Geek Heaven, Akihabara.

I certainly miss the technology and gadgets that I encountered each day in Japan, Especially now that I am manufacturing tablet devices for education.

With broadband connections ten times faster than the U.S. and 90 percent of the population owning mobile phones, it is not surprising that Japan has its own “Electronic Town.”
Called Akihabara, it is the center of “otaku” or geek culture in Tokyo.

In this “geek heaven” it is possible to buy anything from spy cameras to underground computer games.

“Tokyo is the hot bed for new electronics in the whole world,” said Serkan Toto, Japanese correspondent for the Tech Crunch news blog. “Japan is a very advanced technology-wise, it’s a nation of early adopters.” Japan’s electric town is a covered market stockpiled with any and every kind of electrical component a dedicated geek could dream of.

Screenshot 2015-12-09 23.39.01

Radio Street is a must for the hackers and makers among Japan’s cadre of geeks who are seeking components to start or finish a DIY electrical project.

“You can come here and build to your heart’s content,” says technology consultant Steve Nagata, who is also known as the “King of Akihabara”.

For Mr. Nagata, Japan’s long-standing obsession with technology springs from a wish to understand what is behind lots of gadgets.

“It comes from a deep interest in things around them and wanting to find out how things work and know what each component does,” said Mr Nagata.

Akihabara hosts more than just component shops. Finished goods are on sale too. Those willing to rummage can find anything from old radio tubes to audio recorders, high-end surveillance equipment and the low end too, such as a tie with a built-in camera.

“This is a very big part of Akihabara, the surveillance equipment with every kind of camera from professional grade to little teeny cameras that you can stick into all sorts of different things,” said Mr. Nagata.

The equipment itself is legal but how you use it may definitely run afoul of certain restrictions”. “You really never do know when someone is watching you,” he added.

As might be expected Akihabara reflects the thriving underground, homemade software culture in Japan.

“This is a garage software industry for anyone from individuals to small clubs or a company that produce and sell unlicensed software,” said Mr. Nagata. “There are exact look-alikes to completely original software, this stuff is just as impressive as major console software.”

The products cost less than the titles from the major gaming brands but, said Mr. Nagata, making money is not the main aim for the folk behind the software.

“This is very much a labor of love, something that they do out of their affection towards a particular character or style of gaming,” said Mr. Nagata. “It’s their attempt to fill the world with something that they want to exist in it”


Geezers have become digitally savvy.

Vine vs Snap

It’s often assumed that older people generally aren’t very digitally savvy — but research from Pew indicates that older people are becoming about as skilled online as younger ones.

According to the latest Generations report from the Pew Internet and American Life project, the biggest online trend is that, while the very youngest and oldest cohorts may differ, certain key internet uses are becoming more uniformly popular across all age groups.

The study found that internet users aged 34 and older are more likely than those age 33 and younger to engage in several online activities, including visiting government sites and getting financial information online.

These online activities are becoming more uniformly popular across all age groups: e-mail, search engines, getting health information, following the news, researching or making purchases (including travel reservations), online banking, supplying reviews or ratings, donating to charity, and downloading podcasts.

And get ready: Your grandmother might soon try to friend you on Facebook.

Even though younger people are significantly more likely to use social networking services, Pew reports that the fastest growth has come from internet users 74 and older: social network site usage for this oldest cohort has grown since 2010, from 16% to 22%.

Some online trends are creeping down the age ladder, too. According to Pew, it used to be mostly older adults who searched for online health information. But now this has become “the third most popular online activity for all internet users 18 and older.”

With smartphone penetration at over 75% wireless net access is definitely not the exclusive province of youth. Like the latest iPass mobile workforce study — which put the median aged of a mobile-enabled worker at 46 — Pew found that 55% of people aged 46-55 access websites or other digital media or services via a laptop, cell phone, or other internet-connected mobile device. That figure drops to 46% for people aged 56-64, and 33% for people aged 65-73.

The bottom line is, don’t assume you know how digitally savvy someone is based on their age.

National Hot Dog Day

Today is National Hot Dog Day! Hot dogs are one of the most iconic American foods. No cookout or baseball game would be complete without a delicious hot dog served on a bun and covered in ketchup, mustard, onions, relish, or chili.

Hot dogs (which are also known as frankfurters, franks, wieners, dogs, and red hots) have been around since the late 1800s. Today, the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council estimates that Americans consume 20 billion hot dogs a year!
I will have one at Chris’ in Montgomery, Alabama on my next visit!

7 Things Highly Productive People Do

Multi task

Ilya Pozin wrote this for Inc. Online a couple of years back; I read it again and I began to worry…I need to focus! With my new company in full swing and zero full time staff I thought I better re-learn to focus.

