3 Free Chrome Extensions that Read Browser Text

People are different kinds – ones who absorb best through reading, ones who prefer the audio instructions and then the visual types who understand most through animation or videos.

Then there are also my type – We just don’t want to grow up. Still want someone to read us a bed time story before we go to sleep. Mom’s reading to the grandchildren, wife’s got better things to do in life, but thankfully there are the following tools which happily read out the text from the browser without making a fuss about it. These are all free to be used with Chrome, and my favorite among these is SpeakIt.

Goes without saying, this is a great tool for children also who would prefer someone reading stuff out to them. I particularly enjoy playing and replaying the blog or article for better understanding of the content. This is an aspect where reading usually isn’t that enjoyable, and besides it can harm the eyes. So, tune in guys:

SpeakIt

SpeakIt is a simple TTS (text to speech) tool. Kids highlight text in Chrome, click a button, and listen as the words are read aloud. This extension can read in more than 50 languages. Kids can adjust the speaking pace and select from a few voices. A similar TTS option on Chrome is Voice Instead.

Price: Free

Read Mode

Read Mode removes visual clutter from web pages to make them easier to read. It eliminates ads and animations and converts web pages into simple black-on-white text articles.

Chrome has a few variations on Read Mode that your child may want to try. For instance, Reader View also converts pages into text, and lets kids change the font and font size. And with Easy Reader, kids can select one section or part of page to view as reader-friendly text.

Price: Free

OneNote Web Clipper

With Web Clipper, kids can save anything from the Internet to OneNote, Microsoft’s note-taking platform. (Microsoft applications like OneNote and Word can be used in Chrome and other web browsers.) This allows kids to use Microsoft’s Immersive Reader to read text aloud from web pages. They can also look up word definitions and control the spacing, color and size of text for easier reading.

Price: Free

Are You Feeding Your Child’s Curiousity?

Dad brought a street puppy home last week in the morning. It was a weekday, so Tanav, my 7 year old son, was out to school at that time. Sohana, my 3 year old daughter, was home though. She had a wonderful time. She goes to her playschool at 11 AM so there was enough time for her to play with this little guy.

By the time Tanav came home, Dad had already taken the puppy back to its mother. Sohana considers this even more fun because she had the exclusive privilege to meet with the pup, and Tanav missed it!

That’s how kids are. Actually, adults are no different, except may be us adults are worse.

Anyway, Sohana shared it with Tanav adding all the intricate details which left him heartbroken. He had missed out on all the fun!

So, Tanav was after Grandpa to bring the puppy again at a time when he was home. After some pestering, Grandpa decided to take the kids to show the puppies. Both Tanav and Sohana headed out with great enthusiasm.

When they returned, Tanav suddenly asked, “Where do we human babies get milk from?

Apparently, when went there, the puppy was busy being nursed by its mother along with his other 5 siblings. That explained his curiosity.

Quite frankly, whenever such difficult question comes, the first reaction is to skirt it. It is a taboo topic afterall. That’s what we did too. He asked a couple of times, and moved on to something else.

Next day, as Deepti, my wife and I were going to work, we talked about it and decided that we should not ignore our little ones innocent questions. If we did that, he would ultimately stop asking us questions. In any case, children curiosity needs to be fed and he would look for answers from other people or places. We don’t want to take that risk.

In the evening, Deepti explained to Tanav, of course in an age appropriate way, how mums nurse and breastfeed their babies.

Kamasutra
Kamasutra

Tanav even had counter questions such as, “Can a Mom feed someone else’s baby?” and “How long does a baby need to be breastfed?”.

It was difficult for Deepti to share this but we’re glad she did.

Just when we felt relaxed to have been successful in climbing a little parental hill, there was more coming.

Tanav was watching TV, a song was playing that had caught the little man’s attention. I knew something was brewing in his mind. Moments later he asked, “Papa, What is Kamasutra?

Whoever said parenting was easy!

What’s Your Mission This Month?

