Prairie Light eBook Series

Friday, January 08, 2021

The (Incredibly Late) Official Announcement of my new ebook series Prairie Light

Greetings and New Years Wishes to you all in 2021! There were certain things I never really noticed until we moved to our present location, an old farmhouse at the corner of an intersection in Tippecanoe County in 2005. While our other home, a 1950's ranch-style home just down the road, offered me a a convenient and enjoyable view of the sunset from my kitchen sink window, it wasn't until we moved here that I started tracking both the beautiful sunrises and sunsets on our Indiana prairie and the movement of the sun on the horizon from summer to winter. At this location our neighbor's pole barn across the field became a silhouette against the horizon that only enhanced those views which I came to refer to as "Prairie Light."

After I finished writing my first ebook A Furniture Refinisher's Newsletter in 2017, I decided to follow it with a series called "Prairie Light." This series would essentially be a photo anthology, also in ebook format, long on pictures and sparse on comment, and consist of four volumes : Seasons of Light, Prairie Views, Prairie Life, and Prairie Gardens. All would feature Mother Nature in all her various moods as a back drop.

Today I would like to announce to you that the first two volumes Prairie Light: Seasons of Light and Prairie Light: Prairie Views are available at the Amazon Kindle Store for only $1.99 each. 

Following is more information about each volume:

Prairie Light: Seasons of Light - This first book of a photo anthology series "Prairie Light" features a specific area of the Midwestern tall grass prairie in central Indiana. To quote directly from the book, "Out here we do not have the quaint hills and hollows, the rolling woodlands, or the great oceans and mountain ranges of the United States, but we do have the vast sky, the prairie grasses, and Mother Nature's ever-varying moods," which the author has come to think of as "prairie light." This book is primarily about observing the beauty around you, where ever you are.

Video Sample of Photographs in Seasons of Light

Prairie Light: Prairie Views - This second book of the Prairie Light series features landscapes, skyscapes, and various rural scenes from the Indiana tall grass prairie where the land starts to flatten as it extends toward the Great Plains west of the Mississippi river. Many of the photos are taken close to where the author lives and encourage the reader to observe the beauty around them wherever they are.

Video Sample of Photographs in Prairie views

Cheers to all you photography aficionados, nature lovers, and other folks! If you are on Facebook I encourage you to check out the Indiana Nature and Wildlife Photographers page.


Thursday, January 07, 2021

News on Aunt Firma from the 2016 Maple Syrup Fair

Greetings to all you Firma Phillips fans. 2021 seems to be my year for catching up on old news. 

In 2016 we went to the Parke County Maple Syrup Festival with friends the last Sunday of February. Like the Park County Covered Bridge Festival, the Maple Fair is an annual event that takes place over two weekends, in its case the last weekend of February and the first weekend of March when the tree sap is running. The artists always set up in the main building at the fairgrounds where the pancake breakfast is served. I always meet some interesting artists there. That year they were raffling one of Aunt Firma's paintings as a fund raiser. :) Ben talked with an artist in one of the booths - I wish I had taken her card - her Mom was a contemporary and colleague of Aunt Firma's. Anyway the very first year of the Bridge Festival the artists association asked to display in the courthouse. (When I was growing up in the sixties, that is where the artists displayed their paintings, but they eventually had their own building).

Anyway this lady told Ben the organizers didn't want to let the artists use the courthouse because the space was too big and there wouldn't be enough paintings to fill it. Well, as the story goes, Aunt Firma got busy painting and she earned $8,000 that year - or else the group did! That would have been in 1956.

Oh, and I took a photo on my iphone of the painting being raffled.

Happy New Year, All!


An Old Menu from the Cafe Rienzi

With thanks and apologies to Ben Austin, son of Avel Austin, who thoughtfully sent me this information back in 2018, I am finally posting these photos of an old Cafe Rienzi menu for people to enjoy. I seem to remember seeing one like this for sale on an antiques site last year. :)

Everything looks scrumptious! Enjoy! Thank you, Ben!


