Saturday, December 31, 2011

For last year's words belong to last year's language...

Hooray! The last post.*

If you listen to only one mashup each year let it be DJ Earworm's annual United State of Pop 2011 (World Go Boom). No one else can blend 25 songs into four minutes like Earworm can. Stream it from the site, watch the video, or download the mp3.

What's more fun that watching a video of Katy Perry getting a cast made of her boobs to auction for breast cancer research?

Readers' Choice General award winner from Aviation Week's annual photo and art issue, my favorite of the year.
The same people who think the internet is a series of tubes are considering two bills, Protect IP and SOPA. Debating their constitutionality is fun and scary but without doubt they are technical disasters. As one commenter wrote, it's like Congress saying "We have no idea how airplanes can fly so we're going to limit them to 40 mph." Read Stanford Law Review's Don't Break the Internet and then contact your congresspersons and senators and urge them to vote against them. I did. Let's hope these go down in history like the attempt in Indiana to legislate the value of pi. (Hmm. Political.)

Now you can print your own graph paper instead of buying it, especially that really expensive engineering kind.

I am so unproductive that I'm on a good productivity tool like Snooki on spray tan. I've bastardized David Allen's Getting Things Done for everyday use but this 1-page vision approach to productivity by the author of Out Think the Competition caught my eye. Now all I have to do is dream up about 6 goals for 2012.

Who has the time to read 101 resources for first time entrepreneurs? I hate long lists like that because they're virtually unusable. But, I suppose if you're thinking about quitting your day job, devoting evenings and weekends to this list might help you prepare for taking the plunge.

On the other hand, these 10 harsh realities of founding a company are more digestible but hardly actionable.
  1. Your first iteration of an idea will be wrong. Not in my experience at least. Maybe we're just lucky.
  2. Your friends and family won't understand what you do. They never did, so another strike against. Or maybe you're not explaining it well enough.
  3. You will make less than normal wages for a while. This should be obvious. I think my W-2 from our first year in business was less than half of my previous job.
  4. Everything takes twice as long... if it ever happens. While I know what they mean by that, it's a mixed bag. When you're doing everything yourself you need to account for all the overhead because you're doing 100 things at once which takes getting used to. But you can also make changes and decisions on the spot. On the other hand, in our software business I've stopped trying to pick release dates because its virtually impossible due to myriad variables. (Soon I'll write that work blog post "Addicted to Release Dates."). What's the old joke? Take any completion estimate, double the number, and increment the units for the actual completion date. So an estimate of 1 week becomes 2 months.
  5. Title means nothing. You will be a janitor. Absolutely true. Take out the trash. Fix the bathroom. Move boxes and furniture. Come early, stay late. Try to squeeze in some work related to the product.
  6. There is no silver bullet. True again and very similar to Fred Brooke's classic essay on software development, The Mythical Man-Month. There's no magic. Everything's a trade-off.
  7. Customers will frustrate you. This is a two-way street. You will be annoyed by their wacky expectations as much as they'll be annoyed by your product or service.
  8. You can't do it all yourself. Or as Dirty Harry said, a man's got to know his limitations. The article has a quote worth repeating: "Anyone can delegate stuff they don't like doing. What's hard is delegating things you like doing." Which is about where I am right now.
  9. Building a team is hard. True.
  10. You will LOSE all of your money that you ever earned, and then a bunch that you still haven't earned. This may be a bit of hyperbole based on a nugget of fact. You will spend a lot of money.
See the B-25 Pacific Prowler at Fort Worth's Meacham Airport.
For my sales-oriented friends, Inc. magazine tells us why sales forecasts are a joke

A blogger must wear six hats corresponding to the distinct states in which the brain can be sensitized. For example, the yellow hat is for optimism, value, and benefit.

Here's an idea, say, for a beer maven who's perhaps already been featured once in a news article. A gent in Fort Worth blogged about A Year of Beer, drinking and reviewing a different beer each day for an entire year, from malt liquor to Rochefort Trappistes 8, and it got him some nice local news coverage. I suppose the trick would be limiting one's intake to only one brew per day.

Protégion is a great stop-motion animation about folding paper into shapes.
I have no idea why these houses are inside this stadium in Osaka.
Attention getting opening line: "Even when things seem to be chugging along smoothly, most business owners always have a dark cloud looming over their heads." This post about lead generation talks about how to get found, how to convert traffic into leads, and how to analyze the effectiveness of that process.

Writing the next great novel need not be a life-long endeavor but sometimes speedy prose has unintended consequences. Ray Bradbury wrote Fahrenheit 451 in only 9 days.

For MINI owners, a cool campaign of some pretty wild paint jobs.

Design News' 2011 engineering salary survey leaves more questions unanswered than it answers. 65% of respondents reported higher salaries than 2010 (up an average 5%) while only 4% reported a decline. Average salary was $93,465 but there's no correlation of that with age making the number virtually worthless.

The canopy of the top secret and cancelled A-12 Avenger II can be yours for only $620,000 plus change. Some guy bought it surplus from the U.S. government and is now auctioning it on eBay.
Philips Norelco REALLY wants dudes to be hair-free. They've got a a website called with a) a campaign to "help Willy deforest himself," (Willy? Really? Sounds sophomoric like I'd write.) b) a game where a Tarzan-like Willy runs through the jungle (Jungle. Bush. Get it?), c) a product called the Body Groom Pro that works on your head, face, chest, and "bonsai," and d) a poll about whether butt hair should be shaved or not. Either someone is running a really convincing parody or Norelco has some manliness issues. And how come the butt is the butt but Big Jim and The Twins are reduced to the bonsai, a diminutive Asian tree like the one I just gave my mother for Xmas? Damn, that's creepy.

