What I learnt aged 12

Brain AreasLast week’s The American Life was a middle school special and was full of insights into the American tween. One fact that stayed with me is that kids go through a massive spurt of brain-growth at this time, peaking at 11 for girls and 12 for boys. At this point, brain cells battle it out and the most used survive – so if you did dance or gymnastics then the right hemisphere (which controls visual spatial skills) will dominate for life. An expert on the show said she can still remember all the ballet moves she learnt at that age.

When I was 12 I was writing computer programs in BASIC. I’m not a (well paid) programmer now because I discovered music and radio a few years later and gave it up. However over the past few weeks I’ve been hacking php and css on a WordPress blog. Despite knowing next to nothing about both I’ve found it easy to figure out and enjoyable to do. Now, WordPress php isn’t the most complicated of languages and I looked at lots of help forums but I do believe it was that grounding at age 12 that helped my 36 year old brain pick it up.

Sadly I didn’t do many interpersonal things aged 12 like socialise with a large group of friends or follow sport.

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AlfredI was flicking through the free apps on the Apple Desktop App Store the other day (flicking through app stores is like window shopping for me) and I came across Alfred.

Alfred, as the name might suggests, is a bit of butler for your Mac. Pressing alt+space brings up box where you type what you want. Unlike a butler it will not get you anything you want but what it does is very helpful.

Start typing the name of an application and it will find it and launch it (useful if like me your applications folder is full of free ones you’ve bought). Type ‘spell’ and an attempt at the spelling of a word and it will give you the correct one. Type a sum and it will work it out.

It will also search the web for you. For this you can define a shortcode so I just need to type ‘g’ and a term to search Google or ‘am’ and a product for Amazon.

Alfred is working on more features in a paid ‘powerpack’ version but I’m happy with my freebie.

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Talking to people in the street

I spent yesterday on a Lean Startup Workshop. As customer development is a key part of Lean we were given the task of going out onto the streets of London to ask real people what they thought of our business ideas.

As my group’s idea was something we thought students would use I had the bright idea of heading to the University of Westminster steps and talking to the smokers. I was particularly keen to do this as I didn’t want to stop people in the street. In a city of chuggers I thought people would hate us for stopping them.

The smoking students were great but the university security told us we couldn’t talk to their students on their property and made us move into the street.

Afterwards the other workshop groups commented on how happy most people were to talk to them. It turns out people on the streets of London are nice and helpful. One group went inside the British Museum to quiz visitors — security didn’t bother them.