Monday, November 3, 2014

Time Lapse Camera Apps for iPhone Compared

At the risk over over-simplifying the classification of video techniques, there are basically three video speeds: slow motion, regular speed, and fast motion. A variation of video that is played faster than recorded is time lapse. Time lapse video actually takes a series of photos and combines them together as a video.

When used with animated characters, this technique is referred to as "stop motion," because the characters can be move slightly with each picture, suggesting movement. While there are several apps dedicated just to this, I'll review them another time.

For today's post, I am sharing my notes on three camera apps for the iPhone that include options for time lapse video.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Learning to think book review

During my 18 years of education (19 if you count Kindergarten), I only had two teachers that encouraged thinking.  One was my high school science teacher.  At the end of class he would frequently say, "Read the chapter, then sit back and think about what it means and how it applies to the broader world around us."

The other teacher was a professor of psychology.  In his theories of personality class, he encouraged discussion and would incorporate whatever we were talking about when he walked in as the introduction to his lecture.  He gave partial credit for any answer that made sense on a test.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Organizational Metaphors

Many of us use metaphors to describe various situations.  We may find ourselves up to our necks in alligators or at the end of our rope or looking for a needle in a haystack.

Gareth Morgan took this idea and developed organizational metaphors to describe various types of organizations and forces within a company.

Each metaphor represents characteristics:

Brain = self-organization and learning
Organism = adaptable
Culture = social reality
Political system = bureaucratic structure
Psychic prison = limitations and little risk
Flux = continually evolving, permanent whitewater/rapids, never in total control
Instrument of domination = rigid structure, implied ceilings, rigid succession
Machine = routine, repeatable processes

Based on this summary of organizational metaphors, what kind of company do you work for?  What are the implications for working for a certain type of company?

Leaders have the opportunity to identify work cultures and encourage change.  However, this can take many years, depending on the size of the company.  For employees, if the company is stifling creativity or inhibiting promotion of quality individuals, it may be a case of finding a different company.

There are not always easy answers, but identifying characteristics of a problem - defining the problem - is the first step of making positive changes.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Create conversation

I recently came across a blog post from about creating smart conversation in situations where you would normally engage in small talk.

Here is an except from the blog post.  I encourage you to read the full post and download the book from Amazon.

One way to get beyond small talk is to ask open-ended questions. Aim for questions that invite people to tell stories, rather than give bland, one-word answers.

Instead of . . .

“How are you?”
“How was your day?”
“Where are you from?”
“What do you do?”
“What line of work are you in?”
“What’s your name?”
“How was your weekend?”
“What’s up?”
“Would you like some wine?”
“How long have you been living here?”

Try . . .

“What’s your story?”
“What did you do today?”
“What’s the strangest thing about where you grew up?”
“What’s the most interesting thing that happened at work today?”
“How’d you end up in your line of work?”
“What does your name mean? What would you like it to mean?”
“What was the best part of your weekend?”
“What are you looking forward to this week?”
“Who do you think is the luckiest person in this room?”
“What does this house remind you of?”
“If you could teleport by blinking your eyes, where would you go right now?”

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Descriptive quotes from Lost Horizon

Lost Horizon by James Hilton is a novel about four travelers who are hijacked from a remote airport and flown over the Himalayan mountains in Tibet.  When their plane crashes, they are rescued by Tibetans lamas-in-training from a nearby lamastery.  What the travelers learn and experience at the secluded sacred retreat will change them forever (no spoilers here!).

The book is fairly short, and is a quick read.  Lost Horizon was written in the 1930s.

Descriptive Analogies

I found myself highlighting several interesting descriptions in the Lost Horizons.

"It would be like trying to sell an epic poem to Tit-Bits," a magazine dedicated to tidbits - brief articles - from other media sources from 1881 to 1984.

"You were left with one good story to tell for the rest of your life."

... "with an air of having been compelled to attend a party at which there were goings-on that she could not wholly approve."

"I wouldn't care if it's Tibet or Tennessee."

"It's effect might not be tranquilizing."

"The night dragged on, as if each minute were something heavy and tangible that had to be pushed to make way for the next."

"One is fortunate if, as on this occasion, a touch of novelty seasons the unpleasantness."

"One of its features, for instance, was a very delightful library, lofty and spacious, and containing a multitude of books so retiringly housed in bays and alcoves that the whole atmosphere was more of wisdom than of learning."

"There came a time, he realized, when the strangeness of everything made it increasingly difficult to realize the strangeness of anything."

... "only a fragrance whose melancholy we may enjoy."

"Urgency did not clamor nor postponement disappoint."

"He did not know whether he had been mad and was now sane, or had been sane for a time and was now mad again."

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

What doing something everyday looks like

When my daughter finished the school year in May, she made a list of things to do this summer.  High on that list was working out on a regular basis.  In reality, she only worked out very little.  However, if she had stuck with a daily work out, she would have achieved a total of approximately 75-90 workouts over the course of the summer (allowing for a few misses here and there).

Truth-be-told, I am not any better.  Although I typically don't make New Year's resolutions, I decided at the start of this year to set a goal of walking 3 miles everyday.  I even gave myself a slogan:  "5K everyday."  Well, I was fairly faithful until mid-February, when we relocated to a new city and state.  I've been walking fairly consistently since then, but haven't made it back to 3 miles per day.

Impact of daily effort

In thinking about this, I began to consider the impact of repeating a small activity on a regular basis.  Consider what the positive impact is for each of the following:
  • Walking 3 miles per day for an entire year - almost 1,100 miles.
  • Writing 275 words per day for an entire year - over 100,000 words (300-400 page book).
  • Reading 60 minutes per day - over two full weeks of reading.

Of course, there can be negative impacts as well:
  • Smoking a pack of cigarettes every day - 7,300 cigarettes.
  • Eating 500 extra calories every day - 182,500 calories (or 240 Burger King Whoppers).
  • Starbucks every morning on the way to work - $1,000.

