Sunday, June 27, 2010

Lockheed Blackbird by Paul Crickmore

It's hard to imagine that there's a bit of information about Lockheed's SR-71 Blackbird (or Habu as those in know call her) that's not in this book.

Back when I was a wee lad and had my first real job in my chosen profession at NASA Lewis (now Glenn) Research Center, my mentor would tell me that he was responsible for an engine nacelle and cone-shaped inlet from the A-12 and every day security personnel had to inspect the crate to ensure it was still there.  Too bad all I knew about the A-12 at that time was how to spell it.

The tale begins before 1958 with the development of proposals for a reconnaissance aircraft that could fly higher (80,000 ft) and faster (in excess of three times the speed of sound) than any Soviet missile.  Kelly Johnson, Lockheed's design genius, came up with what would eventually become the A-12 for the CIA.  This aircraft eventually evolved into the SR-71 for the Air Force.

Crickmore's book covers every conceivable aspect of this aircraft: the politics of its funding and development; the technical details of every fuel pump, generator, and circuit board; every flight of every aircraft down to the crew names, tail numbers, and call signs; and the program's history from sketches on the back of an envelope to the aircraft's final retirement from service in October 1999.  There are stories from aircrew and groundcrew about flights that went well and flights that went otherwise.  Missions over the USSR, China, Viet Nam, Korea, Libya and more are covered from engine start to pilot debriefing.

My favorite story involves an aircrew who, to demonstrate their invulnerability on a mission over North Korea, tapped out Morse code using the fuel dump so that the resulting contrails read...  Well, let's say it's two words, seven letters total.

I only recognized one name in the book as someone I've actually met: a cantankerous old vice president from General Dynamics who back-in-the-day led a competitive effort to develop the A-12.   I've seen two SR-71s: one at the Air and Space Museum in Huntsville, Alabama and the other at the Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio.  With the disposition of every tail number included as an appendix, it should be easy to visit the others.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

I'm always making a comeback...

The internet is a wonderful place that brings together like-minded folks for cooking, scrapbooking, comic book collecting, and home-based nuclear fusion.

Here's another example of meshes in the real world: art student Alice Gruhle designed and produced the polymorph lamp.

Need to brush up on your solid mechanics?  Allan Bower's Applied Mechanics of Solids is available online for free.  If you're more into programming, Stack Overflow offers this list of free programming books.  The official web site of author Lee Child.

At last year's Business of Software conference, Don Norman's talk was my favorite.  Now you can watch in online.  He talks about how good design is not just features, but the complete user experience; and not just for the bit you do, but the user's entire workflow from A to Z.

"95% of the time the problem is with the mesh".  Ouch.  Once again the whip comes down.   Of course, there's never anything wrong with the CFD solver (OK, 5% of the time apparently.)  Let me see if I can make a good analogy.  The CFD solver is like driving a Formula 1 car during a race.  It takes a great deal of skill and coordination and strategy.  But the driver is given a fully functional and operational car, a track on which to drive, and a single objective: finish first.  On the other hand, mesh generation is like being given all the disassembled parts of the car, some missing, some that are incompatible, some from an airplane, with no blueprints, and no specific performance goals other than make a car (with the implied "you know what we want.")

Got an iPhone?  Download this MAYA app and have a little CFD in the palm of your hand.  Got spray?  Get it analyzed using CFD.

BYU professor Tom Sederberg, shown here given his acceptance speech, was honored for his contributions to computer graphics.  How to choose the right icon for the job.

Peppermint is a cloud-based Linux operating system.  Google plans to integrate PDF viewing directly into a future version of the Chrome browser. (In other words, no plug-in.)

Vintage bacon pancakes.  The Dallas restaurant Local occupies the former Boyd Hotel, the oldest remaining free-standing hotel in the city.  Now you can't complain that you can't find a farmer's market in the DFW area with this list from the Star-Telegram.

 What did you do today for freedom? and other World War II posters.

If you've ever wondered how to turn a conference into a social media event, here's how PTC did it for their recent user meeting.

Here's how to deconstruct a CSS table design.  Be one of over a million readers of SEOmoz's free Beginner's Guide to SEO.  Sitepoint provides this list of 10 common mistakes made by novice web designers.  (Sigh.  How man of these do I still make daily?)

Now's the to start thinking about how to exploit GPU computing next year.  (And, yes, the author cites meshing as something that can benefit from this.)  New from Dassault Systemes: DraftSight, software for reading, writing and sharing DWG files.  (And it's free.)   Phil Spreier, CAD industry veteran most recently at Spatial, has joined Tech Soft 3D to lead the CAD translation business they recently acquired from Adobe.

This nearly indecipherable article seems to be describing a collaborative CFD tool used to coordinate analysis activities across multiple ARA and Airbus locations.  (I think.)  The June issue of Symscape's newsletter is out.

