Sit up. Take notice.

I'm young, which I define as not dead. I'm learning, which I define as being more intentional than I was in school. I'm sharing things that had me sit up and take notice. Hit Subscribe to take notice 3 times a month on Mondays.

Issue 1, part last: The dive on Social anxiety

Happy Monday and welcome to Take Notice! Each month we build on a topic, dive deeper, and generate resources you can keep coming back to.

There are 10 wonderful friends plus wife who is currently playing the solo variant of Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective boardgame which makes for finer reading reading 1206 words all over the world, yay!

Dark skies, dirt roads.

I'm currently sat in a wooden log cabin, at a dark brown wooden rectangular table, keenly aware of the warped wood bulging out and straining the flat surface of my laptop as I gently strike the keyboard. The wooden fans are spinning and forcing down tepid air, the dark woods' hum can be excused for not stimulating my senses as they compete with the drone of an aging refrigerator.

As we drove up to this small town, I noticed the expansive fields, the distance between homes, the fences, gates, the local politics on display through stickers and lawn ornaments. Neighbours it seemed, congregated off road, in small groups, talking about, I imagined, the issue that most outraged them in their seemingly quiet town.

Howdy neighbour

In the United States, if you're older than 65 and live in a rural area, you're more likely to know your neighbour. 3 in 10 adults know all or most of their neighbours, a fraction of that number interact more deeply than a once in a while face to face conversation.

If you're curious about how ethnicity, trust, and wealth show up in relationships, click on the link above for the complete Pew report.

Growing up, the neighbours my family interacted with were similar to us. They were immigrants, had a young family with many children, and lived in areas considered urban, relatively safe, but impoverished in terms of public infrastructure (public libraries, playgrounds etc). There was a bond forged through a shared experience of acclimating to a new life and social norms. To make this long story short, your privilege and positionality, or how your context informs "your understanding and outlook on the world", will influence your interactions with (among other things) your neighbours.

Bonding and Bridging Social Capital

Visualize this, you're walking, minding your own business, deep in thought about the direction a director chose to take for your favourite character, and as you mourn for the time you spent investing in the show, you sense someone about to walk past you. For some reason, you find yourself looking up, catching their eye, and you decide to give them a nod, not just any nod, a knowing nod, one that communicates more than a predictable "what's up". You would have noticed something that your subconscious processed as familiar, a pattern, a symbol, a memory. Chances are that you're more likely to give that nod to someone that shares in your culture, ethnicity or an aspect of your identity (sports teams).

Social capital is all things that allow for adhesion between individuals, and groups. Bonding social capital uses super glue, and takes effort and energy to break. Bridging social capital is as strong as the glue on a post-it. Both types of social capital are contextually useful and necessary, the word capital means value, and we literally get value from the relationships in our lives that we choose to nurture and maintain.

A study on individual social capital and it's impact on subjective well-being (or happiness) in urban and rural Austrian areas, found that to be content or happy, the frequency of contact with family and close friends differed for each environment. In rural areas, staying in contact with family only needed to happen once a week to have an impact, and in urban areas, having close contact with a friend or participating socially needed to happen almost daily for people to report they were subjectively well (or happy). The distinction of course is that in urban areas, you get to choose your social circles, and invest in them. I interpret it as it being easier to feel lonely when you're surrounded by people, especially in an urban setting where interactions are brief, and transactional (coffee shop, grocery store, elevator).

Remember the people I drove past on the way to the cabin? The ones more likely to know their neighbours? There's a reason for that. They've lived in their community for a longer amount of time than urban people and knowing and engaging their neighbours is contributing to their well being. Older people in rural areas overwhelmingly admit that they have someone to support them most if not all of the time.


I think there's beauty in people being there for each other, Randah's story of being connected to her neighbour because they enjoy each other is something I'd love to have and see more of. For our part, we moved into a new neighbourhood midway through the pandemic, with no vaccine in sight, which doesn't make it easy to be neighborly. More recently, with my mom's help, we started giving our neighbours little baked goods which they appreciated. I think it's allowed us to see each other a bit more easily. A more extended 'nod' if you will. One of these interactions allowed me to learn about a fantastic Nepalese restaurant on the way to the cabin, where I got a taste of a place I lived in long ago.

