Monday, November 16, 2009

Fit is Big!

I had a chance to park my Honda Fit next to a Smart Car - and man, it makes my ride look big!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Enterpreneur?

Apparently, this "enterpreneur" knows how to make $2000 - $4000 per week, which is not enough money to buy a decent-looking sign... but hopefully the apprentice will be able to help with the spelling...

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Preemptive Apology

I found this sign on the front door of a local Dunkin Donuts.

The funny thing is, I couldn't see any reason for it. They weren't under construction. There was plenty of parking. The selection of donuts was fine. All in all, it was a pretty convenient experience.

I suppose it was nice of them to apologize for any unanticipated inconveniences?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Too Early!


You know you've got an early flight when you arrive at the gate before the Starbucks is open.

Man, that ought to be illegal!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Book Update

I just received a review copy of my Skyler book - Bethany read it in about an hour and found a handful of typo's for me. She's a remarkable editor.

I really like how the story came together. It's MUCH shorter than I'd wanted it to be, but when the story ended, it ended. I could go back through and make it longer, but I'm not sure that would make it any better. There are a few scenes I could maybe expand a bit... but I probably won't. It's actually a pretty tight little story if I do say so myself, with each scene moving the action along and developing the characters. Not a lot of extraneous bits.

And I was thinking how cool it would be to turn Skyler into a graphic novel. Anyone know any aspiring artists who might want to take on a project like this?

I also recently read the first Boomer Sisters book (Meet The Boomer Sisters) to Jenna as a bedtime story, and I have to admit, I didn't really like it. There are some good scenes in it, and some good ideas, but the book now strikes me as being deeply flawed. As I've said before, all my books are experiments, and as experiments go, MTBS was successful. But I really should rewrite it some day. We're reading the second book in the series now (The Boomer Sisters Meet Champy), and I'm enjoying it a lot more.

It'll be interesting to see what I think of Skyler 5 years from now...

Monday, October 19, 2009

Castle!

I really enjoy the tv show Castle. I mean, how many shows are there where the main character is a writer? It's a nice twist on the detective / police / murder-mystery show.

Come to think of it, most of the cop/detective shows I like involve main characters who are not actually cops/detectives (Monk - he's a former cop; Psych - he's the son of a cop; Fringe - FBI agent + mad scientist & son; Numbers - the professor is the brother of an FBI agent; The Mentalist - he's a former psychic entertainer). Hmmm - that's a topic for another day, perhaps.

Anyway, I mention Castle because of an interesting literary tie-in. It turns out the fictional author Richard Castle (played by Nathan Fillion) has published a real book: Heat Wave. The book is featured in the show, and is also available at fine bookstores everywhere. I haven't read it yet, and I don't know who actually wrote it, but it looks pretty interesting and is getting some good reviews.

I just think it's cool that they broke the fourth wall in such an original and literal way.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Automatic Lights

One of the coolest things I've done to this house (or really, to any house I've lived in) is install motion-detecting lights in the laundry room.

This way, as soon as you step into the room, carrying a basket of laundry, you don't have to fumble around for a light switch (or, in our case, walk half way through a dark laundry room to the pull chain, while carrying a large basket of laundry). Instead, as soon as you open the door, the light turns on, automagically! And when you leave, a minute or two later, it goes out. The best part is, the fixtures only cost $10 each (I installed two).

I highly recommend this for any laundry room that is moderately large and doesn't receive natural light (i.e. our Basement Of Doom).

Monday, October 5, 2009

Trader Joe's

We've got a Trader Joe's grocery store nearby, and I love it there. It's small, not a huge selection, but they've got really good prices and stuff I can't find anywhere else. Plus it's just a really groovy environment to hang out in.

And one of the most remarkable things is a question I've heard several times at the checkout line. The cashier asks "So, did you stick to your list today?"

Really? Not the usual "Did you find everything you were looking for?" but "Did you stick to your list?"

It seems to me it's in their financial interest for me to NOT stick to my list. They make money if I buy extra stuff that I didn't plan to buy. But instead, they're expressing an interest in actually helping me, and wondering if I bought more than I'd planned to (and this question comes up even on a small trip).

Anyway, I just thought that was a cool question to ask.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Count Down Begins

Today is the first day of the last month in which I will be a Major. On Nov 1st, I'll officially be a Lieutenant Colonel.

Wow, that still feels weird.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Cool new word (well, new to me)

As a writer, I'm a collector of interesting phrases and words. I recently came across an awesome word, in William Gibson's book Spook Country.

The word is psychogeographically. As in, "We didn't travel far physically, but the neighborhood I found myself in was psychogeographically in another country."

As far as I can tell, it has to do with the atmosphere, the ambiance, the feeling of the place. It's about differentiating one area from another, not on the basis of physical geography or distance, but on the human response to an area. So, an affluent neighborhood might be physically close to a run-down part of town, but psychogeographically quite distant.

Not sure if I'll have a chance to actually use that word anywhere, but I think it's a cool concept...

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Kiva Update

I haven't posted any updates on my Kiva loan recently - but wanted to mention that Mrs. Margaret Adedeyinbo has once again made her loan payment on time and in full. Two more months, and the loan will be completely paid off!

Did you know that the average annual income in Nigeria is $1,188? The $950 that my fellow micro-loaners and I put together (in $25 increments) is a hefty chunk of change in that part of the world.

I think Kiva is such a cool and fascinating thing. If you haven't checked them out already, I hope you will...

Monday, September 28, 2009

Slugging & Reading

When I do the "slug-line" commute (i.e. catch a ride in a stranger's car), I find it difficult to read. Not because I get car sick - it just feels rude.

Now, slug etiquette says you're not supposed to talk. You're supposed to allow the driver to concentrate on driving, and let everyone in the car have a little bit of quiet time. Still, I couldn't bring myself to sit down in the front seat and crack open a book. I did it in the backseat once, but even then it felt a bit rude.

At the same time, it seems a waste of the quiet moments to just sit there, staring out the window. I guess I'll get over it as I get more experience, right? We'll see...


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Skyler Update (plus more)

I'm about a third of the way through typing up the manuscript, and I'm estimating about 30,000 words (about the same length as the 3rd Boomer Sisters book). It's fun to relive the story again, re-encountering the early scenes and seeing the usual inadvertent foreshadowing.

I was hoping to write a longer book, but this seems to be how long it took to tell this particular story.

And the craziest thing is, while the ink is barely dry on this one, I've got an idea for a future book - a grown-up book this time - about a guy who inadvertently deletes the internet. Actually, it's more than an idea. I've started writing some of it down. I didn't plan to make the jump to grownup books just yet, particularly with this Skyler book still in progress. But Deleted (as I'm calling it) is sort of taking over, and I'm going to run with it as much as I'm able. It's emerging as a geek comedy, with some adventure and even a love interest for the dude. It'll be interesting to see what develops here...

Monday, September 21, 2009

Simplicity Cycle Downloads

My Simplicity Cycle book has been downloaded over 1400 times. The most recent 200 or so are largely sparked by my little Google AdWords advertisement, as far as I can tell.

