Tag Archive for Social Media

Aldo Colombini, Magic’s Funny Man, Faces Serious Situation, Can You Do These 3 Things?

My friend, Leland Pennington, introduced me to the magic of Aldo Colombini decades ago, and a couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to introduce myself to Aldo and his lovely wife, Rachel.

Rachel and Aldo

The occasion was the “farewell” lecture tour for Aldo and Rachel, and it was organized by the Akron Magical Arts Society, Ring 161 of the International Brotherhood of Magicians. I lived about an hour away, and I so desperately wanted to make the trip.

I had written about Rachel’s health issues, in which she was dealing with major heart issues, and I had the opportunity to speak with both of them. Rachel, who faced an uncertain future back in 2010, was very matter-of-fact about her diagnosis, prognosis … and mortality.

So, it came as a complete shock Monday morning when word spread quickly about Aldo’s health. On Sunday, he had suffered a severe stroke. Maria Ibanez emailed the magic community with the news she had received from Simone Marron.

Rachel would later write:

I am writing to let you know that the love of my life, my beloved husband, best friend and partner Aldo has suffered a catastrophic stroke. Sunday afternoon paramedics rushed him to Munro Regional Hospital in Ocala. Today they performed another CAT Scan and I am saddened to say that the news is not good. Aldo is completely paralyzed on his right side. He cannot speak and the doctors say there is nothing else that can be done. Aldo loved life and does not want to be on life support. I am heartbroken by the fact that I must now take him off life-support and move him to Hospice Care. Short of a miracle, the doctors say he has less than two weeks. Please pray for him.

What was so surreal was how life for the Colombinis practically stopped because of Rachel’s health, and now more than three years later, life is on hold for them again, this time due to Aldo’s stroke.

When Rachel was dealing with her heart troubles, money was an issue. If she went out of state for the surgery, her insurance would pay out less. Many reached out to help the couple back then, through a website set up for Rachel, through the generosity of other magicians donating money and through the sale of ebooks in a number of countries. In 2010, then-13–year-old Kyle MacNeill organized a bunch of magicians through The Magic Cafe and put together an ebook, “Wild at Heart.” The magicians donated effects to the book, which sells for $20 on Lybrary.com, and all of the proceeds went to the Colombinis.

So, as Rachel tries to figure out what’s in Aldo’s best interests, I think there are a few things we can do:

  1. Pray. Rachel said it will take a miracle. If you are not the praying kind, then think the most positive thoughts you can muster that Aldo will receive a miracle.
  2. Go shopping. That’s right, go shopping on WildColombini.com and buy whatever ebook, digital download, DVD, packet trick or magic effect by Aldo that you have been putting off. Also, please consider everything Rachel is going through right now, so be patient about when you will receive your purchase. There’s no telling when she will be able to fulfill the order, but your purchase will help them out. Also, you can buy the “Wild at Heart” ebook at Lybrary.com, which will help them, too.
  3. Spread the word about how people can help the Colombinis. They have provided us with much joy, laughter and magic over the years, so let’s see how we can help repay them in some small way. So, please share this post with your friends on Facebook, Twitter, via email or any other way you connect with them.
  4. Oh, there’s a fourth thing: Did I mention pray? Please do so. (Should add, I have not talked with Rachel, she has enough to worry about, but please do what you can to help. Thanks, again.)

Update: Sadly, Rachel has informed us her best friend and the love of her life, Aldo, died on Monday.

Here are a couple of videos shot when Aldo and Rachel lectured in the Akron area. The first is them talking about their “farewell” lecture tour, and in the second one, Aldo reminisces about he late Ken de Courcy.

Seth Mnookin: From Health Journalism 2013 to the Alleged Boston Marathon Bombers

This past March, I had the honor of receiving a fellowship from the Association of Health Care Journalists to study health care reporting at the group’s annual conference. This year, it was in Boston.

IMAG0394

I had the opportunity to attend a presentation in which Seth Mnookin shared insights into how to turn complex topics into compelling stories. Here is one of the things I wrote down:

Seth says to think of what you write as a detective story. Tension and drama is not what happens, but how you get there.

