Saturday, July 31, 2010

A rich man is far poorer than a poor man...

Must-see photos of the week: pilot ejects from CF-18 seconds before crash. (I tweeted this several days ago but it's worth a repeat.)

Find out how I got here from the
Two Paths.

This is going to come in handy: the DIY Online Reputation Management Kit (new one for me: Social Mention).  C'mon, you've created a Google alert for your own name, right?

Once you see it you can't look away: the tesseract.  Neatorama provides this nice overview of mathematical objects, including my favorite - the Gomboc  (think Weeble).  Science can be applied to anything, including the cuteness of Japanese schoolgirls. (Those in the know will recognize this as the golden ratio.)

Obligatory bacon post: Great Bacon Odyssey from Wired.  Git yer fresh vittles at the Grapevine Farmer's Market.  Why not serve beer from a squirrel?

Right now it's 5:21 a.m. tomorrow in Tokyo according to Every Time Zone.  NVIDIA announced their new LCD-compatible 3D Vision Pro stereoscopic glasses.  Chrysler switched to Seimens PLM software.  One man's tribute to the first supercomputer: Daryl Brach builds a PC case in the shape of the Cray-1.

Rob offers three tips for getting people to read your email newsletter:
  1. Use a custom design.
  2. Use bullets.
  3. Be funny.
  4. Personal reply-to email (#4 was a bonus)
In the year 2050 there will be 2 billion people over the age of 60 (and I will be 88).  The significance of this escapes me, even with all the cool, animated data visualization tools at GE's Our Aging World.

I keep telling you that I'm not a fan of sculpture, but I keep showing you more of it.  Fiona Banner's Harrier and Jaguar installation at Tate Britain is one I just don't get.  Hang a Harrier jet from the ceiling to create tension between our perception and experience of it?  Don't get me wrong.  It'd be awesome to have one of these at my office.

Photography also isn't my cup of tea, but here we go: a photograph featuring 34 months of exposure during the redevelopment of the Modern Art Museum of New York.

Peggy, you poor misguided person.  Please put away your friggin' phone when I'm talking to you.

Why is progressive rock so newsworthy lately?  Here's the A-Z of progressive rock from album to zappa.  (At least Phil Collins' jazz fusion group got some publicity at the letter X.) Even the Guardian (gag) gets onboard with an an article about the resurgence of progressive rock including an interesting quote about how it shouldn't be considered rock at all because "the ethos is completely different."

Yet another online music service.  StereoMood plays tunes that match your mood.   For example, I chose "feel like crying" and it played played some weepy shit by someone named Sia so it must be working correctly.

Just everyone shut up already and pay for music.  Trey Gunn makes his case for not getting ripped off.  (Doesn't that even sound funny to say it?  You have to make a case for not being robbed.)  And while you're at it, buy one of his CDs.

Pianist Omar Sharriff cements Marshall, Texas' claim to be the birthplace of boogie-woogie piano.

How much would you pay to use Twitter?  A recent survey revealed that no one would pay to tweet.  Other interesting factoid: average online time is 19 hours per week.  Why money makes you unhappy.

I sat down and watched my first, entire episode of Mad Men last week.  In honor of that event, here's the periodic table of Mad Men.  I suck at billiards (just ask Andy) but I'd buy this Obscura Cuelight pool table.

3% of women plan household chores during sex and other interesting (and mostly less depressing) facts.  Scientists have succeeded in measuring the shortest interval of time ever: 20 attoseconds (20 one-billionths of one-billionth of a second).  Unfortunately, this interval still vastly exceeds how long I can keep a woman interested.

You ever get a smiley while showering?  (not what you think)   Antimicrobial soap can damage your cucumber (but leave it sparkling clean!).

This is an MRI of my cucumber (really).  From Inside insides.

I almost ROFL when I got to #4 on this test from 1964 of my sex quotient.  (Note use of the word necessarily.)  Rolling back the clock further, here are tips for single ladies from 1938.  "Never look bored, even if you are."

No, I won't shave the baby.  But if that baby grew up, it would look like the father in this creepy German picture book.  I don't read German, but I think it's about the poor quality of ob/gyn services.  Look at the doctor - he doesn't do a damn thing.
Validation at last: you should blog even if you have no readers.