“We all probably don’t want to admit it but we love distractions. In fact, just like monkeys, you get a shot of dopamine every time something pulls you in another direction. Why do you think you check your email so much?”

Want to be more productive and get your focus back? There are no secret tricks here… do one thing at a time. Stop multitasking—it’s just another form of distraction.

Easier said than done, I know. I have been trained working for large firms that muliti-tasking was a skill and an asset.

Before Ilya wrote her story she sat down with Tony Wong, a project management blackbelt whose client list includes Toyota, Honda, and Disney, to name a few. He’s an expert in keeping people on task.

Here are his tips for staying productive:

1) Work backwards from goals to milestones to tasks.

Writing “launch company website” at the top of your to-do list is a sure way to make sure you never get it done. Break down the work into smaller and smaller chunks until you have specific tasks that can be accomplished in a few hours or less: Sketch a wireframe, outline an introduction for the homepage video, etc. That’s how you set goals and actually succeed in crossing them off your list.

2) Stop multi-tasking.

No, seriously—stop. Switching from task to task quickly does not work. In fact, changing tasks more than 10 times in a day makes you dumber than being stoned. When you’re stoned, your IQ drops by five points. When you multitask, it drops by an average of 10 points, 15 for men, five for women (yes, men are three times as bad at multitasking than women).

3) Be militant about eliminating distractions.

Lock your door, put a sign up, turn off your phone, texts, email, and instant messaging. In fact, if you know you may sneak a peek at your email, set it to offline mode, or even turn off your Internet connection. Go to a quiet area and focus on completing one task.

4) Schedule your email.

Pick two or three times during the day when you’re going to use your email. Checking your email constantly throughout the day creates a ton of noise and kills your productivity.

5) Use the phone.

Email isn’t meant for conversations. Don’t reply more than twice to an email. Pick up the phone instead. This goes for texting as well.

6) Work on your own agenda.

Don’t let something else set your day. Most people go right to their emails and start freaking out. You will end up at inbox-zero, but accomplish nothing. After you wake up, drink water so you rehydrate, eat a good breakfast to replenish your glucose, then set prioritized goals for the rest of your day.

7) Work in 60 to 90 minute intervals.

Your brain uses up more glucose than any other bodily activity. Typically you will have spent most of it after 60-90 minutes. (That’s why you feel so burned out after super long meetings.) So take a break: Get up, go for a walk, have a snack, do something completely different to recharge. And yes, that means you need an extra hour for breaks, not including lunch, so if you’re required to get eight hours of work done each day, plan to be there for 9.5-10 hours.

Well now if I can follow these tips maybe I can overcome that fact that I have zero staff and get something extraordinary done.

Branson’s top five tips for starting a successful business

I have started a few businesses during my career with various levels of success. Now after starting yet another company, GentleKing Education, I thought it was time to revisit Richard Branson’s tips for starting a successful business. I believe these tips are essential to at least getting some positive traction.                    branson2

1. Listen more than you talk

We have two ears and one mouth, using them in proportion is not a bad idea! To be a good leader you have to be a great listener. Brilliant ideas can spring from the most unlikely places, so you should always keep your ears open for some shrewd advice. This can mean following online comments as closely as board meeting notes, or asking the frontline staff for their opinions as often as the CEOs. Get out there, listen to people, draw people out and learn from them.

2. Keep it simple

You have to do something radically different to stand out in business. But nobody ever said different has to be complex. There are thousands of simple business solutions to problems out there, just waiting to be solved by the next big thing in business. Maintain a focus upon innovation, but don’t try to reinvent the wheel. A simple change for the better is far more effective than five complicated changes for the worse.

3. Take pride in your work

Last week I enjoyed my favourite night of the year, the Virgin Stars of the Year Awards, where we celebrated some of those people who have gone the extra mile for us around the Virgin world. With so many different companies, nationalities and personalities represented under one roof, it was interesting to see what qualities they all have in common. One was pride in their work, and in the company they represent. Remember your staff are your biggest brand advocates, and focusing on helping them take pride will shine through in how they treat your customers.

4. Have fun, success will follow

If you aren’t having fun, you are doing it wrong. If you feel like getting up in the morning to work on your business is a chore, then it’s time to try something else. If you are having a good time, there is a far greater chance a positive, innovative atmosphere will be nurtured and your business will fluorish. A smile and a joke can go a long way, so be quick to see the lighter side of life.

