DIY SAD Light Therapy Box

As I become more aware of my state of mind, now that I’m awake and living most of the time, I quickly noticed that sun effects my mood quite a bit. No sun = No energy or motivation. My anti-depression meds are a lot less effective when it is overcast and gray. And now that winter is coming and the sunlight that reaches us is weaker, even sunlight doesn’t help as much as it should.

So, I need a light box for light therapy, one of the most common treatments for SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder).  But a commercial one cost $60 or more, like this one on Amazon. What?!!

It’s some light bulbs. In a fancy lamp. I don’t have $60+. And, you have to factor the cost of replacement bulbs into the equation. Bet those things are expensive too.

Internet Time! Some research on the internet brought me to this handy page, where I got the general idea. By reading the follow-up article, I realized that I probably didn’t need fancy light bulbs, just a lot of regular ones.  But sticking nine or ten 60 watt bulbs into a wooden box didn’t sound like a good idea: incandescent bulbs get very, very hot. So the bulbs would have to be fluorescent, which is what Boris (author of the previously linked page) recommends anyway. So the idea was planted in my mind.

But there were some obstacles:

  • I had a very tight budget. The light fixtures Boris used cost about $5 each here. $5 x 10 = $50. Way too much.
  • I am not an electrician.
  • I do not have any hole saw bits, and they cost at least $15, depending on size.

In order to overcome these obstacles, I needed to get creative. The answer to solving all of the above problems came to me as I was browsing the lighting aisle at Fred Meyers: I found a light bulb socket you can plug directly into an outlet. No lamp, no cover, just the socket you screw the light bulb into. Hmmm. If I plugged a bunch of these into a power strip or two (or three), I could have lots of light with no need for an electrician or a hole saw.

I would still need a box, though. The box focuses and directs the light, making sure you get the most out of it. No problem. I have wood. I have power tools. I have a Kreg Jig.

The only sticking point left was the cost of the light bulbs. Sure, florescent light bulbs really aren’t that expensive anymore. Unless you are buying 9 of them. So off to the dollar store I went. I’ve bought light bulbs there before and was pretty happy with them. $9 is better than $15 or $20, right? Right. But instead of a $1 each, the bulbs were 2/$1! So I got 10 light bulbs, for $5 and change. Project Lightbox was a go.

Here’s the cost list for my lightbox:

  • 9 light bulb sockets @ 2.19 each =  19.71
  • 1 can flat white spray paint @ 3.00 = 3.00
  • 9 light bulbs @ .50 each = 4.50
  • 1 small package 11” zip/cable ties @ 1.59 = 1.59
  • 3 power strips: On Hand
  • Pocket Hole Screws: On Hand
  • Wood for box: On Hand
  • Tools: On Hand

Total for Project: $28.80 + tax

Here’s the finished product with the lights on. Each of these bulbs is rated at 900 lumens:

The light is pretty bright, but not so bright that it’s uncomfortable to be near it. Of course, you aren’t supposed to stare into it, just have it nearby. I put mine about 2 feet from the side of my face, next to my computer desk, where I spend an hour+ every morning anyway. Sitting in this light for about 30 minutes a day is supposed to be enough.

Here it is with the lights off, so you can see more detail:

I used my largest drill bit (that fits my drill, anyway) to make the holes along the edges for the cords. And yes, the power strips did have holes on the back for mounting with screws, but I used zip ties instead because I have found they are more reliable, and I felt they would hold the power strips more snugly in place. I drilled holes through the back board,  above and below each power strip, and threaded the zip ties through the holes.

Here you can see it from the side, but keep in mind that the front box is about 1 & 1/2” shallower than it appears here, because of the way I assembled the box. And yes, I know the sides tilt inward. I could have built a perfectly square, perfectly aligned box, but that wasn’t my main concern.

Finally, here’s a picture of how I did the back of the box. I wanted to be able to mount this on a wall or ceiling if need be, as well as sitting it flat on a table.

Here’s where the extra cordage went. And with the niche in the bottom of the frame for the final cord to slide through, this can be mounted flat against the wall. I put the power strip with the longest cord on the bottom, and this power strip plugs into a wall outlet, controls the other strips, and provides an on/off switch in the front. Here on the back, you can see the pocket holes I used to assemble the box. If I need deeper sides later, it can be easily disassembled.  I only had enough paint to paint the inside of the box, which I did before assembling, so the outside remains unpainted. It’s not unfinished, however, as this box was made from plywood that had been previously finished on one side. I painted the unfinished side.  I could make it a little  nicer by placing another board over the back, to hide the cords and such, but I think it looks fine as it is. (The little cord you see along the top of the box is for charging my Kindle and isn’t attached to the light box in any way.)

