Posts Tagged 'fun'


My wife and her friend get loud when they’re talking on the phone together.

They have such a good time with each other that over the course of their conversations the world gets smaller and smaller until they are barely aware of anything outside of a very small bubble. Inside that bubble there is nothing but their friendship and whatever topic they’re laughing about. Their “bubble-space fun” is great enough that they’ve decided they want to try sharing their fun with the world (or at least a few interested friends) through YouTube.

Image representing YouTube as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

It’s not an unreasonable thing to try. Though it’s hard to find exact numbers, there are, at a minimum, hundreds of thousands of YouTube channels out there that have a sizable following. As of today, YouTube’s statistics page mentions that they have over a million content creators monetizing on their videos with thousands of channels making six figures a year.

But even if getting rich isn’t your aim, what makes a YouTube channel worth watching? How do you make videos that appeal to people?

I am a shift worker, and every two months I rotate between three shifts. Only one of those shifts has reasonable hours, so on my days off while on the other two shifts I often find myself looking to YouTube to help pass the time (I am not much of a night owl). I currently subscribe to 84 channels, though many of those belong to people I know personally who rarely upload anything.

This blog post is not meant to be the end-all, definitive lesson on how to attain success on YouTube. However, I do want to share what keeps me coming back for more from some of my favorite channels, and a few things I’ve learned over the years about this sort of thing.

Disclaimer: if I were really good at this stuff I’d be making a living doing it. The following consists of a lot of conjecture and heartfelt opinions intermingled with some useful facts that I know. And I’m not claiming to be sharing the secret to viral videos or anything – I’m sharing what I know about content production and audience retention. Also, to get the full benefit from this “lesson” you’re going to have to sit through some videos, and a few of them are rather lengthy and not all of them are kid friendly.

Let’s get started.

Conventional wisdom in the entertainment industry seems to be based around the misapplication of a basic (and true) principle of human communication: know your audience. Rather than just knowing their audience, they are trying to know their audience. Like, in bed. They want to give the audience what the audience wants because that’s what makes the audience grow and shell out money. Appeal to the widest possible audience and you’ve got yourself a profitable YouTube channel in no time.

But what about you? Will you be happy? And what of your audience? Will your audience come back for more because they’re interested in what you’ll post next time, or are you just generating views because your videos show a thumbnail that got someone to click on it out of interest (boobs)?

Cyril Connolly said: “Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.

I believe that all entertainers should do what they love for their own reasons. Going further than that (here comes your first video assignment, and it’s almost twenty minutes long), Simon Sinek teaches leaders how to inspire people to action by centering everything you do around a primary idea that answers the question, “why?” You will need his advice when planning your content and video “format” (what and how you do what you do).

“Why” is a great place to start. And if you do it right, your “why” is something that is based mostly around feelings. But you’ve got to try to describe it in words.

Now, YouTube is an interesting place. There are a lot of problems with the “audience” on YouTube. The next video I want you to watch covers these issues through a satirical and tongue-in-cheek presentation pretending to be excellent advice on how to run your YouTube channel.

The real trick is in clearly defining why you’re starting your channel and figuring out what kinds of people are going to be watching it. Then you figure out whatever you can about that audience and tailor the presentation to them (not your content).


pewdiepie (Photo credit: pixesophie)

A great example of this is a guy called PewDiePie. He records himself being an idiot playing video games. As of right now, this guy has over thirteen million subscribers (I am not one of them). YouTube channels that focus on gaming are really big right now. A lot of people want to watch people play video games. But what makes PewDiePie number one?

Another channel I watch from time to time is The Game Theorist. He records videos in which he speculates on gaming related issues, carefully researching the topic and assembling an informed theory to explain what might be going on. He has a great video in which he basically proves that Sonic is not very fast. Very fun videos, but not consistently fun enough to get my subscription.

The Game Theorist did a really great video about why PewDiePie is so popular, and in it he outlines a lot of things that any new content publisher should know.

OK, one more long-ish video that you have to watch all the way through, then we’ll get into individual channels.

This next video is by a guy who I honestly did not expect to subscribe to. I remember the first time I saw one of his videos. I thought, “this guy is ugly, strange, and I do not feel like I connect with him.” That, however, was before I started getting into woodworking. When my wife and I started building a major piece of furniture I began looking for woodworking YouTube videos that were helpful for a novice like me.

That’s when this ugly guy’s channel came back up. After watching a few of his videos I subscribed. Then I found out that he had another channel in which he talks about the videos in his main channel. This intrigued me, so I checked out that second channel. Again, I subscribed.

Then I stumbled upon the following video in his auxiliary channel in which he talks about the video equipment he uses to make videos. But that’s not why I’m having you watch it. I’m having you watch it because the guy is awesome at little tips that make videos better for viewers. His video is kind of long, but it is full of outstanding advice for new channel owners.

If you’ve watched all of the videos I’ve prescribed so far, you’ve just watched 50 minutes and 46 seconds of video. Maybe you did it all in one sitting, maybe you broke it up into manageable segments over the course of a day or more. It’s possible that not all of those videos kept your attention for the entire length, but I’m betting that most of them did (if not all of them). Why did you watch those videos? Not just “because I’m trying to learn how to make good videos.” Really ask yourself, “what kept me watching even though those videos were so long?” If you need to, pick one and go back and watch it again, trying to figure out how the presenter kept your attention.

Now, let’s run through a few of my subscriptions and talk about what I love about them.