Visual Illustration

The infographic below shows the impact of doing something at different frequency intervals over a year.  The smallest, light color square in the lower left corner represents doing something once in a year.  If you do something quarterly, the result is 4 times in a year, monthly, 12; Weekly, 52; and finally, 365 times when repeating an activity daily.

Clearly, engaging in an activity every day can really add up over the course of a year.  What is a small activity that you can perform every day that will improve you in some way?  Write it down and commit to taking that action every day for an entire year.  Even five minutes of activity every day translates into 30 hours by year's end.

Monday, August 18, 2014

GROW to focus on your goals

Has this ever happened to you?  You attend a conference or participate in a class and learn some valuable information that will help you become more productive or improve your life in some way.  You know that you will apply these principles as soon as you get back to your desk. 

Life Happens

When you arrive at your office the next morning, you first have to clear out your mail box to avoid getting “over the limit” messages, and possibly even be able to send messages.  In between clearing out messages, you start catching up on the work you set aside while out of the office.  Finally, you have to attend in-person and virtual meetings.

By the time you get through all of this and resume your daily routine, it’s possible that what you committed to during the conference or class may have taken a back seat to the realities of life.  When you find yourself in this situation, you can use the following self-coaching formula to make changes.  This approach works in the workplace and at home (for you and in working with your children).

You Already Know How to Be Great

In his book You Already Know How to Be Great, Alan Fine shares the framework that he calls the GROW model.  Alan was a sports coach, and developed this model to help athletes improve at their respective sports.  He has worked with tennis player, golfers, and Olympic athletes.  GROW is an acronym for Goals, Reality, Options, and Way forward.


The first step is to determine the goal.  As priorities shift, it is possible that the goal of attending a conference or class may have been lost.  Taking some time to think about the goal, and – if possible- write it down again, can you help you regain your focus.


The next step is to make a list of all of the realities of life that prevent you from achieving your goal.  What are the constraints holding you back?  Available time, lack of staff, changes of priorities, etc. are all possibilities that can derail achievement of a goal.


The third step is to evaluate each reality identified in step #2 and list options for overcoming the constraint.  This requires brainstorming, either as a group or individually.  If your high school stuent is having a difficult time keeping up with homework because of not enough study time, possibly limiting access to social media and connecting with friends might be an option. 

Way Forward

The final, fourth, step is to identify a way forward.  From the options determined in step #3, which of these can be implemented to keep you focused on achieving the goals that you can established?  Create a specific action plan that can be followed.

Ideally, responses to each of the steps in the GROW process should be written down and shared with the planning team (in a work setting) or yourself or child (at home).  

Use the GROW steps to stay focused on current goals and to regain the momentum lost when competing priorities become a reality in our busy environments.

Buy the Book from Amazon

Friday, August 15, 2014

Sacred Texts of Major World Religions

Throughout the world, several major religions are practiced by billions of individuals.  This post contains brief descriptions of each text and links to a version of the writings.

Christian Bible

Written over thousands of years and many authors, the Christian Bible includes both Jewish writings, published as the Old Testament, and ministry of Christ and spread of the Christian gospel in the New Testament.

Bible Gateway

Hindu Vedas

The Rig Veda, one of four vedas - knowledge - is believe to have been composed around 1500BC and passed down orally until around 300BC when a transcribed version was written down.

Rig Veda

Islamic Qur'an

Muslims believe that the Qur'an was given verbally to the prophet Muhammed and transcribed by him in the early seventh century.


Book of Mormon

According to the author, Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon was revealed to him by the angel Moroni.  Moroni told him the location of ancient golden plates which contained writings.  Joseph Smith translated these plates into English and published the Book of Mormon.

Book of Mormon

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Photo Finishing Process

You may have noticed that many photos published online feature watermarks, text, or both.  Some photographers/artists may place watermarks over the image itself so that it can't really be used somewhere else without others clearly seeing that it is copied.  However, for others - including me - the primary purpose of watermarking photos is so that a certain level of branding occurs. 

Photo finishing process

I take most of my photos on my iPhone, and these are automatically copied to the cloud-based photostream.  This makes the photos available on my iPad, so I can edit them.  The iPad has a much larger screen area which makes editing easier. 

The main edits that I make are
  • Crop the image to a desired size
  • Add "" to the image
  • Insert my watermark

Photoshop Touch

In yesterday's post, I reviewed several Adobe apps including Photoshop Touch.  While many apps handle one or two of the main editing tasks of the full version of Photoshop, Photoshop touch allows for color adjustments, cropping, layers, and removing backgrounds. 

However, much of the time, I find it just as fast to use a combination of apps to accomplish my three main tasks listed above.  The apps that I typically use are Aviary for photo adjustments and cropping, Over to add text, and iWatermark to insert the watermark.


Aviary features the standard array of filters, cropping, auto-enhancements, etc. that are contained in most general photo apps.  One feature that is convenient is the ability to draw on photos, which I use to annotate certain areas of the image.


Over provides several fonts for text and graphics to enhance an image.  For this particular example, I added "" and the arrows.


A couple of years ago we visited Seoul, Korea.  Traditionally, Koreans have a seal that they use to sign important or legal documents.  In tourist areas, there are shops that carve these to include your name.  I chose to go with the Korean phonetic pronunciation of "Douglas."  Using Photoshop Touch, I added the "Douglas G Pratt" text.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Adobe creative apps for iOS

PDF and Photoshop

Most people are probably familiar with Adobe for developing the PDF file format and associated free reader.  Adobe also created Photoshop, a graphics/photo editing software so prolific that is has achieved action verb status ("That model was Photoshopped") in the same way that people "Google" something where searching online.

Mobile apps

Like many companies, Adobe has moved into the mobile app market for both Apple (iOS) and Google (Android).  Several of the apps are free.  Below is my SlideShare review of several of the apps.