2020 in a Kinder, Gentler Light - or what to do on a home-alone holiday during a pandemic

Prairie Light: 2020 in a Kinder, Gentler Light on YouTube

New Years Greetings, all. Goodness, it's been a while since I posted an article here! This new post marks a return to Geekdom and Nerdiness, in the area of developing significant personal photo and media slideshows on your phone and tablet, with an occasional assist from your desktop or laptop. You can take the geek away from geekdom, but you can never take geekdom away from the geek, I guess.

This is the time of year for things like retrospection and introspection and resolutions and Christmas cards and letters. Among other things. So this year when I was considering what to put in my Christmas letter about the infamous 2020, I turned off onto a side path after Thanksgiving and wound up on a long journey of exploration and discovery of the past 12 years and earlier as well as new ways to tell their stories.

With the purchase of my iPhone X and iPad in 2018 and eventual capitulation to Apple’s demands that I have an iCloud subscription, I have slowly come to realize that I no longer needed to delete photos off my devices to save space. Apple seemed to be managing my space for me by swapping apps and media back and forth from iCloud for both devices. I realized that nowadays when young people buy a new phone they don’t have to lose all their photos and that they can accumulate quite a pocket pictorial history on their devices. Perhaps the first generation to experience such continuity! Lately Apple has gone to all the trouble to curate and organize our photo libraries on our devices by years, months, and days so that we can easily go back to a period of time and look through a beautiful display. Heck Apple will even do a slide show for us at the press of a button, especially nice when used with Apple’s Album feature. Gone are the days of looking for a printed date-stamp on the back of an old film photo, or, if like me, you have eventually abandoned all other cameras in favor of the one on your phone, the days of keeping an accurate date setting on your standalone digital camera. Our phone cameras automatically keep track of time right down to the day and hour the photo was taken! How convenient! 

 Anyway, as I was mulling all of this, it occurred to me, “Wouldn’t it be nice if I could go back to the time that I started regularly using my phone camera (around 2012 when I had to spend several months on the east coast helping family) and get all of those photos on or back on my iCloud photo library? Then I could take advantage of Apple’s great tools to curate my own slide show productions of each year. (Only I would probably have to move to a higher storage plan on iCloud, especially if I threw in an occasional favorite from a standalone digital camera as well.)

 In 2019 a bolt of lightning struck a tree close to our house and did considerable damage, including killing our tv. We replaced it with a tv of similar price, only now tv’s were “Smart.” I knew the new tv had two USB ports (and could browse the internet), and I wondered what would happen if I loaded my slide shows onto a thumb drive and simply plugged it in to the tv. Would it work like a dvd player only hopefully with the original resolution?

 The iPhone and iPad have some pretty quick and easy slide-show and movie apps, except that through the years they have moved to subscription-based fees for use. Having intermittently toyed for years with video and slide-show editors, from PowerPoint on, I had in mind the tools I wanted an app to have for such a large project (year-in-review slide shows from 2012 to 2020). I didn’t want limits on the number of slides per show and I did want to be able to include video. Furthermore, while the ability to “touch” every slide would be nice (the ability to specify captions, styles and effects, duration, and transitions at the individual slide level), I mostly wanted the ability to specify these types of things globally (for all the slides) and be able to run with it. Background music would be nice, including the ability to import free music from other sources like YouTube’s free music library. Adequate resolution was important and ended up being one of the “hitches” I had to troubleshoot along the way. I ended up using an app called Slideshow Maker Video & Photo by Alan Cushway with a very doable annual subscription fee of 7.99 per year. iMovie complemented Alan’s App, by letting me add a running title so we could see which year we were watching as the slide show played. So I ended up rendering the movie twice – once in Alan’s app to build the slide show, and again in iMovie, as a single movie slide, so I could add the running title. I worried about how the resolution would be affected by rendering the slideshow twice, but in the end the quality was quite acceptable, at least from the distance we watch our TV.

 In theory my plan to use iPhone and iPad devices to do this project (years-in-review slide shows from 2012 to 2020) seemed like it should work pretty seamlessly. But in actuality, I regularly hit roadblocks in the execution. Two major challenges were internet bandwidth and my laptop’s cpu power/hard drive space. The bandwidth problem is related to where I live which is out in the country where high speed internet is nonexistent. Actually our rural electric cooperative has been working to bring high speed internet to our area for a couple of years now and if things go according to plan, our area should have high-speed internet by 2024. Yay, but I needed it now. 