When I link to a channel, I recommend you familiarize yourself with their top video (or a few of their top videos). To do this, click on the channel link I provide, then look for the “Videos” tab (next to the little house icon, below the channel name). When the Videos tab first loads their uploads are shown in reverse chronological order (newest videos first). Click on the drop down button that says “Date added (newest – oldest)” and select “Most popular” to view their videos from most to least popular. Then watch at least a few of their top few videos to see what they are like.

The great thing about viewing the most popular video on a channel is that you can see the video that resonated the most with their intended audience. It’s usually the video that initially earned them a strong following of subscribers (but not always).

Alright. I’m not going through these in any particular order (well, except alphabetical order because that’s how I’m viewing the list of my subscriptions).

The first channel I’ll introduce you to feels more like a television show, and perhaps that’s why I’m subscribed. As far as I know, these videos do not air on cable. They are just a YouTube thing, but they have exceptional production value and a pretty nice budget behind them, which leads me to believe that they are professionally produced by a crew that also does television shows.

They do a variety of things on the channel, but the videos I like most are part of a series called “Man at Arms” where a professional blacksmith creates video game character weapons. That particular feature got my subscription, but since then I have enjoyed a few of their other videos as well, videos that I wouldn’t have seen if I hadn’t subscribed. That’s the power of gaining subscribers.

  • Check out this channel: AWE me

This next channel isn’t something that I would have initially thought I’d ever subscribe to (DON’T JUDGE ME). I initially happened upon the channel when I was watching a lot of videos of different accents (I like accents, OK?). The video that got me interested was part of a larger playlist that someone else had put together to showcase accents from around the world. To this day, the video of hers that I saw is still her most popular video (and it’s over two years old).

When watching her video I found that I didn’t just like her accent, I thought she had a lot of fun things to say. So I checked out her more recent videos and found that she was video blogging (vlogging) about a lot of topics in an interesting way (and by interesting I mean that she’s being her own silly self without worrying too much about her audience, though she does ask for suggestions from time to time).

To me, her channel is a great example of what one normal person (and sometimes she has her friends on with her) can do to hold an audience, even without great equipment or professional training. With just over 8,000 subscribers she’s not the biggest channel that I’m covering, but she’s got her audience and she does a good job keeping their attention (though I don’t watch her videos all the way through when they stray too far from my interests — for example sometimes she goes to parties and films it).

Here’s an odd one for you. I subscribed to this guy on a whim when I found a video he posted of a nickel ball that he heated with a blow torch until it was red hot before dropping it in some water. I think Randall Munroe linked to it on his What If blog when referring to the cavitation effect (that’s probably not what it’s called) that occurs when super hot things contact water. Anyhow, the video owner got a sudden surge in traffic for the red hot nickel ball in water video and began doing more videos like it (using the RHNB acronym rather than writing out red hot nickel ball all the time). Now he’s got 45 thousand subscribers that just want to see what he’ll drop his red hot nickel ball onto next. It’s a simple premise, but one that has obviously gained him quite a strong following.

Sometimes the best channels are focused on just one interest. In this next channel’s case, it’s slingshots. In fact, he calls himself “the slingshot channel.” While some of his “slingshot” videos kind of stretch the concept of slingshot (see what I did there?), his razor focus on a single subject secures him a steady viewership that shares his passion. All in all he’s just shy of 300,000 subscribers at the moment, and he really loves making his videos.

I recommend you check out a few of his videos for sure. He is a fun, lovable guy and after watching a couple of his videos you’ll never forget the way he says, “That’s all for today. I hope you liked it. Thanks, and bye bye.” Super great guy.

A while back Google released a product that didn’t make a lot of sense. The Internet was complaining about its price, its unusual technical specifications, and all sorts of other things about it. Then I stumbled upon this guy explaining the features of this product and it totally made sense. This kid is sharp, great at explaining things in a way that is relevant to the average technology user, and really gets into the tech industry to relay the best news to his viewers. And it pays off. He’s got over 500,000 subscribers and through his YouTube income is able to pay for all the neat toys and gadgets he could possibly want. Plus, it seems that some product manufacturers send him their latest gadgets to try out and review on his channel.

In addition to having fantastically well planned content and presentation, he excels at production. His videos are clear and vibrant, and they have outstanding audio quality. When my father moved from newspaper publishing to running a couple dozen news websites for a corporation he had to learn to do web video. In his research he found that the main difference between obviously amateur videos and apparently professional videos was the sound quality. Good sound quality can put your channel in an entirely different category when it comes to perceived quality, and if anyone knows that Marques Brownlee does.

Here’s one of those video game channels. This guy is just plain silly. I found his channel when a coworker showed me a video from a different channel and one of this guy’s videos was a related video. I thought his video was way funnier than the one my coworker shared with me. So I subscribed. His videos are almost all short (2 to 5 minutes) and well edited to contain all of the funniest bits and enough back story to know why they’re funny. Do not show these videos to young children.

This next guy came out of nowhere. As someone who once frequented but now occasionally peruses reddit, I have learned to appreciate the power of certain social media platforms (especially reddit). One day this guy’s first video got posted to reddit when he only had about five videos up (to date he still only has 14 videos posted). The video was an explanation of the book Crime and Punishment and the reddit post title indicated that watching this video would grant me some insight into the book that I previously lacked.