I'm starting to believe that we create the conditions for serendipitous human connection moments to surprise and delight us. What I'll be offering you in the next piece are a few thoughts and strategies on how to nurture more of these moments. Because "What we do with our lives individually is not what determines whether we are a success. What determines our success is how we affect the lives of others" - Albert Schweitzer

Resources accessed for article

Presentation Condeluci/FamilyEngagement17.pdf

Further Reading

  1. Individual social capital and subjective well-being in urban- and rural Austrian areas | SpringerLink
  2. How to Invest in Social Capital HBR
  3. What is Bonding Social Capital?
  4. BBC documentary: Meet the Neighbours by maddysavage | Maddy Savage | Free Listening on SoundCloud
  5. Similarities and differences between urban, suburban and rural communities in America | Pew Research Center
  6. The Emergence of the Galactic City: Population and Employment Growth in American Metropolitan Areas, 1970-2000
  7. Neighborhood Social Capital, Neighborhood Disadvantage, and Change of Neighborhood as Predictors of School Readiness
  8. A Comparison of Social Capital in Rural and Urban Settings
  9. Social Capital and Human Mortality: Explaining the Rural Paradox with County-Level Mortality Data
    1. Rural-Urban Differences in Bonding and Bridging Social Capital
    2. Differences in Social Capital between Urban and Rural Environments | Request PDF
    3. Social Capital in Rural and Urban Communities: Testing Differences in Media Effects and Models - Christopher E. Beaudoin, Esther Thorson, 2004
    4. Social capital in vulnerable urban settings: an analytical framework | Journal of International Humanitarian Action | Full Text
    5. Why Fractals Are So Soothing - The Atlantic Fractal Cities Fractal Brains: Fractal Thoughts | Psychology Today
    6. Neighborhoods and Urban Fractals—The Building Blocks of Sustainable Cities – The Nature of Cities
    7. Fractal Analysis Proves People Hate the Suburbs

Issue 1, part middle: The word on social anxiety

Happy Monday and welcome to Take Notice! Each month we build on a topic, dive deeper, and generate resources you can keep coming back to.

There are 10 wonderful friends (plus wife who would like to continue writing her zombie musical) reading 598 words all over the world, yay!

Oh my.

This week is meant to be the dive, and let me tell you, I had no idea there was so much work out there that’s been done on the subject of neighbours. Sure, the vast majority of what I found was about ‘bad’ neighbours, or cliché horror stories. There were interesting nuggets though, some which dive into what being a neighbour looked like in 11th century Europe and the interesting role of religion in neighbour relations.

Speaking of religion, I’ll continue digging for now as it’s the end of Ramadan and I’ll be on leave in a cabin in the woods next week. Giving me ample time to put together a fun read for you. I’ll leave you with a response from one of our readers to last weeks piece. I’ll call this part of where you respond to my writing “Your take”

Your take ft. Randah

Hey moe, I like this topic. Neighbours are something very close to my heart, and our prophet pbuh has recommended we stay close (and good) up to the 7th neighbour (from all sides).

I have a good relationship with my neighbours, some stronger than others. I've depended on them rarely, but that's not the point. We don't stay connected because we might need each other. We stay connected because we enjoy each other. we have a nice habit this ramadan of sending a dish of whatever we have at home for the neighbour to taste. it helps that we eat the same time in Ramadan. But even during normal days, sometimes we don't need a reason to send a piece of sweets or specially made coffee next door because we want them to taste it with us.

and of-course, sometimes we need instant help, I remember the first month I met our neighbour I had to immediately ask her for a favor. I needed to go buy something urgent and my son was 2 months old. I asked her to stay at my place for 15 minutes while he's asleep. Remember I just met her so that was a big ask. but it was urgent and I was desperate.

Last week I craved cereal at 10pm. I didn't have milk. I asked my neighbour for a mug of milk and sent my son to get it. He came back with a full 2 liter bottle saying she had an extra one. I drank my thirst away till the morning :) beautiful moments are created by your connection with neighbours.

keep digging into this topic, or better yet, find a way to safely introduce yourself to your neighbours. one of things i regret the most is not getting to know my neighbours in Toronto as much as i should have.

