Treadmill Walking Desk. Under $200. DIY How-To and First Week Results of Usage

How-Tos

I just finished building a treadmill walking desk for about $150 and 5 hours. I love it! We humans are such natural walkers, and now I can be a much more natural worker. We weren’t meant to sit for long.
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My wife (above) was the first tester!

My wife and I at our desks

My wife carrying our 7-month old son on the treadmill.  I’m at my sit down desk which I also use.

I got the treadmill off Craigslist locally for $150. All you really need is one that will go 1/2 mile an hour and has sturdy handles. I use:

  • Two boards
  • A 2’x8′ sheet of pink board insulation foam
  • Screws
  • Shock cord
  • Tube of glue.

The Good: I’ve used it four times for 30 to 60 minutes at about 3/4 of a mile an hour. I set it at a very slow walk, flat. Basically just shifting your weight from foot to foot. Because it’s slow, and walking uses skills we’ve had for a few million years, I find I can type and mouse with ease. And I find that the time passes very quickly, and I think better. There’s research out there supporting walking desks positive effects, see bottom of Wikipedia Page on Treadmill Desks, or search “Treadmill Desk” on Google. I believe an hour or two a day is something I can achieve, and along with my short walk to work, something that will help me feel better than sitting. Also, I hope to lose some weight that I’ve put on with a new baby in the house.

The Bad: The treadmill is loud, being a cheap one, and 5 or 6 years old. But the hummm is actually kind of like a white noise canceller, and I have headphones if I need them. You can find very quiet walking treadmills for desks though, if you have the money. You can buy used treadmills that have straight handles, which might be easier to work with. Newer used treadmills might be quieter. I wish I had money for a new treadmill like the Signature S100 walking handle-less treadmill.  A colleague uses one and likes it, but it’s way too expensive for me. And I’d have the treadmill under a desk that is separate so there’s no shake.

Here’s some how-to photos.

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8 pieces of cut foam pink board in a slope, for leg room.

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Center board screwed down with cheap Sheetrock screws (short enough not to poke through top). On one side I angled the screws to pull the two pieces of wood together.

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Foam glue (Liquid Nails ok too) on the layers of foam and on the wood, then weighted down with rocks for 24hrs+ to dry.

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Angled pieces of foam to level the desk because the treadmill handles were angled. I didn’t glue it in, the weight and elastic cord holds it.

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Elastic shock cord to hold it down on the treadmill.

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Cord pulls on front edge to counter rear weight.

treadmill walking desk diy how to - 09Notched the corners to hold the cord better.

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Works well with a laptops, but the screen is low for long usage.

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Holds an older iMac, and the screen his higher, for better neck posture.

 

Walk on!

Google Real estate Setting

Home Buying Lessons Learned

How-Tos

My wife and I just successfully closed on our first home in Brattleboro, Vemont 200 miles north of New York City. We have the key. We have the deed. To find the home I looked at listings for two years at least several times a week, using the MLS, and Google Maps Real Estate setting. We drove by 30 some odd homes for a year and did full viewings of about 15 homes. We almost bought two home, pulling out at the last minute.

I’ve bought two condos I never lived in and still own one. I made a bundle off the first pre-construction condo in 2002 in San Diego. I flipped it and got one in Santa Fe during the height of the bubble. I still own it. It’s worth about 20% less then I bought it in 2005, but it’s rented and not losing money.

Google Real estate Setting

Google Real Estate Setting

Tools

Lessons We Learned

  1. House hunting is like dating in your twenties, full of drama, unrequited love, heartbreak, bad judgement, and things not seeming what they are after several nights of sleeping on it. Brace yourself.
  2. If you stay grounded in your values, you’ll eventually find a  house you just know is right and things will be simple and good. Don’t quibble too much on price, just buy it.
  3. Neighbors are key. Make sure your neighbors won’t stress you out. That can ruin any house.
  4. Pick your priorities and know what to sacrifice. You can’t walk to a vibrant downtown and live in the woods no matter how rich you are. We struggled, but remained fixed on being 1/2 mile from town, with enough room for a small garden and the ability to build a second unit for rental income.
  5. Beware of homes that have been on the market a long time. Best to focus energy on new listings in areas you like only.
  6. Watch the light. Drive by in the AM and PM. Imagine all seasons.
  7. Consider adding a rental unit. The numbers are very solid in terms of a place to put money, even from an IRA. If $30,000.00 can get you a room you rent for $700.00/mo, then conservatively you can make 20% on your money a year, and increase your real estate value.