It's a free download, so I'm not making any money off this at this point. I really should read Chris Anderson's book Free and find out more about this business model, but his book costs $26, so I'll have to check the library.

Anyway, I'm giving it away for free on purpose. Even charging one dollar would establish a significant barrier to downloading the thing, and I suspect the download count would be closer to 14 than 1400. So, I'm basically giving up $14 in order to get my idea seen by 1400 people.

As I learned from Exposure, the value of an idea increases with familiarity. So, the more people are familiar with the concepts in the Simplicity Cycle, the more valuable the idea is (and the greater the possibility of someone eventually hiring me to do stuff because I'm the Simplicity Cycle guy). Plus it's just fun to think that 1400 people have clicked download and (hopefully) read through the thing. I think that's cool.

Friday, September 18, 2009

License Fail

Another photo from Colorado. I snapped this one at a red light, as this big black hearse pulled up along side me. The thing about the hearse that caught my eye was the license plate. It says "Happy Harry's"


Um, really? "Hey folks, come on down to Happy Harry's Hearses! We've got what you need for hauling around corpses!"

It turns out, Happy Harry's is an auto dealer in Colorado Springs. But if I was them, and I sold a hearse, I think I'd pass on the opportunity to do a little advertising on the back of the thing. But that's just me.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Slugging

I commuted in to work yesterday via "slug line." This is a form of commuting that is unique to the DC area, as far as I can tell.

Slugging is basically structured hitch hiking. There are specific locations where riders wait for drivers to pull up and take you to certain destinations. Some suburban slug lots feed in to multiple destinations in the District, while others only go to one. Riders get free rides, and drivers get enough passengers to qualify to drive on the MUCH faster HOV-3 lanes.

The spot I picked is not far from my house and goes exclusively to the Pentagon. My plan was to catch a shuttle from the Pentagon to my actual office, which is in Rosslyn. It turns out the driver I picked was ultimately heading to Georgetown, which is right near Rosslyn, so she brought me straight there.

And while I said riders wait for drivers, sometimes it's the other way around. When I showed up, two cars were waiting there. The car at the front of the line already had one passenger, and they were just waiting for a third person (me) to show up. So I climbed in and off we went.

Worked out great for me. Much more comfortable than the bus, and faster too. I'm heading out now to do it again.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Qtrs 4517a

During my recent trip to Colorado, I had an opportunity to do something that I hardly ever get to do - visit a house I used to live in.

Specifically, I took a little trip onto the Air Force Academy grounds, and stopped by the place we affectionatelly called Quarters 4517a. No kidding - that was our address. It looked a lot like I remember. Smaller, of course. And it's vacant & under construction, so the grass was dead. The fence we put up for our dog was gone. But there it is - Qtrs 4517a, a place I lived for four years.




The other big change is that two or three of the other houses in this cluster (4517 C through D or E) are gone. Not sure why they knocked down some and added an extension to others (it's not that big of an extension). But, there you go.

Monday, September 7, 2009

AdWords Update

On Aug 26th, I created a little advertising campaign using Google's AdWords. My total budget was $100 because Google offered me a $100 credit to try it out.

I ended up creating two different campaigns on the same budget: one for the Boomer Sisters books, focused on the Champy book and the Pirates book, and one for The Simplicity Cycle.

So far, my advertisements have been posted almost 400,000 times. I've received a total of 255 clicks (94 for the Boomer Sisters books and 161 for the Simplicity Cycle), and used up $48.50 of my $100 credit. So, what's the payout?

Since the Simplicity Cycle is a free download, it's hard to tell exactly what the impact has been there. Lulu tells me it's been downloaded 1328 times, and before starting this campaign, that number was around 1250. So, obviously not everybody who clicks on the ad actually downloads the book, but some of them probably did. So far, nobody's bought the printed copy (not that I expect them to).

As for the Boomer Sisters books, Lulu isn't showing a single sale over this timeframe. Of course, it's possible people have put the book on their wishlist for Christmas or birthday, but none of the 94 clicks have actually ordered the book (yet). That would probably bother me more if I'd actually spent the $48.50, instead of just using the credit.

Still, it's fun to see the number of clicks increase. It's cool to think that people are looking at the books. But once I use up the rest of the credit, I'm probably not going to continue doing this AdWords thing unless there's some correlation between the clicks and actual sales.

Monday, August 31, 2009

USAFA Visit

I had a chance to tool around the AF Academy today. Saw my old house, my high school (Air Academy High), the base chapel... very fun visit.

I stopped by the military clothing sales picked up a couple sets of my new Master Space Badge, complete with star and wreath (pictured above).

I also picked up... some silver oak leaves. I won't actually be able to wear them until 1 Nov, but I figured that's not too far away. It felt very strange to buy them. I'm sure it'll feel even weirder to put them on. Whew!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Quick AdWords Update

I'm up to 21 clicks now, and 28,000 impressions.

The most effective keywords seem to be pirates and mystery.

More to follow...

Friday, August 28, 2009

Three Clicks!

So I started a little ad campaign for The Boomer Sisters Meet Champy, using Google's AdWords. They offered me a free $100 credit to get things started, so I figured I'd give it a try.

On the first day, my ad got over 9800 impressions (showings), and three clicks.

How cool is that? Almost ten thousand people saw the ad, and three people clicked on it. Total cost so far: 23 cents. I still have $99.77 of my credit left. Ok, I also had to pay $5 to start the account and activate my credit. But still, that's not bad.

BTW, the ad says:

Champ Book for Kids
Adventure & Mystery
On Lake Champlain

It'll be interesting to see if this leads to someone actually buying the book!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Amazon

Apparently, all my books are available at Amazon.com now. That's pretty cool!

It used to be that authors would have to set up special distribution options with Lulu to get stuff on Amazon. I think there used to even be a fee involved. But cool, now it's all there already.

And Lulu used to charge authors for an ISBN number. Now I can get that for free too. Pretty sweet!

(I still prefer it when people buy direct from Lulu, cause I get to keep more of the royalties, but hey, a sold book is a sold book)

The weirdest thing? There's a used copy of Meet The Boomer Sisters available at Amazon too. You know you've arrived as an author when used copies start showing up, right?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Exciting New Outage!

I got an email the other day with a pretty interesting subject line. I removed the name of the system below, but otherwise left the rest unchanged. It said:

Exciting New System Changes...Coming 27 Aug 09 (System Outage)!

Wow, an outage! What a great new feature! What will they think of next?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Book Update

The Helper In The Sun is coming along nicely. It just transitioned into the second phase of the story, in which our hero (Skyler) finds herself in an entirely different part of the Sun than the part she originally encountered.

I won't spoil anything by giving details or anything, but I will say this is a very different kind of environment to write about. The type & style of action is going to change too. I'm looking forward to it... and I'm also discovering some forshadowing & imagery that wasn't deliberate, but is nearly undeniable now that I see it. Funny how that happens.

As for the writing process itself, I started out writing directly on the laptop, but after about 5 pages, I returned to my beloved spiral notebooks. Writing the story by hand and then typing it basically forces a rewrite - the typing process ends up being much more than a mere transcription.