“It is so scary, any vehicle could hit on the foot rest!”, said Mom instantly as I opened the entrance door to let her in. Her words sounded as if I was the one responsible for her plight.

“What happened, Mom?”, I asked already knowing that she was complaining about the two wheeler (scooter) ride with Dad. She comes back with Dad on his scooter after her daily evening walks in the park.

“I am not sitting on the God forsaken scooter ever again!” replied Mom.

By now I was getting irritated. I controlled myself and said in a very plain matter-of-factly tone, “You have said that at least 20,000 times before, Mom!”

This was the first time I had responded that way. But I had to say it, not because I wanted to upset Mom further or to trivialize what she was trying to say but because that was the truth! Well, the count of 20k is an exaggeration but the point is that Dad is almost 70, Mom 66 and what I have heard ever since I was a child are a lot of complains.

Kids Grow Up So Fast
Be grateful for what you have and stop complaining – it bores everybody else, does no good, and doesn’t solve any problems.  – Zig Ziglar

 

Perhaps we all do such seemingly harmless venting out every now and then. Things after all don’t always go as we please. But there are still some options one has:

1. Complain, complain, complain… (the chosen option always so far!)

2. Be happy that God has been kind to let you travel with your partner. (too far fetched?)

3. Convince your partner and get him to bring the car for you (too difficult , life is not a romantic movie, or may be you can give it a try and make it one?)

4. Get convinced and make your own arrangement to come back. (too bold? Going against your husband when you should instead be making sacrifices for him! How can a woman go against her man for selfish interest?)

Option 1 seems to be the wrong-est to me.

One – It doesn’t help you. Especially if you complain to me, a third person. Unless, of course,  if you wanted me to help you, which you clearly don’t (as I have realized over the years). For if I do talk to Dad, you would come back defending Dad and say that “It’s okay, at least he picks me up!”. I have been confused enough and don’t want to remain so any further.

Two – It doesn’t help Dad. He is practical with a capital P! He can’t understand emotions, so either you stop coming back with him or stop complaining! Period.

Three, and most importantly (as far as I am concerned) – It doesn’t help me. Parents need to realize that the moods of parents impact the children’s moods directly. Even if I am feeling low, I should be cautious in sharing my feelings with my children, unless I want them to help me. I need to be clear how I would want them to help me. Otherwise, the sheer lack of clarity or sharing for the heck of it, is only going to cause harm to both the parties. You feel worse by re-living those moments – of being driven in a haggard scooter when Dad has two cars waiting in the garage to come out. The child (I) will feel miserable simply because the parent feels so, and on top of that, the feeling of being helpless for the person who means the world to the child.

I don’t doubt your intentions Mom. Not even once! Just that you didn’t think this would cause any harm. But well, that’s what it did!

Took me a long time (half the average lifespan in India) to realize this. It’s a very long time. A lot of life. But I have learnt my lesson. As a parent, I need to be careful, for my child will never be happy to see his Dad or his Mom unhappy and helpless. So, let me not get him or her into a situation like that unless I genuinely need them to help. If I need them to help, I would need to phrase it differentlyOtherwise, don’t care to share with them. In fact, care enough not to share with them. 

I love you Mom, and can’t thank God enough for blessing me with you as my Mom. You always meant the world to me and always will. I owe to you whatever I am today. As I pass on the good things to gen next, I also should put a stop to the few that didn’t work. That’s all!

The men are playing the men’s game on facebook, “No Shave November” this month. Can I challenge the parents to a No Complains December?  


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How Well Do You Know Your Child?

I recently saw the video of Otto Frank, Anne Frank’s father.

One of the things he says in this video quite touched me. He says that, “Anne and I were very close and used to talk about everything under the sun. However, when I read her diaries, I discovered a very different Anne than the one I knew as my daughter. I didn’t ever know this side of her which was so serious and had such deep thoughts and feelings.

Otto Frank claims in the same video that most people don’t really know their children.

That’s not me though, I thought. Perhaps, you think the same. 

OK. What if the question was “How well do I know my kids?”

“Very well.”

“..better than I know my own self!”

