Sunday, October 31, 2010

Abstract Expressionism at the Museum of Modern Art

Odds are I won't actually get to visit NYC to see firsthand the Museum of Modern Art's exhibition Abstract Expressionist New York.  So the next best thing was to get the related book, Abstract Expressionism at the MoMA by Ann Temkin.

Overall it's an OK book.  Looking at paintings in a book obviously pales in comparison to seeing the real thing.  But the plates included in the book are well chosen and let you find similarities in certain works (whether they really exist or not - for example, de Kooning's A Tree in Naples and Hartigan's Shinnecock Canal) and insight into others (how can you look at Pollock's Untitled (4) and say his signature paintings don't include figuration).

In her introduction, Temkin draws an interesting conclusion about abex art by comparing it to our modern electronic world.  The abex style and television both came into being shortly after WWII.  While abex relied on creating a private emotional experience, television relied on its mass-market appeal.  Today we talk about information overload, short attention spans, and constant interruptions from electronic devices of all sorts.  Temkin concludes "In a world that likes its culture fast, Abstract Expressionist works are uncompromisingly slow."  I agree - slow, mysterious, and emotional.

Robert Motherwell's Open Number 24 in Variations of Orange, 1968 is a standout in AbEx at the MoMA.  (And that's not just because I'm a Syracuse University alum.)

Saturday, October 30, 2010

One need not be a chamber to be haunted...

Research shows that letting go of adult inhibitions boosts innovation, creativity, and well-being.

You can read Aldous Huxley's Brave New World online, but more interesting perhaps are his comments in Brave New World Revisited.  For example, "Twenty-seven years later, in this third quarter of the twentieth century A.D., and long before the end of the first century A.F., I feel a good deal less optimistic than I did when I was writing Brave New World. The prophecies made in 1931 are coming true much sooner than I thought they would."

Want a cheap alternative to the new Macbook Air?  Put a Tocatta keyboard on your iPad. 

Here's a compilation of many UI guidelines for mobile devices including the iPad and iPhone.

The fine folks at XYZ Scientific Applications are making steady progress on their previously reported announcement of a breakthrough leading to automated hex mesh generation.  You can read about their status here including this quote:  "TrueGrid AutoHex [when it is finished - ed.] has the unique ability to automatically fill any valid quad boundary mesh with an all hex mesh. It works the first time and every time."

Three tracks from Brian Peter George St. John le Baptiste de la Salle Eno's upcoming album Small Craft on a Milk Sea are now available for you to preview: Horse, Emerald and Stone, and 2 Forms of Anger.  I've already pre-ordered the CD - how about you?

What has "six strategically placed balls" (and isn't Ke$ha backstage)?  The Thera Cane
    Ray Ozzie, soon to retire from his position as Chief Software Architect at Microsoft, writes on his blog about Dawn of a New Day in which he postulates another 5-year transformation of the computing industry.   Noting that 25 Nov 2010 will be the 20th anniversary of Windows, Ozzie talks about a Post-PC World that leaves behind the ever mounting complexity and fragility of the PC-centric infrastructure.  He notes that once you leave behind the PC and its universe of hardware artifacts you turn toward a world of Continuous Service and Connected Devices.  Ozzie knows that truly delivering on these future promises "will require innovation in user experience, interaction model, authentication model, user data & privacy model, policy & management model, programming & application model, and so on."   At first glance, Ozzie's vision does not seem all that grand - after all, many of us live in a connected world now with mobile devices always on and always connected.  But as your thoughts wander from the general to the the specific, to how any one particular application might evolve and exploit his future vision, that's when the hard work of building this path to the future becomes apparent.

    Interested in how I spend my Friday nights during football season?  Here's the Grapevine High School Marching Band's performance at a recent competition.  This is a view I never get since I'm standing down there on the sideline.

    The big news in the CAD world this week was PTC taking the wraps off their Project Lightning and introducing Creo, their new family of design software that promises to revolutionize CAD software over the next 20 years.
    • You can watch a video replay of the launch event.  (Warning - this page resizes your browser, something that grinds my gears.)
    • DE's Ken Wong reports on the Creo launch and cites the unsolved problems to be addressed by Creo as usability, interoperability, and large assembly management.
    • The Develop3D blog mentions the rebranding of the existing PTC product line under the Creo banner (Pro/ENGINEER becomes Creo Elements/Pro) and the environment of Apps to be built around Creo.
    • Monica Schnitger is hopeful that Creo will spur innovation across the CAD industry.  But she's also concerned about what PTC may lose by retiring the Pro/E name.
    • Ray Kurland weighs in by observing that PTC has fundamentally changed their approach to CAD.
    • Deelip Menezes provides a multi-part overview of Creo.  [Ed. note: this link was added to this post after it was initially published.]
    • The folks at Kubotek apparently have a sense of humor with their parody of Project Lightning - Project Static Electricity.
    Spatial provides a free e-book of tricks and tips for ACIS developers including tips on healing imported CAD geometry.  Wanna see how SpaceClaim's modeling software works?  Watch these videos

     Alexander Anderson Jr., the animation artist who created Rocky and Bullwinkle and brought them to TV with the help of college frat brother Jay Ward, died this week at age 90.

    Datamation's 2011 IT salary guide indicates that IT salary levels are on the increase.  In engineering, a masters degree earns you about $360,000 more than a BS (lifetime).

    Just in time for Halloween (in 2008) is this CFDesign simulation of flow in a jack o' lantern.

    What questions should co-founders ask each other while founding a company to avoid conflict?
    • How should we split equity?
    • How will decisions get made?
    • What happens if one of us leaves?
    • Can any of us be fired?
    • What are our personal goals?
    • Will this be the primary activity for each of us?
    • What part of our plan are we unwilling to change?
    • What contractual terms will each of us sign?
    • Will any of us be investing cash?
    • What will we pay ourselves?
    • What are our financing plans?
    What do marketing and user experience design  have in common?  (#4 Measure inputs and outputs.)  Speaking of marketing, Stephen Noble wants us to drop the traditional marketing funnel and adopt the marketing cycle for these reasons:
    • Marketing isn't an assembly line, it's the management of the entire user lifecycle experience.
    • The lifetime value of a customer is not expressed by the funnel model.
    • The funnel's linearity hides the complexity of the customer relationship.
    People with a specific variant of the DRD4 gene are more likely to be liberal.  The gene in question effects novelty-seeking behavior and therefore people with the gene are more likely to have sought out a wide variety of different types of people, social norms, and lifestyles - making them tend to be more liberal.  While this is interesting from a "let's all hold hands and sing Kumbaya" standpoint, it's irrelevant with respect to governance.

