Intentionality Starts with Your Pants | Kitzur Shulchan Aruch Notes

Reading Time: 3 minutes

(This piece is a part of the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch Notes series.)

Later Siman/Chapter 3

We left off with a look at how to dress and to not seek after the arrogance of others. We continue with how to get dressed in the first place.

While this sounds like something your mother taught you, the reasoning behind this particular method of getting dressed is the infusion of intentionality.

“Since we find that the Torah gives deference to the right hand: in regard to service in the Temple [The priest used his right hand when he performed the necessary sacrificial rituals such as the sprinkling of the blood.] and in regard to the thumb and big toe referred to in the milu’im [When Aaron and his sons were consecrated, blood was applied to their right thumbs and big toes.] and purification of the metzora and in the mitzvah of chalitzah; [See Deuteronomy 25:5–10; Maseches Yevamos 104a.] therefore in dressing and in other activities you should begin with the right [hand or foot] as opposed to the left [hand or foot.]

Many of us are familiar with the idea of “waking up on the wrong side of the bed.” Fewer of us are familiar with starting our day with the right sleeve, pant leg, or shoe. This is essentially what this passage is instructing.

You may be saying, “Ken — yeah, sure, the priests in the Temple valued the right over the left. They did a lot of things in certain ways — everything from wearing turbans to dressing in linen. Does this mean that we are to do these things as well?”

You’re missing the point, my hypothetical friend. The point is that there is a point. Still confused? Yeah, I’m beginning to confuse myself, but let me explain.

For most of our day, our activities are unconscious. According to the “Passive Frame Theory” as discussed in a study by psychologist Ezequiel Morsella, only pressing decisions are served up to the forefront of our consciousness. While this may make it seem like we’re just zombies going through life, this is actually an incredibly efficient use of mental bandwidth. Most repetitive actions we do daily are relatively inconsequential. Which hand towel you use in the morning will not alter the course of history…unless your wife specifically told you not to use the nice towels to clean the toilet. I’m sorry, honey.

The downside of this mental autopilot is that it takes us out of thoroughly savoring the present. When our mind is running in default mode, choosing positive emotions over neutral or even negative ones can prove challenging because we’re mentally checked out.

What if we could mentally check in more often throughout the day? Well, we can…starting with our pants.

When was the last time you ran a cost-benefit assessment of putting your right pant leg on first before your left? You probably never have. It seems inconsequential, right? What if you could tie a benefit to putting on your right pant leg over your left? That’s what the text is doing in this instruction.

Though the benefit provided in the text is emulating the priest in the Temple, the goal is to channel that level of intentionality into your life. Everything about the Temple service was meticulously intentional. This level of intentionality in our actions is sorely lacking in our daily lives. What if we could use our pants, our shirts, or our shoes to infuse intentional positivity into our lives? This is what is possible by following the instructions in this text.

Something to try tomorrow, when you get dressed:

  • Put your right pant leg on first to symbolize walking in the right direction.
  • Put your right arm through your shirt sleeve first to symbolize making right actions.
  • Put your right shoe on first to symbolize walking out into the world with the right positive mentality.

At the end of the day:

  • Get undressed first with your left shoe, your left shirt sleeve, and your left pant leg first to symbolize leaving the day where it is — not dragging the day’s events with you as you go to sleep. Leave them on that day and move on.

Going forward, see if you can remember to get dressed in this way and to remember the intentionality that this seemingly inconsequential behavior symbolizes.

Shavua Tov (have a good week).


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A Rapper and a 19th-Century Jewish Text | Kitzur Shulchan Aruch Notes

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(Learn more about the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch Notes series.)

Siman/Chapter 3: Differentiating Yourself & Contentment

One of the struggles of this series is finding something in the text of Kitzur Shulchan Aruch that can apply to anyone — Jew and non-Jew alike. Chapter 3 holds one of those more difficult topics, but I believe that anyone can profit from it. 

So, what on earth am I talking about? This chapter discusses not dressing as they do. Who are they? Well, to put it bluntly…well…non-Jews. 

“We are not permitted to follow the ways of the gentiles, nor adopt their styles in dress or in hair style or similar things, as it is said: ‘You shall not follow the ways of the gentile.’”

Before my non-Jewish readers are quick to turn the page and feel “well, this obviously isn’t for me,” I do feel there is something that everyone can apply. 