How-To: Life Coaching

How-Tos
A walking bridge in New England covered with fall leavesBy Caleb John Clark, 1995 What life coaching is, how to find a coach, what to expect from a coach, and some things I went through while being coached. This how-to comes from working with life coach Matthew Fincher. Life coaching is about hiring someone to help you live the life you want. I think of it like a good coach I had in high school, you might have had one too. You know, the the one who respected you, challenged you, and was totally behind you succeeding and doing your best, as long as you were a good team player. So to me, life coaches are about helping you play the game of life to your full potential. Generally speaking I think life coaching is an integration and evolution of career counseling and psychotherapy, but it’s more action oriented for all aspects of your life, from work to relationships to health. Life coaching is also seems to me to be a response to a need that has developed as the nature of professional type work changes. People are realizing more and more that money and security are not all they are cracked up to be, that you can make money, give and take love, and also add to the mix the ability to follow your unique purpose in life and discover your own personal power that comes from following your instincts and intuition. Life coaching is a young profession, so relying on credentials can be tricky. Often life coaches are trained as therapists or other councilor types. Or they may not have any formal training. There are some organization that are granting credentials, but often a great coach won’t have any. Either way, look for a good reputation in the community and experience in similar fields or in coaching. If someone is just starting out, you might be able to get a good rate, but make sure they are working under someone who is experienced and reputable. Life coaching is likely to keep increasing in popularity because it is responding to a need in the market. Hopefully Universities and Colleges will start to provide degrees and credentials that are consistent in quality so that credentials start to have more meaning and training can be based on a canon of knowledge and pull from psychology’s rich history of scientific knowledge and studies. Why I got a coach I was between computer consulting contracts working on some of my own projects when my roommate got a life coach. He would tell me about his homework and it sounded pretty exciting. One day I met his coach, Matthew Fincher, at a cafe and he gave me an impromptu sample session around some issues I was having with a woman I’d recently fallen in love with. I was also wondering what I was going to do and where I wanted to live next, when my money ran out. I loved his style, which was active and direct, but still let me do the work. And I especially liked Matthew because he was a former computer consultant and he understood my world. So I followed my instincts that it would be a good time to get some help from someone who could coach me on what do to and hold me accountable, but I felt I wanted more active and direct help, vs. therapy which I’d been in and felt complete with, for the moment. So we started once a week and the work began. How-to find a life coach The best way to find a coach is to talk to someone who had a good experience with one. You can also find a life coach by looking in the phone book or internet under therapists or career councilors. Here’s a good site to start a Web search at: International Coaches Federation Sample Sessions Once you find a coach, request a sample session. Most good life coaches will meet you the first time at a reduced rate. What you’re looking for is chemistry, trust, respect, etc. Just like any relationship really. Follow your instincts and don’t settle for something that doesn’t feel right. Example ProcessLife Coaching should be a process and there are lots of different processes. Matthew has developed his own 4 step process which I’ll outline here. This may take from three months to a year or more. You could stop whenever you wanted of course, but ideally you’d get into #3 and #4 for a few cycles.

  1. Authentic = Acknowledgement: You meet and your coach gets to know you. You may go over your resume, childhood, etc. You dive into what is now. Who you are and what you are doing right now. What are your issues, blocks, problems, successes, etc. Your coach may read your resume. You get real comfortable with the reality of you now and do some work on habits, patterns, and ways of thinking that might be holding you back and self-sabotaging your efforts.
  2. Clarity=Declaration: You work to define your purpose in life. A short general statement that describes who you are and what you do is crafted. You fill in the blanks of “I am the blank that blanks” for example, or craft a mission statement.
  3. Intention=Mission: You plan out ways to live your purpose and a mission to go on to get there
  4. Action=Results: You plan actions for certain results and your coach holds you accountable for them.

#3 and #4 then loop and repeat with your coach helping you from the sidelines. My Process I’m not going to get too personal here, but I’ll give some examples of things I did that helped me and I found interesting. Matthew and I met and went over my resume and upbringing to start and and I filled in this questionnaire:

  1. What do you want to get from coaching?
  2. If you could wave a magic wand and change anything in your life, what would it be?
  3. What has to happen for you to know coaching has benefited your life?
  4. If you trusted me enough to tell me how to support you most effectively, what tips would you give me?
  5. What are the three most important things in your life right now?
  6. When you are most stuck, what would I say to you that will support you in connecting to your power?
  7. What are you naturally good at doing or being? What is easy for you?
  8. What would your closest friends say are your best abilities?
  9. What are some of your favorite things, places and people?
  10. What else would you like to share about yourself?

