Jury Duty

This is a fascinating, anonymous account of jury duty for a homicide trial:

There are twelve of us left. The first thing the prosecutor did during voir dire was ask all the men of color whether we trusted cops. Every black man had a story: police harassment, spurious arrests, intimidation. They were all eliminated. I was asked if I had any experiences of this kind, and I said no. It was the truth. Perhaps this was the time to mention that having witnessed the murders of Eric Garner and Walter Scott on video made personal experience unnecessary. I didn’t mention it.

In the end, only two men of color make it to the jury, and I am one of them. The other is Latino. There are two Latina women, one African-American woman, and one Asian woman. The remaining six jurors are white.

First Plane Carrying Syrian Refugees

Justin Trudeau, on Twitter:

I’m pleased to announce the first plane carrying Syrian refugees arrives in Canada tomorrow at 9:15 pm ET.

Welcome, refugees.

Welcome Refugees

Canada’s government has published a page documenting our commitment to accept 25,000 additional refugees, as well as tracking the progress:

We want to make it easy for Canadians to stay updated as we welcome Syrian refugees. You can get regular updates on our key figures, highlighting the progress we are making through this initiative.

The government isn’t simply setting lofty goals and tracking progress, but has transparently laid out their plan of execution, which includes ensuring the safety of Canadians.

Like I said in a previous post, I truly am proud to be a Canadian.

First Follower: Leadership Lessons from Dancing Guy

Derek Sivers narrated over a short video (embedded below) to explain how a movement starts, and just how important the first follower is:

If you’ve learned a lot about leadership and making a movement, then let’s watch a movement happen, start to finish, in under 3 minutes, and dissect some lessons...

Simple, but fascinating insights into how leadership and movements work.

From 1,000,000 to Graham’s Number

I have a small fascination with large numbers. One night when I was in university and should have been studying, I went on the search for the largest number. That search lead me to Graham’s number, and ever since I have been enamored with just how inconceivably large it is.

Tim Urban sums up Graham’s number perfectly, with the best attempt I’ve seen to present the magnitude of it

Huge numbers have always both tantalized me and given me nightmares, and until I learned about Graham’s number, I thought the biggest numbers a human could ever conceive of were things like “A googolplex to the googolplexth power,” which would blow my mind when I thought about it. But when I learned about Graham’s number, I realized that not only had I not scratched the surface of a truly huge number, I had been incapable of doing so—I didn’t have the tools. And now that I’ve gained those tools (and you will too today), a googolplex to the googolplexth power sounds like a kid saying “100 plus 100!” when asked to say the biggest number he could think of.

 

Meditation

This morning I meditated for the first time. I’ll talk about my experience more below, but for context I want to describe, from my perspective and knowledge, what meditation is and why I’m trying it.

Meditation is the act of focusing the mind.

It really is that simple. As you meditate, when you become distracted, you refocus your mind. What you focus on determines the purpose of the meditation. The simplest focus, breathing, results in deep relaxation of the mind and body. Your focus will be different, depending on your goal.

I now consider religious prayer a form of meditation. For Christians, the focus will be on their conversation and relationship with God. Other religions will focus on the deity or person that’s foremost to them. In the case of Buddhism, the way of life many Westerners associate with meditation, the focus is on self awakening.

My interest in meditation formed over time as I sporadically read about influential people in history. Many of them meditated each morning as part of the start to their day to give them focus and mental clarity. As I read further into what meditation is, I realized another significant benefit is reduced anxiety and stress. Since anxiety is a problem for me, I could always use more focus and clarity in life, and meditation is a no-risk activity, I figured it would be worth a try.

I followed meditation instructions for beginners, which draws focus purely to breathing and recommends a meditation period of 15 minutes.

The instructions were spot on with the amount of time it took for my mind to fully settle — I wouldn’t want to set the timer for less than 15 minutes. When I started, I was fixated on following the instructions to the letter. This ended up being a distraction in and of itself, over-emphasizing my breaths and preventing relaxing.

The longer I meditated, the more natural my breaths became. Deeper than normal, yet with out strain. My focus shifted from following the instructions to just breathing.

Numerous times through the meditation I felt my shoulders drop as they lost tension. By the end, my whole body felt truly relaxed. From head to toe, there was a significant drop in muscle tension and my mind was at ease.

The timer startled me when it went off — I need to find a softer tone — and brought me out of meditation. With that the distractions of the mind flooded back, but they felt a bit more distant and controlled. The result wasn’t revolutionary, but it was noticeable. My day has been more productive and my anxiety a little less, though that could be a coincidence.

Going into meditation I was skeptical that I would notice anything at all. Now I’m convinced that the experience is real. What I don’t know is whether I will continue meditating in the long term. The results were minor, but the moment of peace in an ever busier world is appreciated. Regardless, I will give it more time to see how it evolves for me.

Meet DeWalt's 12 Amp Grinder

Below I embedded a two-part, hour long grinder review. Why would I do that? Let me quote the video itself:

This is not going to be an over-fed salesman, bobble-head review where I plug it in and I grind some stuff and I tell you how great the thing is. Actually going to take it apart, see if the thing’s any good at all.

It doesn’t matter how much you care about grinders or metal, if you like mechanical details and being entertained you should watch this review.

Part A

Part B

Wooden Marble Toy Blocks

This series of videos is fascinating, showing the construction and iteration needed to create wooden blocks to guide marbles along a track. If you like woodworking, engineering and ingenuity, these are well worth the watch.

Here’s the first in the series to get you started:

Trudeau Meter

This is convenient and worth checking back on in the future:

The TrudeauMetre is a non-partisan collaborative citizen initiative that tracks his performance with regards to his electoral platform.

Ideology

Matt Gemmell, on ideologies after the Paris attacks:

When acts of terrorism are committed, we feel shock, and grief, and of course anger. We rush to find a target for these emotions, so they can be carried outwards, away from ourselves; we need a focus. Radical, militant Islamists are the flavour of the moment. We identify them as Muslims, and there’s the target for our outrage.

It’s the wrong target. Not because militant Islamists aren’t (in their view, at least) Muslims, but just the opposite. They’re extremists. They don’t represent an entire faith, or set of ethnicities, or collection of countries. But they want to.

For some time now I have been trying to compose my thoughts about the differences between extremist and religious groups — they are very different — and Matt Gemmell expressed my thoughts more eloquently than I ever could.