Thursday, July 24, 2008

Almost Finished!

Right now it is 7:28 pm and I am (hopefully) almost finished with my 90 second news story. We have been working since yesterday at noon on this news story. Our assignment was to go to Branson, Missouri and find someone interesting and create a news story about them. This time we were given a little more freedom and length to get it accomplished. Our target time was between 75-90 seconds. When we got to Branson we were kicking around a few different ideas.

We thought about doing a story about miniature golf, or an old time photo studio. We thought the photo studio might be interesting because we could do some old time effects on the video. We went into a photo studio and didn’t really find anything interesting. So my partner, Bob, and I decided we were hungry so we went to dinner at a Ruby Tuesday’s. Our server came up and we asked him who was interesting in Branson that was within walking distance. He said, “Even though I work at a Ruby Tuesday’s, I’m kind of interesting.” Daniel is going to be trying out for American Idol in a couple of weeks in Kansas City. That in itself was a pretty interesting story. Then he told us that he does the voice of the robot hillbilly at the IMAX theatre. They have a robot dressed up like a hillbilly at the theatre that talks to people and Daniel uses a microphone to do his voice. Now we had an even better story. Then the clincher was when he told us that he uses the robot hillbilly to get girl’s phone numbers and that he met his girlfriend that way. We had struck film making gold.

We were in Branson until around midnight last night and we have been editing the 20 minutes of video that we shot since 10:30 this morning. Our teacher has to come by and give us final approval but we are really close to getting done. The teachers are then putting them all together into a full news broadcast. When I get a copy of that, I will post it on here. I love our story but I’m so tired of it right now that I could puke. I think that is one of the things that is cool about this camp is that it is so hands on that it really makes you feel what our students will be feeling coming up.

On another related note, after everything I’ve learned this week, I dread looking back at the old KMH broadcasts. Not because the kids didn’t do a good job, or do exactly what I asked of them. The kids that have worked on KMH for the last seven years have been awesome. It is just that my knowledge base was so low. There are so many really simple things that I just didn’t know. Those simple things make the job of putting a news story together harder because you have so much to look for but I think the quality of our future broadcasts is going to be well above what we have done in the past. I haven’t had a TV all week (Yes, it is killing me) and I can’t wait to get home to watch it so that I can see where these same techniques are used.

Monday, July 21, 2008

More Drinking out of the Fire Hose

I started broadcast camp on Sunday and again, I feel like I’m trying to drink out of a fire hose. I’m staying in a dorm room at Drury University. I’m roommates with guys from KC, Arkansas and Ohio. In my class there are people from 17 different states. I was even setting in class today net to a woman who knows my cousin that lives in South Carolina. Talk about a small world. Our first night of class was on Sunday and we immediately jumped into things. We actually didn’t get out of class on Sunday night until around 9:00 and that isn’t even out “late” night. This is the first formal education I have had in broadcasting and I have learned so much already. I have been trying to figure out how I’m going to teach my kids the basics of broadcasting while getting our first shows together. I had a few ideas that I was kicking around before this class and now I’m overloaded with ideas.

One of the cool things about this class is that we do lectures in the mornings about how to do different things, then in the afternoons we have assignments to practice them. Last night we had to work on different kinds of shots (Wide, Medium, Tight, Action, Reaction) and we did this by video taping a guy playing guitar. Today our assignment was to create a one minute movie with no sound that told a complete story (beginning, middle, end). We were given a topic and then we had about 2 ½ hours to brainstorm, make a shot list, film/act, and edit. I think ours turned out really good. Out topic was “Silly campers are locked inside a van.” So myself and one of my roommates, Bob, acted like we were dead and then scared our camp counselors. Eventually I will get a copy of that story and post it on here. We definitely made some mistakes but overall I was happy with the results. I think tomorrow we are talking more about putting a news story together so I’m pretty excited about that.

Tonight we went to Lambert’s restaurant, home of the Throwed Rolls. I ate way too much but had some great conversations with teachers from all over the country. If you’ve ever been to Lamberts, you know that it is always a long wait. I figured we would be there for hours when our teacher told us to listen for “Davis party of 44.” It actually only took us about a half hour to get everyone seated. I sat next to a teacher name Marty (again, small world) from Pennsylvania, there were also teachers from Arkansas, New Jersey, Iowa, South Carolina, and St. Louis at my table. I think was is really cool is to hear ideas from others who are excited about teaching. I don’t know how you could go to a class like this or the Space Foundation classes in Colorado Springs and not leave wanting to get back to the classroom and try this stuff out. It is 9:40 on Monday night, I already feel like I’ve been through a week of class but I will probably be up later staring a presentation for the first week of school for broadcasting. I hate the let these great ideas get out of my head.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Back in Class

In my space suit!
The cardboard tubes are sun spot viewers

I’m back in class in Colorado Springs. This time the class is Astronomy Principals for the Classroom: Kinesthetic Astronomy. It has been so much fun so far. The last couple of days we have been learning about telescopes and observatories. Tomorrow we have a lesson on black holes and then tomorrow night we are doing a star viewing. I just got in from looking at sunspots through a telescope (NEVER LOOK AT THE SUN THROUGH A TELESCOPE). What we did was hold paper up next to the eye piece and let the telescope project an image of the sun on the paper. The only bummer was that there were no sun spots today. Check out the link below to see if there are currently any sun spots.