  • “…our heritage demands of us to be modest and humble, and not be influenced by the haughty.”
  • “You should not dress in extravagant clothing because such a practice brings a person to haughtiness…”

We live in a world where the red carpet has found its way to our magazines, television, and even the devices in our pockets. It’s easy to be caught up in the world of luxury, glamour, and expensive taste. While an escape to this world is fine and dandy for an occasional “wouldn’t that life be grand?” daydream, the rate at which we are inundated with the exterior symbols of success is unparalleled…and for many, crippling. 

These exterior indicators of success can make us feel like inferior second or third class members of society. However, we need to recall one detail about those donning these “haughty” displays: many of them are completely miserable. 

We imagine these successful individuals to have their lives completely together. Donned in the finest clothing, equipped with a fleet of luxury cars, living it up in mansions or even yachts in exotic locations, many of these are also those we later read about in the news checking into rehabilitation facilities for depression, drug abuse, or that we even younger celebrities in the obituary pages. It turns out that these outward images of wealth and success are often but a mirage. 

One such case was the late rapper, Mac Miller. Almost overnight success gave this 20-something musician a net worth in the millions of dollars. What it couldn’t give him was inner peace. 

In the lyrics to his song “Small World”, Miller rapped,
“You never told me being rich was so lonely.
Nobody know me.
Oh well.
Hard to complain from this five-star hotel.”

On September 7, 2018, Miller was found unresponsive in his home by his assistant, who tried to perform CRP. Paramedics pronounced Miller dead at the scene. The cause of death was ruled an accidental overdose — a combination of fentanyl, alcohol, and cocaine. He was buried in his home city of Pittsburgh in a Jewish funeral.

Many idolized Miller for his talent and fame. Meanwhile, he was crying out for help in his own lyrics. 

What the text is telling us is to not forget who we are on the inside. While the rest of the world tries to sell you an image of success, the text tells us,
“…rather you should be distinct, in your clothing and speech and all other endeavors just as you are distinct in your perspectives and concepts.”

Anytime you start to feel inferior to those adorned in fancy clothing or living an extravagantly wealthy lifestyle, remember that these are not indicators of inner peace. The simple pleasures of life — community, family, passion, contentment — are worth more than all of the world’s riches. 

“Who is rich? He who rejoices in his lot.”
– Ben Zoma, Pirkei Avot 4:1

“I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.”
Jim Carrey


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Washing Off Yesterday: Ritual Morning Handwashing | Kitzur Shulchan Aruch Notes

Reading Time: 3 minutes

(Explanation of the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch Notes series.)

Siman/Chapter 2

For those not as familiar with traditional Jewish daily practice, the idea of washing your hands in the morning in a particular way may not make tons of sense. For years, it made absolutely no sense to me either. In fact, because of its lack of direct command in the Torah, I didn’t do it. It felt like a violation of “Do not add to the word which I command nor take away from it” in Deuteronomy 4. These days, I find the practice worthwhile enough to do as a morning ritual for a few different reasons.

What the heck am I talking about? The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch says as follows in siman/chapter 2:
“When he arises from his bed in the morning a person is considered as a newly created being, to serve the Creator, Blessed be His Name. He, therefore, must sanctify himself and wash his hands from a vessel, [just] as a Kohein washed his hands each day from the special basin [located in the Temple] prior to his service.”

This tradition goes as such: 

“Take the [filled] vessel in your right hand and then place it in your left hand, and then first pour on the right hand; and then take the vessel in your right hand and pour upon the left hand. This procedure is repeated three times.”

What reason does it give to wash your hands first thing in the morning like a Kohein — as the priests did in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem?

According to Talmud, there is an idea that sleep is 1/60 of death. Your consciousness is diminished. Your body is literally paralyzed while you sleep by two chemicals in the brain to keep you from acting out your dreams and thoughts. While your mind is active, it is, in a sense, disconnected from your body. To be on the safe side, Rabbinic Sages decided that this disconnection warranted a repurification — much like that which was commanded in Torah of priests before they assumed their duties in the Holy Temple. This is also why our prayer in the morning offers up thanks to the Creator for reconnecting our mind with the rest of our body — “I give thanks before you, Living and Eternal King, for You have returned my soul within me with compassion…”

Why else is this a good idea? To wash yesterday off of our hands in a deliberate fashion. 

