Friday, December 31, 2010


Proof #1,231 that innovation is not dead: the jelly wobbler.  (After all, jello's not going to wiggle itself.)

Brian Eno completes his Seven Sessions on a Milk Sea video odyssey with Instant Nuclear Family (Extended Version)

More tunes for your listening pleasure, Robert Fripp's Soundscapes, Live 2010, an interview and performance.  So-called Frippertronics involves an improvised, layered, tape-looping technique based on Fripp's electric guitar playing.  (It's about an hour long so start the audio in another tab and continue reading here.)

Here are some completely fun and totally unproductive web sites with which to wile away your holiday.

Oddly, "rig pumping" is not a pr0n term but instead applies to sailboats (and it's a bad thing).  But by using CFD one yachtsman figured out a better place to locate the second sail furler and eliminate pumping.

Also not a pr0n term, "growth guy" Verne Harnish has identified 4 trends growing firms should heed.  I was a little excited because one is "mesh businesses" but instead of referring to CFD meshing he's talking about the internet and business opportunities built around sharing (think Groupon and ZipCar).

The blog post "Do engineers make good CEOs?" [Ans.  Sometimes.] made me start thinking about a series of parodies on "do engineers make good blanks."  Got sidetracked by "do engineers make good pr0nstars."

Here's a list of the 57 lamest tech moments of 2010 including the demise of Google Buzz, various lawsuits, and my favorite - Polaroid naming Lady Gaga as creative director.

Hubspot lists the 9 reasons why your social media strategy isn't working including "You're not having fun."  I think the main reason is "Your social media channels are overly self-promotional."  No one likes a party guest who talks only about themselves.

Those Hubspot folks publish more web site tips than one can keep up with.  I don't know how many of these SEO tips we're missing.

In this infographic comparing Twitter and Facebook demographics, their respective users are remarkably similar with 2 notable exceptions.  Twitter users are much more likely to update their status daily (52% versus 12%) and Twitter users are more likely to purchase a brand they follow (67% versus 51%).

Yes, this is late but here's holiday greetings the FEA way from Siemens PLM.

3DTin is a browser-based 3D model builder.  I did not have the patience to build anything nor draw comparisons with Google SketchUp.

Here's a web page with double goodness.  First, you can download hi-res images in multiple sizes of web browser logos.  Second, the background is a cool snowflake effect.  Scroll all the way to the bottom of the page and move your mouse back and forth.

What questions keep entrepreneurs up at night?  #4 Is it wise to take angel investing from my Uncle Larry?  [No.]  #13. A customer wants to pay us a bunch of money for some custom features, what do we do? [Take the money and do the work.  Duh.]  #24. I love my company, but most of my time is spent doing things I don’t love.  How do I fix this?  [See following paragraph.]

This brief article from business author Patrick Lencioni struck a chord with me because of a single quote: "Though plenty of people in the world say they want to be successful, not that many are willing to humble themselves and do the simple things that might seem unsophisticated."

More on business leadership: 14 ways to be a great startup CEO includes what I would say is #1 "A startup CEO needs to be the personal voodoo doll for the startup." Or you could just read these startup blogs and become a better entrepreneur. 

"You should be aware that some asshole is signing your name to stupid letters."  Possibly the greatest letter ever printed on NFL letterhead and the fact that it's from my hometown Cleveland Browns is even better.  I wish I had the balls to use this at work.

Here are the top 10 blogs for writers 2010.  Not much time to benefit from this - wish the list was for 2011.  (That's my excuse for continuing to write like shit.)

OK all you mathematicians.  What the hell kind of freaky confluence of seemingly unrelated constants is Euler's Identity? This is like the scariest thing I've seen all year.  It gives me the heeby jeebies.

For those of you who aren't in the CFD biz, you may be curious what this mesh generation thing is all about.  Here's a nice video of an unstructured mesh being generated using a Delaunay algorithm.  The hot thing (pardon the pun) is to use CFD to simulate and then improve data center cooling.    Swansea University is helping the Bloodhound Supersonic Car project with CFD.

Proof #450 that only a poor musician blames their instrument.  A cool video animation done entirely in Google Docs.

The one person who'd really enjoy this either doesn't read this blog or won't admit to reading it:  the Hirshhorn Museum acquired a major piece by Dan Flavin, untitled (to Helga and Carlo, with respect and admiration) Quoting from the linked article, “By the sheer amount of light [Flavin's first 'barrier'] produced and the aggressive manner in which it overtook (or “abused” in the artist’s words) the room that defined its dimensions, Flavin’s barrier might be considered one of the first examples of what today is known ubiquitously as ‘installation art’ — or what Flavin referred to as ’situational.’”

In other art news, photographs of hand-tossed water just aren't doing anything for me.  Perhaps it's my profession - fluids have been demystified somewhat.

Ever wonder what the opening sequence of The Grinch was supposed to be like?  Here's a draft of the lyrics for what became Trim Up the Tree.  ("Hang dang-danglers on the bath tub.")   Old news: H.R. Giger will contribute to Ridley Scott's Alien prequel.

More reading from the user experience book club.  The official website of author Brad Meltzer.  Ten books for entrepreneurs from 2010. (I've only read one.  Boo hoo.)

