Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Blatant Blog Stealing

The following is copied-and-pasted from Hugh McLeod's Gaping Void blog, who apparently got it from James O'Neill, who was quoting Microsoft's Ray Ozzie. I don't have anything particularly to add, other than to say YesYesYes (particularly on #1)!

Microsoft's Ray Ozzie made a recent keynote: Here are his salient thoughts:

1. Constraints are empowering
2. Accept threats as resignations
3. Never follow; either leapfrog or stop
4. Diversity means survival
5. Don’t tolerate intolerance
6. Strategy and architecture are inseparable
7. Short and direct earns respect
8. Delaying the inevitable inevitably backfires
9. A re-org will never cure what ails you
10. You needn’t be an #%@hole to get things done

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

DaNoWriTi Update

So, DaNoWriMo (Dan's Novel Writing Month) has morphed into DaNoWriTi - Dan's Novel Writing Time... 'cause there's no way I'm going to finish this puppy in a month.

I've got 6 chapters complete, and it'll probably have about 15. I can do a chapter a day at the most, and am hoping to have some serious writing time this week while the family is in NY... but even then, I'll only hit 12 chapters total by Aug 2nd.

But no fear - the book will be finished (someday). It's very fun, lots of peril and excitement. In fact, I'm going to go off and write some more of it right this minute!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Give It Away...

People sometimes ask me why I give away the PDF of The Simplicity Cycle for free. Well, there are several reasons, many of which I've previously mentioned. And as I was reading the latest issue of Wired, the following quote from George Church jumped out at me. I think it explains it quite well:

"... your biggest problem in life not going to be hiding your stuff so nobody steals it. It's going to be getting anybody to ever use it. Start hiding it and that decreases the probability to almost zero."

I don't expect to make a million bucks with the book. I just wanted to understand something about design, and I hope my little diagram helps other people too. I just want to see people use it.

(and it's been downloaded 800 times now - whoo hoo!)

Friday, July 25, 2008

Faster Better Cheaper

My thesis research has begun in earnest, and I'm having a blast with it. It's a beautiful thing to study something you enjoy and are passionate about. I highly recommend it.

The thesis will basically take some of my AT&L articles from past years and give them a more rigorous academic treatment. Specifically, I'm examining my FIST: Fast, Inexpensive, Simple, Tiny model for innovative technology development. The basic idea is that FIST fosters innovation.

One of the cool things about this topic is NASA basically ran an 8 year, 16 mission experiment on the FIST model in the 90's, only they called it Faster, Better, Cheaper. Note the absence of "simpler" from that title - it's a key omission. As part of my research, I'm currently reading a book by professor Howard McCurdy, titled Faster, Better, Cheaper, and I'm excited to see that Prof. McCurdy's conclusions support my FIST model very nicely! Check out what he has to say:

“Engineers and other experts can reduce the cost of spaceflight and the time necessary to prepare missions for flight. Moreover, they can do so without significant loss of reliability. They can also do so with only modest reductions in spacecraft capability.”

“Reduced capability does not mean the mission is automatically worse. A mission with one-half the capability will be ‘better’ if it performs that mission at one-tenth the price.”

“Additional spending does not always purchase added reliability. It buys complexity. Added complexity creates a point of diminishing returns, which eventually reduced reliability.”

“Proponents of the [Faster, Better, Cheaper] approach created failure when they reduced cost and schedule faster than they lessened complexity.”

Naturally, that is where my Simplicity Cycle comes in... It just might be the missing piece of the Faster, Better, Cheaper equation. I should probably get in touch with this Dr. McCurdy, eh?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Be Kind, Rewind

Kim and I watched Be Kind, Rewind a few nights ago, and I've been meaning to post something about it ever since. What a great movie!

Now, I really dig Jack Black's stuff to begin with. I laughed my head off at Nacho Libre, and (more recently) got a big kick out of Kung Fu Panda (possibly Jack Black's best movie ever). I even enjoyed School of Rock and King Kong (mostly). So naturally, I expected to enjoy Be Kind, Rewind.

