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February 2012 (120 posts)
Men! What are they thinking? We can't always answer that, but we'll be posting our favorite glimpses into their world in this space every Thursday.
* Writer David Foster Wallace would have turned 50 this week. The Awl has compiled a fantastic list of things you can read if you'd like to mark the occasion. (The Awl)
* Come on, baby, don't you want to go... President Obama got bullied into singing Sweet Home Chicago at a concert on Tuesday, and it was very charming. (Videogum)
* Irving Wardle explains everything an 82-year-old man needs to know about Zumba. (More Intelligent Life)
"And what more can you say about books? They're the greatest things ever, and everyone should have more."—John Locke, a designer who's turning New York City phone booths into guerrilla libraries. (The Atlantic Cities)
Duhigg knew he needed to break the cookie cycle, but leaving himself chastising notes didn't seem to help (it never does). He happened to be writing a book on habit formation and how companies exploit our routines to sell us stuff, so he took what he heard from the experts and applied it to his own vice. He asked himself five questions the moment the urge hit and discovered that he wasn't hungry; just bored.
This is where most of us would have tried to create a healthy new habit--instead of snacking, we'd tell ourselves, we'll go for a brisk walk. But Duhigg knew that he needed to go one step further to make the new habit stickier than the "No More Cookies!" notes that kept falling off his computer. So he went back to the principle Proctor & Gamble used in marketing Febreze: "To shift the routine--to socialize, rather than eat a cookie--I needed to piggyback on an existing habit," he wrote. At cookie o'clock every day, he stood up and scanned the room for coworkers to talk to, then spent 10 minutes gossiping with them. He responded to the same cues, looked for the same rewards, but tried a different routine. It worked; he's happy, caught up on the office gossip, and 12 pounds lighter. Read the article to find out exactly how Duhigg did this, and how you can you can apply the Febreze method to your own bad snack habits.
You know how sometimes you just don't know what to say? It's bad enough on an awkward blind date or nerve-wracking job interview, but what about when you really need to say just exactly the right thing and somehow...really...can't? To wit, my friend's toddler was recently diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. Whenever I am around them I find myself avoiding the subject with cheery ferocity or else saying things like, "Wow, that sucks." Or, equally idiotically, "How are things going? What can I do?" I mean, it does suck. And I do wish there were something I could do. But really what they want is for their kid to not have cancer, and although I am quite powerful in many, largely imaginary ways, I can't seem to do anything about that.
Then I happened upon the site Jokes 4 Miles, and it occurred to me that perhaps there is a tiny thing I can do, a small way I can offer a touch of light into the terrible darkness of this illness. Here goes...Knock, knock. That's right, according to this guy, (aka Miles' dad, aka the father of a boy battling brain cancer), telling a joke--or singing a song or sharing a trick--is something we can all do to help out.
I love Miles' dad's retro TV host sensibilities, but what really gets me here is when Miles himself speaks up. Seeing this good-natured teenager tangled up in IV wires and hospital bed business, makes the whole thing very, well, real. While most of us can't imagine what this family is going through, or what we could say or do to help, everyone can record a joke. It just might help Miles to smile on a down day, and it definitely reminds all of us how to deal with adversity—with humor, song, and stupid puppy tricks.
Visit Jokes4Miles for more information, and to see some of the jokes people have sent in already.
My city has made the switch to muni-meters, these robotic-looking machines where you pay on a credit card and receive a receipt that you then stick on your dashboard. Good news if you've run out of quarters, but terrible news for the parking meter pay-it-forward phenomenon. I actually hung around for a minute to see if someone else parked there so I could hand them my time-stamped receipt. Alas, no one did, and my extra $1.50 slipped right past an unsuspecting bystander and into the pocket of the city council or whoever it is. This does nothing for my soul-sucking errands. Next stop, drug store. Sigh.