Something for my computer systems administrator friends: Everything Sysadmin.  Dear software vendors: please help out your customers' sysadmins.  #10 is interesting: DO publish documentation on the web site (not a PDF).

And for my tech support friends, the 10 commandments of customer support.  #4 Ask the right questions.  (When I was in my 20s I had all the answers.  When I was in my 30s I began to realize how little I knew.  In my 40s I became happy simply to ask the right questions.  In my 50s I'd like to go 30 minutes without having to pee.)

Advice for programmers: use proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation in your source code comments.   And learn how to type faster.  (That typing class I took in high school has paid off thousands of times over.)   Learn Python by watching these videos from Google.  And something computer science students should love: what do sorting algorithms sound like?  Real Vim ninjas count every keystroke - using VimGolf.

A paper template for making your own 3D glasses.  (Red and blue cellophane not included.) "Don't forget to cut out the eye holes!"  Get a free countdown clock for your web site at

Every paragraph in this article contains concepts that confound my ability to understand, let alone summarize.  That never stopped me before so here goes.  Application of the mathematics of topology to quantum mechanics predicts a new form of matter governed by new laws of physics.   Physicists are already building conductors and insulators that use these new laws to govern how electrons move.

Here's a nice article and discussion on CAD accuracy and tolerance.  What is trinitramid good for?  It's 30% more efficient than current rocket fuels.  (And it's good for the earth - yeehaw!)   For all your space news check out Encyclopedia Astronautica.

QWOP is absolutely the world's worst computer game.  (They have an iPhone app!)

For the first time in history, the atomic weights of 10 elements on the periodic table are being changed to intervals rather than fixed values.  I hope these guys who etched the periodic table on a strand of hair don't mind redoing their work.  Not to be outdone, these scientists put the world's smallest Christmas card on a human hair.  Finishing with the tiny things, here are 10 views of snowflakes through a microscope.

Of the five essential components of a good product manager, market authority comes first.  Authority comes up again in this article with tips on how to write persuasive messages.  Write better to sell more by establishing trust and convincing prospects that your product is right for them.  I would back off a bit on the "convincing" part and instead go more for teaching prospects where your product excels.

The International Institute of Not Doing Much urges us to slow down.  (Lazy bastards.)

More competition for my Roomba.  The Dust Ball claims to work better in large spaces for which the Roomba isn't designed but I bet it can't get under my couch.

Poutine is fast becoming a food trend.  I gotta get me some of this.

How did something simple get so hard?  In the tradition of the adage "No job is finished until the paperwork is done" here's a web site that tells you where to put the toilet paper when you're done.  (In China toss it in the bin, not the bowl.) 

Unfortunately, they're sold out otherwise I'd use my Xmas money to get myself a carbon fiber toilet seat for only $279.

Teh interwebs continue to deliver value in terms of incredibly useful sites that you instantly become hooked on.  For example, Is today Sunday?  Slightly more useful is what is my screen resolution? Here is a cool but frustrating typography-based CSS hover layout.

Yet another article on whether the computer spells the end of reading: A Better Pencil.  Keeping things in perspective, the reviewer points out that every new technology has been demonized as "a threat to literacy and a corrupter of youth."

Human existence is about self-perpetuation, from procreation to graffiti.   Here's a brilliant idea for making a time capsule out of a light switch faceplate.  (Beats writing on the wall behind the wallpaper.)

I check Clients from Hell every once in a while to make sure our creative consultants aren't writing about us.

Hours and hours of census and mapping goodness here with this NY Times census mapping app where you can map a lot of different data by city and block.  Shown here is a racial distribution in Fort Worth.

A huge highly-detailed map with audio links to American English dialects.   Speaking of maps, find the time anywhere in the world with this World Time Clock and Map.

Recall a recent post about the USAF building a supercomputer from PS3s?  Well, Sony has stuck it to Uncle Sam by removing the ability to install Linux.  You'd think they would've learned from their attempt to create a backup system using Betamax.

...go in one year and out the other.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

JR's Grill Expels Building's Old Demons

On the day after Christmas, what's better than to leave the holiday ham in the refrigerator, get out of the house, and take your football watching on the road?  That's precisely what we did tonight at JR's Grill in Colleyville which bills itself as a "sports restaurant" and backs up that promise with several large TVs mounted around the dining area showing what seemed to be every ongoing NFL game.

After scanning the menu, I was so intrigued by the Prime Time Filet Burger that I had to order it.  What's so intriguing about a burger?  This one consists of 9 ounces of ground filet mignon topped with boursin cheese and caviar.  Yes - caviar.  Never having had caviar before it seemed fitting that my first experience would be on a burger.  And this burger was excellent.  The meat, grilled to a warm pink center, was fantastic and worth the price alone.  The cheese was a perfect complement, creamy and rich as the crumbles melted over the patty.  And the dollop of black, small caviar was a nice salty question mark in the center.  (Honestly, I still can't say I know what caviar tastes like.)

The Prime Time Filet Burger at JR's in Colleyville.  This photo does not do it justice.

Others in my group had a cheeseburger, ribs, shrimp, and grilled chicken sandwich and all received high marks.

This visit to JR's Grill was important to me because my last visit to that property was back in 2009 when it housed Cowboy's Barbeque & Rib Co.  My only meal there (read my review) was possibly the worst dining experience I've had in the last two decades.  So I was glad to exercise that old ghost with such a wonderful meal at JR's Grill.  I plan to return.

