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November 2007

10 links to cool, high-rez images

Slide_nasa There are many places to get free images, but here are a few that provide mostly public domain photos of a high quality (but as always, check the terms of use). Many of these sites provide very large versions of their images, much larger than you would use in your slides. But that's OK. We can always reduce the size of the image in photo-editing software to match our slide dimensions (e.g. 800x600 or 1024x768, etc. at 72dpi), but we can't make a small JPEG larger without losing quality. And with larger images you have more choices when it comes to cropping the image to focus on particular elements, etc. Bookmark these below. I think you'll find you can kill a couple of hours as you go through all the interesting photos. (Go here on the NASA site to get the full story about the image I used for the slide above.)

Earth Observatory (NASA). So much goodness here. I'm sure every teacher already has this site bookmarked.
Visible Earth (NASA). This is a new collection of earth imagery from NASA. I particularly like this photo below. Amazing! Click on the image to get a much larger size.


Great Images in NASA. A collection of about a thousand images of historical interest scanned at high-resolution in several sizes.

NASA multimedia. Includes many high-quality photos as well.
Photos by Astronauts.
A gazillion cool images from space.
NOAA Photo Library. Search the site or browse through "collections" at the top. Hundreds and hundreds of historical photos in there too.
Uncle Sam's Photos. A directory of the U.S Government's free stock photo sites.
The (US) National Archives. The National Archives has more than 30 million photos stored in several buildings in the US, many of them are available online. High-rez photos of The Constitution and The Bill of Rights, etc. as well as loads of photos from WWII in general and Japanese American Internment, and so on. I think I have seen some of the WWII images in Ken Burns' s documentary The War (highly recommended).


A young Japanese American waits with the family baggage before leaving by bus for an assembly center in the spring of 1942 (National Archive source).   

WWII posters. Not too many high-rez images here, but very interesting. Sizes may be good enough for slides.
Public Domain Pictures. A repository for free public domain photos. Easy to search. I love this one.

This may seem like an odd potpourri of links, but these are sites from which I have been gathering images lately and just thought you may be interested for future reference. If you know any other public domain sites that offer good quality in the form of historical archives, etc. please share your links in the comments section below. Much appreciated.

Where can you find good images? (PZ)


Images, narration, text: the power of the slideshow

This is a powerful example of how you can tell a story that is engaging and evocative through the art of arranging images with narration and a bit of concise text. I won't set it up for you. Just click and watch it.


Above: All the slides from Free and Uneasy: The First Year Out. Click image to see slideshow on the New York Times website.

This is very simple—nothing fancy or high-tech—and yet how powerful. Especially near the end of the slideshow, the images and narration are really well done. You can not help but feel for the guy. The fact that innocent people are jailed for crimes that they did not commit is shocking, but it is probably not news to you. We have all seen the news reports about such cases similar to this one. But when we "just hear about" such cases it is easy to forget. Statistics on wrongful convictions (or cases of HIV in Africa, etc.) are just abstractions. But when we hear the story amplified by compelling photography—the story of a particular case—the issue becomes concrete. It is emotional and it is memorable. Next time you have to give a presentation about an important but complex topic—especially if it is a social issue—see if you can illuminate the general by focusing on the particular. This is a technique that storytellers, such as documentary film makers, often use. And powerful images, plus thoughtful narration and maybe even a bit of text, can help you tell your story in ways that bullet points never could.

The Innocent Project
Details of the case
Jeff Deskovic's website
Read the official report (35-page pdf)

Another Grande Presentazione Italiana

Marco_montemagno Marco Montemagno is an Italian blogger, web entrepreneur, and CEO of one of the largest weblog networks in Europe called Blogosfere. He's also the host for a weekly TV show about news, Internet and media on Sky News (Sky TG24). I heard that Marco was a loyal reader of Presentation Zen so I checked out this presentation by Marco last year. I got another tip this week to watch a presentation by Marco which he made recently in front of 3000 people at the Interactive Advertising Bureau Forum 2007 conference. I liked the presentation, but I thought more of the world may enjoy it too if there were English subtitles. So I contacted Marco and asked him (he's fluent in English) if he could have this video translated. He did, and I am now passing the link on to you. Marco told me that this presentation is "100% Presentation Zen compliant."

