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?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Ugh!

Driving from DC to Ohio, I came across this billboard and was able to grab a quick photo. I'd crop & enlarge it, but I really don't want to.

In case you can't read it, the sign says "HELL IS REAL." Ready to go to church now? 

I don't know what to say. I can't imagine this is a very effective evangelism technique, and wonder who would want to be part of a church that thinks this sign is a good idea. It reminds me of what G.K. Chesterton said "Every heresy has been an effort to narrow the church." Not that the billboard putter-uppers are necessarily heretics, but they do seem a bit on the narrow side, dontcha think?  

It just really hurts my head (& my heart) to see this kind of thing. Jesus' message is not "Hell is real." I'm pretty sure His message has a lot more to do with love and redemption than with condemnation and punishment. Yes, Hell is real - but that's not really the main theme of Christianity. How about a billboard that says "GOD IS LOVE"?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Thanks for Clearing That Up

I found this sign at a Burger King parking lot and just had to laugh. I should probably submit it to the Fail blog, because it's such a perfect example of someone trying to add clarity and inadvertently making things worse.

So, what do you think? Does the sign say "do not exit / enter only" or "do not enter / exit only"?

Why? Why do people do things like this? It would have been perfectly fine to say "Enter Only" or "Do not Enter."

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

FIST Stickers

A little while back, I printed out some FIST stickers, and put one on my calendar book.

It has aged quite nicely, and now looks all faded, scratched and beat-up. It's got more of a punk rock vibe than it had before (and it was already pretty punk, if I do say so myself). The aging is definitely an improvement.

Want some of your own? Drop me a line and I'll send you a few...

Monday, April 13, 2009

Thanks, but...

I love Chick-Fil-A. 

They make the best chicken sandwiches anywhere. But they're really more of a lunch thing, as far as I'm concerned. CFA for breakfast doesn't really appeal to me.

Adding a Coca Cola Zero doesn't help matters one bit.

Fried chicken and coke for breakfast? I think I'll pass...

Friday, April 10, 2009

In the basement...

One of the highlights of my recent trip to DC was the opportunity to meet the editor & crew at everyone's favorite military technology magazine, Defense AT&L. These are the bold and creative (& gutsy) people who keep agreeing to print my crazy little articles. 

Anyway, they told me their office was in the basement of the building. As my frequent co-author Quaid and I approached, we saw this door and wondered how we would get past the padlock.

Fortunately, it turns out the staff of Defense AT&L is not, in fact, locked in the basement. There was an open door and some stairs that led to their offices. A good time was had by all.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Mixed Reviews

You know how some musicians and actors say they never read reviews of their work? I'm beginning to understand why. It's not because they're afraid of facing a bad review. It's because reviews can be so doggone confusing.

Here's what has happened to me several times in the past month or so: I publish or present something, and get a bi-polar (or even tri-polar) reaction from the audience. One guy enthusiastically says a particular work is very scholarly... then another puts even more enthusiasm into his criticisms of how unscholarly it is. Are either of them right? 

Or how about this: a single article is alternatively described, with great conviction by all parties involved, as hilarious, chilling, or thought-provoking by some people (a confusing enough range of reactions), then it gets a tepid response by some others, and elicits a strong negative reaction from a third group, who say it's not creative enough, not saying anything new, not clear, excessively cynical, etc.

How can one piece of work be a comic masterpiece and a boring waste of time... all at once? How can it be the height of creativity and the depth of unoriginality, or an encouraging bit of cynicism? OK guys, am I on candid camera? Is someone just messing with my head here?

Of course, I prefer hearing people say they like my stuff, but the truth is I really like hearing from critics too. In fact, my favorite bit of "fan mail" contained the line "You guys should be ashamed of yourselves." I hung that letter on my office wall for months. 

But I have to admit I'm not quite sure what to make of a situation where I paint a wall red and one person loves how blue it is... while another hates it for being green. Argh!

Like I said, I am beginning to understand now why some people never read their reviews... and I am reminded of something the great American philosopher John Travolta once said, "I wasn't that good, and I'm not that bad..."

City Art!

There are several big sculptures on the street where my new office is located. This one is my favorite - sorry the angle is so bad, but there actually are two figures in the piece.

It's just so colorful and full of movement. I look forward to walking past it every day (and I hope I never stop noticing it).

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Big City, Take 2


Another new thing I'll (probably) get to do in my new job is take public transportation. DC has a great Metro system, and I expect I'll get to read a lot more than I do now.

This photo is of the longest escalator in the world. OK, I don't know if it's ACTUALLY the longest in the world, but it's very, very long. I got winded just walking up it (I suppose I'll get used to that too). 

But what amazes me is the people who run down it. And I mean they hustle down this thing. It kinda freaked me out. I'm surprised I didn't see anyone do a face plant on the way down. And the trains come every 4 or 5 minutes, so really, what's the rush?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Moving To The Big City

My new office is in the big blue building pictured here - I'm not sure if it quite qualifies as a sky scraper, but it's certainly the tallest and shiniest building I've ever worked in.

I won't actually be there for real until mid June, 'cause they're letting me stay here in Ohio until the kids are out of school, but I think it's kinda cool to be moving to a big shiny building like this.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Video, Take 1

Thought I'd have a go at doing a video entry for my blog. Let me know if you'd like to see more stuff like this.

video

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Busted Link

Apparently the Information Systems Security Association (ISSA) is pretty serious about not letting people read the ISSA journal for free - and even the single free "featured article" each month doesn't stay free for long.

Here's the scoop - the online journal is only available to members, but every month, the cover story is available for free to non-members, at the following address: www.issa.org/Downloads/Journal%20Feature.pdf. 

When a new issue is posted, a new article goes up at that exact same URL. The previous month's freebie is then only available to paying members. I'm not sure I follow the logic of that - once a digital file is available for free, suddenly limiting people's access to it is a big step backwards.

Anyway, as a person who authored one such cover story, I sent that URL along to several people (and posted it on my blog), thinking that the next month's feature would have its very own URL. Nope. The article I wrote is no longer at the URL I previously posted. Some other article is there instead.

Fortunately, someone posted the article on Scribd, so it's available here

My point: the genie is out of the bottle, ISSA. By only offering the latest feature article (and not an archive of all the previous feature articles), you're essentially taking yourself out of the loop. Scribd takes over as the distributor for ISSA's cover stories. Maybe that's deliberate, but it seems like a strange strategy.