More information about JR's Grill can be found on their web site,

For the record, I received no compensation from JR's Grill at anytime for anything.

PC World's Ten Tech Predictions for 2011

It's a Sunday morning, the day after Christmas, so why not make a quickie post?  PC World's January 2011 issue includes Ten Tech Predictions to Take to the Bank.  Let's take a quick look.  (I'm going to paraphrase the actual predictions for brevity.)

Lots of folks will be using their smartphones to pay for stuff at the register.  Without having to put a number on it, I can see this as being likely.  Considering that I don't have a smartphone (and my wife just asked me about 30 minutes ago whether I was going to get one) I won't be the one making these purchases.  For the record, the first time I recall seeing this in fiction was the 80s TV show Max Headroom.

iPads will rule the tablets.  Don't they already?

3D TV will take off.  I would like it if HD TV took off (in my house).  But I just don't get the attraction of wearing those 3D glasses to watch The View.  I consider this unlikely.

Disk drives will move from traditional rotating platters to flash.  I can see this on the laptop side of things where physical size and energy use are driving factors.  But I don't see it happening on the desktop just yet.

Compact interchangeable lens cameras will replace DLSRs.  I don't even know what this means.  Regardless, I will continue to cut off people's heads in my snapshots.

All e-Readers will be color by the end of the year.  Doubtful.  Novels have always been black and white so why would a strict e-reader need color, unless they're trying to be more than just an e-reader and compete with the iPad which they already predicted was a losing proposition.  Plus, manufacturers are going to want to keep that low price point.  The real question is when Amazon will start giving away Kindles with your first e-book purchase.

Conventional feature phones (i.e. the midrange) will fade away leaving only basic phones and smartphones.  I have no personal basis for judging this prediction but I tend to agree.

Cloud-based OS will start to attract the average home user.  Agree but with a caveat.  Remote storage of data is ripe for pitfalls that will likely confuse and then anger the average home user.

IPv6 adoption will accelerate.  No brainer.  Agreed.  Can't run out of IP addresses.

Facebook and Google will be the tech rivalry to watch.  The only question is which one can be characterized as Godzilla and which one is Mothra.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Empty Vessel Makes the Loudest Sound

Two years.  159 posts.  The good thing about an empty vessel is there's no need to refill it.  It's hollow sound reverberates with every thump regardless of the skill of the player.  This post started out as a parody of other blogs' "best of 2010" posts but I couldn't make it work.  Why not and what has it all meant?

Blogging is primarily about words, large and small, placed in a certain order, given a rhythm and sent on their way. It takes an incredible amount of effort to craft a sentence like "Carstairs-McCarthy expounds what he takes to be the three main peculiarities of human language: vocabulary size, duality of patterning, and the distinction between sentences and noun phrases" which is why I don't bother and instead write things like "poo" and "LOL."

Pictures are important in blogging too.  Which is why I won't include one here.  They say pictures are worth a thousand words, but I believe that's only true for the hollow vessel.  Fill that vessel with the richness of Faulkner, Dickens, or Shakespeare and the sound is not just loud, but silent and tremulous, cadenced and boisterous, a roar all around us and a whisper deep in our hearts.  But that's wrong too.  A painting by Rothko, Pollock, or Innes can bring you to the same place, a place with no words but yet still infused with meaning and emotion.

Is that the quantum nature, the word-picture duality, of communication?  Sometimes meaning is conveyed by discrete, word-sized packets of information while at other times it is a continuous, wave-like stream of color and shape.

Sadly, in a place we don't care to go, blogging is about ego, it is about the one tree falling in the forest, it is about the street corner soapbox and the lonely court jester laughing at his own jokes.  What kind of primordial lizard brain does it take to believe that one's thoughts are worth making public?   The paradox, the Catch-22, is the adage to write about what you know, what you're passionate about.  And then dare to hope that anyone else reads it.

So blogging is ultimately about readers.  I like to pretend there are hundreds of lurkers out there.  You commenters, unfortunately, I've written off as spam bots. During the coming months I promise to inflict upon you web sites and commentary that only I find funny or interesting or cool.  If things go as planned, soon you won't have to suffer through many CFD links as those will move to another blog.   But for now, accept these best wishes for a merry holiday season.  And for you spam bots, no I don't want to make money using my computer from home.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Book of Lies by Brad Meltzer

What do Superman, Cleveland, and the biblical story of Cain and Abel have in common?  I don't know and I just finished Brad Meltzer's The Book of Lies where these are all central plot elements.

OK, I'm being a little harsh just for effect.  Meltzer does weave those elements and more into his tale but it's just a little too loosely woven for my liking.

Eighteen years ago Cal Harper, then a young boy, witnessed his father accidentally kill his manic depressive mother. Off to jail his father went, never to return to Cal's life even after his release from prison.

That is, until today.  Cal, now working with the homeless in Fort Lauderdale, finds his father in a local park late at night with a gunshot wound.  If that isn't surprising enough, tests on the bullet taken out of his father indicate it came from a gun last used in the murder of the father of Superman's creator.

When released from the hospital, father and son find themselves being pursued by a killer tattooed with the mark of Cain and federal agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, both seeking the contents of a freight container that Cal's father was supposed to be transporting.  Their search for the truth and the ensuing chase take them to Cleveland, lured by the promise of ancient relics with magical powers.