The video delivered on that promise and then some. The production quality leads me to wonder if there isn’t a professional studio behind these videos, but I don’t care if they’re just going to try to sell me something in the end. I subscribed because I want to know as much about literature as this character is going to teach me. These are fantastic videos because they provide a service and do it in a way that is more than just entertaining, it is original. Original ideas (or just ideas that seem original) go a long way so long as they are presented well and given the right exposure.

Back when Lindsey Stirling was on America’s Got Talent and her YouTube channel teamed up with some big shot videographer, I discovered another violin-playing girl with a YouTube channel and I decided that I like her style better. And I’m glad I did, because soon Lindsey’s work began to feel heartless. I think more recently she may be rediscovering her old self, but for a while she lost her way when she lost sight of her “why.”

Anyhow, this other violin player has remained humble, innovative, and relevant to my interests for a couple of years now, and she just released her first original song. She may not have as many fans as Lindsey (only 220,000 subscribers vs. Lindsey’s 3 million), but she is just as talented (if not more) at playing the violin. Just looking at the comments on their videos and channels you can get an idea of how her 220,000 subscribers are just as valuable as Lindsey’s 3 million to someone who is not doing what they do for their audience, but for their self.

OK, just one more. This girl is a member of a game-playing, video-making team called The Yogscast. They actually have a Wikipedia page (yes, they’re that big of a deal and you had no idea they existed). They got their start playing World of Warcraft in a guild called “Ye Olde Goone Squad” (from whence they derive their current name, YOGScast) and eventually gained popularity with their Let’s Play video series about Minecraft.

I don’t really care for most of the Yogscast stuff (though some of it can be pretty fun), but I found Hannah’s channel when I was looking up videos of the recent game The Last of Us. I had heard that the story was good, so I wanted to watch someone play through it. Hannah’s first game play video of the game caught my attention when she cried at the end of the opening sequence. I enjoy her accent, her commentary, and what she adds to the game experience just by being herself. Her videos are pretty long (about 20 minutes on average) but I highly recommend you watch one or two of them. She’s great at holding her audience. She does all of her own video editing, and manages to edit out “boring” parts without making you miss any of the important content of the game.

Alright. That is a good general sampling of channels I subscribe to and why I subscribe. There are quite a few more, of course, but I think these ones are each unique enough that you should be able to figure out what you want to do by watching them do what they love.

I apologize for how freakishly long this is and how clumsy my writing is. I wrote it all out and lost the steam to go back and do a thorough editing.

Rewarding Creativity

Caine's Arcade

Have you heard of Caine’s Arcade? If you haven’t, you can be forgiven. But if you don’t go read about it right now, and dedicate ten minutes to watching the short film about it, then you are less likely to be forgiven.

My most immediate thought was, this is one heck of a father. Rather than getting on to his son for the “mess” he’s made of his business, he’s been tolerant, patient, and supportive.

And man, when you see the look on his face when he realizes what’s going on, you’ll see how creativity pays off. You  just can’t put a price on stuff like that.

We can all learn something and feel good watching a story like Caine’s Arcade. These sorts of stories are certainly one of a few redeeming things about the Internet, and perhaps even our species.

Compressed Air Rocket Launcher Update

I just realized that Compressed Air Rocket Launcher can be shortened to CARL. I like that. I think I shall use this name from now on to refer to my launching platform.

Anyhow, we took CARL out again on Friday to test a few new rockets we had made since every one of them blew up last time. Since CARL had some sensitivity in the air tube leading into the main tank last time, I got some zip ties of my own to add a second tie. It seemed to make the seal a lot more secure up until about 85 psi, which is plenty of pressure for some awesome launches.

CARL’s battery box received just one more upgrade as well. If you recall from last time, the only thing I had left to do in the battery box was to secure the 9v battery clips to the inside so they wouldn’t rattle around.

We went to Target and got a cheap hot glue gun, which I thought would be good because the metal battery clips had several holes that the glue could rise above and spread out, securing the metal to the plastic base. Since the holes were right by where the battery sits inside the clip, I wrapped the 9v batteries in parchment paper to prevent the glue from sticking to them, then I applied glue to each of the holes from the bottom, and pressed them into position inside the box. After the glue hardened I removed the batteries, unwrapped the parchment paper, and replaced the batteries. It worked perfectly, and those clips are very secure.

During the operation one of the wires snapped. That’s where a nice wire stripper comes in handy. The wire was weakened when I used a knife to strip the wire and accidentally nicked the copper in the center. Anyhow, I just re-soldered a new wire into the clips (it was the wire connecting the two clips to combine the batteries into a single power source) and made sure I remembered the heat shrink this time.

In all, the battery clips ended up looking very nice, they are extremely secure in there, and the system still functions wonderfully. I only wish I had taken some photos of the process.

As for the rockets, we wanted to try a few different approaches this time. Here are the three models we came up with:

Starting from the right, my first attempt at a tougher body didn’t go very well. I went ahead and threw a couple of fins and a nose cone on it, but it was fatally flawed – I had wrapped it around the 1/2″ pipe a little too tightly. Even my attempts at removing some of the inner paper couldn’t remedy the situation.

My approach with this rocket was to use clear packing tape in such a way as to prevent air from escaping through the seams. I think the best approach was to cover the entire length in overlapping rings (overlapping by at least half the width of the tape), then start at the top and go down the entire length in a spiral pattern, again overlapping as much as possible. If the first spiral descended in a counter-clockwise spiral, I then did a second spiral clockwise. Then I reinforced each end of the spirals (top and bottom) with duct tape.

