Thursday, July 06, 2017

Do You Believe in Prayer?

Do you believe in prayer?  I do.

I've heard that even atheists believe the power of a prayer can accomplish a lot for an individual.  They say the focus it brings to one's mind helps center efforts around goals in a way that helps bring about positive results.

I say God listens and indeed helps us rally our resources and faculties to accomplish what we seek, as well as intervenes on our behalf and touches our spirit to increase faith and bring about Good.

Either way, I had a cool experience with prayer today.  I had just come off a more than week long vacation on a tropical island (so I was kind of in that "vacation mind-fog" you have the day after vacation.  I went out to start my new (to me) truck, and found that it wouldn't start.  The thought that LITERALLY went across my brain (...Are thoughts really ever a "literal" occurrence? --I guess I'm going with "yes" on this on.)  The thought that LITERALLY went across my mind was, "Well, I guess I don't get to go anywhere, EVER!"

I felt absolutely defeated.  Here I was facing a problem, and I had NOTHING in mind for a solution.  My wife had our second car.  I couldn't call her, because she was at a funeral (I know, sad. right?).  While thinking through what might be the problem, the battery came to mind... but that's about it.  And even if it was the battery, that was all I could think:  it was probably the battery.  --nothing about "I wonder if I could round up some jumper cables and get it jump started" or anything like that came to mind.  I was just defeated.

I went inside and moped at the dining room table for a minute, thinking about how I couldn't reach Lisa, and I guess the meetings I had planned to go to would all fall through and how my new truck sucked.

Then I went to mope on the front porch.  It was there that I said my little prayer.  It was little, too.  Something like "Heavenly Father, can you please help me out here.  In Jesus' name, Amen."  I said that prayer because I really believe in divine help--even on little stuff.

It was answered immediately.  As I sat there, my neighbor came out of her house to put some stuff in the back of her car.  She didn't see me, and I was inclined to keep moping on my own, but I had the distinct feeling I should talk to her.  So I just said how's it going?  How's the fam?  The usual...  She commented, and responded with "How are YOU doing today?".  Usually I would just say "Fine", and that would be that.  But I didn't.  I said-- "Well, I'm doing OK.  But my truck won't start, and I can't get to Lisa.  I'm just sitting out here thinking about how to get in to work."

I know that sounds kinda like asking for help or a solution from her, but honest--I wasn't.  I was just kinda saying what was going on.

But her response was: "Well let me go get Phil and see if he can help you figure out what's wrong with it."

I said, "I think it might be the battery".

She said, "I think he has a jump box.  If not, we can drive over there and jump start it."

Seriously (and I know--this is just kinda a reflection of either how dumb I am or of how susceptible to 'brain fog' I am), I had NOT considered that there might be help or solutions to my problem in something as simple as some jumper cables.

Sure enough.  Phil came over.  Attached the jump box.  It started right up.  I went in to town and had the battery tested.  It's in fine shape.  It had just gotten low over the long time not being driven, and my "always-on" car charger plugged in.

But how cool is that:  I didn't have any thoughts on a solution.  I prayed, and a solution came to me.  It was a beautiful thing.

And I know--you non believers out there--it could've all happened by coincidence.  But I believe in prayer.  I believe a neighbor was inspired to be thoughtful and Christ-like.  I believe the Lord provided a solution when I had none.  I believe my faith was made just a little stronger as one more of MY little problems was important enough for an all-powerful God to take note of and help solve.  And that's really what I believe happened.

Keep Walking--ESPECIALLY When it's Cold

Here's a post I drafted, but didn't publish a long time ago:

The other day, our kids wanted to walk home from school despite the temperature being only about 18 degrees Fahrenheit.  It usually takes about 20 or 30 minutes for them to get home.  So when it was getting to be almost an hour after school ended and we still hadn't seen them on such a cold day, my wife and I started getting a little worried.  I drove a block and a half down our road and turned the first corner to find my son, daughter, and the neighbor girl standing on the side of the road huddled in a little group.  They piled into the car, happy for the ride the rest of the way home.

When I asked what had taken so long, they said that each time they got cold, they would stop and have the neighbor girl read to them from her story book.  Apparently, that's what was going on when I found them. 

I drew a parallel to my own life in their behavior.  When it gets tough--or cold as it was for the kids--I think my inclination is sometimes to stop moving forward, maybe even withdraw, and seek comfort in some pleasurable activity that takes my mind away from the reality of my concerns.  For the kids, it was stopping to read.  For me it's something mind numbing like angry birds or Facebook.

While I appreciate the value of stopping to smell the roses, I'm not sure it's the wisest choice in sub-freezing weather.  In fact, I think it's probably the opposite of wise.  My pre-school aged son is studying opposites.  Now, what's the opposite of wise?  . . .oh yeah:  Stupid! 