In the Torah as well as many other secular sources, the hands are a symbol of responsibility. To “get your hands dirty” implies taking on a task. Allstate, car insurance company I use, has the motto “With Allstate, you’re in good hands.”

With this being said, we tend to let yesterday’s responsibilities occupy our headspace despite the fact that we’re not time travelers. We can’t go back and change what we’ve done or do what we did not. All we can do is dig our hands into today. Even if we continue to handle or change something from yesterday, the fact that it is a new day makes it a new responsibility. Even fixing yesterday’s problems is still a forward march.

Intentional handwashing is a ritual act of casting off the anxious impurities we still cling to about our past. Even if you screwed up yesterday, you have the opportunity to wash it off of your hands and start the day anew. 

“Who may ascend the mountain of the LORD? Who may stand in His holy place?— He who has clean hands and a pure heart —” – Psalm 24:3-4


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Being Mindlessly Familiar With Prayers | Kitzur Shulchan Aruch Notes

Reading Time: 2 minutes

(About the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch Notes series.) 

Towards the end of Chapter/Siman 1

The text continues, somewhat out of place (unless they’re still referring to midnight prayer), by saying that, unless you’re blind, you shouldn’t be reciting texts by memory in prayer. 

“Chapters of the Psalms, and other sections of the Torah, Prophets and Scriptures, in which all are not sufficiently fluent, must not be recited by heart. Even someone who knows [them sufficiently] to recite them by heart should be careful not to recite them by heart. However, a blind person may recite them by heart.”

When anything is recited by memory, as close as it seems, a certain part of it becomes lost to us. That part that is lost is the newness of the text. 

I remember hearing Greg McKeown (author of Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less) state in a podcast episode that, though he prays (non-Jewish prayer, to my knowledge), he never likes for his prayer to be rote. Paraphrasing, he says “If I have a conversation with a friend every day and he tells me the exact same thing every day, how good of a relationship do we really have?” 

Liturgical prayer has pros and cons. 

Pro: Someone else — maybe even just a previous version of yourself — has already formulated the words you know you want to profess to the Creator of the Universe. All you have to do is navigate previously paved road to get to where you want to go. 

Con: Like over-chewed gum, these prayers can lose their flavor and meaning over time. 

How do we rectify this? By approaching our prayers as brand-new writings each time we approach them. By infusing this old gum with new flavor.

One of the reasons why these pre-written prayers can become stale is when we become overly familiar with them and take their meaning, their feeling, for granted. When we instead use these prayers as a form of liturgical technology, they become spiritual elevators. 

Something to try: 

The next time you go to prayers, pretend that this is the first time you’ve seen these prayers. We know it isn’t, but think about how the content of the prayer settles into your bones. Perhaps, like eating a delicious meal in haste, there is a passage that you’ve either read or recited every single day and never really took the time to fully enjoy its flavors. 

Like prayers, look for the newness in the familiar and have a blessed day. 


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Waking Up Like a Lion, Even a Sleepy Lion | Kitzur Shulchan Aruch Notes

Reading Time: 3 minutes

(A brief explanation of this series: I was gifted the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, which is a summary text of Jewish tradition and law for daily living. I’ve dedicated to studying this work, from front-to-back, on a near-daily basis. This learning is in the merit of the gifters, Larry & Pam Rogers. May their health be restored and may they be always blessed always. These blog posts will be somewhat of a summary of whatever I study that day and my own takeaways on their application for Jews and non-Jews alike. These will be quickly written and probably not be carefully edited, so expect some mistakes. My opinions are my own, so read at your own risk, but I hope it helps you lead a more intentional life. Thanks. – Ken)

Wake Up, You Sleepy Head

Siman 1, Part 1

Within this first Siman of Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, we’re instructed to not sleep in — that we should rise like a lion and shed the excuses. Some of the normal excuses are shared, such as not wanting to get out of a warm bed when it’s so cold or that you should sleep in if you felt like we didn’t get enough rest.

