Conference DEFCON 17. My failures. Part 1
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How are you guys? I just read someone's tweet about the fact that people who spend half a day at a Defcon conference are just idiots. So, I was going to start with the fact that I worked a lot on failures, but I understand that now I will talk about this with people who understand failures much more than me.

I am quite sure that your hobby is to create and explore system failures. I will tell you a secret - it was failures that made me who I am today. I want to talk a little about how this works. When I was 10 years old, I became interested in magic tricks, and went so far as to give my fifth class a magic show, earning applause for 300 students. It was phenomenal, the success inspired me so much that next year I decided to have a stunning performance and took an assistant for myself. It seems his name was David Sachs, and he was my volunteer on stage. I handcuffed his hands behind his back so that he would demonstrate that he could not free himself, and then I would do the same with myself, proving to everyone that I can do it. But David himself was able to remove the handcuffs! It ruined my whole talk,

I was very upset, because I was only ten years old, I even burst into tears. My teacher, Miss Levine, asked: “What happened, Adam?” And I, crying, replied: “David Sachs failed my magic show!” At this time, David passed by, the teacher asked him: “David, what did you do to him?”, And he, smiling, answered: “I didn’t do anything to him!” I remember that after that I called him a “fat asshole”, after which he hit me in the face and knocked me off my feet. David, I'm sorry!

In 1999 or 2000, after 4 years of work, I resigned from commerce and started working for Industrial Light & Magic. It seemed to me that I went to heaven! This was exactly what I had been painting in my imagination since the age of 12, I worked for my heroes, who, for example, created spaceships. One of the special features of the special effects industry is that there is almost no permanent job. You act as a freelancer and even if you work full time, you grab for any other job, working in stores, working for everyone who can pay, because they have to pay the rent for the next month.

One of the side effects of working at Industrial Light & Magic is that no one else wants to consider your resume. The fact that you work in this company is already enough, everyone thinks that you know what you are doing and all that. Work came from various places, so we have a whole pool of people who are busy with their own “G” - work, or part-time work. We at ILM called it “G” - work, from the word government, which meant working for government structures, or from the word gravy, which meant easy money, hack, and sometimes both.

Everything worked out great for me, besides, I earned about twice as much as on my previous job. Once, a friend called me and told me that there was a job in San Francisco that everyone would refuse because of tight deadlines. One of the major department stores urgently wanted to equip the shop windows facing the baseball stadium, where the tournament was to be held for 6 weeks. They wanted to protect themselves from baseballs flying over the fence. Since I am a good mechanic, I can handle different pneumatic things and understand electronics, I thought that I could do it.

When you participate in a tender, you must offer a price that the market can “digest”. For example, a large department store wants to present windows to the start of matches in 5 days, that is, on Monday. So, I have to finish all the work on a Saturday morning and I can request double payment for urgency. After I estimated my daily rate and the time it takes to do this work, I realized that the double rate is not that high.

It is important to have a nose for such cases, and besides, just then a new laptop was released, to which I had my eye, so, guided by my priorities, I increased the price a little more. In general, it turned out much more than I usually earned, so it only remained to get down to business.

We took out several ball-feeding machines, adjustable relays and other mechanisms intercepting and hitting balls back, but I didn’t realize that spherical bodies move in chaos in space. If the balls move at high speed, their trajectory is predictable, but when they fly slowly, it is very difficult to guess where they will fall to catch them, even if you have a sufficiently large “catcher”.

I noticed that if about 100 balls flew over the fence, one could not catch one. Having made mathematical calculations, I found out that every 8 minutes for 6 weeks one baseball will hit the display case. I began to frantically think how to protect myself from this, I didn’t sleep on Thursday night and Friday night, and all this time money and a new laptop loomed in front of me, which I can buy for them at the end of the week.

Early on Saturday morning I went there after another sleepless night, continuing to think about how I could still do what I “signed up for.” I worked for several years in commerce, I work at ILM, I completed 500 commercial projects, I just have to do this work!