    If you lack the political and sexual humor gene do not click on the Obamarator.

    Twenty three tips for writing for the web including The Humour Rule (a little light humour can work wonders).  Leading to my 24th rule, If Only The Brits Could Learn to Spell.

    Eric Ries shares his slides from a lecture at UCSD on The Lean Startup.  Of interest to me were his three "shadow beliefs" that doom many startups: we know what the customer wants, we can accurately predict the future, and advancing the plan is progress.  Adrian shares 10 lessons learned from 4 months of self employment. (#2 Archive everything.)
    • Tecplot has made the list of the 100 fastest growing private companies in Washington State.
    • The FloTHERM CFD software is getting new patent-pending technologies to identify where and why heating problems occur in electronics design. 
    • SolidWorks World 2011 will be held 23-26 January 2011 in San Antonio.
    • Engineers use CFD to study slug flow in oil and gas pipelines.
    • ANSYS 13.0 was released including a new CutCell technique for all-hex meshing.  Unfortunately, this announcement didn't prevent a Jeffries analyst from downgrading them from Buy to Hold.
    • John Zink uses CFD to improve the performance of burners, oxidizers, and flares.
    • Altair integrated their HyperMesh meshing tools with SAMTECH's SAMCEF FEA tool.  Altair was also in the news for acquiring SimLab and their tools for FEA preprocessing.
    • The CFD Lab at Washington University is engaged in a wide variety of CFD applications and research.
    • Pointwise is now sponsoring North American Eagle's attempt to set a new land speed record of 800 mph.
    • Geomagic's Points Beyond tour is coming to Dallas on 03-04 November.
    • In this interview with HPCWire, Swift Engineering mentions Pointwise's mesh generation software as part of their toolkit.
    • Develop3D reviewed CFDesign.
    • CEI released EnSight 9.1.2 including parallel volume rendering.
      It's not just Facebook - eBay also used CFD to save money on cooling their data center.
    Here's how Google has changed the roles of product management. (#3 Minimalist and focused.).  Concerned about safe browsing?  Use Google's special safe browsing diagnostic tool on any site.

    I can't imagine what Ratio Finder is good for.  What's the value of knowing in San Francisco where there's a higher ratio of male or female checkins at any particular location?  (OK, besides the obvious.  I guess to meet the ladies I should be at Tropisueno right now, whatever the hell that is.)

    Sony announced this past week that they're ceasing production of Walkman cassette players.  I thought I still had mine but couldn't find it.  The Walkman was a great reason for spending hours making mix tapes from all your and your friends' records.

    When does petty larceny turn into a hobby?  Flight attendant amasses collection of 1,760 spoons.

    Hubspot suggests five tools you should be using for content creation on your web site.  (#1  You can use Check My Colours to analyze how your web site looks to people with color vision deficiencies.  Get free patterns for your web site at Pattern Head.

    Here's an interesting article about using GPUs to dynamically compute geometric level of detail.

    What science proves, common sense makes irrelevant.  While it may take only a fraction of a second to fall in love, it takes a lifetime of effort to remain in love.

    Geek voyeurism: watch via live webcam as NASA's next Mars rover is built.

    Harvard Business Review wants to help you define your social media strategy.  Mine apparently is to "appear like an ass."   21 tips for being the best boss including "being a bulldozer."   (Note to self: not the same as dozing.)

    The most sophisticated and interactive version of Romeo and Juliet ever created?   You be the judge.  (This play is the only use in English literature of the term "star-cross'd".)

    The University of Kansas will be performing Shakespeare in the original pronunciation, with echoes of Irish, New England, and Cockney, in November.  This ain't your posh, upper-crust English accent.  I like this quote: "To hear the words free from the baggage that attaches to contemporary dialects is likewise exciting and illuminating."  And that's what's sad about Shakespeare today - he comes with too much baggage.   I've recommended it before, but Al Pacino's docudrama Looking for Richard, starring himself, Kevin Spacey, Alec Baldwin, Winona Rider and more, provides excellent insight into Shakespeare's modern relevance.  (Which is probably why it won two awards for documentary films.)

    I hate losing things.  Divers have found what's believed to be 1,500 live naval artillery shells underwater just offshore from Brooklyn.

    I liked the sci-fi TV series Babylon 5 up to the end of the Shadow War after which the show kinda fell apart.  Here are 10 facts you might not know about B5.  (To keep B5 from turning into a kid's show, the director's rule was that any cute kid characters had to die before the end of the episode.)

    Again, another web site for which I have no explanation (PV3D depth of field) other than it reminds me of my Buckyballs. 

    This article starts with "It's arguably impossible to appear sophisticated without Japanese flatware on your person" and gets more bizarre from there.  Portable, collapsible chopsticks.  The canvas pouch makes me think you'll need these on safari.

    Proof #73 that innovation is not dead: toilet paper rolls without the tubeYou broke the build and Agnes is none too pleased with you, Bub.

    Remote.  Controlled.  Poo.

    ...the brain has corridors surpassing material place.  ~Emily Dickinson

    Sunday, October 24, 2010

    Digital Apollo by David A. Mindell

    If you're a space geek or a computer nerd you'll enjoy this historical account of the computers onboard the Apollo spacecraft, from laboratory schematics to the astronauts own words on piloting the lunar module during descent to the lunar surface. The account of Apollo 11's lunar landing and the piloting of Armstrong and Aldrin is as riveting as any action novel I've read.