I was shocked to learn this morning on Twitter how Mnookin became intricately tied to the events unfolding at MIT and Watertown, Mass., late Thursday/early Friday involving the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing.

I was so intrigued by Mnookin’s adventure on Twitter that I wanted to capture it. You can read it here (via Storify):


How I traveled from Peru to the Boston Marathon in About 3 Hours

As a journalist, I make use of an appointment calendar to remind me who I am scheduled to see and where I need to be. However, every calendar entry comes with an asterisk mark, whether visible or not, that signifies the meeting is subject to change at a moment’s notice. Tuesday was one of those days.

Peru-Boston

I had no appointments scheduled, so that meant I would have a day where I could sit down and just write stories. I had conducted some interviews and attended some meetings and needed some uninterrupted time to get those stories done. Tuesday would be that day, or so I thought.

One of my coworkers, Abby Armbruster, received a call from Paul Cebul of Reach Trade Co. informing her some coffee farmers from Peru would be stopping by the coffee shop. Abby asked me if I would be interested in doing a story, and I said yes. I was out of the door in minutes. I spent time with Jose Jorge Durmand and his wife, Marleny Jorge Ingaruca, and Selena Contreras (in the top photo).

I had the opportunity to talk with the coffee farmers and learn about the challenges they faced, whether it was weather or terrorists or middlemen trying to skim off some of their beans or thieves stealing their beans. I spent nearly a couple of hours with them, Cebul and Dan Hildebrandt.

On Monday, I had tried to get in touch with Kathryn Gabriele (she is on the left in the bottom photo), a Wooster native who was living in the Boston area who ran in the Boston Marathon. I left a message for her father, but I never heard back from him.

I noticed Gabriele and I had a few Facebook friends in common, so on Tuesday, after returning from speaking with the coffee farmers, I sent a friend request. I was surprised to see she accepted it within a relatively short period of time. We exchanged messages and arranged for a time to talk.

One of the things that struck me during my conversation with Gabriele was how she said of one of the explosions she could see it, hear it and smell it.

My job allows me to talk to people who shape the news, make the news and are part of historic events. And, on Tuesday, I went from the Amazon jungle in Peru to a half of a mile away from the finish line in the Boston Marathon. I am blessed.

As a side note, my wife, Wendi and I, were in Copley Square, the site of the finish line for the marathon, last August. I heard the bomb went off at 671 Boyleston St. You can see the address on the left side of the photo below.

IMAG2874

How Does a Blogger Discover One’s Voice?

When I knew I wanted to be a writer back in the ’80s, I read a Writer’s Digest article that offered a simple path: Get an apartment in New York City, place a typewriter on your kitchen table, sit down and start writing. When you get up in 10 years, you will be a writer.

Microphone.jpg

Well, I did not get an apartment in New York and opted for a dedicated word processor (I believe it was an Amstrad sold by Sears) in 1986 and a few years later an IBM-clone. Wouldn’t you know, in about 10 years I finally got the sense that maybe I could write.

Another way of looking at this is that it took 10 years for me to find my voice in writing.

Since December 2012, I have been blogging regularly, and it is mildly discouraging that I have found neither a voice for my blogging nor my blog.

The Z Section is supposed to be about anything. I fought the urge to “specialize” and focus on a niche to give me the freedom to write about whatever caught my attention. What I have discovered is anything can be anything and sometimes anything can be too daunting so anything becomes nothing.

Will I specialize? Will I focus on a niche? Truthfully, I am not sure.

But, here is what I know:

  • I have varied interests.
  • These interests include my Christian faith,
  • Reading the Bible,
  • Family,
  • Technology,
  • Smartphones,
  • Tablets,
  • Computers,
  • Social media,
  • Leadership principles,
  • Journalism,
  • Blogging,
  • Writing,
  • Pets, and
  • so much more.

The thing is, down the road I want to write books, and I want them to focus on potential material for Sunday school classes. However, as I look over this blog, admittedly about anything, I find very little that point toward that direction.

So, you can expect more regarding faith and how it intersects with all of those things above. Perhaps there I will find my voice.

I hope it doesn’t take 10 years.

Just Enjoy the Scenery Today

Enjoy these photos processed and uploaded via Instagram. I do not use it as much, but it is still a good app. I guess the thing for me is other apps, like Pixlr-O-matic and Pixlr Express do so much more.

