Category Archives: Learning

EU Banning Toys Instead of Focusing on the Important Stuff

I would say that the EU is putting more time on child toy oversight than they are on Social and Immigration Issues. Will American follow in the way it is beginning to regulate consumers and businesses?

“All teddie bears meant for children under the age of three will now have to be fully washable because EU regulators are concerned that dirty cuddly toys could spread disease and infection.”

“British toy manufacturers are concerned that the new rules, which include defining colouring books and anything played with by under-14s, could drive up the price of Christmas presents because of the cost of safety tests.”

“You might say that small children have been blowing up balloons for generations, but not anymore and they will be safer for it,” said an official.

From: http://www.readability.com/articles/72v4oqmn

Do You Have Rad Moves?

“Check me, I got some Rad moves… the Rad Rad Rad moves… Check it out hey!”
a little bit later…
“How about you dude, what can you do?”

Silly, right? This favorite Backyardigans clip of our family has a lot to learn from it in way of finding people who challenge you and that can be equally challenged back. We learn in our friendships by sharing what we know as much as what we have.

What are you willing to share with those around you that might not only be fun but give them the Rad moves they need to do what you both love?

Front Row Seat at Life

I love that my daughters have the same persistent curiosity about life that my wife and I have. This afternoon’s birthday party had my daughters nudging the other kids for the front row seat at the backyard, portable petting zoo. They love exploring new things.

Here is the run down:
Donkey
Turtles
Rabbits
Chicks
Ducks
Goat
Sheep
Rooster
Piglets

Time to get back on the waterslide or in the bouncehouse or pool. Gotta go.

Tidbits of Wisdom from a 50-Year-Old

I had the distinct privilege of hanging out with one of my Florida buddies for his birthday last night. He celebrated his birthday in the morning as he does every year with a no-hands front-flip.

Kevin Conklin is unique both in that he looks 40 instead of 50, and that he is in better shape than most people I know under 30. A former college wrestler in a light weight class, Kevin is still ferocious and determined. 

Kevin has been kind enough to work with me on discovering some of the warped views I have on who God is and how he relates to me. Our friendship is just beginning, but I trust the guy because he lived in his car at the beach for a few weeks to reconnect with God.

So last night at his birthday party, he had been asked to write down some of the wisdom he has gained in all those years. Here are a few tidbits that hit home for me I asked permission from him to share:

  • Pray, don’t talk about prayer or study about it – pray!
  • Be sure to learn a new hobby every couple years – it’s fun and stimulating and keeps you humble but good at a lot of things.
  • [Jesus] is truly faithful and loves you more deeply than anyone. There are no shortcuts to this relationship. Tend to it, nurture it and keep it creative.
  • Guard your heart! He is the source of your strength and peace.
  • Love deeply again and again no matter how much it hurts when it doesn’t work out, being lonely and regretful is no way to live.
  • Trials are your friends, for they truly forge your character. You have what it takes and you should embrace these trials as gifts, not hassles or as some form of punishment. They make you stronger, more real, teach you the best lessons…
  • Attitude and effort are two things you have control over, the rest you really don’t.
  • Make memories, you must be spontaneous and intentional … otherwise you will become a spectator, regretful and for sure boring.
  • Live today, don’t hold tightly to yesterday and don’t bank on tomorrow, we have this moment, right now. What will you do with it?
  • Create a life counsel for yourself. People who love you most, know you best, want the best for you and are willing to speak the truth in love to you.
  • Believe the best in people first and then let their life determine the rest.

Grandmother 2.0

(Mom, I know you are reading this, but I just had to blog this.)

So while laying in the bath (don’t picture it) catching up on my email on my iPhone this morning I get this from my Skype-friendly mother:

>> I noticed that your location on Twitter is still Frisco. I enjoy
>> reading it. Did you get the email from Facebook about adding me?

