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. 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. is Amazing

As you probably know, I've published a number of books at, 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 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


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


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."


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.