.

2012-05-03_1336082392

2012-05-05_1336243250

2012-05-05_1336248835

2012-04-05_1333626662

2012-04-06_1333722160

2012-04-06_1333722239

2012-04-06_1333722342

2012-04-06_1333722617

2012-04-06_1333722907

2012-04-06_1333734181

2012-04-06_1333752092

2012-04-09_1334012150

2012-04-13_1334349444

2012-04-13_1334349588

2012-04-17_1334691261

2012-04-17_1334696204

2012-04-18_1334708718

2012-04-18_1334709067

2012-04-25_1335362008

2012-04-26_1335440049

2012-04-26_1335440200

2012-04-26_1335440370

2012-04-26_1335459350

Spend a Day in My Shoes, Sort Of

Lately, when people have asked how I have been doing, instead of falling into a familiar rut and answering mindlessly, “OK” or “fine,” I have been finding myself pausing, reflecting for a moment and telling them, “I am doing great. I have a blessed life.”

Bobby Warren Wendi Warren Mary Taylor Josh Krajcik

Some of the components that make up Bobby Warren’s life, from the top, left: Being a member of Parkview Christian Church; getting to interview people like Ohio Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor as a reporter at The Daily Record; shooting video for newspaper website; being the husband of Wendi Warren; enjoying wonderful pets like Madison; playing in Parkview’s praise band with people like Steve Hanna; and hanging out with Josh Krajcik before a concert with The Daily Record’s Lydia Gehring.

And, I do have a wonderful life. If you look at the collage above, you will see just a small sample of the things that make up my life, like church, getting to interview people like Ohio Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor or shoot video for a Josh Krajcik interview; spend my life with my wonderful wife, Wendi Warren; enjoy our pets like Madison; and play in Parkview’s praise band with the likes of Steve Hanna.

Here is a typical day for me:

  1. Wake up and ease into my day. I might check to see who’s beating me on Words with Friends; log into Google+, Facebook, Twitter; check out my previous day’s stats on this blog; look to see if me or my wife, Wendi, sold any more books (see here and here); and see if there have been any sales through my Amazon affiliate links.
  2. Once awake, talk with Wendi before she leaves for work. This, of course, happens if I actually get out of bed before she heads to work.
  3. Read the Bible and pray. I have been reading Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Haggai and Zechariah because I teach a Sunday School class, and we have been focusing on this period in Israel’s history.
  4. Get ready and head to work. My full-time job is working as a reporter for The Daily Record in Wooster, Ohio. I get to meet a lot of interesting people, and I really enjoy what I do.
  5. Come home and eat. Self-explanatory.
  6. Engage in various activities. Depending upon the day of the week or month, I might be covering a night event or meeting for the newspaper; I might be in a men’s ministry meeting; I might be watching TV, performing magic somewhere or practicing with the praise team (I play bass); I might be writing, editing or laying out a book; checking and rechecking my social networks and Words with Friends; hanging out with Wendi; reading a book; working on a Sunday School lesson; or writing a blog.

My life is hectic, but not really stressful. I hope you have enjoyed a day in my shoes, sort of. I have a great wife who makes me better and supports my endeavors. I am truly blessed. What about you?

Lessons I Learned Working with a Freelance Illustrator

When I dipped my toe into the world of publishing through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, I had no idea where it was headed. What I discovered was I landed a gig as an executive project manager on a fairy tale with a Christian message to it, so I needed to work with a freelance artist.

Princess Sketch Freelance

Actually, I began exploring all of the possibilities with publishing via KDP, and it occurred to me my wife, Wendi, had written a fairy tale that would be a good project. I had been reading Timothy Ferriss’ “The 4–Hour Workweek,” and he talked about working with freelancers through elance.com, which I decided to do.

We found an illustrator in Armenia, and we really liked her style. When we solicited bids for the project, she returned with a very reasonable price, and we came to an agreement. For us, this was an exciting time.

