One of my favorite new technologies is wireless headphones. I absolutely love that when I’m doing the dishes or another mundane task that doesn’t require a lot of brainpower I can pop on my noise-cancelling headphones and head off on the high seas with Jack Aubrey and Steven Maturin, or fight Trollocs alongside Rand, Matt, and Perrin, or listen to Chip and Dan Heath explain how to strategically plan life-changing moments for myself and those around me. OK, I listen to a lot of audiobooks, and my wife certainly tires of having to repeat herself to get my attention, but it feels more productive and enjoyable to me if I have something to listen to when I have to do something mundane.
So, as I was gasping at the length of chapter 8 of The Public Domain, A Creative Commons, I decided I needed to get myself something to eat. Rather than squander all of that time that I was preparing a snack (which is usually a lengthy process for me, I don’t just grab a bag of chips…) and then eating it, I decided I would try to maximize my efficiency. A quick Google search revealed that there is a text-to-speech extension for Chrome called “Read Aloud“. So I downloaded it, deciding to give it a whirl. It’s fantastic! At first the reading voice sounds a little stilted and computer-y, but the technology has really come a long way since the last time I tried to use a text-to-speech, five or six years ago, and I got used to it quickly. You can highlight any part of a document, and the voice will start reading there, but then continue until you pause (if your wife needs your attention, for instance) and then resume where you left off.
I know that I can read faster with my eyes than my ears, but the old ocular organs do get tired after a while, and it was nice to give them a break, letting my ears do the work. It’s an added benefit that with the headphones I don’t even have to be in the same room, and I can walk around or make myself a sandwich.