50 Answers to 50 questions

Empathy Lab has recently crossed the 50 question mark! Yay! As part of the Empathy Lab rollout, I’ve recently started inviting more friends and relatives to the empathy experiment. As we’ve been progressing through the questions, I’ve been answering the questions on the side. Here is a rundown on my first 50 answers. Some of them I will break out as individual blog posts and elaborate when I have the time. 

Lesson learned: Writing out answers 50 questions is exhausting. I need to figure out how to allow people to “catch” up without getting overwhelmed. Or, maybe it is a matter of making it so that the user doesn’t feel behind even if they come in to Empathy Lab at a later question.


PS. The below is rough and some answers might be incomplete. As mentioned before, I will try to come back and pull some of the answers out for more full blog posts.

PPS. I am currently switching all things from empathylab.io to Empathy Lab. Please forgive the horrible linking below. -sD 2/27

#1 If you made a New Year’s resolutions, what is your top, number 1 resolution? 

Routine. This year I am going to make a conscious effort to repeat certain acts and thoughts that bring me joy OR when compounded over time can give me insight through experience. One of those things is asking myself and those around me a daily question through empathylab.io. Read more on my NYE post.

#2 If you could be any animal for a day, what would you be?

A Galapagos Barn Owl because they are animal super heroes. They can fly and when they do it is silent. They can see in the dark, have giant eyes, and are beautiful to look at. More about my want to be a Galapagos Barn Owl.

#3 Are you an early bird or a night owl?

As hard as I try to be an early bird, I am pretty bad at it despite being woken up at 5:45am regularly. Ah, the life of a parent! I am definitely a night owl as I tend to get much more done when everyone is asleep than when people are just about to wake. The night stretches on and ends in sleep, whereas early mornings by myself always come to an abrupt end. More over here about me wanting to be an Early Bird in Night Owl Feathers.

#4 What was your favorite book from last year? Why?

March, Book Three, a graphic novel by Congressman John Lewis, writer Andrew Aydin, and illustrator Nate Powell. Long story short, it is the best civil rights movement history lesson I’ve ever received. Read more in my books of 2016 review + go buy the book. Yes, I failed to read the first two March books, something that I still need to do. Anyone want to let me borrow them?

#5 Have you ever used a bow and arrow? Was it fun?

You know, as a kid I had one of those suction cup tipped arrows with a small plastic bow. It didn’t work too well as I remember distinctly shooting my grandparents’ sliding glass window that went to backyard and it almost never sticking. I would have to manually attach the suction cup arrow to the window which kind of defeated the purpose. I soon progressed to making my own arrows out of long sticks. Those didn’t work that well either, but it was certainly fun at the time.

#6 Do you play an instrument? If yes, which instrument?

Nope, I don’t play any musical instruments. I am definitely a jock, although I’ve had piano lessons (as a kid) and guitar lessons (as an adult). I would like to learn how to play the guitar, but I think that is an activity for later in life when the kids are a bit bigger and I have more leisure time.

#7 What is your favorite sport?

Track and Field. I know people don’t see this as a spectator sport and I can certainly understand. I think that because I’ve been in the hard plastic seats waiting for my heat or waiting to throw an instrument, watching track and field is very detailed and exciting. The race and throw are just part of the competition. Watching individual competitors warm up, stretch, get in the zone, relax, get pumped, is the spectator sport that makes it interesting to me. The race itself is the culmination of a lot of things, a perfect storm for some.

#8 What is your favorite rainy day activity?

Ha, I won’t pull answers here. There are pre-kids rainy day activities and post kids rainy day activities. Before kid responsibility, it was cleaning, movies, and sex. The order didn’t quite matter and sometimes activities overlapped each other. Now with kids, there is cleaning, planning and doing crafts, suiting up to splash in puddles, and more cleaning. Notice I didn’t mention sex. Well, let’s just say that Olaf isn’t a huge turn on. Sorry Olaf.

What’s my favorite, now that I am with kids? Definitely the suiting up to splash around. Great fun!

#9 Morning hot beverage, coffee, tea, hot chocolate, nothing?

Mornings usually start with coffee, French press at home. Since I work from home, I can easily dispose of the grounds. I brew either Your Dekalb Farmers Market or Counter Culture beans. Occassionally I take a break from coffee and steep some green tea and ginger. I do drink green tea during the day regularly so that I am not constantly high on caffeine.

#10 What was your favorite color in a box of Crayons?

Black. I loved to outline things and still do. I remember teachers telling me that flowers don’t have black outlines and that clouds didn’t need to look so unhappy. I didn’t care, I though and still think that a thin line of black can do wonders to a drawing, sketch, painting.

#11 What is the last compliment you received from a stranger? How’d it make you feel?