This rocket proved tough enough for the pressure, but because it was too tight I couldn’t get it all the way onto the pipe, causing poor performance (not much altitude, crooked flight path).

The middle rocket was built by my friend James. He showed up in the last post helping me with some of the soldering. You can see in the photo that his rocket is about 10% thicker than the other two. His technique for preventing a blowout was to put several thick layers on. Some of his layers were spiraled, some weren’t. I think he spend a full hour applying tape to his rocket’s body. Keeping with the thick build theme, he decided to use cardboard for the fins. For that we brought out the hot glue gun again.

Seeing how fun the hot glue behaved and how hard it hardened, he decided to “armor plate” his nose cone and the leading edges of his fins with the glue. Below you can see a video of all three rockets and their performance. Make sure you pay special attention to how the armored nose cone looked after the landing.

The final rocket, on the left, was my follow-up attempt after getting the other one too tight. To prevent myself from getting it too tight, I wrapped a whole sheet of paper around the length of the pipe before even starting my rocket. That way, when I finished the rocket and the body was on there real tight, I could pull it all off and remove the inner layer of paper. This resulted in a nice, loose fit on the pipe.

I ended up putting a tad too much tape on there, I think. At first I was only going to put packing tape on, so there are several layers of that, but then I decided to put duct tape on as well. I ended up putting about three or four layers of duct tape on (following the opposing spirals rule and finishing with a neat overlapping rings pattern).

Finally, I put three fins on it that had a slight angle to them that caused a really great spiraling motion after launch. The spin appeared to be just right to keep the rocket on a relatively straight flight path.

Check out the video of the launches below.

We finished up the weekend with a camping trip (CARL was not invited) which I will write about on our family blog in a couple of weeks.

Compressed Air Rocket Launcher

A while ago I read a neat article that detailed how to make a compressed air rocket launcher.  The thought of making rockets from scrap paper and launching them several hundred feet high with nothing but compressed air sounded pretty neat (and economical). So over the last several months we gathered materials and purchased a few necessary tools in preparation for building this great little device. Of course, I wasn’t satisfied with a few aspects of the original design, so I made some small modifications to the plans.

The Maker Shed sells a kit with all of the parts, precut and ready to go, for about $50 (but be prepared to spend upwards of $20 on shipping). I’m glad we got the kit because shortly after ordering it I found that I can’t make a straight, clean cut in PVC to save my life. Other than tools, the only thing you really need to get that doesn’t come in the kit is the PVC primer and cement. Notice my sloppy application of the purple primer in the photo below.

Following the plans to the letter, I assembled the compression chamber last week, but a friend of mine from work wanted to sit in on the electronics portion, so I held off on that until today. Tools required to get to this point were slip jaw pliers, Channellock Griplock pliers, a rubber mallet, and a few other things I didn’t have. I wished I had some kind of sand paper (something other than a metal file) to get the rest of the rubber off the tire valve (at the end of the hose in the photo). Since I couldn’t get it completely clean, the valve didn’t make a great seal with the tube. Also, the little metal ring that you crimp on there to seal it tight requires side cutters (or something similar) to make the crimp. I didn’t have tools to adequately crimp it. So the end of my tube leaked a lot on the first pressure test. I fixed it with some good, old-fashioned super glue and wrapped the mess in electrical tape pulled tight to add a little more seal.

Oh, and make sure you have or get some rubber gloves to use when working with the PVC primer and cement. You need to keep that stuff off your skin, but it will get all over your hands and everything else (no matter how careful you think you can be). I used leather and canvass work gloves and worked inside of a cardboard box, but I think some of it still leaked through to my hands a couple of times and a few drops somehow ended up staining my computer mouse. The warning on the cans said to wear rubber gloves, and I should have just bought some rubber gloves. Oh, and work in a VERY well ventilated area.

Another note: above 60 psi I noticed that the hose started leaking from the hose attachment closer to the chamber. Jiggling the zip tie fixed it, but this kit’s main problems all seem to be with the sealing methods used at each end of the hose. If I worked more with airtight, pressurized systems I might be able to fix those issues, but for now I’ll just keep jiggling things to keep them in line.

To pressurize the chamber you need a bicycle pump. We found a cheap one (under $20) with a pressure gauge built in (DO NOT surpass 90 psi) at Target, but we had been planning on getting the pump on Amazon before we found the one at Target.I can’t tell you how nice it is to have the pressure gauge built in. Knowing exactly how charged the chamber is can be essential, and taking the pump off to use a tire pressure gauge would be annoying.

As of this morning, that’s as far as I had gotten. All of that work (assembling the pressure chamber, testing it and cleaning up my mess) took about four hours. The rest of the work, which I did very slowly today to prevent errors, took about six hours. That’s about ten hours to fully complete my version of the project. Following the stock instructions and moving with more confidence would probably cut that time in half.

As for today’s work…

The pressure chamber will eventually fail, and when it does you don’t want a bunch of PVC shards flying at your face. So it is recommended that you wrap it up in a few layers of duct tape.

Once that was finished, the only structural element remaining was the stand (which looked easy enough, so I put it off because I couldn’t wait to get to the electrical portion). I didn’t want to install the stand until we had put a layer of colored duct tape on the chamber, which was my wife’s job since it had to be pretty (and I stink at that).