I was busy with installing the protection for 13 hours and found that my tolerances should have been stricter. With real shop windows it turned out much worse than it was in my workshop. I thought that the system would miss every 100th ball, but in reality it missed every tenth.

At 6:00 or 6:30 pm, the girl responsible for this work, I think she was not more than 20 years old, asked how things were going, and I replied: “No, it does not work”! Never before have I said such words to clients. She asked: "What ???", because I also never heard of it from contractors.

I explained to her that my mechanics was not working as it should, so every 5 minutes the baseball would fly over the protective net. She asked what I was going to do about it. The laptop still loomed in front of me, so I said that I still made some money by spending my time on them, but I’m ready to pay them back half the agreed amount, and if she lets me think 10 minutes, I will offer 2 options, let them choose the one which they like more. And if you are satisfied, I will do everything by 8:00 am tomorrow, that is, Sunday.

I note that it was already half past six in the evening, at this time my mother and sister were supposed to fly to San Francisco to spend the weekend with me, my wife and our six-month twins. I did not see the children for 3 days, because I was engaged in this work, and now I still have to go after my mother to the airport. But I did not go to spend another sleepless night in the store and do something. In short, I pulled the strings, which beat the balls over the fence, and the girl said that it suits them. I thought that in the end she would say that I would return the money to them, because if I had successfully implemented plan B, I would have lost a third of what I earned. I spent the entire Saturday setting up this thing, and at the end of the working day the boss arrived, looked at the shop windows and said: “everything is fine, but these baseballs look awful on threads, get them out of here to hell”!

Later, I told this story to a colleague from ILM, and he said: "Dude, I would never do this job so badly!" I answered him: “Are you really sure of this”? Only a couple of years later I realized how important this experience was for me. You know, I do not want to work with people who believe that they are never wrong, because because of their self-confidence, once they just push me under the bus.

In 1986, I pretended that I attended New York University for six months, and then I quit it anyway. I had several friends whom I still consider to be my best friends, and they all studied at the New York Film School. Having lived in New York for a total of about 4 years, I used film school as a source for education, working on almost all the films of my friends.

The first and greatest was the film of my friend David Borle. He shot a superambitious 30-minute fantastic diploma film titled "Gargoyle and Goblin." The film was filmed in several abandoned porn theaters in downtown New York, to which we had access, because they all belonged to David's grandmother.

We have been working on Gargoyle and Goblin for several months, all this time David and I have been discussing the film. He asked me to be the art director of the shooting, and I agreed. I worked on the films of friends who have since become the great art directors of many Hollywood films themselves. It was my first such project, and we really had a great movie. We had an incredibly close-knit team of 16 people who had been shooting at night for two weeks in the quarter of these abandoned buildings. It was amazing shots with soaring wings, gargoyles and other entourage, as a result, this film won first place at the New York festival in the nomination “Best decoration”.

I thought that for me this is the most life lesson. Before that, I wanted to be an actor, before that - a juggler, a magician, a LEGO designer. I really wanted to do all this! But now I realized that my real vocation is the decoration of films. Therefore, I began to ask friends and acquaintances if they needed an art director for the film. One day my friend called me Gabby and asked me to make a film called “Ten key trauma”, “The Trauma of the Tenth Key”, which she produced as a producer. It was a movie about a guy in a terrible wig, who went to the ATM to withdraw money, and the ATM began to make fun of his wig. It was about one of these tiny cabins measuring 8 by 10 feet, inside which is an ATM. They were set up all over New York, and to get inside, you should have attached your credit card to the door. They needed to organize a filming process, so they could not make a film in this room for an ATM and asked me to build a working model, providing for this work just a huge budget - $ 800.

Before that, I had never dealt with the construction of premises and had not dealt with equipment such as ATMs. True, at the age of five I built cardboard houses. So I started dragging materials to my friend Dave's house in Brooklyn. First of all, I needed sex. Dave had a wall-to-wall carpet floor, but I took one of the self-adhesive vinyl tiles, put them on it, and jumped on it. Then I tore it off the carpet and made sure that no trace of glue was left, so everything should turn out well.

