Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day Tribute

The slide show created by Daniel Breitfeller. The music is "Dogs of War" from the Medal of Honor: European Assault soundtrack.

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Future of Print Media?

Could this be the future of print media? Will this become the standard format for books and magazines? Will this be a good thing or is there a downside? What are you thoughts?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Point and Shoot Foreign Language Translation...There's an App for That??

Point your iPhone or iPad at a sign written in Spanish and see it translated into English before your eyes? Yep, that's what Word Lens is all about.

I have not seen the app in action, so I have no idea whether or not it's as good as the video. Wow, just think of the possibilities!

Monday, May 23, 2011

On Your Graduation, Wishing You Discomfort, Anger, Tears, and Foolishness

A thought for you on your graduation:
May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart.

May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.

May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger, and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and turn their pain into joy.

And may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in the world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done to bring justice and kindness to all our children and the poor.


                                                          --A Franciscan Blessing

Friday, May 20, 2011

Famous Failures

Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.
-Henry Ford

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Beginner's Guide to QR Codes

QR CodeThe Eye on Education Blog is featuring links to recent posts on QR codes. Check it out here.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Why the BlackBerry Playbook?

When Apple came out with the iPad, I asked myself a question many of us have asked. “Why do I need one? What’s missing by not having one?”

As talk of BlackBerry joining the tablet field grew, I decided to hold off at least until the Playbook came out. That day happened just a few weeks ago. I did buy the Playbook, and this post will share my reasoning. Hopefully, it will help others who are faced with the same decision.

What Hole Does It Fill?
My BlackBerry smartphone gives me the ultimate in portability. All of my precious Outlook data goes with me in my pocket. I have a camera, video recorder, voice recorder, and pretty much the kitchen sink, and it’s all on something about the size of deck of cards.

My laptop gives me the full computing power of a desktop computer. I have the Office suite. I can log onto a Wi-Fi hotspot at any number of locations. I can compose document. I can give PowerPoint presentations.

So what’s missing? What hole would a tablet fill? What would it do better than the tools I already have? What would it not do as well as the tools I already have?

I did try to keep an open mind. After all, my laptop is almost five years old. It’s still running Windows XP. Even though I replaced the hard drive only a year ago, I would be due for a new laptop at some point anyway. Would a tablet be a suitable replacement?

Friday, May 13, 2011

Why the BlackBerry?

Today's smartphone market offers an array of options. It is also highly competitive. The latest figures show the Android holding 33% of the market, BackBerry at 29%, and the iPhone at 25%. If you are in the market for a new phone, which one should you buy, especially when the leading competitors are all excellent choices? This post is about the reasons behind my choice, the BlackBerry.

The BlackBerry Syncs With Outlook
I could probably end the post with that last statement...The BlackBerry sync with Outlook. Other leading brands do not. My last post explained why I use Outlook and have done so since 2001. The leading handheld device at that time was the Palm. Palm provided a great piece of desktop software for free, but they also understood how popular and powerful Outlook was. Therefore, you were provided two options: sync with the Palm Desktop or sync with Outlook. I wish every smartphone offered the options to sync with Outlook.

Most of us have Microsoft Office, complete with Outlook, so when you buy a BlackBerry, there is no need to look for any third-party software to manage your calendar, to-dos, contacts, etc. Install the BlackBerry Desktop Software on your computer, run through the simple setup procedures, and you are ready to share your organizational data between your computer and your BlackBerry.

Go with another smartphone, and you will find plenty of options. One program handles your calendar. Another one handles to-dos. Finding one that has calendar, to-dos, contacts, and reference information rolled into one is. Finding something that does all of that at no additional cost is even tougher.

The Task List Search Function is Fast and Easy
When I look at the BlackBerry task list, I see a list of my to-dos in order by due date. With the most overdue items at the top and the things I need to do years from now, such as renewing my driver’s license in four years, at the bottom. But what if I want to find a particular item or group of items?