Since I would be doing some electrical work, and I wanted to solder the leads (much more secure than just taping them), I needed to get some supplies. So a week and a half ago I turned to my new favorite online electronics store and bought the following:

The electrical portion in the provided plans was simple. There is a small pipe with end fittings, you drill holes in the ends, stick a button in one hole and pull two twisted wires out the other end, wire a couple of nine volt batteries into the circuit, zip tie them to the launcher, and hook the valve motor up to the whole circuit. Push the button, and the valve releases the air (which is pumped in with the bicycle pump).

I didn’t like the weak look of the two little wires coming out of the launch button tube, and I didn’t want to zip tie the batteries to the launcher. So I came up with an alternate circuit design. I wanted something modular – I wanted to house the batteries in a box, I wanted to plug the launch button into the battery box, and have the motor plug in as well. That way you can unplug everything, wrap the cords up, and store everything without worrying about stuff tangling up too bad. Plus, if I used better wires, I figured it’d be tougher.

Then I got the idea to put a power indicator light on the battery box with a switch. Then I was browsing around a neat electronics parts store and found this missile switch cover and I knew that my project needed that part.

That’s when I got excited and ordered the following parts to make my vision for improving the device a reality.

From Sparkfun:

From RadioShack:

From Parts-Express:

From Amazon:

So one night I thought long and hard about how I could make this circuit work (especially since I already knew exactly what parts were going into it), and I came up with the following hybrid, nearly technical drawing of how it could work (after several hours of research).

The toggle switch, two jacks (RCA, not drawn well), batteries and little red power light are all pretty clear. That zig zag line is a mystery resistor.

Since the light I found was a 12v light, and the circuit was running off two 9v batteries (that 18 volts!), I knew that I would need a resistor to be in series with the light (which, incidentally, is in parallel with the push button and valve motor). Finding the proper values for that resistor took another few hours of research. I finally found the ratings for the lamp I chose, and using those I was able to calculate that I needed a 100 ohm resistor rated at around .5 Watts. So I added to my list of things to buy from RadioShack:

I also decided to get some cheap 9 volt batteries there.

All of that planning and researching was accomplished last week. Today all I did was wire it all together (thinking in reverse order to prevent myself from making mistakes), solder everything and put heat shrink over bare wire whenever I remembered, and stuff it all the the box. Amazingly, without any testing along the way, after everything was soldered and screwed inside the box, I flipped the switch and the power light went on. Even more amazingly, when I plugged the launch button and the motor into the battery box, I was able to activate the motor with the launch button! I was amazed that it all worked so perfectly right away. I guess all that research really paid off.

The great thing about the circuit is that it doesn’t matter which jack you plug which item into. The switch and motor are interchangeable. Also, if you are planning on attempting this and you’ve never done anything like it, keep in mind that the lamp and resistor can go in any order along their little parallel circuit. I actually reversed them from the drawing, but they would work either way. I’m not going to go into a detailed explanation of why or how, but that’s just the way DC works with those particular parts.

So, to get started putting it all together, I cut the RCA cable into three parts: I measured off a few feet from one end and made a cut, then I measured about 20 feet from the other end and made a cut. That left a bunch of spare cable that I didn’t need (but could use for another project in the future). The longer cable is for the launcher button, and the shorter one is for the motor. Since I didn’t have a nice cable stripper, I had to use my Leatherman blade to prepare it for attachment to the components. If you’ve never done this, practice on the extra cable – you need to make sure you don’t cut the little tiny wires under the surface of the black jacket. These wires cut really easily. After removing the jacket I grabbed them all up and twisted them tightly into a single wire bunch. Then I stripped the cladding from the center wire. Again, don’t nick that center wire too badly or it will break later.

Note: I ended up stripping the rest of the white cladding off on both of these cables. I originally thought I might want it on there, but I didn’t need it.

Afterward I drilled holes in the end caps for the launch button handle and threaded everything onto the longer cable.

Finding just the right spot to put that knot was impossible before soldering the wire onto the button. Put the knot in anyhow right away and you can move it later. Also, on top of that knot don’t forget to thread on the nut and washer for the button that goes in the other cap. Then thread the cable through the top cap’s hole and solder the button on there.

Perhaps one of the hardest things was figuring out how to screw the nut onto the bottom of the button after it was inserted into the cap since I used a thicker cable than was recommended by the project designers. I don’t have a picture of my solution, but in the above photo you can see some of the black jacket from the coaxial cable. I cut about a half an inch off of that and slipped it over the end of a small (but NOT a precision) flat head screwdriver. This created a tiny finger with a little more grip against the metal nut than I had with the screwdriver alone. After a few minutes of jiggling, wiggling and maneuvering, I was able to get it screwed together pretty securely in there.

After drilling all the holes in my project case I began wiring it all together. This part was simple. I just followed my diagram, thought in reverse (what do I need to thread through where to make sure it ends up in the right place after everything is attached?), and went very, very slowly. The one part of the project that isn’t yet complete is anchoring down those battery holders inside the enclosure. I’m still debating on whether I want to hot glue them in, super glue them in, or use some other fancy bonding technique or chemical.

Here are some pictures of everything after it was completed:

The finished battery box and launcher button handle.

The valve motor and it’s cable with an RCA plug on the end.

The back of the battery box with its RCA plugs. You can plug either the launcher or the motor into either jack.

Here’s everything completed. Notice the new coloring on the pressure chamber. Another few layers of duct tape certainly can’t hurt.