As I progressed through the process I was surprised what came up. At first anger surfaced in terms of my relationships. Then some “characters” emerged from within my head that were not helping me out. For example, I found a very good “judge” in me that tends to, well, judge. But he doesn’t do much else except be critical. I also spent a week or so on a “Hippie kid” that runs around in the shadows of my mind, popping put to be rebellious and say things like “I don’t know what I want to do” or “I don’t have to do anything” which are counter productive. Matthew had a good quote here I wrote down:

“Integrate the hippie kid. Get complete with the judge. Transcend them both, And step into your soul.”

After each session there would be homework assigned. Some examples of homework were: – Find examples of people who do something you respect and are attracted to for a living. – Observe feelings of anger. Physical and emotional. Write it down. – Make a sign by bed, on a cell phone display, or in car that says: “What am I angry about?” – Call Matthew every day for 30 seconds or less, anytime 24/7 and leave a message reciting your declaration of self. My most salient work came out of Matthew step #2: Declaration. Over a three week period we worked to fill in the “blanks” in this sentence: “I am the blank that blanks.” I went through many drafts, but ended up at: “I am the communicator that helps humanity.” After trying it on for a few months now, I like it. It grounds me but provides flexibility in terms of details and careers. Incidentally, Matthew is, “The voice that integrates,” and I think my mother would be “I am the teacher that educates children,” since she’s a 35 year public school teacher. Matthew and I worked from there on achieving goals (one of them being this site) with him being my coach and holding me accountable. We’re currently still in process working on actions and intentions. Life coaching was very useful to me, but I was ready to actively change my life and I’d been in therapy, so I don’t think I was looking for that, which would be a mistake unless your life coach is specifically trained to be a licensed therapist. And beware of life coaching as a “quick fix.” Real change takes time and energy and is often a challenging process. I believe the discipline needs to continue to become more academically and scientifically rigorous and I hope it will so it can improve its reputation. Eventually I see becoming a life coach to be similar to becoming a licensed therapist. More Info.

  1. Great Book!: “Zen and the Art of Making A Living”
  2. International Coaches Federation
  3. Wikipedia Definition with Link

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How-To Meditate In The Traditional Buddhist Shamatha Style (AKA Sanskrit: "Training The Mind")

How-Tos
a woman's eye close up with the reflection of a man in the pupilBy Caleb John Clark, October 2005.

I wrote this after being tutored by a trusted friend about his meditation and long time Buddhist practice. He does not want to be identified because Shamatha meditation is best taught in person, according to his teachers. I figure the Web can help people get started though, so it’s OK to put this up. My friend has meditated and been very involved in a respected Buddhist organization for 35 years. He credits meditating with helping him cope positively with a disability.

If you get into it, seek out a Buddhist organization, go to classes, or find a meditation instructor. Training by an experienced instructor is needed to really learn how to meditate.

I was very surprised to find out that his meditation was not about quieting or controlling the mind, as I had assumed. So I felt like writing up a little bit on how one might try out meditation and see if they liked it.

The Concept

  • Not about: Quieting or controlling your mind. Or even closing your eyes.
  • Is about: Getting to know your mind (AKA Mindfulness). Observing what you think and feel, no matter what that is. Experiencing your ego as more of a continuum than the concrete reality it may seem to be, or want to be.

Seven practices which are different from Shamatha meditation:

  1. Meditating on one object, word, or thought.
  2. Yoga: Not as much about mindfulness and more about exercise and breathing.
  3. Jogging: Doesn’t give as much time to examine thoughts in a focused way.
  4. Napping: Lets the mind go, but doesn’t pay attention to it.
  5. Sitting and thinking: Implies thinking about solutions.
  6. Losing yourself in creative work: Using the mind, more than studying it
  7. Losing yourself in repetitious work: Shutting off the mind more than studying it.

Why could Shamatha meditation or mindfulness training be good for people?

Because knowledge about yourself is good. Self-knowledge can help you ride your thoughts, feelings, and neuroses, rather than being ridden by them. It can build compassion and strength in dealing with others by practicing that skill with oneself. It sharpens sense perceptions by slowing down the speed of your discursive chatter, so that the world around you comes through more clearly. There is some scientific and medical evidence that it helps promote emotional stability, stress reduction and healing.

  1. Washington Post: “Meditation Gives Brain a Charge, Study Finds” By Marc Kaufman
  2. Harvard Gazette: “What can monks teach scientists? Psychology professor probes imagery with Dalai Lama.” By William J. Cromie

Steps

Here’s how my friend took me through my first meditation.

Start slow. Pick a very short time to mediate at first, perhaps ten minutes a day. If you like it, increase the time, but not so much as to make the experience unpleasant. Try to be in a place where you will not be interrupted. If you are, don’t stress, just start again.

