Saturday, December 20, 2008

Christmas Break

I'll be on the road a lot over the next few weeks, so I'm going to take some time off from this blog until early January.

I hope you all have a great holiday season, full of peace and joy... and I hope you have a fantastic 2009!

Friday, December 19, 2008

My Super Power

I've been a fan of superheros for as long as I can remember. Comic books, movies, tv shows - it's all good. Naturally, I often wondered what it would be like to have a superpower, or what kind of superpower I might have.

Well, it turns out I do have a superpower, albeit a modest one. And now, I'm ready to come out of the phonebooth, so to speak, and announce my superpower to the world. Here goes: when people have the hiccups, hugging me makes them go away (the hiccups, not the people).

That's right, I'm a hiccup healer. I'm still working on a super name (I'm open to suggestions).

Now, so far I've only done this for my wife and kids. It's possible my superpower only works if you are married to me or are one of my daughters. I haven't really tested my ability very widely, so I can't say for sure.

But if the world is ever threatened by the evil Doctor Hiccup (you know, the guy who has the ability to induce hiccups in people), I'm ready to thwart his nefarious plans...

Thursday, December 18, 2008

1002!!!!!!


I just checked with Lulu and The Simplicity Cycle has officially bypassed the 1,000 downloads mark!

It's been downloaded 1,002 times so far, to be precise.

Yay!

Arts & Jobs

I heard a starving artist on a radio call-in show the other day and started thinking about the relationship between art-making and bill-paying. 

I am extremely fond of artists like Summer Pierre who have a day job to pay the bills, and still manage to make art. More to the point, these artists don't look at their day job as an excuse to not create art. They also don't look at their artmaking as an excuse not to get a day job, or not to pay the bills. 

Summer's zine about being an artist with a day job covers this topic far better than I can - go check her out. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Countdown to 1,000!

I just noticed that my book The Simplicity Cycle has been downloaded 994 times! How cool is that! I'm pretty excited to see it approach the 1,000 downloads milestone. I'll let you know when that happens.

It's funny to think there are 1,000 downloaded copies of my crazy little design book floating around out there, presenting my ideas and observations on complexity, simplicity and design. One thousand times someone clicked that download button and said "Sure, I'll take one."

Who are these people? How did they hear about the book? How many of them actually read it? How many of them passed it along to someone else? Did they find the book helpful? Would they still have downloaded it if it wasn't free?

These are questions I know will never be answered (except that last one - I'm sure that even if I only charged 50 cents for the download, I'd be nowhere near 1,000 downloads. Probably closer to a dozen).


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Sheldon's Shirts

The Big Bang Theory sitcom consistently makes me laugh out loud - more than any other show I can recall ever watching... ever. It's smart, fast-paced geek humor, and I love it.

I'm also intrigued by the t-shirts Sheldon and Leonard wear. So, naturally I Googled it and it turns out there's a website dedicated to Sheldon's Shirts! That's right, sheldonShirts.com is a real website. And get this, they don't sell the shirts. They just track them and point you to the sites that do sell them.

If you don't already, watch the show.

And then buy the shirts...

Monday, December 15, 2008

Happiness

The other day on the evening news there was a story about a scientific study of happiness from Harvard. It's a fascinating study and the piece on the news was really interesting, but the thing that most intrigued me was my own reaction to one particular scene from the report (I hope you'll pardon my fascination with myself).

The scene was a typical man-on-the-street interview, with the journalist asking the question "What makes you happy?" It's a perfectly logical question, right?

My initial, gut-level reaction to that question was (can you guess it?): Confusion!

Yup, I found that question entirely confusing. What makes me happy? That question doesn't make sense to me. I'm one of those strange creatures for whom happiness seems to be the default state - it's where I start, largely independent of external circumstances. I can't explain it, and I'm not sure I can claim much credit for it. I'm sure it's 90% biochemistry, genetics, luck and how I was raised (thanks, Mom & Dad!). 

The point is, nothing in particular makes me happy - which is to say, everything makes me happy. And really, make is the wrong word. I'm just generally happy to start with - there's no "make" about it.

A question that makes more sense to me is "What makes you not happy?" (Answer: being tired and/or being away from my family for too long).

FOLLOW-UP NOTE: After I wrote this post, I came across an article in The Week that talks about how people have a "default position," a baseline level of happiness. Hey, that's what I thought!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Life...

Came across a great question on Summer Pierre's blog. She was writing about being an artist with a day job (i.e. a real artist, with a real life), and almost in passing she tossed out a brilliant, arresting question:

What do I like being good at?

The question is not "What am I good at?" but "What do I like being good at?" It acknowledges the possibility that a person might be good at something, but not like it. I think it's a particularly insightful question. 

What do you like being good at?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Lovely Yellow Springs OH

We got to spend some time in Yellow Springs, OH over the weekend. It was fantastic. I would like to go there every day.

I'm sure part of the charm is that we never quite have enough time there. Yellow Springs always leaves us wanting more. But we got some Christmas shopping done, I found some fantastic, warm, soft fingerless gloves for my beautiful bride (an early, non-surprise gift), and just as we were leaving I bought some delicous hard rolls to nosh on as whe drove home (and we chuckled about the time we tried to eat lunch there and were turned away from a pizza joint because they didn't have any dishes. Only in YS!).

Even though we weren't able to stay until the big "Catch A Kiss" event at 3:07 that afternoon and be one of the 80 official kissing couples, Kim and I managed to smooch in front of several "Kiss Here" signs. Like I said, Yellow Springs is a pretty cool town. 

And as previously promised, I snapped some pictures of the knitted covers for various poles in the town. I'm sad to report that my picture of the red and white cover for a stop signwas  mysteriously eaten by my handy-dandy camera phone. I'll try again next time I'm out there.

Once again, Yellow Springs left me wanting more (and someday, I hope to bump into Jafabrit in person!).


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

More on gas prices (read it out loud)

Thanks once again to my friend Tori, I came across an interesting analysis of the future of gas prices.

Specifically, now you can see what will happen when gas prices fall below zero (right in time for my birthday!).

Gas Prices Are Insane

I've been watching gas prices continue to free-fall with a mixture of glee, amazement, incredulity and (frankly) concern. Anything that falls this far, this fast, is bound to overcorrect. These prices are gonna go up again at some point.

Still, I like filling up at $1.34 a gallon.

What I don't understand is seeing gas for $1.41 at one station, then five miles later seeing it for $1.74. Can anyone account for the 33-cent difference? 

For that matter, can anyone account for anything at all related to the price of a gallon of gas?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Courage & Sacrifice

The Grand Duke of Luxembourg (what a great title!) is the last Grand Duke in the world, and one of the few royals who is not merely ceremonial. He is apparently in the process of losing his executive power to veto legislation, after objecting to a new Luxembourgian law that allowed euthenasia.  