That’s pretty much the whole build process. In all, making the silly little paper rockets was probably the most difficult thing. Those nose cones and fins are nearly impossible to mount properly. Also, put several more layers of tape around the body of the rocket than you believe necessary unless you are going to launch at low psi (below 40, we think). At 80 psi none of our rockets survived and none of them flew very high with gaping gashes in their sides (one of them split in two across the middle). When we get the rocket building process right, I’ll let you know.

A silly note though: If you shop at Costco and you buy their Kirkland Spring Water in bulk, the normal 16.9 OZ bottles fit perfectly over the launch tube and fly off spectacularly in an explosion of mist. It’s pretty cool, but they aren’t aerodynamic enough to go very high (even with fins and a nosecone). Oh, and dropping Nerf darts (the screamers work well) into the launch tube is a riot. A Nerf dart shot out at 80 psi will completely disappear, but if it’s a screamer you can hear it squealing as it leaves the atmosphere and enters orbit around the Earth.

To see more of the family aspect of this project, head over to our family album and YouTube channel to see pictures and video. If you have any questions or comments, or if you use any of my ideas when you build your project, please share in the comments below. Thanks for reading.


We resolved many of the issues we had here. I think the tube is more secure now, I’ve attached the 9v battery clips to the inside of the battery box, and we finally built rockets that don’t rupture when launched. Oh, and the launcher is now named CARL. For details on all of these improvements, see the follow-up article.

Pages Updated

I’ve finally gotten around to updating my “About Me” and “About This” pages. Well, those weren’t their titles before, but that’s what they are now. Check them out! They are now more accurate, more concise, more useful, and (in the case of the About Me page) more fun. Please let me know what you think of them in the comments. Thanks.

And for smiles, check out this Lego model:

(Via these guys.)

Also, don’t forget to enter my free drawing/contest. Thanks.

My Shorty Interview

I had fun filling this silly thing out. The sad thing is that nobody will ever read it on the Shorty Awards website.

Shorty Awards Interview with Brian Haddad (see the highlight above?)

What’s your best tweet?
No longer referring to fortune cookies’ contents as “fortunes.” They are now called “whatevers.” #passiton

What are six things you could never do without?
Toilets, toilet paper, food, water, my wife, and air.

How do you use Twitter in your professional life?
I don’t. Well, I might, but nobody follows me so it wouldn’t do any good.

What’s your favorite Twitter app?
Twidroid. I have a Droid and I love it.

Twitter or Facebook?
Facebook. It’s got more ways to interact. However, I can’t stalk celebrities quite as easily there. So they serve different purposes to me.

What was the funniest trend you’ve seen?
Trend? I don’t deal much with those. Still new to Twitter, I suppose.

What feature should Twitter add?
Darned if I know. I think it’s got too many gadgets and gizmos already. Perhaps a “find me more followers” button would be nice.

Who do you wish had a Twitter feed but doesn’t?
Jamie Hyneman of Mythbusters fame. He would only have like one tweet a year and it’d always be meaningful.

What are some words or phrases you refuse to shorten for brevity?
All of them. I never use any of those stupid Internet lingo things. The only one I use with any frequency is lol because it is its own word.

Is there someone you want to follow you who doesn’t already? If so, who?
I only have five followers. If I had six, that would be awesome. Really, I would love if @Veronica would follow me.

Have you ever unfollowed someone? Who and why?
Probably. I can’t remember. If I did, it was because their feed was stupid.

Why should we vote for you?
I didn’t know I was being voted for. Wow.

Terms you wish would start trending on Twitter right now?
“Brian Haddad is awesome.” “Hey everyone, let’s follow Brian Haddad.”

What’s the most interesting connection you’ve made through Twitter?
I once sent @Veronica on a guilt trip that ended with her actually visiting my little blog. It was amazing.

Hashtag you created that you wish everyone used?
I thought I created #passiton only to find that it was already being used (but not like I used it).

How do you make your tweets unique?
By not saying anything until I’ve got something to say.

What inspires you to tweet?

Ever get called out for tweeting too much?
Never. I only have five followers! Plus, I don’t even get on here once a day.

140 characters of advice for a new user?
Delete your Twitter account. It’s not worth it. Go back to Facebook and playing outside. If you’re going to stay, follow me (please).

How long can you go without a tweet?
Indefinitely. Easily, I could walk away from it all right now.

What question are we not asking here that we should?
I think there are already enough questions, thank you.

Who do you admire most for his or her use of Twitter?
I love the way @27bslash6 uses Twitter, the Internet, and pickles to revolutionize the face of everything.

Why’d you start tweeting?
Because my brother was using Twitter to post art, and I wanted to keep up with him. He’s since stopped, and I’m thinking of quitting too.

Has Twitter changed your life? If yes, how?
No. Really, I hated it before I started using it, but since I can’t manage more than five followers, it really has had zero impact on me.

What do you wish people would do more of on Twitter?
Keep meaningless gab and crap to themselves and make me laugh. Oh, and follow me.

How will the world change in 2010?
School children everywhere will have to remember to write 2010 instead of 2009 on their papers.

What are some big Twitter faux pas?
I wouldn’t know. I have only touched the surface of the “twitterverse.”

What will the world be like 10 years from now?
Children in school will be writing 2020 on their papers rather than 2010. The show “20/20” will be synonymous with the year.

This is Funny

I found this cruising around the Internet one day and just had to repost it. Really, I’m usually pretty good about sharing a link to where I find things, but in this case I think it just came off or something.