    From a historical standpoint, the insights into the development of "fly by wire" or computer control of the spacecraft are incredibly interesting. You've probably heard all the quotes about the quaintness of Apollo's computers and how your calculator has more computational power and memory.  But that's like mocking the Wright Brothers' first flight for not having beverage service.   Think about your desktop computer and whether you'd bet your life that it'll work perfectly for 2 weeks.  I'll just quote the author.
    The space shuttle flies with five redundant computers.  Any fully digital airliner has a minimum of three.  Apollo had only one.  It never failed in flight.
    Here's an interesting factoid.  Descent to the lunar surface began from an orbit of 50,000 feet.  That's higher than probably every jetliner I've ever flow on.  Why so high?  The uncertainty in the guidance up to the point of orbit insertion was about plus or minus 15,000 feet.  The the uncertainty of the known height of lunar surface features was 20,000 feet.  So 10 miles up seemed like a safe margin of error.

    Computers on Apollo are primarily involved with guidance and control.  What's interesting is that the original contracts for development of the computers didn't even include time or budget for writing the software because the whole idea of software was so new in 1963 that no one thought much about it.  In the end, more people were working on the software than the hardware.

    I won't even get into how the software was loaded onto Apollo's computers.  No punch cards.  No paper tape.  Rope.  Yes, rope.  You'll have to read the book to figure out that that means.

    Mindell's Digital Apollo is subtitled Human and Machine in Spaceflight and beyond the history lesson there is a great deal of discussion about the tradeoffs of automation versus control and the role of the astronauts versus the spacecraft.  There's give and take here as noted in the following quote.
    Real landings, with skilled but fallible people flying magnificent but imperfect machines in less than ideal circumstances, would begin to answer these questions.
    The book was recommended to me by a friend (thanks, John) who thought I might be able to draw a parallel with my line of work: writing engineering software.  It too is imperfect and used by skilled people in less than ideal circumstances where there is a case to be made for automation.  But unlike the Apollo astronauts who constantly fought for and won the ability to actively pilot the spacecraft and preserve the deservedly proud tradition of test pilots in control of their machine, no one wants to "pilot" our engineering software.  Everyone would be thrilled if our software could run entirely automatically and completely hands-off.

    Back to stories from the Apollo 11 spacecraft.  Many of you are probably familiar with the infamous "1202 alarm" that sounded repeatedly during descent that Armstrong struggled to work through as it distracted him from piloting the descent.  Engineers on the ground gave the "go" signal whenever it came up.  Turns out that the "1202 alarm" was something that many of us have probably included in our own software: "nobody thought they would ever occur in a real situation."  (We call this the "this will never happen" condition.)  Call this lesson #1 - things that should never happen occur more often than you think.  Then it was only through a partially unanticipated arrangement (the test configuration of the hardware didn't match the flight configuration) and partially unknown combination of events (a procedure was changed and turned on the altitude radar early) that the alarm occurred at all in the spacecraft.  Here's lesson #2 - it was a failure of communication - between hardware and software engineers, between procedure writers and programmers - that let this slip through.  Finally, "1202 alarm" was really not all that alarming.  All it meant was that the computer was so busy that it was dropping lower priority tasks as its very robust design was meant to do.  So lesson #3 could be one of user interface design - instead of an alarm the computer should have advised the pilot that the computer was too busy but critical systems were unaffected.

    So Digital Apollo has it all - gripping narrative, historical insight, and lessons on computer-human interaction design.   Well worth it.

    Saturday, October 23, 2010

    Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, Narrated by Michael York

    This 75th anniversary edition of Aldous Huxley's classic Brave New World is excellent, one of my favorite audiobooks in decades of listening.

    Huxley's novel is, of course, a classic. There's no doubt Huxley wasn't a fan of what he saw in early 20th century America. He set out to create a dystopian future extrapolated from America's youth and sex-obsessed culture and mass-produced and consumer-driven lifestyle. A future utopia in which stability is paramount and achieved through the elimination of want, both physical and psychological, is ironically parodied in the novel's title as derived from Shakespeare's The Tempest: "How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world! That has such people in it!"  That the people are genetically engineered and heavily conditioned is beside the point.  One can't help draw a counterpoint with yin and yang, that one's pain and regret are necessary balances to joy and contentment.

    But the real prize here is Michael York's performance.  I don't recall a voice actor who is better matched to a novel than he to Brave New World.  Rather than just being a stage for his own talents, York brings Huxley's work to life.  His was an absolutely brilliant performance.

    Success is the ability...

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    Programming language C++ turned 25 years old on 14 October.  This popular and widely used language was created by Bjarne Stroustrup who teaches computer science at Texas A&M University.  Alas, on the same day,  Benoit Mandelbrot, developer of fractal geometry and its applications, passed away.  He was 85.

     Here's a cool video of something called SUPERBIEN: 3D light projection.  I imagine Tangerine Dream or Synergy (Metropolitan Suite?) for the soundtrack.

    Deelip Menezes blogs about Adobe's exit from the 3D CAD world and includes this gem: "What Adobe didn’t realize is that data exchange is a problem that CAD vendors don’t want to solve [emphasis mine] because it is in their best interest that the problem stays alive and festers."

    Here's how to backup your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media., a Yelp for people, appears balanced on the knife-edge of use/abuse.  Perhaps they just should've called it

    Formalize CSS is one person's attempt at finding a happy medium in consistent, cross-browser CSS. House of Buttons is a roundup of buttons from various web sites and apps.  House of Buttons is also included in this list of 50 time savers for web designers.

     Stunning new toilet seats.  Seems easier than doing a whole bathroom remodel.  

    Have a pill you can't identify?  Try Pillbox from the National Institutes of Health. Keep in mind that Pillbox is still in Beta.  It apparently doesn't work with Firefox.  (Leave it to the government to create an IE-only web site.) With Internet Explorer, it worked on one pill I tried but only if I entered one attribute (text) and gave me 5 possible results, one of which was correct.  If I added any other attribute (shape, color, etc.) it failed.

