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Visually Impared Or An Auditory Learner? Install Read Aloud For Chrome

"Read Aloud: A Text to Speech Voice Readeris an extension for Google Chrome that brings website text to life by making the website speak. This is especially useful for those with visual impairment, have Dyslexia, or those who are auditory learners. If there's a long blog post you're reading or you simply don't have the eyesight to read on-screen for a long period of time, this extension reads the text aloud for you.

The feature-set for this extension is exemplary.

Follow The Reading

Want to follow the reading? Read Aloud shows you a small window and highlights the sentence as it reads!

Shortcuts Keys Available

You're able to use ALT-P, ALT-O, ALT-Comma, and ALT-Period to Play/Pause, Stop, Rewind, and Forward, respectively.

Change TTS Voice

Among being able to change the speaking voice, you're able to change speech speed rate, pitch, volume, and enable text highlighting.

Speaking as someone who has vision problems and can't read on-screen for a prolonged period of time, this extension is a life-saver. Functionally it works great and it allows me to absorb information easily, as I'm an auditory learner. When my eyes feel better, I can read along with the narration, which is the icing on the cake.

Read Aloud is an open-source project that the developer created in their spare time. You can view and contribute to the project by going to their Github page.

This extension is highly rated via the Chrome Web Store by over 1,000 users and currently has 2,000,000+ users. It's also available for Firefox, and you might be able to get this to work on mobile by using Kiwi Browser for Android and installing the Read Aloud extension through the Chrome Web store.

For those who are looking for a mobile application that offers text-to-speech, try @Voice Aloud Reader (TTS Reader) for Android.

Love Your Family - Prank Them!

I quite enjoyed installing Android x86 on my Dell Inspiron 15 a few years ago. After logging into Google and going into the Play Store, I realized how many apps I have accumulated over the years of being an Android user. One of those apps was called dSploit: "The most complete and advanced IT security professional toolkit on Android." That it was, and my favorite feature to toy with at the time was MITM. Performing Man-in-the-Middle attacks on my family was amusing to me.

Some of what I was able to accomplish was: 

  • Kill all network connections.
  • Listen for cookies on your network for potential highjacks.
  • Sniff passwords.
  • Redirect all HTTP traffic to another site.
  • Redirect targeted traffic through your device.
  • Replace text on webpages with specific ones.
  • Replace images with a specific one.
  • Replace all YouTube videos on web pages with a specific video.
  • Inject Javascript on every visited webpage.

Note that...

  • These only work on networks you're logged into.
  • This will not work on HTTPS.
  • This does work on open networks
  • Because you are the MITM, performing these tasks will slow your IP/users fetching and receiving of these pages.
  • You need ROOT access on your device for dSploit to work.

I once re-routed my uncle's traffic while he was watching a YouTube video. "I don't understand what's happening! What?" YouTube led him to a website I'd auto-redirected him to. I almost broke out laughing before confessing my nerdy secret. Hmm... if I was a kid in school remote learning, "I'm sorry, professor, my network kept redirecting me away from the school website, I couldn't finish my homework!" Wouldn't that have been smart?

I no longer have old screenshots of the app and from what I know, the development of dSploit has since ceased, but you can still use it. here are web images I found of the app.

Mobiwol: ET (Don't) Phone Home

Mobiwol is a Firewall program that allows you to prevent applications (or "ET") from calling home. This is needed for bug-fixing as well as to obtain stats on any given application. For example, has App X been paid for? How frequent is App X running in the background? In some cases, apps will relay periodical messages to their developers (or an unknown source) with your personal information. This is known as Malware. The developer or this "unknown source", in this scenario, will sell your information to scam artists, advertising firms, etc. The worst-case scenario is either identity theft or credit card information. This is why it's important to check the permissions of every app you install and make sure the app developer is searchable on Google and sounds reputable.

As seen in the image above, I selected Chrome as a test choice. Mobile and Wi-Fi are checked, which means that it can send and receive data when connected to either network. In this case, if you were to disable "Wi-Fi", Chrome would not load any webpages under your home internet because the firewall would block Chrome.

In theory, this is great because now you're able to use apps that are riddled with ads, ad-free. Just disable Mobile and Wi-Fi so that they can't connect to their ad services. The only trouble that may arise is with apps that require an active connection to function. So internet-connected games won't work if you uncheck the network access.

Once you turn on Mobiwol, the application asks to use your device's VPN (Virtual Private Network) package. Your device will detect this as a warning! This is good, so just hit allow and continue. The VPN that Mobiwol creates on your device is how it gets around needing root access, which is quite brilliant.