Hm, I don’t seem to get many compliments from strangers, but I do tend to give them out quite a bit. More on that later. The last compliment that I remember was about my glasses. Black rimmed with orange stripes, these glasses are very much me (knock on wood). I do remember a nice compliment about my glasses from Adam Jacob at a past Chef Conf. It’s always nice to hear a compliment as a guy from just about ANYONE. Take note people!

#12 Where do you look to find out the time? 

Nike Triax Fury 100

I wear an all black Nike Triax Fury running watch regularly and use it to check the time. I try to avoid looking at my phone for the time because that has the potential to lead down a deep dark distraction tunnel. I like simple digital watches and LOVE the side angle of the Nike running watches. I wish they would revisit this design. Maybe I can help them….

#13 Jason Voorhees, Freddy Kruger, Michael Myers, Pinhead, Chucky, or Candyman, which made more afraid?


You know, as a kid I wasn’t exposed to those scary moves all that much and when I did, I was usually laughing at them. What did scare me actually prevented me from taking a shower, bath or brushing my teeth. Remember that movie The Blob with Steve McQueen? Holy shit that was scary to young little Shelton! I don’t know why I finally got over it. Maybe the neighborhood kids started to make fun of the way I smelled.

#14 Where did you grow up?

I grew up in southern California, Orange County to be exact. I had a very fortunate childhood as I was surrounded by a loving family and crazy friends. They were the bumpers on my childhood’s bowling game.

#15 Holy you

I don’t go to church, but was raised with church going grandparents. My grandfather and grandmother were missionaries in Zaire, Africa (where my mother was born) and my grandfather was an the Adjunct Minister at our local church. It was always great to see him talk, but outside of getting to listen to my grandfather’s stories, I don’t find myself religious at all. I believe in social rules or conventions.

#16 Which historic figure has influenced your life the most?

This is a difficult question for me because the term, “historic figure” usually implies someone that is famous or well known for the work they have done. I have mirrored certain parts of my life off of traits I’ve seen in others and paths others have taken. One person, the late Bill Moggridge was influential in my professional path to design, and his company which he cofounded, IDEO. More on this later…

#17 Are you afraid of needles?

No, not afraid of needles, but I did almost pass out when getting a spinal tap. Not sure if it was the thought of the needle or the actual procedure that pushed me over the edge. Results of the spinal tap were negative. Yay, I am alive!

#18 What was the last thing / event you were late for?

A Creative Mornings Atlanta event. Between having to drop both of my kids off at school and get across town in traffic, it was almost impossible to get there on time. Amazingly enough, I got there right as they were starting. Why do I say I was late? I got there and there wasn’t any food left to eat. Bummer.

#19 Morning, what’s your favorite breakfast cereal?

When I was a kid it was most definitely Cap’n Crunch. I have no idea what the flavor is, but it was a good bowl of cereal. Any more than one bowl and the roof of your mouth gets shredded. I think this fear has pushed me away from the Captain. Today, as an adult, I like Grape Nuts + toasted pecans + raisins + honey + whole milk. It is AWESOME…and I want some right now, but I don’t have all the ingredients. Bummer, looks like a lunchtime store run.

Random: Check out this track by Z-Trip called “Breakfast Club”. Yes!

#20 January 20, 2017 marks the U.S. transition of power from Obama to Trump. How does this make you feel?

Without getting too deep into it, I am disappointed. Disappointed in the fact that one party failed to prepare and the other party failed to stand up to their beliefs and values.

#21 What gender do you identify with?

This is hard because gender roles have been typically tied to a particular gender. I am a proud male with qualities and attributes that run the gender spectrum.

  1. I have a penis and really enjoy it
  2. I grow facial hair (mainly because a close shave is typically bad for my facial skin)
  3. I enjoy working out and experimenting with the limits of my physique
  4. I don’t like watching football, but do enjoy watching Olympic gymnastics
  5. I am a pretty good seamstress and crafter
  6. I can cook many dishes and follow recipes decently well (I want to bake more)
  7. My family currently depends on my paycheck (read: breadwinner?), but this hasn’t always been the case and I am extremely happy/comfortable that it has gone both ways
  8. I like building things with my hands (wood, metal, plastic projects)
  9. I am the “home keeper” in the family
  10. I am great at changing diapers and tending to kids
  11. I am an introvert that tries to be an extrovert

#22 What color is your hair? Real color and dyed color.

Ha, the hair on my head is dark brown if not visibly black. Heck the hair everywhere is the same color except the hair on my chin that is turning grey. I kind of dig it, makes me feel like I’ve finally accomplished maturity despite the fact that I still act like a kid. Young at heart, right?

#23 What causes are you currently an activist for OR what do you want to be an activist for?

Currently and sadly enough, I don’t do as much activism as I would like. I am not ashamed of this, but realize that I should be doing more. I email and call my local government officials when something is put in front of me (Facebook, friend text).