...because poverty is the one thing money can't buy.  --Diogenes

Is Google Making Us Stupid?

The short answer is no.

Is there a better way to promote your book than to frame it in the context of an internet giant?  Unfortunately, Nicholas Carr questioned Google's culpability for our intellectual demise in an Atlantic essay but doesn't use that question in the title of his book The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to our Brains.  Frankly, the Google comment would have been a better subtitle than the rather tepid premise that something may (or may not) be happening to our melons.

Carr begins with personal anecdotes in which he admits to having trouble concentrating and maintaining a decent train of thought on his work.  He finds himself distracted by text messages, incoming email and tweets, and the allure of keeping up to date with friends on social media.  His friends and colleagues admit to similar problems.  A cynic might diagnosis these concentration issues as symptoms of middle age.  A harsh critic might point out that the lack of mental discipline is their own problem.  Carr proposes something else; use of and reliance on the internet is irrevocably changing the very substance of the human brain, intelligence, and consciousness.  In other words, it's not his problem; someone is doing something bad to him.

Brain Plasticity

A good portion of Carr's book is comprised of layman's summaries of research into how the brain works, how it modifies itself subject to use, the history of our understanding of the brain's function, and what happens when you poke a sea slug in its gills.  This was interesting and for sake of discussion I'll stipulate to all the facts he presents.  The bottom line is that, by way of analogy, the brain is a muscle that changes, grows, and shrinks depending on how it's used.  For example, cab drivers have greatly enlarged brain regions for spatial reasoning due to maintaining mental maps of their city's streets.

Other Things That (Might Have) Made Us Stupid

Carr also presents selected historical events related to technological advancements that impacted our species' ability to learn and store information.   One might think that the invention of writing was unquestionably considered a good thing.  Not so fast.  In Plato's Phaedrus, Socrates opines that only a simple person would think that a written account was at all better than "knowledge and recollection of the same matters."  The great tradition of oration was threatened by "external marks" and the future of intellect was called into doubt.

As alphabets, syntax, and style evolved, books became more of a fixture in elite society.  But those technological advancements had a downside - the stratification of society.  This was further exacerbated by the early media of writing: tablets, scrolls, and parchments.  Hard to make, hard to transport.  You know how this ends: Gutenberg invents the printing press making books available to the masses.  (What I didn't know was that Gutenberg went broke after printing 200 of his bibles and his entire business was taken over by his financial backer who then made a fortune in publishing.)  Of course, the loss of the ornateness, beauty, and craftsmanship of hand-written manuscripts was decried by some as a fairly steep downside.

Your favorite bookstore today is stuffed to the gills with works of questionable value (to you, to me, to the other guy): political essays du jour, bodice ripping romances, teen-oriented vampire/sorcery tales, etc.  This isn't a new phenomena.  In 1612, a Spanish dramatist complained "So many books - so much confusion! / All around us an ocean of print / And most of it covered in froth."  Welcome to the mass market.

Carr makes all these points himself in his brief history of the written word.  Despite these historical complaints about the technological advances in writing, we are deemed to be at a good place right now.  Or were until...

Along Comes the Internet

Unlike the history of the written word as chronicled in the book, Carr says the internet is different.  It's a game changer, a rule breaker, a "distraction machine."    Searchable, scannable text.  Hyperlinks.  Comingled ads.  Carr fears these will lead to a "rewiring" of our brains that will irrevocably change the human ability for deep thought, sustained concentration, and contemplation.  He'd probably look at this article on my blog and point out that there's an embedded ad for Amazon, a  hyperlink, sidebars with all sorts of links and information, and all the other posts.  These distractions will prevent you from deeply immersing yourself in the writing and instead relegate you to wading in the shallow end.

Rather than blaming the internet, let's call it was it is:  lack of concentration or mental discipline.  There's an obvious paradox here, one that Carr himself addresses; he obviously was able to expend considerable effort to write a book and I was able to read it (in hardcover form no less).  I even read half of it sitting outside with only the birds to distract me.

