Sunday, August 30, 2015

Twelve Days by Alex Berenson

My frustration with Berenson's The Counterfeit Agent (see what I wrote here) has been lifted now that I've been able to read Twelve Days, the follow-on to the former.

For the record, the two books should've been a single long book. Tom Clancy can pull it off. Berenson's publisher needs to let him.

Anyway, Berenson's protagonist is John Wells, a CIA operative who's an interesting head case. Being deep inside al Qaeda for a decade will do that to you. Now that he's out of the agency he still gets dragged into stuff by his former boss who's now a senator. And by stuff I mean knowing that someone is trying to trick the U.S. into invading Iran but not having the proof to get anyone to listen.

Good story, good character. Will continue to read Berenson's stuff.

But I had an "oh shit" moment on the next to last CD of the Twelve Days audio book. Due to a production error, after the "This is the end of disc 10." they mistakenly inserted the "The end. This has been a blah blah production of Alex Berenson's..." I thought they were gonna string this thing out for a third book. Fortunately, disc 11 truly was the last.

You can find Alex Berenson online at www.alexberenson.com.

"Nothing can be said about writing except when it is bad. When it is good, one can only read and be grateful."

I received no compensation of any kind for this review.

Not Hiring Computer Scientists?

The CEO of Dittach wrote an opinion piece in yesterday's Wall Street Journal with the title Why I'm Not Looking to Hire Computer Science Majors. (Behind paywall.)

Let's look at a few of his statements.

"Finding [software developers] is the toughest task." Not really. Finding good ones is.

"Startups have to compete with hegemons like Google and Facebook that offer extraordinary salaries for the best talent." Yes, and it's not just the money; it's the name recognition. They could work for Google or they could work for... what's your company's name again?

"Computer science departments prepare their students for academic or research careers and spurn jobs that actually pay money." Then where are Google and Facebook finding all the people you complain they hire?

"There isn't a single course in iPhone or Android development in the computer science departments of Yale or Princeton." Repeat after me: college is not a trade school. You don't go to college to learn a skill, a language, a tool. Skills can be learned. Skills can be taught (by you, the employer). You go to college to learn to learn the science of programming. Also, I have nothing against our Ivy League friends, but are Yale and Princeton really the first place you're looking for CS grads?

"Today we insist on higher education for everything." Yes, college isn't for everyone. Let's get kids into the trades when appropriate. Have you read in the WSJ about how much welders are getting paid these days?

"A serious alternative to the $100,000 four-year college degree wouldn't even need to be accredited - it would merely need to teach students the skills that startups are desperate for." Didn't you just poo-poo the 12- and 19-week programs for cranking out people only interested in career transition and not the "love of coding for its own sake"? Maybe this is the business opportunity: a 2-year, for-profit institute of programming practice. Hell, make it for women only and you'll kill two birds with one stone (i.e. attracting women to the STEM fields.)

To view this from another perspective, think about the legitimacy of the following statements. I'm not looking to hire Ivy Leaguers. Mathematicians. People with graduate degrees. Men.

So I guess in the end I don't really grok Mr. Gelernter's bias. Some of the best programmers I know are CS majors. Others are engineers. And others are mathematicians. All have college degrees. All love what they do. None are Ivy league.

But, this is just my opinion. I could be wrong. All I've done is co-founded and boot-strapped a 20-year-old 30-person software company.

P.S. In the interest of full disclosure, I am on the advisory board of my alma mater's engineering department. My oldest son has a masters degree in CS and is gainfully employed. My youngest son is an undergraduate CS major. Furthermore, I recognize that the title of Mr. Gelernter's piece is click-bait for an article that's really a jab at higher education (misplaced IMO) and not a revelation of his hiring practices.


Saturday, August 29, 2015

The greatest weariness...

My architect friends should enjoy this poster illustrating the history of the Architecture of American Houses from Pop Chart Labs.

If you enjoy good music and if you have 5 euros to spare how about giving Markus Reuter's compilation album Kopfmensch a try?

An introduction to quantum field theory - for 5 year olds.

