Google might not be evil, but they fight dirty

A desperate move to try to keep the iPad and iPad 2 from continuing to kick sand in the faces of the Android-tablet crowd.


The sound of a winner

Awesome video of Tebow all miked up during first win for Denver. (From NFL Network)


The Beauty of Pixar

A very nice compilation.


Who needs a gun?

No wonder the Europeans keep beating us in the Ryder Cup.


I wish I could be this funny

The guys at put out some amazingly funny stuff. I posted their idea of how Lord of the Rings should have ended on Facebook. But this ending for Star Trek deserves full blog treatment. Very funny.

If you haven’t been to their site, you really should go and look at their videos. I can’t verify that all the stuff on their site is clean or safe for family viewing, since I haven’t looked around, but their videos are funny. I thought the one for Iron Man was great, and I haven’t even seen Iron Man.


Post that as a W.

Spent the last few days at the Southeastern University Leadership Forum. This a phenomenal event, originated by former SEU president Mark Rutland and continued under Chancellor Tommy Barnett.

Tommy Barnett

The Forum is an intimate conference of only about 700 people. The size is largely dictated by the small SEU chapel which hosts the three day event. This makes it very different from larger events, such as Catalyst or Willow’s Leadership Summit. There is VIP seating in the first few rows, then reserved seating in the next few, but the fan-shaped auditorium is only about 12 rows deep, so you’re not far away even at the remotest point.

When you combine this intimate and exclusive setting with some world-class speakers, you have a winner, and this year’s Forum was definitely another winner.

I hope to break down what I learned from each speaker in subsequent posts. (Though with my track record in blogging, I wouldn’t bet on it.) But I want to make sure to write about the highlight of the 3 days, and what everyone had been pointing to, the appearance of the 43rd President of the United States and his wife, George W. and Laura Bush.

The format of the Forum is that each speaker has anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour or so to speak. Both Laura Bush and the former President were listed as speakers, so I had wondered exactly how long they would actually be there.

But let’s backtrack a minute, to set the scene.

It was a dark and stormy night, as Snoopy might say, and the heavy rains continued this morning. We had been told that security would be tight today, and that we would need both our Forum badge and our driver’s license to get into the chapel.

Waiting in the rain

The first session started at 8am, with the doors opening at 7:30, so we arrived about 7 am to stand in the rain and wait for the doors to open. We wanted to be sure to get some good seats for the eight of us that were attending from Faith. (I should explain that when I say “we”, I mean myself and Rich Fimbel. I had ridden with Rich from the hotel.)

The main road in front of the University had been closed to regular traffic and there was definitely an increased law enforcement presence on campus.

At our lunch break, in contrast to the other days, we were told that we had to take all our belongings with us, since security would be sweeping the chapel in anticipation of the Bush’s arrival. We were also told that the same would be true at our 3 o’clock afternoon break.

Of course, taking our belongings meant that we couldn’t save our seats, so I made sure I was back from lunch early enough to get near the front of the line again.

They didn't really like us to take pictures.

I was able to re-secure our seats…about 9 rows back, on the right hand side, on the aisle. There really weren’t any bad seats.

At the 3 o’clock break, which came at 3:05 p.m., we were informed that we wouldn’t have to take our belongings with us after all, and that we had until 3:30 p.m.. That announcement was quickly corrected to say that the break would only last until 3:15. That was difficult, since it didn’t leave us any time to actually do anything. No one wanted to be shut out of the chapel when the Bushes arrived.

Thinking back, it’s interesting, because I don’t remember hearing the sound of any sirens upon their arrival. This was probably because the SEU jazz band was busily entertaining us as we came back from the break.

I stepped out into the lobby to watch as the SEU students lined the sidewalk leading up to the chapel’s side door to welcome former President and Mrs. Bush. I could tell someone was entering the side door, so I hurried back to my seat in time for the actual entrance.

Looking from the lobby

The presence of additional security along with the Secret Service was immediately apparent, as two or three agents took up their posts at each side of the front of the stage. Other Secret Service personnel could be seen around the chapel. I could see a Sheriff’s deputy and one or two other agents in the sound loft at the rear of the chapel. You could feel the energy rise in the room.

As the band played, we could see the top of Laura’s head as she entered the side door. There was an immediate, loud, thunderous standing ovation which lasted for a minute or two. The band finished their song, then launched into a spirited rendition of “In the Mood”.

What the crowd was in the mood for was what they got after about a minute as POTUS #43 entered the building to another raucous standing ovation. The dreary and rainy afternoon had suddenly lit up inside the chapel.