I think you can see that this story has many parallels with Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code.  But just as Cleveland doesn't compare well to Rome, The Book of Lies requires me to make too many leaps of faith.  I'd like to think I'm as good as the next guy at suspending belief to enjoy a book or film but there were many times when things just didn't make sense or when there were just too many voids in a character to justify their actions.

Overall it was a nice tale of intrigue with some thought provoking moments about sons and their fathers.  The book ends with a nice message.  And Scott Brick's narration of the audio book version of the novel is very good - he's one of the better voice actors out there.

You can learn more about Brad Meltzer and his other novels at

Saturday, December 18, 2010

One great use of words...

My holiday present to you: Christmas carols played entirely on iPads and iPods from the iBand.  And if you prefer your music to be accompanied by marching, enjoy this marching band kickoff.

I love when meshes show up in the art world.  This sculpture of a tetrahedral volume mesh has a certain aesthetic appeal despite the fact that from a CFD standpoint it's an awful mesh.

It's time for Fun with Words, Episode 25, in which we debunk word myths like the one that says using Xmas instead of Christmas is a way to take Christ out of the holiday.  What you may not know is that the X in Xmas is really the Greek letter chi, the first letter in the word Χριστός which means Christ.

And now Fun with Letters: an animated monogram of the alphabet

The data is over a decade old but the result is still disturbing: half of U.S. adults are virtually illiterate.  (Don't forget what they say: statistics are like a bikini - what they reveal is interesting, but they conceal what's most important.)

Woman delivers baby in MRI.

More fun art from etherbrian: sweet bacon dreams, a bacon-themed icon set.

  • Crunchyard (a great name for a rock band, to steal from Dave Barry) offers "engineering software simulation service over the internet on a pay per use basis" including OpenFOAM. (At least they didn't overuse "in the cloud.")
  • Or if you prefer your OpenFOAM to be GPU accelerated, look at the SpeedIT toolkit.
  • Apollo 13 astronaut James Lovell and flight director Gene Kranz will headline SolidWorks World to be held 24-26 January 2011 in San Antonio.
  • Caedium can now create high quality movies of your CFD simulation results.
  • Enjoy CFdesign's 2010 holiday video.
  • The Linux Foundation
  • Symscape's December 2010 newsletter is now online.
  • CFdesign folks share their thoughts on CAD-integrated or CAD-embedded CFD.

Posterous' new group feature makes it a nice collaboration tool for small business. (Posterous is a blogging by email tool.  I'm gonna have to make me an account now.)  LinkedIn provides a list of the top 10 overused phrases on resumes.  #2 Innovative.  I suppose if you were truly innovative you'd document that in other ways.  IMO the main point of this list is to stay away from subjective, qualitative language.  (Now going to check my resume.)  Need some fun Twitter-looking icons?  Look no further than Tweetle.  From the "because you can" department: vmail, a vim interface to Gmail.   How to test your web site's content and how to prevent confusion on your contact page.

The must-see site of the week: the MPM Liquid Demo.  Try to stop playing with it, I dare you. 

Marketing success of the week: the makers of Hot Tamales and other candy sent their sales team to Fargo, North Dakota instead of Hawaii when they didn't make their sales quota.  The result was a huge amount of national publicity for their brand.

This list of the top 50 industrial engineering blogs doesn't have the narrow focus the name implies because it includes project management and PLM.  I think I follow 5 of the 50.  Sage is open source mathematics software with a mission to create a free alternative to Matlab and others.  Gizmodo's list of the most popular free Windows downloads of 2010 includes CCleaner which is the only one I've ever used (or even heard of).  Explania is the home of animated explanations of topics ranging from "How to avoid a stomach ache" to "What is Twitter?"

Believe it or not, these works of art were created by students in a CAD system.

Not your usual year-end article about the CAD business: 2010-2011 in CAD Technology.  When asked what format should be used for long-term storage of CAD data, Deelip always replies 3D PDF or 3DMDezignstuff presents their top 10 posts of 2010.

Just starting a company? Here are 21 really practical tips for startups.  These are things you should do right away to establish your online presence.

Before you spend those Christmas gift cards on new clothes, know that Honeysuckle (bright red-pink) is the color of 2011.  I knew saving all my shirts from 1977 was a good idea.

Just when you thought urinating couldn't be any more fun, along comes Toirettsu, a urinal-based game from Sega where the controls are activated by your stream.  Makes me wonder what it would cost to have one of these installed at home.

Six of the top 20 worst childrens' book covers have something to do with poop, not counting the one about Bill O'Reilly.

Check your pocket change right now because if you have a 1969-S penny with a doubled die mark it could be worth $35,000.  Of the 10 valuable coins, 8 of them feature some sort of die error.

So close but yet so far.  Dudes who can't seem to touch girls while being photographed are featured in Hover Hands.

Desktop Engineering looks at the Evolution of Analysis since 1995 and predicts "In the next decade, increased automation will be the dominating factor as CFD analyses move deeply into the design world."  Back in the day, "customers didn’t like spending extensive time on three necessary tasks outside of the solver: CAD data “cleanup,” meshing the model in proper detail and post-processing steps such as report generation."  Guess what?  They still don't like meshing. 