Anyhow, this is awesome:


I often feel like that poor fork – contorted and twisted nearly beyond recognizability. However, I’d like to think that my deformities lend me some redeeming usefulness that poor fork will never offer.

That’s what I’d like to think, anyhow…

Official Book Giveaway 2


This contest has ended. Thank you to all who entered. See the post-contest analysis post.

Facebook Drives Me Nuts

Book Giveaway Sweepstakes (round 2)

Official Rules

1. Eligibility

This drawing is open to anyone in the U.S. with a brain except:

  • Anyone who is Brian Haddad (the author of the book to be given away), his wife, children or pets.
  • The winners of the previous sweepstakes of the same title (you already have one of my books, I’m not giving you another one).
  • People who have mailing addresses outside of the United States of America.
  • Non U.S. citizens. This is mostly just to cover myself. If you’re not a U.S. citizen, I’m sorry. Maybe next time?

If you don’t meet any of those criteria, you are eligible to enter and win this drawing. Just to be clear: zombies do not have brains, so if you are a zombie please do not enter the contest.

2. Prizes

There are a total of ten (10) copies of Facebook Drives Me Nuts that will be signed by the author, defaced inside with a page full of doodles and mailed to five lucky winners. The prize is valued at over one million dollars ($1,000,000), but the actual monetary value of the prize is none of your business. The book retails for $12.99 in case you are interested.

The losers will be notified that they lost by way of a personal email or message from Brian Haddad, along with a consolation prize consisting of a group of seemingly random characters that serve as a discount code that can be used at when checking out to receive almost a full $3.50 off the price of the book.

3. How to Enter

Go to the official entry form and fill it out after the contest begins on Wednesday, January 27th.

Because Brian Haddad is a generous administrator of awesome contests, here are the elements of the form and how they affect your chances of winning:

Name, Email and Mailing Address

Seriously, do you need me to explain why these are necessary to win? Your information will only be used for this contest. I promise not to sell, disclose or lose your information to any person, business or other entity. If you have any questions, please post a comment on this page and I will address them.

Reading Habits (1 & 2), and Reviewing Habits (1 & 2)

People who lie to me here will not win. It’s plain and simple. I want people who are honest about how much they read and how they review what they read.

Write a Review

A link to three of my short stories is provided in the application form, and you are expected to review one of them. If you won’t even read a single short story that I wrote, I’m not sending you a whole book. Plus, I want people who can review what they read, even if they hate it. Loving or hating the short story you read will not alter your odds of winning, so don’t suck up thinking you’ll get a free book out of it. Just write a good review, clearly stating your opinion. A good sense of humor will be rewarded.

Dedication and Essay

These are your last chances, so make a good effort here. Convince me to send you a free copy of my book. Make me smile, chuckle, laugh or wet my pants, and I’ll throw some super-fun doodles in your prize in unexpected places. Please remember to keep it clean and mostly appropriate though. My wife will be helping me judge these, and if my six-year-old sees any dirty responses, I’ll take video of him crying himself to sleep and send it to you.

Beyond the official entry form, no other purchase, comment, communication or bribe will increase your odds of winning. Love letters in the comments on this page, on Facebook or by email couldn’t hurt though.

4. Deadline

Brian Haddad will stop taking entries after Saturday, March 20th, at which point the official application form will be taken down. If it is not taken down, and you submit an application, you still can’t win after the deadline.

5. Winning

The winner will be chosen from among qualifying applications that meet the criteria above. If more than ten (10) applicants meet the criteria, the author’s daughter will be handed a dowsing rod which she will use to select the winners. Winners will be selected and notified no later than one week after the close of the contest, or by Saturday, March 27th, 2010.

6. Other Details

Brian Haddad and his spouse are not eligible to enter the drawing. Neither are their past, present or future children or pets.

To ensure fair consideration, those entries that do not adhere to the rules and submission standards will be disqualified.

Brian reserves the right to use a winner’s partial name, quote, likeness or descriptive essence for publicity and promotional purposes. In fact, after you’ve read his book, he would appreciate if you wrote some kind of review or testimonial that he can use to promote the book. Rating and reviewing the book on would be rewarded with one thousand (1,000) rainbow unicorn kisses.

This contest and drawing is void where prohibited. There is no purchase necessary to enter or win. Not only that, but there is nothing that you could possibly buy that would help you win. Money does not buy happiness. Late or incomplete entries will not be accepted. Brian Haddad is not responsible for lost, stolen, late or misdirected entries. In the event that a user submits more than one entry, the author will chose which ever entry he sees fit. It is in your best interest to submit only one (1) entry.

Any Last Words?

Once you have read and understood these instructions and rules, please proceed to the entry form and fill it out completely. Good luck!

A Couple of Great Films

I had, in the last week, the delightful opportunity to see two wonderful, awe-inspiring movies. I’m sure you’ve heard of them.

First, I saw Avatar with my wife and brothers.

Avatar Movie Poster


This movie was nothing short of magnificent. I did see the film in 3D, and aside from a few small gripes I have with today’s 3D film showing technology, the 3D added more than just another dimension to the movie.

What made this movie outstanding for me can be illustrated in just two solid points.

First, I went in to the movie knowing full well that the plot was essentially ripped off from Pocahontas (though I don’t believe Cameron did it on purpose), and still James Cameron’s storytelling kept me engaged and entertained to the end. If you can go into a movie knowing how it ends and what will happen around every turn, and still enjoy it thoroughly, then it is a good movie.