Cloud vs. Device

I like the control of saving finish products to my device.  If I edit a photo, I want to see it in the photostream.  Likewise, if I create a video, I want the flexibility to upload to the video platform of my choice (YouTube, Vimeo, Screencast, etc.).  Unfortunately, many of the Adobe apps require you to use the Creative Cloud (different from Apple's cloud). 

For that reason, I created a small flowchart to illustrate when I would use an app and when I'll take a pass.

Adobe creativity apps

All of the quoted passages are taken from the descriptions of the apps in the Apple app store.

Adobe Photoshop Touch "for iPad lets you combine images, apply professional effects, and share results through Facebook and Twitter - all from the convenience of your iPad."
  • I use this app extensively to create graphics, edit pictures, create pictures with transparent backgrounds, and much more.
  • There are several editing features including layers, effects, and selection tools.
  • This is as close as you can get to Photoshop on the iPad.

Adobe Photoshop Express is "photo editing made fun, fast, and easy.  Touch your way to better-looking iPhone pictures using slide bar adjustments, or let automatic one-touch fixes do it for you.  Share with friends and family on Facebook, Instagram, or text/email."
  • This app provides several filters and effects.
  • One feature I particularly like is the "straighten" feature which allows you some creative freedom to angle photos.  
  • Additionally you can flip photos.

Adobe Photoshop Mix "combines the power of Adobe Photoshop software with the convenience of mobile for a creative, easy-to-use photo editing experience on your iPad.  Non-destructive photo enhancements, selections, the ability to cut out and mix images, and more."
  • I was unfamiliar with this app until researching apps for this post.
  • The primary feature of interest for me is the ability to crop out areas of one photo to overlay on a different photo.
  • However, I will probably continue to use Photoshop Touch to accomplish this, as it has more capabilities.

Adobe Ideas "gives you the ability to draw freeform vector illustrations where you are.  Replace your pen and paper with a huge virtual canvas, customizable brushes, and pressure sensitive stylus support."
  • This is a great app to quickly sketch out a design or illustration.  I have used this as a collaboration tool for process maps as well.
  • There are a variety of pen types (pencil, highligher, pen, and fill) and the ability to use several layers of drawing.
  • You can also import a photo layer.  Frequently, I import a photo of a grid in order and to keep some scale to my illustrations.  You can simply hide this layer when exporting the finished picture.

Adobe Sketch "brings inspiration, drawing, and your creative community together in one place.  Capture your ideas as sketches and share them on Behance for instant feedback.  Sketch gives you the freedom to find inspiration, explore ideas, and get feedback from trusted peers."
  • Requires use of Adobe's Creative Cloud.
  • Uses finger swipes for undo and redo (as opposed to including an undo button).
  • Appears to have limited adjustments for brush sizes.

Adobe Line, "a modern approach to drawing and drafting, Line lets you draw straight lines, geometric shapes, perspective views, and more."
  • This seems like an app with a lot of potential.  However, it requires use of Adobe's Creative Cloud.
  • Line has the same functionality as a traditional drafting table, with a sliding ruler and the ability to incorporate a stylus (also available from Adobe).

Adobe Voice "helps you create stunning animated videos in minutes.  No filming - just talk to tell your story.  Pick from over 25,000 beautiful iconic images to show your ideas and Voice automatically adds cinematic motion and a soundtrack.  Persuade, inform and inspire anyone online.  Make an impact."
  • Like Line, this seems like a great app.  However, once again, it requires use of the creative cloud, and you cannot save the finished videos to your camera roll - you must view the videos online.
  • There seem to be limited undo options and very limited adjustments to the arrangement of text and image movements.
  • Vittle and iMovie include the basic functionality of Voice.  Only the ability to select from stock photography and icons is missing.

What creativity apps do you use?  Comment below.  If you found this review helpful, please share on Facebook, Google+, or Twitter.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Story vs PowerPoint

Robert McKee is a screenwriting lecturer and story consultant.  He is best known in the television and movie industries for his Story Seminar.  Over 60 Academy Award winners and 170 Emmy Award winners have attended his class to better improve their craft.

Story in business

In addition to story seminars that focus on drama and comedy for entertainment, Robert McKee also conducts a one-day seminar oriented to incorporating story into the business environment.

Where is the power in Powerpoint?

In a recent post on his blog, Robert McKee addressed the following question:
How would you recommend that I weave a story into PowerPoint presentations?

Rarely persuasive

In reality, according to McKee, PowerPoint slide presentations "rarely persuade."  He goes on to say that this is really counter-intuitive to key activities in business:
  • managers persuading employees to complete tasks and achieve productivity goals
  • managers persuading executive (c-suite) leadership to provide support
  • companies persuading customers and clients to engage in the company's services or purchase the company's products

3 ways to persuade others: rhetoric, coercion, story

  1. Using rhetoric, which is the typical use of slides, the audience is bombarded with data, in the hope that enough data will convince them to accept the conclusion or buy the product.
  2. With coercion, the audience is bribed or manipulated into buying the product or service.  The problem with coercive efforts is that people generally don't like to be tricked or duped, the win may be short term.
  3. With story, you can present a more honest picture where you present crisis points in your business, actions that you took, and the result of those actions.  Thus, by incorporating a few stories of crisis/action/success, you can help your audience understand why your business is the right solution for them.

Robert McKee's best advice in the video is to "if possible, eliminate PowerPoint."  However, when this is not possible because of a corporate expectation that slides must be used, you can still intersperse the crisis-action-results narrative with the data.

If you would like to learn more about Robert McKee's approach, visit his website at or check out his book, Story.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

How to win grades and influence teachers

As the school year is about to begin for many students of all ages, I thought this sage advice would be perfect.  I have no idea how this made it into my collection of miscellaneous items nor who the author is.

How to win grades and influence teachers

1. Bring the teacher articles dealing with his subject.
Demonstrate fiery interest and give him timely items to mention to him.  If you can't find articles dealing with his subject, bring in any articles at random.  He thinks everything deals with his subject.

