Modified Contour Drawing Exercise


Building on the previous contour drawing exercise, this one brings things all together nicely by getting you to draw your hand as you see it.

Betty has a setup where you actually place your hand behind a clear background and then draw the hand as you see it, on the 2D plane.


The magic here is it forces you to focus on what you see, instead of drawing what you know.

I didn’t have a clear plane to draw through, so I scrunched my hand and draw what saw in front of me. The results were impressive.


The is perhaps the best real life drawing of anything I have ever done (a testament to Betty’s book and technique). One tip: close one eye when doing this exercise. It helps make your hand be viewed as a plane (not 3D) and easier to draw.


What’s fascinating about this exercise is as you are drawing your hand, you can literal feel the tug of war between the two sides of your brain.

When you see something you know (like a finger or a ring) your L-Mode brain (left) kicks in and instantly wants you to draw a finger or a ring like it knows how (a simple circle). But the right (or what we are trying to engage) fights this be instead saying

Don’t draw a finger. Focus instead on the lines you see (and the finger will emerge).

This to me is the secret of drawing.

Drawing what you see, instead of of what you know.

Easier said than done! But Betty’s book and my attempts at these exercises prove anyone can do it. So can you.

More drawing posts:

Drawing on the right side of the brain
Three exercises to get you going
Vases and faces
Drawing upside down
Use contour drawing to see things differently

Betty’s excellent book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.

Art History – Why the picture plan method works for realistic drawings

Realistic drawing is producing a 3D image on a 2D surface. Prehistoric cave artists drew 2D images on walls of caves, but it wasn’t until Greeks and Romans worked out ways of drawing 3D forms that realistic art revived.

The skill was lost again during the dark ages and it wasn’t until the early 15th century Renaissance in Italy, that artists like Filippo Brunelleshi worked out a way to portray linear perspective, and Leon Batista Alberti discovered that he could draw in perspective the cityscape beyond his window by drawing directly on a glass plane.

Van Gogh used this technique in the 19th century to construct his own “perspective device” as he called it, when he was laboriously teaching himself how to draw. Eventually, after much practice, he could draw using an imaginary plane and was able to discard the 30 lb wood and iron one he carried around.

Upside-Down Drawing: an exercise to reduce mental conflict


Something that’s beginning to dawn on me as I work through Betty’s book, is that it isn’t learning to draw that’s important, it’s learning how to perceive things differently.

This exercise, drawing upside down, is designed to do exactly that.

Instead of looking at a picture right side up and going – “House”.

But tipping it upside down you perceive things completely differently.
Instead of seeing: “Roof, chimney, shingles, window.” You see lines, forms, and detail indescribable in everyday language.

So your verbal left brain shuts down, and your right side (drawing brain) kicks in.

For example, here’s a portrait of Igor Stravinsky by Pablo Picasso. Try drawing this upside down (should take about 40min).


As you are drawing, note how you are focusing on line and form, and not words.

Here’s my attempt.


Not bad! Spacing was the hardest thing to get right (you can see how the head just kind of hangs out there. Yet when you compare it with the original it’s pretty good.


This exercise is probably the greatest hack for taking anyone who hasn’t drawn since junior high, and re-activating the right sided brain.

Also notice how the most complicated parts of the picture, the crossing fingers, are drawn quite well. For most students, this is the finest part of the drawing. Why? Because the students didn’t know what they were drawing! They simply drew what they saw, just as they saw it – one of the most important keys to drawing well.

Betty also points out that when it came to drawing the face, there was probably a lot of erasing. Why? Because we knew what we were drawing, maybe starting talking to yourself, and inadvertently kicked in the the language dominant left brain. This verbalization doesn’t help.

Give it a try! Even better buy Betty’s book and see for yourself.

Vases and Faces – an exercise for the double brain



In this exercise from Betty Edwards Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain we are purposely confusing both sides of our brain.

The left is going to want to use words to describe what we are drawing (mouth, nose, lips) while the right is going to want to be more visual. It’s jarring.

