Posted on January 3rd, 2017 No comments
Since getting my 101Hero 3D printer, I’ve been watching a lot of how-to videos. Generally speaking, I loathe amateur instructional videos on Youtube. I’m not talking about camera technique, video quality, smoothness of editing or any other technical topic. I’m talking about the person in front of the camera, telling (instead of showing) me something that I want to know or learn or do.
If a video can’t hook me in the first 30 seconds, I’m gone. Lost as an audience now and probably forever.
I used to work in live TV (a show called “Homework Hotline”) . I got that job because as an Advanced Toastmaster, experienced public speaker and award-winning teacher, I was able to present well on air. Not that I didn’t occasionally goof; I’m human. Yes, there was a seven-second delay, and yes, a mistake would be edited in the video for distribution, but when you’re on live transmission, dead air and wasted time are a no-no. A lot of what I’m talking about in this post came from lessons learned on that show.
I’m not going to embarrass anybody by linking to flawed presentations… but ooh, it’s tempting! If you’re a video presenter and you want me (and others) to watch your work, here are five things I wish you’d pay attention to when you do your video.
1. Show some life
Please don’t be just a talking head. Show some animation. If you look and sound bored, the chances are pretty good that your video will be boring. But the chances are also pretty good that I won’t know or care, because I’ll be gone within the first 10 or 15 seconds.
The Hotline hired teachers who could put some pizzazz into a lesson. You need to do that for your video.
2. Get Right Into Your Topic
Our producer used to stress that “Air time is money! Don’t waste it. Get right to your material!” Perhaps as a result of that, I have come to hate presenters who waste a lot of time with long and irrelevant introductions.
“Hi, guys, how ya doin’? This is Greg the curizan specialist comin’ to ya from Upchuck South to tell ya all about how to dilate your curizan. If ya got a curizan that don’t dilate and ya wanna know how to make it do that, I’m the man to tell ya. I picked up my latest curizan at a flea market in Upchuk North for ony a buck, but it didn’t dilate right — ya always gotta be careful with what ya buy in a yard sale, don’t ya? So I had to figure it out and now I’ll share that with you.”
And on, and on, and he’s wasted several minutes telling me NOTHING but what I already knew about the video just from the title. If you’ve picked your title well — “Dilate Your Curizan by Greg”, or “Greg Shows How to Dilate a Curizan” — you needn’t say much more. You don’t even need “Hi, how ya doin’? Greg here again to talk about Curizans.” I know that already.
Save me the trouble of fast-forwarding to where you say something important. Get right into your topic.
3. Have Your Props Ready
For heavens sake, if you need props or samples, have them right at hand. Our floor manager used to rips us a new one if we didn’t have our lesson materials right where we wanted them and right when we needed them.
You’re your own producer and director and floor manager, so this is all under your control. Your items can be off to the side just out of camera range, or on a small table beside you (also out of camera range) or even on the desk in plain sight. Do some preparation, know what you’re going need at each point in your presentation, have your props ready and in sequence.
Above all, please, don’t be dodging off camera to get something. Especially don’t make a comment while you disappear, “Shoot, where did I leave that?” At the very least, edit the break for a smooth transition before posting your video.
4. Don’t Um and Ah.
Speech hesitations, unnecessary interjections, false starts –”Um, man, like, you know, I, uh, got this curizon, and, like, it didn’t work, you know” ARRGH!
You’ll notice that professionals don’t do a lot of this. If you have your own Youtube channel and do a lot of videos, please review a few of your posts and take a count of the number of speech stumbles. If there are more than a couple, plan to do something about it. Take a speech class. Join Toastmasters. Get a friend to slap your face with a dirty sock whenever you do something like this. For Canadians, it’s that unconscious “eh?” at the end of our sentences that we don’t even notice until our American friends tease us about it.
It takes a little practice and training to break these speech habits, but you can learn to speak fluently.