I may be getting stupid but I won't blame the internet, just as I won't blame McDonald's for my weight.  I make choices, I deal with the consequences.  Certainly the plasticity of our brains is responding to the new medium for the written word and we may be developing new skills and degrading old ones.  But as history has shown, intellect continues to expand (reality TV an exception).

Keep context in mind, don't get all your information from the internet, read a book every once...  OOOOH, a new tweet.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Friendship is like wetting your pants...

You have to see this video teaser for Lagoa Multiphysics.  Has the job market really sunk this low?  Newsweek quotes a recruiter as saying “It’s better to be average and good-looking than brilliant and unattractive.”  Where does that leave average and unattractive?

Transform any image into a patchwork quilt.  Or convert any picture into an ICO with ConvertIcon! If you are looking for 3D geometry in VRML format, here are a few archives: the VRML Object Supermarket, ShareCG and Hans.

Tom Clancy's new novel Dead or Alive features all your favorite characters and hits the bookshelves 07 Dec 2010.   Here's Josh Kaufman's excellent 10 point summary of Getting Things Done.  Know your apples (the fruit, not the computer).  If you need a new background for your computer, consider these Pokemon artworks.

A blog post about telling schmucks from superstars with a quiz turns into a help wanted ad.  (4. Your sense of satisfaction from software development is a function of how many users are delighted with what you've built.)

Warning!  Warning!  Do NOT click this link.  NSFW.  Offensive on levels too numerous to count.  You have been warned.

The first Solar & Wind Turbine e-zine is out and includes a good article about CFD for wind turbines.  The JT Open International Conference is going to be held 12-14 September 2010 in Orlando.  TransMagic R8 SP4 was released for CAD data translation including 64-bit support for large files.

With an unglamorous name like Air Tractor, you know this Texas-based company makes some good stuff like the AT-802U gunship.  Lockheed Martin's F-22 Raptor kicked ass in its demo flight at the Farnborough Air Show.  And I hoped it stayed away from Raytheon's anti-aircraft (frickin') laser beam.  Here's a nice book about the Smithsonian's collection of spacesuits.

Texas A&M may stop providing free toilet paper in dorms.  Can you say "business opportunity"?  TP delivery service direct to your room!  Mobile TP van visits dorms daily!  This policy change made also lead to an increase in sales of emergency underpants.  In other college news, Syracuse University has a new distinguished professor and chair in the department of mechanical and aerospace engineering.

When in Newcastle, WA be sure to get some chocolates from Sweet Decadence.  And I'm told that Tastebuds in Cleveland is awesome too.  Paul Fayreweather - I remember going to see him and his band perform around the Cleveland area when I was in high school and college.

The animated version of this spiral is groovy.

Need some color inspiration?  Get a random swatch from swatch spot.  Tired of Lorem Ipsum?  Use Fillerama to get dummy text based on Futurama.  I can name that font in 3 characters, or something like that using WhatTheFont! (That's two sites this week with bangs in their name.)

All you facial hair wannabes are now in luck: BeardWearFull screen weather from Weather Underground. (How can there be weather underground?)  We're number 1!  USA Women's football team is world champion, beating Austria 63-0.  Marc Andreesen's blog.  (You know, the Netscape guy.)

Hamon Research-Cotrell provides CFD modeling services. AEDC's hypervelocity wind tunnel #9 is back in operation.  More about DARPA's TX research program toward a flying car.  The CFDesign folks released their Upfront CFD Buyer's Guide.

I could get more excited about the periodic table of swearing if it didn't have such a strong British influence.  Arse?  C'mon.  Yes, and I know what "fanny" means to them.  On the other hand, the periodic table of irrational nonsense is guaranteed to offend lots of people.

Throw out your physics texbooks: the proton may be 4% smaller than previously thought.

A native Ohioan struggles with regional pronunciations including whether or not the "t" in often is silent.  (It is.)

This is what I call a bacon burger.  And here are 24 other unique hamburgers (#7 the Krispy Kreme burger).

Progressive rock, "one of the most ridiculed genres in music", is making a comeback.  On the other hand, Mark Gormley has never gone out of style.