So, this means I probably won't get around to posting many excerpts until the full story is written (unless I decide to start doing some more typing before the first draft is done). Or maybe I'll occasionally type up a page or two and put it here. We'll see...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Latest article

Hey everyone!

My latest Defense AT&L article is online now. It's titled The Courage Imperative, and you definitely don't need a technical degree to understand it. :)

Writing Update

Holy cow I'm having fun with this new book project.

As I previously mentioned, it's a very different kind of thing from The Boomer Sisters books. It's still an adventure, with a bit of mystery, but it's all takes place in a fantasy world, full of strange creatures and much danger.

I find that I can fill about four notebook pages in an hour, before running out of words. I'm going to go do that now.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Magnetic Poetry

A while back, I came into possession of a little box of words on magnets - a magnetic poetry kit. On campus, I found a bathroom stall with metal dividing walls and covered the back of the door with words. It was fun to periodically stop by and see what kind of poetry people created.

Then someone took the magnets away. I assume they were thrown in the trash.

So I put up another set. A few days later, they were gone too. But I still had plenty left.

Now that I'm in a new position, I covered the fridge at my new office, and people have so far not thrown them away. In fact, there's some pretty fun stuff there:



Friday, August 14, 2009

MPG vs GPW

These days, most of my commute is by bus. I only drive about a mile or two to the bus stop, and it's at a relatively low speed, with plenty of stop & go.

So, my gas mileage isn't as good as it is on a highway. It's actually taken a bit of a dive. But, while my MPG is getting worse, my Gallons Per Week is fantastic. I hardly ever have to go to the gas station. And that's the real point, isn't it?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

I (don't) Got The Power!

Every move, something goes missing. This is one of the factors contributing to the truism of military life that says "three moves is equivalent to a fire."

This time, we seem to have lost the charging station and spare battery for my cordless drill... along with the charger cord for our cordless weed eater. I spent quite a while looking for them both, but no luck (yet). So far, both devices have a bit of juice left, but it won't be long before they're stone cold dead.

The one hopeful aspect of this absence is that both chargers were in roughly the same place in our Ohio house (the garage). So maybe they're still tucked away in a secret box somewhere. The weedeater charger is small enough that it could conceivably have been accidentally thrown away, but my goodness, the battery and charging station for the drill is pretty much impossible to overlook. So, I'm cautiously optimistic that they're still around here, somewhere.

I'm just running out of places to look, and like I said, the charges are running down...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

This Morning...

There are times when a brutally hot and humid day, followed by an epic midnight thunderstorm, will conspire to create a graceful morning that is exquisitely crisp, as if the weather is apologizing for its previous rudeness.

This is not one of those times.

Yesterday was indeed brutal, and last night's thunderstorm epic, but this morning was no apology.

At 5:45, I stepped outside to go for a run across the surface of Venus. The morning air was trying to be cool, like a balding, fat, 53 year old man in a Member's Only jacket, driving across campus in a t-top Camaro and blasting Barry Manilow's 1978 disco hit, Copacabana, while winking at the girls going past. OK, it wasn't quite as cool as that.

Tiny invisible fairies stretched their coarsest woolen gossamer across my path, lovingly wrapping me in a warm, damp embrace and helpfully thickening the air I'd hoped to breath. It was quite an interesting run.

My new goal for the day: stop sweating at some point before bed.

Monday, August 10, 2009

"Mowing"

This weekend, I spent about 30 minutes "mowing" the grass, using my uber-green eco-nerd reel mower.

Note, that's "reel" mower, not "real" mower. If it was a real mower, it would probably clip the long grasses, rather than just press them down a bit.

Fortunately, my "lawn" (which consists largely of a strange, low-growing green plant that is not grass) doesn't really do much of what you'd call "growing." Get this: the last time I mowed was July 6th. I mowed this weekend more out of a sense of duty rather than because the grass (such as it is) was actually getting long.

That's really good, because the end result of my mowing didn't look all that different from what it looked like before I began.

So, my earlier post about figuring out time does get balanced out a bit by the fact that I'm not spending 90 minutes every Saturday mowing the lawn. I kinda dig that.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Time

I got really spoiled during my last assignment. Sure, being a full-time student had its own time pressures, with assignments due and lectures to attend... but I was still able to get to the gym on a regular basis, get some writing done, and spend time with the fam.

These days I'm struggling to figure out how to get to the gym - partly because there isn't a gym to get to. I could pay money for a membership at the Pentagon gym, but that's a 15-min shuttlebus ride each way (plus time waiting for the bus to show up), and I'm just not sure how often I'd be able to carve out 90+ minutes during the day for a workout.

My best bet is probably to get up and run in the morning, before work, but I'm already leaving the house at 6:30 am as it is. I don't know how much less sleep I can manage. Working out after work isn't a very attractive option either - mostly 'cause it means getting home later, and partly 'cause I'm usually kinda tired by the end of the day. Sigh. I'll figure it out, but at the moment I'm a bit stumped.

Also, early morning has always been my writing time. Saturday mornings like today are the best. I got up for a run and still had an hour or so to write before everyone else was awake. But now that I'm working on my new book, time for working out gets rarer and rarer.

We'll see how it goes...

Saturday, August 1, 2009

It's started...

Well, I've started writing my book for this year: The Helper In The Sun.

I'm probably not going to do much posting on this blog for a while, preferring instead to put updates on Facebook and focusing most of my writing on the book.

But I really like how it's coming together so far. It's going to be quite a different thing than the Boomer Sisters books. More grown-up. A bit more serious, and definitely more challenging. I can't wait to see how it comes out.

While I've aimed to do the previous books in 30 days, I'm giving myself a bit more time on this one. I still plan to have it done by Christmas, and I still plan to write at a frantic pace, but I know I won't be done by Sept 1st.

I'll keep you all posted...

Friday, July 31, 2009

You know what to do...

The only thing you can do when faced with a situation like this is... take a picture of it and post it on a blog.

(Thanks to my buddy Pete who sent me this shot of the door in front of the Griffith Observatory in L.A.)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Random Art - Crystal City

I found these 10 panels near a little parking lot in the colorfully named Crystal City, VA. I love public art, particularly in areas where it's largely unnecessary and unexpected. These panels are sort of hidden, around the back side of a building, facing a relatively small parking lot.

Good stuff!

Monday, July 27, 2009

WWII Memorial

Wow, it was hot when we went into DC last week (isn't it always?), but I must say, the WWII memorial is a pretty impressive sight.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Found Art

Came across this sign in the parking garage of the Franconia-Springfield metro stop. It just struck me as artistic somehow. I wonder what it means...

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Yum?

Hey kids, who wants to pretend to have lunch?

(Photo taken in the basement of the American History Museum - and yeah, I cheated a little by leaving out the left-pointing arrow that's next to the word Cafeteria).

Monday, July 20, 2009

Strange New Habit

I've developed a new habit since moving to Virginia. I probably shouldn't mention it on a forum like a blog, but I feel the need to confess that I've started... reading a newspaper.

I know, I know, in the 21st century, nobody reads newspapers anymore. The whole paradigm of yesterday's news printed on dead trees is, like, so 1900's. But, the Washington Post was offering a pretty good deal if you signed up for daily delivery, so we did. Our plan was to just get the Sunday paper, but now we're getting one practically every day.