From Russia comes this infographic of Rockets of the World.

Let's call this "Duck & Cover 2.0" - there's a new strategy for how citizens should deal with a nuclear detonation.  Do away with your Cold War fatalism because a nuke is more survivable than you think.  If you like watching things blow up, check out this test of the projectile that would be launched by a rail gun.  Kinetic energy is a wonderful thing.  Aircraft are cool but so are their houses.  Here are 7 cool aircraft hangars.

 Mr. ET pities the fool who doesn't phone home.

Do not click this link if you're offended by underwear, but what got my attention is Sacfree which is exactly what it sounds like.

What's next?  Advanced Technology Bomber made from Legos?  Air Force builds supercomputer from Playstations. to hide our thoughts.  ~Voltaire

Friday, December 17, 2010

Happy Holidays!


Saying "Happy Holidays" does not make me a weak kneed, politically correct drone.   Way back when I was a kid, before PC meant either politically correct or personal computer, "Happy Holidays" was shorthand for "Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!"

So when I say "Happy Holidays" don't give me the morally superior eye roll and lecture me on moral courage.  You can blow it out your yule log.

And I say "Merry Christmas" too.  In fact, I said "Joyeux Noel" at our company party (that's Paris talk for Feliz Navidad).  If someone were to say to me "Happy Hanukkah" (note correct spelling) I wouldn't be offended but it would be rather empty as I don't celebrate Hanukkah (besides the fact that it's already over). [I would have no problem wishing my Jewish friends "Happy Hanukkah" because the greeting is all about wishes for them, not a declaration of my beliefs. -Ed.]

So everyone needs to climb down off their high reindeer and just chill.

And don't get me started on Xmas.  Just Google it for Christ's sake.


They call it a rant for a reason.  Several hours ago I wrote the rant above after seeing something that set me off.  Now, several hours later I still feel the same.  When it's my birthday I don't walk around saying "Happy Birthday" to other people.  The greeting has nothing to do with me and everything to do with the person I'm addressing.  It doesn't take courage to say Merry Christmas.  It takes a true understanding of other people to know how to wish them the best.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Unwritten Laws of Engineering Part 3, Professional and Personal Considerations

ASME completes its republication of The Unwritten Laws of Engineering in the December 2010 issue with Part 3 titled Professional and Personal Considerations.  First published in 1944, this work by W.J. King (later revised by James G. Skakoon) is an engineering classic and provides tips on professional and personal conduct.

This last installment should be interesting because it begins with this quote: "Emotional competencies were twice as important in contributing to excellence as were pure intelligence and expertise."  (I took little comfort from this cuz for intelligence I'm as pure as Ke$ha and when it comes to emotional competence my wife says I had a feeling once and it died of loneliness.)  Let me paraphrase another quote: a technical expert with a good personality is more valuable than a sociological freak.  And if you're like me, you're now mentally cataloging all the freaks you've known in your career.

Laws of Character and Personality

One of the most valuable personal traits is the ability to get along with all kinds of people.  This section reads like everything Mom should have taught you so I won't dwell on it.  I will mention #8 of their 10 "dos and don'ts" - Do not take yourself or your work too seriously.  For whatever reason, humorless jerks tend to fill that void in their personality with self-importance.

Never underestimate the extent of your professional responsibility and personal liability.  When I first read this section I thought of civil engineers and professional engineers and their very direct liability to their customers.  The section supports this by advising against taking the "I was only doing my job" approach. However, one passage caught my eye when it mentioned "One of your jobs... is to think like a total idiot and figure out 'How is this product going to be misused?'"  As appealing as idiocy is, I'm saddened that engineers are liable for not anticipating that a moron is going to use a lawnmower as a hedge trimmer or blow dry their hair in the bathtub.  Even in the software business, as soon as you make your software idiot-proof they invent a better idiot.  Lawyers, lawyers, lawyers.

Let ethical behavior govern your actions and those of your company.  Duh.  I mean, really.  I know the authors warned that they'd only list rules that are frequently violated.  But, duh.  If you're not ethical I really don't want to know you, let alone work with you.  But back when I worked for a large defense contractor I had to take ethics training and then sign a document committing to be ethical.  But if I was ethical why would I need to sign the form?  And if I was unethical I'd sign it regardless.

Regarding Behavior in the Workplace

Be aware of the effect that your personal appearance and behavior have on others and, in turn, on you.  We've all known the engineer with B.O., greasy hair, horrendous table manners, or a fly that's perpetually down.  Why our profession seemingly is cursed with this more than others is beyond me.  All undergraduates would benefit from an etiquette class before leaving school.  Or here's the short version: shower daily.

Beware of what you commit to writing and of who will read it.  This gave me a deja vu moment.  In these days of Web 2.0 we're all aware that any email, PDF, or video will be copied endless and live infinitely online.  But back in 1944 these authors already knew that you should "assume (1) that your documents might go to anyone and (2) that they will exist forever."  What's old is new again.

Regarding Career and Personal Development

Analyze yourself and your subordinates.  This section is interesting in that the authors introduce the idea of using a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator to understand not only how you think but how your coworkers think.  The 16 MBTI types are neither good nor bad but simply insight into the way you think.  What's interesting is that a diverse collection of MBTI types leads to a more successful team and I've personally seen that in action with undergraduate design teams.  I'm an ESTJ, by the way.