The project ran into some hiccups in the early stages, and I learned some things in the process. Based on my experience, here are just a few things you should consider when working with a freelance illustrator (when it is not possible to meet face-to-face):

  1. Communicate with the artist in broad terms, but clearly identify some boundaries. In sketch No. 1, this is all the direction I gave the illustrator: “A wide shot of Princess with Castle and woods in the background and the ability to use a close-up shot of the Princess.” That is exactly what was delivered, just as requested. Because this was my first time doing something like this, it would have helped if I also added: “Because this is a story with a Christian message, the princess needs to be dressed modestly.” Not fully understanding what I needed to communicate, it caused delays. I responded and told her that the neckline needed to be moved up. I used a photo editor to take her drawing, modify it and show her an example of what I wanted. This can be seen in sketch No. 2. However, leave the artist room to create and express herself or himself.
  2. Be prepared for the work flow to be interrupted due to time zone differences. Armenia is nine hours ahead of Ohio. When I am going to bed, our illustrator is waking up. When I wake up, our illustrator has finished her work for the day. There is no overlap, so if I want something changed, it is a two-day process, at minimum. To work like this, you need to recognize there is no immediate feedback or reaction. It is a process. If you are uncomfortable with this, find an illustrator in your town or the closest one you can find.
  3. When working on a project, plan for delays in the timeline: By not clearly identifying some boundaries, there were delays. One of the issues we ran into was a time when Internet service in Armenia was not optimal. This was not the fault of our illustrator. Also, after we communicated what we wanted from the original sketch, you can see in illustration No. 3 what was delivered. This was not what we asked for, however, mistakes happen. The illustrator could have been in a hurry with other things, maybe dealing with some traumatic things in life, and the result is the changes were not made. My full-time job is a reporter, and I make mistakes all of the time. Why the illustration came back wrong was not a concern to me, we are all human. Getting it corrected was, and you can see in illustration No. 4, our illustrator accommodated our wishes.
  4. Find a freelancer who recognizes this is a give-and-take relationship. It is important for the freelancer to understand while you will give them some latitude to be creative, at the end of the day, the project will bear your name, so it must be what you want it to be. The next time I hire a freelancer, I will articulate that I can be picky at times. It does not mean the work produced is bad or inferior, rather, I just want something else — it doesn’t work for me.
  5. Be a contractor who recognizes this is a give-and-take relationship. You, too, must understand that you must be flexible where possible. Do not give up your principles or values, but allow for the creative process to work. In one of the illustrations that will be in the book, we needed the princess to be shown in a work camp setting making bricks by hand. I have no idea what this scene should look like, but the illustrator came up with something, thankfully. I do not have the ability to express Wendi’s books in pictures, so I have to give up some control.

Working with a freelancer has its challenges, but understanding what they are going into the process will help provide for a better outcome. I am quite pleased with how this process is moving forward, and even with the delays, the project is still on track to be done on time. We are hoping to publish it on Kindle on our anniversary, March 4.

Stay tuned.

Kindle Fire HD 7 Continues to Score Big Here

It’s been nearly seven weeks since I purchased a Kindle Fire HD 7, and I am liking it more and more everyday. For good reason.

Amazon Kindle Fire HD 7

I remember reading on Michael Hyatt’s blog about how preferred the iPad Mini over the original, larger version, saying the Mini was what the iPad should have been from the start.

Having never owned an iPad, I cannot make the same statement, but I can say this: The Kindle Fire HD 7 is what netbooks should have been all along. When my wife’s laptop became old, outdated and slow, I wanted to get her a new one. However, there was something attractive about the netbooks. At the time, I did not fully understand what they were; I just thought they were slightly smaller laptops.

Well, in a sense, they are. Netbooks are smaller than laptops. And, netbooks kind of look like laptops. But, what we discovered is a netbook is not really a laptop. A laptop is for computing, and a netbook is mainly designed to surf the Internet.

My Kindle Fire HD does just that. It surfs the web, it feasts on Amazon.com content, it plays games and it even contributes to some productivity. After I first purchased the tablet, I carried it with me sometimes. Now, unless I know I am going to be totally tied to my desk at the newspaper, it comes with me.