Some mornings I don't get around to opening it (preferring instead to, say, write a blog post over breakfast). But some mornings I do read it, and you know what? I like it...

Friday, July 17, 2009

Replacing the van...

Well, we're thinking about replacing our nearly 10-year-old van. We'd planned to keep it for a bit longer, but the new "cash for clunkers" program makes it a bit more appealing to do it before November, instead of waiting until next summer. It's only worth about $2500 as a trade-in, and the CARS program is offering $4500 for it. That's not nothin'.

Plus, the poor thing is getting loud, despite the new muffler we put on last year. Just had it checked out and the mechanic said there's nothing wrong with it. It's just loud... and old...

So, any suggestions on a good replacement?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

New Book Starting Soon!

As I’ve mentioned in a few places, I’m writing a non-Boomer Sisters book this year. I’ve started doing some plot outlining and some character sketches, and the current title is The Helper In The Sun.

I’ve generally got the plot & plan together, in a big-picture sort of way, although at the moment there’s a pretty critical detail I haven’t figured out yet (specifically, how the hero will defeat the villain). It’s going to be a fun book, and hopefully a longer book than what I’ve written for the previous four years (at Beth’s request – she said she likes chunky books).

My plan is to start writing in earnest on Aug 1st. We’ll see how it goes!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Riding The Bus

I’m getting the hang of commuting via metrobus. I’ve got a good bus stop not too far from my house, I’m learning that the commuter parking lots near that stop get filled up later in the morning, and I’m even starting to recognize some faces. It’s nice that I get to do some reading (I’m almost through Hemmingway’s The Sun Also Rises). But one thing I’m not used to yet is how much the bus moves.

I don’t mean in a forward direction. I’m talking about the side-to-side & up-and-down movement. The bumping and swaying. Frankly, I don’t like it. For one, it makes writing virtually impossible, which is pretty frustrating for a guy like me. It makes reading a bit difficult, but doable. I suppose I’ll get used to it over time, but for now, it’s pretty distracting.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Cellphone Holders

I've been burning through cellphone holders like crazy lately. Car seatbelts seem to be the main antagonist, but even when I'm just trying to get to the phone, I somehow manage to bust, tear or otherwise render-useless the holster/holder/clip I'm using. The fact that my new uniform's belt is practically a foot wide probably doesn't help either.

The three below are the most recent losses:




Of course, I only spent like $5 on each one, so I guess I shouldn't expect too much. And finally, at the urging of my lovely and wise wife, I plunked down a whole $15 on a tough, nylon/canvas looking thing, with a hefty metal clip. We'll see how long this one lasts...

Monday, July 13, 2009

Note To Self: Hire New Spell Checker

Snapped this shot of a sign advertising "Hot Hands-2," which apparently "works great for all activates."

I wonder if I could use it for different activites too...

Friday, July 10, 2009

Yellow Springs, OH


I took this shot of the top of a church in Yellow Springs, OH, on our last wonderful visit to this fantastic little town. I just liked the way the lines and levels intersected, and the sky was indeed a gorgeous blue that day.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Packaging Wisdom

This little note on the inside of a Reeses peanut butter cup package made me crack up... and I was struck by the opportunity the Reeses people recognized.

Rather than leave the little cardboard tray blank, they took a moment to offer a funny, memorable invitation to buy more.

Yum (and smart).

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Tiny Frog!

We found the cutest little frog in the yard of our new house. I mean seriously, this thing is tiny. I can't explain how anyone managed to see it hopping around in the grass that day.

I also can't explain the fact that BOTH my daughters held the little guy in their hands (I figured at least one of them would back out).

It got me thinking about all the interesting-but-unseen stuff that's all around us, all the time. No doubt this isn't the only frog in the yard (but we haven't seen another yet). No doubt this isn't the only yard that has a frog like this. But really, how often do we see these little frogs?

It just goes to reinforce my suspicion that perception is not reality. Perception isn't even really perception. There's so much more going on out there, right under our noses, that we completely fail to see.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Tukk Sitta @mii haus

Tukk Sitta is a self-described "virtual art intervention" who inserts himself into people's photos on Facebook, usually with a note like "ii hadd funn @uur haus." I friended him a while back, and was pleasantly surprised to see what he did with this shot.


Aren't these internets fun?

Monday, July 6, 2009

Wha?

While riding a shuttle bus from one location to another, I glanced down below the window to find this sticker.

Does anyone have any idea what it's trying to say?

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Rrrrgg!

I'd lined up a handful of blog posts for this past week, and I just noticed that NONE OF THEM POSTED!

Yup, I went in to my blogger dashboard to add a few posts for next week, and there they all were, sitting in the stack. The funny thing is - they all said "Scheduled" for dates that had already occurred.

I don't know what happened.

Anyway, I've rescheduled them for this coming week. I'll try to keep a closer eye and make sure they actually show up ('cause some of 'em are kinda cool!)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Sunrise, Sunset - Back On Schedule!

As I previously mentioned, Dayton OH is on the western edge of the Eastern Time Zone. In fact, it's possible to drive due south from Dayton and hit some parts of Tennessee and Kentucky (and probably Alabama and Florida) that are in the Central Time Zone.

That means the sunrises and sunsets are quite a bit later in Dayton than in Springfield. I really appreciate having earlier sunrises and sunsets, now that we're back on the eastern side of the Eastern Time Zone. I definitely notice the difference.

And the funny thing is, despite the late sunrise in Ohio, the kids school started at 7:45 (before sunrise for some days in December!). Here in Virginia, school will start at... 9am!

Friday, June 26, 2009

KIVA Update

I just received the July payment on the microloan I made to Margaret Adedeyinbo in Nigeria via Kiva.org. She's right on schedule, paying $118.75 as expected ($3.12 of which goes to pay me back).

She's repaid 38% of the loan, and it appears her business selling frozen foods is going well.

Note: KIVA recently started making small loans in the US as well as overseas. They were featured on the nightly news a few weeks back. Check them out - and if you've got an extra $25 laying around, I hope you'll consider making a microloan of your own!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Moving Is Disorienting

Whew, we're in our new house in VA, and the dust is starting to settle (only starting, mind you).

We've got the bedrooms and kitchen all put together, and we went grocery shopping. But the office, guest room, living room and basement all still have a long ways to go before they're really fit for habitation. Man, this moving thing is tiring!

It's also disorienting. I find myself in a bit of a fog, not quite sure what day it is. I was writing up a storm before I left Ohio. But ever since the packers showed up, I haven't had the mental leisure to think about very much that didn't involve cardboard, maps or fast food.

And while we really like the house we're in now, we're discovering all sorts of quirks about it. Like how there's no doorbell (that's actually alright), or there's no electric outlet in the downstairs bathroom (kind of a bummer). Still figuring out how to work the thermostat (it was pretty warm this morning). You know, usual new house stuff.

And we're adjusting to some less-than-desirable aspects of the new digs. Like, the TV is in the basement, where it's a bit damp feeling, despite the nearly constant hum of the dehumidifier. And access to the back yard for the dog is also through the basement. So, we'll be walking lots of steps. But we'll get used to it, I'm sure.