Maintain your employability as well as that of your subordinates.  Proof yet again that education begins  after you graduate.  Whether you do it for yourself, your employer, or your next employer it pays to keep learning new things.

Read my summary of Part 2 and Part 1 of The Unwritten Laws of Engineering.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Time Magazine's Best of 2010

We started subscribing to Time a couple months ago to have fodder for my son's current events homework. When each issue arrives with its familiar red border I read it and my reaction is always the same.


Neither interest nor disgust, passion nor insight, whimsy nor affirmation. Nothing in this magazine resonates with me. The pages are slick and glossy and colorful, legible, readable and well designed and when I'm done turning those pages it's like a quarter hour alien abduction - I'm back in my chair with no memory of the last 15 minutes and only slightly confused. Maybe the name is well chosen - at least the publication consumes a small chunk of time.

So there's no surprise that December 20th issue's The Best of 2010 is like a Randy Johnson fastball to my John Kruk - way over my head. I have seen none of the top 10 movies or television shows and certainly none the plays, heard none of the top 10 music, read none of the top 10 books. You'd think that maybe, just maybe, I'd have better luck with the top 10 tech gadgets but no joy there either.

And to be perfectly clear this says more about me than Time. It's not too much of a challenge to hope that you're more timely than me. Check it out for yourself at

Saturday, December 11, 2010

At every party there are two kinds of people...

This past Wednesday evening, driving home from getting my haircut, on a dark two-lane road, away from bright lights, I heard on the radio, for the first time, the music I want played at my funeral: Finnish composer Jean Sibelius' The Swan of Tuonela. Beautiful.  Haunting.  Dynamic.

How much more annoying can this blog be?  None.  None more annoying.

How much blacker can NASA's carbon nanotubes grown on titanium be?  None.  None more black.  The article explains why NASA needs black that goes to 11.  NASA uses something called the process communication model to categorize people into 6 personality types, one of which turns out to be the most successful for astronauts.  Are you a rebel, reactor, workaholic, promoter, dreamer, or persister?  NASA takes us on a tour of all known galaxies.

Biomedical engineers are projected to have an employment growth of 72 percent, must faster than average, and other nuggets about engineering employment between 2008 and 2018.
In the article "5 Business Killers", author Verne Harnish advocates that you stop doing things that suck the life out of your company.  #4 is "Don't answer your own email."  In this age of direct, genuine communication how can having an assistant answer your email be considered a net benefit?  Sure you save time by not having to perform the mechanical act of reading email but perhaps the issue is better managing your email.  Make sure people know what they should and shouldn't ask you and apply smart filters to remove junk and automatically sort the rest.  Then reply to your "real" email.  On the other hand, Harnish's #5 is "Stop eating alone."  Having lunch with employees and customers is a great way over time to develop your business.

 CFD simulations of a football's aerodynamics

I like when two things I'm interested in intersect each other with cool results:
  • About war and bananas is an animated CSS implementation of Pablo Picasso's Guernica.  (This is one of those things what make you wonder "how'd they do that?"  Be sure to find the banana.)
  • CD-adapco and Wilson Sporting Goods are involved in a race to engineer the perfect football by applying CFD. 
And now for the rest of the bulleted CAE links.
  • Hygie-Tech believes firmly that the end user is the best placed individual to have expertise in their own air system. The user friendly interface of HG_Viewer means that Hygie-Tech clients can examine the results of HG_Flow themselves, making CFD a highly applicable everyday tool. 
  • EASIT2 is "a European (non-profit) project preparing a framework for defining and recording analyst skills in all sectors of engineering which could lead to a professional qualification in engineering analysis and simulation." Help out by taking their survey.
  • Mentor Graphics is hosting a webinar on 26 Jan 2011 titled CAD Geometry Clean-Up  which "aims to show various methods for dealing with tricky CAD data and how to get geometry ready for analysis."
  • SALOME 5.1.5 was released.
  • Check out this blog post that attempts to define CAD terminology.
  • Long on words, short on facts, but here's a CIMdata article on how Autodesk uses the cloud for simulation and analysis.
Social Media Examiner shares these 5 tips for managing your online reputation.  #2 is "Alert yourself and then Join the Conversation."  The recommendation involves creating online alerts (e.g. Google alerts) for your name, your company, your products, your competitors, etc. so you can monitor what's being said about you.  But don't forget the second half of the tip: join the conversation wherever your name is mentioned.  (Because I'm the poster boy for egomania, it probably doesn't surprise you that I already have alerts for my name, my company, etc.  But I did just take action and converted all those alerts from email to my Google Reader feed.)

This makes no sense.  Flame retardants found in butter. Don't you cook with butter?  Doesn't that mean it enhances cooking flames or something?

Simulation pays off during product design because "in the real world there's no undo" and other insights are available in The Economics of Design Simulation - Time, Money, and Quality.  While I have not yet read the full PDF (freely downloadable from the site), this is an insightful article about why over-engineering products is no longer a viable business strategy and how simulation can help you optimize your products for your customers' needs.  (Of course, the subtitle begs the maxim: "better, faster, cheaper - choose 2 of 3".)

The sixth of Brian Eno's Seven Sessions on a Milk Sea, Big Thief Trudge, is now available.