 So, here’s where bandwidth became an issue in my project. I had been diligently keeping backups of my digital photos over the years. However many of those years I did not have an iCloud account (if such a thing even existed in 2012) and so I had to find a way to get those older photos from my pc over to iCloud. Not hard in theory. You can mount iCloud on your desktop or laptop computer essentially as another hard drive and then use File Explorer (or Finder) to copy files over. However, through the years as cell phone camera usage increased, I had accumulated literally thousands of pictures. =:o I didn’t want to have to go through them on my pc. I wanted to dump them over to iCloud, and use Apple’s more intuitive sorting and viewing tools to cull and curate them. However I soon found that trying to copy over thousands of photos at a time from my pc to my iCloud drive was a slow, treacherous, and torturous process which often sent my internet bandwidth and my pc’s cpu power to Never-Never Land. And I feared that my pc hard drive storage would be used up as well because I was essentially duplicating files already on my hard drive by placing them in the iCloud folder. I wondered if iCloud would manage its space on my pc hard drive as it did on my phone and iPad. The other thing about iCloud is that (unlike me) Apple stores all those photos through the years in ONE folder. We are talking about a folder with 30,000 to 60,000 photo and video files in it mounted as a hard drive on my pc. Enough to bring any consumer operating system to its knees, I guess! I wondered if those photos I tried to copy over would eventually show up in my iPhone and iPad photo libraries. Some did. I discovered them in my Recents folder first mixed in among my current photos. Eventually Apple would curate some by month and year. I usually had to wait a day or two with large transfers. Some photos went to Never-Never Land. Eventually I resigned to curating on the PC and copying over the photos I wanted to include in the slide shows in small batches. Probably the wisest approach. Oh, but wait. There was yet another complication, perhaps the biggest headache of all. Apple’s camera roll tends to restart its file naming from zero after a while and especially when one gets a new phone. So I had to make sure in this huge iCloud file folder that I wasn’t overwriting different photos that happened to have the same name. Microsoft File Explorer handles this by allowing you to specify which file you want to keep – the one already in the destination folder or the one you want to copy over to it. If you decide to keep both (because you have two different photos with the same name), then File Explorer simply adds a number to one of them. With the slowness of the huge iCloud folder to update and display (as in NEVER), managing the process of not overwriting files was perhaps the worst task of all. Often it was like flying blind. In the process of trying and re-trying, I fear I have ended up with many duplicate photos with a unique number after their name which I will have to eventually figure out how to remove from iCloud. =:o

When all the photos I wanted for a given year were finally in my iPhone and iPad libraries, I was ready to start production of the slide shows. I will say that choosing the music to go with any given slide show was a challenging process for me both artistically and technically, particularly if I wanted to use a piece that was not included in my slide-show app’s soundtracks. Soundtracks were the best choice because they would automatically replicate and run to the end of the video and end at a good ending point. But they were limited in choice. So sometimes I went to the YouTube free audio library for pieces of background music which I then had to fade out "by hand."

Often times the documentation for the app isn’t detailed enough if you need to trouble-shoot. I think I ended up downloading many YouTube library pieces to my OneDrive App and from there to Apple’s File App. Apple conceptualized its operating system differently from Microsoft. Any given photo file has to “belong” to an App on the iPhone, iPad, or Mac before the App is able to see it and work with it. I’m not sure why I couldn’t download directly from YouTube free music library to the iPad's File App or to the Slideshow App itself but in many cases, it seemed to work better if I used OneDrive and the File App as intermediaries. On the artistic side, I wanted music to be a subtle background enhancement (usually). I tried to pick music that reflected the mood of the picture or of our experiences at the time. But I also felt like the music should make room for a little of the poignancy that sometimes comes when a person looks back on and remembers life gone by. I was mostly drawn to acoustic music for its intimacy and with my husband Ben’s musical preferences in mind.