On the plus side, the screened-in porch off the dining room is fantastic. The backyard is a mini forest, so it's gloriously shady and cool. The neighborhood is full of kids, and they love to hang out in the tree fort in our back yard. Definitely helps smooth the transition for our kids.

All in all, the transition is going about as smoothly as possible. We've been really fortunate. But - no surprise here - it'll be a little while still before things feel normal.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Economic Advice

Wow, I just came across a great public service video at Hulu. It stars Steve Martin and shows exactly what American consumers should do in times like these, which popular economist Ze Frank calls "hard times."

For that matter, the advice in the Steve Martin video applies to good times as well. Definitely worth the 3 minutes to watch it.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Guy #3

Came across this video on Seth Godin's blog - definitely a thought provoking scene.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Obama in Egypt

OK, I know this is a bit late, internet-wise, but I'm still cracking up about Obama's trip to Egypt on the 4th. Specifically, the part where he sees this engraved image of a guy with big ears and he says "Hey, that looks like me!"

I saw it on the news that night and was struck by how spontaneous and genuine his reaction seemed. Maybe it was planned and scripted, I don't know, but I doubt it (what would be the point?). I'm pretty sure it was his honest, off-the-cuff reaction to the face.

There's just something very right and cool about a president who reacts like that to an historical artifact.

And if you want to see a mathematical examination of the ET conspiracy behind Mr. Obama and the pyramids, check out the UFO ET Blog. It's all true, I'm sure!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Social Media Copying Social Media

OK, so I'm doing more stuff with Twitter lately. And Facebook. And blogs. And I'm coming across a phenomenon that I find a bit irritating - people posting the same stuff on Twitter and Facebook.

Um, why?

Do I really need to see the same link to the same article in both places? Maybe I should just use one (if I had to pick: Facebook). But really, what's with that? Why not have original content in each - and if you don't have original stuff for each one, do you really need both?

I suppose people have different followers / connections in different areas. But really, a little less redundancy would be nice. A little less redundancy would be nice. ;)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Multiblogging

Since starting this blog, I've had several phases where I thought I wouldn't keep up with the blogging. I never quite managed to stop.

But, now that I'm doing Rogue Project Leader in earnest, I find this blog moving to the back burner. And with the upcoming move, that's a trend that's likely to continue.

I'm not saying this blog will completely go silent, but it probably won't have the regularity of 7 am posts, Monday through Friday. And I write that line knowing there's a real possibility I'll blog here a lot more than I think I will.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

What I'll Miss...

When we move to VA in a few weeks, I think one of the things I'll miss most about Ohio (aside from having so much free time!) is the local NPR station, WYSO.

Specifically, I'll miss the Excursions radio show, hosted by Niki Dakota. This show has introduced me to so much cool music. Without them, I doubt I ever would have heard of The Real Tuesday Weld (I have 3 RTW CD's now), The Pierces, The Transglobal Underground's Drinking in Gomorroah, or Taller Children, by Elizabeth and the Catapult.

Yes, I'll still have Pandora, and that's introduced me to some cool new music (I think that's where I found Azure Ray). But it's not the same as hearing Niki Dakota talk about this stuff.

I know they stream the station live online, but I'm pretty sure streaming music is going to be blocked at my new office location.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Soul Pancake

Rainn Wilson (Dwight from The Office) has a pretty amazing website called Soul Pancake. It's basically a blog / discussion area for people to talk about spirituality, creativity and, um, pancakes. He has a short introductory video you can see here, and let me just say, I can't imagine Dwight ever doing anything like this.

Or maybe I can.

Anyway, check it out and join in the conversation...

Monday, June 8, 2009

Hitler as Media Mogul

I got tipped off to this video via John Perry Barlow's twitter feed. Whether you're interested in digital media rights & the issues of copyright protection in the digital age or not, this is a pretty darn funny bit of satire. 

Friday, June 5, 2009

Waterboarding

Advocates of waterboarding like to imply that anyone who opposes the use of "enhanced interrogation techniques" isn't really interested in keeping America safe. This point of view conveniently overlooks the fact that the US Military refused to do waterboarding.

The U.S. Army strictly prohibits the use of waterboarding during intelligence investigations by any of its members. It is specifically prohibited by Field Manual 2-22.3 and is not a sanctioned interrogation technique in any training manual or any instructions to soldiers in the field,” the statement says. (source)

Anyone want to suggest the Army doesn't care about national defense or isn't interested in gaining actionable intelligence? 

I think the use of waterboarding is really a failure of imagination. It's just one more example of failing to distinguish between the need to do something and the need to do this. There were clearly several viable alternatives...

Thursday, June 4, 2009

X-4 experimental aircraft

I really like the lines and the look of the X-4. Wikipedia tells me "its primary importance involved proving a negative, in that a swept-wing semi-tailless design was not suitable for speeds near Mach 1," but I like the way it looks and I like what they tried to do with it.

I'm sort of a sucker for experimental aircraft anyway. The fact that this one was so small, so inexpensive and developed so quickly just endears it to me even more. I'd say it successfully disproved the idea of a semi-tailless design, but even if it was a failure, it was solidly in the "optimal failure" category.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

CAUTION - LARGE PEOPLE

Found this sign on the staircase leading up to one of the former "Air Force One" aircraft, at the USAF museum. I love the bluntness and the way it doesn't mess around.

Hey, if you're large, look out. Tight spaces ahead.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Hmmm...

I'm not sure how I feel about working in a place where there are signs labeled "How To Respond When An Active Shooter Is In Your Vicinity."

And gosh, any chance the people who make these signs could make them a bit more accessible and easier to read as I run past, dodging bullets? Because frankly most of us are probly not interested in reading the whole sign now, and we won't have the time to read it if the need ever arose...

Monday, June 1, 2009

Lincoln Memorial

The Lincoln Memorial is one of my favorite spots on the National Mall. I took this shot when I had a little free time in the afternoon durning a recent trip to DC (not the house-hunting trip - we didn't have much free time then).

Friday, May 29, 2009

Familiar Surroundings


The weirdest thing - I was in a hotel the other day and the little clock radio by the bed WAS THE EXACT SAME CLOCK RADIO AS I HAVE AT HOME!

How cool is that? I immediately knew how to set it, and was confident that I'd set it correctly. It was my own little piece of home away from home.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Patriotic Pizza

When I was in DC a few weeks ago, we ordered pizza for lunch. I had to snap a picture of the "Secretary of Taste" logo on the pizza box. Only in DC!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

I'm back!

Oops - I didn't mean to drop this blog so suddenly and with so little fanfare. The truth is, I thought I had lined up posts to take it through the end of the week.

For those who haven't heard, I started a new blog. It's sort of a new version of an old project - some of you may remember my 2005-2006 webzine, Rogue Project Leader. Well, this new blog is RPL version 2.0.

Anyway, that's where a bunch of my blog-related brainpower has been going. That, plus trying to sell a house in Ohio, find a place to live in Virginia, keep up with the kids, spend time with my lovely and amazing wife... plus I've got some pretty cool writing projects going on at work. 