#24 If you commute to work, what mode of transportation gets you there?

I don’t commute to work, but when I do “go into the office” I usually drive. At times, I will drive to the train station and take the train into work. This hasn’t happened much lately because of the need to shuffle kids around. Where is the Uber / Lyft for child activities.

#25 Do you believe in ghosts?

Yes and no. More on this later…

#26 Do you wear or have you ever worn an orthotic device? Tell us about it.

I have insoles (Superfeet) in my shoes, store bought. I’ve got flat feet and recently my plantar fasciitis came back to haunt me. I used to deal with it while running track at USC where I had trainers to help me out, but now all I’ve got is me and what they’ve taught me. Along with icing the soles of my feet after a run, I regularly wear insoles in my shoes to help hold up my lack-of-an-arch.

#27 If you eat sandwiches, what are your favorite sandwich ingredients? What makes it amazing?

I do like sandwiches, but I am not very picky about them as long as they are simple and able to fit in my mouth. For this reason, I like the sandwiches at Victory Sandwich Bar, they are tasty and small enough so that I can get a couple different kinds.

#28 What languages are you proficient at? What ones are you just, okay?

English is my primary language. I know a small amount of Spanish, enough to get myself in trouble. By schooling and from growing up I know some French, but it is trés, trés, mal.

#29 Have you ever had dance lessons? If so, what boogie did you learn?

Yes! A few times actually. My high school senior project was to learn a number of dances and if I remember correctly, perform them. I could be wrong on the performance thing. It was fun, I got to learn how the Swing, Jive, Lindy Hop, and a couple more that I cannot remember. Also, I got to do it some cute girls, which at that age was AMAZING! More recently, before kids, I did a Halloween Thriller dance class here in Atlanta. It was so much fun!! Did it with the wifey and another friend. A little bit older, but it was still AMAZING to get to dance with cute women. 😉

#30 What state or country are you from? Tell us a bit about it.

I am from California, southern California to be exact. Check out #14 for more details.

#31 Have you ever won a contest? What did you win?

You know, I don’t play games to win things all that much. I did a raffle back in 2005 and happened to win a boxing glove signed by Mohammed Ali. It is in my closet, not on display. I need to build a display case for it because it is rather special to me.

#32 When you have free time, what do you do with it?

Ha, that is interesting. Free time at the moment is spent cleaning, organizing, and getting ready for the next day. Assuming I can get through all of that, I like to go on solo trail runs. I am inside for so long during the week that I really just want to get outside and run. I don’t like running the streets because it somehow breaks my running soul to do it. Unless it is somewhere new, I try to stay on the dirt if at all possible.

#33 Have you ever been homeless or on the verge of being without a roof over your head?

I have never been homeless, but I do remember a period of time while living with my mom that we had VERY little money. Rationing money between the gas tank and the dinner table. My mom was and is my super hero. She could stretch a dollar and still make me the happiest kid around. Love you mom!

#34 Do you keep a journal? Written or typed? Tell us what you can.

Yes, I keep a number of journals. Sometimes I feel like writing, other times I feel like typing. It all depends on what might go with the journal entry. If I want to draw, I use a notebook and pen. If I want to just type out my thoughts, I usually use the ATOM editor and track changes with git. I am not a software programmer, but have realized the benefit behind track changes, repos, and the simple copy composers.

#35 Do you know someone with a pickup truck? Maybe it is you?

I don’t have a pickup truck, but I know at least 1 person with one, maybe 2.

#36 Have you ever had braces on your teeth? Childhood or adulthood?

Nope! I’ve got a beautiful gap between my front two teeth. I’ve finally found a dentist that doesn’t see my gap as a aesthetically off-putting feature that required fixing.

#37 During the recent Super Bowl (51), which team were you rooting for?

I was rooting for the Atlanta Falcons because I live in Atlanta and I typically hope that the underdog prevails. This wasn’t the case this time. It was sad, but expected.

#38 Do you know someone that is seeking refuge from another country? Maybe someone that has already found refuge?

Sadly enough, I don’t know any refugees. I am ashamed a bit to say it, which means that I should probably change this. I have though started to follow several refugee journalists that have been tweeting about their lives ever since the Muslim ban. One, Asad Hussein, has been forced to stay in world largest refugee camp, Dadaab. This article in the New York Times about his sister visiting the camp lead me to following him specifically.

#39 Excavators, ambulances, tractors, oh my! Have you ever driven a vehicle for paid work purposes? Do you currently?

I drove a taxi at USC (Campus Cruiser!) for about 4 months before being “fired” (hired somewhere else). Find me and I will tell you the story. It was a great experience, I listened to a lot of books on tape, and met some interesting people. Currently, I don’t drive anything for work. I would love to drive an excavator though!