The exercise goes like this (do the opposite if you are left handed)

1. Draw a face on the left handed side of a piece of paper.
2. Draw horizontal lines along the top and bottom.
3. Now, take your pencil and slowly go back over the face profile you have just drawn naming the parts like this: “Forehead…nose…upper lip…lower lip…chin…neck.” This is kicking in the left hand side of the brain (the war is about to start).
4. Then go to the other side and start to draw the face profile.
5. When you get to around the forehead or nose, you may experience some mental confusion.
6. Purpose of this exercise is for you to self-observe: “How do I solve this problem.”


Why would we want to do this?

This is a great exercise because it sets up conflict between the left and right hand side of the brain.

The left likes words (nose, chin, these things I can label and draw because I know what they look like).

The right however despises language. It simple wants to draw. So it studies line, form, spacing, and ignore the language side.

Except we trick our brains into using the left by repeating the words as we draw them. Hence the conflict.

The purpose of this exercise is to get you, the drawer, to realize there is conflict (acknowledge it’s there) and then in the follow up exercises show you how to deal with it.

In the next exercise, turning the picture upside down, we will see how we can quiet our left brain, while engaging the right.

For more information on drawing, and a great book on learning, check out Betty Edwards book which I am currently working through.

Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain



I have always wanted to learn how to draw. So it was with great excitement that the best book I could find on drawing arrived yesterday – Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards.

I won’t go into why this book is so good (I have only read the first two chapters) but already this early in I know I am in good hands as this book was first published in 1979, is now on it’s fourth edition, and has stood the test of time.

First, it’s helpful to understand this general distinction between left and right brain.


The left brain (our dominate one) is used every day for most things. Language, analytic thought. Important stuff like that.

But it’s the right side of the brain that is used for drawing. And engaging it is not as easy as it sounds.

Fortunately, Betty has several exercises to help us get our right brains engaged and aid us in our drawing.

The Vase/Faces exercise is designed to acquaint students with the possibility of conflict between the hemispheres as they compete for the task. The exercise is setup to strongly activate the verbal hemisphere (L-mode), but completion of the exercise requires the abilities of the visual hemisphere (R-mode). The resulting mental conflict is perceptible and instructive for students.

The Upside-Down Drawing exercise (I remember an art teacher showing me this one in junior high) is rejected by the left hemisphere because it is too difficult to name parts of an image when it is upside down, and, in left-brain terms, an inverted image is too unusual – that is useless – to bother with. This rejection enables the right hemisphere to hump into the task (for which it is well suited) without competition from the left hemisphere.

The Perception of Edges exercise (seeing complex edges) forces slowness and extreme perception of tiny, inconsequential (in left brain terms) details, where every details becomes a fractual-like whole, with details within details. The left hemisphere quickly becomes “fed up” because it is “too slow for words” and drops out, enabling the right hemisphere to take up the task.

The Perception of Spaces exercise is rejected by the left hemisphere because it will not deal with “nothing”, that is, negative spaces that aren’t objects and can’t be named. In it’s view, spaces are not important enough to bother with. The right hemisphere, with its recognition of the whole (shapes and spaces), is then free to pick up the task and seems to take antic delight in drawing negative spaces.

The Perception of Relationships (perspective and proportion in building and interiors) forces the left hemisphere to confront paradox and ambiguity, which it dislikes and rejects (“this is not how I know things to be”), and which are abundant in perspective drawing, with its angular and proportional spatial changes. Because the right hemisphere is willing to acknowledge perceptual reality, it accepts and will draw what it sees (“it is what it is”).

The Perception of Lights and Shadows presents shapes that are infinitely complex, variable, unnamable, and not useful in terms of language. The left hemisphere refuses the task, which the complexity-loving right hemisphere then picks up, delighting, in the three dimensionality that lights and shadows reveal.

The Perception of Gestalt occurs during and at the close of a drawing. The main effect is a right-hemisphere aha, as though in recognition of the whole that emerges from careful perception and recoding of the parts, all in relationship to each other and the whole. This initial perception of the gestalt occurs largely without verbal input or response from the left hemisphere, but later the left brain may put into words a response that expresses the right brains aha.

This, then is the essence of Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain: five basic component perceptual skills of drawing, and an overall strategy to enable your brain to bring to bear the brain most appropriate for drawing.

I am so looking forward to studying this book. Stay tuned for more insights into the world of drawing and any other creative hacks I come across for drawing.