As you can tell from the content, Italy is a little behind other parts of the world in terms of total acceptance of the Web. One of Marco's jobs is chairing conferences and giving speeches around Italy to help spread "Internet culture"  throughout the country. "There is still a lot of education to do in Italy," Marco says. "People do not use Internet that much, journalists and politicians either. But I hope the situation will change soon—at least I'm pushing people in this direction...." Watch the presentation below (click on the monitor icon to expand the size to "Full Screen" so you can read the subtitles).

Marco's talk was conversational and upbeat and in sync with his visuals, a good mix of photos, video, and text. His visuals could have been arranged in Keynote or PowerPoint and advanced with a remote, but he actually used Adobe Premiere to prepare and run the whole thing. You'll notice that he has no remote control in his hand. Instead he spoke as the visuals behind him—which were actually segments from a video—appeared in sync with his narration. He said it was actually hard to pull this off, but he did it, and the feedback was excellent from the audience (sure beats a boring talk from the lectern). He even got 3000 people to stand and applaud for the Internet—a bigger reaction I think that he expected. I say bravo! Well done. I always appreciate speakers at large conferences who eschew the lectern and bullet points and get right out there front and center (naked) and make a connection.

You can learn a lot from "a child"

Severn Cullis-Suzuki, now in her late 20s, started the Environmental Children's Organization (ECO) when she was only 9-years-old. ECO was a small group of children committed to learning and teaching other kids about environmental issues. In 1992 they raised their own money and attended the UN's Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. A then 12-year-old Severn closed a Plenary Session with this amazing speech that received a standing ovation. She received a lot of praise for her talk then—even Al Gore called it "the best speech at Rio." My friend Patrick Newell, the Vision Navigator and founder of the Tokyo International School sent me the link. The video quality is not great but her message and delivery are—remember she was "just a kid." Watch the video below (includes Japanese subtitles).

Severn Cullis-Suzuk at age 12 in 1992. (Click to watch video)

The people who are crazy enough
to think they can change the world...

Beginner_2 You may watch this and think she is too naive—others will think she was almost prophetic. She may be too idealistic. So what? The problem with adults is not that too many of us are idealists, it's that too many of us are not. While watching her speech I was reminded of one of the teachings in Buddhism: The beginner's mind/the child's mind. The beginner's mind, or the child's mind, is really just about seeing things as they are. The meaning of the beginner's mind does not mean to retreat to the naiveté of a child. It is not about being simplistic or ignorant, it is about approaching life and its challenges with curiosity and enthusiasm. "It is the mind that is innocent of preconceptions and expectations, judgments and prejudices" (learn more). The point is that we adults should maintain our curiosity and that sense that anything can be done, that sense that anything is possible. A sense that we all had as children but eventually all but lost as people mocked our enthusiasm and optimism. Those who succeed and change things are the ones who do not let the world change their mind. I am not talking about blind faith. Quite the opposite. I am talking about having eyes wide open to the possibilities. Wide open like that of a true beginner. A child or a beginner says "why not?" An "expert" says "it can't be done." Shunryu Suzuki put it best in Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind:

     “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities,
              in the expert’s mind there are few.”                      
                                 —Shunryu Suzuki

We forget that sometimes not knowing that "it can not be done" can be a wonderful liberator. Weaning our world off fossil fuels? Who says it can't be done? Yes, not in 10 years, but 50? Who knows? Many people thought it crazy and impossible that the US could go from where it was in 1962 and put a man on the moon and bring him back before the end of the decade. It was crazy. It was impossible. But they did it. Surely that same spirit can be put to the challenge of saving the planet and finding alternative energies *and* allowing the peoples of the world to grow economically. Humans are the smartest animal on the planet, but we're also the dumbest. Perhaps if all of us smart experts, with our massive intellects, tried to approach problems with "the beginner's mind" we could get much better at solving problems.