The nice thing is, when I can afford it, I can use more powerful bulbs, or even LED bulbs, without re-working the box. Yay!

Is it a beautiful piece of home décor? No. Does it work? So far, yes.

Not bad for $30 and a little ingenuity! Let me know what you think. Have you done something similar? I’d love to hear about it.


DIY Kindle Rest/Support

I love my Kindle Paperwhite. But, after several weeks of use, I have discovered one little problem: holding the Kindle in a reading position and moving my thumb to turn pages has started to hurt. The muscles in my hands have become sore and overextended. My left thumb, which I use most often for turning pages, often cannot be tucked against my palm without hot, shooting pain. This is clearly BAD! So, I knew that I would have to do something about it right away, lest the problem become more severe. But I didn’t want to give up using my Kindle, or even reduce the amount of time I spent on it. After all, if I didn’t read things on my Kindle, I would have to go back to reading them on my computer, which often gives me a headache and causes its own set of muscle pains.

So I searched online to see what could be done, and I found this:

This looks awesome, but I don’t have $35 right now. So, I thought I was stuck and would just have to try to be careful and put up with the pain.

But then, I remembered some shipping cases my brother had rescued from the trash for me. They are clamshell-type cases lined with foam, and have a hard plastic shell. They were used for shipping small, delicate parts, and then thrown away.  I had already used several of them for storage, but I had a few left.

So I got one of the cases, a couple of square wooden dowels I had laying around, a thin sheet of craft foam, and some spare ribbon. Using my trusty hot glue gun and a bit of creativity, I solved my problem. I present the $0 Kindle Lap Desk:

It works great! The red foam sheet on front (last pic) helps keep the kindle from slipping from side to side. The entire contraption can sit on a tabletop or on a pillow in my lap.

The stand supports the Kindle in a comfortable reading position, so I just have to worry about tapping the screen to turn the page. I vary which hand and finger I use, to reduce muscle strain. My hands and wrists already feel a LOT better!

Best of all, the materials are either repurposed or things I’ve had for more than a year. When I have owned craft supplies for a year or more, I reduce my valuation of them to $0 to account for storage costs. Thus, this project cost me nothing! Yay!


Review of the Kindle Paperwhite

I received a Kindle Paperwhite as a gift about a month ago, and it has changed my life! Yes, that’s a dramatic statement, but it’s true. I love my Kindle. The screen is incredibly comfortable to read in any light – far more comfortable than my computer screen. In fact, I push everything over about 500 words to my Kindle for reading. With the Kindle, the only headaches I get are from staying in one position for too long – no eyestrain headaches anymore.

The screen is amazing: I have read in full sun with the light shining directly on the screen, and it is as crisp and clear as it is indoors. It’s also comfortable to read in the dark, unlike a regular computer screen.

The kindle’s portability is also a big plus: it fits neatly into my purse, so I can take it anywhere. Let me tell you, it is awesome to have something to do on mountain tops once I’ve finished helping Dad. Because the Kindle can hold a variety of reading materials as well as some nice games, I never get bored. A big step up from bringing a bag full of physical books and getting bored half-way through.

The battery life is also very good. Because I use it far more than an hour every day, it doesn’t last anywhere near two weeks, which is the estimate Kindle offers. I use it as much as six to eight hours a day, depending on the day, and it lasts about two days per charge with that kind of use.  But that’s okay: I just plug it in before I go to bed every night.

Now that I’ve sung the Kindle’s praises, time for a few drawbacks:

  • Tapping the screen to advance is alright, but it can cause muscle pain if you don’t switch it up often. One tiny physical button to advance would be awesome.
  • Holding the Kindle in a reading position can also cause muscle pain after a while, especially if holding it up enough to avoid neck pain from stooping/bending. I’ve got to figure out some tool/pillow/stand to do this for me.

And on to some features I would love to see:

  • Ask before opening the browser and loading a link when reading a book/personal document. I can’t tell you how often I have accidently clicked on a hyperlink only to have to return to the book. Annoying. I love the browser, but it’s too easy to accidentally invoke it.
  • Ability to turn airplane mode on/off from ANY screen, quickly.
  • Ability to delete a document/book from any page in the document/book, instead of having to return to the list screen. Often, I read an article, and then I want to delete it. Going back to the main screen, bringing up the context menu (a real pain – 25% of the time, the document reopens before the menu appears and I have to repeat the whole process), and finally choosing delete/remove is cumbersome.  Having delete and open next would be awesome.
  • Ability to select multiple documents/books at once to be deleted or moved.
  • Ability to view only unread documents/books.
  • Better zoom for PDF files.
  • Support for ePub. If not on the device, at least support automatic conversion when emailed to device.
  • Finer font size control. Now, there’s a sudden jump from large to SUPER large.