I did run into some limitations with the iPad and the movie/slideshow apps that required trouble shooting. Sometimes I got fuzzy quality when I rendered the slideshow in Alan Cushway's App.  Revisiting all the photos I was using in the library and making sure they finished downloading from iCloud seemed to help that. iMovie seemed to know when a photo or video needed to finish downloading. Sadly I wasn’t able to save all my projects so I wouldn’t have to recreate all the steps. Alan Cushway App's does not save project steps, so there nothing that could be done about that. iMovie and the iPad kept running out of space to render. I recalled the days when I provided support for office Macintoshes. Back then Macintosh applications had a memory setting that could be increased if the application ran out of memory (the pc’s memory allocations were all somehow negotiated by the Microsoft operating system). Anyway on the iPad and the iPhone Apps there appeared to be no such setting as was had by their old Macintosh counterparts. So it was out with the old iMovie project to make way for the new. At least I had the final products if not all the steps that created them.

 For the final year, 2020, I did the whole show with iMovie. After all I was down to the last production and I didn’t mind so much having to touch each slide. It was iMovie that showed me the power of the Ken Burns' feature in story-telling with still photos. In Cushway’s app, I could size the whole photo down to fit the screen, so that’s what I mostly did with years 2012 through 2019. iMovie didn’t seem to want to let me do that. So I started working with the Ken Burns' feature and discovered that you could make a still photo more like a movie by revealing it gradually and intentionally. Also you could zoom in and out to direct attention to what you wanted the viewer to notice (or not to miss).

 In the end, I plugged the thumb drive into the Smart TV with each new video and it was the first thing Ben noticed when he got up on cold December mornings. He seemed to really enjoy them. On Christmas Day we binge-watched 2012 through 2019 and on New Year’s we watched 2020, as I had held out to the last day of 2020 to finish that one.

It was interesting in this whole process to trace my increasing use of the cell phone camera and abandonment of the standalone digital camera and also to see the increasing quality of the photos I took, as both the phone cameras and the photographer got better. When I think back to the tools I had in my childhood – little box cameras with disposable flash cubes and rolls of film and developing houses – and compare them to the tools people of all ages have today, I am simply amazed. The film cameras of yesteryear required a lot of artistic and scientific skill from the photographer. They produced spectacular images, especially the 35 mm cameras, which are still the envy and the standard today. But today’s digital cameras, including cell phone cameras, put some of those skills and knowledge within the reach of the rest of us and today’s young people are among the first to have such continuity in vividly revisiting their lives and their memories.

Prairie Light: 2020 in a Kinder, Gentler Light on YouTube


Wednesday, December 06, 2017

A Furniture Refinisher's Newsletter revisited: The Official Announcement!

Season’s Greetings, everyone! 

In case you didn’t know (and why would you), an old post of mine entitled "A Furniture Refinisher’s Newsletter" is my most popular post on this blog. Well, at least by the numbers. I don't know if anyone actually reads it. But let me tell you a little bit about it nonetheless. This post actually had a previous existence: it used to be a scrolling news page (entitled "On the Road") at our business website Second Looks Refinishing and Antiques. In that incarnation the page informed prospective customers of items we had for sale as well as upcoming flea markets and antique shows. Since I never deleted anything (just kept adding stuff to the top), it accumulated quite a bit of history. Well, in 2009 we scaled down our business (we kept the refinishing and dropped the antiques). I moved the news page to this blog, thinking to update it with Ben’s occasional refinishing activities, never dreaming so many people would find it. As I already said, I had no idea why. Nobody ever left a comment. Were people just landing on it by accident on their way somewhere else? So I asked Google that question and subsequently discovered that people's favorite search terms seemed to include words like  “Victorian” and “Eastlake” and “chifforobe” in their searches.

Ah, so they were wanting information on specific pieces of furniture from specific eras. Ok. Drum roll please ...

For those people (and anyone else), here’s the good news: my old post A Furniture Refinisher’s Newsletter is now fully fleshed out and has a third incarnation as an ebook! You can find the ebook both at Amazon and at Google Play Store.
In my mind's "ear," I can hear my readers asking, "Yes, but is this book really for me"?