I am sure many parents will be tempted to say something similar to one of the options from the list above. I know because I had felt the same way. Until.. yesterday.


YESTERDAY


I had my own perception of how Tanav would rank his closest play friends, in order of his preference or likeness. It was based on my own assessment of them and what I had heard from conversations with Tanav.

My challenge was to see how close my ranking was to Tanav’s ranking of them!

I asked him who he would rank first, second and so on and why. Below are the findings:

(♥names changed to protect myself from being killed by their parents♥)

(♥although I have an decryption algorithm to get to their real names even 30 years from now .. Hasta la vista, baby 🙂 ♥)

#1 Mishika– She brings snacks and always shares with me.

#2 Sharad– He is also my mate at the handwriting classes. The more I know him, the more I like him.

#3 Aryan – He is straight forward.

#4 Nancy – She smells badly!

#5 Tanvi – She cheats!

..Well, my assessment couldn’t have been more wrong! Here’s what I had thought about Tanav’s preference:

#1 Nancy – She is nice, helpful and docile. (Well. but the sweat! How about we gift you a deodorant on your birthday?)

#2 Tanvi – She is very sharp and bright kid. (You don’t need to cheat kiddo, and if you do, at least don’t get caught!)

#3 Mishika – Nice but clever and nagging. (Ok, you are the sharing kinds too. Kudos!)

#4 Sharad – He is little and doesn’t get it! (..but you’re always there!)

#5 Aryan – He is a bully! (and one who doesn’t mince words!)

How Well Do You Know Them?

I recalled in the evening that Tanav had forgotten to rank Jannat.

Jannat, the cute little girl who he plays with and is very fond of. Once Dad had brought a puppy home, and I saw Tanav daydreaming about Jannat, “If Jannat likes Sohana (Tanav’s little sister) so much, I wonder how much would she like this puppy!”

I asked him later at night, “Hey Tanav, you forgot to rank Jannat?”

“Papa, move Mishika down from where she was before, and replace her with Jannat.”, was his instant reply.

I was amazed with his promptness and couldn’t help recall the endless hours we usually spend in ranking our work subordinates during the annual performance appraisals.

I asked, “Why is Jannat at #1 Tanav?”

He moved away from TV and stepped closer to me, “..because she is very thishe said as he pulled my left cheek with his right hand.

I get it, buddy! At least, we are on the same page on this.

Well. Now, it’s your turn to take the challenge. Wish you good luck! Please do share your findings and comments below.

Can The “Average You” Be Successful?


THE FUN RACE


I had got back home after running The Devil’s Circuit last evening.

Devil’s Circuit is considered to be the BIGGEST obstacle running series in India. A 5 KM run with 15 commando-styled obstacles: bloody logs, torture trenches, barbed wires, swimming icy-cold water, pools of shrill, deadly swings et al.!

I participate in runs occasionally. It is a fun way to test my limits. But this one was different and very rugged!

I was so wasted and yet so happy! (see my family picture right after the run.)

I had brought back with me: a sense of pride, a slight headache and a lot of mud all over me.

After a shower and a failed attempt to wash away the mud from my shoes, I dozed off.Average You


THE RAT RACE


When I woke up, Deepti, my wife, told me that she had been to the chemist to bring some aspirin for me (she’s a sweetheart!). But she looked a bit upset.

The Chemist, Mr. Batra is our neighbor. His son, Raghav and Tanav, our 6 year old son, study in the same grade albeit in different schools (and thankfully so! You’ll agree as you read further).

Deepti told me about the conversation she had with him.

Mr. Batra: “Aren’t you waiting for Tanav’s results, with bated breath?”

Deepti: “Well, kind of. We’re eager to see his teacher and find out how he’s been doing.”

Mr. Batra: “We are so curious to find out if Raghav stood First in the class this time or Second!”

Deepti: “Really? Wow!”

Mr. Batra: “What about Tanav? Does he stand First or Second in his class?” 

(Yes, he had the audacity to ask that!)

Deepti: “Well, they don’t have ranks in his school in junior grades.”