Ramadan kareem.


You can find Randah share her thoughts on Biomimicry over a series of workshops this Month starting on the 20th of May. What is biomimicry? It’s what gave us

“swimsuits that shave time off olympic performances, stay-clean house paints that automatically repel dirt, and water nets that collect gallons of pure water a day, without external power”.

To find out what in nature could have inspired these inventions, get your ticket here.

Issue 1, part first: The take on social anxiety.

Happy Monday and welcome to Take Notice!
Each month we build on a topic, dive deeper, and generate resources you can keep coming back to.

There are 9 wonderful friends (plus wife who is warming up to mandatory reading) reading 596 words all over the world, yay!

What to expect

Each month, I'll start with a topic of interest. In the first week I'll do a soft introduction, and invite you to take notice of your environment in relation to this topic.

In the second week, I'll dive deeper into the topic, draw together research, and present it in a long form piece.

In the third week, I'll conclude the topic of the month and give you links to resources, bullet point tips, and something to come back to if need be. It'll be an experiment for my 'digital garden', and a way to build my 'evergreen notes'

The fourth week will be spent responding to your messages (if you choose to engage in a slow conversation), and taking notice of what topic interests me. Feel free to recommend a topic, something that has you take notice.

What makes us human

I had a thought sometime last summer that the pandemic would be lasting a while, and if so, people would need to transition back into their social life, preferably with some help. You'll have come across articles, memes, and jokes referring to the stay at home orders benefiting people who identify as introverts. I've yet to come across a story where someone was trapped in a cave alone, and walked away shrugging because they identified as introverts.

Without minimizing what people may be feeling as they seek a return to normalcy, I can't help but feel that the social anxiety that's being perceived is related to the dehumanizing environments and systems we're a part of. Whether it's fabricated work cultures or generic after work spaces, there is practiced lack of depth in relationships. I currently live in North America, so I am speaking to my experience in a metropolitan city in the United States.

Do you know your neighbour?

Do you have a relationship, with the person next door? Arguably, the person most likely to help you at a moments notice, if your friends and family were too far away. If you do, please get in touch, I have something I can learn from you. If like me, you don't, then I'd like to find out your take on having a human relationship with neighbours.

What do neighbours have to do with social anxiety? I live in an environment, where not speaking to neighbours has been normalized. "You do you, and I'll do me.”

Through that lens, the pandemic turned the world into our neighbours, figuratively and literally. So what does a new social contract look like? Will it be more of the same, or will people lead with curiosity after spending the better part of a year in their head. What will your approach be?

Cursory information shows even dating has changed, with lavish dates being a thing of the past, people have had to lead with character, this may be a bellwether for what expectations people will have as they navigate a different social environment at work and elsewhere.

A laugh for your troubles

Next week we'll dig into this topic some more. If you have any juicy articles or thoughts that pop up, send them my way throughout the week.

Till then, with much love,


When I'm about to leave and hear my neighbour outside

Take Notice: Cream cheese inception

Happy Monday and welcome to Take Notice! I’ll be writing 3 times a month and there are 5 wonderful friends (plus wife who I unwittingly subscribed) reading 1000 words all over the world, yay!

Auto-pilot / not the better pilot.

Part of the reason I want to start writing is because I've been on auto-pilot for the better part of our past year. You're probably familiar with 'fight or flight' but how does that figure in what you've experienced in the past year?

Auto-pilot is what I use to remember the meaning of the word 'Heuristic', which are our mental shortcuts for making judgment and decisions, everyday experiences. Kahneman's book 'Thinking, fast and Slow' goes into more details, but here's my approximation. A more recent heuristic you will have made while walking out doors is a cough = threat, determine vector, walk away. Or for a more arresting visual, hearing a cough can make you feel, based on your risk perception, like you heard a balloon pop or a bullet being fired.

Mental Well-Being During Pandemic: The Role of Cognitive Biases and Emotion Regulation Strategies in Risk Perception and Affective Response to COVID-19

evidence accumulates on how easily the risk perception of a virulent agent can be biased showed that the more emotional impact a given risk has, the greater the risk itself seems. This phenomenon is known as the “affect heuristic.” Recent work found fear to be a crucial predictor of preventive behavior during the COVID-19 pandemic While fear is known to increase the perception of risk, anger was found to diminish risk perception.