What I didn't realize was how much I would identify with it. Not that I have anything at all in common with any of the down-and-out urban characters in the movie, nor am I an aspiring film maker. What I identified with was their desire to create something and share it with the world - flaws and all.

The movie wonderfully represents the concept of imperfectionism, which I have blogged about several times. The 20-minute films Jerry and Mike create in the movie are choppy, silly, imperfect retellings of popular movies. But they each have a certain genuineness, because of the imperfections, not in spite of them.

Somehow, this all ties in with my Simplicity Cycle book, both thematically and logistically. Perfectionism, in life or in art, tends to over-complicate things, while actually reducing the "goodness" or value of the thing. Imperfectionism, in contrast, involves a certain degree of simplification, even to the point of providing less function, less capability.

The Simplicity Cycle book itself, while not a "Sweded" project, is certainly a home-grown little book, full of its own little quirks and imperfections. That's one of the things I love most about it.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

McDiamonds, perhaps??

Does anyone have any idea why a diamond store would have a pair of "10 minute parking only" spots, right by the front door?

I can only assume they don't want you to take too much time when picking out that perfect stone.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Green Pens

Every once in a while, I buy a green pen and use it for everything.

It's not because I particularly like the way the green ink looks (I actually prefer black). But I like the differentness of writing in green. It stands out, it reminds me that there are options beyond the standard black-or-blue. Green doesn't have the jarring, corrective feel of red, and it's much easier to read than yellow (and doesn't have the girly feel of purple - no offense to the artist once again known as Prince).

So, I've got a green pen now. I'm using it to take notes in class, to sign official documents, to make lists, and to otherwise fulfill my writing needs. I'll go back to black in a few weeks, no doubt, but for now, my writing is all green...

Monday, July 21, 2008

Movie Suggestions Please!

It's that time of year again - Kim and the girls are going to be out of town for a little while next week, so I get to watch whatever crazy movies I want to. As I've mentioned before, when she's out of town I tend to go for a combination of reasonably intelligent action (i.e. The Matrix, V For Vendetta) and completely stupid humor (i.e. Mr. Bean's Holiday - which I LOVED!).

So... any suggestions on films I should check out? I've already got 10,000 BC and Semi-Pro on the list. Maybe Transformers too.


As regular readers know, I have a deep interest in simplicity and complexity. I even wrote a book about it. And being a writer, I'm also very interested in words and phrases. Every once in a while, a particular phrase catches my eye, and I just came across one I had to comment on. [note: pardon me for using a preposition to end a sentence with].

Anyway, it happened while I was listening to Pandora the other day. In the "about the music" pane, one of the musicians was praised for their "understated minimalism."

Understated minimalism? Really?

As opposed to overstated minimalism, I suppose? What would that look like? ("Boy, he really overdid that minimalism, didn't he?") Maybe the reviewer was being ironic, by redundantly describing a minimalist approach... or maybe they were just being pretentious. Anyway, I googled "understated minimalism" and doggone if that phrase isn't used quite a lot on the ole interweb.


Friday, July 18, 2008

More Wordles

This one is based on the text of my book The Boomer Sisters Meet Champy. I love how it came out.

And check out this one, based on the text of The Simplicity Cycle. I'm a little bit amazed that they even put complexity and goodness in the right alignment:

Come over to Wordle and check out all my other creations.


My brother sent me this image from Wordle, a fun little website that creates word clouds from blogs or blocks of text. It says that frequency affects prominence, but it seems to emphasize recent stuff too. The Wordle above is from this blog, from a few days ago.

The one below is from the text of my book, The Radical Elements of Radical Success. I like that the most prominent words in that one are People and Can...

Thursday, July 17, 2008


I've decided to run the Air Force Half Marathon in September - I was already running 3 days a week with by buddy Steve, and I figured we could just turn our runs into training.