Over at The Distributist Review, John Medaille offers this commentary:
He was a minor prince on a minor throne in a tiny country. But the Grand Duke was right to make one last Grand Gesture in the name of life, in the name of Europe, in the name of his own people... The Duke is accused of violating democracy; in fact he has defended it by attempting to stop its illegitimate use.

There's something brilliantly romantic (in the old sense of that word) about a bold, principled gesture that comes at such a cost.  Long live the Grand Duke, executive powers or not.

Contrast his action with the Prime Minister's. PM Jean-Claude Junker also opposes the law, but he says parliament's authority should override the Grand Duke's objection. Nevermind that the Grand Duke is constitutionally endowed with veto power (for now, that is). The PM apparently does not object to Parliament stripping the Grand Duke's authority. I wonder - in what sense does he oppose the law? In fact, he seems to be supporting it.

Spiegel online quotes the PM as saying “I understand the Grand Duke's problems of conscience, but I believe that if the parliament votes in a law, it must be brought into force."

Maybe he thinks the Grand Duke should have only used his veto on bills which the Parliament didn't pass? I wonder -if the PM were in the Duke's position and was asked to sign a law he did not believe in, what would he do?

If it was me, I hope I would follow the Grand Duke's example.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Christmas & Consumerism

Well, it's that time of year again, when well-meaning people of faith roll out their annual complaints about the commercialization of Christmas. They're not wrong, for the most part, but I think they tend to overlook one important aspect of this whole thing.

The cool thing about the consumerism of Christmas is we also get the Christmas-ification of the Consumer Cathedral (aka The Mall).

Personally, I find it amazing that, for one month out of the year, I can go to the mall and consistently hear the Gospel proclaimed, in song, over the loudspeakers. I'm not saying that's entirely right - just that it's a little bit amazing.

Sure, they play Frosty and Rudolph, but it's not unusual to hear Christmas songs with lyrics about Jesus' mission to "save us all from Satan's power when we were gone astray." At the mall. Over the loudspeakers. I think that's really something.

I hardly ever see the reverse happen - people from the mall almost never come to my church and spend a month singing their advertisements. THAT would be something to complain about.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Free Money!

In a blatant example of blog-post-stealing, I'm borrowing some words from Andy Sernovitz' appropriately named blog, Damn I Wish I'd Thought Of That. A few days ago, he posted about Restaurant.com's cool new offer:

Restaurant.com will let you send a free $10 gift certificate to 3 friends each day from Nov. 26 to Dec. 25.  (Yes, there are real $10 good-as-cash gift certificates.)

(In case you're wondering how it works, restaurants provide the discounts to get more business.)

How can you give your customers a reason to tell 3 friends about you?

Send your friend $10 here.

Pretty cool, isn't it? What a brilliant marketing idea!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas...

The other day I heard the song "It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas" on the radio. When the singer got the line "...and Mom and Dad can hardly wait for school to start again," I burst out laughing.

My first thought was "What a funny line!"

My second thought was "How have I never noticed that line before?"

Seriously, has that line always been in that song? 'Cause I don't remember EVER hearing it before. It caught me off guard so much that it actually made me laugh. How I managed to make it through 35 Christmases without hearing that line is a mystery beyond my comprehension.

(and it is a pretty funny sentiment for a Christmas song, when you stop to think about it)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Bob Charette Interview

Bob Charette wrote the cover story for IEEE Spectrum's latest issue. It's titled "What's Wrong with Weapons Acquisitions," and it's a fascinating, gutsy story.

Yes, I know there are many ways to answer that question, but Charette's take on it is really insightful and authoritative. He was recently interviewed on NPR's Here and Now, and you can listen to the interview here (and now).

Earth Friendly / Tone Deaf

Walking through a bookstore the other day, I came across a calendar with a big green "Earth Friendly" sticker slapped on it. It proclaimed that the calendar was made from recycled paper and soy-based ink.  I whipped out my handy-dandy fuzzy camera phone to take this photo, just for you:


The reason I took the photo is not because earth friendly printing options are so snazzy, new or surprising. No, I took the photo because the calendar was all about combat jets, as the photo below shows. The printing may be "Earth Friendly," but that's not the term I'd use to describe the subject.

The fact that I really dislike the F-22 (which is pictured on the front of the calendar) has nothing to do with my reaction. OK, maybe a little something to do with it. But even if it was a more respectable fighter on the front cover, I'd still think it's a strange choice of wording for that little green sticker.


Next time, maybe they should go with "100% Recycled Paper" sticker instead.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Boomer Sisters Update!

Big news from the world of The Boomer Sisters!

The fourth book in the series, The Boomer Sisters And The Pirates of Lake Champlain, is now complete and ready for sale! It's got adventure. It's got peril. It's got pirates. And not to give too much away, Champy (the local lake monster) makes a little cameo appearance near the end... sorta. Follow the link above to read a preview and order your own copy!

Also, I'm expanding out into Boomer Sisters Merchandise a bit, and proudly announce The Boomer Sisters Coloring Book! It features artwork by the talented Mandy Hoelmer, as seen in all four books.

Of course, all the books are still available at Rogue Press, just in time for your holiday shopping!


It's for the kids...

I apologize for the more-fuzzy-than-usual quality of this photo, but it's compliments of my handy-dandy fuzzy little camera phone, and which seems to get particularly fuzzy when the subject is up close.

Anyway, we were sorting through some of the kids clothes the other day when I noticed the tag on one of the shirts. I thought, this is a very strange brand name, and I therefore must blog about it.

Seriously, who thinks "Anxiety for Kids" is a good name for a brand of clothing? What's next - replacing the Nike swoosh on kid's shoes with the orange ball from the Prozac logo?

Monday, December 1, 2008

Surf Ohio!

The Ohio Surf & Skate shop is just down the road from our house here, and it cracks me up every time I see it. 'Cause yeah, when I think of surfing, I think of Ohio.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Gift Giving

I'll freely admit I have too much stuff. Like, WAY too much stuff. A more-than-slightly-troublesome excess. Here comes Christmas time and no doubt I'll get all kinds of cool new stuff.

Don't get me wrong, I like stuff. But along with the cool new stuff that will inevitably come my way (and for which I will be genuinely thankful!), I'd like to suggest an alternate kind of gift giving which I would like even more.

Kiva.org provides microloans to entrepreneurs around the world. I'd LOVE a gift certificate to Kiva. It's a gift that keeps on giving, because once the loan is paid back, the lender can re-loan that money to another entrepreneur. Microloans work. Microloans are distributivist. I love this idea. And even if you weren't planning to get me anything (gasp!), maybe there's someone else in your life who would appreciate something like this.

Similarly, World Vision's Catalog of Hope includes things like "seeds and a hoe" for a farmer in a poor part of the world. 

Now that's the real spirit of Christmas, isn't it?

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Macy's Thanksgiving Parade

We watched the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade on Thursday - my favorite part was when Rick Astley came out and started singing "Never Gonna Give You Up."