4. Pay Attention to Pacing
This is a toughie that comes with practice. I find that the average video presenter talks so slowly that I want to shake him (or her) and say, “Go! Get on with it!” On the other hand, if you’re rattling along like an auctioneer, I’m going to be missing some of what you say.
Many sources give the average conversational speech rate as about 110 to 140 words a minute, but our listening comprehension goes much higher. Trained professionals — motivational speakers, newscasters, advertising readers–tend to be at the higher end, up to 160 words per minute (one study of Ted Talks found the average rate was 163 wpm). With crisp, clear delivery and good enunciation, a speaker may be understandable at a faster rate, up to around 220 or even 240, but that’s the upper limit for effective listening.
Your goal is somewhere between the used car salesman’s rapid-fire pitch and the kindergarten teacher explaining to the slowest students in the class. Of course, the best speakers also vary their rate, just as they vary their inflection, for greater emphasis on certain points. You can also do this in your video.
But here’s the rub: Average reading speed is 200 to 300 words per minute, and faster readers can easily hit 500 or more. To a reader, your talking video is incredibly, frustratingly, annoyingly s….l….o….w. This is the main reason I hate videos: I can read your material in a fifth of the time it takes you to say it.
5. Don’t Tell Me — Show Me
“Show, don’t tell” is a writer’s dictum that also applies to videos. Most Youtube videos are telling me something (slowly) that I’d rather read (quickly). The value of a video is when you can show me a process or skill or operation that can’t easily be described in words. If you’re just telling, you can video a text screen that I can scroll past after I’ve read it. Saves us both time. But talking heads? Pfui.
I like Instructables because they generally use words and tagged images. I can take those at my pace, as fast as I can handle them. But Instructables also sometimes include short video clips that show or demonstrate some particular point or process. Those are truly worthwhile use of the video format, especially if they’ve been tightly edited to show only the essentials.
Much of what I’ve written here is basic to any public speaking class, or is covered by a year in Toastmasters or a similar organization. However, if you’re doing instructional videos, you can improve your product — your presentation–not only by taking courses or training but also by paying attention to what you’re doing, being prepared, and simply working at being better.
Posted on November 28th, 2016 No comments
My inbox has been filled with ads promoting wonderful deals for Cyber Monday.
Woah! Books from Amazon. Caribbean cruises from Princess and a couple of travel agents. 3D printers from makerbot. RV toys from HobbyKing. Almost everything from Gearbest. Office supplies from Staples. Discount domains from my web host. Campaigns from Indiegogo. Clothes from MEC and UnderArmour. Discount DNA analysis from a few family history places.
Now, if I were only in the market for this stuff and could take advantage of the Cyber Monday deals. If nothing else, it’s led me to cancel a bunch of subscriptions and clean up my inbox.
Posted on November 22nd, 2016 No comments
I have been talking with my local library about their Makerspace. I had offered them my old Cupcake 3D printer, which they politely declined, saying that many of the local libraries had phased out their 3D printing section because of repeated problems with print settings and quality. They were also reluctant to have people using the library computers to download files, or bringing files in on USB keys, because of security risks.
Anyway, after I backed the Trinus 3D Printer on Kickstarter, I found the M3D Pro which promises “intelligent sensor feedback” to catch and correct various printing errors. Like the Trinus, it is a Cartesion (XYZ) printer, a little bit slower in print speed and looking not nearly as solid as the Trinus but with a larger build volume.
Built by the same folks who brought out the successful M3D Micro a few years ago — where almost 12,000 backers raised over $3.4 million — the Pro version claims superior energy efficiency (45W compared to 60W for the Trinus) and superior features. For the Pro, just over 1000 backers have invested just under $500,00 (plus a few more backers and bucks on Indiegogo pre-orders), and early backers got the unit for $399 USD plus shipping. Dang! I came in late and had to pay $549 USD with shipping — less than the Trinus.