Mr. Batra: “But you would have an idea, won’t you?”

Deepti: “No..”

Now I understood why Deepti was upset. She must have been infuriated with the conversation.

“What would you have said had he asked you?” She asked me.

I told her, “I don’t know about myself but if it was Tanav’s Grandpa, he would surely have said – Tanav is always No. 1. Numero Uno!”

Which he is. And which he always will be! For us – as parents.

Tanav surprises me with his curiosity and his fresh ideas totally amaze me.  He enjoys learning and loves a few subjects a lot. He is a happy kid.

But he is not good at everything! In the usual parlance, he is ‘an average‘, or, at best, ‘an above average‘ child.


BEING “AVERAGE”


Deepti’s conversation with Mr. Batra reminded me of a workshop I had recently attended.

A well-built, tall and confident man, Vikram, had conducted it. It was a fantastic workshop but I remembered what Vikram said in the end:

“I am a very average man.”

A lot of inquisitive heads turned in the audience.

He continued, “I’ve had highs and lows in my career. What has made me successful though is the process I follow rather than my intelligence or my smartness.”

He didn’t need to say that he was average. Why did he? But by doing so, he had done me and many others a huge favor.

I always thought that being average was a sign of weakness and shame. And here was Vikram, acknowledging that he was average and, yet, apparently very successful!

Everyone’s perspective changed. Vikram was successful not because he was gifted, smart or intelligent, but despite his flaws and despite being average. He was like one of us in the room.


WHAT IS MY PROCESS?


What process was Vikram referring to? Did Tanav have one? Would Tanav be successful?

These questions were bothering me.

Eureka! There was, indeed, one mantra (call it process) that often worked both for Tanav and me:

  1. Think of what you want to do.
  2. Start doing it.
  3. Finish it.
  4. Praise yourself for what you did.

Sounds simple, right?

It is!

And it worked! It kept us in the ‘upward spiral of confidence’.

Only problem was that we weren’t intentional about it. I decided to be so now and not give up when going got tough or failures happened!

Do you have a process that works for your child? If not, install one today. Commit to the process. You will be surprised at the wonderful things your child can create. And success will follow.

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What Goes Around Comes Around!

I heard this Justin Timberlake song a few days back as an old playlist played in Random mode in my car. The title of the song remained with me long after it played. It made a lot of sense and I realized that one notices that even more as one’s life progresses.

Aren’t we sometimes in doubt if what we are doing will serve any useful purpose at all? What is it that keep us doing our best, relentlessly, day after day after day?


Hear it from my horse’s (..err, I mean my colt’s) mouth


Last night, before sleep time, I asked my 5 year old son, Tanav, “Do you love Mom?

He said, “Yes, of course, I love her a lot!

I asked, “Why do you love her so much?

To which he said, “She’s very cute!

I have this habit of pushing (as some of you may know by now), “Why do you find her so cute?

Tanav said, “..well, because, she is a sweetheart.” (I sometimes feel that Tanav can now sense my train of follow-up questions and kind of enjoys to drag a tad bit himself.)

Okay, what is that one quality in her that you like the most?” I jumped to the point.

Mom is a sweetheart because she does so much and does it all so calmly!

I was now curious to know what Tanav thought was the No. 1 reason he loved me, assuming he did.

After a pause, I asked, “Tanav, Do you love me?

..more than anything else in this world!“, Tanav replied.

..so, far so good“, I thought.

Okay, and what is that one thing that makes you love me so much?“, I asked.

I love Papa because he teaches me so many things!” He said.

That one line touched my heart. Kids always speak the truth. Okay, not always, but you know when they lie, and thankfully they don’t learn the art of deceiving until they become adults.


All of a sudden, all that #$@! makes sense


I smiled. That one line… and everything that I had ever done ever since I was blessed with children made so much more sense.

I have intentionally always walked the extra few yards in making efforts to make learning fun and interesting for all children I know. I am not calling it a mile because that would be an exaggeration. Most parents do that. Moreover, I learn and find it so much fun myself!

