Friday, October 31, 2008


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


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 and - 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


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.


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..."


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"