Friday, July 12, 2013

Impose Constraints to be MORE Creative

What if I asked you to tell me a story, write a song, or draw a picture?  Would you be able to do so without any direction or prompts?  What should the story contain? What colors should you use in the picture?  Would you be stumped and struggling to have a good idea to run with?

What if I instead told you to tell me a story about a space ship?  What if the song should be about your first kiss?  How about drawing a picture of a rose?  Would these constraints make it easier for you to come up with a creative idea?  If you are like most people the answer is "yes".

Let's look at another example of how constraints can aid in creativity.  Let's say you are an architect and I approach you and say "Design a house for me."  Where would you start?  Would you design a split-level ranch, a modern, sleek master piece, or a Victorian revival style home?  Would it have one story or two?  How many bathrooms?  How many bathrooms?  These questions can go on and on.

Now, suppose I came to you and said that I want a 5 bedroom, 4 bath, with a large study, a bonus room, and a large porch.  Working with these constraints you can begin to design a house.

What does this all mean to you?  Well, in short, don't see constraints as limits.  See them as a means of freeing you up to focus on what is important to your project.  While constraints eliminate a large selection of options that are initially available, doing so allows you to focus on what you can actually work with.  It is within these constraints that your brain is free to create and be innovative.

So, go out and embrace those constraints that you once saw as limits and use them to become more creative that you thought was possible before.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Find Out Which Website is Selling Your Email

Have you ever looked at all of the spam coming in to your email account and wondered how all of these places got your address?  Well, some of them use generators that create random email addresses and just ignore the ones that get sent back and save the ones that don't for future use.  However, many of the others are bought through services that broker email addresses.  Many of the brokers get email addresses by buying them from less-than-reputable websites that will sell their membership list for a tidy sum.

So, how can you tell if a site has sold your email address?  Well, if you have a Gmail account, it's pretty simple.  Let's say your email address is "".  (Sorry, Bob!)  The next time you go to a website you can make a small change to your email address to make it unique for that website.  Let's say you want to signup at my site for a newletter, or something else that does not exist right now, you could input your address as something like ""(etg being short for EricTheGeek).  The "+etg" is a valid way of giving an email address for Gmail.  When a website sends an email to the address above, Gmail will ignore the "+etg" and just send it to your email address.

Being able to do this makes it very easy to notice if spam is coming from a specific site so you can take appropriate action with that site.  The other great option this gives you is to use the filters in Gmail to process emails from specific sites.  So, you could use this for your credit card company and be alerted when they send you an email.  You could use this for so many options that it becomes kinda fun to see how you can manage your email using this trick.

So, give this a try and let me know if you are able to use this, or let me know if you have any similar email hacks that you use.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Using Evernote for Photography Scouting [Evernote]

I am by no means a professional photographer, but I do love taking pictures.  One of my favorite things to do is to find some really cool places to go and take pictures at different times of day.  I'm always on the lookout for a cool place to stop and take pictures.  However, sometimes I simply can't stop long enough, whether due to having to get to work, or having an impatient child in the vehicle, or I just don't have my camera with me.  In those cases, I really want to be able to remember that location, but the odds of me remembering that location long enough to get home to write it down, or finding the note that I write in the vehicle, is pretty slim.

Enter Evernote.  

Evernote is one of my favorite apps on my iPhone.  I use it to find notes that I save, take pictures of business cards for future reference, recipes, and so much more.  It's kind of like a second brain for me.  In this case it serves as my personal photo scout.  What I do is to open the app on my phone, go to a notebook, in my case it's called "Pic Scouting".  From there I chose the camera icon and Evernote launches it's built-in camera function, and take a picture of whatever interesting thing I see.  Now, this is not a full featured camera, and it's not an ideal way of taking photos that you want to be very high quality.  However, what it does have going for it is that when you take a picture is that it will instantly upload the image into your chosen notebook.  The real power of this is that Evernote will apply the GPS coordinates to that photo.  

What this does for me is that a week from now when I have time to get out and go take some photos, all I have to do is to open my "Pic Scouting"notebook in Evernote, find the location that I'm most interested, or fits into the amount of time I have, pull out the address, put it in some map app on my phone and take off.

Are you using Evernote for some similar type of application?  I'd like to hear what you are doing with it.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Swiss+Tech MMCSSS Micro-Max Fits Nearly Every Tool in Your Pocket

via Lifehacker

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Get Markdown in your Browser with Markdown Here

If you are a fan of Markdown and a fan of Chrome, then you will be a fan of Markdown Here. Markdown Here is a great tool that allows for you to use markdown directly in your browser and then convert it HTML. This works especially well in Gmail, whether your personal email or on [...]

via WordPress

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Check Out the Remaker’s Mark Podcast[Podcasts]

Thanks to Minimal Mac I found the podcast Remaker’s Mark. This is a funny and different podcast that talks about movies, but its not a review and technical discussion. Instead, the guys on the show talk about how they would first recast the movie, and each member takes a turn saying who they would recast [...]

via WordPress

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Acoustic levitation of water droplets

Acoustic levitation of water droplets:
These water droplets are not falling; they’re actually stuck in place. What we’re seeing is the effects of an acoustic levitator. The device was initially developed by NASA to simulate microgravity. Now it’s being used by the pharmaceutical industry do develop better drugs.
The two parts of the apparatus seen in the image above are both speakers. They put out a sound at about 22 kHz, which is beyond the human range of hearing. When precisely aligned they interfere with each other and create a standing wave. The droplets are trapped in the nodes of that wave.
So are these guys just playing around with the fancy lab equipment? Nope. The levitation is being used to evaporate water from a drug without the substance touching the sides of a container. This prevents the formation of crystals in the solution. But we like it for the novelty and would love to see someone put one of these together in their home workshop.
Don’t miss the mystical demo in the clip after the break.

Filed under: chemistry hacks