That’s a very good question, one I asked myself often over the two-year span of writing this book. Who was my audience?

I can tell you this: this version is a light-hearted peek into our years in the business through the lens of a marketing tool I developed on our business website – a scrolling newsletter. Through reading our ads and little stories you learn how we got involved and grew our sideline furniture refinishing business. The book has lots of photos.  Practical observations as well as advice from “lived” experience are lightly sprinkled throughout the narrative. Here's an additional guide for prospective buyers-which of the following descriptions best fit you?
  • You don’t necessarily have to buy anything to enjoy visiting antique malls, flea-markets, and garage sales. You just love doing it. Paging through this book would sort of replicate that experience for you right at home in your easy chair.
  • You are a do-it-yourselfer. You would like to refinish a piece of furniture. You’ve never done that before. You don’t know if you even can. Or if you even should. You look at the piece’s current condition and wonder if it’s even possible. While this book doesn’t fall in to the expert how-to category, it does have tips and advice and can show you some dramatic transformations. It can show you what’s possible.
  • You have that entrepreneurial spirit, and your passion is “old stuff.” You’re sort of flying by the seat of your pants at this point. Well, you can learn a little about what to do and what not to do in this ebook by critically evaluating someone else’s experience-ours.
  • You are simply looking for that one piece of information or advice; finding it is worth the price of this small ebook. 😊

If you recognize yourself (or someone you know) in  any of the descriptions above, this book may be for you.

Well, there you have it. A Furniture Refinisher’s Newsletter (the eBOOK) is available for the Amazon Kindle at Amazon and is on Google Play Books (and Google gives a more detailed preview). I'm working on versions for Barnes and Noble's Nook and Apple’s iBook store (so stay tuned).

A Furniture Refinisher's Newsletter available for the Amazon Kindle and on Google Play Books

Cheers and best wishes for the holiday season!


Tuesday, December 05, 2017

So, you want to write an ebook ...

A Furniture Refinisher's Newsletter

Check out a preview of our new ebook at Amazon or at Google Play Books!

Greetings again to my readers!

This post continues the story started in the previous post. First let me recap briefly. I have spent almost two years writing an ebook about our former furniture refinishing and antiques business. That book A Furniture Refinisher's Newsletter is finally finished and available for purchase at Amazon and at Google Play Books. But even though I'm finished (finally!), it turns out I'm not; I find that the contented albeit often lonely experience of writing this ebook has left me with a lot to share and talk about! So let's talk shop! Who among you, my readers, is currently contemplating writing an ebook? If you are, then I hope this post provides some helpful sign-posts along your journey.

What I shared in the previous post is just one of the hurdles I encountered in my ebook-writing adventure. And that hurdle was more about the technical aspects of promoting your book on your own website than it was about creation. So ...  here's the rest of the story.

Monday, December 04, 2017

That darn viewport statement!

Click here to preview my book at Amazon or at Google Play Books!

Well, it's finally time to roll out the blog and social media announcements for my ebook A Furniture Refinisher's Newsletter just in time for the Christmas season, yay! When writing the book, I compared our 20-year ventures into the antiques and refinishing business to a journey ... and subsequently discovered the same comparison held for writing an ebook! Writing an ebook was a very looong and sometimes tedious process. It started in earnest in Jan 2016 during winter's rest. Back then I hoped the book would be finished before growing season; instead it was (finally!) finished in Dec of 2017, amidst all life's interruptions big and small. And I learned enough on the way to post about writing ebooks for some time to come!

So last week I submitted the final version of A Furniture Refinisher's Newsletter and created my Amazon Author's Page. This week I have "successfully" updated all my various websites - blog, Second Looks Furniture Refinishing, photography, portfolio, and writing sites - with information about the book and where to get it. Now is the time to craft posts for this blog and my Second Looks Facebook page to help me roll out The Big Announcement on Facebook, Twitter, and Linked-in (and also to do promotional pricing on my ebook at Amazon for this Christmas Season; and maybe even pay for some boosting on Facebook).