Larry Lessig presents at TED: Nails it

Larry TED put up a new video of Larry Lessig's presentation at the TED Conference from earlier this year. The title of his fantastic talk: "How creativity is being strangled by the law." I have seen many presentations by Larry. They are always good and delivered in his unique "Lessig-Method" style. Usually his talks are on the long side, 45-60 mins or more. Question: How would Larry's talk be if he only had 18 minutes? Answer: Even better. Standing-ovation better. The 18-minute constraint forced Larry into making the best talk I have ever seen him make. He nailed it. His content was good, the argument was logical (even if you do not agree with it) and his visuals and the way he effortlessly controlled the visuals behind him is the perfect demo for the way it should be done.

Larry usually stays behind or near the podium, though he is also close the screen. Nothing wrong with this. I personally prefer to get rid of the computer stand and use the whole stage. But there is nothing wrong with standing in one place so long as you are out there in the front "naked" close to the audience. Larry's style is a bit professorial (he is after all a professor), but he is engaged, passionate, and certainly engages the audience with a combination of good logic, interesting and relevant storytelling, and simple, effective multimedia support delivered in a smooth fashion. No bullet points. No off-the-shelf template. Three stories, one argument, and a core message that is memorable and "sticky." See video below.

Lessig: "A growing copyright abolitionism...a generation that rejects the very notion of what copyright is suppose to do. Rejects copyright and believes that the law is nothing more than an ass to be ignored." 

Larry's performance proves that it can be done. You too can make compelling, smart, and logical presentations enhanced by slideware (he's using Keynote). There are no excuses. Watch, learn, and share this video. Excellent stuff. Bravo, Professor Lessig.

Larry Lessig's website

Earth from the other side of Saturn

Drporco The cool people at TED have graciously and enthusiastically allowed me to use many of their high-rez images from the TED talks in the Presentation Zen book (which looks like it is still on track for a Dec 17th release). I'll be using some images of Sir Ken Robinson, Al Gore, and many others. I am using two images of planetary scientist Carolyn Porco who gave a wonderful 18-minute talk on the Cassini voyage to Saturn. The images I have of her on stage at TED picture her with her arms open, eyes forward and totally engaged with her audience and the topic. I thought she did an excellent job. Good, appropriate visuals, and a good example of connecting with the audience. At one point she even got a bit emotional surprising even her self. And that's OK. Let it all hang out. And why not? The Cassini voyage to Saturn is absolutely amazing stuff, though you'd hardly know it from the popular media. The point Dr. Porco makes about the importance of these discoveries is well made. Why we don't celebrate these kinds of remarkable scientific achievements which demonstrate, among other things, that nations can indeed work together for incredible good is very odd. (Is it our short attention spans that causes the news programs to feature stories of Paris Hilton and Britney Spears et al. but not the incredible achievements of professionals like Dr. Carolyn Porco or Sir Martin Rees (see his TED video presentation) who have far more interesting and important stories to tell?) Watch the TED video below of Dr. Carolyn Porco or go here for download options.




Now here (above) is a great photo. Kind of makes you feel pretty small doesn't it? And this was taken from "only" about a billion miles away from Earth. I have printed this high-rez photo of Saturn (with Earth visible) and put it on my wall to serve as a personal reminder. To remind me, for example, of just how small my own little problems are in the whole scheme of things. To remind me too of how silly and destructive attachments are to the things which are ultimately quite inconsequential. We don't usually think of our world from another perspective. We don't usually think of Earth as just another dot in the distance among many other shiny dots. You can imagine Earth being like that, but once you see a photo of our home—the only home we've got—taken from over a million miles on the other side of the enormous planet of Saturn...well, I don't know how you can look at that photo and ponder its significance and not be changed. That's a pretty special tiny blue dot (to us anyway). When I look at this image of Saturn and Earth I am reminded of a line from the famous Aikido instructor Kensho Furuya-sensei: "Human beings are great in their own eyes, but are not much in the eyes of Nature." When you look at Earth from this perspective it kind of makes you want to take better care of it and treat it with more respect.

High-rez images of Saturn from Cassini.