Have you heard? The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth will host a retrospective of Frank Stella's paintings beginning in April 2016.
You can't fly to Mars but your name can aboard NASA's InSight spacecraft. Register today for your boarding pass.

Take a 3D virtual tour of a WWII Avro Lancaster bomber.

Cat people: crank up this cat purr noise generator.

Bloxers are underwear for men with built-in erection concealing technology. (It's just boxers with built in compression shorts. Which makes you wonder why you don't just wear boxes over compression shorts. Which makes you wonder why you need the boxers at all. And then there's the issue of why you'd ever want to conceal your erection.)

...comes from work not done. ~Eric Hoffer

Saturday, August 22, 2015

It is what we know already that...

Word on the street is that Markus Reuter and David Cross are spending time in the studio. What comes out of the studio from this pair could be very cool.

In other music news, Moonbound's album Uncomfortable News from the Moon is available for preorder on Bandcamp where you can stream one track, Cheetah Conquers the Moon, Pt 1. The band is Fabio Trentini, Pat Mastelotto, Markus Reuter and a cast of guests.

A very long but well-worth reading essay on the solicitousness of art and what it's asking of us.

ESA put a 3D model of comet 67P/C-G online for use to pan, zoom, and rotate.

The Red Bull Air Race is coming to Fort Worth next month, 26-27 September.

If you think this image is cool, you should read more about fractals. I like to think about fractals this way. A line is one-dimensional. A plane is two-dimensional. But think about a kid with a crayon scribbling all over a piece of paper. Even though the kid is only drawing lines (1D), eventually the entire paper (a 2D plane) starts to fill. How full the plane is of lines is a fractional dimension between 1D and 2D.
Game changing weapons, the top 19 of the 21st century. (Couldn't they come up with two more to make it 21 from the 21st century?) It's kinda lame but the photo of the X-47B is cool.

In movie news, another Predator sequel is coming. Please don't suck.

Every job has its own unique ways to suck. Here's some suckage from the animation biz.

Free software don't suck. Pixar's giving more of its animation software away.

Bad smells suck. Good thing this live webcam on a blooming corpse flower doesn't have smellovision.

This has been all over Facebook but just in case you missed it here's Newsweeks' Top 500 public high schools. Notable: #156 Colleyville Heritage (the other HS in the district my boys attended), #163 Madeira OH (where my nieces and nephews did or will attend), #281 Rocky River OH (where I attended).
Likelihood of an earthquake, high (red) to low (blue). Phew. One less thing to be paranoid about.
Alert reader Carolyn found that one of my seemingly crazy ideas is now real: crocheted men's shorts.

Haters gonna hate but here's why butter doesn't belong in the fridge.

According to this article from HBR, most of us don't understand what being happy is truly about and, therefore, we end up chasing the wrong things and becoming frustrated. Maybe life really is about the journey and not the achievement of some permanent state of mind. Read the meaning's behind Dr. Seligman's PERMA acronym. Hint: the "E" is engagement.

If one examines Sartreist absurdity, one is faced with a choice: either reject the cultural paradigm of expression or conclude that academe is capable of truth. Several materialisms concerning Sontagist camp may be found. Therefore, if the textual paradigm of consensus holds, the works of Joyce are postmodern. This gibberish is courtesy of the postmodern generator.

My brain gets all fuzzy whenever I watch Alabama Alpha Phi. And trust me - I've watched it a lot.

...prevents us from learning. ~Claude Bernard

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Tom Clancy Full Force and Effect by Mark Greaney

How many decades
will Tom Clancy's Ryan-verse
remain fun to read?

Tom Clancy deserves credit for many things and the most deserving may be his creation of the characters centered around Jack Ryan. To this day, well past Clancy's death, and well beyond when the books were being co-authored, and even past some bad editing (e.g. Rainbow Six), I still love reading about these characters. To use Clancy's own word (from an interview I saw him give here in Fort Worth years ago), verisimilitude is the key.