    I bet you can't wait for our company blog to get up and running so you can avoid all this CFD stuff.
    • Want a shot at a prize pool totaling $45,000?  Participate in ASHRAE's CFD Shootout and compute the loss coefficients in duct fittings.
    • Symscape's newsletter for October 2010 is out including news about their pathfinding effort to do CFD in the cloud.
    • Siemens released Femap 10.2 for finite element modeling.
    • The department of mechanical engineering at the University of Connecticut is applying CFD on several research areas.
    • Altair announced a 30% growth in revenue over the past year in the aerospace market.
    • Gothenburg 2010, A Workshop on Ship Hydrodynamics, will be held 08-10 December in Gothenburg, Sweden.
    • ACUSIM released AcuSolve 1.8 including GPU acceleration.
    • Just what exactly is the OpenFOAM-Extend Project?
    • Norcan Hydro uses CFD to design turbines.
    • CD-adapco joins the GM PACE Program and will contribute its CFD software to participating academic institutions.
    Human life reduced to 936 little blobs.

    Just like Mohs scale measures the hardness of materials (0=talc, 10=diamond), there's also a scale for how hard a sci-fi technology is. (0 = runs on "nonsensolium")

    Pajama Jeans (featuring DormiSoft) give you the comfort of pajamas with the style of denim and are so comfortable you can wear them all day, even to bed!   They do meet one criteria I have for pants of all kinds, even sleepwear - they have pockets.

    This is a little old, but here's an infographic about men's room etiquette including the guide to choosing a urinal.

    Here's a web site dedicated to legendary animation artist, Ken Harris.

    Very insightful - something called the reality distortion field (not from Star Trek) is a common attribute of both visionaries and sociopaths.  How does one create a visionary product?  The oft quoted Henry Ford ("If we'd asked people what they wanted they would've said faster horses.") demonstrates that you can't slavishly follow customer requests.   The solution is simple: have a clearly articulated vision (what Verne Harnish calls the Big Hairy Audacious Goal), know what aspects of that vision are grounded in reality and adapt those that are not.

    Study results indicate that swearing at the start and end of a speech can increase the influence of your argument.  I feel validated, because I just did that on Tuesday.  While I don't suggest dropping f-bombs, tossing in a "damn" may be enough.  (Trivia: Gone with the Wind's producer was fined $5,000 for the "I don't give a damn" line in 1939.)

    Foursquare is everywhere.  An astronaut checked in to Foursquare from the International Space Station as part of their partnership with NASA.  Seven deadly assumptions that prevent online marketing success.  (#4 Assume that because you don't read blogs, no one does.)  The nine worst ways to use Facebook for business (#9 Don't develop a personality.)  And why running your blog like a newspaper is a path to success.

     Cool pics of the X-15.  This one, just after launch from the B-52 mothership, is the most notable.

    Everything does reduce to simple physics.   A manager on the F-22 program intentionally hit another car to prevent an even bigger wreck.

    Turner's Cube is a learning device for machinists and I'm looking for a CAD model so I can mesh it. Not one but TWO open source 3D printer projects: RepRap and Fab@Home.

    Part #73 in our series of "seeing the unseen" - CT scan of a Twinkie.  Here's a cool mashup of two of my interests, NFL and data visualization: Juice Analytics' spike chart.

    I know one person who would probably buy and wear this R2-D2 swimsuit.  But will she see this and follow through?

    Instead of making a video of this Pink Floyd vs. Bee Gees mashup they should've added another artist in the mix because there's just something missing in the music.  Best use of the internet #2,768: an online photo collection of pizza boxes.  John McAdams has a page full of links and info related to the JFK assassination.  This is one weird clock. go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm. ~Winston Churchill

    Monday, October 18, 2010

    The First Patient by Michael Palmer

    The First Patient.  Probably should've been called The First Draft because some extra work is in order.  The writing was on about the 7th grade level which is probably how I was able to figure out one of the shocking closing revelations by the time I was halfway through.

    So let's see.  The president's personal physician has gone missing which kinda sucks cuz there's a lot of folks who think the prez is losing his marbles.  So the big man flies out to Wyoming to recruit a new doctor who just happens to be his college buddy which sounds good until you remember that the doc is a recovered alcoholic who spent a year in jail on manslaughter charges for killing two people in a DUI accident.  I'd try to explain how nanotechnology fits in but I'm not sure myself.

    The voice acting didn't salvage this book either.  A good voice actor can make you hear and see each character.  This voice actor made me hear a guy doing accents.

    Sunday, October 17, 2010

    The Unwritten Laws of Engineering - Part 1

    Mechanical Engineering magazine is running a three-part series based on the classic book The Unwritten Laws of Engineering by King and Skakoon.  The first part is titled What the Beginner Needs to Learn at Once and it is so classic I'll jump on the bandwagon and add my own commentary.  

    However menial and trivial your early assignments may appear, give them your best efforts.

    I honestly don't recall my first assignment at my first job out of school.  Eventually it turned into learning how a CFD code worked - without having a computer to run it on.  As you can imagine, reading source code is not too exciting.  But once I got a handle on the program and was able to answer the boss's questions we moved on to doing some interesting CFD on jet engine exhaust flowfields.    What you need to keep in mind is this: if you don't make a good showing on your first task, odds are you won't be given the chance to do something more interesting.

    Of course, the authors are probably not referring to the boss who asked me to pencil in the triangles on his graph (pre-Excel days) because I had a plotting template.  But that's another story.

    Demonstrate the ability to get things done.

    At the end of the day your boss needs work to get done.  You need to contribute to that.  The authors say that getting things done is due to initiative, resourcefulness and ingenuity, and persistence and tenacity.  One of the keys is to not get distracted by the next shiny object that crosses your path, especially when your assignment is less than exciting.

    Once I finally got a computer to run that CFD code, I spent a year analyzing a single two-dimensional nozzle - and going way over budget on the computer time.  So maybe the persistence thing can be overdone.

    Develop a "Let's go see!" attitude.

    Throughout your career, customers and coworkers are going to come to you with questions about something you worked on.  Rather than retreating to your office to consult your computer program or design, go with that person to look at the problem together in the same place at the same time.  There is no substitute for collaborating on an issue and seeing your work through their eyes.

    I remember visiting a customer who was working on a very specific application of our CFD software.  He and I left his office, walked down to the factory, donned safety goggles, and climbed up on the work platform where he pointed down to a auxiliary air inlet on the top of an F-18 right in front of the tails and said "that's what I'm working on."  Imagine the clarity.