In case you missed it, most of the presentations from this past week's OpenFOAM Workshop in Sweden are now online.  With all due respect, when someone suggested OpenFOAM in response to a Slashdot query on CFD for high school students, I cringed.   Check out NASA's Green Aviation College Student Challenge.  And see Virginia Tech's winning twin-fuselage tilt rotor from NASA's Amphibious Tilt Rotor Competition.

Git yer drink on with the Booze Dancing blog.

Yee haw! Texas has half the big cities with the greatest population growth and other demographics nuggets based on census estimates for 2009.  Best quote: "Texas is the star of the Sun Belt," said demographer Bill Frey of the Brookings Institution. "It avoided the housing bubble, it attracts immigrants, it has high tech and low tech, and it's affordable. Texas has survived the downturn while the rest of the Sun Belt has slowed down."
Barbie loves Woodie
...but nobody ever tells me where I've been.  --Billie Holiday

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Shakespeare is the happy hunting ground...

And the Tony Award for best play goes to... Red, the two-man play about artist Mark Rothko.     Next time I'm in Dallas, I should visit the Museum of Geometric and MADI Art.  If you want to visit Fort Worth without leaving the comfort of your home, look at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History with their webcam (and you can pan and zoom it!).

 The Albright-Knox Art Gallery will exhibit 29 paintings by Clifford Still this summer.

How well do you know hue?  Take the Munsell Hue Test and find out.  (I scored 144 - a score of 0 is perfect.)  Throw away your mouse and keyboard: skinput is the new way to control technology.

The original visual privacy undergarment for women.  (Original?  You mean there's more than one type of these?)   Keeping the NSFW content together in one paragraph, how might you describe your most recent B.M. using a book title?  (One of my favorites is Remains of the Day.)

I've had a copy of James Joyce's Ulysses on a shelf for at least 20 years cuz I'm afraid to start it.  Now I'm saved by Ulysses for Dummies.  What's old is new again: Google has a command line tool.

Since last month's teaser about possibly getting a new phone, I've been given a bunch of suggestions including this one: Phoneballs, a protective sleeve decorated with tiny blue balls.  Unfortunately, Phoneballs are not nearly as awesome as iBacon.

That bacon your iPhone 4 shoots out can be used to prepare MOINK Balls (bacon wrapped meatballs). What has a waffle roof and bacon shutters?  The sausage log cabin, of course.

Further evidence that innovation is not dead: colored bacon.

You've heard about the excellent restaurant in a gas station; here's Chef Point's web site.  You've also probably heard about Smitty's BBQ in Lockhart.  And you can wash it all down with IZZE, sparkling fruit juice.

35% of mothers remove the crusts from their childrens' sandwiches so imagine the savings in food waste if you could bake crustless bread.  In order to understand this process, researchers are modeling baking using CFD.  CFD is also being use to study arterial stents.

This cool interactive map from Forbes uses IRS data to illustrate where Americans are moving from and to on a county by county basis. (It would be nice if they added something to quantify the net effect.)

E-mail going away?  So says Facebook's COO. E-mail was the killer app of my generation.  Squeezed on one side by the ever-increasing tsunami of spam and on the other side by the rise of social media, only 11% of teens email daily.

And in another interesting trend, Forrester forecasts that tablet computers will account for 23% of all PC sales by 2015.  (There are all sorts of interesting factoids in this short article.)

Fontdeck delivers a standards compliant CSS @font-face solution for your web site's typography and MSDN's ScriptJunkie provides info on HTML, scripts, CSS, and more.  You can use these five research tools to optimize your content for SEO.

Have you crafted your elevator pitch, the one minute story of your business and products?  If not, Harvard Business School's Pitch Builder can help.

Do you like awesome, highly technical drumming on gigantic drum sets?  Then you'll enjoy this 5-minute video of a drum duet featuring Terry Bozzio and Chad Wackerman.

Isn't "Wackerman" the perfect name for a drummer?

Adrian Belew blogs that it's of "heartfelt importance" to him that the 1981 King Crimson quartet tour next year to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the group's formation.  (Hard to believe it's been 30 years since I first heard Discipline.)  I'm not holding my breath, however.

Here's a list of eleven ways to influence people to take action online (#8 Use the word "you").  Need a quick image file for a design mockup?  Use the Dummy Image Generator.  And TABLEIZER converts your Excel spreadsheet into an HTML table.

SolidWorks' 3 Dudes Gone 3D won an Effie award (not an effing award) for marketing effectiveness.  Keep up with product development technologies with DEVELOP3D. For example, here's commentary on why we need a new CAD data standard.

The Canadian Maple Leaf  gold coin with a face value of $1,000,000 goes up for auction on 25 June.  However, this 21 inch diameter coin contains nearly $4,000,000 worth of gold.