Second, as someone who loves movie special effects, I am familiar with a tendency in Hollywood to allow the special effects to steal the show. Many a good movie has been nearly or entirely ruined because the effects were too good for the viewer to allow them to fade into the background of the story. In Avatar, the effects perfectly faded into their rightful place as a storytelling mechanism. They were nearly perfect in every way (and where they did not excel, they receded even further into the back of the viewer’s mind).

I had no problem believing that the world of Pandora was a very real place to the characters I saw on screen, and at no time did I feel like I was experiencing another Jar-Jar-esque CGI character while watching the Na’vi. For some, the world was not only real and beautiful, but it was so much better and alluring than Earth, that they are dying to visit.

After such an epic movie (and “epic” is my favorite word to describe Avatar), I was hesitant to watch anything else for a while.

Later the same week, though, my wife and I went on a date to see Sherlock Holmes.

Sherlock Holmes Movie Poster

Sherlock Holmes

This Sherlock Holmes installment was the most beautifully rendered of any I have ever seen. As a huge fan of the stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, I have always been looking for a suitable film adaptation of his original characters. Unfortunately, most of the previous Holmes films I had seen had failed miserably.

Shortly after watching this new Sherlock Holmes movie, I was in a rental store and saw the cover of a Sherlock Holmes movie I had never heard of: Murder By Decree.

Murder By Decree Poster

Murder By Decree

On the cover you can see that someone once considered it the “Best Sherlock Holmes Movie Ever Made.” That statement is attributed to Rex Reed, of the New York Daily News. The movie was released early in 1979, just over thirty years prior to the newest movie staring the master sleuth. The cover certainly makes the movie look quite appealing, and it currently resides at the top of my Netflix queue. I will then report on if that film remains the “best Sherlock Holmes movie ever made.”

As for my current belief, Robert Downey Jr. played Sherlock Holmes better than any man before him, and Jude Law made a singularly perfect Dr. Watson companion to him. The two played very nicely together, and the depiction of their characters was precisely as I had envisioned it during my reading of the stories. For me, Sherlock Holmes staring Robert Downey Jr. will always be the definitive Sherlock Holmes movie.

Finally, before I let you go, I have to apologize for getting ahead of myself earlier. I rushed to offer my new book (Facebook Drives Me Nuts) for sale before it was ready. So, the first edition, which nobody bought, is immediately discontinued, and the second edition, which is currently undergoing review, will be offered for sale before the end of the month (if all goes well). I am thinking of sending out a few signed copies to my closest friends and family, in hopes that they will read the book and spread the word. Of course, if they don’t like the book, such an act could backfire on me most horrendously. I shall have to proceed with caution.

Watch for an announcement here followed by copious amounts of self promotion through all of my available channels once the book is approved for sale.

Best of All Time (as of end of 2009)

Happy 2010!

I told myself I wouldn’t make a list at the end of 2009, but I’ve got a list for you.

This list was inspired because I suddenly had a desire to track my most popular and favorite posts here. So, without much ado, here is a list of the top ten most popular posts here (ever, not just in 2009), followed by a list of my favorite posts so far:

My Top 10 Most Popular Posts of All Time
(The ones that get the hits.)

  1. Motorola Droid Discovery (Became super-popular after the Droid was released.)
  2. My Big Breakup (Was my most popular for a very long time, until the Droid came along.)
  3. Fun Free Online Games (Remains more popular than the page I created to replace it, despite the new page being better.)
  4. Thoughts on Chrome So Far (I wrote this a long time ago, and it’s high time I write a new review on Chrome, my favorite browser.)
  5. About the Man (The non-post item to make the top ten list, I have no idea why it’s so popular.)
  6. Unrealistically Cute (Guys somehow migrate to pages with pictures of girls on them.)
  7. Sophie, a Vibrator & Other Funnies (This is popular because of “vibrator,” but it’s not that kind of vibrator.)
  8. Letter to Verizon Wireless (This page also benefited from the recent popularity of the Droid.)
  9. Review: Wall-e (Game for Wii) (I’m glad this post gets so many views, because this was a terrible game.)
  10. Web-Enabled Community Spell-Checker Dict (An idea I had a while ago. Popular by accident, not because it’s good.)

My Personal Favorite Posts So Far
(I wish these got more hits!)

  1. Fun YouTube and Others (A compiled list of my favorite videos/music online. Lots of clean laughs!)
  2. My Big Breakup (My second most popular post is also my second most favorite. It wasn’t a relationship problem.)
  3. Sometimes 140 Just Isn’t Enough (A celebrity visited my blog and left comments on this post!)
  4. Early Poetry (I love this little gem of a poem I wrote when I was small. Still makes me chuckle.)
  5. NaNoWriMo – DONE (This was my victory post after finishing my novel in 2008. This book sucked.)
  6. I Won (again)! (This was my victory post after finishing my novel in 2009. This was a better book.)
  7. Boom De Yada (I did some research to give the background on a funny comic. Good post.)
  8. Ultimate List Handler (I hope to incorporate some of these ideas into a file system someday.)
  9. The Great Hall of Heroes (This is one of my favorite short stories, among those that I’ve written.)
  10. Fun New Page (I was so excited about my new page when I wrote this, then nobody visited my new page!)

There you have it. If you’re new to my site, these posts would be a good place to get a feel for my material. Thanks for stopping by! I look forward to doing a similar post each year (or every other year?).

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July 2020

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