What caught my eye, though, was that the M3D Pro
- Claims to offer auto-leveling and auto-calibration. No messing about with settings.
- Doesn’t need a computer tether: people can bring their project on an SD card and plug it in to print.
- Offers “embedded recovery mode” to recover from power failures, pauses, nozzle jams, or filament outages
- Uses an “advanced sensor network” of two dozen sensors to ensure reliability and consistency of prints
These characteristics made me think it might be suitable as a loaner to the library. On specified dates, I’d bring the printer in to the library and patrons could try it out, perhaps leaving it there for projects to finish printing under staff supervision. I’d expect the library to provide filament. Details still to be worked out with the library’s program director.
Because of M3D LLC’s previous experience with the Micro, they may have a smoother transition from R&D to Production than some other crowdfunded campaigns. The M3D Pro is scheduled to ship in March, 2017.
Which means I can hope to get it for Christmas 2017. The library will just have to wait.
Posted on May 14th, 2016 No comments
I almost never recommend products or brands. But I recently tested the free version of InPixio PhotoClip 7 and was so impressed that I bought the full version the same day.
PhotoClip consists of two components: Eraser and Cutter
Photo Eraser lets you remove unwanted elements from a photo. Depending on how much you want to remove, and how much time you want to spend at it, and what the background is behind the removed bit is, the software works well and often amazingly well. “The technical features of Photo Clip automatically identify the sections of an image that need to be filled in and make your new photo look natural and seamless,” says the InPixio site. What that means is that you can just click on or outline the part to be removed, then click Erase.
This works best when the background is fairly simple, such as sand or water or sky. The examples on the InPixio site are all of this type. Certainly, these are quick and easy to do.
Here are two photos, before and after, done with Erase: The background of the dancers was really busy, so this took some work. First, I cropped the photo to only the central couple. Next, I removed parts on the floor, which left “floor colored” background on the bottom. Next I removed the photos on the wall (which left a “wall colored” background. Finally I removed the man in the white shirt and jeans, then the fellow in purple shirt and black pants. I couldn’t just click the white shirt, because the software then removed the lady’s white blouse. I had to “lasso” each part I wanted removed. Took a while, but you see the result at right, the isolated dancers.
Yes, you can do this in PhotoShop or Gimp, but this is single-purpose software that works.
The second part is Photo Cutter. Inaptly named, this lets you take what’s left after you’ve finished erasing (or any other image) and superimpose it onto another image, creating a photomontage such as my dancers at left, placed over a romantic golden haze. The foreground image can be manipulated – resized, inverted, reversed, etc. -
The montage at right was created using both parts. First, I removed the doggie (a real photo bomb, that!) with Eraser, then superimposed the “bombed” original over top of the cleaned version with Cutter, so that you can compare the two. This particular image took only seconds to create. With a quick glance at the corner where the dog was– and possibly even after some careful study–you’d never know the image was reworked.
Because I so seldom review or recommend a product, I think you can safely conclude that I like this one, and have used it often in the week I’ve had it.
Posted on April 30th, 2016 2 comments
Allow me to grumble for a moment. What is there about self-published authors that leaves them so vulnerable to egregious errors of spelling, punctuation, and grammar? Is the Alberta education system so deficient that English is not taught?
Here’s a sample of writing from Eric J. Brown of Magnolia, Alberta, posted as part of his biography on Author’s Den: “My name Is Eric Brown, [sic: comma error] I was born raised and still reside [sic: comma error] in teh [sic: the] Canadian province of Alberta. I began writing when I was 13 years old, and self published [sic: self-published] my first novel, Ginny, in 1998 adn [sic: and] have sicne [sic: since] published, [sic: comma error] Ingrid 2000, Anna 2002, The Promise 2004, and To the Last Tree Standing 2006″. Is the man dyslexic? Can he not see those errors?