Why I Carry My Kindle Fire HD All the Time:

  • It turns my vehicle into a mobile university: This is the No. 1 reason why it is with me most of the time. By owning a Kindle device, I can turn on Amazon’s text-to-speech function and listen to books while I drive. I just finished reading/listening to The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur (which turned out to be better than I initially envisioned). Whether I am in the Jeep five minutes or 35 minutes, I like having the option of listening to a book.
  • It keeps me up-to-date with my blog: I have a WordPress app that allows me to edit or create posts, check my site stats or do anything else I need to with my blog, as long as I have a Wi-Fi connection.
  • I keep my teaching notes on it: I teach an adult Sunday School class at Parkview Christian Church, and I send all of my notes to my Kindle device. I have a study Bible loaded on the Kindle, and I keep my notes for Sunday School on it.
  • I can capture thoughts using Catch app: When you start blogging, you realize how important it is to get your ideas down. With Catch Notes, I can do that. The free app allows you to write notes, record audio notes, take photos, set up reminders and create checklists. I used it the other day to jot some ideas down for future blog posts and a future book.
  • I can move my online reading offline: With Pocket, another free app, I can be reading something on the web and save it to read later. The app works across all sorts of devices. I can be reading something on the web at home, save it to Pocket, and when I sync my Kindle Fire HD, I will get a nice, readable version of the web page. It is important to sync Pocket’s content while you have Wi-Fi access. This is immensely helpful when researching. I have been using it to aid me in writing a book for mindreaders. It is invaluable.
  • I can keep up-to-date with all of my social networks: Again, as long as there is a Wi-Fi connection.

If you would like to purchase your own Kindle Fire HD, check out my affiliate link by clicking here. I recommend the 32 GB version because once you buy it, there is no expanding it. Might as well get the extra storage space.

The Kindle Fire HD  7 has been a great fit for me, but let me caution you by saying I made the purchase because I was an Amazon Prime member. It made sense to have a device geared toward watching the movies, TV shows and videos available for free to Prime members, getting the shipping discount from Amazon and the ability to borrow one book a month from the Kindle Owners Lending Library.

If you are looking for more of a computing tablet, then perhaps the iPad, iPad Mini or Google Nexus 7 are better options for you.

For me, it was the Kindle. You can see other reasons why by clicking here.

What Do You Say, When You Don’t Know What to Say?

Traffic to The Z Section was higher than normal early Wednesday. I had no clue as to why. Could it be I wrote such a stellar blog post? Maybe.

wpid-IMAG3357-picsay_Tom_Street_Black.jpg
But it turned out that was not the case. I noticed that I was getting some referrals from Michael Hyatt’s blog about Intentional Leadership (check out his wonderful blog here … and subscribe to it!).

I figuratively scratched my head and wondered why I was getting traffic from Hyatt’s blog, but I was busy with other stuff, so I kept moving. Every time I checked on my site stats (and I can get OCD about them as I try to build a platform), the number kept increasing at a higher than normal pace at a higher than normal clip. (At 11:30 p.m. Wednesday, I was just three page views away from previous best. Update: I was just one page view away from my best at the end of the day.)

Finally, late in the afternoon, I checked out the referral link from Hyatt’s blog, and lo, and behold, but what do my wondering eyes discover: He posted his latest “This is Your Life” podcast about changing your story and changing your life. He had solicited questions from his blog readers, and my question about how faith played into that was selected along with six others.

Read more

Create Stunning Photos for Your Blog with This One, Free App

No doubt about it, interesting and engaging photos can enhance your blog. But where can you get quality photographs on a limited budget? Glad you asked.

IMAG0426 - Ivan,Paint,Black

You can get them from your smartphone and use a variety of photo apps, some free, some for a nominal fee.

For more than a year, I have nearly switched exclusively to taking my photos with my HTC ThunderBolt. The image quality of the pictures vary depending upon the available light, but when there is sufficient light, the quality is amazing.

Most of the photos that appear in The Z Section are photos I have taken and processed. It saves me a lot of money, and I do not take time out to shoot photos. I stop and pause when something captures my eye while I am out doing something else.

Start experimenting with all kinds of photos: Trees, barns, busy streets, lonely roads, storefronts, animals, everyday objects at weird angles. Start snapping photos and processing them with the app of your choice, but today I want to recommend one that has served me well, and it is free! Did I mention it is free?

Read more