I have the ad-supported, wifi-only version of the Kindle. Wifi-only works just fine for me. As for the ads, after changing a few settings so only a small banner is displayed in Library view, I do not find them at all obtrusive. In fact, it’s interesting to see a different book everyday. I do wish I could opt-out of non-book-related ads, though. But even so, the ads are no trouble.

In conclusion, the Kindle Paperwhite is an awesome eReader. If you are looking for a dedicated reading device, this is what you want.

P.S. Get the Amazon Kindle case for the Paperwhite: yes, it’s expensive, but it’s worth it. Beautiful, durable, fits perfectly, and allows for quick on/off.


5 things I did NOT do on my latest Windows install

I’m a big fan of Windows. For years, I have made a point of installing the latest version as soon as possible. Yes, I’ve dabbled a bit with other operating systems, but I always come back to Windows. And I’ve always made every effort to use the built-in windows tools whenever possible. Windows rocks: it’s customizable, widely used, and very intuitive.

But on my latest Windows install, here are five things I did NOT do:

1. Stayed with Windows 7 instead of upgrading to Windows 8.
I have used Windows 7 for over two years, and I love it. Before deciding not to switch to Windows 8, I researched the new OS online. Yes, there were plenty of people bashing Windows 8, but there were also plenty of people praising it. Have studied both sides of the issue, I decided to stick with Windows 7 for now. I will most likely install the Windows version after Windows 8: let them work out the kinks on someone else. I did finally install the 64-bit version of Windows 7, though.

2. Did not install Windows Media Player or Windows Media Center.
I have used WMP and WMC for years. But recently, I got fed up with their issues, especially with WMP. I got tired of my music library being corrupted every week, and I was equally tired of the freezing, lost music, screwed up playlists, and lack of good organization tools. I switched to Winamp for music playback, Media Monkey for music organization, and VLC for video and DVD playback. So long WMP & WMC. I don’t miss you.

3. Did not install Windows Gadgets.
I used Windows Sidebar in Vista, and Gadgets in Windows 7. But recently, I got fed up with the performance issues of Gadgets. Every day, the service needed to be restarted, and it was a resource hog. Plus, it wasn’t very customizable. So, with my latest Windows install, I said goodbye to Windows Gadgets and hello to Rainmeter. Rainmeter is customizable, light on resources, doesn’t freeze and crash all the time, and looks great.

4. Did not turn on Network Shares.
Once again, Network sharing has been my go-to method for sharing files across our home network. But I haven’t used the feature in well over a year. Dropbox, combined with Directory Lister Pro, allows me to easily share files in several ways. I can allow other users to have full access to a file, or I can publish an HTML page of linked files so others can download files, but not change, edit, or upload files. This is so much easier than Window’s network sharing. And it allows me to protect my media files from less tech-savvy family members while still giving them the access they want.

5. Did not install Microsoft Picture It!
I have used Microsoft Picture It! for years. But it’s time to say goodbye. I have found several nice online apps to replace the features I use the most, and for serious editing, there’s always IrfanView and Paint.NET. Clipping Magic quickly and easily removes the background from an image. Pixlr and Ribbet both offer quick image corrections, filters, and effects. And these days, finding high quality clip art is just a google search away. So, really, I have no use for Picture It! any longer.

I had hoped to replace Windows Live Writer with Word 2013 as my blogging client. Alas, Word refuses to post to my blogs for some mysterious reason. And the “help” files are no help at all. Oh well. Another time, perhaps. Until then, Live Writer remains king.


Reuse, Recycle, Repair–Making Do

I’m tired of looking like a frump, although I remain adamant in my dislike of makeup and long hair. Short hair and no makeup is the way to go.

But, I can do something about my clothes. So, I am remaking the contents of my closet instead of purchasing new clothes. Also, I’m a miser. And I like the clothes I have, for the most part. Some of them just don’t fit me well.

So here are two remakes:

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And now, the rest of my wardrobe is waiting….


Mystifying Contradictions

You know what mystifies me?

Cats apparently don’t care for the scent of citrus. Many keep-away/aversion sprays used to teach cats where they should not go contain Citrus. Ok. And then, there is citrus-scented litter, litter spray, litterbox liners, air fresheners, etc.

Isn’t that self-defeating? Why tell your cat that you DON’T want him to use the litter box, and then act surprised when he listens? Really?


