Staying Focused In A Distracting World

The Atlantic‘s James Fallows interviews Linda Stone:

The generation that has been tethered to devices serves as a cautionary example to the next generation, which may decide this is not a satisfying way to live. A couple years ago, after a fire in my house, I had a couple students coming to help me. One of them was Gen X and one was a Millennial. If the Gen Xer’s phone rang or if she got a text, she would say “I’m going to take this, I’ll be back in a minute.” With the Millennial, she would just text back “L8r.” When I talked to the Millennial about it, she said, “When I’m with someone, I want to be with that person.” I am reminded of this new thing they’re doing in Silicon Valley where everyone sticks their phone in the middle of the table, and whoever grabs their phone first has to treat to the meal.

Watches, too.

How To Become A Billionaire

Justine Musk, Quora:

Shift your focus away from what you want (a billion dollars) and get deeply, intensely curious about what the world wants and needs. Ask yourself what you have the potential to offer that is so unique and compelling and helpful that no computer could replace you, no one could outsource you, no one could steal your product and make it better and then club you into oblivion (not literally). Then develop that potential. Choose one thing and become a master of it. Choose a second thing and become a master of that. When you become a master of two worlds (say, engineering and business), you can bring them together in a way that will a) introduce hot ideas to each other, so they can have idea sex and make idea babies that no one has seen before and b) create a competitive advantage because you can move between worlds, speak both languages, connect the tribes, mash the elements to spark fresh creative insight until you wake up with the epiphany that changes your life.

Good recommendation. I wouldn’t have thought, but these two words get along really well together: idea and sex.

Now, let’s do some math. According to Forbes, there are 1826 billionaires. The total population of the world according to the United States Census Bureau is 7.2 billion. The number of billionaires as a percentage of total population is 0.000025%. That’s very small. Becoming a billionaire is not a game of chance, but if it were, the chance of becoming one is about the same as zero.

Teachers + Technology

Peg Tyre shares four observations about blended learning:

  • There is no magic device that helps kids learn more.
  • For the most part, education software is worse than you think.
  • Tech-assisted personalized learning is not going to be the answer for every kid.
  • Technology-assisted personalized learning is not going to get rid of a central problem in American schooling: We are not training and retaining nearly enough great teachers.

Great teaching is not easy:

Master teachers are something like NBA stars; they have a seemingly endless supply of tiny, almost gestural moves that can have a big impact on a kid’s cognition. They make split-second choices about how to introduce new ideas, speak in a way that resonates, order concepts for maximum comprehension, and reinforce ideas and skills. Those choices depend on the teacher’s reading of the subtleties of a specific situation.

Just like NBA stars, few are master teachers; we need more.

Paper Versus Pixel

Nicholas Carr, Nautilus:

The physical presence of the printed pages, and the ability to flip back and forth through them, turns out to be important to the mind’s ability to navigate written works, particularly lengthy and complicated ones. We quickly develop a mental map of the contents of a printed text, as if its argument or story were a voyage unfolding through space. […]

The spatial memories seem to translate into more immersive reading and stronger comprehension. A recent experiment conducted with young readers in Norway found that, with both expository and narrative works, people who read from a printed page understand a text better than those who read the same material on a screen. The findings are consistent with a series of other studies on the process of reading.

Want to better comprehend a book? Read the printed version. Sounds like solid advice. But this isn’t going to be easy.

I read most of my books on my Samsung Galaxy Note 4. I ‘carry’ around about a dozen books and I read a bit here and a bit there. I highlight, jot down notes, and can search them, instantly. I wouldn’t be able to do this with printed books.

But if I take a moment to think about why I read, I realize I read to comprehend, and if I can comprehend better by reading a printed book well, then I should read printed books.

Now where can I find hard bound books at dirt cheap prices? I can’t borrow them because I need to underline and jot down notes while I read. I find I comprehend better this way. I also want hardcover books because they are bigger and have more room for notes, feel better in my hands because of their generally better quality paper and binding, and because they last longer; I’d like to keep them around for a while.

Anybody know if there’s a service that automatically prints and binds hardcover books from RSS feeds? Say, 100 starred articles for US$20?


Nicole LaPorte, Fast Company:

Called HBO Now, it is a stand-alone version of HBO Go, an app that gives access to just about every episode of every HBO series, as well as tons of movies, documentaries, and sports. Rather than merely being a bonus for people who subscribe to HBO through an existing cable provider, HBO Now will not require a cable subscription. It will be available at launch to anyone with an Apple device.

US$14.99 per month. This might be the most affordable way to watch Game of Thrones. One interesting tidbit in the article was HBO’s decision to play catchup with Netflix by outsourcing the development of Now’s back-end technology to MLB Advanced Media.

Hauppauge TV Tuner for Xbox One

Xbox Wire:

We’re excited to announce a partnership with Hauppauge, 23-year veterans in the over-the-air TV space, to deliver one of the most asked for Live TV features on Xbox Feedback to our fans in the U.S. and Canada – an over-the-air TV tuner. Support for over-the-air TV on Xbox One means access to broadcast networks available in your area, like CBS, FOX, NBC, and PBS, with no subscription cost.

Microsoft should integrate an over-the-air TV tuner directly into the Xbox, as well as into its smartphones.

Sharp 5.5-inch 4K IGZO Display

phoneArena: That’s 3840×2160 pixels in landscape mode. And the resolution? 806 ppi. Sharp announced its 4K 5.5-inch IGZO (indium gallium zinc oxygen) display is scheduled for mass production in 2016.

Lots of pixels mean lots of thin film transistors or TFTs. When almost 8.3 million pixels are crammed into a 5.5-inch diagonal display there’s not a lot of room for photons to pass through those TFTs. So display manufacturers like Sharp need to make the backlight brighter, which sucks the battery dry more quickly. IGZO mitigates some of these challenges.

According to Sharp, IGZO has great electron mobility that leads to TFT miniaturization that in turn leads to higher light transmittance. And that means less pressure on making the backlight brighter.

Overkill? Absolutely. But a 5.5-inch smartphone with one of these displays will make text, images, and 4K videos look amazing.

The 20-20-20 Rule

Mayo Clinic:

Throughout the day, give your eyes a break by forcing them to focus on something other than on your computer screen. A good rule of thumb is to follow the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, take your eyes off your computer and look at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. It’s reasonable to take a break every 15 to 30 minutes for one to three minutes. Do other work, such as phone calls or filing, during this time. Try to stand up and move around at least once every hour or so. If possible, lean back and close your eyes for a few moments.

This fits well with the Pomodoro Technique; to keep it simple, adjust the time to 20 minute intervals. You gain productivity and save your eyes.

Sony X900C

Sony: Want a thin TV? I mean a really thin one? The X900C is a little less than 0.2 inches. To put that in perspective, the iPhone 6 is 0.27 inch thick. Man. The X900C comes in 55-inch and 65-inch sizes, both are 4K, and sport TRILUMINOS color technology. To not mount one of these would be criminal. Coming this summer.

Netflix Audio Description


Audio description is a narration track that describes what is happening on-screen, including physical actions, facial expressions, costumes, settings and scene changes. Customers can choose audio narration just like choosing the soundtrack in a different language.

Video already has audio, but there’s a lot of things that go on that can be missed for those who are visually impaired. This should help a great deal to fill in those blanks. Good job Netflix.