2. Look alert.
Take notes eagerly.  If you look at your watch, don't stare unbelievingly and shake it.

3. Nod frequently and murmer, "How true!"
To you, this seems exaggerated.  To him, it's quite objective.

4. Sit in front, near him.
This only applies if you intend to stay awake.  If you're going to to all the trouble of making a good impression, you might as well let him know who you are, especially in a large class.

5. Laugh at his jokes.
You can tell.  If he looks up from  his notes and smiles expectantly, he has told a joke.

6. Ask for outside reading.
You don't have to read it.  Just ask.

7. Be sure the book you read during the lecture looks like a book from the course.

8. Ask any questions you think he can answer.
Conversely, avoid announcing that you have found the answer to a question he couldn't answer.

9. Call attention to his writing.
Produce an exquisitely pleasant experience connected with the teacher.  If you know he's written a book or an article, ask in class if he wrote it.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Capture the Screen - using tricks for Windows, Android, iOS and Mac

There are many reasons why you need to capture what is displayed on the screen from time to time.  Earlier this year I was flying and checked in using my iPhone.  Because I could not print the receipt from my phone, I took a screen shot of the confirmation screen.  You may also want to capture a view of a website for later reference.  You can also use the screen capture in situations where you can't save an image (like Instagram or Snapchat).

Below is my SlideShare presentation on how to take screen shots using the major technology platforms:  Windows, Android, iOS (iPhone/iPad) and Mac.  This post is a reference for me as well as for you.  I tend to forget how to use all of these different options.


  • Copy the active window - Ctrl+Alt+Print Screen
  • Copy the full display (including multiple screens) - Shift+Ctrl+Print Screen
  • One Note - Start OneNote (Start > Microsoft Office > OneNote.  From then on, use the flag key and "s" to draw a selection box about the desired information or image.
  • Snipping Tool - Start > Accessories > Snipping Tool.  Draw a box around the selected image.  Within the snipping tool you can annotate the image.


  • Simultaneously press the power button and the volume down button.  Hold for about a second.  You will hear an audible camera sound (unless sound is turned off).

iOS (iPhone/iPad)

  • Simultaneously press the menu button and the power button.  You will hear an audible camera sound (unless sound is turned off).


  • Save desktop as PNG - Command+Shift+3
  • Save selection as PNG - Command+Shift+4
  • Save selected window as PNG - Command+Shift+4 then press the space bar and select the desired window.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Why quizzes are better than most study strategies

In the New York Times article, How Tests Make Us Smarter, author and professor Henry L. Roediger III discusses the idea that the best way to ensure learning occurs is by utilizing the principle of spaced repetition. 

Spaced repetition

Spaced repetition is the term used when you allow a period of time to lapse before reviewing new information.  For example, if you have to learn a new procedure at work, study the provided materials.  Wait a couple of days and study the materials again.  The next day, study it one more time.  Spacing out the input of information allows yours brain to integrate the information.

Quizzes better than highlighting

However, what this author discovered in his research, is that just reviewing material does not have the same effectiveness as being quizzed or tested on the material.  What he discovered is that "low-stakes" quizzes where students are quizzed but their grade is not affected, significantly impacted the students' recall of the information, even months later.

Surprisingly, researchers have also found that the most common study strategies - like underlining, highlighting, and rereading - create illusions of mastery but are largely wasted effort, because they do not involve practice in accessing or applying what the students know.

See One, Do One, Teach One

Quizzes and simulations require the recall of information differently than simply studying the materials.  An effective learning model is "see one, do one, teach one" where you first observe (learn) a concept, you apply the concept, and then you teach someone else how to do it.

[Testing] shouldn't be a white-knuckle finale to a semester's work, but the means by which students progress from the start of a semester to its finish ....

If you are a parent or a teacher, I encourage you to read this article and consider applying this principle of quizzed space repetition into your classroom or learning environment.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Mental Jogging Book Review

After the reading the book My Voice Will Go With You, I became interested in one of the techniques - that of identifying multiple solutions to a problem.  Finding new ways or variations on old ways can be a challenge as many people get stuck in a rut.  It is easy to take the same route to work or follow the same set of activities in the morning.

Mental Jogging

Another book I learned about is Mental Jogging by Reid J. Daitzman.  The full title of the book is Mental Jogging:  365 Games to Enjoy, to Stimulate the Imagination, to Increase Ability to Solve Problems and Puzzles.  This book, published in 1980, is no longer in print.  However, it is available from booksellers via

As the title clearly states, the book features several exercises (one per day) to think about as you're commuting to work or taking a break.  The exercises could also be adapted for the group activities. 


I selected one exercise from each month for this list.

  1. Six or more ways to avoid spilling coffee while driving.
  2. Eight or more things you could do if you weren't watching television.
  3. Seven or more important news events of your parents' lifetime.
  4. Six or more non-dietary uses of cheese.
  5. Eight or more things we couldn't do if we didn't have fingernails.
  6. Six or more reasons why blind people ski.
  7. Six or more ways to look at yourself in the mirror.
  8. Eight or more words in any language spelled the same backwards as forwards.
  9. Seven or more characteristics of your ideal space monster.
  10. Six or more reasons why it should be legal to be married to more than one person at a time.
  11. Six or more new rules of basketball if there were two balls in play simultaneously.
  12. Eight or more reasons why some doctors charge more for the same services than other doctors.

Possible Answers

In addition to the exercise prompts, the author provided answers from groups that he interviewed.  For example, for the exercise "Seven or more reasons for not brushing your teeth," some answers given were:

  • It's boring.
  • May cause tennis elbow.
  • Someone told you false teeth are sexy.
  • You need the dime the tooth fairy will bring you.
  • You're allergic to water.

As you can see, possible answers can include those that are nonsensical or from the fantasy realm.  The idea is to stimulate your creative thinking.  In brainstorming, coming up any possible solution is the first step in refining the list to only include realistic, reasonable solutions.