I press one of the two "convenience keys" on my BlackBerry Bold to bring up my task list. If I simply start typing, the device starts narrowing the list. With each key stroke, the list narrows instantly to only the entries which contain that string of letters. Because it happens with each keystroke, I never have to wait on search results. In a future post, I will discuss how to use the task list in more detail.

It's Easy to Share My Methodology With Others
I do what I do with Outlook and the native BlackBerry software. When I work with someone else who has Outlook and a BlackBerry, we do not have to begin by purchasing additional software. We do not begin by downloading any new software. We can jump right into methodology, because we already have everything we need.

I do keep my eyes and ears open for other software that helps people organize their lives. One of the main reasons I do so is that non-BlackBerry users need some options, since other leading brands do not sync with Outlook. I want to be ready to help people succeed with whatever smartphone they have.

For my own use, however, I already have everything I need. That's certainly not to take away from any software that has been developed. There is some good stuff out there. I am a proponent of people using digital tools to make managing their lives easier, and anyone willing to write software to that end has my full support.

It's simply a matter of when you have Outlook and a BlackBerry, all you need is some instruction on how to use what is already at your fingertips. That's the easy part.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Why Outlook?

For over a decade, my Day-Timer and I were inseparable. After a great deal of thought, I made the switch and went digital. Outlook became the tool which managed my life. The Palm became the "satellite" that allowed me to take my data everywhere. That was 2001.

Ten years later, I still manage my life with Outlook. My BlackBerry is now the satellite. Yes, there were other options back then, and yes there are even more options now. Why Outlook then?
Why Outlook now?

All the Eggs in One Basket
I have never been one to embrace lots of tools. Let's keep it simple. Give me one tool that can do it all. I hear so many conversations that go something like this:

I use Outlook Express to manage e-mail.
I use Google Calendar to keep up with appointments.
I use ToodleDo to keep up with tasks.
I use (fill in your own blank) to manage phone numbers.
I use (fill in another blank) to manage e-mail addresses.
I use Pad of Notes to manage miscellaneous reference information.

That's all well and good. I prefer a different route.
I use Outlook to manage e-mail
I use Outlook to keep up with appointments.
I use Outlook to keep up with tasks.
I use Outlook to manage phone numbers.
I use Outlook to manage e-mail addresses.
I use Outlook to manage miscellaneous reference information.

Are you seeing a pattern here?

Because I have everything in one program, all of the data "talks to" the rest of the data. Using "drag and drop," when I receive an e-mail with information about where I am supposed to be, I drag it to the Calendar button. Outlook creates a new appointment and includes the entire body of the e-mail message in the note section of that appointment.

When the e-mail concerns something I am supposed to do, and I don't want to do it right then, dragging the e-mail to the Task button creates a new task. It fills in the subject line of the task with the subject line of the e-mail, which I can then edit. It puts the entire body of the e-mail message in the note section of the Task.

I can drag a Note to the Mail button and instantly create an e-mail. The text of the Note appears in the body of the of the e-mail message. Drag and drop saves tons of time and allows me to get the e-mail Inbox empty on a daily basis.

Outlook is Readily Available
If you have Microsoft Office, you have Outlook. Admittedly, you can buy stripped down versions of Office for home use that do have include Outlook, but the standard Office program is going to give you Outlook. There is nothing else to buy.There is no annual fee. There is no "free for the basic version but here's the charge for the upgraded model" to worry about.

Outlook Has Stood the Test of Time
I have been using Outlook for 10 years, and it has been around a good while longer than that. People have put it through its paces time and time again. Because it has been around so long and is so popular, there are countless help resources on the Internet and countless people who can help out with best practice.

Outlook Will Carry the Heavy Load
Sure, you can fine plenty of programs that will let you make a to-do list. Entering half a dozen tasks is one thing. When you really and truly use one program to keep up with all of your tasks, repeating tasks, and goals with their various steps and supporting information, you are looking at over 1,000 tasks, and that's a conservative figure for most people. Yesterday, I renewed my driver's license. I already have a Task in Outlook reminding me to renew again--in 4 years.That's what I mean when I say keeping up with all of your tasks.