Well, firstly, in addition to the Shulchan Aruch’s claim that it’s the yetzer hara (evil inclination in us all) who wants us to remain in bed and not be productive, we also know that our lazy impulse uses our own sleep cycles against us. We have a series of sleep cycles throughout the night — deep sleep, then it lightens up for a while, then deep, then light — almost hourly. You can attest to this on two parts; maybe you’ve woken up after just two hours of sleep and felt pretty refreshed, even if you do feel that lack of sleep later in the day. On the other hand, maybe you slept a full eight and-a-half to nine hours and still felt half stuck in a dream-induced fog. Did you sleep too much? Possibly, but a more accurate reason is that you were awakened (usually by a sound, such as an alarm clock — or in my case, by a baby) in the middle of one of these cycles. To combat this, there are some helpful tools, such as Sleepyt.me or the Sleep Time app for a mobile device. You can use these to figure out when to fall asleep in order to wake up at the lightest point of a sleep cycle — when you’re most alert. 

The Shulchan Aruch continues to prove that you’re physically able to get up anytime and not be hostage to your own sleepiness.

You should realize that if you were called by any individual to participate in a business transaction in which there is profit, or to collect a debt, or if someone called with a plan to save your wealth from disaster, for example, if a fire occurred in the city or something similar occurred, you certainly would be quick to awaken immediately because of your concern for your wealth and you would not act sluggishly.”

In other words, you know you can move when you need to. So, why not just force through your sleepiness move every morning?

The Shulchan Aruch then ends this section on getting up to say that it’s really not that hard after a while.

Once you accustom yourself to this practice four or five times you will no longer find it difficult, [as our Sages have said:] ‘He who makes an effort to purify himself is [Divinely] assisted in his efforts.’

Oddly enough, my own morning routine has been being chipped away by the cunning “just five more minutes” excuse. While those extra minutes can seem so nice, it’s important to keep in mind that this shaves time off of a more leisurely morning routine. I know that if my morning routine is shortened even just a bit, it can make me feel stressed to finish each task in haste in order to get to work on time. Being rushed in the morning can ruin my entire day.

Rising like a lion (even a lion that has been hit with a tranquilizer dart) ensures that your morning is not rushed and thus leading to a more stressful day. There are some parts of your morning routine that you can do half-conscious, so just do those until you’ve had a chance to wake up a bit more. It won’t take but a few moments to brush off the sleepiness. 

If you’re contemplating hitting the snooze button, remind yourself that it will only result in a more rushed morning and a more stressful day. 

Side suggestion: I wrote a piece on How to Design Your Best Morning


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“We Need to Talk”: My Breakup Letter to Facebook

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Dear Facebook,

Listen; we need to talk. Things aren’t the way they used to be. It seems like the more time I spend with you, the more drained and unfulfilled I feel. Where once I felt connected to those all over the world, now you make me feel disconnected from the people sitting right across the table. Sure, I’ve changed over the past 13 years, but so have you.

I still remember the day you were introduced into my life—the first time I received a university email address. Back in 2006, you still required a “.edu” email address in order to set up an account. You were…exclusive. I started an account at the behest of one of those edgy, cool kids in high school of which I was not (I had the edginess of a sousaphone). Upon setting up my account and filling out the necessary details, I instantly noticed…how boring the service was. Initially, I only had about four “friends” — most of whom were high school acquaintances at best. Still, this didn’t matter much as you were but a novelty…that, and MySpace still had my back.

Shortly after this time, you would come up in real life conversation.

“Are you on Facebook? No? You should get on it.”

I remember when the “Like” button functionality was introduced. I thought it was so stupid. “Why can’t a comment suffice? We’re becoming mindless idiots!” Still, I used it. Over time, I started to crave these little bits of social media currency. They provided a sensation that what I was posting was enhancing other people’s opinion of me. It still makes me feel uneasy when I think about it. I’d later discover that the strategy and technology of the “Like” feature were akin to those of a digital slot machine and mostly for you to compile a clearer picture of me through an algorithmic lens. Not cool, Facebook.

I can’t put my finger on when I went from occasionally checking you to having somewhat of a problem. I don’t think it officially became absurd until 2010. This was when I upgraded from a flip phone to a smartphone. Any friction that existed between me and checking you was removed.

It’s such a bizarre sensation to think back to when I first observed someone using social media from a phone. The year was 2005. I had arrived early to a venue where I was set to perform in the rhythm section of a band. One of the sound technicians was thoroughly engaged with his cell phone. Not even owning a cell phone myself yet, I asked him what he was doing.