Unfortunately, Mobiwol is no longer in development and upon launching the app, you'll get a message warning you that the app was built for an older version of Android, so using it is fine, but it may not work properly. Nevertheless, I think it's an excellent application and it secures your device. I would use it and just turn off network access for apps that really shouldn't have that permission, to begin with.

Buridan's Donkey Contemplation

Jean Buridan was a French philosopher who theorized that if a donkey was placed between two equidistant bales of hay, the donkey would, in turn, become paralyzed by indecision.

I think we can all relate to this theory in more ways than one. We have, at one point or another, been faced with challenging circumstances that entail rewarding and scary consequences. Do we choose the lesser of two evils? Do we go with what past experience has taught us? Do we just make a choice without really thinking about it and see how that plays out?

The bottom line is that if you spend all of your time trying to choose between the two, you'll end up choosing nothing.

The way I deal with contemplating Buridan's Donkey is that I give myself an allotted time to think over a situation. 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 30 minutes, a day, two, or a week. If by the end of a given time I can't make up my mind, I randomly choose something or flip a coin and let my fate rest in the hands of a new experience.

As Russell Brand says, "in justifying our misery, we are doomed to repeat it." In the same way, if we justify every potential good or bad that may come with a choice, then we just prolong just making a choice and allowing life to take its natural course.

Sometimes, all you have to do is stop thinking and start doing, no matter how scary it may seem. After all, your success is measured in your willingness and ability to face uncomfortable situations and take risks.

An Interview with Jenny Kirk

Today, I’m excited to share with you all, an interview I did with Jenny Kirk, former world junior champion figure skater who now has a Master’s in Social Work, spreading cheer and helping others. This interview was originally conducted on January 19, 2019.

Q1: First off, tell us a bit about yourself.

Thank you for having me on your site! I’m originally from Boston and spent the first half of my life as a figure skater. I had a slightly unique childhood in that I lived away from home during the week, starting at age 11, to train on Cape Cod and then came home to my family on the weekends. It definitely taught me to grow up quickly! I had a pretty full career as a skater — and learned a ton of life lessons — before retiring at 21. I then spent the next decade figuring out my next step in life and worked as a skating coach for a few years before starting my MSW a couple of years ago. I’ll be graduating in the spring and am really looking forward to continuing the work I’ve recently started with clients in both a coaching and clinical role.

Q2: You honestly have such an amazing story. Formerly, you were a figure skater — a World Junior Champion! That’s a huge accomplishment! I’m sure it must have been extremely challenging, so what gave you the strength and courage to push through that difficulty and discomfort to come out on top? Were there any moments where you felt like giving up? Ultimately, what pushed you to continue until you succeeded?

First of all, thank you for your kind words! There were definitely times when discomfort outweighed the pleasure that comes from skating your best under pressure and reaching your goals, and there were definitely days when I thought it was all too much.

As a teenager, whenever I’d have a rough day, I would always lean on the other aspects of my life that didn’t have anything to do with skating — school, friendships, family, activities outside of the rink — and would let myself get lost in those for a little bit. I found that this helped me maintain balance, particularly because skating never became my identity; there were always other aspects of my life that held importance along with skating. That said, deep down I had such a drive to succeed, and I loved skating. Even on the hardest days, I was willing to stay at the rink and push through injuries or setbacks to feel like I accomplished more that day than I did the day before. Loving what you’re doing and having a clear image in your mind of the goals you’re trying to accomplish is something that has always helped me to push through hard times.

Q3: On ‘And I’m An Athlete’, you write that you’re a figure skater turned coach and a soon-to-be therapist. That’s such an interesting change of career, can you tell us a bit about what inspired and led to this change? As a coach and soon-to-be therapist, what’s your goal?

Sure! While I was able to maintain balance during my early teen years, when I was 17, my mom passed away from breast cancer. Suddenly I had to grow up extremely quickly, and I didn’t have the emotional tools and resources to help me manage a successful career as an elite athlete and cope with the loss of my mom. I remember the day after she passed away, I was back on the ice skating because I had a show that I had committed to the following weekend and needed to train. My mom passed away in August, which was right before the start of the 2002 Olympic season, and at the time, I felt like there was really not time to pause training and allow myself to “be a human” and grieve. And, to be honest, even if I had been granted the time to grieve I wouldn’t have known where to start.