I'm not sure it quite counts as rickrolling the audience, but it was pretty doggone funny.

Friday, November 28, 2008

What the meaning of "All" is...


I actually snapped this photo a little while ago, and figured today would be a good day to post it.

I just think it's funny* that the sign says 70% off All Sterling Silver Jewelry, even though they don't really mean "All" (even though it's in Bold). By "all" they actually mean everything except "Great Price, Exceptional Values, Introductory Offers, Closeouts, Clearance and Special Purchases." Yeah, that's a lot of categories to exclude from that big, bold All.

I'd suggest that "Some" would be more accurate, albeit less attention grabbing. It just kinda bugs me when I see stuff like this.

*and by "funny" I mean "not really funny at all... in fact, deceptive to a slightly disturbing degree." Hey, if "all" can mean "some," then "funny" can mean "not funny," right?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

I hope everyone has a wonderful thanksgiving day!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Too Big To Fail

The US auto industry has been performing badly for decades now, with no sign of improvement on the horizon. Honda, on the other hand, runs car manufacturing plants in this country quite successfully (as do several other foreign car companies). Honda uses several sneaky, magical, unfair, possibly underhanded tricks like designing an assembly line that can be used to make more than one model of car. Gee, how did they think of that? (and why didn't Ford, GM or Chrysler?)

But the point isn't the importance of flexibility in assembly line design. The point is that big isn't necessarily good, and every time I hear the Big Three (or various financial institutions) described as "too big to fail," I am reminded of E.F. Schumacher's amazing book Small Is Beautiful. If you haven't read it, now would be a very good time to do so.

There's something tragically wrong with building entities that are "too big to fail," if only because everything fails eventually. Nothing lasts forever, so when 3 million jobs rely on the survival of a single company, um... that's a bad idea.

We already have laws that prevent monopolies, because monopolies are bad for the economy. Why not a law that limits the size of a company, for the same reason? And the more I think about it, the more convinced I am that allowing the company to fail is less bad than not allowing it to fail. Yes, the current economic situation might justify keeping these huge companies artificially afloat for awhile... but then again, maybe not.

[Also - if a foreign-owned company builds cars in this country, are they really "foreign" cars? The jobs are American, right?]

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Weekly "radio" address

It's funny - a few days ago, I heard someone refer to the President's weekly radio address, and I realized I didn't know much about it. Specifically, I had no idea what time it was broadcast or what station carries it. Turns out the radio broadcast goes out at 10:06 on Saturday morning. I still don't know which local station carries it, but I did wonder why we still call it a radio address and not a podcast.

And then Obama made the jump to YouTube. Beginning on Nov 15th, President-elect Obama will broadcast his weekly address as a YouTube video.

Suddenly, it doesn't matter what time. It doesn't matter what station. Everyone can see/hear it now. I suspect his YouTube addresses will get a lot more attention than radio addresses have been getting, and that's a good thing because it means a more informed electorate.

Power (& knowledge) to the people!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Free Fallin'


I was so excited to see the price of gas drop below $2 a gallon that I took this photo. But that was a few weeks ago, and the price has continued to drop faster than I could blog. Today I saw it for $1.56 and didn't bother to take a picture, 'cause I figure I'll just wait until it gets below $1 a gallon and take a new photo then.

Lulu.com is Amazing

As you probably know, I've published a number of books at Lulu.com, and I continue to be impressed by their operation. Here's the most recent example:

I uploaded my files for the 4th Boomer Sisters book on Wed, November 19th, at around 8pm. At that time, I ordered a copy to review (before I place my big Christmas order). Lulu says it usually takes 3-5 days to print before they ship it.

At 8pm Friday night (November 21st) Lulu sent me an email saying the order had shipped. That's right around 48 hours to print, bind and package that book. 

I'm not sure Amazon.com is any faster in processing orders, and their products come pre-printed.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

In Today's International News...

German blogger and "graphic arts industry engineer" Annette Hexelschneider (aka Serve2Know-frau) recently discussed my "Metaphors Are Mindfunnels" article on her blog, Serve2Know. I must admit I'm quite surprised to hear people in Germany are reading my stuff. What a cool world this is!

Since I don't speak German, I had to rely on Google's automatic translation service of Frau Hexelschneider's blog (speaking of what a cool world). Google produced a fairly clear English translation, despite ending with the following sentence: "Yet - with all the careful now won lesenswerter article"

Anyone know what lesenswerter means? I'll just assume it's German slang for awesome.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Sprout!

I just discovered a cool online game called Sprout and wanted to pass it along for your consideration, amusement and enjoyment.

Sprout is a gentle little puzzle game, in which you are a bean trying to cross a colored-pencil landscape in your quest to become an acorn tree. Who can resist that?

After I played it, I had both kids play it too, and they loved it as much as I did. It's the kind of game a 5 or 8 year old can play and enjoy (with some hints from Daddy)... but it's also a genuine pleasure for grownups.

Do check it out by clicking on the bean below.

Click to play Sprout

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Understanding Typefaces

Many Americans do not realize there is a huge movement trying to ban a font called Comic Sans. I'd heard whispers of this group, but never really understood their beef with the curvy little font.In fact, I never really understood much about fonts... That is, until my buddy Drew explained things for me on his excellent blog, the Untitled Design Blog.

If you ever do any typing and find yourself in the situation of picking a font, do your self a favor and check out Drew's blog...

Monday, November 17, 2008

Trying Again

Sorry the earlier video didn't work out - no idea why.

Let's try this link instead. As with the first attempt, it's a video of Nick Vujicic, a truly amazing dude:


Check This Guy Out...



I have nothing to add...

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Bravado...

I gave the manuscript for my latest book to my almost-nine-year-old daughter (who also happens to be the inspiration for one of the main characters) and asked her to edit it for me. She's got a great eye for catching missing punctuation and typo's, particularly the ones my spell checker overlooks.

But she does more than copy editing. She gets pretty creative. On page 106, she crossed out the word "bravery" and wrote "bravado" (and yes, bravado was a better word for that scene). Did I mention she'll be turning 9 in  a few weeks?

When I asked her about it, she said that when I read the first draft to her (a month or two ago) I used the word bravado. Apparently, I changed it at some point, so she was just changing it back.

I can't wait to see what kinds of books this kid will write some day.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Not Funny?

Like many Americans, I sort of rediscovered Saturday Night Live during the recent election. Amy Pohler and Tina Fey totally crack me up. But you know who doesn't crack me up? The guy who plays Obama.

He's just not all that funny. It's probably not his fault (I blame the writers). I'm not sure what that says about the actor or SNL or the writers or the president elect or maybe it says something about American society. But there's something a little strange about an unfunny SNL portrayal of a prominent politician. It's a bit unsettling, although I can't quite put my finger on what exactly the problem is, but apparently there's quite a buzz in the comic community about his election being bad for business.