Here's an interesting chart from the Economist about "employee holiday entitlement" by country showing who gets the most holidays and vacation. Of course, the USA is near the bottom and Greek and Spain are near the top. Draw your own conclusions. It's interesting that for the USA there's no mandatory holiday entitlement but pegs the average at 15 days. Because I realize the Brits use "holiday" for vacations too, I'm trying to figure out whether the dark blue portion of the bar is what we call holidays and the light blue is vacation.

How does your beard measure up? Get a t-shirt and find out where it stands from manly to beardly (kinda like who's in charge, you or the hair).

There's a lot of junk in here, but this list of obscure Disney gems includes a collaboration with Salvador Dali. Yes, that's right, Dali and Disney together produced Destino.

Abstract painter Helen Frankenthaler died this past week at the age of 83. Shown above is Tutti Fruitti 1966. You might think of her as a cross between Georgia O'Keefe and Jackson Pollock. (I didn't know she was married to artist Robert Motherwell.) image credit
Giving fair play to the other side, check out the blog post Butt-Ugly Artworks That Are Super Expensive featuring Pollock's #5 1948, De Kooning's Woman III 1953, and Picasso's Nude, Green Leaves and Bust 1932. I wasn't a huge fan of Pollock until I saw Lavender Mist up close and personal at the National Gallery of Art. Wow.

White Castle is testing beer and wine sales which is kinda odd cuz I thought you went to White Castle after, not during, a night of drinking.

I don't know which made me laugh harder, the fact that Robert Reich has a blog on Tumblr or the fact that he predicts a winning Democratic ticket in 2012 of Obama-Clinton. Wait - that's not funny. (Hmm, two political comments in one post.)

Can I get a rim shot?

Do you live in one of the 100 most dangerous cities in the U.S? Houston (#91) is the only Texas city on the list. 

Gamers: Infamous NES game Takeshi's Challenge has been translated to English. (This caught my attention because of the name. Takeshi's Castle was the Japanese TV game show whose video became the basis for MXC, Most Extreme Elimination Challenge. MXC is to ABC's Wipeout as Brooke Burke is to Roseanne Barr.)

G-string. Vending. Machine. Can I borrow some quarters?

...And next year's words await another voice. And to make an end is to make a beginning. ~T.S. Eliot

*of the year.

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories by Dr. Seuss

When I was much younger, two decades or more,
my oldest would beg "Read Daddy, more."
Down from his shelf the books I would pile,
and some more than others would get a big smile.
Books with eggs of unusual color,
a rainbow of fish, an unlucky feller.
Each one I'd read but he never called stop
but I sure did when it was Hop on Pop.
With Seuss and his creatures we had a grand time
because his art was joyous, his rhymes were sublime.
We had all the books and knew them by heart
but on went life and we and Seuss did part.

Until one day not too long ago
I read that our collection just wasn't so.
All Seuss's books weren't found in a store.
There were, as it turns out, a few stories more.
A fan named Charles had sussed them all out
from magazine articles in Redbook no doubt.
He put them together with artwork, indeed,
and published a book called The Bippolo Seed.

In this new book we find tales like his others
about Tadd and Todd, identical twin brothers,
and Gustav a fish, and Henry a dreamer,
Zinniga-Zanniga and red meat for dinner.

They took me back to the time on the floor
a little one pleading "Read Daddy, more."
But the thing about Seuss, and it doubles the fun,
he's as good for the dad as he is for the son.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Favorite Words and Tunes of 2011

All the cool kids are doing it so I will too. Here are my favorite books and albums from this year's reading and listening.


Conspiracy theories appeal to me for the same reason that NASCAR wrecks appeal to others - there's just something about the lengths to which some people will go to shape an event to fit their own ability to comprehend. JFK's assassination is one of those events around which a cult of conspiracy exists and I've read about a lot of them. This is why former Secret Service agent Gerald Blaine's The Kennedy Detail appealed to me - it cleared the conspiratorial fog and set the record straight. (my review)

And then there was Italo Calvino's If on a Winter's Night a Traveler. I am so glad for having read it but still completely baffled by what the author meant. I just re-read my review of the book and realized just how full of shit I am. Fortunately, lack of understanding was never a barrier to enjoyment. (my review)

While recently listening to the audiobook production of Nelson DeMille's Cathedral I couldn't help but be reminded of how much I've read about church architecture this year. Of course, the standout is Ken Follett's The Pillars of the Earth. Follett created characters that were so real and so contemporary that upon completing the book I had to remind myself that Friar Philip died (fictionally) over 800 years ago. When will I invest the time on the sequel, World Without End? (my review)

Unquestionably, Walter M. Miller Jr.'s A Canticle for Leibowitz was my favorite book of the year. Yes, I've got this thing for post-apocalyptic fiction but this is such a unique take on the subject that Canticle is something I imagine I'll be reading again and again. Mankind is portrayed as resilient which is great because we are tragically doomed to repeat our mistakes. (my review)


I really ought to do a better job of tracking my music or at least as good a job as tracking my books. I think part of the reason for the difference is that I listen to music virtually continuously while reading books is a bit more discrete and easier to track. The other difference is that I get a lot of my reading from the public library whereas I buy all my music (and because I'm cheap I don't buy as much by comparison).