And you know what? It's the same on the freeway—I have a friend who used to always pay for the toll of the car behind her, but admits that since she's switched to the automated E-Z Pass, she's abandoned the practice, whizzing through as a laser anonymously zeeps her toll-paying pass. Not to get too Andy Rooney here, but these days even doors open themselves! How's a person supposed to perform a daily act of paying it forward if the world's going to be so darn automated?
Well, here are a few ideas for performing small acts of kindness in today's world of the future:
-Donate your unused WiFi bandwidth to people in need.
-Get inspired by others at the Pay It Forward Experience website.
-Use your super techie skills to Hack for Good.
Or you could always do something crazy analog like, I don't know, help a little old lady across the street.
Ways Anyone Can Pay it Forward
The K-Mart Layaway Angels
"I really wish somebody had told this to me..." Advice on creative work from a master storyteller.
Roasted red potatoes. Creamless mashed potatoes. These crowd-pleasing side dishes are tastier (and healthier) than cheese fries. Promise.
Some snowy beauty for a mundane mid-winter pick-me-up.
The Life-Lifter: What a way to say "thank you": A woman adopts a cat, and just a few hours later, the cat saves her life.
This 1972 video of astronauts joking around on the moon has been making the rounds lately, and I don't know about you but I've watched it approximately 800 times. Hard to believe, but this was the last time Americans walked on the moon (and does it blow anyone else's mind that we could send people to the moon before there were even, like, iPhones?!). Anyway, here they are, Harrison 'Jack' Schmitt and Eugene Cernan, hard at work:
Listen to that sheer joy. Look at that light-footed skipping around! When was the last time you saw grown men singing and dancing and bopping like that? At work, no less? I know we're not all walking on the moon, but we can all embody a little bit of this playfulness. Go on, skip to the copier: "In the merry, merry month of...February!"
Rethink Your Career
But there's good news: The price of butter and eggs has actually gone down recently. Which means if you're trying to save money but still want to enjoy home-baked goodies, shortbread is a godsend. Like most recipes, Jamie Oliver's relies heavily on butter and has just 3 other ingredients, and produces crumbly cookies perfect for dunking in tea. These butter cookies also fit the bill; decorate them with pastel sprinkles and think spring. And Pick-Me-Up Muffins are another cheap treat; you probably have all the (budget-friendly) ingredients in your kitchen already.
You bought in bulk...now what?
Recipes you can make with ingredients you already have
The cheap, satisfying, homemade snack you'll love
The most beautiful thing you'll see today: an enchanted world of fairy lights. Er, fireflies.
Someone wants that Christmas sweater. Clean out your closet and help others all at the same time.
And the royal puppy's name is...
"We were very tired, we were very merry": It's the birthday of poet Edna St. Vincent Millay. Celebrate by reading her poems for free, here.
Each man carries so much on his shoulders. Even if he's made of plastic.
The Life-Lifter: I'll take my daily act of kindness of a scoop of ice cream, please: Customers "pie-it-forward" at this Illinois diner.
We all have some thing we yearned for in childhood that still makes the heart ache a bit. For my sister, ponies made an appearance on a staggering number of birthday and holiday wish lists. For me, it was sleepaway camp. I was a sucker for young adult novels that revolved around cabin bunk beds and macramé, and I watched The Parent Trap on a near-constant loop as a preteen.
Overnight camp—as opposed to the tepid day camp I attended one summer with other kids from my neighborhood—promised the possibility of reinvention. You could be anyone you wanted, far from home and stripped of your usual surroundings. Friendships seemed easier and deeper. Learning some cool skill, a given.
But attending camp isn’t a dream I have to pack up and stow next to "be a famous tap dancer" and "invent a no-brush hairbrush." Attending camp as an adult can be a powerful tool for expressing yourself. In fact, packing your bag as an adult means more than the friendship, skills-building, and personal freedom I coveted as a kid. As an grown-up, you can choose a camp that fits your interest—whether that’s surfing the seas or cooking up seafood. Check out these six retreats worth writing home about...
How to Find Your Creative Voice and Tune Out the World
7 Ways to Spark Your Creativity