But waking up this Monday morning all I can think of is "that darn viewport"! In the process of updating my websites I had to reacquaint with HTML and CSS (mark-up languages for creating web pages). Hadn't touched any of it in so long! It started coming back to me, but not all at once, the trick being to leave yourself a breadcrumb trail, especially in how you originally conceived and designed your web pages. Like most things, I was hoping that putting news of the book on my webpages would be easy (you know, just stick it in).

But no, of course not.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Design Implications for Online Training Videos - Lessons from the field

Some time ago I wrote a tongue-in-cheek post entitled How to Monetize Your Job Interviews. It told the story of an interview I had a few years ago that took on a life of its own. This interview, which was with an instructional-design firm, required me over the course of a weekend to complete and submit instructional design plans on how to insert a drill-bit into a cordless drill. The interviewer sent me the design specifications via email. I diligently completed the required components of the design. Then (geek that I am) I added on a short video which I uploaded to YouTube (I guess as an example of leveraging existing technology and resources to reach the intended audience at any time on any platform). The video itself was very quick and dirty and also extremely short (1:06 minutes in length). I did not have a cordless drill nor did I know how to operate one; so I got my husband Ben to show me on his corded drill. The video had no sound, instead focusing on my hands and their actions Charlie-Chaplin style. I submitted my documents and the YouTube URL to my interviewers via email and waited for a reply. The position, alas, did not materialize so I continued my job search, completely forgetting about the video I'd left on YouTube - until a year or so later, that is, when I received an email notification that a viewer had commented on my video. I went to the YouTube site to read the comment and to my astonishment saw that my little video had around 16,000 hits!

To make a long story short, today the video stands at 153,745 views with 57 comments (mostly thank-you's), 183 likes, and 44 dislikes. While people seem to have definite opinions about this video, I'm still amazed that anybody has even taken the time to watch it, let alone to leave a comment or press a "like" or "dislike" button. In 2014 I monetized the video, Since then it has earned me around $260.00 in income - and counting (which won't put me in the millionaire class anytime soon, but hey, every little bit helps - especially on a retiree's income). ;)

Since I am now happily (and lazily) retired, the rigors of serious scholarship elude me; however, after reviewing these latest statistics from YouTube, I thought it would be fun to reflect on the question "Just what IS it about this video?"

I do believe there are some design implications in this little story: not only for those who provide just-in-time training for employees but also for those who compete for the attention of "on-demand" learners (e.g. for Photoshop tutorials). What in the world has made 154,000 people (and counting) choose to watch a crude video (with no sound) on how to insert a drill bit into a cordless drill?

Well, I have a few thoughts on that:
  • the video is brief- in fact you don't even have to watch all of it, you can probably get the gist in twenty-four seconds and be on your way. Not only does this brevity respect people's time, it is also great for slow-bandwidth connections. Also this video is short enough to retain most of it in memory (and even if someone needs to refresh their memory, a one-minute video is relatively painless to "rewind" and watch again).
  • the video is silent - there's no language to process and, for international audiences, no language barrier to overcome.
  • the video focuses exclusively on the hands and what they are doing - you never see a complete shot of a person or a shot of a talking head. Reflecting back on my own experience, I often find the presence of these in a video to be an annoying distraction, an unneeded "layer" that inserts itself between the learner and the business at hand.

Lately, I've been seeing a lot of what I would call little "speed videos" on Facebook. They quickly show how to do relatively simple tasks such as fold socks or prepare a recipe or create a craft or even braid hair in exotic ways. These very short videos are often well orchestrated and thought out - they look professional and they get tens of thousands of hits on Facebook. Additionally, they share the following characteristics: the camera focuses exclusively on a close-up on the hands and what they are doing; not only are the videos mostly under a minute in length, they take advantage of video technology's ability to time-lapse and to speed up; no one speaks in these videos although many  of them provide background music; printed language processing is held to a minimum with an occasional caption or arrow super-imposed in a strategic position; and animation is used to varying degrees. You could say they sometimes use media within media. These little videos are reminiscent of the silent movie techniques used in the 1920's. Like other viewers, I find myself willingly watching and re-watching these videos to try out "what-ever-it-is." They are fun to watch and intrinsically motivating. Following are some examples of how these videos are done:

How to Make Apple-Pie Cookies (by Tip-Hero)

length: 1:04 minutes

Some of the design choices in Tip-Hero's video below can be effective in "talking" videos that teach more complex tasks. Following the recommendations from a graphics-design class that I took at our community college a few years ago, I find myself often searching for tutorials on how to do stuff in Photoshop. While I prefer good illustrated, text-based tutorials to slow-streaming and often meandering videos, I will watch video-based instruction that is short (around seven minutes in length), easy to follow, and well thought out. An excellent example is Marty at Blue Lightening TV. His videos focus exclusively on the computer screen. They are extremely succinct; every single action on the screen is purposeful and intentional. To aid the viewer in following along with his voice, he strategically super-imposes captions and animation such as circling or underlining. Often his videos are time-lapsed and speeded up in certain sections; even though his videos are short, he thoughtfully includes more helpful information than many longer ones I've watched! I just love his work! Here's a example of one of his short tutorials:

The Best Way to Colorize a Black and White Photo

length: 7 minutes

Recently I have even seen some of these concepts extended to (short) online newscasts! Check out this video on the current presidential campaign from Aljazeera America's online channel AJ+. Interesting multimedia reporting techniques - a mix of media within media!

Does the DNC Hate Bernie?

length: 3:05 minutes

As far as training and informational videos there are techniques and then there are techniques. We could learn a lot from the little "speed videos" above. Although they are deceptively short and to the point, a lot of work and thoughtfulness has been put into their preparation. They are respectful of people's time; they are fun to watch; and they are extremely easy to understand and follow. Speaking from my own anecdotal experience only, I judge them to be extremely effective. And if I'm "late to the party" with this post, then I'd just like to contribute this testimonial to the growing body of evidence. ;)


A few more examples of speed videos from Facebook:

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Stories from the Farm - The Jacksons' Barn

View from the parlor window when we first moved in (2005)
I've entered 2016 with a series of three posts relating to the joys and pains of prairie winters and living in old farmhouses. To go along with the photography theme of this blog, I included several photos, mostly winter scenes of seasonal birds and lovely sunrises and sunsets. Now before I "lay down my pen," I want to tie off a common thread that runs through these previous posts. In a couple of them I keep mentioning the view of our neighbors' pole barn across the field and against the horizon. Truth is, I have particularly enjoyed this scene ever since we moved here ten years ago. It is nicely framed by our parlor window and by the window over my kitchen sink. It changes with the seasons and looks spectacular at sunrise. I also enjoy it whenever I'm out in the yard.

So to wrap up this January 2016 series, following are glimpses of the Jacksons' barn in different seasons:

Over the rainbow (March 2011)

Spring daffodils (March 2012)

Beyond the lilacs (April 2012)

Cloud drama at sunset (May 2012)

Nimbus clouds (June 2010)

Part of the pleasure of seeing the Jackson's barn is that it brings to mind our neighbors of many years, Ray and Sharon Jackson. Here's a closer view of the barn at Ray and Sharon's 85th and 80th backyard birthday celebration (2013).
In an interesting side note, our neighbor Ray Jackson (and his brother Dale who lives further down the road on 700 S) grew up in the farmhouse where Ben and I now live - back in the 1930's and '40s when it was a working farm, complete with acreage! Oh, the stories they can tell - like waking up in the morning in the upstairs bedroom with snow on their blankets and how the old farmhouse used to look and where the old barn stood. Ray's wife Sharon can chime right in with tales of the days she and Ray were courting and she would visit this house. Ray and Sharon are engaging story-tellers! (And of course a complete history of our old farmhouse would also need to include our good neighbors the Ricks's who also grew up on and farmed this property after the Jacksons.)

In closing I thought it would be fun to collage some of the photos I've included in this January series of posts so that my readers can compare and contrast the view of the Jackson's barn through the different seasons. :)

Through the seasons and through the years (2006 - 2012)  - collage done with the Atlantas App for Windows 8 and Windows 10

And now that I'm hopefully done with this series, it's time to look toward spring. It may still be January, but the days are definitely getting longer!