Forever by the trio of Corea, Clarke, and White is excellent. These three founding members of fusion supergroup Return to Forever reunite for a 2 CD set with their takes on jazz standards and remakes of RTF tunes.

Steve Reich's WTC 9/11 is a masterful display of composition in which recorded voices from that fateful day are woven into Reich's signature minimalism. Solemn, not exploitative.

Saving the best for last, Winter Garden by Harold Budd, Robin Guthrie, and Eraldo Bernocchi is an absolutely magnificent ambient soundscape. Winter Garden would have been a perfect soundtrack to this past February's record snowfall in DFW when I was at home on vacation watching from the window of my home office as the flakes accumulated.

I was not compensated by anyone in anyway for these reviews.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (A Kindle Experiment)

Despite having never read an e-book I have been quite vocal in my preference for the dead tree variety. As luck would have it, I won a Kindle Keyboard 3G from Lexus in a random drawing. (Thanks Lexus!) So now I can challenge my untested preference.

Dickens is a favorite author and A Tale of Two Cities is one of my favorite books. And with it being Christmas, what better choice for a first e-book than A Christmas Carol.

A Christmas Carol also has the advantage of being free (along with many other classics) from Amazon's Kindle store. This appealed to my sense of frugality.

Although I've seen many movie versions of Carol, I had no idea the book was as short as it is. I was able to finish it in only a few hours spread over a couple days. Prior to starting Carol I was surprised to see it referred to as an essay on mortality. But if you think about it, death is central to many of Carol's characters. You may never look at Tiny Tim the same way again.

As for the Kindle itself, setup and linking to my Amazon account were easy. Downloading Carol (and several other free classics) was easy although I'll need more experience to easily search for and find specific books. Once I got the font size bumped up a notch, reading was not a problem. However, the reverse video flashing that occurs every time you change a page is annoying. My biggest problem with the Kindle was its form factor - it's heavier than a paperback, very thin, and very smooth and gripping it was an issue. As sad as it sounds, my thumbs got tired. There's no really good place to hold the Kindle on the front.

Overall, the experience wasn't that bad. I'll have to try a few more books to decide whether the Kindle can be a regular part of my reading arsenal (along with books and audio books). The real sign of victory will be when I start paying for e-books.

Oh, and A Christmas Carol was just as enjoyable as I expected.

I received no compensation for this review.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Too many have dispensed with generosity...

Is it Christmas yet?

Who hasn't typed "let it snow" into Google search?

Bill Gross is the founder of over 100 companies including his most recent, the technology incubator idealab. So when he offers his list of entrepreneurial lessons learned, they are probably worth hearing.
  1. Enter a rapidly growing market and it's like running a race with the wind at your back. [I'd call this jumping on the bandwagon.]
  2. Master how to demo, teach, explain, pitch. 
  3. Work at something you love because without passion you won't be able to overcome all the obstacles you face. [It's hard to imagine founding 100 companies and each of them being something you love. Unless you love founding companies.]
  4. Focus, focus, focus. Doing fewer things extraordinarily well will excite the customer. [I agree with this which should be no surprise considering that our product is a niche within a niche.]
  5. Build around your strengths and hire where you are weak.
  6. Don't overbuild. [Slow and steady wins the race?]
  7. If you're ahead of the market cut back immediately and aggressively so you can survive until the market is ready.
  8. Test, test, test and adapt to what you learn.
  9. Stick with a good idea regardless of what the critics say. [In my case it was "I gotta tell you, I think you're crazy."]
  10. Find essential partners. [Especially those with deep pockets.]
  11. Harness your customers' passion. Help them bring you customers.
  12. Be willing to face ridicule and opposition.
Isn't the idea of Viagra in a condom kinda like a chicken and the egg thing?

Watch this video and they'll be hanging on your every word at next weekend's New Year's Eve parties: What's a Tensor? "Facts of the universe." (Actually, because I never took Linear Algebra in college this is remedial for me. Haters gonna hate but I thought it was a pretty good explanation.)

I bet Rick's Custom Squirrels have been flying off the shelves this holiday season.
Hey, I know this guy! Joel brews his own craft beer, Honey Badger IPA. (Although I suspect that Joel does give a shit.) And this next article tells me something I already know: beer deserves a sommelier. (I kinda consider Joel to be my personal beer sommelier.)

This is a nice lens through which to view friends and employees. When you call them at 2:00 a.m. and as for their help, if their first reply is "Do you know what time it is?" your answer should be "Yes, time to get a new friend/employee."

Callin' Oates. 719-26-OATES. Your choice of Hall and Oates tune on demand.

Astronomy geeks, check out this video zooming in on the center of the Milky Way.

I don't get the whole zombie thing but, what the hell: Zombie Font
Composer Jean Sibelius' 30-year self-imposed exile is examined in this article. Because I've already decided this his Swan of Tuonela will be played at my funeral, Sibelius' quote about swans caught my attention.
"The swans are always on my mind, and they lend magnificence to life. It is strange to note that nothing in the whole world, not in art, literature or music, has such an effect on me as these swans and cranes and bean geese. Their calls and their appearance."
I didn't like Freakonomics (or any of Gladwell's stuff either) and this review is cautionary: "Easy read" should not mean "easy write."

I am ambivalent about Merriam-Webster's citation of pragmatic as the 2011 Word of the Year. Also in the top 10 are vitriol, capitalism, socialism, and some French gibberish with too many diacriticals to bother typing it here.

