Author Archives: Brian Renshaw

Quarantine Music and Podcasts

In my Greek class this morning we began discussing my favorite music and podcasts and I told them I would send out a list. Well, it started to grow so I thought I would just post everything here as well.

Music

Favorite Jam Bands

  1. Phish – this is by far my favorite band and probably consists of about 75% of the music I listen to. If you are going to listen to one live album to get started I would check out the best of their Baker’s Dozen run at Madison Square Garden (Apple Music / Spotify). This was a 13 night show at Madison Square Garden where they did not repeat one song.
    • The lead singer and guitarist, Trey Anastasio, is also part of many of projects such as his solo work, Trey Anastasio Band, Oysterhead, and some other.
    • The first season of the podcast Long May They Run provides an excellent history and in-depth look at the band, Phish.
    • A great article for getting into Phish by Marco Arment.
    • On their YouTube page you can play much of their live music and get a sense of the band
  2. Umphrey’s McGee
  3. Widespread Panic
  4. Grateful Dead
  5. Moe.
  6. Yonder Mountain String Band
  7. String Cheese Incident
  8. Disco Biscuits
  9. Keller Williams
  10. Leftover Salmon

Other jam bands that I enjoy: Lotus, Lettuce, Dopapod, The Big Wu, STS9, Infamous Stringdusters, Tauk, Galactic, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, and more.

Favorite Classic Rock

  1. Pink Floyd
  2. Led Zeppelin
  3. The Doors

Podcasts

I listen to a lot of podcasts. Turning them to 2-2.5x speed and cutting out breaks and pauses with Castro or Overcast and you can get through a ton of podcasts during my week.

Favorite Tech/Productivity Podcasts

Many of the podcasts that I enjoy are on the RelayFM network. Check it out, I am sure there is something you would enjoy if you have interests in tech and productivity.

Descriptions taken from their websites.

  1. Cortex – CGP Grey and Myke Hurley are both independent content creators. Each episode, they get together to discuss their working lives.
  2. Automators – Automation makes your life easier and everyone can do it. We tell you how.
  3. Connected – Connected is a weekly panel discussion on Apple and the impact of technology on our lives. With each co-host having a unique background — and accent — Connected provides a perspective that no other show can.
  4. Focused – David Sparks and Mike Schmitz are not nearly as productive as they’d like to be. Join these fellow travelers (and a bunch of special guests) as they share the best ways to get focused, and talk though their successes and failures along the way
  5. Mac Power Users – Learn about getting the most from your Apple technology with focused topics and workflow guests. Creating Mac Power Users, one geek at a time since 2009.
  6. The Pen Addict – The Pen Addict is a weekly fix for all things stationery. Pens, pencils, paper, ink – you name it, and Brad Dowdy and Myke Hurley are into it. Join as they geek out over the analog tools they love so dearly.
  7. Upgrade – Upgrade looks at how technology shapes our lives, from the devices in our hands and pockets to the streaming music and video services that keep us entertained.
  8. Adapt – Adapt is a show all about the iPad, where two iPad-first users challenge each other to explore new ways of doing things with their favorite device.
  9. The Talk Show – The tech podcast from independent Apple tech writer John Gruber (he writes on Daring Fireball
  10. The Accidental Tech Podcast (ATP) – A tech podcast we accidentally created while trying to do a car show. Featuring Marco Arment, Casey Liss, and John Siracusa.
  11. iPad Pros – A podcast about being productive on the iPad. Hear from developers and iPad Pros who use the iPad in a professional setting to get their job done
  12. A Slab of Glass – Youtuber Christopher Lawley and iPad Blogger Jeff Perry sit down every other week to discuss the iPad, iOS, and how you can make your iPad work for you.
  13. Becoming Better – Becoming Better is a podcast dedicated to making you a better human being. Hosted by Chris Bailey, the author of two productivity books, and Ardyn Nordstrom, a nerdy economist, the show covers topics as diverse as productivity, procrastination, money, happiness, giving back, travel, gratitude, and disconnecting. Each episode ends with practical tips for becoming better
  14. Focus on This – If you want to achieve your big goals and return to your most important priorities, focus is the key. Building off of the successful framework of the Full Focus Planner, hosts Courtney Baker and Blake Stratton will provide practical solutions to guide you back to focus
  15. Nested Folders – Nested Folders is a productivity podcast hosted by Scotty Jackson and Rosemary Orchard.
  16. AppStories – AppStories is a production of MacStories, Inc. co-hosted by MacStories Editor-in-Chief, Federico Viticci, and MacStories Managing Editor, John Voorhees. AppStories is a weekly podcast published on Mondays. Each week, Federico and John discuss their favorite new apps and noteworthy updates, dive into the stories and people behind the apps they love, and explore the social and cultural impact of the App Store.
  17. Hello Internet – not sure how to describe it but I enjoy it. The hosts are CGP Grey and Brady Haran.
  18. Hurry Slowly – Hurry Slowly is a podcast about how you can be more productive, creative, and resilient through the simple act of slowing down.
  19. How I Work – Have you ever wondered if the worlds’s leading entrepreneurs, writers, musicians and business people construct their day differently to you? How I Work delves into the working days of some of the world’s most successful innovators. We discuss tactics, rituals and tricks they use to achieve so much more than the average person, despite having the same number of hours in the day