“I’m checking MySpace.”
“From your phone?”
“Yeah.”

This behavior seemed completely absurd to me. Can’t he just wait to check it at home? Little did I know that just a few years later, I’d be checking my notifications first thing in the morning before even rolling out of bed and often before going to sleep.

For many years, using you from my phone seemed completely harmless. I would surf a bit or post an opinion I had at the time that I thought was genius or uplifting. Scrolling through most of these posts years later via the Memories feature, I would quickly change the privacy settings to “Only Me” out of cringe-inducing embarrassment.

I should have known that my using you wasn’t always healthy when I started deleting my browser history from work computers. Though I wouldn’t have acknowledged it at the time, I now know it was hurting my job performance.

Over the years, I experienced a functioning addiction to you — like a smoker who only smoked two to four cigarettes a day. It didn’t feel like a problem. I was even making new “friends” online who shared my interests and beliefs. Even though I spent more time “with” these new “friends” than I did with many of my closest friends, I began to feel lonelier and disconnected.

At one point, I physically met up with an online community I had first met through you. I spent several days with these people. People from all over the country and even other countries, people I had messaged with back and forth for over a year, were suddenly before me. I saw their quirks, heard their voices, and truly bonded with them for the first time. After the few days were over, we all returned to our lives and online personas. I continued to have “community” online with these folks for years…but it stopped feeling like a community. It just felt a bunch of icons that occasionally emitted textural replies. The magic of that first interaction would only return upon seeing these people in person again.

It wasn’t until I replaced this online community with a physical one that I began to see how much I had been attempting to replace the physical community with a digital version and how much the digital version had fallen short. Suddenly, a digital hello meant little in comparison to a physical handshake. I had been fooling myself all along.

Scrolling through your infinity pool of posts from acquaintances I probably wouldn’t bother to greet in person grew even more unfulfilling. I felt less like a “friend” and more like a voyeur. I would log onto you in expectation of a sensation of connection and leave feeling disoriented, disenchanted, and even lonelier than I had before I started my scroll session.

You also seem to be intent on ruining a new story.  Person-to-person “wow, that’s crazy!” moments became devoid of excitement. Suddenly, a story a friend or I would impart was old news even before the chance existed to mention it. “Oh, yeah — I saw that you had posted about that” would quickly deflate the excitement of hearing about something. I’d find myself going to catch up with a good friend I hadn’t seen in a while, only to find that we didn’t have anything new to talk about. Our “news feed” had already fizzled the spark. No story was fresh. Every in-person telling was but a retelling. Every get-together was but a review of posts on our timelines.

One day, I looked up from my screen and noticed that my life was passing me by. I felt like the train I was riding was now moving much faster and I hadn’t even looked out the window to enjoy the scenery.

I don’t regret my time with you. I made initial connections with people I now call dear friends. But the time has come for us to go our separate ways. It’s time for me to appreciate the scenery.

Sure, I may miss out on certain things by leaving you. Still, these events pale in comparison to the events I could miss the longer I keep my nose to the screen. Moments with my wife, my growing son, spending time with my wonderful family, catching up with a buddy, making music with my friends, reading books that help me grow, exercising my body, or reconnecting to my God and community — these are essential. Everything you provide, however, is not.

So, in the words of Curly Bill:


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Meditation While Standing on One Foot (It’s Not What It Sounds Like)

Reading Time: 3 minutes

In Judaism, there is a very famous story from the Talmud (Shabbat 31a) that I will paraphrase:

Just around the first century BCE, there were two tremendous Jewish scholars and teachers in Jerusalem. One was named Hillel and the other Shammai. Despite both being scholars and teachers of note, they often had their disagreements about how to interpret the Torah — the foundational text of Judaism.

One day, a non-Jewish man approached each of these sages with the same challenge: that he would accept Judaism and convert to the faith if a rabbi could teach him the entire Torah while he stood on one foot.

First, he went to Shammai. Shammai definitely wasn’t having this —what he interpreted as tomfoolery. He actually pushed the man away with a ruler and told him to hit the bricks.

Undeterred, the man the approached Hillel. Hillel accepted the man’s request and converted the man, saying:  

“That which is hateful to you do not do to another; that is the entire Torah, and the rest is its interpretation. Go study.”

shammai vs himmel

I’m a big fan of this story’s lesson of the occasional benefit of summarizing headier subjects for the sake of consumption and use. There are a few other subjects that I feel are somewhat needlessly mystified and in need of the Hillel treatment. One of the biggest ones I’ve found in this regard is the practice of meditation.

