Saturday, January 8, 2011

Thanksgiving + Leftover Fireworks + Father and Son = Movie Special Fx

So my son and I found ourselves with some time to kill over the Thanksgiving 2010 weekend. Looking for a diversion, we came across a box of leftover fireworks from the 4th of July and we said, "Hey, let's make a movie." And so we did.

Given the fact that mom was home, we promised to be careful, which in retrospect was probably a good idea. So, instead of lighting the fuses directly, I recommended we take a lesson from my old model rocketry days and observations taken from watching Mythbusters. We created a firing board consisting of some large gauge nails, wire, a portable car battery jump starter and homemade rocket igniters (more on this in a minute). The nails served as contacts for triggering each of the igniters to fire when touched by a lead from the battery. What this enabled us to do was run 8 foot leads to each of the fireworks we wanted to explode and trigger one or more in sequence when we wanted from a "safe" distance.

Key to the success of this operation was the homemade rocket igniters. To create these, simply take about 3" of picture hanging wire, create a small loop in the middle, coat the loop with some lacquer nail polish (see mom for this) and let dry. Running current from the jump starter causes the loop to heat up rapidly igniting the lacquer which in turn will ignite the fuse of the fireworks.

After 32 years of waiting, a day of making mayhem with my son made a childhood dream of my own come true - producing a movie with real explosive special effects, just like those seen on the big screen. The results of our day can be seen in the videos below. Note, the two videos are the same except for the sound tracks. Izy discovered that you get an entirely different experience based on the music playing during the movie. Enjoy!

- Ken

Friday, January 7, 2011

Tweets, bullets and the death of waxing poetically

It is my humble opinion that in our race to be more efficient we are killing any chance of living beyond the moment. Imagine for a moment the following documents and communications reduced to a series of tweets or a handful of bullets in an email or on a PowerPoint slide:
  • The Declaration of Independence
  • The Gettysburg Address
  • The Letters of Paul the Apostle (in the Bible)
  • Any TED presentation
  • many others
What results from tweets and bullets is a concise and immediate transfer of information, however, in many cases this information is presented without context.While this type of communication works (most of the time) with an audience already familiar with the subject matter, it fails miserably if the receiver joins in late or even worse, tries to pick it up months or years later. It is the depth that is missing.

At first this was okay. A bulleted PowerPoint deck was a door opener to a larger discourse, deeper research or formalized set of documents to bring an idea to life. More and more frequently, however, the formalization is also reduced to a series of slides and the depth is never recorded for future reference. This living for the moment approach is not only short sighted, it is dangerous. The ideas and intellectual property slipping through the communication cracks in organizations is unimaginable.

So how do we address the issue. The genie is out of the bottle, and Twitter, Yammer, texting and a myriad of other "instant" communication channels have emerged as the winners. The challenge facing us is managing this informal structure of knowledge transfer in a formal manner and then redistributing the information in meaningful ways. On his ZaidLearn blog, Zaid Ali Alsagoff calls this "Social Curation." Fortunately it seems there are as many tools for organizing information as there are for minimizing it. A few of these include:
These tools, unfortunately, are not entirely autonomous. The human factor is still a key component in distilling it all into packages that meet today's requirements and support tomorrow's needs. The investment in this type of human capital is vital to maintaining a culture of innovation because sometimes ideas generated now are not needed until later (take 3D television for example). The invention often times precedes the innovation by years; sometimes decades.

In the end, I am thankful that blogs still allow those of us who are often a little long winded to reach out to those who enjoy the whole story in more than 160 characters or less.

- Ken