#40 Vegetarian, pescatarian, gluten free, ice cream after 9pm. Do you have a special diet? Something you always eat, won’t eat, etc.

I eat just about everything. The only think I don’t eat are green peas as they make me feel like I am going to throw up. Back when I was a kid I used to taste green peas in my mouth when I was sick. Maybe it is all in my brain, but things like chicken pot pie and fried rice had a tendency to make me unhappy as I dig around the green peas.

#41 Fly me to the moon! Where did you fly in an airplane last? What took you there?

My last flight was to Las Vegas for a guys’ trip. Although Vegas isn’t my go to place for  relaxing, I was able to do just that. Early morning run down the strip, coffee before the still inebriated woke, and great seats near the MGM lazy river.

During one morning coffee, I got the chance to see a very weird model shoot by a fountain with 3 scantily clad individuals. 1 super blond and two buffertons. There were tons of huge meaty orang-ish red people around. Well, we happened to go to Vegas during the annual Mr and Mrs Olympia event which meant there were women floating around the pool with arms the size of my thigh. I am skinny, but wow, this made me feel like a rail. It was a good show though. Every opportunity to apply suntan lotion was a pool flex off. No, I didn’t join.

#42 Cheese, fromage, queso. If you eat cheese, which one is your favorite?

Greuyere cheese, hands down. I couldn’t tell you the variety (if there is such a thing). I love, the”assertive, earthy, and complex as it matures.” Thank you Wikipedia for helping me describe the flavors as I probably would have said something elementary like, “It tastes yummy.”

#43 What do you do when you find yourself up too early or unable to sleep?

If I am up late, I am usually working on something till I fall asleep at the desk. Falling asleep isn’t hard for me since I burn the candle to the end. Now, if I am up early, I usually just lay in bed. If I move the kids will wake up and then I will have to quickly deal with a game of tricycle and scooter chase in the kitchen. Not something I want to hear. While laying in bed I will sometimes grab my phone and type down my dreams, waking thoughts, and ideas. No news, social media, email before 8am. Writing and reading only. Reading that early is usually worthless since I am barely awake enough to comprehend the words.

#44 News

My morning news comes from NPR as I am running kids to school. When I get home, I sometimes trying to get some “Fair and Balanced” to my news consumption and check out what Fox News is yelling about. In order to understand opposing views and be more empathetic, I need to listen to news that doesn’t always agree with my views. I also follow quite a few reporters on Twitter and try to catch up with what they are seeing/saying while I am drinking coffee in the morning or eating one my many snacks during the day.

#45 Chocolate Filling

You know those long chocolates in the See’s Candy box that are crunchy. Those 3 little toffee filled chocolates are by far my favorite. I get 3 chocolates and get to share them. Great way to win friends, give them chocolate. Winner = me!

#46 Toothbrush

Electric toothbrush plus manual. I get some comfort out of brushing with my manual toothbrush. Also, I tend to walk around the house while brushing my teeth, dressing kids, packing lunches, feeding the cat. Since I do this, I randomly leave my toothbrush in the nearest bathroom only to find it a day or two later. Okay, writing this now makes me sound odd. Oh well.

#47 Doughnut

Buttermilk donut. I love the combination of the fried + the glaze. Currently at Revolution Doughnuts here in Atlanta, they are serving Bourbon Maple Glazed Buttermilk Doughnuts. So yummy with the self serve Counter Culture coffee.

#48 Pushups

I do 20 pushups before and after my shower, so I am guessing that I could do between 50 and 60 before exhaustion. I haven’t tried it out yet though. Who wants to do a push-off?

#49 Senators

Republican Johnny Isakson and Republican David Perdue.

#50 Progress despite fear

I have always been scared to share my partially baked ideas for fear that the details are off, things are wrong or broken, or I’ve written vagina, penis, nipple, or fuck somewhere. Well, I just got that out of the way. I am sure more George Carlin moments will come…about.

Sharing Empathy Lab with friends and family is terrifying and probably will be for some time as I continue to share and nervous-sweat. What will they say, what won’t they say, how am I going to convince them that this is a REAL thing, do I need to convince them? None of that really matters as long as I move forward (and shower). I am sharing and will make sure to put deodorant on regularly as I continue to share Empathy Lab with everyone that I meet.


  1. I love this – like, really love this. You’re someone I know peripherally through our kids’ school, and chance encounters at the Toy Park, but I’ve always just liked you and Laura (who, btw, I officially met for the first time on a chance encounter at Target after G had just been born!). It’s fascinating hearing/learning more about people you only sort of know. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Alexis, thank you so much for this response. Generally speaking, it is interesting how we can constantly bump into each other and know very little about the person we are bumping into. I am trying to change this a bit with those that I bump into through the qdqd.me project. You should check it out. Your first question, #53, do you like spicy food? http://wp.me/p8fC2Z-dv


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