In Cutting the Cord (to the computer mouse), Desktop Engineering engages in speculative thinking about the future of human-computer interaction in design and CAE.  These technologies are really cool and I hope that that someone's keeping ergonomics in mind.  I barely have the strength to remain seated and can't imagine having to stand, walk around, and wave my arms just to use my computer.

And speaking of HCI, here's a new computer display that I'm certain will end up on my son's "must have" list (just like the 60 inch curved display I posted a while back.)  The Bend Desk is a L-shaped touch screen that curves from a flat desktop up to a vertical display.

From the history of animation department, did you know Chuck Jones had to pitch How the Grinch Stole Christmas TV show 26 times before he got a sponsor? 

I rarely agree with this newspaper columnist and in fact I'll disagree in a minute with something he wrote in this article, but it saddens me that I scored miserably on these 10 questions about U.S. history from a study guide for immigrants. (#9 Name the U.S. territories.)  I guess geography is a lost skill.  HOWEVER, later in this opinion piece the author mentions "the anti-immigration sentiment that seems to be sweeping the country."  Yes, there are fringe wackos who are "anti-immigration" but they are in the underwhelming minority.  It's "illegal immigration" that's the sticking point.  And don't bother trying to infer too much from my statements here: my wife and I are both second generation descendants of legal immigrants.

 Another holiday gift idea: a bacon necktie.

Programmers: stop making these mistakes.  #9 is "Opening up too much to the user" and I found it timely because I was talking to someone at lunch yesterday about iOS versus Android where the latter was described as for more technical people.   Here they write "...placing the onus on users to customize functionality they do not fully understand can invite disaster..."  This jives with user interface advice from Cooper along the lines that "every decision you force the user to make is a failure of design."  (Sorry if I got that quote or attribution wrong - I'm doing it from memory.)

Business people: stop doing things that sap energy.  Instead of a "to do" list, make a "stop doing" list with stuff like providing service X or marketing using Y.  Art Petty has his favorite dumb ass management mistakes including #6, Letting marketing define its own key performance indicators.   If marketing activities don't relate to the measures that propel the business they're useless.

Results of the poll Why the Boss Sucks:
  • Bosses may not recognize how bossy they are.
  • More than one out of three employees think they're smarter than their bosses.  (This would be good if true - surround yourself with people smarter than you.  Not too hard in some cases.)
  • 70% do not aspire to have their boss' job.
Like Depends but for farts: Subtle Butt

It's not too late to buy several packages of Subtle Butt Discreet Odor Neutralizers for holiday stocking stuffers.  I love the tag line: "Never be embarrassed by 'escaped' gas again."  Quoting "escaped" makes it seem like an inside joke - "Ha ha, we know it never really escapes like a prisoner tunneling out of Stalag 17.  You knowingly and willingly set it free."

Let the debate begin.  What's better for CFD: Finite volumes or finite elements?  I think this article mixes both meshing and solution algorithm issues rather than just focusing on the latter.  I still don't know the correct answer to whether FVM or FEM is better.

"One of the biggest challenges you'll face in your life is folding a fitted sheet."  Forgive the hyperbole, but learn the technique.

Here are answers to 10 common business blogging questions. #7 is "How much time per week should we allocate to maintaining the blog?" and the answer is 2-3 hours.  Got spare time for reading product management blogs?  Here's nearly 200 of them.

"The user's train of thought is sacred" is one of several tips for critiquing a user interface.  I find that tip similar to Cooper's (wow - referenced him twice today) on making the interface match the user's mental model of the task.  Another good tip in this article is "the best interfaces are incrementally learnable."

My son was a sacker and checker at the local grocery store so I'm certain he'll be interested in the National Grocers Association 2010 Best Bagger Championship.

iPhone passes Blackberry and Android may do the same soon.  Google is Chrome, Chrome, Chrome: Browser, OS, web store, etc.  Google's Zeitgeist shows what we searched for in 2010.  Computer tech support people have this acronym PEBKAC which stands for Problem Exists Between Keyboard and Chair.  These stories on the successful software blog illustrate why this acronym exists.

How badly do I sex thee?  Let me quote the way (from Rowan Somerville's The Shape of Her, winner of the Bad Sex in Fiction Award).
“Like a lepidopterist mounting a tough-skinned insect with a too blunt pin he screwed himself into her.”
    Drumroll please...  The nominees for the Best Animated Short Film Oscar are....

    The 3-minute animated film Thought of You is a beautiful example of figure drawing and movement.  It's amazing how line drawing can convey realistic weight and balance while retaining the fluidity and fantasy that is animation.

    This graphic of every gaming console brings back memories of the Super NES and Super Mario World.  What will be the top words of 2011?  Parseltongue supposedly will be one.  Yippee.  Girl Talk's All Day is an hour-long mashup that's pretty good but has some lyrics that are definitely NSFW.   The manifold clock connects the two hands so that time is displayed in 3D.  I'm not certain what limits it to eggs, but the online Egg Timer should come in handy.  The Noun Project collects and organizes the symbols comprising the world's visual language.  They're free for you to download.

    ...those who want to go home and those who don't.  The trouble is, they are usually married to each other.  ~Ann Landers

    [All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.]