Othello a comedy? Data mining Shakespeare seems to indicate so (or at least that Bill used comedic elements to heighten the tragedy.)

Book seller The Book Depository has a map-based page on their site that shows in real-time what books people bought and where those buyers are. (Someone in Spain just bought Oliver Twist.)

The last of 195 F-22 Raptors (tail number 10-4195) rolled off the assembly line this month. I remember when it was called the ATF (advanced tactical fighter).

An alternate viewpoint: the STEM (science technology engineering math) labor shortage is false. The problem is companies who don't want to train new hires or pay market rates.

The team All Your Shreds Are Belong to U.S. won $50,000 in DARPA's shredder challenge for assembling shredded documents. (The easy game for me is here.)

How to fool the masses when describing your GPU results.

Top visualization resources of 2011.

This guy abuses the English language about as badly as I do. Evidence: "I don’t know why attempting to move your model by jabbing a dead mole into your screen doesn’t work, but you’ll be interested to know about Maide control while you work out the details." The Maide control is an iPad app that you can use to interact with your CAE applications like Rhino.
This checklist used by Jim Lovell on the Apollo 13 mission recently sold at auction for over $388,000.
First came Pajama Jeans. Now there's Suitjamas.

Civil War Tokens is one of the more narrow branches of numismatics that I've come across.

At the risk of doing something I mock when others do it, artist Jonas Lund does a lot of web-based stuff that seem like things I could do. Like an installation of a shredder, connected to a website, shredding a photo of a camera.

Comedian Louis CK (who is absolutely hilarious) earned $1,000,000 in 12 days buy putting his latest standup routine up for sale on his website for $5 and without any DRM other  restrictions.

Science can be pretty mind boggling. Neodymium magnet + copper tube = eddy currents.

If my butt is my password I guarantee that no one will want to steal my identity.

The trailer for Prometheus, Ridley Scott's Alien prequel, is available for viewing.

I can't imagine a more fitting end to a Christmas Eve post than Terry Gilliam's Christmas Card from 1968. Happy holidays everyone (and here's why that's OK). order to practice charity. ~Albert Camus

Sunday, December 18, 2011

the sound of falling leaves

At first I only heard it. A soft pattering, like a low cool urgent stream tumbling over scattered gray slate stones, reflecting random flashes of the rare sunlight, wetting but not refreshing the earth beneath. Looking up, the blue-gray sky mirrored this imagined stream, low crenulated clouds, more cottony than smooth, slipping northeastward, foamy, with jagged white rents only hinting at the light but not the warmth of the mid-morning sun above. A single tree, one among dozens, randomly spaced, mature but not yet grand, all more alike than not, but all around rather than over me, stood trembling, its remaining small oval amber leaves vibrating, twisting to something unsensed while its green, rust, and barren neighbors stood perfectly and absolutely still. It was a sound like old ladies’ hands clapping. A slow yellow waterfall began as the trembling leaves dropped vertically to the dormant earth in a diminishing rustle. Yet nothing else moved, nothing except the shearing clouds. The tree’s shiver stopped, or perhaps paused, and an autumn stillness unlike any I had known since my midwestern childhood settled upon the morning. A poorly executed flock of tiny black birds silently darted overhead opposite the direction of the clouds. A squirrel expertly traced the top of the fenceline. The day came back to life.

P.S. Please forgive this self-indulgence.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Cathedral by Nelson DeMille

This is about the 3rd or 4th book of Nelson DeMille's that I've read. A repeat customer must be a happy customer, right? Yep, it's true. Cathedral is a good story.

Published in 1990, Cathedral is an interesting tale of pre-9/11 terrorism in NYC when a notorious IRA man and his crew take hostages and hole-up in St. Patrick's Cathedral on St. Patrick's day. They get everyone's attention when they announce plans to execute the hostages and blow-up the cathedral at dawn unless their demands are met.

There are so many subplots, backstabbing, dirty dealing, mixed allegiances, and other skulduggery that it had me guessing right up until the end. Everyone, and I mean everyone, has their own personal agenda. It's no surprise that issues of religion, or more accurately faith, are woven throughout. Taken together, all the characters are shades of gray. Well, all except one. But this grayness is a bit of a problem because I couldn't develop an emotional connection with anybody. For example, I've just started listening to another Jack Reacher novel by Lee Child and I really like Reacher.

A friend says DeMille's The Charm School is even better so that will probably go on my list next.

Nothing so needs reforming as...

Normally I put stuff like this at the end of a post but this one is so bizarre that it deserves top billing. Please meet Chatty Vag, the fortune-telling vagina. (It's a cartoon in case you're worried about seeing a real hoo-hah if you click the link.) Just ask her any yes/no question. "Will the Cowboys win tonight?" "My bush is making things cloudy. Ask again."

Since mentioning it last weekend I've been unable to get Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings out of my head. Here's the piece's 1938 premiere as conducted by Toscanini. And here's a more recent version by DJ Tiësto.

Author Richard Rhodes makes it painfully obvious why this blog's writing sucks: I need to stop listening to that voice (those voices?) in my head. Writing isn't simply copying down your self-talk.

When Star Wars vs. Star Trek gets all personal, George Takei steps in with this campy détente. Truly for the hardcore Star Trek geek only: 24 hours of the Enterprise's engines at idle.

And now it has a name: Prometheus. Ridley Scott's Alien prequel is set to hit theaters this summer.