After the band finished, Dr. George O. Wood, General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God and former guest on the BibleQuizPodcast, introduced Mrs. Bush by reading the two paragraph bio printed in our program. She then launched into a prepared speech that lasted roughly 40 minutes.

She recounted her role as an educator and promoter of reading programs for children. She talked about what she did as First Lady. Then she talked about the changes that took place after 9-11. The first part of her speech was nice, but mostly generic. She caught us up on how the family was doing, where the girls are, and how they enjoy being private citizens in Dallas.

The most memorable part of her speech was the end, as she recounted September 11, 2001. She was in Washington, D.C. that morning, on Capitol Hill. As the planes hit the Twin Towers, she was moved to Senator Ted Kennedy’s office, where she watched the Towers fall. It was interesting that Kennedy and Mrs. Bush spent this time together – political rivals sharing a critical and confusing moment. She said she was comforted by having Sen. Kennedy there, and that he seemed to be trying to ease her mind by providing small talk as the situation developed.

She ended her speech by recounting the famous “first pitch” thrown by then-President Bush at that October’s World Series. She told how nervous she was, and how proud she was of how her husband performed.

After yet another standing ovation, she was escorted to some comfortable “interview” chairs by Joyce Meyer, who had been one of the Forum presenters. Meyer started by saying she had twelve questions to ask in fifteen minutes.

Her first question was, what did Laura miss most about being the First Lady? Her quick reply – the chef.

Meyer then pointed out that during Laura’s telling of 9-11 and the World Series game, she saw tears from George. Laura replied that she had never given that speech with him in the room. This was more than a rare event – this was the first time the two of them had been presenters at the same event.

The rest of the Meyer-Bush interview was very good, but I don’t remember much of it. Laura did seem a little tired, and I wondered when and where she had started her day.

As Meyer escorted her from the stage, Tommy Barnett got up and simply said, “Help me welcome the 43rd President of the United States, George W. Bush!”

This, of course, brought a very long and loud standing ovation.

I expected him to go to the podium and give his own speech, but Bush immediately went with Tommy to the interview chairs where for the next hour they had a very lively, informal, candid and informative discussion. I was very surprised with how open and relaxed Mr. Bush seemed to be.

There were several standing ovations during the talk, and Bush would quickly motion for everyone to sit down and cut it out, once telling us, “You’re wasting time!” Barnett assured him that he was speaking to a very receptive, supportive group.

We were forbidden to use cameras – either still or video – and I sat there desperately wishing I could use one to capture the moment and be able to remember what was said, because the candor was quite remarkable. Mr. Bush explained that he insisted on no TV cameras being present because he wanted to be able to relax and not have anything he said be used for political purposes. After the Bushes left, Barnett remarked that we had been given a rare privilege and that the former President had entrusted us with his honesty.

(I guess I should mention that I’m not writing this post for attention, and I certainly wouldn’t want to upset anyone at SEU or the Bush family. I’m not media, and, even though this blog is public, I don’t expect many people will actually see it. This is simply my recollection of what I’ve experienced, intended for my circle of family and friends.

However, I did disobey…sort of. Here is a clip, not of them speaking, but of the setting as Laura was being introduced.)

Here are some other highlights from the Barnett-Bush conversation…

On the responsibility of the President:

“Make tough decisions” and don’t demean the Office of the President. The Office of the President and the respect and dignity of it was very important, and continues to be important as an ex-President. Former presidents continue to have a responsibility to uphold that dignity. (I wondered if this was a subtle dig at a certain former Arkansas governor. Or perhaps even a former Georgia governor.)

On leadership:

Great leaders set aside their egos and serve something greater than themselves. You shouldn’t serve a political party, even though the political parties are important and necessary. Once you are elected, you have to set aside self and what you want in order to achieve the greater good.

Other thoughts and quotes:

He talked about his early life, and how he wouldn’t have been President or probably even alive if he hadn’t quit drinking. He had – like most alcoholics – insisted that he was in control of it, even though he wasn’t. Laura had confronted him, and he was eventually confronted by his own logic.

He talked about his mom and dad and how “unconditional love enabled me to take risks in life.”

When asked who his favorite President was, he told how there is a place where every President hangs the portrait of the President that most influenced them. He drew a laugh when he said that “obviously, I have conflicted feelings.” He said, “the portrait of the 41st President hangs in the place of honor in my heart,” but that one of the 16th President, Lincoln, physically hangs in the place of honor. He admires Lincoln because when he wrote that “all men are created equal under God”, he was speaking with moral conviction, that he had a vision and looked beyond the moment. He remarked that Lincoln’s vision was remarkable, that it was quite remarkable to say such a thing back in 1863.