To which I responded to my mom:

< snip >
> Thankfully I have a policy of never doing anything online that
> my mother would not approve of, so I am safe. You have to be the most
> technically with it woman over 60. You are not supposed to even know what
> Facebook is, much less be on it.
> No, we can’t be friends, you are my mother. The last thing I need is my
> friends ganging up with my mom to do an intervention or something. Yes
> I still have a healthy fear of your wrath and of disappointing you. I
> thought you were retiring to knit, bird watch, and befriend Oprah…what
> is this grandmother 2.0?

I am sure that response will seem harsh to those of you who don’t know exactly how much I really love my momma and how much I admire her. The truth is, she is the one who taught me Windows ’98 and got me my first technology job during that horrible period after school where most of us didn’t have a clear career path.

My point in sharing all of this is to A) brag on my mom to butter her up before she comes to Florida to visit, B) bring out the fact that she isn’t the only older person I am seeing with technical and social software where-with-all. Over the last two years I have had a number of older persons send me “suggestions” about how to improve the websites I oversee, as well as to let me know when something isn’t quite working the way it should. With non-profits, they are especially proficient at online giving and web streaming. It seems they are also highly interested in when events start. Bygones.

What I am trying to say is that I think we now have Grandmother 2.0, which I will define as “a women who has planted two generations of family and knows more than the average Generation X person”. Why Generation X you ask? Because there seems to be a dividing line between most of us and the digital-natives that is marked around 1980.

Is anyone else seeing what I am seeing?

(Mom, I know I told you after you discovered my blog not to comment on posts…but feel free to share your thoughts.)

Settling In In West Palm Beach, Florida

West Palm Beach, Florida is a fantastic place to begin my next phase in ministry. Settling in at this church has been easy, and the staff has been more than welcoming. For me, as expected, it has been easy. Ashley on the other hand has had to deal with keeping the kids for long periods of time with little relief as I spend long hours meeting everyone, putting out some fires, and finishing up a 6 month launch of LifeFaithFusion.com For her so far, it has been what she feared. That will change.

In spite of this, we are settling in. Every day I come home and boxes are magically unpacked. We are finding places to dry-clean our clothes, buy food, and send Fedex packages. The kids have a bigger smile on their face every day. We can go swimming every night. Last week we went to the beach and watched 30 surfers fight over the right place in the wave. We saw a storm roll in fast and chase us all to our cars in less than 10 minutes. This is an adventure no doubt, and your prayers and support are coveted. It will take some time it seems for this to be our normal, but we are starting to get our bearings.

We went to a prayer service last night that had 1500+ people. Just a regular old Wednesday night here. It’s refreshing to see people passionate about prayer and hearing stories of Jesus doing His deal. I was encouraged that the head pastor of this 12,000 person church regularly calls members and staff who are going through a difficult time. He has managed to maintain his pastoral care duties while running this giga-church. I have worked for smarter, more theological, more focused big-time leaders, but never have I worked for a significant leader so passionate about sharing Jesus and doing life with those he leads. He is a servant of the multitudes, and while he doesn’t get everything right he is pushing us all to better model Christ in everything we do.

What is RAGBRAI?

“What is RAGBRAI” is a question worth answering. I will be riding it at the end of next July. Wikipedia says one thing and the RAGBRAI web site says another, but let me give you my version.

It’s buses and buses and buses of people. It’s the craziest costumes you will hopefully ever see. It’s bike baptisms and Catholic worship. It’s trailers of Iowa corn on a stick, it’s having your picture made with a chicken. It’s Lance Armstrong struggling, it’s feisty grandmas to greet you in their town. It’s innovative bikes and innovative people. It’s mixing and mingling. It’s independence and teamwork. It’s getting down the road and not looking back. It’s a make shift water slide or it’s a make shift slip in slide, but not both. It’s time with friends, time alone, and time with old guys who get fat in winter. It is tent camps, and the towns you go through along the way. It’s a special memory you can’t forget.
And, you are invited. Here is even a RAGBRAI for Dummies to get you started. Get a bike and let’s go!

