Converting IPA text into speech to hear how words are pronounced

If you’ve ever looked in a dictionary, or at a Wikipedia entry, you’ll have seen IPA text, although you may not be familiar with what it is.

IPA is the International Phonetic Alphabet. It’s a set of phonemes, which are all the different sounds the mouth makes in language. It’s needed because our 26 letters (in English) don’t cut the whole range of sounds that we make. For example, the a in cat is pronounced differently from the a in bake, which is pronounced different still from the a in far.

So when you see a word being defined (as in a dictionary or on Wikipedia), it will often have these characters (such as /kəˈlʌmbɪdiː/), demonstrating how the word should be pronounced, which is really useful, assuming you know how to decode it.

Being more efficient with Google Chrome’s search engines feature

Google Chrome completely broke the mould when it was released in 2008. One of the many ways it did this was with the “omnibox”. Today, this feature is ubiquitous in all web browsers (such that you probably don’t even know what the omnibox is!), but it’s where you can enter a web address, or enter a term and search for that term, all from one convenient place (before that, there were separate boxes for each function – I know, crazy times!).

You set a default search engine so that if what you enter in the omnibox is not a valid URL, it will search that search engine for whatever you entered.

And that is where most people’s usage of the omnibox stops. However, there is a way that you can search all sorts of sites with great ease, something that I’ve been doing for many years, and which saves me a great deal of time instead of bouncing around various sites unnecessarily.

Choosing the right privacy tools

I try to stay on top of privacy issues, and I’m probably ahead of most people, but I’m also far from a leader in this area. Life is just too busy to stay on top of all of it.

Today however, I came across a website, which lists online privacy tools. It was surprisingly thorough and easy to navigate. All of the tools are sorted into categories (such as VPNs, web browsers, online maps, messaging clients etc.), and each tool has a very brief write-up of what sets them apart, and a simple rating.

Why Ranked Choice Voting is better and what Oregonians can do about it

A significant majority of Americans agree that the current political system is not serving them well. Common refrains are that Congress is always at a deadlock, they’re having to choose between two far-from-ideal choices, that third-party candidates “spoil” the vote, and that their vote doesn’t matter.

You can hardly blame them. There’s a lot of truth to that, and in large part, our current first-past-the-post voting system, where whoever gets the most votes wins, is to blame.

Last-minute CYA from those around Trump

Since Wednesday’s atrocious attack on the US Capitol, there have been mounting calls for Trump’s resignation/impeachment/removal from office and while I certainly think that Trump is unfit to be President (and this was true long before Wednesday), the people and companies now seeking to distance themselves from him are worse than those who continue to stand by him.

At this point, there are just 12 days left of Trump’s presidency and while Wednesday’s events are undoubtedly heinous, there have been myriad times and reasons prior to this siege to have said “enough in enough”.

Those who never before stood up to Trump or called him out, but are now doing so, are simply taking the coward’s way out of jumping on to a life raft while the Trump ship takes on more water than it can sustain.

How to automatically approve shifts in Microsoft Teams

Since COVID-19 came along and required us to have more space between people, it has been necessary to find tools which allow us to limit the number of people that work together in a given space.

As an Office Manager, I quickly found the Shifts tool in Microsoft Teams. It proved really promising, but after giving it a shot for a few weeks, I quickly found its biggest pain point: Teams requires you to approve a shift that someone signs up for.

That’s a necessary and useful step in many industries, such as hospitality, however, in my case, I wanted to create a set number of open shifts, to limit occupancy of our office to 25%, and just have people sign up for them on a first-come, first-served basis, but the manager approval step quickly became a bottleneck, especially when people were looking to come to the office on short notice.

I finally found a solution that I just tested which removes the manager approval step by automatically approving shift requests.

Drawing a line in the sand with Donald Trump and the Republican Party

Featured image by CAHIER D’ART on Istagram

The piece of art above helped me to have a clearer mind on where I stand with respect to Donald Trump and how it should shape my activism.

At the heart of everything, I believe in individuals’ right to have their opinions and I indeed I appreciate having good discussions on any number of topics with people who have different points of view than me.

However, in certain situations, you just have to draw a line. This is one of those situations. It’s not just that I disagree with Donald Trump and his supporters on so many issues. It’s that he’s objectively a terrible human being, who puts his own interests above those of others, while turning a blind eye to the damage that his racist, sexist, self-centered remarks and actions have.

The Social Dilemma

“We live in a world in which a tree is worth more, financially, dead than alive, in a world in which a whale is worth more dead than live. For so long as our economy works in that way and corporations go unregulated, they’re going to continue to destroy trees, to kill whales, to mine the earth, and to continue to pull oil out of the ground, even though we know it is destroying the planet, and we know that it’s going to leave a worse world for future generations.

This is short term thinking based on this religion of profit at all costs, as if somehow, magically, each corporation acting in its selfish interest is going to produce the best result. This has been affecting the environment for a long time. What’s frightening and what hopefully is the last straw that will make us wake up as a civilization to how flawed this theory has been in the first place is to see that now we’re the tree, we’re the whale. Our attention can be mined. We are more profitable to a corporation if we’re spending our time staring at a screen, staring at an ad, than if we’re spending that time living our life in a rich way. And so we’re seeing the results of that. We’re seeing corporations using powerful artificial intelligence to outsmart us and figure out how to pull our attention toward the things they want us to look at rather than the things that are most consistent with our goals and our values and our lives.”

– The Social Dilemma