AND... as some attentive readers of my Facebook account may have noticed, I'm not planning to write a Boomer Sisters book this year. Don't worry, I'm still going to write a book, but it's going to be a bit different. This one will be the first in a two-part series (I plan to write part 2 in 2010). The working title is The Helper In The Sun, and it's about a little girl named Skyler who goes on a fantastic adventure to, well, the Sun.  Book two is titled The Moon Friend, and you can guess where she goes in that one. So that's been taking up some pages in my little brown Field Notes book.

I've been working on the idea for these two books for several years. I'm excited to finally start putting pen to paper and writing the actual words. I plan to start it in August.

I hope this long post makes up for the past few days' silence!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Meatcards!

I recently came across a particularly cool form of business cards: Meat Cards.


Yes, that's a business card, printed on a piece of beef jerky. And when I say "printed," I mean engraved with a laser.

As the MeatCards.com website explains:

THESE business cards have two ingredients: MEAT AND LASERS.

MEAT CARDS do not fit in a Rolodex, because their deliciousness CANNOT BE CONTAINED in a Rolodex.

I so totally want to order some.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Danger - Experimental

I loved hanging out in the experimental aircraft hangar at the AF museum. I kept thinking "yes, these are my people" (even though I've never done experimental aircraft work, I do tend to be on the experimental side of technology). That's where the excitement and challenge and opportunity seems to be.

I think this warning sign just about says it all.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Experimental Aircraft?

In the "What's That Doing Here?" category, I snapped this photo of a truck inspired by a covered wagon (yes, the side panels are even made of wood) in the Air Force Museum's Experimental Aircraft hangar... Yup, right alongside all the high-tech, advanced fighter jets.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

WARNING!

I'm glad they warned me. I tightened my belt just to be extra safe.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Freedom Of Speech

Long time readers of this blog might recall the "flower pot" pictures I posted last year (it's a toilet in someone's front lawn, with fake flowers in the bowl).

Well, the people who live in the flower pot toilet house periodically drag out this sign to the edge of the road. I have lots of questions, but I haven't called the number yet.

It's a hand painted sign. It must have taken quite a long time to make. I'm not quite sure if the sign's author was inadvertently on the receiving end of stolen property, or had some property stolen and sold by the thief, or what...

Like I said, I have questions. Not sure I want to call the number tho...

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Microfinance Loan Update

Just got a note from the nice people at Kiva.org, letting me know they received this month's payment on the microfinance loan I contributed to. I have now received back $6.25 of the $25 I loaned out (my $25 was combined with funds from several other lenders, for a total of $950).

I mentioned last month that Mrs. Adedeyinbo was only able to pay 97% of her first monthly payment ($115 instead of $118, which came to $3.03 for me). Well, this month she paid $122, completely making up the shortfall from the first month.

As I said last month, I wasn't worried about the shortfall because a) 97% is pretty close to 100 and b) she had several months ahead to make up the $3 shortfall. It seems my confidence in her ability to repay the loan was justified. Of course, we'll see how things go between now and December, when the loan is supposed to be paid in full. I'm optimistic things will work out as planned.

I'll keep you posted.

(Check out Kiva.org if you're interested in learning more about microfinance or making a small loan to an entrepreneur yourself).

Friday, May 15, 2009

Planes With Teeth

I love planes with teeth. I think the military should paint teeth on as many planes as possible. I'm also a fan of nose art in general, a practice that has sadly fallen out of favor.

I took these shots at the AF Museum's experimental aircraft hanger.



OK, this next one is actually not a plane (it's some kind of missile), but it does have teeth:

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Good Advice

I had the opportunity to bang around the AF Museum's Experimental Aircraft hanger last week. Many of the aircraft and various pieces of equipment have interesting warnings, and this one in particular kinda jumped out at me:


I always try to avoid operating in an explosive atmosphere, but it's good to be reminded every once in a while.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Keeping It In Perspective

I recently read a National Geographic article about variations in solar output. Apparently there's been an unexpected /unexplained lull in solar activity lately. We're not quite sure how long it will last or what that will do to the Earth's temperature. Scientists were very careful to point out that this would not necessarily solve the global warming problem. In fact, they seemed quite sure it wouldn't help much, despite headlines hinting at a "little ice age."

Now, I'm what you would call not a global warming skeptic. I don't think the evidence for mankind's role in planetary heating is irrefutable, but it seems strong and the scientific consensus is quite firm. But that's not what this post is about (and please, let's don't debate humanity's role in global warming in the comments today). I just want to take a look at what one of the scientists said.

Mike Lockwood, a solar terrestrial physicist at the University of Southampton in the U.K, explained that a small dip in solar output is not as significant as a large increase in CO2 production. He was quoted as saying:

"I think you have to bear in mind that the CO2 is a good 50 to 60 percent higher than normal, whereas the decline in solar output is a few hundredths of one percent down. I think that helps keep it in perspective."

Um, no it doesn’t. A small percentage of a large number might be much larger than a large percentage of a small number. For example: one hundredth of one percent of 100,000 is 10, but 50 percent of 1 is only .5. 

So, if the sun's huge output is decreased by a tiny fraction, that could theoretically mean the amount of heat it is not sending our way could equal or exceed the extra amount of heat being retained by increases in greenhouse gases. It might be sending 10 fewer units of heat our way, while the increased amount of C02 in the atmosphere is saving an extra 0.5 units. That's a net loss of 9.5, for those of you keeping score at home. Keep in mind, these numbers are notional - I'm just trying to make the point that his explanation doesn't "keep it in perspective" the way he thinks it does. And it bugs me that he thinks it does.

I suspect Dr. Lockwood actually did the math before he concluded that the solar lull's affect does not balance out the impact of all that extra C02. He's a solar terrestrial physicist, for goodness sake. Those guys aren't shy about doing the math. I just wish his explanation of how these two quantities relate to each other was (with all due respect) a little more correct.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Don't Drink The Water!

What does it mean when a hotel gives you free high-speed internet access but puts little signs on bottles of water in the room that say "A $5 charge will be added to your bill upon consumption."

Huh...

Jobs

One of my favorite parts of Inside The Actor's Studio is when the host, James Lipton, asks his final series of questions. The most intriguing questions (aside from "What's your favorite swear word?") are "What profession, other than your own, would you most like to try?" and the follow-up, "What profession would you not want to try?"

I have several jobs in each category. Jobs I would love to do include graffiti artist, novelist, monastic mystic and Amish farmer.

Jobs I would hate to do include anything related to dentistry, being a blues musician (I'm just too doggone lucky - and unmusical), and any job involving working on the night shift.

How about you?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Failure Is Inevitable

The latest issue of everyone's favorite military technology & logistic magazine is online now and ready for your reading enjoyment!

Check out my two contributions to this issue: Failure Is Inevitable and another fun 13 Theta comic (that's right, it's more than TWICE as good as 6-Sigma).  

What's Next?

Let's see, in recent months we've seen the auto industry collapse, the financial system collapse, we're still in the middle of two wars. As if that wasn't enough, we've had pirate attacks for the first time in a couple hundred years. Then we had the threat of a pandemic flu.