5. Rip it up and start again

If you are an entrepreneur and your first venture isn’t a success, welcome to the club! Every successful businessperson has experienced a few failures along the way – the important thing is how you learn from them. Don’t allow yourself to get disheartened by a setback or two, instead dust yourself off and work out what went wrong. Then you can find the positives, analyse where you can improve, rip it up and start again.

George Carlin’s View on Aging.

I always think of George Carlin’s views on aging the night before my birthday. Can imagine why… especially now that so many of  are aging (gracefully I would like to think) his views seem appropriate.

“Do you realize that the only time in our lives when we like to get old is when we’re kids? If you’re less than 10 years old, you’re so excited about aging that you think in fractions.

‘How old are you?’ ‘I’m four and a half!’ You’re never thirty-six and a half. You’re four and a half, going on five! That’s the key

You get into your teens, now they can’t hold you back. You jump to the next number, or even a few ahead.

‘How old are you?’ ‘I’m gonna be 16!’ You could be 13, but hey, you’re gonna be 16! And then the greatest day of your life. You become 21. Even the words sound like a ceremony . YOU BECOME 21. YESSSS!!!

But then you turn 30. Oooohh, what happened there? Makes you sound like bad milk! He TURNED; we had to throw him out. There’s no fun now, you’re Just a sour-dumpling. What’s wrong? What’s changed?

You BECOME 21, you TURN 30, then you’re PUSHING 40. Whoa! Put on the brakes, it’s all slipping away. Before you know it, you REACH 50 and your dreams are gone.

But wait!!! You MAKE it to 60. You didn’t think you would!

So you BECOME 21, TURN 30, PUSH 40, REACH 50 and MAKE it to 60.

You’ve built up so much speed that you HIT 70! After that it’s a day-by-day thing; you HIT Wednesday!

You get into your 80’s and every day is a complete cycle; you HIT lunch; you TURN 4:30 ; you REACH bedtime. And it doesn’t end there. Into the 90s, you start going backwards; ‘I Was JUST 92.’

Then a strange thing happens. If you make it over 100, you become a little kid again. ‘I’m 100 and a half!’

May you all make it to a healthy 100 and a half!!

Is the internet replacing our memory?

Well the web and google have certainly put all the answers I need at my fingertips but has that wreaked havoc on my ability to remember even the simplest trivia? Doh!
I can’t remember the name of the movie last saw last year starring Emily Deschanel’s sister. Or that restaurant where I ate chicken curry just last week but with an Internet connection and a few keystrokes, I can probably figure out the answer in a matter of minutes, tops. My mom had me googling every half hour.

What happened to Zasu Pitts? Or where is the Singing Nun today?  These were just a couple of her most obscure searches.
The flip side, suggests new research in the Journal Science, is that when you rely on having information stored somewhere, you may be less likely to remember it yourself.

“We are becoming symbiotic with our computer tools, growing into interconnected systems that remember less by knowing information than by knowing where information can be found,” the study authors write.

But before you freak out about machines doing all the remembering for you, consider that people have always relied on each other for retrieving information, even before computers.

In fact, in any group of two or more people who know each other, there develops what’s called transactive memory systems. That means that you use other people as external memory, because they have specific knowledge and expertise that you don’t.

“The internet, when you think about it, is people putting content online. And so what it’s doing is, it’s allowing us to have access to much more external memory. Our network of people is just vastly expanded.,” said Betsy Sparrow, assistant professor of psychology at Columbia University and lead author of the study.

In one of Sparrow’s experiments, participants read and typed trivia statements that could be found online, such as “An ostrich’s eye is bigger than its brain.” Participants were told that the statements would be saved to different folders with generic names such as “Facts, etc.” They then had to write down as many of the statements as they remembered and were asked to name the folder in which the information had been saved.

Remarkably, people were much better able to recall the folder names of the trivia statements than the trivia itself. In other words, people remembered the “where” better than the “what.”

As with people accustomed to looking up their questions on resources such as Wikipedia and Google, participants may have expected information to remain available indefinitely, and so the source of the information stuck with them better than the trivia statements themselves, the study authors said.

Another experiment showed that people seem to remember information better if they believe it won’t be accessible later, and more easily forget items that they believe will always be available.

“I thought that telling people to try to remember it, even though it would be accessible, would do something. It did absolutely nothing,” Sparrow said.

But Sparrow isn’t worried that relying on external memory systems like the Internet is going to cause our brains to atrophy. There might be things that we used to know and forget, but we’ll still hang on to what’s useful on a daily basis, she said.

“The stuff that we’re experts in, that we’re the source for other people, is stuff I think we’ll always remember, regardless of whether it’s online or not,” she said.

I look at it yet another way, before if I did not remember a fact I just put it out of my head totally, now I look it up and try and commit it to memory. Where are my keys.