    Sunday, December 5, 2010

    Rage by Jonathan Kellerman

    Jonathan Kellerman's Rage had me going for about three-quarters of the novel.  Nine years ago a child was murdered and horrifically her killers were children too.  But since the guilty verdicts were handed down people involved in the case have been dying.  First, one of the child murderers is strung up in prison like a classic gang hit.  And most recently, his accomplice took a bullet to the head shortly after his release from prison - on the same evening he called psychologist and police consultant Alex Delaware for help.  Delaware and the gruff (and gay) police Lt. Sturgis go back to the beginning of the case to find out what's really going on.

    Rage features the voice acting of John Rubinstein who delivers a punchy staccato performance that I found a great match for a detective story.

    However, the novel devolves into the two characters discussing and refining scenarios until finally they come up with a plausible explanation for the case.  Then something completely lame happens to some of the central characters and the entire tale dies with a whimper.  A completely unsatisfactory ending.

    Maybe it's because this is one in a series of Kellerman novels featuring the Delaware character.  Maybe I'm missing some backstory.  Maybe the case will be resolved in the next in the series.  I don't know.  And probably won't ever find out.

    Saturday, December 4, 2010

    Everything considered, work is less boring...

    Genius use of teh interwebs #36C: the Cup Size Choir.  (Do not click if bras offend you.)   And one for the ladies: the animated nudemen clock (not NSFW).

    Two new videos from Brian Eno's Seven Sessions on a Milk Sea are available: Allen Loop and Abdominal Crisis.

    3D World presents these 10 computer generated short films that you "must see."  These aren't your parents' cartoons - some are quite dark and one borders on disturbing.  And to a certain degree, their ability to spawn those reactions indicates the high level of storytelling achieved.  FWIW, the one I prefer the most is the first, Day and Night.

    Another article considers whether technology has "imperiled the type of deep focus required for serious reading and writing."  The answer is no - people just have to exercise personal discipline to create places and times for concentration, regardless of the presence of tech distractions.  Publilius Syrus may have been correct: multi-tasking may be overrated.

    Measure of America  is a social science project to define better measures of well-being.  You could spend hours mapping all the different indexes they've developed.  This is a map of their income index by congressional district (darker is higher income).

    The entrepreneur's guide to conflicting advice presents common "advice traps" so you can recognize them and know to fall back to your core values.  One is easy: "Build a strong in-house dev team vs.  Save money by outsourcing everything."  Never outsource your core competence.  Which puts me at odds with this article on why you must outsource.  In these top 5 pieces of advice for entrepreneurs, #2 is "don't let people tell you your ideas won't work."  I phrase this as "your baby is ugly - get over it."  In other words, let people say what they want, recognize that your ideas aren't perfect, but execute anyway.  Finally, this list of 10 things I know for sure about building a business includes #3 "Serve customers you respect... Customer service is mostly about mutual respect."
    Lightning may not strike twice in the same place, but it sure comes close in some places more than others according to these maps of 310 million lightning strikes.

    The four sets of skills you need to succeed in simulation-based design include the following, according to
    1. Background in engineering science.  (This seems like a given.)
    2. Understanding of the computational methods.  (I'm not certain that engineers need to understand the numerical algorithms in their CFD software in order to get good results.  I don't know what's under the hood of my car but that doesn't prevent me from being a good driver. [Not for debate.  Ed.])
    3. Familiarity with CAD software.  (For large organizations this can be problematic.  Because of cost including both licenses and training, many engineers don't have access to the CAD software.)
    4. Knowledge of simulation software.  (Agreed.  To further abuse my car analogy while I don't need to know about the engine, I certainly need to know about all the controls for the driver.)
    Apparently Hans Rosling's famous TED talk about data visualization wasn't enough cuz here's another video version of it from BBC TV.  (Same data but cool presentation.)

    Don't have a good vision statement to justify tweeting to your boss?  Have one generated for you at What the F*** is My Social Media StrategyWin Without Pitching proposes a new approach to sales that does away with the pitch and instead focuses on positioning and a systematic communications strategy.

    Is Get Everything Done (aka AutoFocus system) truly unique or a variation of David Allen's Getting Things Done?  They share several common principles including a single trusted system in which all of your things are logged, offloading your subconscious.

     Yes, indeed - rainbow pancakes.

    A beautifully illustrated introduction to color theory.

    Ever get confused about the difference between alto and tenor saxophones or black and white pepper?  Get things straight using Difference Between.  ("Black peppers are made from dried immature peppercorns while white peppers are made from dried ripe peppercorns.")

    I have a hard enough time with modern English so this guide to Shakespeare misquotes will come in handy.  IMO, the most common misquote also completely reverses the meaning of the quote.  "Now is the winter of our discontent" makes things sound kinda dreary.  But the correct, full quote "Now is the winter of our discontent turned glorious summer by this sun of York" is uplifting and hopeful.

    "Is computing minimum communication cost NP-hard?" and other theoretical computer science challenges have a home on Stack Exchange.   If you can draw any conclusions from top selling O'Reilly titles it'd be that Python, HTML 5, and Javascript are really hot with programmers now.

    Sabre Warrior is a conceptual design of an unmanned combat air vehicle from Lockheed Martin.

    Relive early NASA space exploration on Spacelog where the original transcripts are posted.  Where was the X-37B and exactly what was it doing?

    Leadership lesson #6 from the Dear Leader: look at things.

    ...than amusing oneself.  ~Charles Baudelaire