Poussière is a beautiful little animation of what it's like to be a dust mote. Being French, there's romance built in to this 6 minute video. Check it out.
Hey all you booze bloggers - here's a cautionary tale about why drinking and blogging don't mix. Do you still lack a present for your favorite beer maven? Try the Microbrewed Beer of the Month Club. This month the Rare Beer Club's members are receiving Mikkeller's Happy Lovin' Christmas IPA.
The long wait is over - you can now add non-stop Nyan Cat to any website with NYAN-IT. For example, yours truly.

This article about the crash of Air France 447 echoes two separate engineering sound bytes from my past. When I was a wee intern at NASA my boss told me that failures in engineering systems are never the result of a single event - they are the result of a chain of related events. This makes finger-pointing a big more difficult. The second is a quote from a flight test engineer at NASA Dryden: "Insisting on perfect safety is for people who lack the balls to live in the real world." We cannot practically make crash-proof airliners, we cannot practically make skyscrapers that can withstand the direct impact of a jumbo jet, and if that bothers you be reminded that you're probably more likely to die in a traffic accident on the way to work than anything else. The article also jives with something I've observed in automated systems (software systems specifically): automated systems work great in very well-defined environments. But get outside that environment even slightly and all bets are off. The article, which builds largely upon an article in Popular Mechanics, quotes this odd bit: does "the inclusion of the human element will always entail the possibility of a catastrophic outcome." This seems backwards - inclusion of the human element should ensure that technology never leads us astray.

Science brings us this awesome - almost sexy - video of colliding liquid droplets shot at 5,000 frames per second.

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Not so fast there science guy. These dudes can shoot video at a trillion frames per second so they can take pictures of light. WTF?

I don't get what it is with cats and teh interwebs. But if you're looking to kill some time try procatinator where you get a random cat video paired with music.

Can it be true? The last F-22 Raptor rolled off Lockheed Martin's assembly line in Marietta, Georgia this past Tuesday. I remember when the F-22 was the ATF (advanced tactical fighter) and all it did was fly around in a computer behind locked doors.
I realize Prank Packs are "genuine fake gift boxes" (available at Bed, Bath & Beyond just in time for your Xmas wrapping) but I'm wishing the Family Blankeez was real.

It looks like Twitter was redesigned (Fly?). But I'm not certain why I'd use this new update rather than Tweetdeck, especially since Twitter owns Tweetdeck. And to be fair, Facebook now has this Timeline thing.

Now that I have this Kindle (first experiment ongoing) I'll have to find some free books from Project Gutenberg and Google Books.

Audio, video, haptics, blah, blah, blah. What teh interwebs really needs is smell. Enter Olly. Just plug into your computer and get a whiff of this blog.

Did you register your .XXX domain yet? What would you think of
With all due respect to my friends who sell things for a living, the Cranky Product Manager's sketch of Inside the SalesDroid's Brain is quite funny.
WikiDumper is where articles rejected from Wikipedia go to die. (Why they rejected "Instant Rice" I'll never understand.)

I'm trying to decide whether the Grid-It organizer is a good idea for my laptop bag or not. I might need to so I wouldn't lose this: 16 GB in 1 cm. Kingston's DataTraveler Micro is pretty dang small.

You too can be nerdy if you learn how to use your computer's command line interface instead the GUI. Control your computer by typing instead of pointing and clicking. (powershell on Windows 7? Where'd that come from?)

Nvidia will share its CUDA compiler source code with academics and tool developers. I suppose that's good for folks who want to program GPUs.

Here's a video infographic of satellite launches since 1957.

Drumroll, please. The top 24 deep space photos of 2011. My favorite is the brown dwarf.
Did you miss it too? Yesterday was National Chocolate-Covered Anything Day.

World Toilet Day (coincidence) was back on 19 November. It's notable because the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced $47.5 million in grants for innovations in sanitation science.

At first I thought this article about reading on the loo would be great as it combines two of my interests (#2 and books). But, in the end I was disappointed.
  1. Doing anything on the throne other than concentrating on the matter at hand it wrong, wrong, wrong.
  2. I don't care what they say, poo gets on books and magazines and newspapers. Yuck.
  3. Henry Miller claimed that Joyce's Ulysses couldn't be fully appreciated anywhere but on the toilet. (I wonder if that's a cheap shot?)
  4. Which is probably why 16% of mobile phones in Britain have poo on them. (Please no, Pippa.)
  5. The conclusion that reading on the loo "alleviates boredom" is a symptom of other problems. I mean, my god why is it taking you so long that  you get bored?
  6. And finally and most disturbingly, look at the photograph at the top of the article. I swear you can see that dude's junk.
Make it snow at your house because everyone deserves a white Christmas.

After all of the above, you're probably looking forward to some devastating explosions.

...other people's habits. ~Mark Twain

Friday, December 16, 2011

Sandwiches for Dinner

This cartoon made me laugh out loud.

To keep a long story short, my Dad once told my Mom to never serve him soup and sandwiches for dinner again. Apparently, it's a bullshit dinner too.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Self respect is like...

I'm gonna try a little real-time music critiquing. Here's Era Una Mañana Gris and other tunes on SoundCloud by Nicholas Szczepanik. Play them while reading and we'll compare notes at the end of this post.

This isn't the best produced concert video, but it is interesting to see Steve Winwood play Pretzel Logic with Steely Dan live in Melbourne this past October.

Another friend's tip for good music: Nuclear Free City
Just something to fiddle with.
I must be smarter than I thought. Science proves that poo-throwing is a sign of intelligence. Or, phrased differently, the ability to throw accurately was a precursor to speech development in early humans.