Be thankful for your Art

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Not everyone has a project they get up at 4am every morning to work on.
Most people would rather watch TV then write a blog post are create a great piece of work.

But that’s changing.

When I finished writing Samurai I was stressed. Not because I was worried about how the book would sell, or how popular it would get. I was stressed because I didn’t know what I was going to work on next.

This is nothing new. Startups suffer this when they get acquired. Directors when they finish movies. And authors when they finish books. They become vagabonds. Wandering the desert in search of their next project. And they are miserable until they find it.

So if you’ve found your passion, and you’ve got a great project you are working on. Enjoy it.

And never take for granted the joy that comes from working on it – because of course it’s not work.

How to setup minecraft server on a mac – Part 1: Setup Server


These instructions are based on the official mac instructions at minecraft site.

If you don’t need much help, go there. But if you like pictures, start here.

This is the first part of a three part tutorial:

  • Part 1: Setup Server
  • Part 2: Setup Local Client
  • Part 3: Setup Internet Client

Part 1: Setup Server

Download the minecraft server jar file.

Create a directory called ‘server’ and drag the jar file in there.


Make a command file

To make it easy to start your server, we are going to create a ‘start.command’ file. Double clicking this file will launch your server.

Open TextEdit (/Applications/TextEdit).

Set the format to plain text.


Copy in the following text.

cd "$(dirname "$0")"
exec java -Xmx1G -Xms1G -jar minecraft_server.jar

Be sure to change the minecraft_server.jar to match the name of the jar in the directory (in my case minecraft_server.1.7.4.jar).

Save it in the same directory as your jar file.


Make this command executable by opening a terminal (/Applications/Terminal) and typing

chmod a+x

with a space after it. Drag and drop the start.command file into the terminal window and then press enter.


Double click the start server to start the server.

If all works a new server window will open and you will see several errors about missing files and directories – don’t worry this is fine.


Congrats! You’ve setup the server. Next we are going to configure Time Capsule so your server runs for everyone on your network.

If you ran into problems, check this troubleshooting section for fixes.

Troubleshooting server setup

Unable to access jarfile error

If you got ‘Unable to access jarfile’ when double clicking the start.command file,


the filename in your start.command file doesn’t match the jar file name on disk.

Fix this by opening the start.command file


and changing the filename to be correct (make sure you get the numbers, in my case, 1.7.4 included in the file name).


Rich-text-format error

If your text file keeps wanting to rename itself start.rtf, it’s because you haven’t made the text file ‘plain text format’. Go over the instructions again above, and make this file plain text format.

Configure Time Capsule

Before any clients can connect to our server, we need to configure Time Capsule to keep a static local IP address, and tell it what port number our server is going to be running on.

You may need your mom or dad for this step (because it will require Time Capsule password).

Open System Preferences > Network


Click the advanced button in the lower right hand corner. And then the ‘TCP/IP’ tab.


Where it says Configure IPv4, change that option to ‘Using DHCP with manual address’.

Change the IP address to 10.0.1.x, where x can be any number from 1 to 100.

Note the address you type here: 10.0.1.x. You are going to need it later when we setup the Airport Utility

Hit OK and go back to ‘System Preferences.

You may need to save your changes before leaving the ‘Network’ preferences first. That’s OK.


Now go to the ‘Sharing’ section of System Preferences and make sure that Internet Sharing is on.


Do this by first clicking on ‘USB Ethernet’


And then double clicking ‘Internet Sharing’ on the left hand side. When it asks you if you really want to enable Internet Sharing say ‘OK’.


Now, open up AirPort Utility and edit your Time Capsule settings.



Click the Time Capsule image and then the ‘Edit’ button in the lower right.

Go under Network and make sure the option Router Mode is set to DHCP and NAT. Now, click the + button under the Port Settings.

Type in the following:

  • Description: Minecraft Server (or whatever you want to call it)
  • Private IP Address: The address you chose for the 4th step.

Change everything with the word port in it to 25565.


It should look something like this now.


Now hit ‘Update’ and update the Time Capsule.

OK. At this point you should be good.
You have a server.
You have a router that knows about your server and won’t try to change your IP address.
Next we are going to setup the local client.
And then after that the internet client.