    Don't be timid - speak up - express yourself and promote your ideas.

    Let's quote the authors directly. "The quiet individual who says nothing is usually credited with having nothing to say."  But there's a caveat here: contributions will be appreciated when you have something valuable to add.  Don't speak simply for the sake of speaking.   Sometimes just asking a question is sufficient.  You're not expected to know everything and asking the right question can demonstrate your insight.

    We expect our new employees (and interns) to ask a lot of questions.  Back in my 20s I thought I knew a lot.  In my 30s I began to realize how little I actually knew.  Now I'm happy simply to ask the right questions.

    Strive for conciseness and clarity in oral or written reports; be extremely careful of the accuracy of your statements.

    Like it or not, engineers write all the time.  Therefore, you'd better get good at it.  You'll be writing proposals, progress reports, status reports, product documentation and instructions, and much more.  You have to convince people to give you money to do work and then convince them and others that it was well spent.  Even inter-office communication requires good writing, lest you become the butt of jokes.  (Trust me, it's true.)

    But also note the authors' admonition to be concise.  One of my earliest undergraduate lab experiences was to measure the thickness of a bagful of washers and report the average thickness to the instructor who had advised us that he wanted no more of half a page of results.  Of course, I wanted to impress him with my extensive and detailed summary of the measuring apparatus and computations.  I impressed him so much with my 2-page report that I got a C.   "The average width of the washers was 0.125 inches" would've gotten me an A.

    One of the first things you owe your supervisor is to keep him or her informed of all significant developments.

    Often these "significant" developments come in the form of bad news.  Because it's your boss's job to represent your work to their boss it's best to keep the number of surprises to a minimum.  The authors advise that when you have to report bad news, it's also good to have a solution in mind.  Don't just come to me with a problem, tell me how we can fix it.

    This should be nothing new.  Just like Mom, there's nothing you'll do that Mom won't find out about eventually.  Best to come clean early.

    Do not overlook the steadfast truth that your direct supervisor is your "boss."

    If you want to put a feel-good spin on this, you and your coworkers form a team under the direction of your boss.  The better that team works together and communicates to achieve its goals, the better it will be for everyone.  Keep and solve problems in the team rather than going over anyone's head.

    If you want the blunt force version, it's never a good idea to piss off the person who evaluates your job performance.

    Be as particular as you can in the selection of your supervisor.

    The authors lost me a little here.  If you have a boss you don't like you have two choices: suck it up and do your best or transfer to another group or division.  (Obviously, leaving the company is also an option.)  The 21st century update to this lesson is that you should consider working with a mentor (or mentors) to benefit and from their experiences and grow professionally from it.

    Just keep in mind that bosses are people too.  Most deserve your support.  Some deserve your transfer.

    Whenever you are asked by your manager to do something, you are expected to do exactly that.

    This rule seemingly violates one that's currently very popular: it's better to ask for forgiveness than permission. I think the author's intent repeats the previous rule about keeping your boss informed.  The authors state that directives are usually not rigid - they're guidelines.  If you want to make changes just discuss them with your boss first.  Or, if you complete the assigned tasks but have ideas for additional or alternative steps, show your initiative and do the extra work.

    So maybe the authors are just repeating themselves which may be because we're getting close to the end of part 1.

    Cultivate the habit of seeking other peoples' opinions and recommendations.

    OK, maybe they are repeating themselves.  This rule draws upon several topics already discussed.  As a new engineer you may not have any answers but you can demonstrate curiosity by asking questions.  Work with your boss to fully understanding their tasking, suggest modifications, and communicate back the results.

    Promises, schedules, and estimates are necessary and important instruments in a well-ordered business.

    One estimating method often joked about by engineers is this: make your best estimate then double the number and increase the units (so 2 days becomes 4 weeks).  I really don't have much to contribute here because the software business is notorious for its inability to schedule work.  But the gist of the authors' point here is do your best to keep your promises.

    In dealing with customers and outsiders, remember that you represent the company, ostensibly with full responsibility and authority.

    People will judge your employer by your words and actions, even outside of a professional setting.  They will think "Gee, they're such an ass.  I wonder if everyone at ABC Corporation is an ass."  (Trust me, I know.  Don't ask how.)

    They call it being a professional for a reason.  Learn how to conduct yourself.

    Can't Wait for Parts 2 and 3 

    As soon as I read this article I knew it had advice worth sharing.  Rather than relying on this posting I encourage you to read the article in the October 2010 issue of Mechanical Engineering or buy the book.   Even if you're in a career other than engineering (architect or attorney, for example) I hope you'll agree that these tips apply to any line of work.  If not, I'd love to see your comments.

    Saturday, October 16, 2010

    The road of excess...

    Welcome to the release of DBB (deadly blog buildup) where two weeks worth of crap are explosively discharged onto the internet.  Resign yourself to your fate and let's begin.

    Lockheed Martin in Fort Worth has banned music and video streaming web sites because they were consuming 10% of their bandwidth.  When I started my professional career I couldn't send a letter - I had to get my boss's boss to do it.  How long before internet restrictions are equally anachronistic?

    Why do Japanese people live so long?  My maternal grandmother (not Japanese) lived to 103 so that would be 2,860 more weeks of blog posts for me.  Bridging the cultural divide: understand other people by their toilets.  Who do you think has aged better?  Debbie Harry or Grace Slick?  These then and now rock star portraits make the answer pretty clear.

    On the set of The Empire Strikes Back.
    The best part of this collection of PowerPoint tips may be the link to the article calling Oracle's Larry Ellison the Darth Vader of PowerPoint.  If you prefer the original Darth Vader, check out these behind the scenes photographs of The Empire Strikes Back.  Here's the Star Wars Periodic Table  (Ex = Super Star Destroyer).

    This review of Eno and Fripp's Evening Star manages to unite three things I often post about: beards, Eno, and the periodic table (see above).

    John Jantsch from Duct Tape Marketing predicts trends that will shape small business in 2011.  (#1 Social simply is.)  He feels pretty confident about them, claiming that his predictions for 2010 were pretty much dead-on.  (#4 Kitchen sink on the cloud.)