...only you can feel the warmth.

Fatherland by Robert Harris

Xavier March is not having a good day.  The ex-Navy man took a job as a police detective investigating murders because the work challenged him, allowed him to think and to solve problems, and gave him the opportunity to help people.  But over time, the bureaucracy at work became oppressive and the job eventually cost him his marriage and his young son. And now, early on a rainy morning he's supposed to have off, he's called in to investigate a corpse washed up on the shore of a Berlin lake.

Did I mention this is 1964, two weeks before Hitler's 75th birthday and a pending historic meeting with President Joe Kennedy that will put an end to the cold war that has been ongoing between the U.S. and Germany since the latter won World War II?

This bloated corpse with its missing foot is the loose end of a thread that when pulled begins to unravel an explosive secret that is unbelievable but yet, deep in his heart, Xavier knows to be true.

I've always been interested in alternate histories and this is one of the best.  If you're interested too, but don't want to read the book there is a movie version from the 1980s starring Rutger Hauer, but it varies (as do most movies) from the book.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Which would you rather use to plow a field?

NEWSFLASH: Science proves the chicken came before the egg.  Now they can tackle the really big issue: why did it cross the road?

In billions of years, time will cease to exist and the universe remain frozen like a snapshot, or so say some cosmologists.  (Time seems to stop when reading this blog.)

With all this groundbreaking science, I'm not feeling too bright because I just don't get Truenumbers.  Further contributing to my insecurity, I don't think my parents had a nuclear fallout shelter in our basement back in 1967 when I was 5.

Mashable makes the case for why having angry customers is good.  Like it or not, we all have dissatisfied customers.  So why not use them as a force for good, by finding out what pisses them off and fixing it?  Steve Johnson wants to know whether your CEO takes support calls.  (Ours is too busy playing Minesweeper.)  There are a couple hundred corporate logo and brand guides on Scribd.  Would you want yours on there or not?   Eric Ries probes an entrepreneurial paradox: the attributes that make one likely to be an entrepreneur also hinder one's ability to succeed at it.

An SAE study shows that 61% of engineers use social media like Facebook to exchange technical information.  CAE blogs: Beyond PLM, about engineering software, and Appian Way, about design and engineering.

You can get shorter URLs from Google Maps using their URL shortener (for example,  If that's too practical for you, how about Google with kittens?  Or if you want something only slightly out of the ordinary try Uneven Google.  (Note: these last two Google effects don't seem to work if you're logged into your Google account.)

Like aircraft?  Visiting Fort Worth?  Come see the Veteran's Memorial Air Park featuring the aviation heritage of Fort Worth.  Fort Worth's AVX Aircraft, in addition to proposing a cool upgrade to the OH-58D, is designing a flying car for DARPA.  As one commenter put it, this is "space shuttle porn" - a sexy video of Space Shuttle Atlantis' 14 May 2010 launch for the STS-132 mission.  NASA Administrator Charles Bolden will be deciding who gets the Space Shuttles when they're retired.  The Brazos Valley Museum near Texas A&M and the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library wants one.  (They might have a better chance getting one from Bolden if they changed their name to the Barraq Wadi Museum).  Seriously, why shouldn't they get one?

Do you want a Mr. Toast plush doll?  (No.  I want Shaky Bacon.)  These bacon cinnamon rolls look amazing.  Apparently, the French have just invented triangular food.  Let's see.  How can you make I sandwich better?  Put it in a can, of course!  Introducing Candwich.

I was a DJ in college (WJPZ, 1am - 4am Thursdays) so I have a soft spot for college radio, like UTA Radio.  They say that Brian Eno will be contributing to Bryan Ferry's new album to be released in October.  The official web site of drummer Bill Bruford.  (Go there and watch the video on the home page.)  Official web page of author Larry Bond.

Peter Fernandez, the voice of Speed Racer, died on 15 July 2010 from lung cancer.  He was 83.  The voice of Yoda is done by Frank Oz, who also voiced Miss Piggy.  Interesting blog post showing Ward Kimball's animation of a sequence from Peter and the Wolf.

