My own personal brain cache

When I’m programming, emailing, or even just browse the web, I use copy and paste a lot to save things in the short term.  Things like logins, account numbers, serial codes, dates, etc.  Unfortunately, each of those notes wipes out the previous one.

I just discovered ClipX which is a really nice, lightweight tool which sits on your Start Menu Notification area.  It simply keeps a history of everything you toss onto the clipboard.  On top of grabbing text, it holds onto copied images as well, making it a great tool for holding onto screenshots.

Ultimately, there are a lot of things to think about – this little tool reduces that by one and can be a big help when tracking things back.  It’s not new, but it’s definitely worth having.


Depending on your settings, ClipX can have a pretty large memory footprint and use a decent portion of your CPU on load.  Just be careful..

Distraction and Web browsing through life

I heard an interview the other day with Nicholas Carr, author of the book The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains.  The basic idea is that the brain is a flexible machine that grows and improves itself based on how it is used.  If you spend a lot of time practicing an activity, like playing the piano, your brain is designed to emphasize those skills so that it’s better suited for each subsequent try.  While the brain is improving in one area, however, those that remain unused don’t get the same type of attention.

Mr. Carr’s argument suggests that throuh years of surfing the web and becoming daily more immersed in the online experience, we have trained our brains to be good at that type of interaction.  Reading an article, we expect lots of links and widgets pulling in and exposing lots of information at one time.  The very activity – “surfing” – expresses the flowing nature which is really good for absorbing a broad range of information at once.  This breadth, however, comes at the cost of depth.  Just as Nicholas describes, we find ourselves leaping from thing to thing without the same kind of focus and dedication as we might with a long news article or chapter of a book.

Conversations come in short chat or text messages, squeezed in between or layered on top of other activities.  At any given time, I have access to huge wealths of information, but not the time or focus to get into any of it.  It takes real work to hone in on the details of anything and we’ve been training ourselves to do be bad at exactly this.  Skimming the surface can be great, but it comes at a cost.  It will be a sad day when generations begin to grow up in a world of hyper-experience, without the grounding of concrete and focused interaction with the world.

NPR Interview with Nicholas Carr


Drive better, save money and help the environment


With auto makers such as General Motors hesitant to adopt fuel efficient designs and paying dearly for it,  it’s time to start stepping up to do something about the problem.  Though gas prices have dropped down to a pretty reasonable level, the memory of prices greater than $4.00 a gallon is still all too sharp.  Here are a few things each of us can do to save money at the pump.  They really add up with just a little bit of effort.

Driving Habits:

  1. Avoid hard breaking
  2. Avoid quick acceleration 
    • Note: 1 and 2 increases travel time by 4% but can decrease consumption by 40% and reduce emissions to 1/5th.
  3. Keep moving without coming to a complete stop
  4. Drive between 5o and 60 mph when possible for most efficient performance
  5. Anticipate stopping and just glide to a stop with less braking – breaking throws away energy
  6. User higher gears if you have a choice
  7. If stopped for more than 30 seconds, turn off the engine rather than idling
  8. Use cruise control for long flat areas, it smooths out acceleration
  9. Do not use cruise control in hilly areas
  10. At speeds <40mph, crack windows instead of AC, (>10%)
  11. At speeds >40mph, close windows
  12. Draft behind larger vehicles – semis can’t slow down quickly so less following distance isn’t as dangerous

Car Maintenance:

  1. Inflate tires properly
  2. Change air filters regularly (clogged filters use 10% more fuel)
  3. Change oil regularly (clean oil is more efficient)
  4. Tighten gas cap (gas evaporates and escapes)

Trip Planning:

  1. Remove unnecessary items from the car
  2. Park in the shade to reduce need for AC and fuel evaporation
  3. Use a block heater in the winter since fuel is more efficient when warmed up
  4. Combine trips and errands
  5. Telecommute when possible
  6. Carpool or use mass transit
  7. When choosing a route, avoid traffic, hills and construction
  8. If you have a choice about when to go out, save driving for non-windy days

Stepping Back

I read a blog post here a few days ago outlining self-imposed ‘internet free zones’ where you choose to disconnect for the sake of focus and freedom from distraction. As I sit on the north shore of Lake Superior at Neys Provincial Park, utterly out of touch with the outside world, I am overwhelmed by the vitality of it all, and the energy of a simpler life. Unfortunately, life does not afford such a regular opportunity to get away.

As an option, though, what about implementing a ‘connectivity-free zone’ now and then to step back and consider the broad scope of a project, a relationship, an important decision, or life itself? Camping for a day, or even taking a day trip by bike without phone, iPod, email or so much as a newspaper might do the trick. Life these days is overwhelmed by the continuous flow of information.

The never-ending barrage is draining and we need ways to turn it off, recognizing and remembering that the world will be okay without us for awhile, and us without it.

Buffer – A data stream for the brain

After many revisions on the basic to-do list idea, I’ve settled on what is essentially a buffer.  I love immersing myself in information – books, music, podcasts, blogs, traditional media, emails, radio, newspaper, tv, etc. but there’s just too much to do justice to.  If I tried to find a straight path through the mess, there would be lots of good content slipping by.

Continue reading “Buffer – A data stream for the brain”