From Bubble Graphs to Mind Maps

Bubble Graphs

I can honestly say there are almost no learning techniques from Jr. High that I have carried forward through my short academic life into business. However, there is one gift that a now nameless, faceless teacher once gave me. That gift was the ability to put my thoughts on paper first, and then dork with them and refine them. She (I think it was a “she”) called them “Bubble Graphs”, but the point was to brainstorm about a topic for a speech, a paper, or an argument and document things. Then go back and do the organization and structuring of those thoughts, with a final output being an outline.

Those of you who have conversed with me for more than a few moments know that my brain multi-threads pretty well when thinking, speaking, and typing. It doesn’t do so well with multi-tasking actual work, but it is highly optimized for thinking. This becomes problematic when my environment puts certain constraints on me, like for instance time, energy, and sleep. So, in time I developed a method of getting my rapid, fluid thoughts out of my brain and onto one of these “Bubble Graphs”.

I started using them in Junior High in Extemporaneous Speaking contests, and then used them at Baylor on almost every paper I wrote and every speech I gave as a Speech Communications major. This approach even helped when I entered the business world as I created Powerpoints, training documentation, technology proposals, project plans, and conducted audits of companies. For me, it was simply the best way to get the unstructured data that flowed rampantly in my brain onto paper, and then decide how the concepts were related, what was worth keeping, and how the final deliverable would be structured. I now know this method to be the same as a concept map.

Mind Maps

About four years ago I stumbled on some software that would allow me to do “mind mapping”. The differences between a mind map and a concept map are subtle. Basically a mind map tends to be more structured in format and there is typically no direct grouping of concepts other than by what the structure and hierarchy of the mind map document provides. That said, the process for creating a mind map and a concept are essentially the same.

Mind mapping software enables a person or persons to quickly document ideas on a screen with almost no technical difficulties that would hamper the creative process. And yet, these ideas can be restructured very speedily by simply dragging and dropping an idea underneath another idea. This creates a very agile approach to document individual or group ideation, whether it be mission statements, business plan outlines, venture capital pitches, or things as abstract as meal recipe organization. It can even help with brainstorming about lengthy blog posts (see my mind map for this post below).

FreeMind Mind Mapping Software

After trying many different mind mapping software products over the last four years, I have finally settled on one that I can’t get enough of. FreeMind is the tool I have recommended recently to a number of other internet professionals. Regardless of the varying ways they think, they almost always come back and say “the more I use this, the more I use this”. Once you really “get” this process and this kind of tool, you begin to find heaps of other ways in which it will help you.

I recently used FreeMind on a consulting engagement where I was asked to make recommendations about how to turn their business around. I took notes of each stakeholder conversation in individual text documents, but then used the mind map to tie all the concepts, problem spaces, and solutions together. This aided me in understanding a large, complex problem at a single glance. It came in handy when it was time to draft the deliverable document of my recommendations.

Also, recently, I used FreeMind on a 150+ page web project to develop the navigation scheme (Information Architecture) that will easily expand in the future to more than 500 pages. The two freelance designers I was working with were able to collaborate on my work by simply opening my file and changing things up. On this same large project, 15 of us used FreeMind during a series of meetings to create a massive mind map that profiles our eight core audience member types. We included each of those profiles characteristics, needs, and the many ways we felt we could meet their needs based on what resources we have available to our organization. This was an invaluable tool in not only understanding our audience, but in helping us as a team to decide which of the 8 types of people coming to our website would be our core focus, which would be of secondary focus, and who we would try to serve as we could.

Why I Love FreeMind

  • Free to use(yep, it’s open source)
  • Cross platform
  • Scalable for very large maps
  • Easily installed and updated
  • Has numerous export options (images, PDFs, outlines in various file types)
  • Built with Java and XML

There seems to exist a little online community around the FreeMind software, which is maybe best illustrated in this online list of mind maps that you can explore for ideas on how to do your own. I am especially fond of this start on Calvinist “Sects”.

Mind Map for This Blog Post

FreeMind Mind Map