A friend of mine mentioned the same thing on her blog, quoting a recent Larry King interview of Bill Maher.

We shall see...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Book Artwork!

One of the coolest things about writing the Boomer Sisters books is having the artwork done by the amazingly talented Mandy Hoelmer. Here's an advance look at a few of her contributions for the soon-to-be-published The Boomer Sisters And The Pirates of Lake Champlain:




I Love Fall...


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Incredible Quotes

With no apparent sense of irony whatsoever, the always entertaining Sarah Palin recently said the phrase "it’s immature, it’s unprofessional, and those guys are jerks."

'Cause really, what's more mature and professional than calling someone a jerk?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Failure, Part 2

In the spirit of yesterday's post, you are all invited to click here, then press Play.

Monday, November 10, 2008

I Failed Today...

I spent a good chunk of time today trying to change a new policy that was recently adopted by an organization I'm affiliated with. I didn't change any minds, sadly, despite my best effort in writing and in person.

Without going into the details, I'll just say the policy was a classic Theory X approach to managerial problem solving. It was almost literally a textbook example. 

While I questioned the decision maker's data and the analytical model on which the policy was based, my main objection was based on the fact that the policy essentially communicated the following message: We do not trust you. We think you are irresponsible and unprofessional.  

When I pointed this out and suggested it was neither a good nor accurate nor productive message to send, the policy maker nodded his head and said "Yup, that's the impression I want to these kids to get."

Really?

I resisted pointing out that the organization in question is not made up of kids. I did try a few different angles, but quickly realized I was facing a genuine, committed Theory X manager, who was doing this stuff on purpose, not out of ignorance or by accident. Yikes.

What's interesting is that Theory X management has been almost entirely discredited, both in theory and practice. The pessimistic view that workers are lazy, irresponsible and need constant supervision and direction simply doesn't hold water. This approach can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, with workers living up (or rather, living down) to expectations, but I don't think it's overstating the case to say Theory X is wrong. To be precise, Theory X is unnecessary and counterproductive, even though it can lead to short-term "success" for certain organizational objectives. In my opinion, any positive behavioral changes that come out of Theory X management are not worth the cost in lost trust, respect and humanity.

So, I said my piece, explained the cost, suggested alternatives and tried unsuccessfully to get the policy changed. It's not a huge deal, and the policy probably won't last for long, but I'm still kinda bummed I wasn't able to convince him. I'm not sure there was anything I could have said that would have made an impression, but I must admit - it was kind of fun to try.

We The People...

The thing I find particularly striking about Obama's victory is the reaction he got, around the world and across the country. I've never seen people dancing in the streets to celebrate an election victory before.

They wouldn't have done this for Gore or Kerry. I don't think anyone did it when Bill Clinton was elected, and I'm not sure it would have happened for Hillary had she been the winner. It's not just because of the color of his skin - well, that's a big part of it, I'm sure, and it explains the celebration in Kenya, but I think a lot of it also has to do with his personality, his intellect and his story.

It also has to do with his popular support. Yes, that's sort of circular reasoning (he's popular because he's popular), but stay with me.

In the 2008 election, unlike several previous cycles, the two main candidates appear to have really been selected by the people, not the parties. It seems to me that if the parties had been in charge, we would have seen Hillary Clinton against Mit Romney. But the people, the voters, didn't let that happen. They picked the maverick and the new kid, not the faithful party stalwarts who were next in line.

I think that's a good thing. Political parties aren't bad, but government of the people, by the people, is even better.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

B4 Teaser

The fourth book in the Boomer Sisters series is almost all typed up and will certainly be ready for Christmas. I'd like to title it "The Boomer Sisters And The Pirates of Lake Champlain," and just need to figure out how to fit all that on the cover. And speaking of cover - I just received the cover artwork and it's awesome.

Here's a little teaser:

“Hurry, hurry, they’re getting closer!” BJ shouted. The huge pirate ship was slowly turning, pointing its prow directly at the smaller craft. BJ could see the words Royal Savage painted in gold letters on the ship’s side. Jekka grabbed her camera and took pictures as the ship got closer.

When Air Force Blue’s engine roared to life, Royal Savage was close enough the girls could see figures walking on its deck and climbing through its rigging. The lake had turned a fierce gray color and strong winds blew surprising clouds overhead. The waves were much larger now and capped with white foam.

“Hold on everyone!” Pop Pop shouted, then his boat shot forward, towards the north end of the island.

A loud explosion erupted from Royal Savage, followed by a big splash near Air Force Blue.
“They’re shooting their cannons at us!” Pop Pop said. “Time for some fancy boat work.”

He zig-zagged his boat from side to side, kicking up big sprays. Cannonballs continued to hit the water around them…

Friday, November 7, 2008

Every Once In A While...

Every once in a while, I think about stopping this blog. Just stopping, no more posts. It's usually when I go over to Google Analytics and see how many (i.e. how few) people actually read it.

But every once in a while, I get a cool note or comment from some artist, writer or otherwise interesting person... or my brother and sister and I go off on a 20+ comment discussion about something... and I think, yeah, this blog thing is still fun.

I suppose I'll stop doing it when I run out of things to say. 

Thursday, November 6, 2008

21st Century Book Business

Have you heard about the recent settlement between Google and the Authors Guild / Association of American Publishers? If not, check out this article for a nice, brief summary.

What's the big deal? What does it mean? In a nutshell, "Google is suddenly poised to drive a massive change in the publishing marketplace, multiply by many times the number of books available at the fingertips of readers, and supercharge the market for online delivery of books."

The biggest implication is that out of print books, which were previously only available via used book stores (which don't pay authors anything) will now be available (presumably under a Print On Demand kind of thing) and authors will get paid. And I suspect the Used Bookstores will still survive somehow.

(How did I find this? I followed a link from Nathan Branford - Literary Agent over to The Millions blog)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Latest Article!

Hey Thrill Seekers!

The latest action-packed issue of everyone's favorite government technology journal, Defense AT&L, is posted online for your reading pleasure! This month, my co-conspirators and I contributed a sassy little article titled Metaphors Are Mindfunnels, an image we are sure will catch on wildly.

Actually, I must admit this article, inspired largely by Lakoff and Johnson's book Metaphors We Live By, is a bit more academic and heady than the stuff we've been writing lately. That was a deliberate choice, to sort of shake things up a bit. And because we went with Really Deep Ideas this time, we built the whole article around a framework based on The Matrix, starring Keanu Reeves... 'cause the Matrix movies were so easy to understand, right?

Anyway, I hope you'll cruise on over to read the article. It blew our minds when we wrote it, and I hope it does the same for you. As always, we love to hear from readers. Oh, and if you check out the print version of our beloved magazine, you'll notice the inside is now printed in Technicolor - a very snazzy upgrade, I must say. 