For myself, the fear of losing people, outweighed the anger of curtailing my freedom. To oversimplify, what's mostly played out in the world population was less fight or flight, and more a polarity between The Scream by Munch and the football hooligan by the overvalued English football League. Watching bread and circus sports is boring, I said it.

Think back to when the pandemic was unfolding. In those days, the auto-pilot was slowly switching off for most people. We needed to constantly consider new pieces of information until a lock down order put us back into a form of auto-pilot. The pandemic became the wall we paint the remainder of our life on. This makes me feel tired. So tired that I'd let auto-pilot be my default state at home as well.

The Role of Mindfulness in Positive Reappraisal

Positive reappraisal, a form of meaning-based coping, is the adaptive process by which stressful events are re-construed as benign, valuable, or beneficial. Research has demonstrated that the ability to find benefit from adversity is associated with improved health outcomes.

In our current context, positive reappraisal or 'seeing the silver lining / bright side' is challenging. A study in China points out the benefits of having "higher perceived knowledge" about the outbreak was associated with "a stronger sense of control". The keyword here is "perceived", early in the pandemic Covid-19 was compared to the common flu, and people in power (world leaders, the World Health Organization) seemed to be thinking out loud, with the media, both social and traditional, compounding the confusion about the risks of the virus.

In China, the drop in overall emotional well-being associated with the surge of COVID-19 reached 74%. link. A nationwide survey in which a total number of 14 000 respondents took part pointed out that the risk of contracting the virus, being in the high-risk group, relational issues and personal knowledge about the virus are some of the most important factors affecting mental well-being during pandemic.

So far, I've spoken about the world 'out there'. It's a fact that the majority of my time is not physically spent in the world 'out there'. It's indoors with my family, but the world 'out there' has consumed almost every part of my world 'in here'.

Notice the cream cheese.

I'm currently fasting, so my energy is low. What's interesting is, it doesn't feel any lower than it had during the past year. I've cut my processed sugar and caffeine consumption close to nil, so on balance, my persistent state of cloudy with a chance of covid has been my default state.

I came to this conclusion because of cream cheese. I got some amazing bagels, and I was looking forward to eating them before dawn. I just needed some cream cheese. My wife promised there was enough cream cheese, so there was no need to buy any in the store she was walking into.

We got home, I checked the fridge, there was not enough cream cheese for a bagel. I was disappointed and hangry.

She yanks out a cream cheese out of the bag, "Garlic and chives!" My face was anything but excited, I just wanted cream cheese.

Later that day, we go for a walk, we'd forgotten other items so we pass by another grocery. I didn't ask for cream cheese.

When we were almost home, my wife (for unrelated reasons), mentions what she was thinking when she was buying cream cheese. When she first went into the store, she felt sure there was enough cream cheese. But then, she saw the cream cheese section. Then the Garlic and chives, and thought

"I'll get him something fun, plain is boring", so when she saw my underwhelming reaction, she felt disappointed and felt she did something wrong.

At the second store, she forgot to get the cream cheese, at this point, I was over the cream cheese. But this sparked the conversation for the unrelated reason I mentioned. It was about choosing what gets you down in life and cream cheese decidedly was not.

When I finished listening to her, I apologized, because her intention, should have been acknowledged, irrespective of my covid clouds.

What I'm noticing, is that the world 'in here', has been assaulted in ways we can't yet understand. So I'll be taking a page out of a friends book, and continuing what I started doing at the beginning of Ramadan, removing as many unsolicited influences (applications and websites) from the world 'out there'. If what you read over the coming weeks, does not contribute to your ‘Feng Shui | Walak shwaya’ please let me know. I’ll understand.

Fun fact: Some cities in the United States made it illegal to ignore "no soliciting signs", the burden was on the solicitor (usually door-to-door sales people) to look for the sign, and leave. At some point in my life, I thought "No Soliciting" signs were rude. Now I think we desperately need the digital equivalent.

A laugh for your troubles

See you in 2 weeks! Let me know if you bought cream cheese.

Wash your hands coronavirus is coming T-rex: I can’t, someone help me comic