I have recently started a routine of morning meditation in an effort to strengthen my attention span and focus. As I sought out information about how to start meditating, I encountered many Shammais. I felt lost in the flowery language about consciousness, chakras, esoteric explanations of its benefits, and guided meditations that distracted me more than they guided me. The very practical and non-spiritual benefits of meditation have been frequently hijacked by pseudo-heady wannabe-gurus in beads, draped in linen attire from their ponytail to their Birkenstocks. The ordinary person typically feels that they must attain some higher enlightened state or at least endure hippie spirituality in order to reap the benefits of a meditative process. Meditation advocate Dan Harris summarized this issue in his book Meditation For Fidgety Skeptics by saying that, “meditation has been the victim of the worst marketing campaign for anything ever.”

It’s with this attitude that I feel that meditation is in need of the Hillel treatment. While I’m no expert on meditation, I’ve experienced some of the benefits armed solely with a tremendously basic understanding of the process.

Here is my attempt at explaining meditation on one foot:

Focus on something consistent — such as the sensation of your breath entering and exiting your nostrils. Cool in, warm out. Once you notice yourself being distracted by a thought, return your focus back to the sensation of your breath entering and exiting your nostrils. Rinse and repeat.

I understand that this is almost laughably basic. Despite this, it is really all of the information I needed to begin meditating on a consistent basis. I started doing this for five minutes a day. I’ve recently increased it to ten minutes every morning. Even with this limited time and very basic approach, I’ve perceived a considerable reduction in the time it takes me to realize I’m being distracted and course-correcting my mind.

And in case you’re wondering, I did test whether or not I could deliver my instructions for meditation on one foot. The answer?

Yep, and I felt like an idiot. Happy meditating.


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My Six Favorite Chrome Browser Extensions For Writers

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Within the past year, I’ve trying to be more deliberate with my time and experiences. Part of this process means utilizing tools that deliver the most optimized online working experience without becoming distractions themselves. To help me do this, a handful of Chrome browser extensions have made a significant difference in helping to either streamline certain tasks or create an optimized working environment. In this article, I’m going to share these Chrome browser extensions, a short rundown of what they do, and why I like them.

1. Grammarly

What it does:

Once you sign up for a free Grammarly account (or paid if you want to go crazy — I haven’t yet), the service follows you everywhere you can input text within your browser. Any spelling or grammatical mistakes appear underlined in red. As you hover over the underlined mistake, the service offers a handful of suggestions that can be applied immediately. You can choose to apply or ignore these recommendations at a moment’s notice.   

Why I like it:

This spellcheck-on-steroids has undoubtedly helped me increase the quality of my writing. I can make quick corrections on the fly that don’t take my mind out of the writing process. I agree with their marketing materials that say, “If you do any writing online, you need to get Grammarly.”

2. Dark Reader

What it does:

Dark Reader allows you to view pages through a “dark” ( or “night”) mode — similar to how a GPS app or device screen switches a night mode in the evenings. If you don’t want Dark Reader active on a certain page, you can quickly disable it in a handy panel located in the extension toolbar. You can also adjust the brightness, contrast, sepia, or grayscale of any page with ease. Overall, Dark Reader gives you greater control of the viewing experience of any web page.

Why I like it:

I first grew to prefer a dark/night mode when I would read Kindle books. Since then, I have moved work stations in my office back with our web developers and programmers — a space where the lights are completely turned off and everyone is responsible for illuminating their own workspaces with assorted lamps and backlights. Working in the dark with bright, white-background screens can take its toll on the eyes due to the tremendous contrast. In addition to my very dark office, I’ve also found that I prefer working with a dark-mode-enabled Google Doc word processor in any lighting condition. As a side effect of using this extension, I’ve also enabled as many dark modes as I can on my Android device (there isn’t a system-wide dark mode setting yet). I’ve also heard that working in a dark mode saves battery power, though I have yet to see a significant change.

