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DIY Standing Computer Desk

Posted by on Jan 6, 2014 in Health, How To | 0 comments

DIY Standing Desk

I’m not a big fan of heart attacks and I definitely want to avoid back problems. There are a growing number of studies showing how bad sitting all day is for you. The animated video below lists a number of the problems that are caused . (Also see below for what you need to build one yourself)

Unfortunately, I still have to spend a lot of time in front of a computer nearly everyday. When I first learned about people using standing desks I wanted to give it a try. At the time, I knew I would be moving soon and so I never did. I have recently moved to Hawaii and I needed a way to create two work spaces in our condo. There is one built in desk and not a lot of room. The perfect chance to build a standing desk.

Since we are planning to move in the near future, I decided to create something that I can use now as a computer desk and later as a book case. As you will see, there are a couple disadvantages to doing it this way. The advantage is that I can try it out, and if I don’t like it, I end up with a book case. If I do like it, I will be able to still turn this one into a book case and build an even better one later.

DIY Standing Desk FullThe biggest disadvantage is that a bookcase isn’t quite deep enough. Ideally you want your screen about 20-28″ away from your face.  Because a book case is only 12″ deep, my screen sits about 12″ away from my face. I think I can fix this by adding an extension to the keyboard/mouse shelf. Luckily, the screen I am currently using is very small and 12″ isn’t too bad. In fact, 20-28″ might be a little too far away.

I wanted to keep the design as clean as possible, so I used dowels and glue for the joints. This means that my shelves aren’t adjustable. I recommend that you choose a way to make your shelves adjustable. You may find that the shelves shouldn’t go where you thought they should (my computer was sitting to high when I first tested it). Adjustable shelves will also allow multiple people to use the desk.

How I Built it

I had two main goals with this desk/bookshelf. First was price. I didn’t want to spend very much since this would be a tester desk. No reason to spend a lot of money and then hate it. The second was future usability. This would only be used temporarily as a desk, and for much longer as a bookshelf.

Materials 

There are a number of types of prebuilt shelves you can buy that will work just as good as this. The reason I decided to build my own was cost and aesthetics. I’m not a big fan of particle wood.

  • 3- 1″ x 12″ x 6′ wooden boards
  • wood screws or wooden dowels

I had Home Depot cut one of the boards lengthwise into 4 even pieces to become the legs and the other two pieces cut in half to become the shelves. I measured out where I wanted to put the shelves, drilled the holes, installed the dowels, and then glued it all together. Pretty simple. It’s not perfect, but it works for now. I will put a clear protective coat over it once I have had a chance to sand it.

Altogether the supplies cost about $40.

What would I do differently

As I mentioned earlier, it’s not quite deep enough. It really needs to be about 24-30″ to make this work with a larger screen. I think I could make this current design work, by adding a slide out piece for the keyboard and mouse. I also think I would go a little bit wider. I often work with two monitors and that might get a little tight in this space.

The other thing I would add is a “wrap around” for more desk space. A place for writing and filling out documents, and maybe someplace to put a drink..

Other than that, I am actually quite pleased with it.

Alternate Idea

I enjoy working with my hands and really wanted to make something. If you wanted something more simple, and something that will still be usable later, then I think a heavy duty storage rack will work great. The shelves are adjustable, they have a smooth shelves, and they come with decent dimensions (though maybe a little too shallow). If you don’t like the desk, use can still use the shelving in your garage or pantry.

Alternative DIY Standing Desk

Sitting or standing

It’s still too early to tell. So far though, I really like it. Leaving and returning to the desk is much easier and it does seem to keep me more active. Not that I am leaving my computer more often, but I do tend to move around more. When I do have to leave the desk however, it is easier to get back to work.

The first day my legs were a little tired, but I seem to be getting used to it now. I am sure that my posture is much better.

DIY Desk Using Pallets

If you want a simple, cheap, DIY sit down desk, check out this desk I made a while back out of pallets. I think the whole thing cost me about $25.

DIY Computer Desk

 

 

 

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How to Achieve Your Goals

Posted by on Dec 12, 2012 in How To, Personal Development | 0 comments

What was the last goal you set? What was your New Year’s resolution? Did you accomplish it? As we approach the end of the year, people will be making new resolutions for things they want to accomplish or changes they want to make in their lives. But with such a high failure rate, less than 40% of people in their 40s complete their resolutions. This drastically drops as we get older, with only 14% of people in their 50s achieving their resolutions (you can find more of the data here). Why is it so easy for us to lose our way or give up? Simply put, we don’t make clear enough goals. Without a clear goal, timeline, and plan you are likely to fail. Below is a list of steps you can take to help make sure you follow through with your next resolution.