Favorite Christian/Religion/Biblical and Theological Studies Podcasts

  1. Cars, Coffee, and Theology – Caffeinated conversations with thoughtful people with Jonathan Pennington
  2. Church Grammar – The Church Grammar podcast engages theology and the church in a fresh way, centered on wide-ranging conversations with scholars and Bible teachers.
  3. Food Trucks in Babylon – Dr. Todd Miles and Dr. Patrick Schreiner discuss matters of faith, theology, and culture in a post-Christian world.
  4. Gospelbound with Collin Hansen – Gospelbound, hosted by Collin Hansen for The Gospel Coalition, is a podcast for those searching for firm faith in an anxious age. Each week, Collin talks with insightful guests about books, ideas, and how to navigate life by the gospel of Jesus Christ in a post-Christian culture
  5. New Testament Review – Influential works of New Testament scholarship discussed by two Duke PhD candidates.
  6. OnScript – Bringing you engaging conversations on Bible and theology. Hosts consists of Matthew Bates, Matthew Lynch, Erin Heim, Dru Johnson, Amy Brown Hughes, & Chris Tilling.
  7. Thinking in Public – A program dedicated to intelligent conversation about frontline theological and cultural issues with the people who are shaping them with Albert Mohler

Saving the New York Times Newspaper Front Page to Day One

Based on this helpful shortcut from Matthew Cassinelli that grabs a PDF of the cover for the New York Times and saves it as an image. This is great but I don’t really want a bunch of images of the NYT in the camera roll or in Books so I decided to have this automatically import into Day One with the title “New York Times – %Current Date%” and a tag of “NYT Cover.”

During this unprecedented unfolding of history I will have some historical (digital) artifacts for the future.

Download Shortcut

You can download and install the shortcut here. For convenience, I added the shortcut to my homepage on my iPhone.

Pick a Specific Date

I also created a modified shortcut that allows you to pick the date you want to pull the cover from. I find this useful if I want to either catch up on ones that I forgot to import and just see what the cover was on a certain date. You can download and install that shortcut here.

Note: When you run the latter shortcut you will be presented with a dialog box that says “Current Date”. Tap that then tap “Specified Date” and choose your date.

I have further automated this to send me a notification at a specific time that allows me to automatically run the shortcut via Pushcuts.

Fix: Syncing Shared Google Calendars on iOS

If you’re having trouble getting a Google Shared calendar to show up on your iOS device (or possibly Mac) go to https://calendar.google.com/calendar/syncselect and check the calednar(s) you would like to sync.

I do not know why this is not linked on the Google Calendar settings page and it is quite frustrating but this fix should do it.

Of course, I was reminded of this solution today when I was searching for a fix and came across this post on my old Techademic site: http://www.techademic.co/blog/2016/6/fix-syncing-of-shared-google-calendars

Helpful Resources for the Beginner Photographer

I recently purchased a Fuji XT-20 after deciding to take my photography a bit further than using my iPhone. Getting a “real” camera seemed a little daunting (after beginning to recognize how much automatic processing phones do) so I set out to research how to do better photography. Below are a list of resources that have helped me. Some are more technical while others are just about photography in general. These are listed in no particular order:

YouTube Channels

There are hundreds of photography channels and they are not all created equal. Here are my favorites:

  • Omar Gonzalez Photography: while his professional career mostly focuses on Mitzvahs and other events his channel is immensely useful. He is engaging while explaining many concepts for beginners. Additionally, he has a really helpful walk through of Fuji XT-20 tutorials.
  • Denae & Andrew: based out of Utah, this couple has really helpful videos. They also do Photo Challenges, which are fun to watch and helpful to see different ways to photograph. Some of my favorites are Bokeh is Overrated, Which Fuji Prime Lens Should You Buy (this is helpful for learning about lenses in general), and 9 Less Obvious Photography Tips for Better Family Travel
  • The Art of Photography: Ted Forbes is immensely helpful for learning all things photography. He is a teacher at heart and I find all his videos engaging, informative, and I always learn a lot.
  • Reggie Ballesteros: A wedding photographer based in the San Francisco area, he mostly focuses on wedding photography but you can learn a lot about lighting, settings, and more with his channel. I don’t really plan on ever doing some wedding photography but I’ve enjoyed this channel a lot.
  • Evan Ranft: Based out of Atlanta, Evan Ranft is a product and street photographer. I enjoy his perspective and his videos are fun to watch.

Websites

  • Fujilove: One of the things that drew me to a Fuji cameras is the community around them. This website (and magazine) is one of the most helpful resources for learning photography and getting into the Fuji community.

Podcasts

  • The FujiCast: Photography Podcast: While both hosts are documentary wedding photographers that use Fuji gear, the conversations, questions, and banter is worth a listen once a week.
  • The Moe and O Photo Show: One of the hosts is Omar Gonzalez (see YouTube above) and Moe. They have great chemistry and I also pick up something from the show.
  • Master Photography: The information is helpful but I am not a huge fan on the conversation as a podcast. I still listen though because I usually learn something new.

If you have any suggestions let me know in the comments.

Thoughts on the AirPods Pro

When the AirPods Pro came out I knew immediately that I wanted to simplify my audio setup from AirPods and Bose Quiet Comfort 35 II to just AirPods Pro. I love my Bose over-the-ear headphones but the carrying case was just one more item to constantly carrying around. If the active noise cancelling on the AirPods Pro was good enough then just carrying around the small AirPods Pro would be exactly what I wanted.

Fast-forward a couple days after the release I was able to sell my Bose headphones and pickup a pair of the AirPods Pro.

What do I like about the AirPods Pro?

  • Active Noise Cancellation: I am currently sitting in a coffee shop with the AirPods Pro listening to the 8/5/2018 Phish concert at Alpharetta, Georgia with the volume at 50% and the noise cancellation is on par with the Bose headphones. I do not hear other people talking, the air conditioner blower sound is non-existent, and I am hearing no other ambient noise. If I turn off the music I can here some muted sounds but they are not distracting. Overall, the noise cancellation seems almost as good as the Bose headphones. For me, the smaller package is plenty sufficient. Some people are experiencing better results than the Bose QC 35s.
  • Transparency Mode: This mode lets you hear certain sounds around you. I’m not exactly sure how to describe it but if you turn it on you can hold a conversation with someone while still listening to music. Walking around the city you can turn this on and still hear the music while also oddly hear cars and other sounds around you. It is truly an experience you have to try out to fully understand it. To me, this is a very underrated but welcome feature. John Gruber explains it like this “This comment crystalized a thought that I couldn’t quite put my finger on while trying to describe transparency mode: it is audio AR. That’s it.” I’d say that is pretty accurate.You can switch between active noise cancellation and transparency mode by squeezing the tip of either AirPod.
  • Fit and the Rubber Tips: Unlike the regular AirPods, the AirPods Pros have soft rubber tips (that you can buy replacements for) that help seal out noise. So even without the active noise cancellation turn on it still provides better passive sound isolation. Personally, these feel better than the original one-size-fits-all plastic tips of the original. If the originals didn’t fit your ear canal I’m sure one of the sizes would work for you.
  • Water and Sweat Resistant: Apple states that “Your AirPods Pro are water and sweat resistant, but they are not waterproof or sweatproof.” I’m excited to workout with these. I sweat quite a bit and noticed sweat getting in my originals so I am thinking that the rubber tips will also help.
  • Siri: This is purely anecdotal but I’ve found that “Hey Siri” is working much better..
  • If you have ever wore rubber tipped earbuds before you might notice that when you take them out there is a suction feeling in your ears because of the rubber seal. The AirPods Pro are engineered in a way that this doesn’t happy by creating some sort of airflow from the outside. I’m not sure what black magic is happening but it is something you might not notice unless thinking about previous experiencing with similar shaped earphones.