Based on this blog, I Write Like Ian Fleming.  On the other hand, when given the text of Old Man and the Sea I Write Like said Hemingway writes like James Joyce.  But if I really do write like Ian Fleming, I should probably outfit myself with these James Bond-ish titanium multi-tool collar stays.

I write like
Ian Fleming
I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

I wonder where I can sign up to be a donor for this medical procedure.  Did your hometown make the list?  CNN Money's Top 100 places to live.  Attention students: Amazon Student seems like a good deal.  Lost Formats catalogs data formats that have come and gone.   The ones I've used include punched tape, 9 track open reels, floppy, diskette, ZIP, QIC, and DAT.  The oddest one on the list?  ViewMaster.  ViewMaster?!?  Science, art, who cares.  Take some string, a couple motors, and create an art installation of waves that interact with the viewer.

[Note: I managed to lose a couple hours of work on this post when blogger saved a blank draft of the page.  That's why this may looked more hacked together than usual.]

...2 strong oxen or 1024 chickens?  --Seymour Cray

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Larry Bond's Red Dragon Rising: Shadows of War

I liked Red Storm Rising, Bond's first novel from the 1980's co-authored with Tom Clancy about a war between NATO and the Warsaw Pact.  It had great, believable action (verisimilitude, to use Clancy's term) and characters you could care about.  Red Dragon Rising - not so much.

When you get your name in the book's title that's probably a good thing and demonstrates the success Bond has had since his first book.  I know I've read a lot of them including the first of the First Team series.  But when the ending of a book screams "Sequel!" because of all the loose ends and unresolved plot lines you know you've just finished reading a commercial venture and not a novel.  Another bad sign is when your speed reading kicks in (and you don't really know how to speed read).

So anyway, in the not too distant future climate change throws the world's economies a nasty curve ball with mixed blessings.  England, on one hand, becomes a sunny vacation spot.  But poor China turns into a desert, loses the ability to grow rice to feed its populace, and resorts to military exertions to get what it no longer can grow (or drill for).

Throw in a wayward climatologist in the wrong place at the wrong time, an orphaned girl, a CIA operator (female, tough but nice looking - of course), and a budding military genius named Zeus and you get...  the first in a series.

Maybe I'm being too harsh because I liked Red Storm Rising too much.  It's not like I'll never buy another of Bond's books again.  But perhaps I was just hoping for a little bit more.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Our doubts are traitors...

Must-click link of the week: Isao Hashimoto's 1945-1998 is a map-based video illustrating all 2,503 nuclear detonations during the subject time period.  The work is a great intersection of history, data, and art. And while we're on the subject of nukes, here's the story of the U.S.'s detonation of a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific in 1962.

Isao Hashimoto's 1945-1998

If you're hot for fractals (Carolyn), here's Benoit Mandelbrot's TED talk.  New to fractals?  Review these space filling curves.  This is called "how engineers view women" but it's really how chemists view women.

This video is not remarkable because it provides more proof that innovation is alive, but because the kids using the Toilet Sniper are peeing blue!  Mom needs to get them to a urologist pronto.

Fujitsu's new CAD engine may indeed be better and faster that ours.  But something is probably getting lost in the translation when they say it's because they represent parts as mathematical expressions.  That's like saying your book's better because it's written with words.

At least one other person agrees with me that proper natural lighting is the key to experiencing Rothko's black paintings. (This one's for you, Chris.)

 Mark Rothko's No. 7.

Got a couple weeks to kill?  Do what this guy did and animate a Super Mario icon using only CSS.  Online tool to generate CSS grid layouts?  Great.  Overuse of "r" in the name?  Not so good.  gridr buildrrr.  Have a color and need to find lighter and darker variations of it including the hex codes?  Use 0to255.   Need icons?  Here's 99 free ones.

Let's play the new 3D, immersive space exploration game Moonbase Alpha.  No, not the cool retro 70s sci-fi TV show Space 1999's Moonbase Alpha.  NASA's Moonbase Alpha.  (Please tell me that NASA is not infringing on any trademarks or copyrights.)