Mental Calisthenics

Mental Jogging also includes twelve mental calisthenics (one for each month) that are more complex mental tasks.  The one below is from January.

Sit in a comfortable position, take three deep breaths, and exhale very slowly from you nostrils.  Close your eyes and imagine the color RED, then ORANGE, YELLOW, GREEN, BLUE, VIOLET.  Arrange the colors alphabetically, from left to right, in your mind.  Make them disappear one at a time.  Open your eyes.  Process with a Mental Jogging exercise.

If you are looking for ways to increase your speed of thinking or the volume of ideas as solutions or creative approaches, I encourage to buy Mental Jogging and try some of these exercises. 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Create Storyboards Using Post-it sticky notes

In my post on becoming a sticky note ninja, I shared different ways that you can brainstorm either individually or in groups using Post-it notes.  You can also use Post-it notes to create a storyboard for a video, story, or presentation.  A storyboard is a series of still images that depict the different scenes of a story.

Origin of Storyboards

Traditionally, storyboards have been used in the film industry to plan the different events in a plot, decide how best to film each scene, and plan what is required for each aspect of creating the movie.

Walt Disney is attributed as the creator of the use of storyboards.  Even before he created the Disney company, Walt used storyboards to rough out his animated, short cartoons.  By the time he created Snow White, his company was using storyboards to represent the complete, full-length movie.  By 1939, storyboards made the transition from animate to live action, and Gone With The Wind was the first live action film to utilize this technique.  Since then, most movies have relied on the storyboarding technique as a pre-production tool.

Business Presentations

More recently, storyboards have been used in the planning process for business presentations. The idea of using a visual space to plan presentations is extremely productive as it helps ensure that the presentation flows well.

The process is easy to integrate into your current workflow as it relates to presentation design.
  1. Print whatever slides you already have as 9 slides per page (PowerPoint) or 16 slides per page (Keynote).  This will print your slides at a size that is the same as a 1.5x2.0 inch Post-it note.  Thus, you can add extra notes to represent additional slides that may be needed.
  2. Tape all of the slides onto a whiteboard or other smooth surface (like a back of a door or a window).
  3. Re-arrange slides as needed while inserting Post-it notes.  
  4. Capture the new arrangement using your smart phone camera.
  5. Carefully pull-off the slides in order so that you can use the stack as a reference when working on your computer.  If you did the planning in your office, you may be able to view the whiteboard from your computer.

Below is the capture of my presentation which is available at and embedded below.

Apps for Storyboards

Should you choose to stay in the electronic realm for your planning, these apps will be helpful.  Both Keynote and PowerPoint are presentation apps that can let you rearrange slides in a slide sorter view.  This is not a comprehensive list of apps or online sites to create storyboards, but it does represent apps that I have experimented with.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Pixar Storytelling Prompts

Pixar is an entertainment company that focuses on high quality, full length animated movies using computer generated characters.  Pixar has a successful track record with hits such as Up, Toy Story, Cars, and Brave.

A quick search of "pixar storytelling rules" will return many pages that feature the 22 rules Pixar uses to create a story. 

My favorite of these rules is one that focuses on the basic structure of the story.  The Pixar story formula is designed to quickly generate a story which can then be developed into a full length movie full of details and subplots.

The Pixar storytelling formula:

  1. Once upon a time there was ____. (character is introduced)
  2. Every day, ____. (the everyday, normal world is explored)
  3. One day, ____. (something happens to interrupt normality)
  4. Because of that, ____. (the character takes steps to restore normality)
  5. Because of that, ____. (instead, the character is drawn into more complexity)
  6. Until finally, ____. (the character conquers whatever he is battling and achieves success)

Star Wars

  1. Once upon a time there was a teenager living on a desert planet.
  2. Every day, he dreamed of adventure, but couldn't find this on the planet.
  3. One day, he discovered that a droid contained a secret message for someone else who lived on the planet.
  4. Because of that, he searched for the person whom he also discovered was of interest to the evil rulers of the empire.
  5. Because of that, the boy's aunt and uncle (with whom he lived) were killed and he was forced to leave the planet in order to save the empire.
  6. Until finally, he successfully destroyed the death star and saved the princess.

The Godfather

  1. Once upon a time there was a son of a mobster.
  2. Every day he dreamed of leaving the "family business" and becoming a successful businessman and politician.  This was his father's dream too.
  3. One day, the father was seriously injured as the result of an attempted assassination.  
  4. Because of that, the son felt compelled to retaliate on behalf of his father.
  5. Because of that, he was drawn in to the family business.
  6. Until finally, in order to assure the family's position within the mafia families, he eliminated all of his enemies and replaced his father as the godfather.

You can also use this technique for a nonfiction story.


  1. Once upon a time there was a group of people who were forced to become slaves for the ruling class.
  2. Every day, they dreamed of freedom, which was prophesied by a patriarch in the past.
  3. One day, to avoid being killed by soldiers who were ordered to kill all newborn males, a mother hid her baby in a small basket in the river.
  4. Because of that, the princess of the country found the boy, fell in love with him, and adopted him as her own son.  Even though he was now a prince, he still remembered the pain felt by his own people.
  5. Because of that, he killed a man who was attacking one of his own people.  He had to leave the country and stayed away for 40 years.  It was here that he received divine instruction to return to the country.
  6. Until finally, he oversaw several supernatural events and freed his people from oppression.

Finally, this storytelling formula can also be used when making the case for a business process change.

What Happens When You Assume

  1. Once upon a time there was a company where all the employees worked on computers.
  2. Every day, they confidently stored their files on network (cloud) drives so that their files would be protected in the event their computers crashed.
  3. One day, a computer in the server room experienced an electrical failure which generated sufficient smoke to trigger the sprinkler system, which effectively put out the fire, but also damaged the equipment.
  4. Because of that, the information technology (IT) professionals discovered that that the automatic backup routines had been failing mid-way through all of the employee data.  They always assumed that the routines were working.
  5. Because of that, several employees lost business data that could not be recovered, because it was never actually backed up.
  6. Until finally, IT redesigned its server configuration to provide offsite storage and verification that backup routines were actually running.