Get in position

  1. Sit down on a chair or somewhere else comfortable. If you sit on a cushion on the floor, cross your legs if you can. If not, don’t worry about it. “Full lotus” position is not recommended, unless you have become comfortable with it in yoga classes.
  2. Straighten your back. Not rigid, but comfortably upright.
  3. Relax and drop your shoulders
  4. Place the hands palms down, one on each thigh just behind the knees. Spread your fingers loosely.
  5. Bring your chin in a little towards your neck
  6. Breathe a few times and relax
  7. Look slightly down and about 6-8 ft. in front of you at the floor
  8. Let your gaze blur and relax a little, but keep your eyes open
  9. Let your mouth stay open slightly, relaxed, with your tongue just touching the back of your upper front teeth if you want to prevent saliva build-up. Swallow as needed.

Meditate

  1. Breathing normally, put your attention on the outbreath. Try to “be” the breath as it goes out and dissipates in space.
  2. As for the inbreath, disengage and let it happen by itself.
  3. When thoughts arise (which will happen very soon!) as much as possible let them pass through without feeding energy into them. Don’t evaluate: in meditation there are no good thoughts or bad thoughts.
  4. If a thought train carries you away (so that you forget that you’re meditating,) simply look at it briefly, acknowledge it and say to yourself: “Thinking.” Then go back to following the breath. No praise or blame called for: the point of meditation is to see what the mind does when left to itself. Don’t try to do anything with the thoughts that come up: just let them go by. Don’t try to stop unpleasant thoughts or prolong pleasant ones.
  5. Don’t expect dramatic results: meditation progresses at its own pace.

After

When you’re done, you’re done. That’s it! Get up slowly and shake your arms and legs a bit. The key is doing it every day if you can. You’ll find out within a few days if you like it.

Next Steps

  1. Find a human teacher
  2. World Buddhist Directory
  3. Main Shambhala web site
  4. Karme Choling, the contemplative center in Vermont
  5. Shambhala Mountain Center, Colorado
  6. Dechen Choling, in France

More Meditation Info.

  1. Similar Primer, with photos
  2. Transcendental Meditation
  3. Tai Chi
  4. Duke Healthy Meditation FAQ
  5. Worried Sick
  6. Women’s Health and De-stressing
  7. American Association of Family Physicians Mind Body Connection
  8. Harvard Study: “Meditation changes temperatures:
    Mind controls body in extreme experiments.

    By William J. Cromie

End

How-To Rewrite Your Resume

How-Tos
A walking bridge in New England covered with fall leavesBy Caleb John Clark, March 2005

Shows examples of a good resume suite (1 pager, full, bio, cover letter) from going through the rewrite process with a professional career management coach named David Glober of Glober Associates. David has been the go to guy for all resume writing guy in my circle of geeky friends in San Francisco since the early 1990s. Recently he has been expanding his practice to include counseling and life coaching. It was obvious to me during the three weeks we spent on my resume that a good resume rewrite is really a dose of life coaching, especially if it’s done by a professional like David. And David himself has realized over the years that resume writing was really a combination of therapy and counseling, which is now integrating into Life Coaching (See Life Coaching primer.)

I thought a resume rewrite would be fairly straight forward. Get rid of the typos in my old resume, reformat, and add the latest gig, but I was wrong. The process was really about David going through each job I had, my life, goals, values, past, etc. and making me really think about how I put myself forward via my resume and what I wanted to use my resume to get.

The Process

First David made me describe each job in detail verbally while he read my resume on his computer. He would mine out important things I had totally left out or phrased badly and do amazing things with the language to make me look really professional, but not something I wasn’t. This seemed innocuous at first, but then it started bringing up very deep issues about work and what I was good at, and wasn’t.

All the while we were looking for the two or so words that described what I did and thinking about a bio and cover letter. Was I an instructional designer? or a writer? After diving painfully deep into my life, goals, future, and past we went through several drafts of my resume until there were no typos to be found, sometimes even haggling over one single word for days. Then he drafted a bio and cover letter and made a one page version and had me edit them. Then he made PDFs and checked them on PC and Macs on several printers to make sure they printed well. It was amazing.

My Finished Resume Suite

Here’s PDFs of my finished product for you to use as an example. Notice the language used and length of entries. Shorter entries were for jobs I was not especially into, longer ones were one’s to accentuate. Also notice there’s not “Objective” but rather a an explanation of my skill set, basically summarizing and answering the question, “what can you do for me?”

  1. 1 Page Resume
  2. 2 Page Resume
  3. Cover Letter
  4. Bio

More Info.

  1. Great Book!: “Zen and the Art of Making A Living”
  2. Wikepedia Encyclopedia Entry for Resume with Links
  3. David Glober of Glober Associates