What's next? My prediction: in the next few months, the entire state of California will get rocked by a huge earthquake and fall into the Pacific. 

Then, space aliens will attack.

Just watch. It's gonna happen.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Touch Me!

I came across this computer terminal in the Chicago airport the other day. It said:


They could have designed it to say "Click Here To Start" or "Press To Begin." Using the word touch is much more engaging. And of course what really clinched it is the word me. It's not just a dumb terminal. It's something with an identity. It's a me, not an it.

Did I? How could I not...?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Follow These Instructions

In the "Unfortunate Use of Punctuation" category, the next nominee is this sign that provides instructions on what to do in the case of some sort of emergency. 

Apparently, instead ot touching strange objects, we should either panic or run!!! The choice is yours...

And who knows what the rest of the sign says - it's a rather lengthy set of instructions, in rather small type. I'm sure that I'd take the time to read it if necessary, in between touching all those strange objects - I mean, in between panicking and running.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Dark Knight

I saw the latest Batman movie (Dark Knight) the other day - I know, I know, I'm terribly late in getting around to it. As it turns out, despite reallyreallyreallyreally wanting to like the film, I didn't. It was particularly disappointing since I loved Batman Begins, the previous entry in the franchise. 

It's not that the movie wasn't well done. What I disliked was that it wasn't really Batman. Even more specifically (and perhaps heretically), it wasn't really the Joker. No offense to the late Mr. Ledger.

It seemed to me that this film took excessive liberties with some beloved characters (if a murderous psychopath like the Joker can be called beloved). So much so that, while the acting and writing and special effects and everthing was fine, I think the movie would have been better if the two adversaries were called something other than Batman and the Joker. 

For example, in the real Batman universe, the Joker has a backstory, albeit a sometimes murky one. His maniacal grin has never been a collection of scars, as it is in this film. His white skin and green hair have generally been the result of exposure to chemicals. This Joker's resemblance to the comic book character was primarily cosmetic - no pun intended. Also absent was the twisted and dark humor... which is a big part of what makes the Joker the Joker. Ledger's twitchy tongue was creepy and entrancing... but seemed somehow out of place when associated with the character I know as the Joker. But maybe that's just me.

I had much the same reaction to Quantum of Solace. It was an enjoyable movie, but I would have enjoyed it more if it wasn't pretending to be a Bond movie. The James Bond I know is immaculately groomed and never sweats. He's funny, unflappable and has cool gadgets. The QofS Bond was covered in dirt and sweat the entire movie, seemed largely devoid of humor, and apparently misplaced the majority of his cool spy gear. 

There's nothing wrong with reimagining characters and retelling old stories. But the retelling needs to be true to the essence of the original, and these two films just weren't.

I realize this is a purely personal opinion. I'm not saying that either movie was bad, and I'm not opposed to reimagining classic characters and stories. But in these two cases, the changes just didn't work for me. Kinda makes me nervous about seeing Wolverine and the new Star Trek movies...

(Having said all that, I loved Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman in Dark Knight.)

Also - not to change the subject, but what's with all the origin movies lately? I mean, Batman Begins was an origin story, so was Casino Royale, so is Wolverine, so is the new Star Trek... Huh. That's an interesting pattern - all these franchises going back to the beginning. I wonder what that's about.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Quotes from Zeno's Paradox, by Mazur

Here are a few excerpts from Zeno's Paradox. I don't know what they all mean, but they sound pretty cool:

Parmenides felt that we only perceive change through reason.

A notion of next point is meaningless in the geometry of the real- (or even the rational-) number line... What is the next number after pi?

...the apparently smooth flow of time. But we must regard that smoothness as an assumption rather than the truth.

Intuition is fine for those with good intuition.

The eighteen months Newton spent in isolation at the end of London's Great Plague were the richest months of his creative imagination.

In 1905, he [Einstein] still did not have a PhD, but he published three papers that rocked the foundations of Newtonian science.

[Einstein] wrote about the table in his room, suggesting that it was "merely a complex of sensation" to which he assigns a concept and name: "...one is in danger of being mislead by the illusion that the 'real' of our daily experience 'exists really.'"

Monday, May 4, 2009

Zeno's Paradox

I seem to be on a finishing books streak - in the past few weeks, I've managed to finish 4 (that's right, four!) books. Yup - read the whole thing, all by my own self. I'm such a big boy.

This really is something of an anomaly for me. I'm usually in the middle of reading five or six books at any given time, and actually getting to the last page of any of them is a rare event. But I managed to plug through The Peter Principle, Outliers, The Peacekeepers and Zeno's Paradox. 

But today I'm writing about a book titled Zeno's Paradox (by Joseph Mazur). The thing that caught my eye on this book was its subtitle: Unraveling the ancient mystery behind the science of space and time. Now, I've always wanted to unravel the ancient mystery behind the science of space and time, and was quite happy to find a book that could do it for me. I have to say, I wasn't disappointed.

The book presents an overview of how scientific thought developed, beginning with the Greeks and drawing a (relatively) straight line to the latest theories of quantuum dynamics and particle physics. It was a heck of a read - very story based, like Gladwell, but not afraid to include some equations (algabra & calculus!). There's also quite a bit about the psychology of perception, a topic I'm deeply interested in. In fact, that's sort of the core question behind it all. Is the universe continuous or not? Does time and space flow smoothly, or is it merely a series of discrete events? Is motion an illusion? Is time? Whoa... that's some deep stuff.

I wish I'd read this book in high school, or at least in college. Not that I would have fully understood and appreciated it back them, but it might have helped bring to life the mystery, passion and personalities behind the development of scientific and mathematical thought. The guys who came up with all these weird equations and laws that I had to memorize - these guys were deeply curious about how the universe works. They were doing stuff because they wanted to, not because some professor was insisting on it. They were challenging conventional thought. They were pretty darn cool.

So - Zeno's Paradox, by Joseph Mazur, gets two big thumbs up. I'd suggest going to your local book store to pick up a copy, but unfortunately before you get there, you'd have to travel half the distance... and then half the remaining distance... and you'd never actually arrive. Thank goodness for the internet - you can order the book without actually trying to go anywhere - and hey, motion is an illusion anyway, right?

Friday, May 1, 2009

And You May Ask Yourself, How Did I Get Here?

OK, as I mentioned yesterday, Malcom Gladwell's book Outliers got me thinking about how I ended up in my current position. I'm not quite sure how to tell the story, but I'll try:

Somewhere around 2002, the senior enlisted advisor ("the Chief") of the agency I was working at sent around one of those "leadership message of the day" kind of emails. I don't always open those, 'cause they're usually boring cliches, but that day I did open it. I don't recall what this particular one said, but apparently I liked the story enough that I sent an email to the Chief, inviting him to come hear a little presentation I was going to give... not expecting that he'd actually show up, but I figured it was worth a shot. 

The presentation was titled The Radical Elements of Radical Success (it eventually became the book of the same name). Much to my surprise, the Chief showed up. He sat in the front row. He smiled and nodded and took notes. He really enjoyed it - and to make a long story short, he arranged for me to give the briefing to the head of the agency and his senior staff.