And speaking of scented litter, why does anyone think this is a good idea? They smell horrible and fake, and they smell even worse when mixed with the scent of cat waste. Just clean the damn litter box more often! I mean if they smell bad to me, they must reek for a cat. Gag!


Ranty Pet Peeve

Derek Hale (Teen Wolf) is not an ex-felon!

Nothing irritates me more than seeing him described as a felon or ex-felon in fanfiction. A felon is someone who has been found guilty of committing a felony. Derek was arrested, yes. But the charges were dropped. He never had his day in court. He was not found guilty by a jury of his peers.

Therefore, he is not a felon. He is an innocent citizen with no criminal record whatsoever. (As far as we know.)

Thank you.

That is all.


(no subject)

Much to my surprise, I have finally acquired a het OTP. No, Really. Danny Messer/Lindsay Monroe from CSI:NY. Normally, I’m all about the slash, but the writers did such a good job with this pairing that I can’t imagine them with anyone else. Also, Lindsay Monroe is my new favorite female character – she is smart, clever, and totally kick-ass.


The Curse of Bridezilla

For some reason, I’ve been reading a lot of wedding horror stories recently. You know, the kind where the wedding costs as much as a house and takes months of hard work to plan. The bride turns into a monster, the groom takes an unplanned trip to Alaska (because the shuttle to the Moon was already booked), and everyone needs another six months to recover from the wedding after it’s all over.

What the Fuck is up with this? If I ever get married, I have my wedding all planned, and it looks nothing like the weddings I’m always reading about.

  • Simple ceremony (with a judge, not a minister) either at the courthouse or in the same physical location as the reception, which will most likely end up being a local church.
  • No live music, unless a friend offers. Instead, a speaker setup and a computer playlist will work just fine – if I decide to have music at all.
  • Invitations self-designed and ordered online. Self mailed to recipients. Plus online invitations.
  • My brother will make the wedding cake (probably sheet cakes with a small fancy cake for the cutting ritual).
  • Food will be a potluck. Sparkling Cider or Italian Soda. No wine. Mom will help plan this part.
  • I will make my own wedding dress (or hire a local seamstress to make it if I’m flush). Said dress will be simple and probably not white. I’ve already got the pattern picked out. Of course, I might decide to get married in one of my skirt suits instead – I have a light blue dinner suit that would be lovely.
  • Fascinator veil/headband.
  • Attendants will have a color scheme, but no required dress code.
  • Groom and groomsmen will wear nice suits in neutral colors with ties which match the color theme.
  • Simple gold wedding bands.
  • I probably would get a professional picture package, supplemented by my brother (who bakes and takes pictures).

This is what I think of when I think of a wedding. It’s remarkably similar to my mother’s: she wore a suit, her mother made her cake, and the residents of her apartment building did a potluck for her. It’s also similar to most of the other weddings that I have attended.

Nobody would be developing an ulcer over my wedding, least of all me. And there would definitely be no need to sell myself into slavery to pay for it.

Am I weird for thinking that this would be the perfect wedding? Does the $10,000 dress come with something I’m not aware of?

Maybe it’s a class thing? Or maybe I just have low expectations?

Seriously, what’s the point of having the perfect wedding if you’re too tired and miserable to enjoy it?


Movie Review: Boondock Saints II

I watched Boondock Saints II yesterday. About what I expected for the most part. Hated the new sidekick, Romeo. Actually, I liked the first movie better all around. On the other hand, I really liked the new Special Agent Bloom. She kicked ass in so many ways and was an excellent character.

What really drew my attention was the Louie/Noah love story arch. There’s honestly no other way to describe it: they have no personal space with each other in their younger years, and not just any man would put up with Noah and his compulsive need to kill. Even Louie’s betrayal of Noah makes more sense when you see him as a jealous lover. And notice that Noah doesn’t turn around and narc on Louie when he’s set up, which he totally could have done. One could even say that Louie was trying to protect Noah’s infant sons from being exposed to Noah and his need to kill. And then, Louie draws Noah back to Boston. And they die within minutes of each other, with Noah gently telling Louie that he’ll see him in a few minutes (in the afterlife) right before he pulls the trigger. It was basically a murder-suicide. The truth is, Noah could have killed Louie at any time, BUT HE DIDN’T. He didn’t even appear to judge Louie for his actions. Despite the fact that Louie was the mastermind behind it all, Noah didn’t ritually execute him with the prayer: he just shot him between the eyes, fast and painless.

Yes, it’s a dark and twisted love story with no happily ever after, but it’s a love story all the same.