Choose something you care about

Most of us are easily influenced. Watching a movie about a rock star can make us want to learn to play the guitar. The problem is that feeling will wear off and you will eventually give up when you reach the first difficulty. If you have always wanted to learn the guitar, and it’s something you often think about, then go for it. I’m not saying you shouldn’t try new things, but when you set something as a goal/resolution you should have a better reason than “it sounds like fun”. It should have a positive impact on your life. Decide how doing this will make your life better.

Be clear

Goals that aren’t clear can be changed or even forgotten. The more specific you make your goal the more likely you will follow through. If you are finding it difficult to make  your goal specific, then it might not have met the first criteria. People usually choose a goal such as: I want to lose weight. The problem is that you don’t know where the finish line is. I would ask “What is your target weight?”, “Are you looking to bulk up or just slim down”, “Why do you want to lose weight?”, “What will you do when you lose the weight”, “When is your deadline?”.

Choose a deadline

Choosing a deadline allows you to break what ever you are doing into smaller units and create a timeline. Without a date you can draw an activity out endlessly. If you plan to accomplish it in a year, you can break it into smaller pieces and set up landmarks to meet for each week or each month. You can then reward/punish yourself for making or not meeting them. Without a deadline, a goal is really more of an idea. Choose an agressive, but realistic deadline.

Do your research

There are many methods to do just about anything and they are not all equal. Take your time to find the best materials and methods. They may not be the most common. Choosing the wrong ones can mean the difference between easily achieving your goal or giving up.

Have a backup plan

What happens if you get off track. Your diet was going perfect and then the holidays came. It happens. Everything may not go perfectly. Have a backup plan for when you get off track. Also, schedule in times when you can get away from your goal (if it is something difficult) and go crazy.

So what is your goal for the New Year?

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10 Survival Words for Japanese

Posted by on Nov 19, 2012 in Japanese, Language | 0 comments

If you are going on a trip to Japan and don’t have time to learn to speak (you leave tomorrow), here are a list of Japanese words that should help you find the train and let someone know you are hungry. They won’t allow you too have even a basic conversation, you’ll need a lot more words for that, but they will allow you to take care of your very basic needs.

1. Doko (どこ)-where

2. Ikitai (いきたい) -I want to go to

3. Sumimasen (すみません)-Sorry, excuse me。

4. Ikura (いくら)-How much

5. Otearai (おてあらい)-Bathroom

6. Arigatou (ありがとう)-Thank you

7.  Byouin (びょういん)-Hospital

8. Tabetai (たべたい)-Want to eat

9. Nomitai (のみたい)-Want to drink

10. Eigo (えいご)-English? 

You can find the original list with descriptions and details at Japanese Words.

I also recommend that you take some tools with you. One great (and free) one is Imiwa for the Iphone. It is a complete dictionary and will allow you to look up a lot more words. It also shows you the common Japanese words first. You can find it in the Apple App store.

Another great dictionary for Japanese is jisho.org. It’s available online and contains a lot of example sentences and ways to look up Japanese characters.

Please feel free to leave any comments about other words you feel should be added to the list?

DO you speak any other languages. What 10 words would you recommend for those languages?

 

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VPN (Virtual Private Network): Watch Netflix, Hulu, and more outside of the US

Posted by on Mar 15, 2012 in How To | 2 comments

I have lived in Japan now for about 6 years. There are some things that I miss in the US, but most of those I can either get here or at least have shipped here. While getting items shipped to Japan has gotten easier and cheaper, accessing US sites has become more difficult. The problem is that many sites are starting to monitor IP addresses and will block you if you aren’t accessing the site from within the US. This can be even more frustrating if you are trying to access a site you “have” to use like online banking. Luckily there is a way around this using VPN services.

VPN stands for Virtual Private Network, and is a way to connect your computer through a server that is located somehwere else. So even though I am located in Japan, the VPN makes it look as though I am connecting from in the US. As an added feature, my true location is hidden which means more security.

It is as easy as downloading the program, choosing the location you want to connect to, and going to the page you want to see. It’s also cheap. With a year subscription for the company I chose, it is a little under $7 a month. Not bad at all.

I went with a company called HMA (Hide My Ass) after comparing various companies and the value that each offered. I also like the name. HMA also seemed to be highly recommended on the web and had a 30 day money back guarantee. I had tried a free service a while back and it didn’t work to well. So far I have been really happy with HMA’s VPN.

You can check out the service yourself here: Hide My Ass VPN Service. If you choose to purchase using this link, you will also be helping out Simplistic Thoughts as I get a part of the sale.