Here's where Gladwell would point out that this opportunity was not simply because I gave a good briefing. It was because the right guy (the Chief) showed up... and he only showed up because I'd read and responded to the email he'd sent. Fate? Serendipity? Whatever you call it, it changed the course of my career.

The next thing I knew I was at a proverbial undisclosed location in the DC area, late in the evening, giving my presentation to a room of VERY senior people. One of them asked if I wanted to move from my present division over to the division he was in charge of. I said sure. So, he got the guy in charge of my original division, and the three of us went to see the Director of the agency. The three big bosses all smiled and nodded and said "Yes, Dan should go work in this new division." And so I did.

That's where I met Quaid, my writing buddy and brother-in-arms. Together, we wrote a series of articles that caught the attention of the gentleman I'm working for now. I'd published a few articles before that time, but writing with Quaid took things to a whole new level. Together, we wrote things I never would have written on my own. And I would not have met Quaid if I hadn't moved to the new division. That wouldn't have happened if not for the email the Chief sent. It all goes back to that fateful email.

Yes, this is the story of a guy who likes to express himself, in crazy little articles and briefings. But the thing I learned from Gladwell is that there are plenty of talented thinkers and writers out there, and where we end up in our lives and careers is not solely determined by talent. There are random events, beyond our control, that happen at pivotal moments and have an impact far beyond anything we could predict at the time. I'm sure the Chief has no idea how his email changed things for me.

And we could go back even further, to my former classmate who sent me an email about that job opening, which I got and he didn't. That job led to the job at the Agency, which is where I got the note from the Chief...

How about you? How did you get where you are?

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Outliers

I recently finished reading Malcom Gladwell's latest book, Outliers. It was fantastic. 

Now, it's not a scientific, statistical analysis of the history of anything (a fact which some critics complain about). It doesn't pretend to be (a fact which some critics don't seem to understand). Instead, it is a journalistic collection of stories that illuminate some aspects of success - specifically, some aspects of success which have historically been overlooked. I highly recommend the book.

Along with appreciating the book's insights, I really like his approach. The important thing with all three of Galdwell's books is not what his stories prove, but what they provoke. The ideas and insights his stories stimulate and draw out from readers, however abtusely or unpredictably. Like I said, it's not a scientific book, and it doesn't pretend to be. And that is one of its great strengths. 

It got me thinking about my own journey and career. It turns out, much of my present situation came about because of an email sent by a Chief Master Sergent in 2001, which started a chain of events that led directly to my current job. Even further back, it all probably starts when a friend of mine from college mentioned he was applying for a position and suggested I apply too (I got it, he didn't - oops, sorry!). Maybe I'll write out all the events and triggers that got me to my present situation... hmmm, that might be interesting.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Frog and Toad

The Frog and Toad series are some of my favorite kid books of all time. I can't get over the way this guy (Arnold Lobel) writes. In fact, if there is any writer I wish I could write like (other than Tom Robbins... and G.K. Chesterton...), it's Arnold Lobel.

The Frog and Toad books are engagingly full of pathos, friendship, humor and some of the most straightforward, simple and profound sentences you'll find anywhere. I wish I was a book critic so I would know better how to say nice things about these books.

I'd read them even if I didn't have kids. I so totally wish I could write like him.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Bed, What and Beyond?

We stopped in to Bed, Bath and Beyond the other day to pick something up, and I poked into the restroom to (ahem) take a rest.

I have to say, it was not nice in there. In fact, the word "skeevy" jumped to mind.

Now, if the name of your store is Bed, Bath and Beyond, I'm thinking you should have pretty nice bathrooms. I mean, what an opportunity to demonstrate some of the products you're trying to sell, not to mention display the overall concept of having a nice bathroom.

Instead, there were spare rolls of toilet paper stacked on the edge of the baby changing station. It could have been a showcase for their coolest soap dispensers - nope, they went with the industrial look. I'll spare you the rest of the details, but come on BB&B, you guys are missing a big opportunity here!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Jelly Beans

Did anyone else have a hard time finding regular jelly beans this past Easter?

I found Smarties(tm) jelly beans, Starburst(tm) jelly beans, Jolly Rancher (tm) jelly beans, Orchard Fruit jelly beans, Jelly Belly (tm) beans... but it took me forever to find just regular, ordinary jelly beans.

What's with that?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

A Planting Fool

Walked past a display of seeds the other day and felt a little sad that I wouldn't be able to plant anything this year. Since we're moving in mid-June, it just wouldn't make any sense to do another vegetable garden.

But yesterday I picked up a 99-cent package of green bean seeds anyway. I recall from last year that they came up really fast and produced a lot of yummy beans. We planted them yesterday afternoon. I just couldn't help myself.

Now, we'll see if they can produce something for dinner before June 15th!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Evelyn Waugh Quote of the Day

"And each individual has his own peculiar form of sanctity which he must achieve, or perish."

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Cutting Brownies

I baked some brownies the other day, and was dreading having to cut them, because every time I cut them, the brownies (oh, the delicious brownies!) would stick to the knife and make a big mess.

Apparently, everyone else but me already knew that you should always use a plastic knife to cut brownies. No sticking, no mess. Apparently it even says this on every box of brownies I have ever baked. 

Anyway, I have to admit I was still skeptical, but I tried it and just look at how beautiful and crisp the lines are on these brownies!

Yum!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Still getting used to this...

The nice people in my new office made a name tag for the wall outside my office - it was strange to see the "LtCol (s)" (the 's' is for 'select' - as in, selected for promotion but not pinned on yet). It's going to take some getting used to.

The FIST sticker I added myself.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Trees

I took this photo several weeks ago, in a little spot not too far from my house. I just like the way these end-of-winter trees look, up against the blue Ohio sky.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Kiva Update

I just received a note that my microloan through Kiva.org has begun to be repaid!

Specifically, I have been repaid 3.03 of the $25 I loaned (that's 12%). Mrs. Adedeyinbo borrowed a total of $950, and has begun paying it back. The truth is, she's a bit behind at the moment. She was supposed to pay back $118.75 per month for 8 months, but only paid $115.36 in this, her first payment.

I'm not worried - and I hope she's not too worried either. I'm sure she'll make it up in the coming months.

I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Pirate Info

My buddy Gabe sent me a link to this story about the so-called Somali pirates. It's a thought-provoking piece, and well worth reading (plus, it's really short). Here's a brief excerpt:

...in a telephone interview, one of the pirate leaders, Sugule Ali: "We don't consider ourselves sea bandits. We consider sea bandits [to be] those who illegally fish and dump in our seas."

Obviously, hijacking a ship is stupid and wrong, doubly so when that ship is full of relief supplies. But I think it's worth taking a moment to understand the origins of this current pirate activity.

Friday, April 17, 2009

If I Had Ten Thousand Turnips...

In a 1908 article for the Daily News, the great philosopher, economist, fairy-tale-believer and cheese fan G.K. Chesterton wrote the following:

...the soul of all our commerce is that the peasant says (being often a greedy fellow), "I have grown a turnip; will you give me a shilling?" Whereas the broker says, "If I had ten thousand turnips would you borrow ten thousand shillings and buy them?" 

Apparently, some things just never go out of style, do they?