Bush said that a leader – that the President – “must have a set of principles that you won’t trade for popularity.” He thinks the President must be willing to “take the heat” and “give other people the credit.”

One of the most interesting parts of his hour in the interview chair was his retelling of his perspective of 9-11 and his thought process of that day. He said that everything changed for him that day. From that day forward his overriding purpose was to promote freedom throughout the world.

He said that on 9-11, the first plane he chalked up to a mistake, the second plane was an attack, but when the plane hit the Pentagon, that was a declaration of war. He said the real problem with this war is that “the farther you get away from the moment” the reasons you went to war in the first place fade from peoples minds. They forget why. Then, as you make decisions to protect and defend, people misunderstand because they have forgotten why you made the decisions in the first place.

He said when a terrorist was caught – the C.O.O. of the Taliban – and he was assured that this man had vital information, and if we got it, thousands of lives could be saved – the C.I.A. assured Bush they could extract the information. Bush said he first asked his team of lawyers, “What’s legal?” When they told him what could legally be done, he ordered it to be done. Thousands of lives were saved. But later, political opponents forgot the importance and want to stop the same methods.

He also talked about some of the tough talk he used in regards to the terrorists and nations who sponsored terrorism, such as, “Dead or Alive” or “hunting down” the terrorists. He explained that he had four audiences that he was speaking to at the same time: the country as a whole, the enemy – who were using the lives of innocent people for their own twisted ends, the people of Iraq and Afghanistan – who deserved to be free and needed to know that there is a big difference between desiring to be free and actually taking a step to be free, and our military.

The interview meandered between the public and the personal, between the development of his faith in Jesus Christ and his portrayal in the press. He talked about foreign policy and China and how it’s important that we stay away from unilateral agreements which diminish America’s voice, and insist on bilateral negotiations where we can push for freedom.

Bush also said that he wouldn’t second guess the current President, because he didn’t like to be second-guessed when he was President, and he believed in doing unto others as you would have them do unto you. He said that he was proud that in campaigning he never resorted to name calling.

Bush talked about his dad and how much he learned from him. He said, “I was the most prepared person to ever be elected President. I didn’t have the best resume, I was the best prepared.”

There was applause as the former President talked about his younger brother, Jeb, former governor of Florida. He said he wished Jeb would run for president, but really didn’t think he would. He expressed admiration that Jeb had his priorities straight and that he wouldn’t run because he was concerned for his family.

Some of his final comments were about peace in the Middle East and how much he thought it was dependent on democracy and freedom being established in the Middle East. He knows that some poeple think he is naive, but he firmly believes in freedom. “I believe women will bring democracy to the Middle East.”

I’ll repeat my feeling that it was a very remarkable afternoon. Both Bushes are preparing books to be released this fall, so I’m sure most of what they were saying was from that material, but former President Bush was very likable and engaged. He is 63, and you could sense his continued passion. I was also struck by his intelligence and good humor. Many times he referenced names and places, with many difficult pronunciations. Never did he slip, as the media and comics like to portray him.

Once, in telling the story about meeting Russia’s Alexander Putin, he told about traveling to Slovenia, and how he was glad the press hadn’t asked him during the election if he knew where it was, because he couldn’t have told them. It was funny and typical.

The Putin story was very interesting. He told how nervous and anxious Putin seemed at their first meeting. Putin was addressing Bush about the Russian debt and Bush interrupted him to ask, “Is it true that you have a cross that your mother given you that was blessed in Jerusalem?” By answering the question, Putin was disarmed and able to relax. Bush said that their relationship later got harder, because the increase the value of oil seemed to change Putin.

Bush also told about talking to the leader of China about religion, warning him that every time they talked, he would talk about religion and religious freedom. He said he asked the Chinese president – whose name I can’t remember – if he wouldn’t rather have a nation where its citizens lived up to the principles in the Bible.

It was a fascinating discussion. When it was over, the Bushes and their entourage waved goodbye and the Forum was quickly over.

If you were there and want to add your thoughts, please comment. The Lakeland Ledger also filed a story and a couple of pictures, even though media was not allowed inside.


A little fun with Photo Booth

Animoto is something that I don’t use nearly enough. I grabbed some pictures from Trudi’s computer to do a little slideshow of the kids goofing around with Photo Booth.