Also, don't miss the latest edition of our "13 Theta" comic series. It's another Great Moment In Acquisitions History (and I'm afraid it's only funny if you're in the business, but maybe you'll get a chuckle out of it anyway...)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Today's The Day!

It all comes down to this - it's hard to believe that the long campaign is finally over, and it's time to actually do the voting.

I just hope that whoever wins the election today, wins unequivocally and with a significant enough majority to avoid excessive court action or complaints.

And I hope you voted (my international friends and readers are, of course, excused from that obligation).

Distributism & Taxes

I continue to be impressed by the perspectives and ideas offered by John Medaille over at The Distributist Review. In a recent post titled Comrade Buchanan, he offers some really interesting observations about how the American economy works, particularly with regard to taxes. I'm not saying I agree 100% with everything he says, but I really enjoy reading it.

This particular post is shorter than what he usually writes, and well worth checking out. A few quotes to whet you appetite:

"..when incomes accumulate at the top to an unreasonable degree, there is a failure of demand. A CEO may make 500 times what the line worker makes, but he cannot eat 500 times the amount of food, wear 500 times the shirts, shoes, and socks, live in a home 500 times larger, etc. This means that purchasing power is lost to the economy, and must be restored."

"In truth, the federal budget is mainly about transferring wealth. However, it is largely a transfer of wealth from the bottom and the middle to the top. Farm subsidies penalize the city at the expense of the country, the military budget is less about defense and more about enriching people like Cheney, the road subsidies give an advantage to suburban homeowners over city dwellers, etc."


Monday, November 3, 2008

Mustard & Cola

Bollywood musicals are amazing, beautiful works of art - there's something downright magical about the way these performers sing and dance, particularly in large groups (and yeah, they can be pretty cheesy too). I love seeing these music videos in Indian restaurants ('cause really, where else would I see them?).

Naturally there's a group of jokesters on YouTube who added "subtitles" to some of these songs, based on the English words it sounds like the performers are saying. Holy cow, I almost wet myself watching a video titled "May He Poop". You just need to watch it for yourself.



The other really funny thing about this is all the commentors on YouTube, complaining about how the translation "isn't even close" or "makes no sense." Um, yeah...

(I discovered this over at a blog by a Yellow Springs, OH artist who goes by JafaBrit.


Friday, October 31, 2008

Yes!

We recently spent some time in a wonderful little town named Yellow Springs, OH. It's a great place, full of small shops, used book stores and art, art, art everywhere. Even the telephone poles are decorated, wearing knitted "cozies" in riotous colors - sadly, I failed to take a photo of any of them. I'll be sure to photo a few next time we're out there.

I did manage to secure a photo of a lion. Actually, my lovely and talented wife took these shots. We were temporarily parked and I noticed this lion head on the side of the wall:

And here's a closer view:


Isn't it fantastic? No reason for it at all, other than to make people smile. I want to live in a town like that.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Hot New Internet Meme (With Bananas)!

I was sitting in class today, staring at my empty banana peel, when a funny idea struck me. Fortunately, I'd brought two bananas for lunch today, so I had enough bananas to fully develop my idea and do it right. Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce my newest creation: messages on banana peels!


I'm really impressed with how well a banana peel holds ink - it's really the perfect fruit to write on, if you want to write on fruit. But this crazy idea isn't just about bananas, or even about fruit. Oh no, my dear readers, it's much bigger than that.

I think it would be funny to take a series of "Help! I've been turned into *fill in the blank*" written on the *blank* - which of course would have to be an object that people ordinarily don't write on. I'm thinking of pants, cell-phones, shoes, underwear, sandwiches... you get the picture.

Alternatively, we could take a bunch of photos (get it - a "bunch"?) of messages written on bananas - sort of a fruit-based fortune cookie experience. 

Now it's up to you - send me your photos, or just post them on your own blog. Pass these around. Have fun!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Distributism - check it out

Distributism is a "third-way" economic philosophy I've discussed several times on this blog. I just came across an excellent article that describes, defines and discusses distributism in terms that are contemporary and easy to understand (albeit somewhat Catholic-centric).

I don't claim to know how to make distributism work, but I'm pretty sure it could work (and does work in the places where it's tried). The first step, I believe, is to make people aware of it and help them understand it. So, I hope you'll click on over and read through the article, titled Capitalist? Socialist? Distributist. Here are a few excerpts to get thing started:

Capitalism and socialism are theoretically enemies, but for the ordinary citizen, their results are remarkably similar: little or no power. In socialism, power centers in the few who happen to run the government. In capitalism, power gathers in the few who happen to run the largest corporations... 

In contrast to both socialism and capitalism, distributism aims for a wide distribution of private property.

[in distributism] Power is balanced and decentralized, according to the principle of subsidiarity: Every function is controlled at the most local level possible.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Universal Healthcare = Economic Stimulation

The following is  from Summer Pierre's excellent blog, and she was borrowing it from Matt Haughey's blog, but it's just so doggone interesting I had to pass it along too:

Everyone I know that freelances or works a day job and wishes they could quit and follow their dreams of launching a company complains about the lack of healthcare. Whenever I used to talk about freelancing at tech conferences, the first question was always about healthcare coverage. I've heard that in places like Berlin where you don't have to worry about where your healthcare is coming from or how much it costs, up to 35% of working age adults are freelancers. 

It may sound crazy and anti-capitalist to consider healthcare for all, but if we flipped a switch tomorrow and everyone had health coverage I swear a million small businesses would launch overnight. I know lots of people that keep a job just to get healthcare that are wasting their creative talents because they had a cancer scare or were born with a defect or otherwise are deemed uninsurable on their own.


Makes sense to me!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Ordering Pizza in the Future

I saw this video in class the other day, as part of a discussion about privacy and the interweb. It's obviously an extreme example, but parts of it are not entirely outside the realm of the possible... or even the realm of the likely!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Art from Saudi Arabia

I heard a brief interview on the radio with a female artist from Saudi Arabia - I could have listened to her all day. I didn't catch her name, but she is one of the artists featured in a new exhibition in London, titled The Edge of Arabia. I think it was Manal Al-Dowayan - and even if it wasn't, check out her photos. They are striking and genuinely thought-provoking.

In the interview, she talked about the differences between European and Arabian art. For example, the western idea of beauty is heavily influenced by the Greeks and sees the human figure as the ultimate symbol of beauty. For her culture, on the other hand, depicting the human figure (even clothed) is practially forbidden. She also pointed out that for us, rain is a symbol of gloom and mourning and darkness, but in her culture's art, it represents mercy.

I loved having the opportunity to peek into another culture's view of art. I hope you'll click over to Edge of Arabia and peruse some of their creations.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Enough?

I often have the haunting feeling that I'm not creating enough, despite all the articles I've done for Defense AT&L and the handful of books I've written. I think that's a good thing - to always have the drive to create new things, to write new stories and books... to never be satisfied.