Another reviewer of Brown’s work, Erica Maidment, wrote on Amazon of Anna–Her Odyssey to Freedom (2002) , “…My main complaint with this book is that it suffers from very poor editing. I am willing to overlook minor and occasional errors, but the errors were rampant and marred the text. I liked the content so much that I would really like to read some of the author’s other books, but I am apprehensive if it means slogging through so many missing quotation marks, incorrect words, incomplete sentences, and spelling errors.”
I’m currently reading Third Time Lucky, another self-publication (Magnolia Press, 2009). It’s a formulaic love story involving mail-order-bride Jane Brody and crusty suitor Ethan Phillips, set near the fictional town of Grimstad in rural Alberta, Canada, in 1925. City-born Jane needs to adapt to life in the backwoods; curmudgeonly Ethan needs to learn more civilized ways; both are socially backwards and unable to communicate. Will they be able to share their feelings? Will Jane succumb to the blarney of the lovable Irish moonshiner on the next homestead? Will she use her return ticket back to Ontario? Well, duh.
The writing is a bit flat, but it is readable, with interesting characters and enough plot movement and character development to keep me engaged.
Anachronisms abound, making me wonder just how much (or how little) research Brown did.
- Despite the story being set in 1925, Brown’s characters generally use a 21st century vernacular, such as having Jane refer to Indians as “bad guys”; an educated woman of the time might say “savages” or even “aborigines”.
- “Nonetheless, Jane was wary of her first contact with First Nations people” (p. 130) — the term “First Nations” was not in use until the 1980s.
- Brown has his characters talk of Prohibition as if it were current, even though Alberta repealed it in 1923.
- Jane is from Montreal, where Prohibition never really took hold; even so, she is a “temperance woman” (though she spent some time in Ontario, where it took hold deeply)
- The WCTU in Canada was closely associated with various churches, yet Jane is of no particular faith.
- Alberta women got the vote in 1916, and the hope was that with suffrage, women would stand firmer for temperance; yet by 1925, both Prohibition and the temperance movement had lost force, especially in Alberta. Had Brown been aware of these social and political overtones, he might have used them for a further layer of depth in his novel.
These are minor issues, and not unexpected from a self-published author, though IMO a good editor would catch them.
The run-on sentences, missing punctuation, poor construction, and misused homophones (“wrapping his fist on the table” instead of “rapping”, for example) detract significantly. All the flaws noted by Maidment in the earlier work are present in Third Time Lucky. Did the author learn nothing from his earlier novels? Did he not seek further help with proof-reading and editing?
Yet this book had not one but two editor/proofreaders: the author acknowledges “Lillian Ross, fellow author and proof-reader…” and “Eileen Harrigan for her work as principal editor”. If the published manuscript is “cleaned up”, the rough draft must have been ghastly! In their defense, I will mention that the spelling is generally acceptable (although I take exception to “Whiteman” for white man). At least the spell-check is turned on in whatever word-processor he is using. Perhaps using the grammar-checker as well would help.
The characters, by the way, are always grinning. They never smile, beam, smirk, simper, or give a wry twist of the lips — they just grin. This struck me about halfway through the book, and for every page after, a character that grinned made me wince.
I don’t entirely blame the author for the book’s shortcomings; I’m sure many good writers are poor spellers and grammarians. In fact, I admire Brown for producing not only one but at least eight novels. I admire him even more for producing decent, readable prose and entertaining characters. It’s just too bad that his proof-readers can’t proof, his editors don’t edit, and his word-processing software doesn’t flag homophones for review.
A Post-Script: I had the opportunity as working with another Alberta author, Dave McKenzie, on his novel Calypso. We went through several revisions and edits, and in the end Dave produced a well-written and tightly-plotted book. Still, despite the careful work of several proof-readers, I have no doubt that we missed something, somewhere. It is our hope that whatever errors we left were minor.
Posted on October 12th, 2015 No comments
We pay really low electrical rates at our little cabin in the woods – an average of about 9 cents per kilowatt hour. So we started wondering why our power bills are are so high. There were months when we never even went out to the cabin, and used absolutely no electricity at all, yet we paid almost the same as for months when we did use power. Couldn’t figure out why we were paying for not using power.