    Is this a word? will come in handy.  Two weeks ago I used "arcanery" which apparently isn't a word.  Chicanery, which I was apparently practicing, is.

    Thus beginneth the deadly bullet list of CFD news.
    The 5 myths of CFD.  (#1 CFD is too difficult to be used during design.)  I agree with all except maybe #5 (Most products don't need CFD.)   Based on no hard data whatsoever, I'd still say that the minority of products would benefit from an analysis of their fluid environment.

    The big joke about CFD and experiment.  No one believes the CFD except for whomever did the analysis.  Everyone believes the experiment except for whomever did the test.

    Dharmesh Shah writes on twelve facts about entrepreneurs "that are likely" to surprise you.  I guess one man's surprise is another man's "duh."  For example, #8 is "74.8 percent indicated desire to build wealth as an important motivation in becoming an entrepreneur."  What's actually surprising is that a quarter of entrepreneurs didn't have a wealth motive. Hasn't money been demonized enough?  A business exists to generate a profit.  You work to get paid money to pay your bills with money.

    If you're an entrepreneur in the tech world here's someone's list of the top 256 entrepreneurship articles online.  The first link is an article titled The Secret Formula of Success is...  When you click through, the article begins "You Have to Work Hard."  Score one for accuracy.

    Startup Quote features daily quotations from startup founders and other entrepreneurs.  For example, "Managers tell you where you are, leaders tell you where you are going" says Michael Lopp.

    OpenCASCADE ver. 6.4 was released.  Tech Soft 3D announced the release of HOOPS 3D Exchange (3DX).  Ron Fritz, Tech Soft 3D's CEO and founder, has a long discussion on about the company's origin.  Deelip also has a long interview with Mike Payne, CEO of SpaceClaim, about his experiences in the CAD business.  Here's how Payne described Spatial when Dassault Systemes and he took them over: "It was worse than I thought. The product was unreliable. It had half-finished capabilities. Customers were mad. Customer service was non existent. The pricing was all over the place depending on what somebody would be able to pay at the end of a quarter. And there was zero quality assurance."  Speaking of SpaceClaim, they've launched the SpaceClaim User ForumNeed a free 3D CAD system?  Try KOMPAS-3D LT.

    In 1712, this activity and reading printed books were demonized as "the uncontrolled, uncensored private lives of individuals."  What is this activity?  I would quaff Melachol for only one reason; it "corrects perverted secretions."

    Aircraft pr0n - this time it's vapor cones

    More video awesomeness from Lockheed Martin: first flight of the U-2 on 01 Aug 1955.  This video graphically demonstrates the amount of stress and heat absorbed by an aircraft's landing gear during a rejected take off.  (It also demonstrates why you want to keep the boarding stairs nearby.)

    Read the story of U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Robbie Miller, posthumous recipient of the Medal of Honor for his heroics in Afghanistan.

    Fluid mechanics is hard.  So says the preamble of the Java Virtual Wind Tunnel, an interactive site that lets you play around with and visualize a two dimensional CFD simulation.   You can also explore irrotational, inviscid fluid flowANSYS is the 92nd largest software company in the world (and the top engineering software company) with $516 million in 2009 revenue.

    In the wake of his talk at this year's Business of Software conference, Seth Godin illustrates why just because you can write software doesn't mean it'll make a good business - the issues of permission, networks, scarcity, and the desire to pay are key elements.   Speaking of BoS2010, the folks at BLN have posted their BoS2010 summary.  (Twitter takeaway from Joel Spolsky: "A CEO's job is to ask their people one thing: what do you need?")  Then, according to BNET, you should keep your mouth shut.

    Apparently, a lot of people aren't fans of The Gap's new logo.  But at least it's easy to Crap Logo Yourself.  Or you can use the more richly featured Gap Yourself.  But this is moot because the Gap has decided to go back to their old logo.

     Clyfford Still, 1956-J No. 1, Untitled, 1956, Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth

    "Clyfford Still was a paranoid, insulting, mean-spirited, grandiose, pompous, officious, self-important jerk" which may explain why his work isn't centrally featured in the MoMA's survey of abex painting.  But that doesn't mean his paintings still don't kick ass.

     Jackson Pollock, White Light (detail), 1954.

    While we're on the topic of MoMA's Abstract Expressionist New York, here's one person's close-up (literally) view of some of the paintings.  The details revealed by these photographs are really cool.

    And finally, Slate weighs in on MoMA's exhibition with their own abex slide show that promises to change the way you think about this art.

    The recently-opened Monet 2010 exhibition in Paris has a cool interactive web site tour of his works.  (Press the Journey button.)

    I include Matisse's View of Notre-Dame, 1914 only because it reminded me so strongly of Motherwell's  Open 151: In Ultramarine with Charcoal Line, 1970.

    Dumb, dumb, dumb.  The USG spends billions annually on universities and national labs to bring technology to the marketplace and then wonder why it doesn't work.  Uh, hello - business brings technology to the marketplace.  This quote from one of these researchers sums it up: "I don't give a damn about transferring technology, greedy bastards."  I'm not a professor because I'm not smart enough.  Professors aren't businessmen because they don't have the skills.  I've seen this time and time again.  When famed outlaw Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed banks his reply was "That's where the money is."  So, why should the USG focus on business for technology transfer?  Cuz that's where the money is.

    Speaking of dumb, here are the dumb things people do with their passwords.  (Over half of all young people have shared one of their passwords with someone else during the past year.)   I recommend KeePass for password management.  I use it to manage over 500 passwords.

    For my student friends: consider the DoD's SMART scholarship program.

    What does a prolate spheriod have to do with football?   The NSF and the NFL have gotten together for the Science of Football.   If that doesn't blow your dress up, check out the Geometry of Pasta.  (Do you know what Caramelle looks like?)

    Bacon Bacon

    Who else would you make a bacon statue of other than Kevin Bacon?  Halloween is fast approaching - why not dress up like a side of bacon?  Educate yourself with this video of how bacon is made.

    Sheet music and audio files for the music from Super Mario World.

