are all great lessons.

Last but not least, I really enjoy the moments I am working in the shop. You are on your own, in quiet ambient, focusing on the project at hands. It is like a zen moment, a great recreation indeed.

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62. Walnut Drawer/Stationery Tray 2.0

This project was an improvement over the previous drawer tray project. Instead of having one partition for rulers and three identical square shape partitions for the rest which is not quite practical, this version has one for rulers, one for pens/pencils and one for erasers and the like.

To be honest, this project was quite a mess. I cut quite a number of unnecessary dados and had to throw away those pieces. I messed up the paneling process, so they had to be redo. I also failed to cut sides of the same exact thickness, so they looked quite ugly.  It emphasized the fact that to simple prepare wood stocks of perfect dimensions, perfectly straight and perpendicular alone is not easy as it seems.

I vow to be even more patient to achieve quality for the upcoming projects.

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The conflicting and confusing nutritional recommendations

Since 35, I have always wanted to improve my diets for health concerns. So lately I have been spending some time doing some dietary researches. 

Surprisingly, the more I dug in, the more confusing I became. I had been told since grade school that fat is bad for health. We should avoid high cholesterol food. Later the recommendation became to reduce only saturated fat. Not all cholesterols are bad. In fact, some cholesterol (i.e. HDL) actually had health benefit. Saturated fat increases bad cholesterol (LDL). 

However, recent studies revealed that saturated fats might not be bad after all. The even most recent studies suggested that too much “good” cholesterol on the other hand can even increase the risk of heart disease.

On the other hand, one should also avoid high carb food because excess carbohydrates will be converted to fat and therefore the read culprit of obesity. High carb foods also raise sugar in blood and if consumed on regular basis could lead to insulin resistance syndrome and consequentially diabetes. High carb foods also induce inflammation of blood vessel which causes cardiovascular diseases and dementia later in life.

Recently, there has been recommendations to limit red meats. Researches have shown regular red meat consumption lead to cancer. Fruits and vegetables contain a lot of pesticides. In fact, you cannot even trust organic vegetables in the supermarket. Salmon is also mercury contaminated. 

Taken all these recommendations into consideration, you are left with little food to eat. When we cut back fats in our diets, we have to increase either proteins or carbs consumption to get enough calories for daily use. But we cannot because we also have to reduce proteins and carbs for some health issues. 

Those who decides to go vegan would risk Vitamin B12 deficiency aside from insufficient calories intakes. They cannot take vitamin supplements to make up for it because studies also show that taking vitamin supplements has infinitesimal benefits if not useless and may even be harmful in the long run. 

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Am I at risk of dementia?

Explore the dark side of early retirement.

According to the book Brain Rules for Aging Well by John Medina, retirees are more likely to suffer from cardiovascular diseases, dementias and death than the employed of the same age. 

This makes me worried about myself, because I retired at 30+ and still have probably about thirty more years ahead of me. Am I en route to dementia?

Right after I retired, my daily activities started to dwindle. At first, I was glad, because I don’t have to work hard anymore. A few years later, I began to have trouble with boredom. Even worse, I also felt losing a sense of purpose in life. It was terrifying. I began to realize that the goal in life is not to retire as early as possible. Rather, we want to continue doing what we love for the rest of our lives. Your career not only provides you with financial means but also your self-worth something to base on.

A few years ago, I decided to restart my working life becoming a woodworker. It was helping me a great deal. I got busy again. I learnt a lot of new stuffs. It was fun and life-changing. I was much happier than earlier when I was a retiree. 

The book suggests several measures to combat dementia. Having an active routine is one of them. The book also recommends regular exercises, low-calorie diets (such as Mediterranean and/or mild diet) as well as ample sleeps. Fortunately, I have been practicing these practices for quite a while. It is also advisable to rejuvenate your brain by picking up a new language or joining a dance class; I might consider doing the former in the future.

And last but not least is to keep socializing; having a long-lasting friendship and/or having a positive marriage. If one can do most of these things, one will be able to guard oneself against dementia for the rest of one’s life.

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Are you facing the mid-life crisis?

They say at some point in life, usually at the middle age, we will encounter the so-called mid-life crisis, the stage in which we suddenly come to realize that our time is running out and we might not be able to accomplish the major goal in life that we have been dreaming for.

In such a circumstance, the person might perform some drastic actions such as quitting the current career, getting divorced or even committing suicide.

However, some theories counter that mid-life crisis could be just a myth. While other theories suggest that crises actually occur in many steps of our life especially when we faces big changes, not just at the middle age.

In my experience, I did encounter the mid-life crisis upon reaching the age of 40. It suddenly occurred to me that everything I have been doing and being proud about became non-sense and uninspiring. I was a financial and economics writer before that time and I quit writing almost entirely. It took me several years to search for new interests and that was a very tough time for me mentally. I would say it was the worst time of my entire life. I was unhappy.

I was not sure how I went through the crisis, but currently I became a woodworker instead. I could not imagine how my life would turn out if I could not find new interest at that time to ignite my spirit again. It was a leap of faith.

I have to admit that life is not as fulfilling as it used to be before my forty. But it is at least manageable. Perhaps I get accustomed to it or the midlife crisis forced me to change some of my habits in order to go on with life.

Everyone has some flaws in his personality. When we were young, we developed some defense mechanism to circumvent our weaknesses. For example, somebody developed a loner personality to avoid human conflicts. Others developed easy-going personality to escape troubles.  My theory is that mid-life crisis occurs because at one point our defense mechanism no longer works. We suffer as a result.

In order to overcome the midlife crisis, everyone has to change his own attitudes as well as personalities in some way so that we can cope with the world again without those defense mechanisms that we have been using to fool ourselves all along. This could mean abandoning some of our firm beliefs, getting rid of some biases, or even changing our personalities entirely. I don’t know exactly what you have to do, because everyone’s problem is not the same. It usually takes a lot courage to do so and therefore it is not an easy task.

So, if you happen to experience something like this at around 40. That’s all my advice to you.

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61. Desktop Toolbox

This much delayed project marked the next phase of my woodworking experience. From now on, for every piece I make, I will try and give quality the highest priority as much as possible.

Over the past couple of years, I have come to realize that it is a total waste of time to build furniture that is not truly functional, no matter how much output you can produce per month or how much costs you are able to save, because you will not be using it afterwards.

I want to make furniture that actually used by someone. I also want every one of them to last a lifetime. In this manner, I really need to focus more on designing. Also, I have to be patient. I must not rush.  It could also means less output per month and high production costs. But, it’s worth it.

For this desktop toolbox, I spent more than twice the time I normally take to finish projects of similar scale. I made real sure the drawers did not drag the case along when sliding. In the end, I have got a very nice desktop toolbox that will fit my need in the shop. It’s well worth the efforts.