Smart is usually good. But sometimes smart people can be bad employees. Do you recognize any of the following types?
  1. Sometimes really smart people have agendas that don't lead the company down a path of improvement. The employee may be disempowered, a rebel, or just immature.
  2. Smart people, like the rest of us, can be unreliable for any of a number of reasons.
  3. Then there's the smart person who's just a jerk in a way that simply stifles communication when they're involved.
It's nearing year's end and that means plenty of "Best of 2011" lists. ReadWriteWeb weighs in with their top web developer tools of 2011.  Included on the list are the nearly ubiquitous jQuery JavaScript library and Chrome developer tools (because apparently Firefox is on its way out). For better or worse (probably the latter) I use none of these tools other than their sideways reference to using Vim as your web development IDE.

Ben Fry's zipdecode is an oldie but a goody. This interactive map illustrates how zip codes work in the U.S.
Frank's Compulsive Guide to Postal Addresses is a valuable resource for anyone sending mail (does anyone still do that?) internationally. For example, Ireland is unique among European countries for not having postal codes.

If you need to send someone a secret, try One Time Secret, a site that provides a single one-time-use link.

Creative people are more likely to be cheaters. I've observed this in practice. But a study from Duke University seems to back up this observation. The issue is stated thusly: ethics requires you to balance self interest with self respect. Creative people balance that arrangement in creative ways that are actually unethical.

Naked people are more likely to be deemed more experiential than mental. In other words, observers tend to treat agency (the ability to think and plan) and sensuality like a zero sum game: less flesh, more thinking - more flesh, more feeling. A damning statement in the article says that women applying for jobs are punished for having breasts, because they are perceived as having less agency and more feeling. (The same is true for men, however, when perceived by women.)

Sudsy beer stuff. The folks at Stella have a holiday gift for you: a free, downloadable jazz album of holiday music. I know that when my beer mavens read that Natty Light is the first beer in space, they'll say they wish it stayed there.

We all probably did that elementary school science experiment where yelling at plants makes them grow less than if you said nice things to them. But did you know the same thing is true for disk drives? Yelling at them increases latency. Performance loss due to microvibrations is a business opportunity. This is all very similar to the speakers for my home audio system. Celestion's speakers were designed to minimize the audible distortion produced by vibrations of the cabinet.

Levitated is chock full of interactive thingies like this one called Seeds.
How much easier would playing classic video games be with these game maps, including Super Mario Bros. and Doom? Someone made a stop-motion video of Super Mario using beads.  Not to be outdone, here's a stop-motion video done in Minecraft of Super Mario Land for Gameboy.

This survey almost sounds like a "Duh" moment: teenagers aren't interested in engineering as a career choice because they know very little about it. Once they learn more about the profession including how much money engineers make, 61% of teens are more likely to consider engineering.

The Rap Board is a website full of your favorite rapper's signature sounds. I could click on Lil John saying "What" and Flavor Flav saying "Yeah boy" all day.

What does 3D tessellation have to with Xmas? An art class led a student to develop Reptangles, truncated octahedron turtle-like shapes that snap together in hundreds of ways.

Vintage film about the attack on Pearl Harbor.

The U.S. Navy maintains a historical archive including special photographs of the 7 Dec 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.
This almost unnecessary review of the 1961 Chuck Jones animated holiday classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas is notable only for its commentary on the 2000 remake starring Jim Carrey which I'll quote in its entirety. "this... refers to the ORIGINAL animated version of The Grinch, and not the Ron Howard film version that ruined Christmas forever a few years back. If you want to know if that movie is okay to show your kids, the answer is NO. NEVER. If you catch them watching it, burn your TV in front of them to let them know you mean business." Amen.

Dispensing toilet paper doesn't have to be dull.

Learning: classical mechanics (not the automotive variety).

The Sales Engineer Guy shares his list of free sales engineering resources on the web. 

Apparently November was a good month for visualization as the Visualising Data blog's "best of the web" is a two-parter: Part1 and Part 2.

This banana color guide and much more can be found at Spaces of Banana Control.
Lots of banana stuff this week. For example, how do you open a banana?  The flip of the wrist method? The pinch the bottom like a monkey method? Or do you need a tool like the banana opener? They say the pinch method eliminates all those messy strings (aka phloem bundles).

They say the puzzle at Can you crack it? is a recruiting tool from a British spy agency (their equivalent of our NSA). Regardless, can you? Might be good for students interested in cryptography.

Here's an interesting and historical look at symbolism in literature. I know a lot of people don't like the search for meaning in art (sometimes a banana is just a banana). But symbolism is there. And a lot of what makes art art is the search for higher meaning. I like Ray Bradbury's response: "I never consciously place symbolism in my writing. That would be a self-conscious exercise and self-consciousness is defeating to any creative act." 

But maybe you are a person who needs an analytical approach to art such as neuroaesthetics. Here's one man's opinion that this may be a red herring and that art is more philosophical than scientific.

Therefore, judge 4Monkeys by yourself.

Holy Shit. The giant weta, the world's largest insect, may be the single most disgusting thing I've ever seen on teh interwebs. First, no bug should ever be this big. Second, this is a perfect example of why nature needs to be kept outside. Third, why the hell would you hold it in your hand and feed it a carrot? Do you think it's smart enough to tell the difference between a carrot and a finger? I'm going to go barf now.
It's that time again. Get Santastic Six, this year's collection of holiday-themed mashups from djBC.