Overall, these are worth the $250 price tag if you are looking for noise cancelling headphones.

Other Reviews Worth Reading:

The Best Bluetooth Mechanical Keyboard: Keychron K2 Review

When pre-orders opened for the Keychron K2 I knew that this was finally one of the bluetooth mechanical keyboards I wanted to try. In the past I test out a couple others: Lofree Retro Mechanical Keyboard and Keychron’s K1 Mechanical Keyboard. The Lofree keyboard prioritized aesthetics over functionality. The retro layout of the keys caused me much consternation as I was constantly pressing the wrong keys, especially some of the modifier keys. Kechron’s K1 I had high hopes for. Unfortunately the low profile of the keys made it feel more like a laptop keyboard, which I despise. Additionally, the keyboard stopped working after a couple days and I ultimately returned it. The reliability made me skeptical of the K2 but I decided to try it out and am happy I did.

I’m not going to go into an in-depth review of the keyboard but suffice it to say, this is the best bluetooth mechanical keyboard I’ve tried. Below are some brief thoughts on different aspects of the keyboard:

  • Layout: A standard 84-key semi-compact layout. All the keys are sizes that you would expect so typing on this keyboard feels completely natural.
  • Feel: I chose the blue switches, which gives you that beautiful tactile feel and a soothing “click” when half-pressed. The keyboard sounds and feels great when typing and is one of the main reasons I love typing on mechanical keyboards.
  • Bluetooth Connectivity: Mechanical keyboards are generally wired. I won’t get into details but the speed of typing along with some of the functionality of mechanical keyboard keeps companies away from producing bluetooth versions. I’ve had no issues with connectivity (except some iOS 13 related problems, which have nothing to do with the keyboard). One nice feature of this keyboard is you can connect three devices and switch between them seamlessly. While I use this primarily with my iPad, I also have connections to my phone and laptop. The other day as I was preparing notes for a meeting I just switched to my phone and jotted down some quick notes in Drafts. The transition was seamless.
  • Aesthetics: Personally, I think the keyboard is beautiful. I love the muted grays along with the bright orange escape key. If you don’t like the orange escape key you can switch it out.
  • Use: I absolutely love typing on this keyboard. For me, this is the perfect keyboard to pair with my iPad. It does not take up a lot of space and looks great on the desk. I use with the Twelve South Compass Pro stand or my beloved Yohann iPad stand (pictured).


Overall, I give this keyboard a 5/5. I have zero complaints about it and would highly recommend if you are in the market for a mechanical keyboard. At only $72, this is an inexpensive quality for a mechanical keyboard.

Using Feedbin to Receive Newsletters in My RSS Reader

I enjoy getting newsletters from various companies and websites in order to keep up with what is going on with specific apps or products. Sometimes these websites have a blog but oftentimes they send out more updates via a weekly or monthly newsletter. Over time I found that these would often get lost in my email so I created a folder in Gmail to track these emails but inevitably I would not see them because email for me is primarily a work communication tool so I would get lost in the other things on my plate and never actually read the newsletters.

Another use for newsletters is to have a one stop shop for websites that post a bunch of articles daily or throughout the week. One such site is InsideHigherEd. I find valuable information but subscribing to their RSS feed would just flood my feedreader and I would find that I never read the articles anyways.

Feedbin has helped change that. This service is similar to the normal RSS syncing service such as Feedly or the old Google Reader (RIP). One difference is that you can create a custom email that allows you to receive newsletters and communication through their RSS syncing service. Now, when I sign up for a newsletter I input by Feedbin email address and the newsletter shows up right in my RSS reader for easy viewing. I find this a much more mangeable way to keep up with newsletters that I enjoy without clogging up my email.

