Wet plate photography

Just caught this short video on a wet plate collodion. Some of my photo buds want to head out and take a workshop in the process. Looks super fun. Sally Mann learned from Scully & Osterman. Another option is John Coffer. Both have workshops. Though, they fill up super fast. Got to wait until 2012 for new openings. But I’m definitely going to do one some day.

Amelie and Alchemy from Konstantin Brazhnik on Vimeo.


Putting the first man on the moon

I like reading the obituaries in the NYTs. It’s interesting to see what people who achieve have done with their lives.

This week I found the write up about Joseph Gavin fascinating. He managed about 7,500 people at Grumman Aircraft building the Apollo lunar landers. Most of us take it for granted that these space craft landed men safely on the Moon and returned them to their command modules orbiting the Moon. What they did was incredibly impressive. Imagine never being able to test what you build in real conditions. In every project I’ve ever led, there were ton’s of bugs that emerged only after starting serious testing (web browsers, web servers, devices like the iPhone). Of course, I never had human life relying on my software projects to launch bug free. Even harder! I can’t even image having to manage a project like this.

It was a tricky task. The module had to be light, to reduce energy consumption and battery size. Because there is no air resistance on the moon, reverse acceleration was needed to stop forward progress. Everything had to be tested and tested again: some 14,000 imperfections were corrected over almost a decade. And because there could no testing in actual lunar conditions, an extensive array of backup systems had to be installed while still minimizing weight.

Preparations for the moon landing were inherently uncertain. Imagined possibilities included a layer of dust more than 30 feet thick, a slippery surface like ice, and potholes.

“So we developed a computer program, based on tests of a quarter-scale model of the lunar module, and we ran the program through some 400 different landing conditions,” Mr. Gavin said in an interview with Technology Review, published by M.I.T., in 1994.

The margins for error were so tiny that Commander Armstrong had only 20 seconds of fuel left after changing landing sites because of rocks. Mr. Gavin was “literally” holding his breath, he recalled.

An even more tense moment followed. If the blastoff from the moon’s surface failed — a critical step that could not be simulated in terrestrial tests — Commander Armstrong and Col. Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., the lunar module pilot, would be stranded forever.

Amazing stuff. The article ends with an interesting quote from him on innovation. Working for a big corporation, I see lots of talk about predictability in building technology products. It’s super hard even for the most experienced program managers. Cool to see how some of the best think about these things. Can’t say I disagree with him…

“If a project is truly innovative, you cannot possibly know its exact cost and exact schedule at the beginning,” Mr. Gavin told Technology Review. “And if you do know the exact cost and the exact schedule, chances are that the technology is obsolete.”

Design in tech

A few interesting notes about design I read in John Sculley’s recent interview about Steve Jobs and Apple.

An anecdotal story, a friend of mine was at meetings at Apple and Microsoft on the same day and this was in the last year, so this was recently. He went into the Apple meeting (he’s a vendor for Apple) and when he went into the meeting at Apple as soon as the designers walked in the room, everyone stopped talking because the designers are the most respected people in the organization. Everyone knows the designers speak for Steve because they have direct reporting to him. It is only at Apple where design reports directly to the CEO.

Later in the day he was at Microsoft. When he went into the Microsoft meeting, everybody was talking and then the meeting starts and no designers ever walk into the room. All the technical people are sitting there trying to add their ideas of what ought to be in the design. That’s a recipe for disaster.

While not surprising for anyone that knows Apple well, still notable in the industry. The other note I thought was interesting was around developers…

Engineers are far more important than managers at Apple — and designers are at the top of the hierarchy. Even when you look at software, the best designers like Bill Atkinson, Andy Hertzfeld, Steve Capps, were called software designers, not software engineers because they were designing in software. It wasn’t just that their code worked. It had to be beautiful code. People would go in and admire it. It’s like a writer. People would look at someone’s style. They would look at their code writing style and they were considered just beautiful geniuses at the way they wrote code or the way they designed hardware.

Again, even with engineering driven companies, I rarely hear a focus on writing beautiful code. I think that’s as cool as building great customer facing product.

The whole interview is definitely worth a read for those interested in management and product development.

Thinking big

Love this quote, via Daring Fireball:

“Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will never die, but long after we are gone will be a living thing, asserting itself with ever-growing insistency. Remember that our sons and grandsons are going to do things that would stagger us. Let your watchword be order and your beacon beauty. Think big.”

Wuz up

So, what’s up with me? I basically haven’t been blogging for the past year. The major thing that changed for me was photography. That’s where all my free time goes these days. I started taking black and white photography classes at the Photographic Center Northwest in Fall of 2008. Why then haven’t I been posting photos left and right online? Well, I’m taking film based classes. Yup, old school. It’s been great. Since I work behind a computer all day, plugging a camera into a computer to engage in my hobby became a burden. Working analog has been liberating. For example, I dodge and burn with my hands versus virtual tools in Photoshop. I’ll loop back to digital at some point. But I’m enjoying the old school world too much to care about digital at the moment. It’s also fun doing something that pretty much no one else is doing. I get stopped in the street by people who want to talk about my Leica. Reminds me of the old days as a Mac user. Not unique to be a Mac or iPhone user anymore. I’ll get around scanning some photos at some point. Stay tuned.

IFC now streaming on Netflix

Pretty cool, IFC will start streaming on Netflix beginning November 20th. Right now I have a Roku attached to my plasma TV. None of that web browser viewing for me.

“On demand” is definitely the wave of the future. Forget TiVo which pulls down content and stores it locally in you home. Content will live in the “cloud.” Eventually, every movie or TV show will be available this way. Still probably 10 years away from this happening. But there will be huge movement over the next few years.

A new blog

I’ve decided to migrate my blog to WordPress. It’s been long enough that I’ve been mooching off friends (Buster all the way back in 2003 on his MovableType instance and most recently Bob on the mobileduo domain). Since all the cool kids seem to be on WordPress these days, that’s good enough for me.

On my last blog, I experimented a bit with displaying current books I’m reading, latest albums, Twitter posts, etc. But I found it too much trouble to keep updated. So, for my new blog I selected a clean WordPress template and put just the bare essentials in the sidebar: search, categories, top posts and links to me other places on the Web. The nice thing about a hosted solution is dealing with spam. I had to turn off comments on my old blog. I figure constant attention from WordPress should help deal with comment spam for the most part. Finally, with a hosted solution you get constant goodies released (like widgets) and don’t have to worry about updating your own instance to get them (or pestering Bob in my case)! So, I’m looking forward to the new location for this blog.

Another change in this rev of my blog, I will be no longer be creating posts around pointing readers to interesting links. I do that now through my Twitter feed. Microblogging is a much better vehicle for short bursts of interesting facts to followers. This blog will be focused more on narrative — hopefully original narrative. I’m going to try for a once a week post. Posts will center around technology, the film industry (for those that don’t know, I now work at IMDb), photography and any other topics that fit my fancy.

I have other ideas for blogs but I’m not going to launch those until I actually start blogging again. Stay tuned and hopefully find some of my thoughts interesting and perhaps share a few of your own.