CNBC brings us these 5 undefeated eating challenges including Fort Worth's own 64-ounce chicken fried steak, the Full-o-Bull challenge at the Cowtown Diner.

The Museum of Obsolete Objects predicts the demise of the computer mouse in 2015.

Shakespeare was apparently ahead of his time with respect to psychological causes of physical ailments, or so says a gastroenterologist and 16th century literature expert. "Romeo, come forth; come forth, thou fearful man: Affliction is enamour'd of thy parts."

On this list of the 37 best sci-fi books, I've only read 5: Ender's Game, Starship Troopers (nothing like the movie), A Canticle for Liebowitz, Fahrenheit 451, and Old Man's War. I'd get 3 more if you could count movies: 2011, Contact, and I Robot.

This isn't a business blog, but if it was we could track these 5 critical blog metrics:  visitors, leads, subscribers, inbound links, and shares.

GoMo is a Google initiative to make your website mobile-ready.

Read at your own risk: signs you may be a bad programmer

So what did you think of Szczepanik's music? Forgotten Dreams seemed to be hiding Barber's Adagio for Strings (as heard in Platoon), The Short-lived seemed to me to be way too distorted, and Her Last Breath was kinda nervy like a skipping LP. Era Una Mañana Gris, the tune originally recommended, was the strongest of all but I almost got the impression the top layer of droning distortion was intentionally hiding a melody line that was a movie soundtrack. And it was a bit too long.

You look like you need a hug. Get one at The Nicest Place on the Internet.

...a prison for the soul. ~Dilbert

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Adults are just obsolete children...

Two tracks from Winter Garden, the new album from Bernocchi, Budd, and Guthrie, are available for your listening pleasure.

As documented here previously, I love it when there's a juxtaposition, an intersection, a crossover, a synergy of two or more things that I like. First I find a new CFD-related blog about plasma simulation, Particle in Cell. But with just a little digging around on that site, I find that its author also writes a Slovak Cooking site. Jackpot! My advice is to rush immediately to the recipe for stuffed cabbage. The only question is whether it will be as good as my grandmother's.

Aviation pr0n of the week: a video of the first F-35C launch using the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) as opposed to the old hydraulic catapults.

Waterfox is the 64-bit version of Firefox.

Beer pr0n of the week: Wine Enthusiast named their Top 25 Beers of 2011 with Canada's Unibroue Don de Dieu triple wheat ale leading the way. One new brew that's certain to make next year's list is the recently announced MMMhop IPA from boy-band sensation Hanson. I shit you not.

Give us more B-17s. Damn right. source
Of all of Murphy's Laws, the one that rules them all is "Murphy was an optimist." The computer-related laws of are special importance to me but one not included on their list is "Of quick and dirty, dirty is remembered long after quick is forgotten."

Impress your friends or imagine you're a Hollywood actor playing the role of computer hacker with Hacker Typer. (Just start typing.)

Git yer patriotism on with this Armed Forces Salute from the West Virginia University marching band.

Psychologists have proven what has been known for a while - the fact that form is liberating. From TV sitcoms to pop songs to poetry, the constraints of form actually promote the creative process. "The larger lesson is that the brain is a neural tangle of near-infinite possibility, which means that it spends a lot of time and energy choosing what not to notice."

Speaking of mentally navigating those near-infinite possibilities, a doctoral student at Indiana University hypothesizes that humor is the brain's reward for identifying faulty assumptions and choices in that tangle of possibilities - a reward that keeps the brain thinking along the practical path. A conclusion is that a sense of humor makes you a better thinker.

Here's an idea for your next trade show giveaway or party gift: private label condoms.

Music pr0n of the week. Tristan Shone performs as the solo act Author & Punisher. He's a mechanical engineer by day who makes his own musical instruments and performs "industrial drone and doom metal."

Find out what the 1st edition covers of classic novels looked like.
James Joyce didn't just write novels. He got a number sequence named after him, based on a passage in Ulysses. The Joyce sequence represents the number of digits in solutions to n raised to the n raised to the n for n=1,2,3...

A video compilation of famous improvisation in movies. "Take the cannolis." I feel obliged to advise NSFW due to language. is like Pandora for artwork by suggesting similar or related works based on your preferences.

Downfall pr0n of the week: Hitler finds out about the final U.T. vs. Texas A&M game.

I feel validated now that the Modern Art Notes blog has named the catalogs for de Kooning's and Dieberkorn's exhibitions as some of the best art books of 2011. (Check out my posts tagged "art.")

Exactly how hot was it in Texas this summer? The daily temperature average from June through August was 86.7 degrees, the highest such average recorded for any state.

Do you give a shit that I think Gary Oldman is a great actor? Probably not. But he is starring in the film adaptation of John le Carré's Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. the hell with them. ~Dr. Seuss

Sunday, November 27, 2011

de Kooning: a Retrospective

Remember when  I wrote that the Diebenkorn book was perhaps the best exhibit catalog I'd ever seen? Well, de Kooning: a Retrospective, the catalog accompanying the MoMA's exhibit of de Kooning's work, might have topped it.

It should come as no surprise that a retrospective would be encyclopedic and this volume is. It starts with a great essay on de Kooning's life and work that my art pea-brain could appreciate but not fully comprehend. That's followed by a chronological  progression through the various periods of de Kooning's work including timelines and, of course, plates of the artwork.

What I found most intriguing were brief Methods and Materials articles about how particular paintings were made including cross sections of paint layers, x-rays, and forensic analysis of how paint was applied.