When I phoned to ask about this, our electricity provider explained that the charges are “our share of the distribution costs”. In other words, they charge us a bit each month for the use of their power poles and wires, as well for a share of salaries, maintenance, etc.
Seems fair enough in a way, and clearer than rolling it into the cost of electricity. Our bill shows that, beyond a few bucks a month for electricity, we also pay for
- Administration – for the cost of billing us, I guess
- Distribution – poles & wires, I suppose
- Transmission – a small fee for shoving electrons along the wires?
- Riders – various little charges and rebates that come and go
Now, here is our average monthly electrical consumption for each of the past four years, along with all the surcharges, and the totals:
YEAR kWh Usage Energy Surcharges TOTAL 2012 128.63 11.30 74.48 85.78 2013 74.33 6.91 74.55 81.46 2014 43.75 3.56 83.60 87.16 2015 30.83 1.43 90.23 91.66
Notice that the power usage (kWh) and energy costs have declined substantially over the past four years, while the Surcharges have gone up, especially during the past three years. We’re approaching $100 a month, just for having the power lines come to the cabin.
With power costs over $1000 a year, even when we don’t use any electricity at all, off-grid solar is starting to look more attractive. A couple of years ago, I looked into it. A simple system could pay for itself in 5 to 10 years. Will we be using the cabin for that long? Would a solar system add any resale value to the place?
The main power guzzler is the water pump; a solar system to handle that would cost a lot. I can get a small auto-start generator to run the pump (and recharge the batteries if needed) for a few hundred dollars. But the biggest issue was the size and mass of storage batteries; I would have to build an addition to the cottage, specially heated and ventilated, to hold a dozen stinky acid-filled batteries.
Now, with the release of Tesla’s PowerWall, I’m revisiting the idea. Good to -20 Celsius, the thing is only about 3′ wide, 4′ high, and 7″ deep, it has internal temperature controls, is maintenance free, and would mount inside or outside the cabin. Pricey (about 4 years worth of power bills), but dang, it looks like a sensible alternative to standard bulky batteries.
Posted on August 31st, 2015 No comments
I’ve got a smart phone, a Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini. Samsung kindly gives me one free ebook a month for six or 12 months, I forget. I dutifully download a book each month. I’ve even read a few of them. I’ve checked the price of ebooks and they’re not unreasonable. But I still prefer paper. Here’s why.
- A paper book never runs out of battery right at an interesting part
- I can trade paper books at most campgrounds for free.
- I can pick up discarded books from my local library for free.
- I can buy used paper books at garage sales and thrift shops for cheap
- If I don’t like a paper book, I can throw it against the wall in disgust.
- If I really don’t like a paper book, I can burn it in the wood stove or use it for tinder in the fire pit.
- When I’m finished a paper book, I can give it to someone else or sell it in a garage sale
- I can use a paper book to swat annoying insects. I wouldn’t want to do that with my phone!
- I can leave a paper book on the dash or back window of my car and it won’t melt
Probably someone has already published such a list, with more reasons or more humorously written, but these are mine.
On the opposite side, though, it takes a lot of room for a bunch of paper books; I have eight on my phone and it hasn’t got a millimeter larger or a milligram heavier! Also, with a paper book I am stuck with the font and size chosen by the publisher. With an ebook, I can change the type size and screen brightness. As my eyes age and teeny print become harder to see, that is increasingly important.
Posted on December 31st, 2014 No comments
My little Christmas present, a Cheerson CX-10 quadcopter, arrived today from Hong Kong. It was only about $25 CAD from www.banggood.com and included free shipping.
My first impression on opening the package was, “Man, that’s small!” At 4.4 cm square, it is tiny indeed. When it came out
(spring 2014) this tiny toy was said to be the world’s smallest full-function quadcopter, and it may still hold that distinction.