Coming soon.

Part 2: Setup Local Client
Part 3: Setup Internal Client

Atlantis Exhibit Kennedy Space Center

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Last week I had the pleasure of visiting the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. One exhibit in particular that was most inspiring was the newly created Atlantis exhibit. Here are some pictures, words, and teachings that I want to share with you to try and convey the wonder and excitement of what it must have been like to work on this amazing space program.

It was like bolting a butterfly to a bullet


It’s easy to forget what how sensitive and challenging the design problems NASA engineers and designers face.

2.5 Millions Parts

Take the shear numbers of parts – 2.5 Million, each and everyone itemized and documented.

Materials that didn’t exist

Or the fact that many of the materials they needed to send a ship into space, and then return it safely, didn’t even exist.

Extreme Temperatures

The liquid fuel for Atlantis required chilling at -253c. Contrast that with the temperature inside the Atlantis engine 3316c and you get a sense of the awesome forces at play when fuel meets engine.


The three main engines generated over 37 Million Horsepower. Giddy up!

No turning back

Once lit, there was no going back. The solid rocket boosters burned a stunning 9 tons of fuel every second, getting the rocket from 0 to 4828 km/h in two minutes flat.


Atlantis spun off a lot of cool tech that we use today. The ‘chill pill’ is a thermometer firefighters can swallow to monitor their inside core temperatures.

Another was the pattern matching software developed for the Hubble telescope which can now identify and track whale sharks spots as they swim through the ocean.



As I kid I loved making paper airplanes, testing out designs, and flying them to see which worked better. The exhibit made me feel good, and showed me that by playing, I was practicing for designing future space ships!

The Right Stuff

And if you are looking for some leverage to keep your kids interested in science and technology, here are the credentials astronauts needed if they wanted to apply for the Apollo space program.

  • Age 35 or under
  • Height less than 6 feet
  • Weight less than 190 lbs
  • A college degree in science or engineering
  • U.S. citizenship
  • Excellent physical and mental condition

Meet real life astronauts


While in the gift shop, John E Blaha was signing autographs. While signing he said something interesting (paraphasing): “The Apollo program was all about getting test pilots into space. That’s what early astronauts were – test pilots. What changed with the shuttle missions was getting scientists into space. Through experiments, equipment, and Hubble, it was about unlocking the mysteries of space, and enabling scientists to do research in space.”

I found that insightful. It helped me understand the goals of both programs, and how much NASA had matured in it’s planning and exploration.

Mysteries of the universe


If you are still with me here, this is perhaps the most mind blowing concept that I intellectually understand, but still have a hard time accepting.

With telescopes like Hubble we can literally look back in time. We can literally see, and look at events that happened, 100s, 1000s, millions, and even billions of years ago by pointing deeper into outer space and interpreting what we see.


It takes the light from these events that long to reach us. Billions of years. This is why Hubble was such a big deal. It let’s you look back in time and see what things looked like at the start of the Universe.

It’s an amazing concept, that I feel very few of us appreciate, but literally blows my mind, which is why I find physics so fascinating.

Visit the Kennedy Space Center Atlantis exhibit


If you are Florida, and are looking to get your kids (or yourself) inspired, I highly recommend visiting the Kennedy Space Center.

It’s a trip of a life time, it will make you appreciate how far we have come, and anticipate how much further we can all go in the future.

More pics













How to setup, install, and connect to a minecraft server on a Mac


My sons really like minecraft. So this weekend (with the hopes that they will learn something about the internet) I figured out how and host your own minecraft servers on the Mac.

This article is for moms and dads who are looking for instructions on how to setup and host minecraft servers for their kids. It will help if you know a little bit about programming and the internet. Of course eventually the hope here by having mom and dad setup a server, the kids will learn about programming and the internet, and will be able to get jobs and no longer rely on mom and dad (hurray!).

Anyways, here are some bare bones instructions on how to get this going on a Mac.

Step 1: Download minecraft server

Download the jar file version near the bottom. Once downloaded, unzip, open a ‘terminal’ and type:

> java -Xmx1024M -Xms1024M -jar minecraft_server.jar

Replacing minecraft_server.jar with whatever version of minecraft your downloaded.