Whether you are telling a bedtime story, writing a novel, or developing a business presentation, I encourage you to try this storytelling formula.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Unpacking my Android tablet

A couple of posts ago I discussed the differences between the Google Android and Apple iOS models.  One of the advantages of Google's model is that the software can be used by a number of manufacturers, resulting in inexpensive products.

I purchased a Q8 7-inch tablet with 8GB of memory and 800x480 pixels.  The price was $39.95, but I discovered that I had a PayPal credit for $9.95, thus my total out-of-pocket price was $30.00.  As a bonus I received a stylus (valued at $3.00).

There was no name brand on the box - anywhere!  However, the tablet was packaged well.  The battery was only partially charged, so the first step was allowing the battery to charge to 100%.  The battery charges fast on this particular tablet.  One feature I like about Android is that you can see which apps are contributing to battery usage.  I discovered, for example, that Facebook was continually updated and utilizing 40% of the battery since the previous charge.

My Q8 is about the size of the iPad Mini (approximately 5x7 inches).  I don't have an iPad Mini, but will sneak my Q8 into an Apple store and try to get a picture comparing the sizes.

If you are looking for an inexpensive tablet, either as a second screen or as a starter tablet for your children, definitely consider this one.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Book Review - How To Be Like Walt

Walt Disney is the famous name behind Mickey Mouse, Disney Land, Disney World, and namesake of the Disney company, which includes the ABC and ESPN networks, movie studios, and real estate throughout the world.  When people win a professional sporting event, they often exclaim, "I'm going to Disney World!"

How To Be Like Walt was written by Pat Williams with Jim Denney.  The authors interviewed a variety of people who knew and worked with Walt Disney.  Additionally, the authors reviewed a significant amount of archival material.  While the book is a biography of Walt Disney, the authors gleaned lessons from each of the major milestones in Walt Disney's life.  

Walt was an incredibly driven and creative individual.  He pioneered animation techniques still used today.  Beyond simple animation, he envisioned a time when people would watch full-length animated movies, not just a short cartoon.  This was completely unheard of when Walt started in the animation business.

Early Disney Animated Shorts

Below are two animated shorts created by Walt Disney.  Although known as the creator of Mickey Mouse, Walt created Oswald the Rabbit at an earlier time in his career.

The Disney Approach

Like all of us, his approach and decisions were often based - at least in part - on his personal life experiences. Born in a family with a father who frequently tried and failed at various jobs, Walt was not afraid to start again when a business venture failed.  When Walt was animating Oswald the Rabbit, he became mired in a bad financial deal.  As a result, he vowed to never work for someone else again.  Hence the Disney company was born.

Walt's creativity expanded beyond simple animation and entertainment.  He sought to use entertainment as a vehicle for knowledge.  Thus, early on he envisioned the Epcot City of Tomorrow and used his influence and creativity for educational purposes.

Man in Space

In 1955, after discussing space travel with Wernher Von Braun, one of the architects of Hitler's and subsequently the United States' missile programs, Walt created a movie entitled Man in Space.  This presentation of space travel to the moon was influential in President John F. Kennedy's declared mission to put a man on the moon by 1970. 

Lessons from the book

The authors of How To Be Like Walt devote the end of each chapter to a life lesson drawn from the chapter.  Unlike many books that simply state an obvious lesson at the end of the narrative, these lessons are illustrated by numerous additional examples from Walt's life.  Additionally, there are usually several specific character traits listed to support each lesson.  The lessons are:

  1. Live the adventure.
  2. Be a salesman.
  3. Dare to do the impossible.
  4. Unleash your imagination.
  5. Become an animated leader.
  6. Take a risk!
  7. Deal with loss.
  8. Plus every experience ("plus" was Walt's word for continual quality improvement).
  9. Be a person of stick-to-it-ivity.
  10. Become a sponge for ideas.
  11. Ask yourself "How about tomorrow?"
  12. Live for the next generation.
  13. Build complimentary partnerships.
  14. Stay focused!
  15. Accept your mortality.
  16. Make family your top priority.
  17. Be the person God made you to be.

If you are interested in examples of creativity, inspiration for life, motivation for success, or simply enjoy a good story, I encourage you to read How To Be Like Walt.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

My Cheap Android Tablet

When I was in 8th grade I took a computer class.  The nature of topics covered in elementary computer classes varies from generation to generation as technological innovation keeps advancing.  My computer class was in 1984, so we had limited technology - compared to today - and used BASIC programming language.

Recently I met one of my classmates from 8th grade.  He told me that back in 8th grade, I pointed to all the computers and said, "One day, you'll have a device in your pocket that is able to do a lot more than these computers."  I wish I had pursued that dream, because I'd be a billionaire today. 

The tablet - between the laptop and the phone

The best working definition of a tablet that I've seen is from Walmart:
Tablet PCs are compact, ultra-portable entertainment devices that let you read email, surf the internet, read eBooks, view photos, play games, listen to music and watch video files. Most tablets are based on a smaller operating system, which allows you to purchase and download additional applications from supported stores. 

 The vast majority of tablet computers, or tablets, either use the Apple's iOS operating software or Google's Android software.  The approaches of the two companies is completely different and the result has been a transformation of how we approach portable computing.

Apple only uses the iOS operating system in its own devices.  At the time of this writing those include the various models of iPod Touch, iPhone, iPad, and iPad Mini tablets.  The advantage of this closed system is that the quality of software is more consistent and higher.  Additionally, because Apple manufactures its own products, the products are usually more technologically advanced with better cameras, touch surfaces, and so on.

Google has licensed Android so that anyone can use it with a device.  While the standard software works the same on any Android Device, the price can vary based on the quality of materials used to manufacture the tablet products.  Lower-priced tablets can be expected to have fewer features such as a high-resolution camera, storage space, or stronger case.

