The science of compassion

Here’s an article from 2012 in the New York Times on how compassion affects our behavior and what behaviors might make us more compassionate: Compassion Made Easy. It’s a quick read with a small trick at the end that could make you more compassionate.

Chicken with two lemons

I made Marcella Hazan’s chicken with two lemons for dinner this evening. It was ridiculously moist. I’ll definitely make it again though next time I think I’ll be a little more careful about getting it completely dry before roasting. Perhaps even throwing the chicken in the freezer for five or ten minutes beforehand to wick away the last of the moisture on the skin. Her description suggests that it will “puff up” in a remarkable fashion. Mine didn’t and I suspect the dryness of the skin plays a part. Either way it’s a great recipe. Recommended.

Reading the news in 2017

Is advertising getting more pervasive on the web? It’s hard to tell without data at hand but I’ve been seeing more and more things like the following screenshot.

Three ads for one paragraph of content on my screen. Never mind the two persistent banners I don’t want to interact with. As a bonus, when I dismiss the pop up ad I get …

… a sponsored link. The Independent might be a bad example — maybe it’s always been like this? I don’t read it regularly. Regardless, it’s not really a fun or endearing experience as a reader.

Berry Gordy’s Friday morning meetings

The Motown studio worked around the clock, producing literally hundreds of recordings. But while the conventional wisdom in the record business was to release 10 records in the hope that one would be a hit, Gordy operated a system of strict quality control. At nine o’clock each Friday morning he presided over the product-evaluation meeting, where producers and songwriters would crowd into his office to pitch for their recordings to be released, Gordy demanding, ‘If you had a dollar, would you buy this record, or buy a sandwich?’

This is how you build Hitsville, USA. From Berry Gordy: The man who built Motown.

How I Became A Morning Person, Read More Books, And Learned A Language In A Year

Sharing mostly as a reminder to myself that I can do this. From Belle Beth Cooper who did actually did all those things in that clickbait title.

I came across this idea of starting small. The point is to focus on repeating the habit every day, but not worrying about how effective that habit is. In other words, quantity first; quality later.

A great example is flossing. Say you want to floss every night, but you haven’t flossed for years. If you take up flossing out of the blue and expect to spend 10 minutes doing it every night, you probably won’t last more than a week. It’s a very big ask.

But starting small is so effective, it’s almost like a super power. Here’s how it would work for flossing: You take the tiniest part of the habit you can work with—in this case, it would be to floss just one tooth. It’s still considered flossing, but you won’t make huge leaps in dental hygiene this way.

But here’s where it gets powerful: At first, you focus on just flossing one tooth every night. And you stick with it for more than a week. Then, more than two. Then three, four weeks. You can stick with this habit because it’s so easy. There’s barely any effort involved with flossing one tooth, so it’s hard to make an excuse not to do it. And once it’s become easy and automatic to floss one tooth, you start flossing two.

For a while, you floss two teeth every night. Then, you increase to three. And slowly you work your way up, never taking such a big leap that it becomes a chore.

From Fast Company. Also, I just use a Waterpik.


Getting to Know the Older Brother I Never Knew I Had

I don’t really share many very “personal life” stories on my blog here but, sorry to spoil the ending, I think this is an exciting and surprising event worth celebrating publicly.

3 months ago, on May 14, my parents let me know I have an older brother. Like, a secret, long lost, older brother. Five years before I was born my parents had a son they weren’t prepared to care for. I didn’t know any of this. They weren’t a couple; they’d actually split up. They gave him up for adoption and kept it a secret from almost everyone in their two (very large) families. They didn’t know then that they would eventually wind up forming a real relationship, get married, and have two more children — me and my younger sister. This year, in April, my older brother, Shawn, tracked them down and here we are.

How’d I take it? I was pretty shocked. My understanding now is that these sorts of events can go pretty south if you’re not careful but I think the first thing I asked was, “do you have a picture?” That was when I found out he had a Facebook profile. I messaged him immediately.