I hope the feeling doesn't go away, although it's not terribly comfortable. I assume most writers, musicians, artists and creative types have a similar experience. Is there such thing as having created "enough"? Maybe when I'm very, very old...

So, I've got two novels in my head that I've been thinking about for a while now. Grown-up novels this time. They'll probably won't sell any more than my current ones do, but I think they'd be fun to try. Maybe I'll have a go at one of them during next year's NaNoWriMo. I've also started pulling together some notes for a companion book (or two) to The Simplicity Cycle. And I'd love to do some little online videos, maybe take up drawing again... and that's just the start. 

How about you? Anyone else out there have a strong drive to create, to write, to paint?

And speaking of creations, The Simplicity Cycle has been downloaded 913 times. I think that's kinda cool, considering how little marketing I do. Of course, selling (or giving away) a million copies was never the point. Creating was the point.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Never Stop Exploring?

My favorite pair of khaki's has a strange, secret message on the inside of the zipper, which I discovered when I got them home. That's a photo of of the pants there - of course, I wasn't wearing them when I took that picture with my handy-dandy, fuzzy camera phone.

In case you can't quite read the message, it says "Never Stop Exploring." Apparently that's the motto of The North Face company (they made the pants).

But frankly, I'm not quite sure what to make of it. That's kind of a strange place to post a message like that - just inside the zipper. Sure, it's the company motto, but really, right inside the zipper?

But they're awfully comfortable pants!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Bad Google! Bad Google!

I can't believe the changes Google made to the iGoogle front page. Oh, it's so bad!

I'm not alone in my opinion. And really, Google should know better than to add so much chrome to their famously simple interface, and add it in a way that it can't get removed by users who don't want it. Didn't they just release a new browser with the ironic name Chrome. 

In software lingo, "chrome" refers to the borders, frames, toolbars, etc an application or website uses... and Google's Chrome browser has almost none of it. The new iGoogle interface, on the other hand, is positively dripping with it. It's a chrome infection and it needs to go!

I hope they undo it. I really, really hope they undo it.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

I'm A Winner!

How cool - I just won a little contest on Andy Nulman's blog, in which people were challenged to stack books together in such a way as to make the titles say something interesting.

Click on the link above to see my winning entry...

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Hack The Debate

I actually came across this show called Hack The Debate (on Al Gore's Current TV channel) during the VP debate, and for inexcusable reasons failed to blog about it sooner, but I figured it's better late than never, right?

Anyway, the idea behind Hack The Debate is that during the live debate, Twitter users send in tweets which are then displayed at the bottom of the screen in real-time, under the talking heads of the candidates.

How cool is that? I found it fascinating.

It's like watching the debate with a couple dozen of your snarkiest friends. Well, some of the comments were kinda dumb and/or obvious, but some were pretty doggone insightful and funny. For example, this is where I first encountered the name "Caribou Barbie" (and they weren't talking about Senator Biden).

And on a completely different topic, what's the implication of sites like Twitter and Current doing away with the "www" part of their URL? Their addresses are simply twitter.com and current.com - no www needed. Is this a new way to indicate you're an insider, a cutting-edge netizen who's too cool for the dub-dub-dub? (and does anyone even say netizen anymore?). Or is it simply a recent realization that if every address begins with www, then we don't really need to use it anywhere?

I'd like to think I'm keeping up with this whole interweb thing, but gosh, there's a lot to keep up with!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Rev Run Rocks

A while back, Kim and I saw a few episodes of Run's House, staring Joey Simmons, aka Run from Run DMC (best rap group ever). Run's House is a reality show, with cameras following him and his family around the house... but it's not the typical reality show. In a Nulman-esque Pow! moment, viewers discover that Run is now "Rev Run," having been ordained a few years ago.

Kim and I happened to catch part of an interview Run gave recently (with Glenn Beck, I think?), and he told the most amazing story about riding in the back of a limo with Kid Rock... and giving him communion.

Apparently Mr. Rock said "I've done a lot of thing in the back of a limo, but taking communion isn't one of them." Well, now he's done that too. I think that's fantastic.

I don't know much about Rev Run's theology or doctrine... but I can see what he believes by the way he lives. He doesn't have a church where people gather each Sunday morning to hear a sermon. He has a show on MTV, where people across the country can see him live his life and try to love his family and his neighbors, etc...

Frankly, that's the kind of Christian I'd like to be. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Complications

I have a huge list of books I want to read, and (like everyone) precious little time to read for pleasure (plus, I fall asleep if I try to read in bed at night). So, I've developed a philosophy that says "If I can put a book down, I will." Life's too short and my reading time too limited to spend on books that don't really grab my attentions.

This means I don't finish a lot of the books I start. I'm cool with that. But every once in a while I pick up a book that completely grabs me, and I discover I'm able to make all kinds of time to read it. The Omnivore's Dilemma was like that. I'm in the middle of another captivating book right now, titled Complications.

It's by a surgeon named Atul Gawande, and it's amazing. I've got very little tolerance for blood and guts, but even his descriptions of the mechanisms involved with vomiting are amazing. He's part poet-philosopher, part medical doctor (and is also a 2006 MacArthur Fellow). I loved his description of what makes a good surgeon, which I think applies to any sort of professional excellence.

I started the book just a few days ago, and I'm already 1/2 way through it. That's some kind of record for me. I can't recommend the book highly enough.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Follow Me!

Just added a cool new feature to this blog - the Followers list! One simple click and you can be an official Follower of The Dan Ward Blog, with all the rights and priviledges thereof...

DIY Television Technology

Our local NBC station is currently in a contract dispute with Time Warner, the only cable provider in my area. That means the cable company does not carry NBC at the moment, so no Chuck, Heroes or The Office.

We kept thinking the contract thing would get resolved, but it still hasn't. So, last Monday, 15 minutes before Chuck started, Kim suggested we rig up an antenna and see if we could get the broadcast signal in time to see everyone's favorite nerd/spy. 

I looked at the back of the tv, had no idea what to do, then ran to Google and searched for instructions on making an antenna. I found this 3 minute video, watched it, tracked down the necessary parts, made it and plugged it in with minutes to spare. It works great - we get a perfectly clear signal.

How cool is that! I went from knowing nothing about building an antenna, to actually building it (out of a coaxial cable and a soup can) and using it. 

I said to Kim "it's not just an antenna - it's a can-tenna..." To which she replied, "No, it's a Dan-tenna."

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Desert

Continuing the "Buy Dan's Books" month theme, today I'll write about The Desert: Stories of Emerging Faith.

The Desert is a collection of happy little stories about hope, faith, joy and love. It is the most explicitly theological thing I've ever written, and it's also probably the funniest. I don't think you need to be a Christian to enjoy it, but frankly it's hard for me to know for sure about that. 