Connecting your PS3, XBOX, and other devices through VPN 

Watching movies on my computer is okay, and I can even hook my computer up to watch them on the TV, but I really wanted to be able to use Netflix, Hulu, and other programs through the PS3. Running Netflix through the PS3 runs smoother than it does running it through the browser. It wasn’t bad through the browser, but I would occassionally have to wait for loading, while the PS3 has been perfect.

There are two ways to connect your PS3 or XBOX through a VPN service. The best method is to purchase a router that allows you to connect directly to a VPN service. There is a list on HMA’s router page. You can find it here. They also have instructions on how to hook it up. Once you connect your router to the VPN service, any device you connect to the router will be under that IP.

The second method is to connect directly through your computer and then share that connection with your PS3 or XBOX. This is much more complicated and not the best method, but will save you from having to purchase another router. I went this method, and it works now, but after several wasted hours I wish I would have just bought the router. If this sounds like the way you want to go, check out this page. It has the instructions on how to set it up.

It has been great being able to access Netflix and hulu and watch US TV again. If you are feeling the same way, sign up for 30 days. You can always cancel it later if you aren’t happy with it.

Hide My Ass VPN Service

Also, when you connect your PS3 through a VPN service you may need to change the DNS number on the PS3. Doing a quick search should bring up how to do this and what numbers to use. Now download the Netflix app on your PS3 and you should be all set.

 

 

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Too Many Tabs for Firefox and Chrome

Posted by on Feb 27, 2012 in Time management | 0 comments

Remember when you had to open another browser page to to open another website. You had to constantly flip back and forth between pages if you needed more than one page. Things got even more hectic if you needed three or more. Then came tabs. All of your webpages in one simple browser. They were all listed at the top and easy to see. Then they added the ability to reopen the tabs you had open when you closed your browser. Life got easier.

At least it did until I started using tabs as bookmarks. Everytime I wanted to look at a page later, I would just leave it open in a tab. After a few days I would end up with so many tabs I couldn’t find the the tabs I actually needed to use. Instead, I end up with a lot of wasted time clicking back and forth between tabs I forgot I even had.

A couple days ago I came across a solution. An add-on for Chrome and Firefox called TooManyTabs. The program allows you to save your tabs for later and move them out of view. It sits as an icon on your browser and allows you to have many pages open for later, but keep them out of sight. It doesn’t have a lot of features, but I think that is actually what I like about it. It’s really simple.

However, after using it for a few days, I realized something else: I really don’t need all those extra tabs anyways. If I don’t have time to look at that site now, I am probably not going to look at it later either. I do still use TooManyTabs, but not as much as I thought. Instead, I just limit the number of tabs that I am allowed to keep open to five. At the moment I have four tabs open. One of those is my e-mail and one is this post that I am writing right now.

I use TooManyTabs to store pages that I have to use on a regular basis for work, but don’t need open all the time. Websites that I work on on everyday or every couple days. By keeping them closed most of the time, I save myself a lot of time having to search through a bunch of tabs.

So, if you like to have a lot of tabs open then get the add-on, but realistically you can probably get the same effect by just realizing that you don’t need all those pages open in the first place.

 

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Learning the Ukulele For Beginners

Posted by on Oct 13, 2011 in Enjoying Life, How To, Ukulele | 0 comments

 

When I first moved to Miyakojima, Japan I was in love with the culture and music (actually I still am). The traditional instrument here is the sanshin, which is a three stringed banjo type instrument. After attending several festivals and listening to a lot of Okinawan music, I joined a class and learned to play the sanshin myself.


However, after playng for a couple of years I started to notice the instruments limits. Playing was fun, but the sanshin has a very distinct sound which limits it to playing Okinawan music.

My wife, who was dancing hula, started playing the ukulele. After doing a bit of research on the web looking for different songs, I realized how broad an ukulele really is. Basically it is like a mini guitar. At first I started playing in a Hawaiian Ukulele group (and may eventually go back), but decided I wanted to learn to play more modern songs.

After a bit of searching on Youtube, I found a good video to learn the simplified version of I’m Yours by Jason Mraz on the ukulele.

 

The Ukulele is a lot of fun and is pretty easy to learn. I am by no means a musician, so if I can do it anyone can.

I would say that the most difficult part is finding a good ukulele for beginners. I started out with a cheap Mahalo ukulele we got from a catalogue as a gift. It didn’t make much sound, and the sound it did make was horrible. If you want to play the ukulele, then I recommend you spend a little more to get something decent. You can find decent ukuleles for sale for around $60 and can get ones that are pretty good for around $100-$150.

If you do plan to buy an ukulele, then I recommend that you try to find a place that you can check them out and play them. There are a lot of ukuleles for sale and they come in different sizes and have different sounds. Getting the wrong one (like I did) can take away from that fun.

And remember that like anything, learning an instrument is simple repetition. If you do something a lot, you will get good at it.

 

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