Will the task program you are considering carry that sort of load? Can you search it quickly and pull a bit of information that is embedded in the note section of a task? How quickly can you reschedule dates on 100 different tasks? Outlook makes it look easy.

Here to Stay
You and I see companies go belly up every day. I just don't see Microsoft being one of them. We also see companies hook you with a "free" services that one day become not so free anymore.

What are you going to do if and when the company that hosts your valuable data in the cloud goes out of business? What are you going to do if and when they say, "Sorry, but we lost all of your data," and then point to something in the user agreement that says they are not responsible in case of loss of data.

Every bit of my Outlook data resides in one file. Every appointment, every to-do, every contact, every piece of reference information, every sent e-mail--It's all in one file. Every week, I back up that file with a copy on my hard drive and a copy in the cloud using Dropbox. Every month, a copy of that file goes onto an external hard drive.  

Have I considered going with other options? Not for more than 5 seconds. Not when something has worked this well for this long. That's my answer. That's "Why Outlook?"

What are your thoughts? Anyone have other reasons you like Outlook? Are there dissenting opinions?

Monday, May 09, 2011

What I Wish I Had Know Before I Set Up My BlackBerry Playbook

Having been a BlackBerry user for 5 years, I had been looking forward to the release of the Playbook. A week ago today, I made my purchase. In short, I am enjoying the Playbook, but there were some frustrating moments with setup. In short, the frustration should not have been with the product, but instead with the instructions and with some items I though tech support should have known but did not.

In this post, I will share what I learned along the way to save others time and stress. Saving people time and stress is pretty much what this whole blog is about anyway!

Friday, May 06, 2011

Sarah Kay: If I Should Have a Daughter...

This TED Talk, filmed in March 2011, seems particularly timely for Mother's Day.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

The Worst Things are Never the Last Things

It was a week ago today that tornadoes ripped across Alabama. Within a day, my wife and I received calls, e-mails, and Facebook messages from friends in various parts of the country making sure we were OK. Yes, we were spared any damage, although parts of our city were not as fortunate.

As we began to hear statistics, we also began to hear of friends, or friends of friends, who had lost their homes, or worse. The statistics began to take on faces. Every  Alabamian was impacted in some way by this series of tornadoes.

The devastation in Cordova and Tuscaloosa is captured in these pictures. Thanks to Andrea Hollenbeck for her permission to embed this collection. Music is "I Shall Not Walk Alone" by The Blind Boys of Alabama.

Yesterday, a prayer service at Birmingham's Samford University included this video created by Lawrence Mathis:

Almost 25 years ago, I listened to Dr. John Claypool deliver a sermon in which he made the point again and again, "The worst things are never the last things." I have thought about those words many times since. I have thought about them a great deal this week. He ended that sermon with the story of the funeral for Sir Winston Churchill. In Dr. Claypool's words:

The account of Churchill’s funeral at St. Paul’s Cathedral confirms this fact. He had carefully planned it himself and included in it some of the great hymns of the Church and all of the wonder of our Anglican liturgy. Furthermore, there were two things that he specifically requested at the end that made it unforgettable for every person there. When the benediction had been said from the high altar, silence fell over the packed Cathedral. A bugler high up in the dome of St. Paul’s had been asked to play the familiar sound of “Taps,” a well-known signal marking the end of something. Those haunting notes brought home to everyone there the realization that an era had come to an end, and it was reported that there was hardly a dry eye in the church. 

However, as Churchill had requested, after the notes of “Taps” had sounded, another bugler on the other side of the dome, began to play “Reveille.” “It’s time to get up, it’s time to get up, it’s time to get up in the morning.” That final touch caught everyone by surprise, but revealed where Churchill had gotten the strength across the years to never give up. He did believe that the worst things are never the last things and the final sounds of history will not be “Taps” but “Reveille.”

We are already hearing "Reveille." On Sunday morning, our congregation listened as The Rev. David Hall talked about events of  the previous several days and how we could best help in the coming days, weeks, and months. David's position is unique in that he serves us as an ordained priest and is also a full-time employee of The United Way.