3. AdBlock

What it does:

AdBlock essentially blocks advertisements on websites where they may encumber the viewing experience. It also removes pop-ups, auto-play videos, and ads that show up within your reading line for articles (an ad-placement technique I find self-defeating on the part of the webmaster). The downside of using this extension is that many sites can detect that you’re using AdBlock and will reduce your use of the sites if you don’t deactivate it or “whitelist” their page.

Why I like it:

Since moving further away from social media, most of my online activity has been reading assorting articles. In the past, the sheer volume of intrusive ads made the content nearly unreadable. AdBlock greatly reduces the amount of distracting ads, though it still leaves unintrusive ads in order to give the websites a fair shot at generating ad revenue.

4. Buffer

What it does:

When connected with your Buffer account, you’re able to easily share the URL of whichever page you’re visiting on your social media accounts. You can also customize the accompanying text and the way the link preview appears before it is published, then adding these pre-designed shares to a posting schedule that publishes these shares at a later time or date.

What I like it:

Copying a URL, navigating to a social media site, pasting the link, tweaking the accompanying language, and publishing it…is a pain. It’s also quite distracting to have to navigate to the accompanying social media site — where just a few new notifications can lead you down a rabbit trail. Buffer makes it easy to quickly share websites and content that you find meaningful.

Note: While you can post to a Facebook Business or Personality page from Buffer, Facebook does not allow sharing to personal profiles with third-party applications — probably because they fear you’ll never actually log back onto Facebook to be served up their ads. Remember: If you’re not paying for something only, that usually means that you are the product.

5. Google Keep

What it does:

Aside from this extension, Keep is a Google note-taking tool that I use pretty much every day. In addition to being able to navigate to https://keep.google.com/ and immediately start taking individual notes, the Keep Chrome extension allows you to bookmark any URL you happen to be on as well as add your own notes or categorization hashtags. These notes can be accessed later by any device where you are logged in to your Google account.

Why I like it:

As an avid note taker, it’s extremely helpful to have my notes in one place that I can access from my work computer, home computer, and mobile device. I use the Keep Chrome extension as a Bookmarks tool that I can easily access from any of my devices. I find it especially helpful when I come across something I would be interested in delving into more on my mobile device, but don’t have time to at the moment. I can simply “Save to” Keep and access it at a later time.

6. TRAY Readability Tool

What it does:
This tool allows you to gain insights on any text on your screen. Whether it is something you’ve written or text on a website, you simply highlight the text, click the extension icon, and you receive a plethora of statistics about the content including:

Why I like it:

One of the greatest challenges facing any writer is keeping your writing simple. It’s easy to toss long sentences and “$10 words” into your writing. The true challenge is writing content that anyone can enjoy — from a college professor to a 4th grader. I use these readability tests to gauge the size of my head in the editing process. I wrote a blog article about the idea of writing in a simple way for my company’s blog a few months ago. To date, it has been my biggest struggle as a writer.

Sidenote: I’ve also found the Hemingway Editor to be a tremendous tool for simplifying your writing.

Do you have any favorite Chrome browser extensions? How do you use them and why do you like them?


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One Year Ago Today, I Became a Dad

Reading Time: 5 minutes

On this day one year ago, I became a father. For 23 hours after her water broke in our living room while watching an episode of Flight of the Conchords, my superhuman wife was in labor without anesthetic.

Though we’d binged pain management visualization exercise videos on YouTube with me taking ample notes, when the time came, Charria already seemed to be someplace else.

“Ok — blue. What are some things that are blue?”

“Ken…”

“Yes?”

“…shut up.”

Now, I’ve never had a contraction, but from an outside point of view, they seem to be when someone stabs you from the inside, but with varying sizes of knives and various twisting motions. They seem to start out like a thumb tack, move up to letter opener, and then end with a twisting Crisis Core Buster Sword from Final Fantasy. (Yeah, I had to look what it was called, too.)

Still, I gave Charria my hand…and she nearly broke my fingers. What had normally always been a balanced hand — that perfect blend of silky smooth yet utilitarian — now felt like it could have pulverized granite into sand. My pinkie and middle fingers felt like they had been clamped in a vice as my wedding ring sank deeper into their sides.

“Yeah, only give her a few fingers,” the doctor said with complete nonchalance. “Otherwise, she may break your hand.”

