My phone (probably) isn’t eating my brain

I made a video about this!

How bad are our cell phones for our brains, our attention, our creativity? It feels like common sense to say that smartphones are a mixed benefit. OK sure, common sense and Bo Burnham agree, but how do we measure that?

I need focus to study, write, experiment, do something fun and creative, or just keep my mind on listening to a conversation. Making someone feel like I’m paying attention not just waiting for my turn to talk. And when I am focused, my phone going off is a frustrating distraction. And my phone is always with me. How badly does that affect my cognitive abilities?

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Overcaffeinated safety weasel

TL/DR; just the tip: Drink coffee, but drink it carefully.

I love coffee. Coffee is often served hotter than I would like. I don’t want anything hotter than 150 ℉ (65 ℃). The hotter the beverage, the higher the possibility for scalds. My wife and I were on a road trip, and this conversation happened pretty much verbatim. She was kind enough to get me a cup of coffee while I filled the gas tank. The coffee arrived at a superheated temperature. I was afraid a harsh vibration would cause the whole cup to vaporize. Continue reading “Overcaffeinated safety weasel”

Proofreading using a text-to-speech engine

I do my proofreading using a text-to-speech engine. Sometimes, I use Dragon NaturallySpeaking to create a document or a blog post. Other times I type it out. But either way, I like to have the computer read it back to me (NaturallySpeaking makes this very convenient). Listening to someone (or a computer) read my words out loud helps me catch things that I would otherwise miss. Sentences that sound great in my head sound awkward on being read out loud. Hearing them lets me catch awkward and incoherent sentences. More importantly, I hear typographical errors and incorrect words even when I don’t see them.

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Procrastination of the good to achieve the best

To overcome procrastination I’m going to “eat the frog” as my first task in my day. When I get into the lab at 4 in the morning, I usually start with some reading. First, I read the blogs (bad habit). Then I read a journal article (much better). During the election I was hopeless. I barely read science. I’m on a bit of a blog detox these days and my reading habits are much improved.

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Writing breakdown: brainstorm, sleep, write, edit, repeat

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Based on some of the writing tips on medium.com, I separated my writing routine into three steps: brainstorm, write, edit. It was amazing how easy it was to write in the morning when I had the topic all picked out from the day before. There are some great writer communities on medium.com.

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Meditation and pleasure reading help me stop procrastination

I try to take 15 minutes to meditate every morning. The old proverb goes: “If you have enough time, you should meditate 15 minutes each day. If you don’t have enough time, then meditate for 30 minutes.” I laughed the first time I heard that, but I think it’s 100% true. The days I don’t meditate or the days I’m most distracted and most prone to procrastinate. The days I’m most stressed and anxious, the days I feel like I have the least time are also the days when I am most prone to procrastinate. Coincidence? I think not. Meditation helps. The more overwhelmed I feel, the more important it is to take the 15 minutes. Or even 10 (like this youtube video). I used the Headspace program for a year and I do recommend it, but once I had it down it was not much harder to do with a free app like the Insight Timer.

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I tired drawing with my left (off) hand; the result was strange

I watched this video about the hemispheres in the brain by CGP Grey. It has a short review of the phenomena surrounding split-brain patients. What was really provocative was the idea that maybe we all have a dual personality and that only one side is verbal. When I first watched this, I had a really odd feeling of recognition, like there was something missing from my life that I had just discovered.

left hand drawings

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What Drawing for Fun Taught me about Daily Practice

I drew something almost every day for three months. It was a bit of an experiment on how to learn effectively. Learning a new skill is intrinsically rewarding. I wanted to see if I could learn to draw. I also wanted to see what kinds of practice work for me. Ultimately, it turns out that making time for practice every day was the most important thing.

At first, I started by following along with youtube videos. I followed along on videos by Christopher Hart. His videos are fun and he has some nice books, too. My versions of his drawings were… somewhat demented.

2015-12-05 11_13_11-draw blog - Google Docs

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