FYI: My RSS reader of choice is Fiery Feeds by Lukas Burgstaller

Switching from Overcast to Castro

I am a long time user of the Overcast podcast player. For years if anyone ever asked for a recommendation of a different podcast app than the standard one that comes from iOS I always recommended Overcast. From its beginnings in 2014 to its current iteration now it has constantly been receiving stellar updates (smart speed, voice boost, and clip sharing) that keep me in love with the app. One additional feature that I always enjoyed was being able to upload audio through a web browser that would sync to the app. This is usually a lecture from a website or, more often, content on YouTube that I would remove the audio from and upload to Overcast. This was always somewhat tedious but easy enough. I even created a couple Shortcuts to help me do it on iOS.

Enter Castro.

Castro is one of the biggest competitors to Overcast. I have always read great reviews and seen high recommendations from people on Twitter. Additionally, the creator of Overcast, Marco Arment, has a good working relationship with the developers of Castro so it has always been something I’ve wanted to try but nothing seemed to draw me away from Overcast until I heard and read about Castro’s new feature called Sideload, which allows you to seamlessly grab any audio on the web and play it in Castro. This includes stripping the audio from YouTube videos.

Gamechanger.

I’ve been trying out this feature for a couple days now and I am really impressed. Earlier this week I was wanting to listen to a lecture from a school’s website and I went to the URL on my phone and realized there really wasn’t a good way to download it so I made a note to wait until I was at my computer to download the audio and upload to Overcast. When I decided to test out Castro I was amazed at the ease I was able to do this. See the video below:

Additionally, you can download the audio of a YouTube video and play in Castro:

Or when someone sends you a podcast link and you normally have to subscribe to the entire podcast to find the episode you can now just go to the website and grabbed the audio:

So, all in all, this feature for me has me seriously switching over to Castro full-time. The app also has similar features to Overcast such as Enhanced Voice (Voice Boost), Trim Silence (Smart Speed), and clip sharing but the side loading feature might just do it for me.

Social Media, Kids, and Constant Outrage

The outrage, arguments, trolling, and sub tweets on social media is at an all-time high. Whether the topic is politics, religion, technology, culture, sports, etc. you can find people entrenched in their camps and lobbing water balloons indirectly or an outright firehouse at other people whom they disagree with. Sadly, many of us are often on the outside looking in. We scroll through our Facebook or Twitter feed seeing these interactions and quickly forming an opinion and harboring quick seconds of minute outrage towards that person. Often, if we really look inside, these topics don’t even affect our day-to-day. Sure, we can always justify why we look at our unfiltered timelines but at the end of the day we too often care and form opinions only because we see the post.

I was reminded of this human tendency today when I was dropping off my son, Jax, at daycare. I set him on the ground and went and picked up a toy for him to play with. Immediately, another kid who was playing with his own toy immediately started crying and wanting the toy I gave Jax. The only reason he wanted this toy was because it was now in his attention and he wanted it now.

With social media we generally only care about many issues because we see them. Even if you are not one that spends an hour scrolling through timelines to “catch up” but limit yourself to five minute increments throughout the day you are still wiring your brain to become outraged at what you see on your timeline. Every piece of information is firing up our neurons in our brain to care, form an instant and fleeting opinion, and move on.

I am constantly trying to better my social media habits. I think over the years I’ve become less consumed by what’s being posted but it still affects me. I could probably quit social media altogether but I still do find some value in it. My goal is to limit the negative interaction that I see and try to use social media in positive and helpful ways. Here are some things that I do that I’ve found helpful for me:

  • Heavy use of filters for Twitter. I use Tweetbot for my Twitter consumption but most any app will do this. If you look at my long list of mutes you will see that I mute many many topics and people. Why? Because at the end of the day many of these topics or keywords do not aid in a positive outlook on life. Yes, some of these topics are important and I do need to think through them but Twitter is not the place I should be consuming the information and opinions from. I wrote a post on this a year and a half ago titled, “Keep Twitter a Happy Place,” where I outline more specifically how I do this.
  • Post most of my fleeting thoughts and “hot takes” in my journaling app, Day One. Most of my thoughts and opinions do not need to be public for people to read and respond to. Often, they are sarcastic and bitter, which, yes, I do need to work on but definitely posting them to social media is not the place. Instead I will write the “tweet” and send it to my Day One journal. Safe, secure, and private.
  • Take social media apps off of my home screen. I’ve done this for awhile and find it really useful. I took Facebook off my phone completely and leave Twitter buried in a folder on my phone. It’s available when I actively choose to open it. When I am bored and I open up my phone it is not staring at me and forming the muscle memory to automatically tap the app. I found since doing this awhile ago I will actually go days without opening Twitter because it is out of sight and out of mind.
  • Use another app to post thoughts to social media. Personally, I write most of my tweets in the app Drafts. I do the same with email. The goal of this process is to write what I want to put out there without being sucked into the black hole of Twitter. If I want to Tweet I can do so without seeing what everyone else is doing.
  • Form my own personal rules for what I post on social media. I’ve been doing this for years and I can honestly say that there are very few posts that I regret sharing with the world.

Personal Rules for Social Media

  1. Nothing controversial unless it has to do with my love of Cardinals baseball. Honestly, this means I tweet about 75% less than I would if I didn’t have this rule for myself.
  2. No politics. I mute almost everything related to politics. Twitter is not the place to discuss or form opinions.
  3. No trite encouragements. This one may seem a little odd but personally these types of tweet from most people seem to be “feel good” or at worse “platform building” type of tweets. I think there is a positive desire to try to make social media a more positive place with these type of tweets but too often I think there is a more hidden motivation for many people. And for me, the motivation to post these types of things would be to form a certain online persona that really is not me. Don’t get me wrong, there are some, that I think are coming at this with a genuine heart and is just an outpouring of who they are. I don’t have anyone in mind specifically, it is just one of those items when I see it I roll my eyes and think “what are you doing.” I try to avoid this altogether.
  4. Create lists for people and topics that I do not need to see constantly. When I create a list this means I do not have to follow these people or see them on my timeline. I choose the time to see what others are posted. This is very limited but sometimes it is helpful to see what others are thinking but having a Twitter list it allows me to segment this in my social media usage.
  5. Keep the people I follow 300 or under. This is very arbitrary but whenever I follow someone I try to unfollow another person. This keeps my Twitter timeline fairly focused and with the addition of my mutes I can honestly say I am rarely outraged on Twitter. I only see what I want to see.

To conclude, yes, there are many many people who post very helpful thoughts, opinions, and information on Twitter. These are the people I try to follow. I use RSS to keep up with information and specifically follow the writings I want to follow. It takes work, but there are ways to use social media without the constant barrage of useless information that many are accustomed to.

Appearance on Learn OmniFocus

I was recently a guest on Learn OmniFocus, which is a membership website designed to help you get the most out of OmniFocus and other productivity help. I’ve been a member for awhile now and find it of great value. Thanks to Tim Stringer for having me talk about my OmniFocus setup.

Guest workflow shows do not require a membership to watch so you can go here to view my presentation. If your not a member I highly encourage you to look into it!

Quickly Enable Do Not Disturb on the MacOS

Thanks to Tim Stringer I learned a quick way to enable DND on the Mac: hold down option and click the notification icon in the top right.

Thanks Tim!

Tags vs. Projects in OmniFocus

With the implementation of multiple tags in OmniFocus there has been much discussion of using both multiple tags and how that integrates with projects. I have to admit, when multiple tags were introduced I went crazy assigning multiple tags on almost every task. What ended up happening was that I actually never referred to the tags. Gradually, as I attempted to simplify my workflow I tried to modify my setup to how I actually work. Too often in the productivity space the shiny and new always takes priority. I end up implementing what I think would be good for me but in reality it is something I rarely use. This is what I’ve found with using many tags.

In general, here are some rules of thumb I have when it comes to tags:

  • Specific projects rarely have tags except for possibly specific tasks. These tags will usually involve people. I find this useful in some cases because I can check on the status of a task while I’m waiting on them for a response.
  • I use a miscellaneous single project list for tasks that are not complex enough to be a project. I find using tags helpful for identification of the type of task. I don’t use tags in these instances for perspectives but rather identification. One example would be an email I need to send. I just tag it email so when I am viewing the task I can see that I need to send an email with this task.
  • I will tag tasks with “deep work” to alert myself that this task will take some set aside focused time. I usually don’t sort by “deep work” because my schedule of the tasks I need to work on are more project based.
  • Using projects as your categorization method is more helpful when you use the review function in OmniFocus.

I find it freeing not to force myself to use tags in every instance. I am more careful with them and have my OmniFocus more geared towards projects rather than tags.

Dictation on iOS

Using dictation on iOS is somewhere way better than the speech to text you find using iMessage or other apps. There are three apps that I’ve been using the dictation engine in iOS lately: Just Press Record, Day One, and Drafts. Each on of these apps using the same backend in iOS (I think) and it works fantastic.

If I’m on the go and want to dictate something for later such as a draft for an email or blog post, some items I need to work on later, or an entry into Day One I use Just Press Record. The reason I currently use this as a way to draft something for Day One is because currently you have to choose whether to use dictation or record just the audio on the Day One watch app. I wish they would allow you to pick each time that you use it but for now I have it set on recording audio.

If I’m adding something to Day One I will use dictation quite a bit if I am sitting at my desk. Unlike the the watch up when I am using the app on iOS I can quickly choose the dictation function.

I use Drafts for all my notes so if I am sitting at a desk or the couch I will commonly dictate to Drafts. This app does have an Apple Watch app that I will also use to dictate something quickly. I use Just Press Record if I am doing a longer note.

Below is a transcript using Just Press Record on the Apple Watch (unedited) while I was driving. As you can see it does an amazing job. One thing I like about Day One and Just Press Record is that it also saves the audio file along with the transcript.

I want to write a little post on the use of dictation and iOS. Right now I am using the Just Press Record app from my Apple Watch while I’m driving to go get some groceries. I wanna people have said wow, Siri doesn’t work that well when I try to dictate a text. I agree I do not understand what is the difference between their dictation function and their speech to text iMessage or something. I found that their dictation which abs like just press record the day one app or drafts it works really well using the dictation engine that iOS has built it. So I want to do a quick example if you want to you can read the audio or listen to the audio of this and I will just post the exact transcription with no edits on the blog. Just press record is a great app and I can’t recommend it enough if you want to take some notes and then share it with other places because it records the audio file and transcribes it all from your Apple Watch or your iPad or your iPhone.

Here is the audio file of the above transcript: 15-52-53.m4a

Shortcut Monday: Day One Shortcuts on iOS

I was recently on the Day One podcast to discuss Siri Shortcuts, the Shortcuts app, and my use of Day One. I created a couple videos to accompany what we were talking about. The first is the difference between Siri Shortcuts and the Shortcuts app. This can get confusing because they are related but separate and use the same words for each of them! The second video is a simple tutorial on how to create a template using the Shortcuts app for Day One. Enjoy!

You can listen to the episode here: 24 – Shortcuts in Day One with Brian Renshaw

Also, if you’re interested, I’ve posted some other shortcuts I’ve created and explained how they work:

Changes and Improvements for Teaching Greek this Semester

This will be my second semester teaching Greek at Boyce College. I welcome any tips on teaching languages to college students. Here are some things I did last semester that I will keep and also some things that I’m changing or adding this semester.

Ideas I’m keeping from last semester:

  • Using notecards with student names to randomly ask questions to each student every class. I stress in each class that it is okay to be wrong or not know the answer because that is how learning happens. Additionally, if a student doesn’t know the answer or answers incorrectly I don’t allow other students to go ahead and answer. I think this brings some unnecessary and unhelpful shame to the student who didn’t know the answer. Instead, I always address and explain the answer. This way there is no “one-upping” other students and fewer opportunities for comparison.
  • Primer review questions to start the class and help students focus on Greek for the next 50 minutes.
  • No electronics
  • When reviewing homework in class to not allow students to answer based on their completed work but post a blank copy on the board and make them work through it again with fresh eyes.
  • Take home quizzes instead of using class time. I require a proctor to sign the quiz and add their email so if I have any questions I can quickly contact them.
  • Marking up slides, homework, quizzes, and exams via my iPad Pro instead of using the whiteboard.

Ideas I’m adding or changing:

  • With the student notecards, I will also use this for attendance by writing the date on the back of the card during the class if a student misses.
  • Dedicated vocabulary quizzes (take home, 10 words) each week. Mondays will be review words which could come from any of the chapters that have been covered thus far (including Greek 1) and Fridays will be the words for the chapter covered in class that week. I found that just having vocabulary on the weekly chapter quizzes wasn’t helping students stay up to date with vocabulary. Students will grade their own quizzes before uploading them to the LMS. I won’t give them a key so they will need to look up words they do not know.
  • Grade quizzes in class to help with quicker feedback and review. I also hope that it’s a pedagogical opportunity and a more natural way for students to ask questions they had when taking the quiz.