Why many wept, but not for joy [Mc]

I did not weep for joy. But I agree with everything else that John Piper says in this video.


Current favorite commercial [Gator]

It made me laugh. If you know basketball, or are familiar…even a little bit…with college basketball, this may make you laugh, too.


Keep Walking [Rev]

Here’s an inspirational piece from ESPN, brought to my attention by Curtis Vass. It’s about 10 minutes long, so I wasn’t planning to watch all of it, but after 5 minutes I couldn’t stop. Enjoy.


Live and Learn [Rev]

[Warning: The following post is technology-filled and totally about me. I mean, even more about me than normal. Really. You’ve been warned.]

The beginning of 2009 has been almost completely about software for me. I am in the middle of editing the video for last month’s Gospel According to Scrooge. This is a time-consuming project for a couple of reasons.

We shot video from four cameras on two different nights (Sunday and Monday). That means there was 16 hours of video to import and work with.[1] On top of that, I’m not experienced with video editing, nor with the editing software. Most of my video editing experience has come from the last few years of editing the Scrooge video.

During that experience I have been using Apple’s Final Cut software. Because of some software and operating system issues, I was forced to upgrade[2] to the latest version, Final Cut Studio 2
. It’s very powerful software with many cool and wonderful features. That’s what makes software powerful – cool, easy-to-use features, that give great depth and complexity to what you can accomplish. It also means there is a lot to learn. So, I’m learning.

One of our choices[3] this year in Scrooge was to use some pre-recorded video as part of the production. We used four different video segments this year: the opening montage, taking us from the opening titles to the opening song; the bedroom sequence, which shows Scrooge entering the bedroom, undressing, hearing the voice, then encountering Angel #1; the graveyard, with the Cratchit Family; and the final bedroom scene, where Scrooge discovers he is still alive. In order to accomplish some of the effects used in these segments, I used a trial version of Adobe After Effects CS4. After Effects is widely used by video professionals, but I had never used it. I quickly had to learn some key features in order to have the video ready for Scrooge. But, as I said, it was a trial version, so I had to purchase the full version in order to finish the edit of the DVD.

I ended up ordering Adobe Creative Suite 4 Production Premium, which includes After Effects. Again, it’s another powerful program with many wonderful features. More learning.

Both of these programs are more than one program. They are suites that include several programs, each with many parts and pieces.

With so much to learn, I’ve turned to a some internet sources for instruction and help. The first is MacBreak Studio, a podcast from Pixel Corps. These are short video podcasts that cover one specific feature for video producers in each show. Usually these are features specific to Final Cut Studio. Some of these shows originated in Pixel Corps’ original podcast, MacBreak.

Another great podcast is ChurchMediaDesign, or CMD, from the media guys at Watermark church from Grand Haven, Michigan. This is a phenomenal show that gives a lot of great how-to’s. (They also give some free resources to use in your own ministry.)

A third informative podcast (can you tell I love podcasts? It’s because they’re free!) is Creative Cow’s Creative Cow for Photoshop Video podcast. As the title says, it’s video help for Photoshop users.

After I wrote the previous paragraph, it got me thinking, so I searched iTunes and – duh – it turns out that Creative Cow has a range of podcasts covering the range of both Adobe and Apple products. I’ll have to check them out when I’m done posting this.

I’m also exploring It has a tremendous amount of video tutorials on all of this software and more. Unfortunately, it’s not free. However, it’s not that expensive, and they have a trial period.

Although it’s not theologically correct, it does bring to mind something I often quote from my dad…

Live and learn.

Die and forget it all.

I hope to work on the first part…and delay the second part for awhile.
[1] Okay, not exactly 16 hours. One camera didn’t film the first act on Sunday. Very disappointing. But the import of the video was only the beginning. Two cameras shot in LP mode, which our JVC was unable to replay. I didn’t discover why until after I spent most of one day trying to use the JVC. Editing will mean going through all of the captured video frame-by-frame.
[2] When I say “upgrade” or “bought”, I mean that I did it on behalf of Faith Assembly. This software is more than I can personally afford. Although the upgrade to FC is cheaper than the full version, and, since I’m a homeschool dad, I can get the education version of CS4.
[3] And when I say “our choice”, I mean “my choice.” Yes, I asked the opinion of everyone in the leadership team of Scrooge, including Pastor Goss. Those that liked the result can thank them for their decision. But those that didn’t can blame me, since it really came down to me pushing this through. More on that later.