The plot of Full Force and Effect is typical Clancy techno-thriller and really not relevant to my enjoyment of the book. It contains all the requisite elements: cool spy stuff, North Koreans, nukes, Mexican drug gangs. What important is seeing how the characters react to those scenarios in a way that makes you root for them, feel for them.

Pet peeve about the writing. It's not necessary to repeat a secondary character's title multiple times. Once is enough - I can remember who "Steve" is for a full novel. Same for spelling out acronyms; once is enough.

Nice performance, as always, by Scott Brick on the audiobook.

"Nothing can be said about writing except when it is bad. When it is good, one can only read and be grateful."

I received no compensation of any kind for this review.

From Worlds Unseen A Light Yet Streams A Sound Replete by Markus Reuter & Zero Ohms

Vast musical space
warms with illumination
we ourselves carry.

The new album of exquisite ambient music from the duo of Markus Reuter and Zero Ohms (aka Richard Roberts) may have the longest title (From Worlds Unseen A Light Yet Streams A Sound Replete) of any album in my collection and may also be the most beautiful new music I've heard thus far this year.

The album consists of five tracks, the shortest of which clocks in at slightly over 12 minutes: Unseen, Boundless, Pinnacle, Recondite, Indescribable.

Just yesterday I was able to participate in a live online streaming of the album and chat session with the two musicians and hosted by Relaxed Machinery. The album's origin story involves a quote from Stanley Kubrick ("However vast the darkness we must supply our own light.") that got the two thinking about the origins of music and how sound creates a new world that we, the listeners, must illuminate. You can read an interview that covers this topic here.

During the chat the two discussed briefly the making of the album - another remote collaboration made possible by technology. Markus' contributions were complete, finished works - the results of composed improvisation. Those were sent to Richard who added his contributions on top of Markus'.

The album's title, the reference to Kubrick (which makes me think of the movie 2001) and the music all give me a strong sense of Eno's Apollo. The music has that same ethereal spaciousness. But Worlds Unseen is a grander, more dynamic vista.

And now comes the time when I stop writing and just let you listen.


If you're a fan of ambient music, From Worlds Unseen A Light Yet Streams a Sound Replete, is a must-have.

Read more online here:
"I don't know much about music, but I sure like the sound it makes."

I received no compensation of any kind for this review.

Truth emerges more readily from error...

This recently posted video of a King Crimson (Fripp, Belew, Gunn, Mastelotto) live performance from 2000 includes a great improvisation that I've cued up for you here.

Something to keep an eye (ear?) on: The Mute Gods are a new band formed by Nick Beggs (bass) with Roger King (keyboards) and Marco Minneman (drums). Their debut album is said to be due in early 2016.

It was fun (and a bit awkward for me) to join a live streaming and chat session for the new album from Markus Reuter and Zero Ohms, From World's Unseen A Light Yet Streams A Sound Replete. It was fun because how often do you get to interact with artists whose work you greatly enjoy. It was awkward because I tried hard not to ask questions that came off as those of a raging fan boi. Here's a brief interview with the duo.

Mark Rothko, No. 14 (Horizontals, White Over Darks), 1961. source
Take four minutes for this video, The Case for Mark Rothko.

Alert reader Curtis brought this series of swearing maps to my attention. It maps the frequency of several swear words as they appear on Twitter. 
My oldest son mocks what he calls my fetish for small computers but this recently announced Dell Chromebook 13 (available in September) looks pretty nice and is reasonably priced from $400 (up to $900 with the bells and whistles including a touch screen). I write this on my laptop with my iPhone, Acer Chromebook, HP tablet, Kindle, and Android tablet all within arm's reach.

Of the top nine employee complaints about company leaders, my self-assessment says I'm only violating one. Unfortunately, it's #1: not recognizing employee achievements. Doh.

Hungry? You will be after checking out these 30 sandwiches.

Real time lightning map. Sit back and enjoy the show.
iRobot had to get FCC approval for their robot lawnmower because of its use of wireless for coordinating the mower with stakes that map out the lawn. But I'm still trying to pull the trigger on their floor mopping robot.

Now spend the rest of the day driving Curiosity around Mars.

...than from confusion. ~Francis Bacon