The obligatory vuvuzela links.  First, play the vuvuzela game and time how long you can stand the sound (49 seconds).  Then, use Vuvuzela Time to browse the web with a little background music.

And now, your mental palate cleanser:  xoki.  Just choose a color and relax.

...of all minds that have lost their balance.  -- James Joyce

Saturday, June 12, 2010

One Door Away from Heaven by Dean Koontz

Dean Koontz's One Door Away from Heaven was one of those audio books that I didn't recognize by title but it wasn't too far into the first CD before I realized I'd listened to it before.  That's OK - it was worth another listen.

Koontz is able to take a nugget of scientific fact (in this case, the field of utilitarian medical or bio ethics), shine a rather creepy light on it, surround it with real characters (real in the sense that they're flawed), and turn it all into a great tale.  My first Koontz book was Mr. Murder (thanks Heather) and since then I must've listened to dozens of his books. 

In ODAfH, a 9-year-old crippled yet precocious girl (Leilani) fights a mental battle of wits and survival with her junkie mother and bio-ethicist stepfather.  She charms her neighbors, a recently paroled young woman (Mickey) and her eccentric aunt.  When Leilani and family disappear overnight, Mickey fears the worst and gives chase.  Coming from the other direction on a completely different mission is a young boy and his dog on the run from assassins.  When their paths cross, things get really weird.  I won't even mention the gunslinging Vegas showgirls.

If you haven't tried Koontz before, give this one a shot.

Insisting on perfect safety...

Find out who is the cutest.  The LA Times offers this list of the 50 greatest guitarists ever.  Agree: Jeff Beck, Robert Fripp, Wes Montgomery.  Disagree: Jack White.  MIA: Allan Holdsworth.  Get your maple donut with a couple strips of bacon at Voodoo Doughnut.

What is up in Denmark?  Last month I linked to an article citing them as using the least amount of toilet paper.  Now we find out they lead the world in meat consumption.  As a scientist, I must conclude that these two facts are indeed cause and effect.

When in Fort Worth, be sure to visit the B-36 Peacemaker Museum.  For some modern, leading-edge technology, check out Sikorsky's X2 Demonstrator.  This list of 10 U.S. military aircraft that "didn't make it" (#10 A-12 Avenger II) doesn't tell the whole story.  If you are a Cold War relic this history of the fallout shelter sign will entertain and educate you.

With everyone making infographics, it's a good idea to learn how to do it well; here's how the World of Programming was designed.  I never realized how big SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket is.  The least popular day of the year for viewing pr0n online is Thanksgiving (gluttony trumps lust?) and 13 other facts about internet pornography.

If you were a methane-based life form on Saturn's moon Titan, what would you eat?  Acetylene, of course.  When Herschel peered through Lockman's hole, he photographed thousands of galaxies with billions of stars each. 

CalArts figures so prominently in the history of American animation that this 1964 film The CalArts Story (produced by Disney) is kinda interesting.  Who knew there was such a thing as computational origami?

A collection of motor oil cans.  Not to be outdone, the Shaker Project presents this collection of salt and pepper shakers.  Fans of typography (and gaming) will like this console font, created from game controllers and consoles.

For the one week I worked as a light janitor at a department store, I had to listen for my code in the muzak over the store's intercom.  The main call was "8-5-9-9"; 8-5 was me and 9-9 meant I should call the operator for instructions.  Here are other codes you aren't supposed to know.  Speaking of secret words, here's the origin of Shazam and 4 other magic words.

If you're going to rework your website, use a CSS framework and several other tips from Noupe.  Smashing presents these principles for cross-browser CSS coding.  The official CAPTCHA site.  More advice on writing your website's About Us page.  If you've got the time, here are 50 new CSS techniques and tutorials.

The top 25 tools for learning, 2009 edition.  Tired of creating an avatar for every site, network, and blog you post on?  Create a global avatar instead, at Gravatar.  Microsoft's test drive of IE9 has some interesting HTML5 demos (my favorite is falling balls).   Get free stock photos from Veezzle

Kubotek launched a new website specifically for their Validation Tool including a ValidateCAD blog.  NVIDIA's Tesla general manager, Andy Keane, talks about GPUs for HPC in this 10 minute video.

Is technology rewiring our brains?  This study runs counter to my opinion but, research shows that multitaskers have more trouble focusing and shutting out irrelevant information leading to increased stress.
When they say "desktop CFD" they mean you're running on your desktop computer.  This demonstration of tabletop CFD is a bit more literal.

At the 4-minute mark of John Underkoffler's TED talk about the future of computer user interfaces, he shows a CFD simulation that completely lacks an interface because the solution is computed around the object you set on the table..  Very interesting.  But the rest of the stuff about a Minority Report-style gesticular interface is too much - my lazy ass doesn't want to work that hard to use my computer.  ("The computation is network soluble."  Huh?)