Stopping to smell the roses when
     a) there are no roses in bloom, so you imagine up some to yourself and read about them, and
     b) you have somewhere to go and the conditions you face could prove detrimental to your success and harmful to your health. . .  
...In this case, stopping to smell the roses is the stupid thing to do.

I appreciate the kids' logic; and I've exercised it from time to time myself.  "I need some me time to recharge and move on. . ."  It's a real thing, and there are occasions when it's the perfect answer.  But to get to where you're going, you've got to keep walking--ESPECIALLY when it's cold!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

White Background Videos

I was recently asked how I do my white backgrounds on videos.  Here's my setup (white background, video, lighting, and audio).

I just setup in basement.  Right in front of the pictures on the wall.

I use a crossbar suspended between two tall tripods, specially made for hanging backgrounds.  I drape a thick white background over it and clamp it tight to the edges with clamps, so it's as flat as possible.  Flat white sheets would work.  (For the ultimate 'farm rig', you could throw up a couple two-by-fours (2x4) with a top cross bar 2x4, and lean them against the wall with a sheet hung over it.  I also have a heavy bar holding the bottom down--again to make it as flat as possible.  Since I was going for a 'waist-up' shot, I didn't worry about the slight wrinkles near the edges of the background.  But if there are shadows in your shot on the background, they'll show up, so you may need to adjust a bit more than I did.

I add my mic next.  I have a cool tripod boom to put it on, and I adjust it to be pointed in the direction where I'll be standing.

This is really about where I put it.  When I get it all adjusted, the mic is never much more than a couple feet (maybe even as close as 8-12 inches or so) from my mouth.  You just have to be careful to keep it just out of the shot.

Here's the mic I use.  The AudioTechnica AT6500 shotgun mic set on 'tele' mode.

To use this or almost any other external mic with your smartphone (at least my iphone 5s--maybe other phones play nicer w/ external mic jacks...), you'll need to get an appropriate adapter.  You can see the right adapter here in my pic of the camera setup I have.  (You can also see I just have my iphone bungee-strapped to an ipad mount that is attached to a tripod.  I know there are much nicer mounts than this, specifically designed for iphones, but this is all I had.)

See the little adapter connected right into the phone?  It's a Rode SC4.  It's called a TRS to TRRS adapter.  It converts the TRS jack from most external mics (with 3.5mm outputs) to the TRRS input of most smart phones.  It's $15 on Amazon.  I need to get an affiliate program setup w/ Amazon so I can make money off you going to THIS LINK (or that Rode SC4 link) to buy it, but I don't have that setup yet, so enjoy WITHOUT benefiting me, for now. :)  It works great.  (And no matter WHAT they tell you at Best Buy, WITHOUT this adapter cable, most external mics will NOT work directly plugged your smart phone.)  Also, be careful not to get the Rode SC3, which connects some mics to TRS inputs like on sound recorders and DSLR cameras.

Back to the white background, though.  Light is the key.  --and I'm certainly not the best at this, but here's what I do.  I put three huge lights as close as I can to the background from all three angles (left, right, center).

The key is making the background really bright.  I find that to make it as bright as I want, it helps to put a light from the top as well.  Here's a pic of all my lights lit up, brightening the background.

Next is to position the camera and the mic to optimize your video shot and sound just the way you want.

You'll also notice that I put a warmer light right up there close to where I'll stand.  It should help make sure that the colors in my skin tones and hair don't get too washed out with the bright lights.

Here's a video showing my 3 test shots for this setup.

I used my iphone 5s for video, AudioTechnica 6500 shotgun mic on 'Tele' for audio, and a bunch of high power lights on tripods shining at a white background.  DSLR cameras can lock in the white balance setting, so the light doesn't vary.  But this works OK and looks decent.

Thanks for checking it out.  Good luck on your white background ventures.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Dream Living

It just occurred to me (and forgive me if fact checkers and researches find there is another who has articulated these ideas...  If so, good job to them, because I've adopted them and when I think of them, they feel like my own thoughts.  --and that goes for any and all of my posts....)

It just occurred to me that there are three types of "dream living"...

  •        Living IN a dream
  •        Living ON a dream
  •        Living the dream

Living IN a dream is the state of being delusional...  Either through over-optimistic thinking that denies reality, or through negative despair that sees no brighter day, a dream can haunt and torment a person.

Living ON a dream is the healthy use of hope to drive action.  It motivates a person to see beyond obstacles to find solutions and picks them up when they are down.  Living on a dream is the power that can move a person to real action for real results.

Living the dream is the feeling of gratitude in any condition that allows a person to understand (as the proverb says) "The secret to having it all is to realize you already do."

Which dream are you living?