I won't bore you with the details. For my friends who think abstract art is simply a spontaneous eruption of paint, there is an interesting pencil study of a particular painting that demonstrates the forethought that de Kooning put into his work.

I will share two works from the book that really caught my attention. The first isn't even a work on canvas. Woman 1951 is charcoal and pastel on paper. I just found it arresting. In case you're interested, it seems this 21.5 in. x 16 in. drawing sold for about $4 million in 2008.

de Kooning, Woman, 1951
The second was the black and white Painting 1948 which reminded me of Callum Innes' work in the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. (The similarities are more in technique and palette than composition.) Painting is the subject of one of the book's Methods and Materials sections that describes the limits of de Kooning's budget at the time limiting him to a bucket of black enamel and a bucket of white. The painterly description of Painting delves more into the "sum of resistances" and how the paint was applied and removed.

de Kooning, Painting, 1948

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Nothing is more dangerous than an idea...

The Job Creators Alliance is a way for CEOs to tell their side of the story about how to get people back to work. It was created partly in response to the belief that the "occupy" folks are monopolizing the message and belief that government isn't the answer. Read a little back story here.

Sweet mother of god - Bacon Egg Pancake Cup
How do you poach programming talent in Seattle? With a bacon cart.

Color Thief, a script for getting the dominant color and color palette from an image looks cool but I wish it was a web-based tool. (I suppose What's Its Color will have to do.)

Speaking of thieves, if someone's stealing your internet service you could cut them off or mess with them - as in invert all the images. I thought Upside-Down-Ternet was urban legend but it looks real.

I could play this game all day. paper toilet .com
I could've sworn I shared Bruce Connor's 1981 video MEA CULPA before but perhaps not. It's a great video comprised of found images backed by the track Mea Culpa from David Byrne and Brian Eno's album My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, made from found sounds.

If you're going to use social media to find a job, Facebook seems to be the way to go followed by Twitter and the LinkedIn. There's something odd about professional networking site LinkedIn being half as effective as Facebook for finding a job.

CF-18 Hornet with a tiger stripe paint scheme.
Someone's trying to make a movie out of Ender's Game and the kid from Hugo has been cast to play the role of Ender.

A huge animation art auction is coming up next month. The Icons of Animation Auction features some fantastic stuff, from a $300 drawing of Roger Ramjet to a $20,000 production cel and background of Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty to a $120,000 production cel and pan background of the Hag from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. The catalog is worth browsing even if you don't plan on bidding.

Here's an interesting social media idea that melds the digital and analog, the electronic and the tangible: have your event Live Sketched.

Like ketchup and a banana split, there are some good things that shouldn't be combined. Like  Jackson Pollock and a jigsaw puzzle.
Why do some people spill their coffee while others don't? Science comes to the rescue. It depends on the natural oscillation frequency of the coffee and whether the person's walking motion excites that frequency.

Maybe you're more into swirling wine. That depends on "the ratio of the level of wine poured in to the diameter of the glass; the ratio of the diameter of the glass to the width of the circular shaking; and the ratio of the forces acting on the wine." 

The Memphis Belle, the famous B-17F that completed 25 missions over Europe during WWII, is undergoing restoration at the National Museum of the Air Force in Dayton and this 3-minute video gives a nice overview of the project. At the 15 second mark of the video there's a photo of the crew. I have this photo hanging in my office signed by the pilot, Robert Morgan.

I know people who'd die if their work made it onto the Tangled Cable Appreciation page.
With today's launch of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission with the rover Curiosity (you watched it this morning, right?) what better time to check out this infographic of all the missions to Mars.

I could watch this all day: slow motion video (1 million fps) of bullet impacts.

My philosophy guru is Epicurus (key promise: peace and tranquility, key peril: boredom). Find your own guru at My Philosophy Guru.

One man's approach to debugging. I like the "All engineers are fucking idiots" stage.
Will your next desk be an EXOdesk? The desk is the computer, the computer is the desk.

More proof that science is answering the key questions of our time: flies like beer because of glycerol.

Artists like beer because they can collaborate on this huge sound sculpture made out of recycled Red Stripe beer cans.

They folks at xkcd put together a nice infographic about money, from single dollars to trillions.

Yet another way to see music: circular music spectrum analysis. Be sure to watch the video.
I'm still a sucker for those Downfall parodies. This time Hitler finds out he's been out-memed by the pepper spraying campus cop.

Rolling Stone listed the 100 greatest guitarists. Notables for me are #62 Robert Fripp, #14 David Gilmour, and #5 Jeff Beck.

The Alien series of movies is a personal favorite. So you can imagine my excitement when I heard about Aliens on Ice. Unfortunately, this production gives Aliens, ice skating, and theater a chest-burster. Honestly, I shouldn't be surprised.

Another simply done yet wonderful animation - dream (drem) n.
"Look at Shakespeare. Poor bloke. Wrote thirty-seven plays, none of them his." Hilarious article by Eric Idle (of Monty Python fame) in The New Yorker.

Orgasms. Who fakes 'em? Women are about twice as likely to fake them and are most likely to do so if they think their partner is cheating. Coincidentally, this article is from Yahoo! which is what I shout every time I have an orgasm.

A delightful photo essay of strange toilets and urinals, Part 1 and Part 2. I'm partial to the commode with the fish tank tank.

An E/A-6B and an E/A-18G painted in vintage WWII colors.
Ouka: after a while chasing down that little flower starts to drive you nuts.

Cats celebrating Hanukkah.

...when it's the only one you have. ~Emile Chartier (paraphrased)