I'm an engineer, not a theologian or pastor, so in a sense I'm writing outside my areas of expertise. On the other hand, I'm a human and a Christian, which is its own kind of credential. In any case, it was a fun little experiment and I'm really happy with how it came out.

In fact, I'd say all my books are experiments. Each one is an attempt to understand something about the world, through the process of expressing that emerging understanding. 

Yeah, that sounds like malarky to me too. Let me try again - writing helps me figure out what I think about things. Ah, that sounds better.

Stories from The Desert have been used at three different churches (that I'm aware of). As with all my other books, you can flip through the whole thing online at Silly Hat Press, and of course you can buy a copy for your very own self while you're there. You might even want to buy a copy to give as a gift - it's that kind of book. I hope you enjoy it.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Fit is Go!

I hardly ever watch commecials on tv, thanks to my DVR. It just makes so much sense to record something and start watching it 15 minutes after the broadcast starts, skipping past the commercials and still finishing at the usual time.

But as we were zipping past commercials, this one caught our eye, so we went back and watched it. It's an ad for the Honda Fit, and it makes it look so cool. It was kind of fun to see an ad and feel a sense of identification with the zippy, hot little machine being featured.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Michael Hammer, RIP

Sad news - I just found out today that Dr. Michael Hammer died last month. He was only 60. 

Hammer was best known for his 1993 book Reengineering the Corporation (which led to several other reengineering books). I wasn't a fan of his work. In fact, critic and opponent are probably the right terms. I've questioned and challenged his concepts in several of my articles, and even wrote one titled Hammering Hammer.

But, in my introduction to that article, I point out "Dr. Hammer is a nice guy. We corresponded via email as I wrote this piece, and he was both thoughtful and generous."

I hardly ever agreed with Dr. Hammer, but I had to respect his accomplishments and influence. I also deeply respected his humanity and generosity. There was really no reason for him to personally answer my email queries, but he did. I still think that was pretty cool, and I am saddened by this loss.

Change

On the first day of class last week, my classmates and I walked into a room and quickly discovered that getting everyone into a seat was going to be a problem. The tables and chairs were arranged in a U-shape, with one table in the middle of the U. A couple extra tables were pushed against the wall, with accompanying chairs facing the walls.

As the previous class cleared out, we all sort of scrambled for a seat. I went for the front-and-center table in the middle of the room, then looked around to see several people still standing around. I'm sad to say my first thought was "Gee, I'm glad I got a seat."

A Lieutenant quickly took charge and got us to rearrange the tables into rows so there would be room for everyone. Dang! Why didn't I think of that? It's a classic leadership opportunity, a chance to see the need for change and do something to help make things better. Maybe I would have thought of it given a little more time, but the fact is, that lieutenant beat me to it. Embarrassing, but also encouraging. It's good to know there are guys like him out there, with an eye for change and a willingness to speak up and make things happen.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Banksta' Rap

Found a link to this webcomic from The Distributist Review, and had to pass it along. Holy cow it's funny (albeit not suitable for impressionable young people).

Tanker Billboards


Outside one of the gates to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is a pair of billboards, advertising two new tankers. They've been there for a long time, and when the Air Force announced it's "winner," the KC-45 billboard even added the word "selected." I guess the "unselected" billboard is on back order?

I won't even begin to get into the crazy history of the Air Force's attempt to acquire a new aerial refueling aircraft - google it yourself if you're interested. I just wanted to point out it seems kind of weird for a company like Northrop or Boeing to advertise a specific aircraft on a billboard. Does a billboard like this actually supposed to influence anyone? When they did the source selection, did anyone say "I was going to vote for Boeing, but gosh, Northrop's billboard is pretty sweet looking."

I can just imagine the advertising guy pitching the billboard idea. "See, what you need is a big billboard, right near the front gate. That'll help you win the contract for sure..."

Sheesh...

Monday, October 6, 2008

Meet The Boomer Sisters

I first heard about National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in 2005. It sounded like an interesting challenge, so I decided to have a go at writing a novel. Since I wanted to be sure at least someone would read it, I decided to write a children's novel, figuring my two daughters were a built-in audience.

After thirty exhausting, frustrating, caffeine-fueled and thoroughly enjoyable days, I had the first draft of my first novel, Meet The Boomer Sisters. It was a fantastic experience, and one I have now repeated three more times (on three different books). I highly recommend it to anyone who currently gets too much sleep or drinks too little coffee.

The book, like the others in the series, is a mystery/adventure, featuring BJ and Jekka Boomer. 
This particular story's themes are family, courage, self-expression and creativity. 

I hooked up with the talented Mandy Hoelmer for the cover design and internal illustrations. As a writer, that's always a fascinating and fun experience, to see someone else create art based on my words. I love how it came out.

I've had some modest success selling it at local bookstores, and have done a few readings at local schools, but mostly I wrote it for my girls. Every once in a while, I realize there's a pretty good chance they'll read this book to their kids someday, so I guess I wrote it for my future grandchildren too. That's a pretty weird thought.

You can flip through a free preview at Rogue Press, or (of course) by a copy for your very own self!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Roads Should Have Shoulders


One of the things that struck me about Ohio when we first moved here is the lack of shoulders (left and right) on so many of the roads. It still strikes me as strange.

Any guesses on why they make the roads so tight? Would it have really been that tough to add even a foot or two beyond the yellow line? I'm just thinking of all the times I've seen a driver coming towards me, riding or crossing the middle line and edging into my space. On those times, I think "Gee, it would be nice if I had an extra inch or two of shoulder on this road..."

I know the photo above shows a grassy median between the two traffic directions, so it's not a big deal there, but even two-lane roads around here are cut right up against the grass, bushes, trees, etc... No shoulders at all (makes running and biking a bit tricky and uncomfortable too).

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Specific Skills

I'm pretty disappointed by the way the GOP Vice Presidential candidate has avoided and rebuffed the media's attempts to ask her questions. Of course, on the rare occasions when she does talk with reporters, her answers don't exactly inspire confidence, so maybe it makes sense for her to avoid interacting with the press. 

For example, when Katie Couric asked her to explain and clarify an earlier statement about how living close to Russia constitutes foreign policy expertise, she couldn't do it. The question seemed like a softball to me - basically Couric was saying "Here's an opportunity to explain and clarify something you already said." How hard is that?

And there's this from a CNN article: When asked for "specific skills" she could cite to rebut critics who question her grasp of international affairs, Sarah Palin replied, "I am prepared."

Um, being prepared isn't exactly a specific skill. Neither is an inability to answer questions.

Personally, I prefer politicians who can speak well and express their beliefs, principles, ideas and priorities (not to mention their qualifications). I like it when people answer questions, not with canned, prepared statements, but with thoughtful, honest answers. Maybe that's just me.

It will be interesting to see how the debate goes tonight...

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Dan's Books: The Simplicity Cycle

Did you know that October is Official "Buy Dan's Books" month? It is now!