    Let's get this out of the way up front - you leave a 20% tip in a restaurant for standard, regular service.  Here are more tips on tipping.  When you're in Dayton, be sure to dine at the Pine Club.  (We used to call it the Pine Box.  Two upcoming conferences will be held in Dayton and that's what got me thinking about this.)

    What will your software's lack of usability cost you?  How about $170 million.  So says Marc Hedlund, founder of also-ran which lost out to when the latter was acquired by Intuit for the aforementioned sum.


    Seaquence is an interactive, graphical, biologically-based music generator.  And when you see Rumpetroll, it's not what you think.

    Another idea of mine, stolen: blanket support.  Want to flatter someone but lack the balls don't know how?  Let Flatter Me Calls do it for you for a fee.  I suppose growing up in the 1970s explains why I think the Hypnotic Illumicube is cool.

    The dude in the background of the Beatles' Abbey Road cover is now 90 and apparently not a Beattles fan ("a bunch of kooks").

    I'm not a car guy, but I'd love to have this Mach 5 in my garage. 

    71% of all tweets are ignored.  How many of these worst ways to use Twitter have you seen in action?  (#4 Don't establish a personality.)

    A link dump of 50 CSS tutorials and tools.  Who doesn't need to cheat every once in a while: 20 web-related cheat sheets, from XTHML and CSS2 to MySQL and World of Warcraft(?).   Asking for a phone number decreases responses by 5% and other interesting conversion stats for web forms.  I think by now everyone knows that your web site's buttons shouldn't say Submit.

    Google's WebP is supposed to do to JPEG what PNG is doing to GIF.  Specifically, WebP is a lossy image format for photographs that has shown a 40% decrease in file size in some tests.

    The Cranky Product Manager calls BoS 2010 a "sausage fest" and opines that the lack of women in the software business has something to do with the industry's frat house culture.

    If you missed the GPU Technology Conference, over 300 hours of presentations are now online.  Here's another instance where the iPad sheds it's "gee wiz" appeal and does useful work - in this case, managing a supercomputer with an iPad.  Supercomputing SC11 will be held in Seattle on 11-17 Nov 2011.  The software developer's dilemma: what's more important, feature set or release date?  Are you a programmer?  Are you cheap?  Then you'll probably like these free programming ebooks.

    With autumn coming and temperatures falling it's time to break out those appendage-friendly fleece garments and join the Snuggie Fan Club.  More Rubik's Cubes than you've probably ever seen.  Understand geology with this spiral timeline.

    Mines are deep.  The internet can show us how deep.  At one pixel per inch, see how deep that mine in Chile is and how far down those miners were trapped.

    Follow Peter Griffinn (Family Guy) on Twitter, if you dare.  ("One of the biggest benchmarks of true adulthood is when you come to the realization that all teenagers are douche bags.")

    What's interesting about this story is not how a patron was awarded $650,000 for injuries suffered during a lap dance, but trying to imagine how the dancer's shoe got near his eye.

    ...leads to the palace of wisdom.  --William Blake

    Sunday, October 10, 2010

    You never get tired...

    For better or worse, there won't be a post this weekend.  My only excuse is that I'm too tired from Friday night and Saturday to do anything other than watch football.  

    ...unless you stop and take time for it.  --Bob Hope

    Saturday, October 2, 2010

    Thinking is more interesting than knowing...

    Be safe.  Be sexy.  Emergency Bra.  After you see the site, you'll know why the Emergency Jock Strap never got out of product testing.

    For those of you interested in animation, especially black & white line art, please enjoy Ana Somnia - lights out!

    American Book Review chose their 100 best opening lines from novels.  For the record, I'll cite #25 from Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury, "Through the fence, between the curling flower spaces, I could see them hitting."  I have two contradictory thoughts on opening lines.  On one hand, it's difficult to judge an opening line outside the context of the overall story.  The list might better be positioned as best opening lines of great novels.  IMO, I actually think the last paragraph(s) of The Sound and the Fury are the real payoff of the novel and far exceed the greatness of the opening line.  On the other hand, I have thought for years that the greatest opening paragraph of a short story was from Faulkner's Dry September.  This, to me, is pure literary genius.
    Attacked, insulted, frightened: none of them, gathered in the barber shop on that Saturday evening where the ceiling fan stirred, without freshening it, the vitiated air, sending back upon them, in recurrent surges of stale pomade and lotion, their own stale breath and odors, knew exactly what had happened.
    Do you remember the Norwegian curling team's plaid pants from the winter Olympics?  Loudmouth Golf, the make of those pants, has a new online store with even crazier stuff.  (You are a fan of the Norwegian curling team's pants on Facebook, right?)

    Let's do a side-by side comparison of good and bad poop humor.  Last week I posted a link to Poopy-Time Fun Shapes.  Funny.  This week I ran across the Turd Twister.  Not funny.  Compare and contrast.  Discuss amongst yourselves.
    Here's a preview of "2 Forms of Anger" from Brian Eno's upcoming album, Small Craft on a Milk Sea.

    When you need help choosing which type of chart to make in Excel (or anywhere else for that matter) turn to this handing chart choosing guide.   (Do you want to show a relationship of three variables?  Use a bubble chart.)  For just plain old spreadsheets, Design Shack offers some tips to make spreadsheets less lame, but their advice is suspect because their sample has a huge problem.  They're formatting a financial spreadsheet with currency but they leave the numbers left aligned and without a currency symbol.

    Without preamble, here are scientific findings about Facebook users.
    1. They are narcissists.
    2. For the most impact, they post a photo on Friday morning.
    3. They (mistakenly) tend to think all their friends share their views.
    4. Their GPA is lower (3.82 vs. 3.06).
    5. They'd put off a poop to post an update.
    6. Facebook has a statistically significant, positive impact on life satisfaction.
    I kinda resent this comment from Fast Company magazine: "Beer has quickly become the bearded nerd's equivalent of wine."  Inferences as follows: beard = nerd, nerd incapable of enjoying wine, both beer and wine need to be enveloped in some bullshit arcanery to be enjoyed.  Regardless, enjoy the infographic of beer varieties.

    Steven Beal's The Periodic Table of the Artist's Colors is a nice juxtaposition of needlepoint, art, and science.
    Someone did some data-mining on's listener data to produce charts of music preference by age and gender.  (Apparently I should be listening to someone named Debbie Davies.)