Like so many athletes, I had never learned how to effectively experience and manage my emotions. I knew how to handle pressure pretty well, but beyond that, I didn’t know anything about my needs a person — I just knew how to be a good athlete. Because of this, I learned how to push aside my emotions for years, which led to developing an eating disorder the year after my mom passed away. The eating disorder became a way for me to regulate my emotions and feel control over the pressure I was feeling from my career as a skater and a lack of balance that I had during that time in my life. I was no longer going to school; skating had become my life. I started to believe that my self-worth was predicated on every competitive result, and my world became very small.

This ultimately led me to retire from skating a couple of months before the start of the 2006 Olympic season. Since returning to the sport over the last couple of years as a coach, I have been able to form a new relationship with skating and have seen that a lot the experiences that I went through as an athlete are experiences that the skaters I have worked with have also experienced. Whether it’s been trying to find balance in their lives, learning how to experience and effectively regulate their emotions, handling the pressure that comes from performing, achieving a healthy relationship with their body and learning how to achieve personal goals, I realized that there aren’t many behavioral coaching and mental health resources available that are catered specifically to athletes. I see a need in the figure skating and athletic world for this resource, so it inspired me to go back to school for my MSW to use my degree and personal experience to help all individuals (not just athletes) to achieve their goals, better understand themselves and thrive.

Q4: I read a quote somewhere recently where Jim Carrey said: “So many of us choose a path out of fear disguised as practicality.” I agree with this quote, and found that so many people were able to relate. What do you think? What’s one piece of advice you’d give to someone who wants to make some change or accomplish a set goal, but is afraid to do so?

That’s such a great quote, and I also agree with it! I think so many of us live our lives with fear in the driver’s seat — without even realizing it. I know I’ve lived like this in the past. We do what we feel we “should” do because it seems like the most practical, easiest route, even though deep down we know it’s going to make us miserable. We stop listening to ourselves, and often because of this, we become depressed, resentful and feel empty inside.

My biggest piece of advice for anyone who wants to accomplish a goal but is feeling fear is to just take one small step today. Just one. You don’t have to change your entire life or try to accomplish the goal today, but just take a step towards whatever it is that you want. It might be a baby, tip-toeing step, but take it. And then tomorrow, take one more. And the next day, take another. There is such power in just getting started. We often think that we have to have the entire plan mapped out to accomplish a goal — and, yes, that helps — but I’ve found that just starting to generate momentum is even more important than a clear plan. Once we start to take small steps towards our goals, we gain confidence, and then the steps become bigger and we realize that the fear we were feeling was just a story we were telling ourselves. We can really do anything we set our minds to, but we must be willing to take the first step to make it happen.

Q5: If there was one thing you could change about the world, what would it be?

Wow, this is a hard question! This answer may sound a bit odd, but nothing :) There are things that I am always looking to change and improve about myself, but part of that is realizing that trying to change anything external is wasted energy. I believe that if we were all to focus on improving ourselves, and becoming the best version of ourselves (which it really seems like you’ve been doing through this blog!), the world as a whole would improve immensely. Any external change is always a result of what happens within :)

Thought-Provoking Quotes That’ll Help You See Life Differently

Here’s a collection of thought-provoking quotes that I keep in my “Inspiration” journal that’ll help you see life differently.

With everything that has happened to you, you can either feel sorry for yourself or treat what has happened as a gift. Everything is either an opportunity to grow or an obstacle to keep you from growing. You get to choose. — Dr. Wayne W Dyer

You can’t design your life like a building. It doesn’t work that way. You just have to live it, and it will design itself. Listen to what the world is telling you to do and take the leap. — Lily Aldrin

Physical strength is measured by what we carry. Inner strength is measured by what we can bear. — Someone

Because sometimes, even if you know how something’s going to end, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the ride. — Ted Mosby

If you’re not scared then you’re not taking a chance. And if you’re not taking a chance, then what the hell are you doing anyway? — Ted Mosby

You can ask the universe for signs all you want but ultimately we’ll only see what we want to see… when we’re ready to see it. — Ted Mosby

We’re going to get older whether we like it or not, so the only question is whether we get on with our lives or desperately cling to the past. — Ted Mosby

The great moments of your life won’t necessarily be the things you do, they’ll also be the things that happen to you. Now, I’m not saying you can’t take action to affect the outcome of your life, you have to take action, and you will. But never forget that on any day, you can step out the front door and your whole life can change forever. You see, the universe has a plan, kids, and that plan is always in motion. A butterfly flaps its wings, and it starts to rain. It’s a scary thought, but it’s also kind of wonderful. All these little parts of the machine constantly working, making sure that you end up exactly where you’re supposed to be, exactly when you’re supposed to be there. The right place at the right time. — Ted Mosby

I’ve come to believe that all my past failure and frustrations were actually laying the foundation for the understandings that have created the new level of living I now enjoy. — Tony Robbins

Here’s the secret, kids. None of us can vow to be perfect. In the end all we can do is promise to love each other with everything we’ve got. Because love is the best thing we do. — Ted Mosby

You can’t cling to the past. Because no matter how tightly you hold on, it’s already gone. — Ted Mosby

I used to be in such a hurry all the time. Everything was so urgent. Now I figured out, if it’s going to happen it’ll happen. — Ted Mosby

Never forget that any day you could step out that front door, and your whole life could change forever — HIMYM

You may think your only choices are to swallow your anger or throw it in someone’s face, but there’s a third option: You can just let it go, and only when you do that is it really gone and you can move forward. — Ted Mosby

I am done trying to plan the unplannable — HIMYM

You can always find problems with any decision, but you can’t let that stop you. — HIMYM

Sometimes wonderful things come out of horrible situations — HIMYM

For the most part, if you are really honest with yourself about what you want out of your life, life gives it to you — HIMYM

Never underestimate the power of destiny, because when you least expect it, the littlest thing can cause a ripple effect that changes your life. — HIMYM

That’s the funny thing about destiny , it happens whether you plan it or not. — HIMYM

The past is never where you think you left it. — Katherine Anne Porter

Your past doesn’t define who you are. It just gives you the starting point for who you’re going to be. — Agent Carolina

Look at the stars, Clark. Some of them have been extinguished for thousands of years, but their light is only reaching us now. The past is always influencing the present. I can’t change that. All I can do is try to understand it. — Lex Luthor

Clark, love isn’t about playing it safe, it’s about risks. Unless you’re willing to put yourself out there, you’ll never know. — Lex Luthor

There’s nothing wrong with a good fight. Just remember, the man of tomorrow is forged by his battles today. — Lex Luthor

My father says you learn more about yourself when you lose. — Clark Kent

Mercurial doesn’t do you justice. — Lex Luthor

That, my friend, is the key to leadership. Not only knowing you’re right, but convincing everyone else. If you can do that, the world’s your oyster. — Lex Luthor

Oh please. You think I don’t see the way your parents look at me? The way half the town looks at me? You’re no different. Friendship’s a fairy tale, Clark. Respect and fear are the best you can hope for. — Lex Luthor

Napoleon’s mother couldn’t make it to his coronation. But when he commissioned it, Napoleon told David to paint her in as if she were there, right in the center. Even though she couldn’t be there physically he brought her into his life through sheer force of will. There to share in his greatness. — Lex Luthor

I once read about a rich man who survived a hotel fire. He hung onto the ledge for an hour before the fire department rescued him. Afterwards he bought the hotel…always stayed in the room. When they asked him why, he said he figured Fate couldn’t find him twice. — Lex Luthor

If you look at history the great men and women of the world have always been defined by their enemies. — Lex Luthor

You can quit if you want, but just remember that quitting’s a hard habit to break. — Lex Luthor

Just because I’m moving ahead with my life, that doesn’t mean I’m letting go of everything that came before. — Martha Kent

We’re all confronted by trials, son. But the true measure of a man is how he chooses to react in the face of those trials. — Johnathan Kent

A hero is made in the moment. Not from questioning the past or fearing what’s to come. — Braniac

You can’t let past failures prevent future success. — Recovery (2019)

The capacity for deluding ourselves that today’s reality is the only true one, on the one hand, sustains us, but on the other, it plunges us into an endless void, because today’s reality is destined to prove delusion for us tomorrow; and life doesn’t conclude. It can’t conclude. Tomorrow if it concludes, it’s finished.” — Luigi Pirandello

And the air is new. And everything, instant by instant, is as it is, preparing to appear. This is the only way I can live now. To be reborn moment by moment. I die at every instant, and I am reborn, new and without memories: live and whole, no longer inside myself, but in everything outside. — Luigi Pirandello

Do you recognize perhaps, also you, now, that a minute ago you were another? — Luigi Pirandello

Solitude is never where you are; it is always where you are not, and is only possible with a stranger present; whatever the place or whoever the person, it must be one that is wholly ignorant concerning you, and concerning which or whom you are equally ignorant, so that will and sensation remain suspended and confused in an anxious uncertainty, while with the ceasing of all affirmation on your part, your own inner consciousness ceases at the same time. True solitude is to be found in a place that lives a life of its own, but which for you holds no familiar footprint, speaks in no known voice, and where accordingly the stranger is yourself. — Luigi Pirandello


The Bad Alibi

In our nightmares, our brains simulate unresolved conflict. The only way to conquer our fears is to face them, so our minds force us to take a serious look at what we’re not properly dealing with in our waking lives. We’re churning through what makes us tick.