All the buzz is about the cryptic text around the gold band of U.S. Cyber Command's logo, but has anyone noticed how the Pointwise globe is even more central?  Just sayin'.
  • Thinking about upgrading your FEA preprocessor? This video shows how to upgrade to Femap.
  • The open source pre- and postprocessing software SALOME v5.1.4 has been released.
  • New OpenCASCADE is coming later this year.  
  • freeFEM is available now.
  • Flow Science has released a new product: FLOW-3D ThermoSET, for simulating thermosetting resins.
  • Symscape's Windows patch for OpenFOAM 1.6.x now supports 64-bit and MPI.
  • Learn CFD the Cornell way with these learning modules for simple flows like nozzles, wedges, and airfoils. 
  • Hexagon acquired Intergraph for $2.1 billion. 
  • Enhanced CFD capabilities put AEDC on the cutting edge.  (This is not news.) 
  • NASA's Cart3D CFD software is now begin sold commercially by Desktop Aeronautics.
Bacon du jour: bacon turtles, bacon air freshener.  Or maybe you'd prefer excellent Mexican food:  El Taco H.

When in Orange, CA be sure to visit the Chuck Jones Center for Creativity.   ACM's new student magazine, XRDS.  Iran bans the mullet.  How to build your own Beowulf cluster for less than $1,200.  Christmas is coming: magnetic putty would be a cool stocking stuffer.

Next time you have to give a presentation, keep in mind the TED Commandments.  (#8  Thou shalt remember all the while: Laughter is Good.)

Why distributed teams are less effective (and it involves shooting the shit not just heavy sighs while I stare into your eyes).  An interesting list of morning rituals for the healthy entrepreneur.   (#4 Go out and take in the sunlight.  What if the sun isn't up yet?)

How social media does (or doesn't) product leads.  Web site visitors from Twitter or Facebook are more likely to browse content rather than become a prospect through the use of a form.  To make matters worse, here's a matrix of the challenges faced by social technology.

The official web sites of voice actors Dick Hill, Frank Muller, and George Guidall.  How to write error messages.  Neal Stephenson's In the Beginning was the Command Line is available for free download.   Learn how people, places, and things are pronounced using inogolo.    How to read computer code. You can download Seth Godin's new e-book, What Matters Now, for free.

I used to build airplane models as a kid: all those kits from Revell, the smell of that glue and the paint, trying to get the decals off your fingers and onto the plastic.  My crowning achievement was a pretty nice B-17 but it pales in comparison to this Corsair.

This year is the 25th anniversary of the B-1 bomber.  While we're on the topic of big military aircraft, here's a tribute page to the XB-70, and here's the SR-71 online museum.  Ever since I finished reading Lockheed Blackbird, I've seen SR-71's everywhere.  The latest is this cockpit photo from Wired.

I am not typically into sculpture, but Brett Graham's Te Hokioi, a stealth fighter covered with Maori symbols, has a great tactile appeal to it.   It was sold to an art gallery for about $46,000.

In the wake of this week's U.S.-Russia spy-swap, here's a list of the top 10 traitors in U.S. history.  "Hanoi" Jane Fonda is #10 and the big three (Ames, Hanssen, and Walker) are included.

...and make us lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt. --William Shakespeare

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Death by Meeting by Patrick Lencioni

As the title suggests, Lencioni's Death by Meeting is built upon the widely accepted fact that meetings are killing businesses slowly but surely, every day, all over the world.  Lencioni also believes strongly that meetings should be energetic, vital, and enjoyable as they shape the organizations that hold them. Specifically, he believes that meetings suck because they lack both drama and a contextual structure. 

For the former, he draws an analogy with movies.  While a good movie can keep you on the edge of your seat with tears in your eyes and a pounding heart for two hours, a two hour meeting most often induces boredom, sleep, and frustration.  The difference is that movie directors know how use drama, especially within the first ten minutes, to hook the audience into caring.  Just as importantly, screenwriters use conflict to inject pure, genuine, passion into their films.  In a business meeting passion is just as important, but unfortunately idealogical conflict is misperceived as impolite or hurtful rather than constructive.