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Vision is success

I was reading through one of my journals, and found the following words I penned on March 30, 2012 (almost 2 years ago, exactly) to be insightful and motivating: Some people view the world as being made up of winners and losers. I choose to believe we're all gladiators in the arena of life, each with varying degrees of success, skill, and victories under our respective belts. Like gladiators we can choose hate, anger, and negative emotion to drive us in a competitive aggression towards our personal goals. Or we can choose a comradery of brotherhood that propels us individually and collectively to wards victory. And why do we fight? who is the foe? Is it our brother? no. the lion, the tiger, or the bull? No. Perhaps the arena itself or the empire that enables the fight? Still no. They are all mere facilitators for our fight that, if not fought at their venue, would be fought out in myriad conditions, times, and places--either occurring naturally in our respective worlds, facilitated by some other entity at some other venue, or created ourselves through our own choices. No, the foe is not external. The real foe is within. it is us. The fight--while waged outwardly--is not about the superficial circumstances that make up our physical world. The real fight is within. It's the fight to conquer will-- to be disciplined enough to defeat the natural will of self destruction in view of a more glorious victory. And victory is found when, by virtue of our mental ability, strength of will, and personal desire directed towards the personal ends we decide to create, we are in fact able to manage our circumstances in such a manner as to bring our intended purposes to pass. Varying levels of this internal victory are sometimes observable in this great arena of life as we watch the intentions of purpose-driven individuals creating their intended purposes. More often, though, is the case where the observable conditions of a man don't tell us very much about the internal victories of self that occur in every battle. The key to turning internal victories into the very observable successes most of us may long for is vision. To create, believe in, maintain, and focus on a clear vision of the ultimate ends to which all effort is directed is in very deed the root, trunk, limbs, and leaves of victory. In short: to see, have faith in, and enact a clear vision is success.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Positioning Statement Template

In Marketing, it's important to differentiate a product from competitors. In order to do this, it's important to understand what makes your product uniquely valuable to the target customer. You have to share a little bit of how your "secret sauce" is going to blow away the customer's expectations. Here's a quick template for effective posititoing statements that has served me well: [The product] is a [the category] for [target customer]. Unlike other [competitive category], [The product] offers [the KEY benefit] by doing [the description/secret sauce/key differentiating feature].

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Oh Danny Boy Third Verse

Oh Danny Boy has been a favorite song of mine ever since my first date with my wife (before we were married).  I heard it performed by world renowned tenor (famous for performances with the Metropolitan Opera), Stanford Olsen, at President of the LDS Church (at the time) Gordon B. Hinckley's 90th birthday celebration.

I remember listening to the beautiful music, reflecting on the lyrics of the song, and considering the emotions President Hinckley must have as he had not too long previously experienced the passing of his wife, Marjorie.  I was touched.  I have reflected on that moment and that date many times.

Just today, I opened a youtube video of a performance of the same song by BYU's Vocal Point.  It's an impressive a'cappella rendition of the song.  I was quite surprised to hear a THIRD verse to the song.  I have only ever heard TWO.

The third verse brought tears to my eyes--actually I wept--as I considered the loss my own parents have recently experienced at the passing of their son (my brother), Wade.  (Below is a link to his obituary)

Here is the third verse:

Oh danny boy the stream flows cool and slowly
And pipes still call and echo cross the glen
Your broken mother sighs and feels so lonely
For you have not returned to smile again

So if you’ve died and crossed the stream before us
We pray that angels met you on the shore
And you’ll look down and gently you’ll implore us
To live so we may see your smiling face once more.

I did a search, and didn't find this verse written anywhere, so I transcribed what I heard BYU's Vocal Point sing.  I believe this verse seems to contain 'the rest of the story' of that song.  And to my dear mother and father who I know still long for him to 'return and smile again' (as do we all, who knew him well), I hope you know you are still in my prayers daily--as I am sure you must be in Wade's as well, as he implores we live 'so we may see his smiling face once more'.

Here is the link to the BYU Vocal Point version:

Here are the complete lyrics to the song:

Oh Danny Boy

Oh, Danny boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling

From glen to glen, and down the mountain side

The summer's gone, and all the flow'rs are dying

'Tis you, 'tis you must go and I must bide.

But come ye back when summer's in the meadow

Or when the valley's hushed and white with snow

'Tis I'll be here in sunshine or in shadow

Oh, Danny boy, oh, Danny boy, I love you so.


And if you come, and all the flowers are dying

If I am dead, as dead I well may be

I pray you'll find the place where I am lying

And kneel and say an "Ave" there for me.

And I shall hear, though soft you tread above me

And all my grave will warm and sweeter be

And then you'll kneel and whisper that you love me

And I shall sleep in peace until you come to me.


Oh danny boy the stream flows cool and slowly
And pipes still call and echo cross the glen
Your broken mother sighs and feels so lonely
For you have not returned to smile again

So if you’ve died and crossed the stream before us
We pray that angels met you on the shore
And you’ll look down and gently you’ll implore us
To live so we may see your smiling face once more.