If certain factors of my life are any indication, I lack discipline and structure, and nothing has made me suffer enough to change me at my core. I haven’t received that fair shake in life, the one that follows a transformative yet brutally difficult experience.

AA has been giving me a lot of transformative moments, and I'm slowly beginning to teach and be of service instead of letting the ego take charge.

Here's what I've been learning, written out in a simple format.

  • Henri-Frédéric Amiel once said, “You desire to know the art of living, my friend? It is contained in one phrase: make use of suffering.” We are inseparable from our pain because pain is inevitable. What we choose to do about it, though, is optional. Be reactive or proactive? It is your choice, ultimately, and in the end, you are the sum of the choices in your life. 

  • Know this. You need to be grateful for your struggles because they can never fully be eradicated. If we get rid of our demons, we get rid of our angels as well. Life is about balance, and choosing faith over fear is where our path to a higher level of spirituality lies. Every moment is a test to see how determined we are to walk the right path, whatever that may be. Living in the moment is important. It does not matter what happened 5 minutes ago or 10 minutes ago. All you have is this minute, so live for it and be proactive about life and others.

  • We can only truly know something by comparison to its opposite.

The Bad Alibi

The majority of A.A. members have suffered severely from self-justification during their drinking days. For most of us, self-justification was the maker of excuses for drinking and for all kinds of crazy and damaging conduct. We had made the invention of alibis a fine art.

We had to drink because times were hard or times were good. We had to drink because at home we were smothered with love or got none at all. We had to drink because at work we were great successes or dismal failures. We had to drink because our nation had won a war or lost a peace. And so it went, ad infinitum.

To see how our own erratic emotions victimized us often took a long time. Where other people were concerned, we had to drop the word “blame” from our speech and thought.

Whether or not you're in AA does not matter. I wager that everyone reading this has played the victim and has mastered the art of bad alibis as an excuse to feel the way they do and continue to do absolutely nothing about it. Is your alibi a call-to-change-action, or an excuse to continue being the way you are, in your defects?

Whether or not you'll continue to repeat bad habits is not something I can ever know, but experience in dealing with people shows me that we hardly ever truly learn our lessons, which is why we need the constant reminder of pain and suffering to keep us humble.

What we are addicted to, then, isn't really damaging all on its own. Alcohol itself isn't toxic. Pills in and of themselves aren't a bad thing. Porn in itself isn't a bad thing. It is when our biological urges and strong impulses become unhealthily prioritized over everything else, that things begin to go awry. We prioritize our addictive behaviors to the point of self-destruction.

Self-control is a life lesson to learn. Indulgence is not.

The Old Cherokee

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. "A fight is going on inside me," he said to the boy.

"It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil - he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, lust, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego."

"The other is good - he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you - and inside every other person, too.” He continued.

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?" The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."

Recovery, Unity, Service

"You can take a three-legged stool, try to balance it on only one leg, or two. See what happens in usage. Our Three Legacies must be kept intact. 

  • In Recovery, we get sober together.

  • In Unity, we work together for the good of our steps and traditions.

  •  Through service, we give away freely what has been given to us.

Being Self-Centered To The Extreme

"Why all this insistence that every AA member must hit bottom first? The answer is that few people will sincerely try to practice the A.A. program unless they have hit bottom. For practicing A.A.'s remaining eleven Steps means the adoption of attitudes and actions that almost no alcoholic who is still drinking can dream of taking. Who wishes to be rigorously honest and tolerant? Who wants to confess his faults to another and make restitution for harm done? Who cares anything about a Higher Power, let alone meditation and prayer? Who wants to sacrifice time and energy in trying to carry A.A.'s message to the next sufferer? No, the average alcoholic, self-centered in the extreme, doesn't care for this prospect— unless he has to do these things in order to stay alive himself."

Simply put, we are our best selves when we are humble. Our scars give us character and they are a reminder that who we were, self-centered in the extreme, got us into the mess of the human condition. Being there for others is important. It does not matter what damage they have done to us. They must take their inventory and learn their own defects of character. We are required, as human beings, to help them in their current circumstances. The past is out of sight and mind. How can you help them? No, you may not like them. That's fine. But this isn't about liking. It's about our moral obligation to be free of resentment and retaliation.

Plus, if you spot it, you got it! If there's something you don't like in others it's more than likely that they mirror something inside of you that you don't like.

Anyway. Be of service to others, follow a good path and don't let past failures prevent present-moment success.

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