To illustrate lack of contextual structure, he borrows from TV shows.  Imagine if TV executives decided all programs would be the same length and include elements from headline news, 30 minute sitcoms, hour long dramas, 3-hour movies of the week, and 5-night miniseries.  That is often how business meetings are designed.  To combat that, he proposes a regular sequence of various types (contexts) of meetings to address specific issues.
  • Daily Check-in
    • 5 minutes
    • Share daily schedules and activities.
    • Remain standing; dont' sit down.  Keep it administrative.  Don't cancel due to absences.
  • Weekly Tactical
    • 45-90 minutes
    • Review weekly activities and metrics.  Resolve tactical obstacles and issues.
    • Don't set agenda until after initial reporting.  Postpone strategic discussions.
  • Monthly Strategic
    • 2-4 hours
    • Discuss, analyze, brainstorm, and decide upon critical issues affecting long-term success.
    • Limit to 1-2 topics, prepare and do research, engage in good conflict.
  • Quarterly off-site review
    • 1-2 days
    • Review strategy, industry trends, competitive landscape, key personnel, team development.
    • Get out of office, focus on work, limit social activities, don't overstructure or overburden the schedule.

Like the three other Lencioni books I've read, this one was finished in slightly under 3 hours.  And it all would've been illuminating if I hadn't read pretty much the same stuff over a year ago in Verne Harnish's Mastering the Rockefeller Habits.  Lencioni does give Harnish some credit, but other than that the recommendations are about the same.  Not to draw too fine a line, but Harnish’s advocates these meetings:

  • Daily Huddles
    • 5-15 minute
    • What's Up? Daily Measures. Where are you stuck?
  • Weekly
    • 1 hour
    • 5 minutes for good news. 10 minutes for the numbers. 10 minutes for customer and employee feedback. 30 minutes on a single, important issue.
    • Have everyone make a single statement to close.
  • Monthly
    • 2-4 hours
    • The focus of these meetings should be learning.
    • Review the P&L.  Gauge progress on priorities.  Train middle managers.
  • Quarterly
  • Annual

Unlike Harnish’s, Lencioni's book is an easy read that uses his typical “fable” style that makes the topic a bit more enjoyable.  Harnish’s book, however, covers a lot more than just a meeting schedule.  In fact, Harnish’s book is the only business book I’ve re-read immediately after finishing it the first time in order to take better notes and fully digest his ideas.

As a bonus (if you consider it as much), I also took this opportunity to quickly review another of Lencioni's books I read a while ago but wanted to refresh: The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive.

In this book, Lencioni shares his ideas on what makes for a healthy organization.  Without preamble, they are:
  • Build and maintain a cohesive leadership team.
    • Cohesive teams build trust, eliminate politics, and increase efficiency by...
        • Knowing one another's unique strengths and weaknesses
        • Openly engaging in constructive idealogical conflict
        • Holding one another accountable for behaviors and actions
        • Committing to group decisions
    • Create organizational clarity.
      • A healthy organization minimizes the potential for confusion by clarifying...
        • Why the organization exists
        • Which behavioral values are fundamental
        • What specific business it is in
        • Who its competitors are
        • How it is unique
        • What it plans to achieve
        • Who is responsible for what
    • Over-Communicate Organizational Clarity
      • Healthy organizations align their employees around organizational clarity by communicating key messages through...
        • Repetition: Don't be afraid to repeat the same message, again and again.
        • Simplicity: The more complicated the message, the more potential for confusion and inconsistency.
        • Multiple Mediums: People react to information in many ways; use a variety of mediums.
        • Cascading Messages: Leaders communicate key messages to direct reports; the cycle repeats itself until the message is heard by all.
    • Reinforce Organizational Clarity Through Human Systems
      • Organizations sustain their Health by ensuring consistency in...
        • Hiring
        • Managing Performance
        • Rewards and recognition
        • Employee dismissal

    Saturday, July 3, 2010

    Killing Floor and Gone Tomorrow by Lee Child

    I usually don't like crime novels.  Just not into it.  I've listened to several of John Sandford's Prey series on audio book but I just can't get interested.

    Lee Child's character Jack Reacher is different.