The electronic game version of 20 Questions which I bought from Amazon US once again felt worth it. Paid 10$ for shipping over a 15$ game.

Interactive World Map recommended by a friend in Australia (Shef), purchased by another friend in US (Jassi) and sent to me through another colleague’s wife (Subodh’s). Thank you guys! Although Tanav hasn’t really got the hang of it yet but I’m sure that’ll happen soon. (The wait sometimes is worth it too!)

You baby can read CD serieswhich I purchased when I was in Hawaii for work. I paid about $125 but the shipping didn’t happen until after I had left for India. I arranged to have it shipped from my Hotel to my cousin (Sur) in Kentucky. She, in turn, got it shipped to me. All that effort and time, once again, felt worth it!

I have spent a lot of time, money and effort in finding out the best books, movies, games, programs, podcasts  et al. Anything which I think could help develop that curiosity of learning in my kids.

I am pretty sure all parents do that. However, sometimes we aren’t sure if all that would help or not. We feel discouraged and demotivated.

Everything happens for a reason but we only realize that as we progress on the life’s timeline. The dots can only be connected backwards as Steve Jobs once said.

You can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. Because believing that will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well worn path.


Keep Walking…


Keep doing what you do. Have faith. Even if you feel discouraged sometimes. Do it with your heart’s commitment. It will always bear fruit. If not now, then later. But it will!

I hope you like this post. If you do, then go back and ask your kid, Why does he or she love you so much?

I am sure their answer will bring you a smile. All that you have been doing all these years will suddenly make even more sense.

Just like it did for my wife and I last night. 

Don’t Look For It And You Will Find It!

This was about a month back. I had brought a new board game for children, Carrom. My nieces were over and I was excited to introduce them to the game which I used to love playing myself as a child.

But my excitement soon turned into disappointment to hear that kids had lost it’s striker somewhere. Striker is a vital part of this game, you can’t play the game without it.

I asked my niece, “Saesha, where is the striker?”

She smiled and said,“I don’t know. It is lost and we just can’t find it.”

I was furious and this was not acceptable. How could she lose something and so conveniently say she can’t find it.

I said, “Okay, so you have searched for it and can’t find it, right?

She said, “Yes!”

I said, “Okay. Then keep searching for it until you do find it!”

I soon got busy with something and about one hour later, I saw all the kids except Saesha were watching TV. I asked and they said she was still in the playroom. I went there and found Saesha still looking for the lost striker. Her eyes full of tears just waiting to come down. I asked her what was wrong and she said, “You had asked me to keep searching until I find it. I still can’t find it.”

I was ashamed of myself for being so harsh on my little sweetheart. I had to do something to make her feel better. I suddenly recalled that as kids, we used to also lose a lot of things.

I had once lost my favorite mouth organ and Mom had told me, “You can’t find it, right? Now don’t look for it and you will find it.” 

It is hard not to look for it but when I eventually did, I magically found it!

The trick worked every time and this had almost become a game for us as kids. Whenever any one lost something, we would shout, “Don’t look for it and you will find it.”

I decided to use the same trick with Saesha and told her not to look for the striker and then she would find it. At least, that brought a smile on her face. I realized that her smile was worth more than the price of any game. 

It was only a matter of time and the lost striker appeared from somewhere. The trick had worked and we cheered!

I was more surprised than Saesha that this trick worked now too! I used to believe it as a child but it was different now. I was now grown up, and had dismissed this long back as being just a coincidenceAfter all, I had become logical and rational and it was silly to think that not searching for something can have a greater chance of finding it than searching for it. That would be ridiculous and at best a nice childhood fantasy. 

But life has made me reconsider that.

Recently at work, I racked my brains trying to solve an issue. I had already spent many conscious hours on it, in vain. I was once referred to as the Troubleshooter, a title that gave me a great sense of pride. And now, I could not solve what I would classify as a Medium complexity issue. I could not digest that. But it was late and I had to call it a day.