Despite its small size, it has full control over throttle (up/down), yaw (rotate), pitch (forward/backward) and roll (left/right) along with three operating modes (beginner/sport/expert).
It’s fun to fly, and seems tough enough to take the inevitable smacks into walls, ceiling, and furniture that is involved with learning to fly. By my fifth charge, I had it set for a stable hover, and was beginning training flights (forward and back, left and right, “walk the dog”, fly over and land on the sofa, etc.)
It’s a good trainer for the larger and more costly quad and tricopter I’m building.
Posted on November 12th, 2014 No comments
My son and daughter-in-law have an obese feline that they call Goose.
So a few days ago, Beck was on facebook and mused, “Christmas is coming, The Goose is getting fat.” And if we eat her for Christmas dinner, I won’t have to clean her litter every morning.
I sent her a link to Cat Recipes, a spoof site. Another friend said, “Eeewwweee Tom! LOL Don’t encourage her!”
The exchange continued:
Rebecca – There are instructions about carving turkeys, but we might have to initiate one about carving cats.Rebecca – I was thinking the other night if she’d taste good with cranberry sauce and what kind of gravy her au jus would make. Also, with what does one season a cat and is there a recommended wine to go with her?
Tom – A cat, like a rabbit, is not carved, but dismembered. A cat may be seasoned in a variety of ways; follow wild game recipes, especially those for small game such as rabbit or squirrel. A simple recipe for Beer Roasted Cat, along with suggestions for skinning and butchering, may be found at http://www.ooze.com/ooze13/cats.html. Don’t go there if squeamish.
Now for wine, may I suggest Cat’s Pee on a Gooseberry Bush, by Cooper’s Creek Vineyards of New Zealand — an aromatic and flavorful sauvignon blanc. You might also like Sally Cat Pinot Noir, or Tom Cat Merlot, by the same vintner, or Fat Cat Chardonnay by Fat Cat Cellars of California. Since cat meat tends to be dark and strongly flavored, you might prefer the merlot, though an aged pinot noir, with its vegetal and barnyard aromas, might well complement a vintage, fat-marbled cat.
To be continued?
Posted on August 12th, 2014 No comments
Today I took my truck in to Leduc Chrysler, 6102-46A Street, for an oil change and their 15-point “Peace of Mind Inspection”
Invoice 158364 reads “1D Lube, oil and filter change, checked and topped up all fluids, checked and adjusted tire pressures [my emphasis] and performed a 15 point visual inspection.”
Noting that the tire pressure was not on the inspection form, I suggested to the service advisor on duty, Chuck, that I’d appreciate it if he would confirm the tire pressures, as one had been low. He had me drive into the service reception bay and found one tire at 45 psi and three at 60 psi. A check of the door sticker showed they should be Front 50 psi and Rear 40 psi for light loads or Front 60 and Rear 70 for heavy loads.
It was pretty obvious that the pressures had not been “checked and adjusted”. (A second issue was that the passenger side windshield wiper is torn. I had been planning to replace it, but thought I’d just leave it to see if it turned up on the inspection. It didn’t.)
Chuck did all the right things — fixed the tire pressures, admitted the error, apologized on behalf of the company, said he would raise the matter with the tech and service manager, and did the best he could to make things right by waiving the cost of the “Peace of Mind” inspection.
But there is NO peace of mind in this case. I have absolutely no confidence that anything was inspected; how do I know that the tech didn’t just blithely run down the list checking everything? For that matter, how do I know that the oil and filter were actually changed?
Obviously, this will cost Leduc Chrysler a customer. And if you’re in Leduc and reading this post, you might consider going somewhere else too.
By the way, Chuck kept the POM inspection form, and I didn’t receive a copy of it stapled to my invoice. I think that’s odd too. I wonder if it will somehow miraculously change to show the tire pressures. Peace of mind, indeed.