ALICE is a project at France's INRIA that aims to understand the computer graphics implications of geometry and light.  The mesh generation home of U. British Columbia's ANSLab.  CFD was applied to streamlining the UK's most aerodynamic trailer, the Cheetah Fastback, resulting in a 9-10 percent fuel savings.  Beta CAE released ANSA v13.0.5.  MSC's 2010 Automotive Conference will be held 07 Oct 2010 in Southfield, MI.   Here's Part 7 of Symscape's CFD Novice to Expert series.  Model with virtual clay using Sculptris (and it's free).

What's amazing isn't the iPhone 4 announcement, rather the fact that I'm seriously considering trading in my old Motorola V180.
 Time to upgrade?

PTC announced Project Lightning, their approach to ending the stagnation of MCAD technologies by shaping the next 20 years of their product development and innovation.

Enhance your "visual literacy" with these videos and articles.  Need data for your visualization or infographic?  Here's a list of 30 data resources.  Or you could use the datasets at Many Eyes to create your own visualizations online.  If you need help making a Tufte-compliant chart, use Juice's Chart Chooser.

The Topgrading interview technique includes these six essential questions you should ask every candidate about every job they've had.
  1. What were your expectations in taking the job?
  2. What were your responsibilities and accountabilities?
  3. What were your successes and how did you achieve them?
  4. What were your failures including the specifics?
  5. Who was your boss and what were their strengths and weaknesses?
  6. What would your boss tell me about your strengths and weaknesses?
Jason Fried of 37signals describes their approach to hiring: hire late, hire after it hurts.  Of course, this puts him diametrically opposite of Good to Great's Jim Collins who believes that you have to hire first and the work will follow. for people who don't have the balls to live in the real world.  --Mary Shafer

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Every kind of music is good...

What could possibly make a moon pie better?  Bacon, of course.   Death ray!  Booyah!  More fun with Google's home page - Google Gravity.  Tired of googling stuff for your friends and family?  Use "Let me google that for you."

Take 20 minutes and learn Google Analytics from SEOmoz.  You can then use GA to see if you can increase your conversion rates as much as these folks did, including a 34% increase simply by changing the color of the sign-up button.  Or you can turn things around and compute the amount of inbound traffic you need to achieve your revenue goals.  And finally, once you have prospects in your pipeline, here are some thoughts on how to write a good follow-up email.

Previously, I've linked to advice on how to create virtually every page of your web site from landing pages, to forms, to archives.  Today it's your "meet the team" page.  Need some dummy text to mockup a page?  Go beyond Lorem Ipsum.

Asia (the original Asia: Downes, Howe, Wetton, Palmer) have a new album out called Omega.

What does an artist's palette say about them and their work? If you too are one of those people who look at abstract art and say "I can do that", here's your chance to make your own Mondrian online.  Sean Scully has a new exhibit in London, his first since 2006.

Nice video of Savonious wind turbine CFD simulation. If your CFD mesh is really big (like 111,000,000 cells big) you might want to run it on an SGI Altix which just set a record for scaling to 4,092 cores for a Fluent benchmark.

Airport etiquette: how not to behave at the exit toll gate. A new dinosaur was found in Mexico with 4 foot long horns.

Visualization comes to the New York Times.   Maya Design offers this brief video about how humans give form to information.  Juice Analytics opines on the best of business intelligenceThink3 announced their new software partner program.  More CAD comes to the iPAD with iRhino.  More from Juice: how managers can benefit by thinking like a designer.  Here are 25 must-have, free programs for designers (I have one).

I'm not a car guy, but this graphic illustrating the evolution of Ferrari from 1950 to 2010 is cool.

"My job is to protect my people from idiocy of every stripe" and 11 other things good bosses believe.  Podcasts for launching software products are at Startups for the Rest of Us.  Rob from Software by Rob is writing a book for launching a software business called Start Small, Stay Small.

I like black licorice.  But 52 pounds?   Need to know the weather?  Just look out Yo Window.  The Hubble Space Telescope has shown us that there's a lot of stuff out there.  Please do not open your window during flight.  Oh, never mind.

The folks at Wright Line will model your datacenter using CFD.  Here's part 6 of Symscape's CFD Novice to Expert series.  Siemens PLM released NX 7 including CAE improvements in model generation.  Lattice released XVL Player 10.2.  SpeedIT Tools provide GPU-accelerated solvers for sparse linear systems.  Students at Lehigh go after the world speed record for a land yacht.

MetaGlossary offers to make meaning out of searching the web.  Tips on how to make Twitter more useful for your business.

...except the boring kind. -- Gioachino Rossini