While driving back home, I was simply looking at the skyline and enjoying nature’s mystical beauty. And Bam! The solution to that problem at work unfolded in my head so clearly and so completely. I had found the solution when I didn’t look for it! It was like Magic. 

The trick that worked when I was a child really did work now too! 

I am pretty sure others have experienced this Magic too. However, most, like me, have grown up to brush these aside as sheer coincidencesBut coincidences are God’s way of telling us He exists! 

“Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.” ― Albert Einstein, The World as I See It

I now try to be intentional about making time to forget the problems of work and life. To simply look at the sky, the trees or a flower. Whenever I do that, I get a deeper understanding of life and everything that is part of it.

If you don’t believe me, then it’s not as if trying it out for yourself will cost you something. Don’t look for it and you will find it.

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Don’t Bluff Those Little Fellas

 Most of this month, we have been busy in the process of finalizing which car to buy. It was a long and strenuous process to decide which one would be the best fit for our purpose. What made it take even longer, like most such family decisions, was the fact that everyone was involved in the process – From my Dad to my 6 month old daughter, Sohana. No kidding, every one has been equal party to the decision making process.

If you are wondering how can a 6 month old decide, well, it is simple – her happiness or crankiness levels during the various test rides were taken as indicators.

Even after deciding on the make, several other decisions had to be made such as the model, the color, the dealer and so on and so forth. I left the decision on which color to go for with my wife and 4 year old son, Tanav. So, I showed them all seven available colors on the pamphlet and left them alone in the room so that they could discuss and decide.

After a while, Tanav came out running and excitedly told me, “Papa, Dark brown color is what we would go for!“.

I assumed that this is a collective decision between him and my wife, and that Tanav was only communicating it to me. But as some one has rightly said, to assume is to make an ass of and me, and that’s what it was this time around as well. Later that evening, I casually asked my wife, “So, Brown it is, right?”

She replied, “No, not at all, I always said it is going to be the Serene Blue color which I love so much. You also like that one, don’t you?”

I was taken by surprise and asked, “But Tanav told me it was Brown. Dark Brown. And I thought both of you decided together!”

To which she said, “Oh yes, he is hung up on the Brown, and I don’t really know why. We couldn’t really agree on a color when we were discussing. I kept insisting on Blue and he was stuck with Brown.

I asked, “So…what next?”

To which she replied, “I don’t know. You tell me?”

I said, “Okay, I guess we will tell him that the Brown ones are out of stock, and we have to go with the Blue one. No Big Deal!”

There was something about that little proposal of mine that I hadn’t liked. I imagine it was my sixth sense telling me something but then it was an easy and perhaps a practical solution to get around the problem at hand, so I  let that thought pass.

Now there is something special about Sixth Sense that one has to remember –  whenever it tells you something, you better pay attention and act on it. It’s a message from up above which, if ignored, will come back to bite you. If not now, then later. But it will come back. Moreover, Sixth Sense doesn’t like being ignored, so if you repeatedly do that, it stops coming to share those insights and that could well be the beginning of your downfall.

I am glad I had the following realization the next morning. “The small little thing about the car color and we are considering lying to our own Son? Just to have our way! That can’t be right! What are we teaching our kid? Children are smarter than we can imagine, he will come to know soon that all colors were indeed available and that he was lied to. Besides, he will be grown up soon and learn to cook up stories to tell us to have what he wants. Are we okay with that? Of course, we are not!”

When I see my wife in the evening, I am going to tell her the revised plan -one that may be relatively more difficult one but is surely one that will help build a stronger bond with Tanav and will teach him a thing or two. We will tell him the truth and try to convince him using the same logic through which we ourselves like the Blue color, or perhaps understand his point of view. I am positive we will be able to come to a conclusion either way.

I am mindful of the occasions when we may have taken a short-cut or cut a little corner. Perhaps we all do it every once in a while. I am going to let bygones be exactly that, and take my lesson for going forward – Those small eyes and ears are learning from each interaction. Don’t even THINK of bluffing them!

I hope you will take away something from our experience and if that is the case, then please leave a comment below.