The longest race I've ever done before was a 10K (6 miles). This will be more than twice as long. Should be interesting!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

R U Special?

Found this quote in Tom Peter's book Reimagine. he's quoting Michael Godhaber, writing in Wired magazine (best magazine in the world today):

"If there is nothing very special about your work, no matter how hard you apply yourself you won't get noticed, and that increasingly means you won't get paid much either."

I think that's something for us all to take to heart - whether we're writers, artists, technologists, managers, or whatever.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

I Wanna Be Sedated...

I think I'm officially getting old - the music of my youth if popping up in all sorts of odd places. I heard Bon Jovi on NPR this afternoon as I drove home... and I heard The Ramones "I Wanna Be Sedated" at Bed, Bath and Beyond.

Of course, the real indicator that I'm getting old is probably that I listen to NPR and shop at Bed, Bath & Beyond...


You can't save time.
(where would you keep it?)

You can't make time.
(from what would you craft it?)

You can't find time.
(where would you look?)

You can't steal time.
(from whom would you take it?)

You can only spend time.
You can only spend time.

Monday, July 14, 2008


We ate some green beans from the garden with dinner last night - they were delicious!

The beans were a late addition to the garden... sort of an afterthought, actually. But I'm so glad I planted them. It's been fun to see how fast they grow, how quickly and how many beans they produce. The girls helped pick them yesterday afternoon, and I let them each keep a few to play with. They thought that was awesome.

I'm actually not ordinarily a big fan of green beans, but these have turned out to be quite tasty.


I've often heard people say "Trust is earned."

I think that's a bunch of crap. If you earn it, it isn't really trust.

Trust is not earned. Trust is given, and then it's either validated or violated. You can quote me on that.

[If you want to read more, I wrote about trust in more depth, in an article titled The Program Manager's Dilemma]

Friday, July 11, 2008

Zuke #1!

It started out looking like this:

And now, it looks like this:

Yup, that's the very first zucchini. Still little, still growing, but certainly identifiable and quite nice looking. I'm so excited that my crazy, largely unweeded little garden experiment is actually bearing fruit (well, bearing veggies).

It's pretty, isn't it?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Stay At Home Servers

I was listening to Pandora and an ad caught my eye - an ad for a book titled Mommy, Why Is There A Server In The House? (subtitled Helping your child understand the stay-at-home server).


I realize it's part of an advertisement for computer servers you can put in your house, but really, it's hilarious. Go read it. You won't regret the 2 minutes it takes.

You can actually buy the book for $6 at Amazon, or just read it online. And you know what? It makes me want to buy a server!

Simplicity Cycle Update

Last week, I mentioned that I was trying out a new cover for my Simplicity Cycle book, and was wondering if I should keep it. I've been mulling it over for some time now, and I really appreciate everyone's inputs, suggestions and designs (thanks, Lisa!).

Through all this process, I've been thinking about what a book cover is - its purpose, its requirements, etc. And it turns out, I came back to where I'd started from. Somewhat to my surprise, I actually like the original cover the best. So does my wife, and I try to make it a point to always trust her judgment completely about everything (not that I always manage to do it, but I try).

The original circle cover is simple, clean and eye-catching. I think the new white experiment was too understated to be effective. It was perhaps over-designed, trying to be too clever for my own good.

Anyway, I'm back to the original cover. I've also slightly revised the manuscript, incorporating some editorial adjustments suggested by a colleague. It's still a free download - stop on by and pick up a copy!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


I love this idea of seedbombs, which I found on the Heavy Petal blog, following a link from Make magazine. I'd never heard the term guerrilla gardening before, but it cracks me up. What a brilliant idea. Apparently it's this whole counter cultural guerrilla gardening movement, which has been going on since the early 70's (or even earlier, no doubt).