I had never built rooms before, but I saw them being built from scenery when I participated in amateur performances at the school of dramatic art, so I assembled a frame of beams, pulled it with triangular brackets, pulled canvas on it and found guys who could draw anything on it.

Then I set about making an ATM. For about a month, I collected different parts for him, and again, as in the previous story, it was Wednesday, and the shooting was supposed to start on Saturday morning. The ATM was not yet ready, and I went to Canal Street flea markets, remember how this street looked in the mid-80s, and bought all sorts of pieces of hardware that would ensure the performance of my fake ATM. I drew what these parts should look like, and these pictures drove me crazy.

Just as in the previous story, I did not turn to anyone for help, confident that my own skills are enough for this job. As usual, I did not sleep from Wednesday to Saturday. By the way, even earlier, I noticed that the tile did not want to go to the butt and stuck on the carpet, and the paint that covered the wall decorations made the canvas wrinkled, because I did not know that before painting the canvas had to be strengthened with a substrate. In addition, the ATM itself did not fit into the room, because I messed up with the size.

I ran around this “creation”, cutting circles, so that no one could say that I did not try to fix something, because I spent 60 sleepless hours on it. Finally, one guy from the crew stopped me, putting his hand on my shoulder, and asked: “Do you even know what you are doing?” Apparently, being obsessed with megalomania, I answered him with the words of Indiana Jones: “I don’t know, I invent this in the course of the action”! However, he did not find this phrase ridiculous, and, taking me by the shoulders, said: “Go home, we no longer need you here!”

And I went home feeling very lousy. I felt so bad that after an hour and a half I didn’t come on the set, and later found out that the crew had spent two sleepless nights trying to make a film based on my crappy construction. While they were tormented by what I piled there, I went across the city for sex - this is one of the drawbacks caused by the fact that you have to work in a close team of friends with whom it is impossible to establish intimate relationships.

In any case, on Monday I went to the scene to pick up my tools. This set of tools was a kind of obsession for me and meant a lot to me, I bought this leather case in the street market of New York, like all the tools that I put there. This was my first set of tools. I arranged everything so that it would not be necessary to pull out one tool in order to get to the other, that is, put the perfect order. And I was very proud of him. When I arrived at the filming location, I found a note pasted to the floor: “We have your tools. Call Gabby. ”

Can you imagine my social circle, the circle of 18-19 year old youth? We were as close to each other as never before for the rest of our lives. We were all true friends, and Gabby was one of us. I called Gabby right from there, and she immediately flew at me: “What have you done? I trusted you, I believed in you! The director of this film worked with 7-Eleven and lived with parents for five months to save money for the shoot! You ruined everything, because nothing of what you did fell into the camera! You did everything to convince me that you are not worthy of being my friend. Come here immediately with all the checks, because I want to see what you have spent every penny received from us! ”

And then I called my father. I felt as bad as I had never felt in my entire life. Of course, later, I happened to have even shitty, but at that moment I thought that there was simply no worse. Father said to me: “You can’t do anything about it. Just move on. ” It was one of the most phenomenal tips I've ever heard. And I went to Gabby at the hostel. During the hours we talked about nothing but the budget, and I listed every penny spent. I felt that after this Gabby can be considered his ex-girlfriend. At the end of our conversation, she said: "The film crew is next door, they want to talk to you!"

I began to suspect that they decided to beat the crap out of me. It would be a well-deserved reaction to what I did, a worthy payment for my sins. I was going to go in there, like in a cage with wild animals, hoping that someone would push me in there with a kick in the ass and slam the door behind me.

When I opened the door, I saw a dark room, around the perimeter of which all 22 members of the film crew sat down, and in the center of the room was a lonely chair, at which a bright spotlight was directed. I am not joking and not exaggerating, and the first thought in my head was: “I got into a pretty story”!