Me: Um … Hi. 🙂
Shawn: Ha, yes hello…..bro! Is this premature? How are you dealing with all of this?
Me: Well, we’ve crossed the “bro” threshold now. 🙂
Shawn: we have haven’t we.
Me: I’m not quite sure yet how I’m dealing with it yet. Shocked? Emotional? Mostly excited.
Me: I can’t imagine how you’ve been feeling.
Shawn: i spoke with a lot of people close to me recently and asked what would you do if you found out…..1. shocked 2. wtf? 3. curious, who is this dude, when can i meet him…..that was the universal response
Me: 100%
Me: This is super weird and kind of amazing
Shawn: Weird and amazing is pretty close to how I have been feeling for 3 weeks.
Me: I was like, I have to meet this guy asap.
Shawn: This is surreal right now to be honest with you
Me: Pretty much. Wow.

And so now, I have a brother! Well, a biological brother, I guess. I find “brother” gets confusing and weird when you’re trying to be sensitive to all it’s implications. Biologically we’re brothers but we weren’t raised together so does that mean the same thing? I’m sticking with brother as a signal of intent. (More on that below.)

We’re not twins but we have some similarities. I feel like we have similar senses of humour, we made oddly similar choices growing up, we both grew up loving comics and geeky things, we like some of the same somewhat-obscure bands, and we have the same favourite meal. Maybe lots of coincidences but as he says, “it’s not like we both like The Beatles and BBQ.” (Mr. Bungle and Roast Beef with yorkshire pudding being the matchup here.)

Thanks to my WordPress work my brother was able to get to know me a bit before meeting me. He read my blog. He watched my WordCamp videos. In fact, it was while watching me give a presentation on one of those videos (before he’d been able to connect with my mom) that he first began to suspect that we shared the same father. As a friend of his noted, “This is like watching you give a presentation.” Apparently we have some similar mannerisms that I haven’t noticed yet. My parents say we have a similar way of talking. I think he looks a lot like my sister.

Getting to know the brother you never knew that way is a bit weird. Weirder still is that we never met previously. He grew up in Winnipeg a 25 minute drive from my house. He currently lives five minutes away from my sister. 10–15 minutes from me.

And we’ve been in the same room at least twice. Twice!

We were both there when famous comics writer Stan Lee was here signing comic books in the 80s at a local comic shop. My sister and our dad was there too. More incredible is that we had a common friend and were at the same housewarming party for this person about 15 years ago. He checked out early and was in a group of people I likely wouldn’t have met, so we didn’t. It’s really strange to think we had a chance to interact and — maybe, probably, likely, hard to tell? — not know we were brothers.

I started out by saying this is an exciting event and it is. When I found out, besides being shocked, the tiniest part of me was annoyed that someone knew something I didn’t know and knew I didn’t know it. That quickly passed. I’m still, 3 months out, 99% excited with the 1% being a mix of all possible other human emotions. When I’m asked casually about it, I’ll probably say, “it’s weird.” Saying anything longer requires something like this:

When I told my friend Lance about this he asked, “do you think you’ll meet up often and kind of be brothers, or more just once-in-a-while friends?” The answer is both. Like I said, I’m sticking with brother as a signal of intent. It’s not hard when your secret, older brother turns out to be an awesome, conscientious, thoughtful, super-cool guy you want to hang out with. He’s the kind of guy you want to find out was secretly related to you. We’ve been texting and emailing since first meeting and we’ve been getting together regularly. We even went to go see a terrible movie together! (Sorry, Shawn, Star Trek Beyond was weak. :P) Our families have all gotten together several times and that’s been really great. His wife and kids are awesome. I could go on.

We’ve got some time to make up, I guess. I’m looking forward to becoming good friends with my brother. And even a “brother” to him.

Today’s his birthday, so it seems like a good time to share this. Happy birthday, bro. Hope you have a great day.