David Hall told us of the 47,000 phone calls fielded by his office. So many of them were requesting help. So many others, from every part of the country, were offering help. In short, he asked us to keep eyes and ears open for lists of things that would appear for needed items and to respond to those lists. "Don't just show up," he said. He told us more ham and turkey sandwiches have been prepared than those in need could possibly eat. Needs for bottled water had already been handled. Realistically, the tornadoes of Alabama will soon cease to be national news, yet the needs will continue long after the attention has shifted. "Watch for those lists," he said. He also added, "Write a check."

Last Thursday, David issued this communication:

I have been working on our United Way emergency response team since early this morning.  The devastation throughout Birmingham and the rest of the state is significant.  Currently, FEMA and law enforcement are discouraging volunteer efforts in the areas hit because conditions are not safe.  The best response is to do just as Stephen asks and make contributions to disaster relief through the Rector’s Discretionary fund or United Way’s website at and you will see Tornado Disaster Relief on the home page.  I did not see a Disaster Relief link on the diocesan webpage but I am sure they will accept donations as well.  That website address is  Walmart gift cards are also an excellent idea.

When the time comes that volunteers will be valuable and needed, that effort is being coordinated through Hands on Birmingham, United Way’s volunteer recruitment division.  People who wish to volunteer their time should go to and click on TORNADO VOLUNTEERS.  You will be contacted when conditions are safer and volunteer teams are being formed.  Whether you make a financial contribution, give your time, or offer your prayers, thanks for the help you will provide for those who were impacted last night.

In the past week, in places like Tuscaloosa and Cullman, Hackleburg and Cordova, and in many other towns throughout Alabama, shock is turning into resolve. Hopelessness is turning into hope. Mourning what was lost is turning into thanksgiving for all that remains. As the notes of "Taps" fade, the sounds of "Reveille" grow stronger.

Alabama will rebuild, will make things even better than before, and will do so with the assistance and prayers of friends all over this nation. The worst things are never the last things.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Clips from "Teacher Movies"

During National Teacher Appreciation Week, enjoy some film clips from some of the popular "teacher movies" of our time. Music by .38 Special.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Be Kind to Animals Week

Hi! My name is Cabrio. I wish I could tell you how old I am or what my days as a pup were like. You see, I was picked up on the road as a stray in an eastern Tennessee town. The next thing I knew, I was at animal control. There were lots of dogs there, but I felt so alone and so scared.

I knew what was happening. With more dogs than room to accommodate us, others around me were disappearing into this room in the back and not coming back out again. Being “put down” was what they called it. I just knew I might be next.

Then, this lady who said she was from a place called the Bright Hope Animal Rescue appeared and asked to look at me. I have to admit, I was really pretty much a mess at that point. They actually had to shave off all of my fur because of the mess I was in. She came back to visit me a second time, and this time I wound up going home her. For the next several months, I stayed at the rescue. There were lots of other dogs and even horses that lived there.

That brings me to my home now. One day, a car drove up into the driveway. The man and woman who got out seemed awfully interested in me and wanted to talk to me and pet me. As it turned out, they wanted to adopt me and take me to their house to live forever.

My days have been good ever since. I have a soft bed and plenty of treats. My new owners seem ecstatic when they say “sit” and I do or when they say “shake” and I lift up my right front paw. If that makes them happy, I am game! My fur is growing back a little more every day, and my owners think I am so pretty.

But from time to time, I do think, “What if that lady from Bright Hope had not stopped by?" I am afraid to say I probably would not be alive right now to tell you my story.

There are animal shelters all over that are overflowing. Our stories are all different. In some cases, our stories are tragic. During my time there, I met some friends who would make great pets if just given a chance. I hope they found homes.

This is “Be Kind to Animals Week.” There is perhaps no better way to celebrate it than to visit a shelter and give one of us a forever home. Another way you can show your kindness if to make a donation to one of the rescues in your area. They work tirelessly to find loving homes for loveable pets. And, they make a difference. Bright Hope sure made a difference for me!