I sat down on a chair, and as one of those present commented later: “Look, he immediately sat down on this chair, apparently knows his role well”! After that, the director of the film read out a list of about a hundred things that I promised to do, but never did. It took about 25 minutes, during which one of the group members said: “Yes, this guy really got me”! And such comments were heard from all sides. I did not see anyone because I was blinded by the light directed at me. At the end, the director said: “Do you have something to say to this?”

I replied that I could not even say how ashamed I was, how disgusting I feel that I am aware of all my responsibility and that they are 100% right. I understand perfectly well that my apologies mean nothing, but I really apologize for letting everyone down. He said: "Yes, we are very sorry to have contacted you!" After that there was a long pause, at the end of which he said: “You know, man, we are not trying to humiliate you”!

You know, my father was a little crazy, I grew up with it, and when he was angry, it was better not to fall in his way. His insults taught me to just bend like a reed in the wind. These guys were nothing compared to my dad, so this “trial” is just another positive reinforcement of my skill set.

So what did this story teach me? To the fact that I was completely wrong, not wanting to resort to outside help. I realized that sometimes it is worth asking for help in order not to suffer a catastrophic failure and move on. These are really important things. Every parent will tell you: “Create rules for your child, and he will break them, build a wall in front of him, and he will repel it”! There is a widespread theory, I don’t know who invented it, that in this way the child studies the world and learns its form, and if you don’t create any boundaries for him, then in adulthood he will start to freak out, because the real world will not as safe as he used to be. It is necessary that someone told about this to children and showed them that there are boundaries in everything.

I think that the failures in my life worked exactly the same way, they did not limit my world, but they formed my intuition. I realized that the master is not the one who never makes a mistake, but the one who can sense in advance the failure that threatens him and prevent it in time. The point is not to stop failure, the point is to recognize that failure is an integral part of the creative process. Learn to dance with them, because sometimes they can ruin everything, and sometimes make it so that in the end everything will be fine!

I worked in many places and saw that if a manager somewhere screwed up, other people would pay attention to it and finish the job correctly, but no one will ever tell the boss that he screwed up, just people will get down to business and do extra work. You know, for 20 years of work, I became convinced that there are companies that do not understand what the problem is, and all the time they correct the mistakes of the authorities, instead of pointing him to them. I repeat - I do not trust people who never make mistakes!

Let me give you the opinion of the writer Raymond Chandler about his hero, detective Philip Marlow from the work “The Simple Art of Killing”. If you have not read, then I advise you to read this book along with Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay on Self-Trust. So, he writes about what it means to be an honest person and at the end lists the important qualities of his hero, including a sense of duty and high moral principles. Chandler writes that if the world were full of people like his hero, he would be a very safe, but too boring place to live.
Well, I thank you for your attention and proceed to answer questions that we still have 30 minutes left.

Facilitator: Before we get to other issues, tell me about your friend Gabby.

Adam Savage: Gabby and her husband Tim came to San Francisco about a year ago. They are with children and we have a wonderful lunch with children. Over the past 20 years, much water has flowed under the bridge, but I rarely meet with friends with whom I have such “sour” relationships.

Host: do you really want to go over my face for this question?

Adam Savage: Well, you're fine. To tell the truth is much duller than you think. If you are familiar with what the press writes about me, I will say that with all the companies that called me, for example, Texas Instruments, I speak very correctly, and that is all that I am going to say on this subject.

Host: I just wanted to apologize and ask if you would like a copy of my book.

Adam Savage: fine, of course, I'll take it, is your autograph there?

Host: so let's move on to questions and answers, who is first?

Question: all Defcon wants to know is how far is Jamie Heineman above you?

Adam Savage: Jamie is very small! It has leg size, like an 18th century geisha! During the filming of our program, he always walks through the boxes from under the apples.

27:30 min.

Conference DEFCON 17. My failures. Part 2

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