My own experiment with a non-radical but decidedly organic vegetable garden in my back yard has really solidified my interest in growing some food and putting land to use. I'm not growing a lot of food, and am not likely to charge off and reclaim an unused piece of urban terrain ('cause there aren't any of those nearby), but maybe when we're in DC, I'll look for an opportunity...

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Computer Fixed

One call to dlink tech support to discuss possible problems with wireless router - 1 hour
One call to HP tech support, to discuss possible problems with the computer - 1 hour
One trip to Best Buy to buy a wireless G USB Network Adaptor - $40

Being able to connect to the internet again - Priceless

Monday, July 7, 2008

Computer Problems!

Arrgh! My computer stopped talking to the wireless router on Friday, and it still isn't working! Fortunately, we had an older computer we were able to set up, so we have some (slow) internet access, but at the moment, we're sort of limping along, computer-wise.

I'm in touch with the tech support at dlink (the router people), and they've been very helpful... but haven't quite solved the problem yet. I think we're getting close - hopefully soon!

Spending all this time troubleshooting the computer put me a bit behind on my Boomer Sisters story - but I did read the first two chapters to the kids at bedtime last night, and they loved it.

Wish me luck!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Vote For Your Favorite!

The mailman just delivered my first copy of The Simplicity Cycle with the new cover. I'm still getting used to it, but I think I like it. For those who missed the first mention of the new cover, that's it on the left.

I particularly like the way the back came out - you can see it below.

But... I'm not entirely sold on the new design. And someone around here cast a vote for the original cover (the big circle at the bottom of this post). So, I figured I'd throw the question out there. Which cover do you like? The original Circle, or the new White cover?

The new one is simpler... but is it better? I'd LOVE to hear your votes.

New Book Idea Now???

Oh no, I just got an idea for a new book. Right, like I need another one of those right now.

I just started writing the fourth Boomer Sisters book, and pledged my sacred honor to finish it by the end of the month (more or less). This new book idea won't nudge current projects onto the back burner, no worries, but it's kinda lousy timing, don't ya think?

In case you're curious, it would be a sort of sequel / companion to my Simplicity Cycle book. The draft title is How To Simplify. It would look at a variety of techniques, tools, methods and approaches to move a design along the simplification slope (download the free Simplicity Cycle PDF at the link above if you don't know what the simplification slope is). I envision it as sort of a practical, somewhat technical, how-to approach, as compared with the more philosophical Simplicity Cycle.

I think it would be fun to write. A quick search of Google and Amazon shows that the title isn't taken! There are plenty of near matches - How To Simplify Your Life, How To Simplify Your Love, How to Simplify Your Finances (and Your Golf and Your Closet and everything else). But I couldn't find one simply titled How To Simplify.

I might be on to something here...

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

DaNoWriMo, Day 1

Yesterday I began writing The Boomer Sisters And The Pirates, or as I affectionately refer to it, B4 (for Book 4).

These books tend to be right around 15 chapters, so to write one in 30 (31?) days, I need to average 1/2 a chapter each day. I managed to get a little more than 1/2 a chapter done, so already, I'm ahead of the game. In fact, I almost finished the chapter - and would have finished it too, if I didn't run out of time and had to go to class.

Starting out a little bit ahead is good, because at some point in July, I will drop behind. But for now, I am a little bit ahead.


Tuesday, July 1, 2008

DaNoWriMo 2008!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Today is the official start of Dan's Novel Writing Month - 2008! (aka DaNoWriMo-08)

That means I'm going to spend the next 31 days working on the first draft of the latest volume in the Boomer Sisters series. This one will be titled The Boomer Sisters And The Pirates! There will be peril! There will be adventure! There will be a lot of caffeine (in me, not in the story).

I don't have a plan for when or where I'm going to write... I haven't even figured out if I'm going to compose on the computer or in a notebook... The outline is only 1/2 done... I've got a lot of research still to do... and I've started writing my thesis, not to mention the other two classes I'm taking.

It's going to be a tough one, folks!

Will I make it? Can I do it? There's only one way to find out!

Watch this space...