Each time I would step out to keep family updated, I’d hear Charria before I’d ever see her. The pain had seemed to sideline her conscious awareness. She later said she did not remember certain parts of her labor. Just a low painful moan was our only indicator that she was still awake — almost like an “om” mantra, only instead of meditating, it sounded more like she was trying to digest broken glass.

Though agonizing for hours, her eyes glimmered like a child on their way to Disneyland.

“I can’t wait to meet our boy.”

By the time the doctor gave her the green light to actually push, Charria shot a glance that said, “I’m way ahead of you.” Suddenly, the attendants went from helpfully hovering mode to “this room is about to get incredibly messy” mode. Everyone donned smocks, tables covered with instruments were rolled in, and the bed Charria had called home for nearly a day suddenly did a Transformers morph into — “now with kung fu birthing action.”

We were blessed to land a medical midwife who came highly recommended by both Charria’s best friend and our rabbi. As the baby came down lower and lower, our medical midwife had Charria assume a number of positions until they found one that was most comfortable and effective. Some included pulling on a sheet that was tied around a bar, another position entailed her on her knees while laying over a “birthing peanut” (something that looks like a Planter’s Mr. Peanut pool toy), to what finally seemed to work — using myself and a nurse as human stirrups. With Charria’s right foot on my hip and me holding her knee, I had for a front row seat to the birth of my son. After the doctor had placed me in position, she said, “Yeah, you can’t much closer than that!”

Now, despite preparing for this moment for over nine months, nothing could have prepared Charria or me for the moment he arrived. Though Charria had writhed in pain for hours, her reaction was utter disbelief at what her eyes were seeing.

“Did that just happen?!” She exclaimed, seemingly in utter surprise that a baby was hiding in there.

I couldn’t say anything. I just stood there as tears rolled down my face as joy rendered me into a delightfully sobbing mannequin.

Upon being given to Charria, our boy’s eyes darted around the room as to mirror Charria’s sentiment from another perspective. What just happened? Where am I? Who are you?

After I regained control of my body and was introduced to my son, I went out to deliver the news to our anxiously-yet-patiently waiting family. I also revealed his name, something we had held back in telling anyone until he was born.

“Amir Roy.”

Returning to the room, Charria seemed to have returned to us from her pain-induced mantra. She was now a fully-aware mama with Amir staring back at her from where we cradled in her arms. She beamed with contagious serenity as Amir carefully studied his mother. While this was happening, the medical midwife was busy putting humpty back together again with what looked like an upholstery needle used to sew saddles. To Charria, her motherly high made this experience seem like an aggressive pedicure — her sweet motherly words to her baby occasionally accented with an “Ooh, that pinches.”

After just a while, a burrito-wrapped Amir was taken to a nursery due to lower-than-usual body temperature. As he was placed under what I imagine was a giant french fry lamp, we were escorted to another room we would call home for another day or so. The emotional high of welcoming our baby boy into the world began to succumb to the fact that we’d both been awake for nearly 48 hours. This ordinary hospital room looked like a suite in a five-star resort to our tired bones. We both settled into our sleeping areas — Charria into a much more comfortable bed than the Transformer one, and myself onto what I can only call a “sleeping bench.” Still, it felt like Sealy Posturepedic.

For some reason, we thought that Amir would require a night’s stay in the nursery to remedy his body temperature issue. As selfish as it sounds, we were both quite ok with this, as we couldn’t keep our eyes open. However, about 30 minutes after crash-landing into our room, there was a knock at the door — a nurse with Amir in tow. She left him with us and then seemed to evaporate.

Now, I thought I had come to terms with being a responsible adult. However, when Amir was left with us — two first-time parents — despite being 30-years-old, you may as well have left this baby with a 15-year-old version of myself based on how I felt inside. I had read the books to know what to expect. I had the knowledge of how to be a parent to a baby. Still, both of us just stood over his bed, utterly exhausted, staring into his gorgeous, peaceful, sleeping face…shocked that they just left him with us. It almost felt like medical negligence. The sensation persisted even past the moment of buckling him into the car and driving him home — a voyage that felt like I was driving a truck filled with nitroglycerin.

A voice in my head echoed. You’re a dad now.  

Through every diaper blow out (how does it get so far up their backs?), every sleepless night, every “we can’t do that — we have a baby now”, I wouldn’t change a thing.

My own dad was right — being a dad is the greatest job in the world.

Happy birthday, Amir. Dadda loves you.