    And what initially grabbed my attention upon starting the audio book version of Gone Tomorrow was voice actor Dick Hill's performance.  Literally within the first paragraph of the production I was asking aloud "What the hell is this?" to an empty car.

    Hill brings a rich, deliberate cadence and precise diction to his performance while at the same time giving Reacher a subtle, tough New York accent.  I say he's in the top three of my favorite voice actors, up there with George Guidall and the late Frank Muller.

    But even with a great performance, the books have to stand on their own and both Killing Floor (the first in Child's Reacher series) and Gone Tomorrow deliver.

    Jack Reacher is, in his own words, a hobo.  Retired from the Army after 13 years as an MP specializing in homicide, he has taken to the roads, constantly moving from town to town, his only possessions those that fit in his pockets.  In Killing Floor, he hops off a bus at midnight and walks 14 miles into a tiny Georgia town hoping to learn some history about a blues musician he likes.  While eating breakfast in the town's diner, he's arrested for murder.  "He hasn't killed anyone, at least not here, not lately."

    In Gone Tomorrow, which comes much later in the series, Reacher is riding the NYC subway and his MP's instincts are triggered by a fellow passenger who's displaying all the telltale signs of a suicide bomber.  He approaches to talk her out of it.  But in the end, she's not the terrorist he ends up looking for.

    The single biggest problem in communication...

    I've lived in a plastic bubble all my life so I don't understand why zorbing is suddenly all the rage.  Here are 109 random facts.  (#83.  It is impossible for you to lick your elbow.  However, it is possible, even perhaps likely, for me to lick your elbow.)

    I bet they always keep the seat down at the Toilet Seat museum.  What is the most successful, longest running film series in Hollywood history?  The Little Rascals, of course.

    CFD for everyone! The UT SimCenter at Chattanooga provides this online push-button CFD solver so you can simulate the flow over wings.  Or you can run NASA's FoilSim.  The official web site of Lockheed Martin's Code One Magazine.

    See inside music with the music animation machine. This is part of Vivaldi's Four Seasons.

    If that's too intellectual for you, how about the fluid dynamics of spit? The ETLab at U. Alabama Birmingham has a mesh generator called MEGG3D.  Things I shouldn't have #54: Tres Generaciones tequila.  Flying car gets FAA approval.  Can it be true?

    Learn how to parse any C declaration using the spiral rule.  If IdeaPaint is too difficult for you, here's another way to turn your wall into a white board.  Are you seeking a mutually beneficial relationship?

    Apps, apps, apps.  They're everywhere.  Even CFD.  STAR-CCM+ has them in their JAVA Hut app exchangeOpenFOAM 1.7.0 was released.

    Why should BP have all the fun?  Create your own instant oil spill.

    With it's love of statistics, baseball is a perfect match for data visualization, like this video study of Mariano Rivera's pitches.  You ever sit in on a panel discussion at a conference?  They usually suck, right?  Each panelist takes their turn a the soapbox and by the time they're done pontificating and by the time the audience warms up with some decent questions, time's up.  Here are 10 tips for panelists.  I like #3 - disagree once. 

    Meet Karsten Newbury, a senior VP at Siemens PLM for their Velocity Series of CAD and CAE products.  On a related note from their recent PLM Connection user event in Dallas, comes this nugget: "CAE is at the forefront of our competitiveness - the market just doesn't know it yet."  Interesting that analysis is at the forefront of a PLM (i.e. CAD) company.  And to round out the Siemens PLM news, here's a list of 5 things you'll want to know about them.

    While we're enumerating lists, here are 18 things someone wishes they'd been told at 18.  (#17 Excel at what you do.)  The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest challenges authors to write the worst possible opening sentence of a novel.   You know, "It was a dark and stormy night..."  CAD Exchanger 2.0 has been released.  Here's more detailed info how Tech Soft 3D acquired Adobe's CAD translation technology and products.

    Things to do in Chicago: have dinner at Province, tour the Art Institute of Chicago.

    Mondrian's Composition (No. 1) Gray-Red, 1953 was a personal favorite from the Art Institute of Chicago's collection. the illusion that it has taken place. -- George Bernard Shaw