Update – last night was our night viewing and it was really cool. We had 10-12 telescopes set up and were looking at the moon, Jupiter and Saturn. We could even see the rings on Saturn. Today is our last day of class. I’m kind of sad because this is my last Space Foundation class. I’ve taken five of them over the last 3 summers. They have all been amazing.

Looking through the telescope looking at the moon.


Picture of the moon I took through a telecope

Summer Trip

I haven’t updated for a while because I have been crazy busy. My wife and I are currently on a three and a half week trip. We have gotten to see and do some amazing things. We are taking classes in Colorado Springs through the Space Foundation. We have finished up one week of class that was about the Biology of Space Travel. For the class we learned soooo much that I will have to go through my notes to remember it all. A couple of the highlights were riding the Barany Chair. This is a chair that spins really smoothly. They block out all other senses – so basically you wear a blindfold and ear muffs. You have to show which way you think you are spinning. I started out correct and then at some point while I was still spinning I felt like I was stopped, then I felt like I started spinning the other way. Then the teacher stopped me from spinning and I still felt like I was going. It was over 30 seconds before I felt like I was stopped. It was really an odd sensation. It has to do with the inner ear and how it senses directions. Kind of cool because it really made the microgravity flight and what I was feeling make more sense. During class we also designed space suits – of which I was my teams model – build glove boxes like they use in space and designed plant grown chambers. I also go some cinnamon basil seeds that flew with Barbara Morgan on STS-118. I can’t wait to get them home and start growing them.

Me riding the Barany Chair

After class got done on Friday we drove south to Albuquerque, New Mexico. I had never been there before but it was a pretty city. While there we went to the zoo. It was pretty cool with lots of animals that were on display in a way that made them pretty easy to see. Our next stop was really cool. We went to Meteor Crater in Arizona. This is the best preserved meteor impact site on the planet. It is a hole a mile across and 570 feet straight down. This is where NASA trained the Apollo astronauts on what to look for when they got to the moon. We took a tour that took us a half mile around the crater. It was really impressive. Apparently you can take a magnet and go through the dirt and pick up pieces of the original meteorite that were vaporized and re-solidified into little balls.

Standing at Meteor Crater in Arizona

After leaving Meteor Crater we took off for the Grand Canyon. I had never been there before. We were trying to make it by sunset. We missed it by about 10 minutes. When we first walked toward the edge (Note: I do NOT like heights so for most of this trip I was really pushing myself and getting outside my comfort zone. It took a while but I ended up on a trail that was right at the edge and dropped over a mile into the canyon.) My first impression of the Grand Canyon was that it honestly looked fake. It was so big/enormous/huge/massive that at first I couldn’t comprehend how big it was. We stayed about a half mile from the canyon at Yavapai Lodge. If you have a chance to go to the Grand Canyon, I highly recommend it. The night we got there it happened to be the night of a star party. This is where amature astronomers bring out their telescopes and let people look though them. We saw several different galaxies, and Jupiter. We could see the bands of Jupiter and four of the moons. The next day we spent most of the day at the Grand Canyon. We took a bus ride that dropped us off at several points where you could walk out onto cliffs that were dangling by a thread over the canyon. Seriously, who looks at the Grand Canyon and says to themselves, “you know I think we should put a trail out on that 2 foot wide rock but lets leave the guard rails off. “ Apparently the National Parks Service. Still, the park was beautiful and I am still impressed with the magnitude of the Canyon. I would go back in a second.

My wife and I at the Grand Canyon. This is about as close as I got to the edge.

Yesterday we drove to Phoenix, Arizona to go to the zoo (my wife loves zoos and I drag her to all kinds of historical and scientific places – battlefields, meteor crater, petrified forest, Hoover Dam, etc. – that the least I can do is go to a zoo occasionally.) This one just about killed us. We got there at 9:00 and the temperature was over 100 degrees. Even the giraffes were laying down. Snakes were going, “man is it hot!” Coolest thing at that zoo were the turtles. I counted over 40 turtles in a little pond that you walked over to get into the zoo. That night we went to an Arizona Diamondbacks game. It was way cool. I played baseball in college and love going to games. I tried out for 20+ major and minor league teams when I was in college so I really enjoy seeing other ballparks and how they do things, especially now that I work for the Royals occasionally. We got hooked up with some free tickets and a personal tour of the field. They have an amazing facility. The prices are pretty reasonable (I got a hat and T-shirt for $15). They even had sushi (I passed) and Chinese food. The Diamondbacks won and we had a great time at the game. Thanks Casey!

Today we are on our way to Las Vegas. We will be there for a few days over the 4th of July. Right now I am in the car typing this. My wife is driving and we are about 40 miles from going over the Hoover Dam. I really want to see it and later this week we will be coming back to take the tour. A cool side note about the desert. Right now I am watching 4 dust devils work their way across the desert. Kind of weird coming from tornado alley, the instinct is to go dive into a ditch but they are kind of cool to watch. After I take the tour of the dam, I will post more.