And to celebrate Official "Buy Dan's Books" month, thoughout the month of October I'll periodically present short profiles and reviews of my books, with links to Rogue Press and Silly Hat Press, so you can buy copies for your very own self (and some to give as gifst)! How exciting is that! I'll even autograph them for you, if you see me in person (or send one to me in the mail)

We'll start with The Simplicity Cycle. It's a design book that explores the relationship between complexity, goodness and time. I originally wrote it for engineers and systems designers, but I've heard from artists, writers, software programmers, college professors and scientists who say it describes their creative journeys. 

If you paint, draw, write, make music, program computers or otherwise create things, I think you'll find this book helpful. If you have any interest in the intersection between complexity, simplicity and design, or want to discover some ways to simplify things, check this book out. 

You can download the PDF version for free at Rogue Press - and I hope you do.  But you can also buy the print version - and I hope you'll do that too, 'cause remember, this is Buy Dan's Books month.

In an early review, Chet Richards wrote "Like Sun Tzu or Jonathan Livingston Seagull, or The Elements of Style, this is a little tome that you can keep in the center drawer of your desk and take out from time to time just to glance through. The book is obviously the product of its own advice: simple, functional, elegant"

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Make Excellent Mistakes!

I really like Dan Pink's latest book, Johnny Bunko. I follow his Bunko Blog pretty regularly, but a recent posting really kinda ticked me off. Not because of what Mr. Pink said, but what some readers had to say about ways to "improve" his book.

A group from Canada's Ministry of Small Business got together to discuss the book, and ended up creating a list of suggested rewrites. I think they completely missed the point, and ended up with a painfully ineffective, watered-down, wimpy collection of suggestions

For example, they took issue with Lesson #5: Make Excellent Mistakes. They wrote:

Make excellent mistakes is the one we had lots of trouble with. It is rarely ok to make any kind of mistakes and many get brow beaten for mistakes. No one ever got fired for picking IBM. This applies in government. A rewrite could be "Know how to manage risk." How do you make excellent mistakes and come out smelling like a rose? How do you evaluate how 'excellent' your mistake can be. Is getting a divorce an excellent mistake? For some it is.

"It is rarely ok to make any kind of mistakes?" Um, says who? And guess what - that's a mistake! Mistakes are unavoidable & inevitable. Further, real mistakes come with consequences, so a mistake where you "come out smelling like a rose" isn't exactly a learning experience. And why bring up divorce? I don' t think that's what Lesson #5 is really about.

Bad thing happen. People make mistakes, and sometimes those mistakes hurt. Trying to avoid mistakes is a fear-based recipe for mediocrity, ignorance and inaction. Johnny Bunko got it right. Maybe some people should get fired for buying IBM... and if you get browbeaten for making mistakes, I'd suggest either a) toughen up or b) find a new job / new boss.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Predictions

OK, here’s a quick thought experiment for you to try. Imagine two Highly Trained Professionals (HTP) are asked to make a prediction about whether Event A will occur.

HTP #1 says there is a 30% chance the event will occur.

HTP #2 says there is a 70% chance the event will occur.

The event occurs.

Question – which one was correct? 

As far as I can tell, they both were correct, insofar as they both recognized the event was possible. And since they were both correct, was there any real difference between the quality of their predictions? Is HTP #2 40% more correct? If there’s no difference, what’s the point? 

I think this is why weather forecasters don't advertise their "success rate" at predicting rain. It would probably be 100% success for every single weather guy - either that, or their success rate would be basically unmeasurable.

I wonder - do we work extra hard to avoid a negative event that has a 70% chance of occurring, and slack off if there's only a 30% chance? Do those numbers really mean anything at all about the future?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Charordic Age

Dee Hock, the founder of VISA International, wrote a fascinating book titled The Birth of the Chaordic Age. A particular scene from his book sticks in my mind as I see giants from the US financial sector crash and burn:

He observes"... organizations increasingly unable to achieve the purpose for which they were created, yet continuing to expand as they devour scarce recources, demean the human spirit and destroy the environment... Schools that can't teach... corporations that can neither cooperate nor compete, only consolidate, unhealthy health-care systems... economies that can't economize..."

Interesting stuff... and a book I highly recommend!

Politics & Personality

I think a politician’s personality has a huge impact on their ability to get stuff done. 

Let me go even further and say I'm pretty sure personality is how politicians get things done. Not on the basis of their knowledge, certainly not on the basis of their processes and procedures. I suspect it all comes down to personality.

I also think having a sense of humor is critical in order to be effective at almost anything (and a sense of humor is also an indication of intelligence). So, which candidate has a personality conducive to getting stuff done (recognizing there are many types of personalities that can "get stuff done")? Which has demonstrated the best sense of humor?

UPDATE
I write a lot of these posts a few days in advance, then set them to publish one day at a time, at 7am. So I didn't know about the whole "suspend my campaign" decision when I wrote this... nor did I know that this many days into the financial meltdown we still would not have heard from Sen McCain about his ideas on what to do... nor did I know he would threaten to not participate in tonight's debate... 

I think I've figured out who I'm going to vote for.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Movie Recommendations?

Kim is heading out to Texas next week, for the annual MOPS convention. That means it’s time for me to watch some movies, and you get to help nominate titles for the list. 

I’m looking for Guy Movies - you know, action/adventure films and silly/cheesy comedies... the kinds of stuff Kim wouldn’t be interested in. Stuff like Mr. Bean and Transformers. No chick-flicks allowed!

Any suggestions?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Humor Part 3: Practice What You Sell?


OK, this shot requires some explanation. See, I was out with my lovely wife, and we were at one of those kiosks in the mall, when I noticed the mini office setup on the shelf. That's what's in the picture. There's only one thing funny about it, but unless I tell you which company's kiosk it is, you'll never get the joke.

The company? Verizon Wireless. We were getting Kim a new cellphone.

The funny part? Yup, that's a land-line phone sitting on that shelf. Just in case they want to make a call from the mall, I suppose, without using up all their minutes?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Emotional Running

After I finished the half-marathon, I experienced an unusual (for me) emotion, one I don’t have a name for. What do you call the feeling that makes you want to cry at a sappy Hallmark commercial? Is there even a word for that? Or is it just “feeling emotional?” Whatever it is, that’s how I felt for a good 45 minutes or so after finishing the race…

And speaking of emotions, the day before the half-marathon, I was driving along the race route and was suddenly hit with a much easier emotion to identify – fear. Unexpected, unambiguous, plain-old fear, triggered by the sight of the road I’d be running on. The feeling went away quickly as I talked myself down, remembering my successful completion of a 10 mile run just a few days earlier. But wow, I wasn’t expecting that. 

Looking back at it, I think it was just a response to the anticipated pain involved with running 13.1 miles. It turns out, my body thinks pain is scary. And it’s right, ‘cause pain hurts.

But until this weekend, I had no idea distance running was such an emotional experience.