Z to the I to the 6 [Rev]*

In the world of mini USB-enabled video cameras…did you know there was a whole world of them?…the Flipseems to be the clear market favorite. The idea of a very simple, inexpensive, but high-quality camcorder for spur-of-the-moment video recording has interested me for most of this year.

I have been watching and reading about the Flip and its many competitors, including the RCA Small Wonder, the Aiptek A-HD Pro, and the Insignia 5.0MP. Each of these cameras are very small, yet very powerful. The newer models include the ability to take HD video.

In the end, I decided on the Kodak Zi6 Pocket Video Camera. I’ve been using the Zi6 for over a week and, in case you’ve ever thought of getting one of these little jewels, here’s some information for you.

The best thing about this class of camcorder is the price. I got mine at Radio Shack on-sale for under $140, and the prices keep falling as new models with more features come out. Best Buy has the Insignia for only $85. These are very good cameras for (relatively) very little money.

The Zi6 has four recording modes. The default mode is HD, which shoots 720p video at 30 frames per second. There is a higher HD60 mode which shoots 720p video at 60 frames per second. This would be good for slow-motion or time-remapping your video. There is also a VGA mode which shoots standard, 640X480 video. And there is a picture mode for shooting stills.

Although I didn’t need HD-quality video, for the money it seemed like a no-brainer. The problem with HD-quality video is that my older Powerbook doesn’t have the power to work with it quickly. (Don’t even get me started on the old Dells in the playroom.)

These type of camcorders aren’t really made for low-light situations, but in outdoor or well-lit situations, they do quite well. (This still shot was taken outside the Asheville Mall.) Since it doesn’t do low-light well, you also have to be very careful when taking still pictures, since blurring the picture is very easy to do and there is no image stabilization like most larger camcorders have. Happily, you can easily attach the Zi6 to a tripod for steadier shots.

This piece of video was shot in the default HD mode, then encoded to an iPhone-compatible mp4 file at 480X272 resolution using MPEG Streamclip. Unhappily, Google re-encoded the file when I uploaded it, reducing the resolution further. The original video file looks much better.

The Zi6 has little internal memory – less than 24mb is available – which is basically useless for video. But the Zi6 accepts SD memory cards. I purchased an 8gb high-speed SD card for only $14. After a vacation trip, Christmas, and some goofing around by Sammy, there is still over 2gb of room left.

The 2.4 inch display is bright and clear enough to see what you’ve shot, but composite cables for hooking up to your TV and component cables for watching in HD are also included with the camera.

The combination of HD-quality and SD-card acceptance pushed me towards the Kodak, but the batteries clinched it. The Zi6 runs on two AA batteries, which means you don’t have to wait for proprietary batteries to recharge. However, while purchasing the camera, I discovered that Kodak includes rechargeable AA’s and a charger, making it an even better deal. The rechargeables don’t last too long – maybe an hour or so – but I can always pop in some regular AA’s in a pinch.

The Zi6 is a good camera for quick and easy recording. For the price I believe it’s a very good value.

{* “Rev” is in the title because this is a “Rev” post, related to my work or worship. In this case, it could also mean “review”, but it doesn’t}

Great to be…

Quick post in the middle of a really busy week (while I wait for some video to render – that’s a story for another time. Follow me at if you want the play by play.)

The real story is the Gators – back in the championship game. And this is how they got there…


Non-Turkey Day

Happy Thanksgiving!

No, not Happy Turkey Day. The only happy turkeys are…well, you can’t be a happy turkey. Either you’re dead or you’re still a turkey. Not a great choice. The point of the day is not to celebrate turkeys, it’s to celebrate thanksgiving…you know, the giving of thanks.

And it’s not just the giving of thanks, but giving thanks to our Creator, our Maker, the One who provides life and all the good things we enjoy.

Like turkey (and dressing and mashed potatoes and football and the Gators and – you get the idea).

To repeat myself, we don’t celebrate turkeys, we kill them.

That would also make this a good day to kill the Turkey Spirit. That would be the attitude that doesn’t give thanks, that takes things for granted, that complains at everything, that is awed by nothing.

That’s the intro to this clip, which is perfect for Thanksgiving, and which I may use the next time I preach about complaining.

(Honestly, this has to be one of my favorite clips ever.)

Back in the Day

I’m finishing a video on the history of Faith Assembly for tomorrow’s celebration of 75 years of the church and 20 years of Pastor Goss. The video will mention all the lead pastors in the history of the church, but won’t mention any of the associate pastors (except for Pastor Art Shell). Unfortunately, that means you won’t be seeing this video of one of the music ministers of Faith. (Sorry, Mark)