Cheap tablets

Not too long ago I received an e-mail from Walmart listing a variety of tablets in the $70 range.  I was intrigued and performed some online searches for Android tablets.  I was surprised to find tablets as low as $30.  I purchased one, which I will be describing in a future post.  Below are the results from two companies, T-mart (where I purchased my tablet) and Amazon.

For the price of dinner out for a family, you can own a tablet.  This has a lot of potential because now this technology can be available to almost anyone. 

I will be sharing my experience with my $30 tablet and comparing it with my higher-functioning iPad tablet.  For me, learning about the Android tablet is new, and each software approaches tasks differently.  Additionally, I expect that there will be a difference in the capabilities of my new tablet when compared to the iPad. 

Note:  I am an affiliate for Tmart, so if you purchase from there, I will earn a small commission. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

We are the music makers

Not too long ago, I watched the 40th anniversary edition of the movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. As a child, I attended a summer camp, and this movie was the Saturday night feature at the end of a week filled with activity.

The basic plot of the movie is that a candy maker, Willy Wonka, has offered a free tour for five children and their chaperones. One by one the children are forced to exit the tour prematurely because they make some blunder inside the chocolate factory, largely because they don't listen to instructions. Inside the factory are outrageously fantastic designs such as a chocolate river, candies that last forever, and other treats beyond imagination.

In one scene, the remaining children are taken into a special room where Mr. Wonka has developed the technology to take a massive bar of chocolate, teleport it across the room while reducing the size, and have it be available for eating at the opposite side of the room. He calls it "WonkaVision." One of the parent chaperones asks, "Why would you want to do that?"

Mr. Wonka's answer is the source of today's post: "We are the music makers and we are the dreams of dreams."

In yesterday's post, I shared some techniques for brainstorming using self-adhesive notes and an app to brainstorm on your computer. I hope you will check it out or look for your own resources on how to be more creative in your life, both personally and professionally. Modern Mind Mapping by Tony Buzan is another excellent resource, as it introduces mind mapping concepts within the concept of enhancing creativity.

A key ingredient of creativity is more flexibility. You can start today by taking a different route home or to the store or to somewhere. Do things differently and you just may become one of the "dreamers of dreams."

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Video review of StickyBoard2 app

A few posts ago I summarized a great resource, How to Become a StickyNote Ninja.  Using Post-it notes (also generically known as "self-adhesive notes") are an incredibly useful tool for brainstorming, planning, creative thinking, and storyboarding.


A search of Apple's app store will yield several possible apps designed to replicate Post-it notes.  In my video review below, you will see the highlights of StickyBoard2, which comes the closest the experience of organizing notes on a whiteboard.

StickyBoard2 is what I use to plan this blog as well as my food blog,

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Posting stats for Personal Change

As I have written about before, collecting and analyzing information about yourself can be helpful in determining future strategic directions both personally and professionally.

This is my fourth year of writing posts for this site.  While I love the idea of posting every day, it has not worked out that way for me in the past as you can see from this set of sparklines, one for each year, and a longer sparkline showing all four years.

Blogging inspiration

In March, I wrote a post about a webinar on blogging.  The featured presenter was master blogger Ray Higdon, who posts regularly on network marketing related topics.  His webinar inspired to reorganize my blog and develop a plan for posting.  Another avid blogger that I follow is Sacha Chua.  She has been writing her "Living An Awesome Life" blog since 2003 and has almost 7,000 posts. 

Future direction

In thinking about the future of Personal Change, I have identified the following goals for the remainder of 2014.
  • Post four times per week - Monday to Thursday
  • Maintain a posting schedule for planning
  • Balance the post categories

Whether you write one post a month, once a week, every day, or more, I encourage you to start a blog and experiment with capturing your thoughts and ideas. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014


Stradivarius was a manufacturer of stringed instruments during the 17th and 18th centuries.  A few of his instruments are still in existence, and typically sell at auctions for a few million dollars.  These violins, violas, and cellos are prized possessions for the owners.

In contrast, the music instruments used in a particular orchestra in Cateura, Paraguay, are created from trash.  Rather than owned by the world's elite professional musicians, these instruments are played by children who live in a landfill.  These children learn to play the instruments, read music, and perform as an orchestra.  Their successes there lead, for some at least, out of the landfill and to success elsewhere.

 You will be inspired as you watch this video as you see children use what is around them to achieve something more.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Become a StickyNote Ninja - Review

A short history of Post-it notes

Post-it notes, the self-adhesive notes that come in a variety of sizes and colors, were developed by 3M over the course of two decades.  Originally designed to be a strong adhesive, the resulting solution was one that worked as a pressure-sensitive, temporary adhesive.  Serendipitously, one of the research engineers applied the adhesive to the bookmarks for his church hymnal.  Thus, the Post-it note was born, and marketed to the public starting in 1980.

Since then, Post-it notes and off-brand copies have made their way into almost every business and home.  The self-adhesive notes are convenient because they can serve as temporary reminders and bookmarks.  The need has been met, the note can simply be discarded.

StickyNote Ninja

In 2007 Kate Rutter presented at a design conference (UX) on using self-adhesive notes as part of  brainstorming and creative problem solving.  At some point in my browsing around the Internet I came across her website and presentation (links below).  This post is a summary of her presentation, which I encourage you to download and review.

Why use self-adhesive notes for brainstorming?
Self-adhesive notes are designed to stick to almost any smooth surface, they are generally available in any business setting.  People are accustomed to using self-adhesive notes.  While the 3M brand can still be a little pricey, off-brands are less expensive.  The size of these notes (typically 1.5x2.0 inch and 3x3 inch are the right size for one idea or concept per note.  Because of temporary sticking nature, self-adhesive notes are easy to re-arrange and simple to use.

Two ideas underlie the use of self-adhesive notes for brainstorming.
  1. Create information by generating new ideas, exploring problems in more detail, and exploring attributes of some topic.
  2. Consolidate information by identifying patterns, prioritizing, making decisions, and creating plans.