This command starts the server. Once running your are in effect hosting a minecraft server on your machine.


It will create a whole bunch of files and directories. To stop it type:

> stop

Step x: Create a server


Step 2: Setup port forwarding

If others are going to connect to your server, they are going to need an address on where to connect to. Port forwarding enables your kids friends to directly connect to your computer by forwarding the data on through your wifi router (which masks it) to your computer.

Download Port Map.


Unzip it, install it, run it, and configure it as follows:


Step 3: Turn off your firewall

Open preferences -> Security

Screen Shot 2013-09-08 at 8.06.41 AM

You may need to click the lock at the bottom, enter you account password, turn off, and then save changes.


Step 4: Connect

Go back to Port Map and write down these numbers depending on whether you are connecting via local wifi or internet:



Then have your friends fireup the minecraft clients and ‘Directly Connect’ replacing the numbers below with your own as follows:





Note: Public port number may be different than local.


Wifi means you are all on the same local Wifi network.
Internet means your friends are at home across the city.

Voila! If all goes well you should see a screen that looks like this:


Trouble Shooting

If you fail to connect – don’t despair. There are lots of other videos and how-tos out there. I created this one specifically for the Mac because no one told me about the firewall step.

Keep googling, keep trying stuff, and have fun!

Imagineering – Mickey’s Ten Commandments

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Today I cracked the cover on a book I have been waiting to read for a long time.


Disney’s Imagineering – A behind the Dreams Look at Making More Real Magic

I was immediately drawn to a key figure, Marty Skylar, legend who retired after 54 years at Disney as creative lead of Walt Disney Imagineering.

Marty distilled much of what he learned about building great amusement park rides into Mickey’s Ten Commandments.

Mickey’s Ten Commandments

1. Know your audience.

Identify the prime audience for your attraction or show before you begin.

2. Wear your Guest’s shoes.

Insist that your team members experience your creation just the way Guests do it.

3. Organize the flow of people and ideas.

Make sure there is a logic and sequence in your stories, and in the way Guests experience them.

4. Create a wienie (visual magnet).

Create visual targets that lead visitors clearly and logically through your facility. The story here is that as a kid, whenever Walt went to an amusement park, the first thing he saw was the wiener cart. And he was drawn to it because he wanted a hot dog. The wienie for Disney parks is the castle. People are just drawn to it.

5. Communicate with visual literacy.

Make good use of all the non-verbal ways of communication – color, shape, form, texture.

6. Avoid overload – create turn ons

Resist the temptation to overload your audience with too much information and too many objects.

7. Tell one story at a time.

Stick to the story line; good stories are clear, logical, and consistent.

8. Avoid contradictions – maintain identity.

Details in design and content that contradict one another confuse an audience about your story or the time period it takes place in.

9. For every ounce of treatment, provide a ton of treat.

In our business, Walt Disney said, you can educate people – but don’t tell them you’re doing it! Make it fun!

10. Keep it up! (maintain it).

In a Disney park or resort, everything must work! Poor maintenance is poor show.

Something else Walt also insisted on was that his Imagineering attend park rides and stand in queues every two weeks so they never lose site of feel of what the guest sees.

I am really looking forward to this book. Here’s a joke to set the tone:

Q: How many Imagineers does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: Does it have to be a lightbulb?

Create the Movie Poster First

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Instead of creating the script and video first, like I normally do when creating a new video, this time I started with the title screen and short description.


iteration mechanics


Iteration mechanics are how Agile teams get things done on projects. In this episode I show you how they work, what three activities are essential, and how to make sure you and your team are setup for success before they begin.

Creating the poster first did a couple of things:

  1. It got me thinking about you the customer.
  2. I had to think about what you might find iteresting
  3. I had to think about why you would want to watch

I am not a great marketer. But this hack of Steven Covey’s begin with the end in mind helps me get into the customers head and think a little bit more about what’s in this for them.

Here is the video. You can see the others here.

Show Notes

iteration mechanics

iteration mechanics

iteration mechanics

iteration mechanics

iteration mechanics

iteration mechanics

iteration mechanics

iteration mechanics

iteration mechanics

iteration mechanics

iteration mechanics

iteration mechanics

iteration mechanics

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