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


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 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


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, 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 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."



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: " 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?