Basic layouts
There are four basic layouts for brainstorming with self-adhesive notes.

Work space
Self-adhesive notes can be applied to almost any surface.  As such, they will work with whiteboards, windows, doors (watch out for people using the door), and flip charts.  Standing while working on a vertical surface seems to lend itself to the brainstorming process, but you could also use these techniques on a flat surface, such as a table.

Tips for capturing
When writing ideas on self-adhesive notes, legibility is a key consideration as the notes need to be readable later.  Using a chisel-point marker provides the right amount of thickness and font size for reading from further away.  Additionally, when a brainstorming session has been completed, the work can be captured with a smart phone camera, edited, and shared with others as a PDF or image.

Rapid Problem Solving with Post-It Notes by David Straker

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Focus on the Basics

A morning of scales

Recently, someone related a story to me about his recent hotel stay.  He got up early to get ready for the day.  As he was dressing and drinking his coffee, he kept hearing scales being played on a cello from the room next door.  For an hour he heard nothing but scales:  up and down, up and down.  About the same time he opened the door and stepped out into the hallway, so did the scale-practicing cellist.  It was the famous cellist Yo Yo Ma.

When he asked Yo Yo Ma why he needed to practice scales for an hour, Yo Yo Ma replied, "You have to keep the basics mastered."

This is the same advice that I received when I was in 8th.  As a budding pianist, I was enlisted to accompany the congregation during church services.  An elderly lady, Ms. Foote, was my mentor, and frequently reminded to focus on the rhythm, especially the first beat of the measure to keep the song moving, regardless of extra or missed notes.  When accompanying others, keeping the song rhythmically on track will make it easy to get the notes right.

This is a football

This is similar to the classic football story about Vince Lombardi.  Faced with coaching a team with a terrible record of games lost, he gathered the team together, held up a football, and said, "Gentleman, this is a football."  He coached the team to victory by initiating an intensive training program that focused on the fundamentals of football.

A great place to start

The reason that the military places a premium on physical fitness is because military leaders know that physically fit soldiers will have a solid foundation of endurance that will prepare them for missions.

In the movie, The Karate Kid, the lead character desires to learn karate to defend himself.  Rather than teach innovative karate moves, the instructor has the lead character perform mundane tasks like polishing the car and painting fences.  When asked about this, the instructor shows that the physical skills learned by non-karate tasks provided a basic training for karate.

When you're in an unfamiliar or pressure situation, focusing on the basics can help you reorient and focus.  Frequently for me, when writing a post, I'll jot "5WH" on a notepad.  This acronym stands for who, what, when, where, why, and how - the very basics of writing.  On a larger scale, you can always remind yourself of your personal mission or goals when you feel overwhelmed.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Stay Close to the Goal to Score

Every four years the countries of the world come together in the competitive sport of soccer, known outside of the United States as "football" or "futbol."  The Fédération Internationale de Football Association's (FIFA) 20th World Cup series is held in Brazil this year, and started June 12.

World Cup PreGame in Miami

In the week preceding the start of the World Cup, several teams played pregames in Miami, Florida.  This was convenient for my family because we were vacationing that same week in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, about 20 miles from Miami.  We decided to attend the game featuring Korea vs. Ghana.   

Although I have watched soccer on television, this was my first live game.  In the continuum of competitive team sports, I think basketball is the fastest pace and highest scoring.  On the other end of the continuum is baseball which has a slow pace and is typically low scoring.  Soccer falls in the middle.  While it is extremely fast paced, many games end with scores of 0:1 or 1:2.

Ghana 4 - Korea 0

Unfortunately for the Korean team, the final score was little more lopsided.  The team from Ghana focused more on offense, and as a result, spent more time closer to their goal.  More time spent at the goal increases the likelihood of a score, and the Ghana team made four goals while Korea did not make any.  The final score:  Ghana, 4 - Korea, 0.

Life Goals

All of this got me thinking about goals in life.  Are you making offensive plays that continually move you closer to your goals, or are you far from where you need to be?

When I was in college, there was a fellow student from Nepal.  For me, at the time, that seemed like the most remote place on earth and about as far from Chattanooga, Tennessee, as one could get. 

The primary land feature in Nepal is Mt. Everest.  Let's say that I wanted to climb Mt. Everest.  From a practical standpoint that will never happen because I don't have $100,000 to pay for the opportunity to climb. 

If climbing Mt. Everest is my goal, what am I doing to work towards that?  What kinds I activities should I be involved in?  A lot of physical stamina training, losing weight, and building muscle for, what many climbers have described, the most intensive physical effort.  It's likely that sitting in the relaxed setting of Starbucks writing a blog post will not advance that goal.

Well, I actually don't have the goal of climbing Mt. Everest.  But I do have a goal of publishing a book, and writing a blog is moving in that direction. 

Living the Dream

For several years I lived in Nashville, Tennessee.  Nashville, known world-wide as the home of country music, draws people from all over the United States who aspire to a successful singing or songwriting career.  Nashville actually has a much more diverse music scene than just country music.  People come to Nashville to live their dreams, and while most don't make it the level they imagine, they put forth an effort while working as servers in restaurants.

Recently, I relocated to Hot Springs, Arkansas.  Hot Springs is a resort town with a variety of attractions including actual hot springs (the oldest US National Park), several lakes, and a horse racing track established in 1904.  There's something for everyone.

However, when I describe Hot Springs compared to Nashville, there's one big difference.  No one comes to Hot Springs to live out their dreams as they do in Nashville.

Stay Close to the Goal

If you want to achieve your goals, you need to position yourself mentally and possibly physically to be closer to what defines success.  Sometimes this will mean making significant, life-changing decisions.  Sometimes it will mean foregoing a few small extravagances in order to save up for the vacation of a life time.  Wherever you need to be, start thinking - and doing - now to get there.