    Tech Soft 3D offers the AutoCAD OEM development platform so you can build custom applications that extend AutoCAD's functionality.  Clean up your CSS with Dust-Me Selectors, a Firefox extension that finds all the unused CSS selectors on your site.

    OnStartups provides this list of reasons why every entrepreneur should write and how to get started.   Some examples:
    1. Your communication skills will get exponentially better.  (Exponential growth is asking a lot IMO.)
    2. Is a rapid accelerator of serendipity.  (Again, acceleration alone would be sufficient in this case.  Rapid acceleration is a lot.  Geek trivia: the time rate of change of acceleration is known as the jerk.)
    3. Don't force it.  (Applies to other activities as well.)
    4. Have a main topic to avoid rambling.  (Oops)
    Hubspot shares 5 steps to reduce the pain of blogging.  (#5 You cannot wait for every post to be perfect.  As I prove weekly.)  Use this social media flow chart to decide where to post.  (Are you drunk?  Foursquare!)  You can download a free chapter from David Meerman Scott's upcoming book, Real-Time Marketing & PR.  A book I contribute to daily: Common Errors in English Usage.

    Hygie-Tech produces HG_Flow, is CFD software designed for persons and products protection in potentially contaminated areas.  While we're on the topic of software companies with unusual names, here's FlowPit from ThreeDify. 

    Scientific Simulations is Dimitri Mavriplis' company, centered around software and services for his NSU3D CFD software.  smartcfd is an OpenFOAM-centric CFD consultancy.  Tecplot released Tecplot RS 2010 R2.   VEEM's latest super yacht propeller, the VEEMUltraskew, was designed in-part using their in-house CFD software.

    Seymour Cray's birthday was this past week so to celebrate you can watch this video of his Cray-1 Introduction talk from 1976.  Or if that's too schmarty pants for you, try this supercomputing coloring book.

    The Cray X-MP.  You don't wanna know what I've seen people do on this computer.

    Bacon is Good for Me t-shirt.

    The hardest thing to do is justify efforts in prevention.  If nothing happens, those efforts seem wasted.  But if something happens, you're criticized for not doing enough.  This summary of Richard Rhodes' talk on Twilight of the Bombs contains some statements that are scarier than a nuclear detonation.  "Most Americans don't think that we have nuclear weapons anymore."  Then "most Americans" are at best extremely ignorant or someone's making an unsupported generalization.  Here's another: "Rhodes noted that people fear the blast and radiation effects of atomic bombs, but it's really the fires that are most destructive."  Exactly what is the relevance of this statement?  And then there's "They [nukes] were insanely expensive and thoroughly useless."   I'll debate "insanely" and "useless."

    Ever want to find the LEAST popular search result?  That's what Inframutt is for.  (Don't bother: I already tried it on "blog" and didn't get the result you'd think.)

    Episode #37 of Seeing the Unseen: x-rays of a python digesting a rat.

    If your insides get all warm and wiggly for neatly wrapped cable bundles, you'll love this.

    Someone must've been having a bad day when they wrote this blog article about the biggest lie in business, namely that the customer is ignorant and needs the sales person's help.  First, if today's customers get 80% of their product information online, then 80% of their knowledge is suspect.  Second, this statement begs the issue of "the customer is always right" a groveling, "yes sir, may I have another" subservience that is equally unproductive.  Yes, the customer needs the sales person's help.  Think of it this way.  The customer should be interviewing the sales person to see if the product is a good fit for their needs.  The sales person should be interviewing the customer to see if the needs are a good fit for their product.  Together, they learn more about each other and make a decision on how to proceed.  And before anyone gets all bent out of shape, the customer is not ignorant either.  It's just that sales is (or should be) a process of mutual discovery.

    This weird beard film reminded me of Randy.  Most of you don't know Randy but that won't diminish your enjoyment of this facial hair folly.

    Breaking ornithopter news: student achieves first human powered flight via flapping wings.  Long-lost footage of the Apollo 11 moon landing has been found in Australia and will be screened next week.

    NASA's CRuSR program (Commercial Reusable Suborbital Research) has a number of particpants, including XCOR Aerospace and their Lynx vehicle.  What's notable is XCOR's founder saying "the big shocker out of the wind tunnel was CFD lied."  The layman's video guide to anti-submarine warfare.  (Leave it to the Japanese to come up with this bit of video brilliance.  I especially love the white-gloved pilots.)

    The Mickey Mouse penthouse suite at Disneyland looks kinda cool.  I wonder if they have something similar at Disney World? is your virtual changing room for online clothing retailers.  Main benefits: no pins on the floor, no stray toddlers who barge in, and no creepy salesmen lingering too close to the entrance.

    Convert ugly file names to something better using URLize.itPDFsam is a free, open-source tool for splitting and merging PDF files.  Next time you need to create a password for a new account you might want to run it through How Secure is My Password first.  (The password "laksjd" can be cracked in 30 seconds using a standard desktop PC.)  First OpenSolaris gets taken over by Illumos when Oracle drops support for it and now OpenOffice is getting reborn as LibreOffice.

    Hostess Sno Balls are one of my favorite manufactured pastries but Glo Balls in green are freakin' awesome!

    I know someone who'd pay real money for the Dream Griddle to be real.  On the other hand, unbelievably, the LAVNAV toilet nightlight is indeed real, for those who need help at night knowing whether the seat is up or down.  And with Xmas coming soon, put Brother's AirScouter (projects a 16 inch computer display directly into your retina) in your favorite geek's stocking.

    World's longest cucumber and everything you wanted to know about bananas.  Neither is what you're thinking.  For those who like to shorten things: Country and state abbreviations.

    When you tire of reading this, use Kick Ass to turn the page into an Asteroids game where you shoot and destroy all the page elements.  I have absolutely no idea how this works.  (You can also do it on the Kick Ass page itself.  Just click the button.)

    Trust me: it's gonna take you a while to get BreadFish out of your eyes and ears.  You can't bring yourself to leave the site.  Go ahead.  Click it.

    ...but less interesting than looking.  ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe