Category Archives: Uncategorized

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:

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.

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!

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.

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.

Quotes: Clarity in Leadership and Your Message

The whole podcast episode is worth listening to but a couple quotes stood out to me:

People say when it comes to leadership that they want character but they always follow clarity. At the end of the day we intuitively and instinctively follow clarity – Andy Stanley

People will not move into confusion. People will not follow you if they’re confused about where you are going – Donald Miller

Andy Stanley Podcast: Communicating for Change – A Conversation with Donald Miller

Help Fund Our Adoption by Donating to Our $5,000 Matching Grant

As many of you know, my wife and I are in the process of adopting. We recently had a failed adoption after being matched with a birth mom for about five months. We lost almost $10,000 with the failed adoption so we are in the process of trying to recoup those costs with a matching grant from our church, Sojourn East Community Church. The donation is tax deductible. Here is where we are standing now:

  • Goal: $5,000
  • Raised to date: $4,167
  • Total needed: $833

Donate Here

Here is the full update that my wife wrote:

Our journey to growing our family began over three and a half years ago. We were excited and full of hope as we waited each month to see signs that we were pregnant. We hoped and prayed for a baby to love, a child to bring home. But, the years wore on with no signs of pregnancy and we eventually decided to pursue medical opinions. After two and a half years of trying to conceive, we were diagnosed with unexplained infertility.

After several cycles of different types of non-invasive fertility treatments, we began to seriously consider the road of adoption. Adoption is something that we have always respected, it has never been our “last resort”. We confidently believe that God will lead the child we are meant to raise into our open arms. We now know that, that is meant to happen through adoption. So, in May 2017 we began to pursue a domestic adoption of an infant. Our hearts were open and ready to love a child.

In October 2017, we accepted a match to a baby due in early 2018. We spent the next several months preparing, finishing our fundraising, and getting to know this baby’s mom. We felt like this was the right situation for us and were so excited. In late January, a week before the due date, we got a call that our birth mom had given birth and had decided to parent him. While we 100% support her decision to parent, it has been a very hard road to walk. We experienced many intense emotions as we grieved the loss of this life in our home. Experiencing a failed match is painful and hard to understand or explain to anyone who hasn’t been through it.

Through this disruption, we lost almost $10,000 in expenses that were already incurred related to that specific match. In March 2018, we were awarded a $5,000 matching grant from the Sojourn East Community Church Adoption Fund, administered by Lifesong for Orphans. The amounts raised through this website are tax deductible and will be matched dollar for dollar by the adoption fund grant. If we can raise the full $5,000, our entire loss will be recovered. This is a huge blessing to our family and we are in awe of this amazing opportunity!

Today, we are now actively waiting to be matched again with our agency. While we don’t know the exact cost since we aren’t matched yet, we estimate the total amount due will be around what our previous match was. Therefore, we would love to raise the $5,000 here so we have the full $10,000 ready when we match again!

This journey hasn’t been what we planned or expected. These last three and a half years have been hard, harder than we could have imagined. We have cried out to God and walked through intense sadness and grief. The pain and loss of being childless has been a weighted presence in our lives each day.

However, we are committed to working through the emotions that this roller coaster of a journey brings. We turn to those around us when we have no hope and try to step each day toward God. Because the reality is that this was never unexpected to Him. He is walking on this road with us and there is not a place we’ll be, he hasn’t already seen. We are working to remain open and hang onto hope as we wait. We have no doubt that this is the place God has led us to and we hope you will support us as we continue on this road!

What Lies are You Believing that Are Stopping You From Making Lasting Change in Your Life?

I recently started reading Triggers by Marshall Goldsmith after listening to CGP Grey and Mike Hurley’s discussion of the book on a Cortex episode. The basic premise of the book is to teach you how to make lasting change in your life. I’m only three chapters in but so far it has been quite helpful.

In chapter two, Goldsmith talks about false beliefs that we tell ourselves that don’t allow us to make changes. He says that yes, these are obvious, but too many people don’t actually take these to heart and truly believe them. So below is just the 15 lies that we believe and what this tiggers in us. I’ve also added a couple extra notes that I found helpful.

What is a belief trigger?

“An excuse explains why we fell short of expectations after the fact. Our inner beliefs trigger failure before it happens. They sabotage lasting change by canceling its possibility. We employ these beliefs as articles of faith to justify our inaction and then wish away the result.”

  1. If I understand I will do – this belief triggers confusion
  2. I have willpower and won’t give into temptation – this belief triggers overconfidence
  3. Today is a special day – excusing our momentary lapses as an outlier event triggers a self-indulgent inconsistency
  4. “At least I’m better than…” – this belief triggers a false sense of immunity
  5. I shouldn’t need help and structure – this belief triggers an unappealing exceptionalism
    • This is a natural response that combines three competing impulses
      1. Our contempt for simplicity (only complexity is worthy of our attention)
      2. Our contempt for instruction and follow-up
      3. Our faith that we can succeed all by ourselves
  6. I won’t get tired and my enthusiasm will not fade – this belief triggers depletion
  7. I have all the time in the world – Faith in time’s infinite patience triggers procrastination
  8. I won’t get distracted and nothing unexpected will occur – this belief triggers unrealistic expectations
    1. You have to realize the high probability of low-probability events. We don’t plan for low-probability events because, by definition, any one of them is unlikely to occur…yet the odds of at least one event occurring is high
  9. An epiphany will suddenly change my life – this belief triggers magical thinking
  10. My change will be permanent and I will never have to worry again – this belief triggers a false sense of permanence
    • Even when we get there, we cannot stay there without commitment and discipline
  11. My elimination of old problems will not bring new problems – this belief triggers a fundamental misunderstanding of our future challenges
  12. My efforts will be fairly rewarded – this belief triggers resentment
  13. No one is paying attention to me – this belief triggers a dangerous preference for isolation
    • When we revert to our previous behavior, people always notice
  14. If I change I am “inauthentic” – this belief triggers stubbornness
  15. I have the wisdom to assess my own behavior – this belief triggers an impaired sense of objectivity
    • We are notoriously inaccurate in assessing ourselves

What “belief triggers” are you falsely believing?

Grit and Deliberate Practice When Learning Greek (or any other language)

This was just a short announcement I sent out to my online Greek students this morning and thought I would share with you all:

In Angela Duckworth’s excellent book titled, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance she argues that all people can optimize their achievement in all areas of life. In general, this means that everyone can improve their skills and achievements through what she calls grit. This can be broken down into four categories:

  1. Interest – you must have an intrinsic interest in what you are doing. Thus, in order to succeed in learning a language you must have an interest to actually do so!
  2. Practice – practice must be deliberate and purposeful (see below)
  3. Purpose – you must know why you are doing what you ultimate goal is (for Greek students our ultimate goal is to be able to rightly divide the Word of God in the original language that he inspired the apostles to write in)
  4. Hope – the mindset that you can do it and keep it all in perspective

With regards to practice I want to highlight what practice should look like from the book Peak by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool.

Practice must be…

  • Well-defined and have specific goals – this means that each time you are studying Greek set a specific goal that you want to accomplish during that session and strive to reach that goal. Don’t make your goals too big but remember slow, steady, and simple wins the race
  • Focused – you must remove all distractions and focus during your session (see Cal Newport’s Deep Work for strategies for focus or my post, “Focus is Hard Work” or “Deliberate Practice”)
  • Feedback – this is why I do the videos for you all. You need feedback on what you are doing. You have to review to understand your mistakes. This is of utmost importance in Greek. If you don’t learn from your mistakes you will not be making progress
  • Get out of your comfort zone – learning and developing a skill is hard. Push yourself…they say “If you never push yourself beyond your comfort zone, you will never improve.”

The more you learn the more you brain will be putting together connections and your “mental representation will grow and you will get better at assimilating new information.” This means for you Greek students that learning Greek is like a snowball. The more you learn continues to grow and grow and you will be understanding the language more fully and in a wholistic manner.

So, as you study this week and through the semester engage in deliberate and focused practice. You can do it, learning a language is not for the faint of heart but anyone can do it. You just have to put in the time.

Study hard, stay focused, and have a good week.

 

Greek Flashcards for Terms Occurring 10-50x

Several years ago I created numerous flashcards for studying in my Greek Syntax class. I separated out the decks so there are around 20-40 terms per deck except when you get to words occurring 16x or fewer there are more. Previously, I used Quizlet to house everything and sync with a great app on my iPhone, Flashcards Deluxe, which has superior study tools for learning a language. But Quizlet went to a subscription model and stopped all outside apps from using their sync service. You can still find them on Quizlet here but the reason I went away from Quizlet is that on their iOS app their study tools are terrible for this language study.

Therefore, I recommend purchasing the Flashcard Deluxe app for iOS (link) or Android (link) for $3.99. Then download my sets of plain text files here and upload them to the app via Dropbox (instructions here)

Flashcards Deluxe has several different study modes:

  1. Ordered – each card is shown in order (default for new decks)
  2. Random – cards are shuffled before each round
  3. Short Term Goal – focus is given on cards you don’t know as well.
  4. Spaced Repetition – advanced learning method where cards are scheduled at timed intervals.

Personally, I prefer the Spaced Repetition model for learning the cards then the Short Term Goal for review once I have that set memorized. These models allow you to focus on a subset of the cards as you go along, which aids for better memorization.

The terms are numbered and glosses are given according to Warren Trenchard’s Complete Vocabulary Guide to the Greek New Testament

Sets Included:

  • Trenchard 50+ (310)
  • Trenchard 49-45 (29)
  • Trenchard 44-40 (39)
  • Trenchard 39-35 (40)
  • Trenchard 34-32 (23)
  • Trenchard 31-29 (40)
  • Trenchard 28-27 (19)
  • Trenchard 26-25 (34)
  • Trenchard 24-23 (37)
  • Trenchard 22-21 (37)
  • Trenchard 20 (20)
  • Trenchard 19 (21)
  • Trenchard 18 (32)
  • Trenchard 17 (32)
  • Trenchard 16 (42)
  • Trenchard 15 (48)
  • Trenchard 14 (48)
  • Trenchard 13 (41)
  • Trenchard 12 (69)
  • Trenchard 11 (77)
  • Trenchard 10 (81)

If you have any questions please contact me via twitter: @renshaw330

People Value Clarity Over Accessibility

Owen Strachan recently interviewed Cal Newport, author of one of my favorite books, Deep Work, where they discussed many of the ideas in the book. Cal’s big push is that in an ever increasing knowledge work society the ability to focus deeply to work and create is vital. There are many aspects of this idea such as growing and developing oneself into a deep worker but one key aspect is to rid yourself of distractions. Too often in the work place people value being always accessible and responding quickly to questions or having an open door policy. Cal helpfully points out that accessibility isn’t exactly what people want it it is actually clarity of when one is available. Thus, if you have a closed door policy until 11am each day so you can engage in deep work people won’t actually frown on this. Instead, communicating when you are available is more important. Thus, people value clarity over accessibility.

I have found this to be true in my office as well. I try to mark off specific times on the calendar to engage in deep work and let my colleagues know when this will happen. The rest of the time is for the more mundane such as answering questions, responding to emails, and just engaging in the everyday activities of the office. I challenge you to think through your schedule and realize that you don’t have to be accessible all the time. Rather, mark certain times you will be engaged in deep work and when you will be accessible and communicate that with your team.

You can listen to the whole episode here: https://overcast.fm/+HNffOiTy4.

Keeping Twitter a Happy Place

Using mute filters liberally on Twitter can help keep your experience sane, less rage inducing, and overall a place that you can enjoy and not get sucked into the vitriolic tweets so often expressed. You don’t need to see everything on Twitter. There may be topics that you have an interest in but reading peoples reactions to those topics and being inundated with them constantly may not be good for your soul. Don’t think that you have to immerse yourself in this on Twitter. Of course, one solution is to stop using Twitter altogether but personally, I find a lot of good information and people on Twitter and when I am conscious about the time I spend on there I really enjoy it. Thus, I’ve chosen to use mute filters for many topics.

In order to mute on the native Twitter app you can read the instructions here but personally I prefer either Twitterrific or Tweetbot’s mute filters because you can use regular expressions for more gradual control of your mutes. For example, you can add an asterisk to the end of a word to mute all forms of the word. I can put in and it will mute tax, taxes, taxing, etc. Instructions for Twitterrific can be found here and Tweetbot here. Here are some topics and keywords (I am constantly adding to this list) that I’ve muted to make Twitter a happier place:

  • Politics – so much of the political conversation on Twitter is harsh and just not good for people’s sanity. Some keywords I’ve found helpful: tax*, legistlat*, POTUS, SCOTUS, president*, Trump, Clinton, Russia, and more
  • Sports – soccer*, NFL
  • Annoying – follower*, Dr. Who, CNN, Fox News, How I did on Twitter this week, android
  • Hashtags – if an annoying hash tag appears I just mute it immediately
  • Websites – certain websites I may be interested in reading but don’t need to see constant tweets about them. This is why I use RSS
  • Accounts – certain accounts I just never want to hear from

Don’t get sucked in to FOMO and think that you may be missing something important. If it is really that important you will come across it eventually and if you miss out then it probably doesn’t matter in the long run. Keep Twitter a happy place and curate it for topics and people your interested in.