Saturday, February 26, 2011

Independence is loyalty to one's best self and principles...

If you like your trigonometry online and interactive then Touch Trigonometry is for you.

The loneliest whale in the world has been tracked by scientists since 1992.  During that time he hasn't, as the Bard would say, "made the beast with two backs."  (Humpbacks?  Double double entendre!)  They say his celibacy is due to a unique, high-pitched voice and the fact that he travels well off the beaten path.  <Insert self-deprecating comment here.>

 Delicious bacon Mickey.  Limited edition of 600 by artist Thomas Scott.

Some interesting studies show that daydreaming can lead to more creativity and that the ability to surf the 'net at work makes you more productive in the long run.

My clock fetish reveals itself again: The Colour Clock displays time as its hex color value.

Introducing the manliest drink on earth: Bear Semen.

Know a geek who's birthday is coming up?  Here are 11 cheap gifts for geeks.    I like the EcoSphere but I suppose some tiny-shrimp-hugger from PETA is going to ruin this for all of us.
How far away is Ohio?  A little ways.

Fan calls Super Bowl in Cowboys Stadium "absolutely the worst experience ever."  Congratulations, Jerry Jones.  I hope that your cattle-car experiment to attempt an attendance record was worth it.

Last week was Engineers Week and here are just a few engineer-related posts I found ran across.
  • People Skills for Engineers - The bottom line is the most successful engineers are the ones with the best interpersonal skills.
  • The Engineer's Skepticism About Culture - Harvard Business review places the tech world's troubles squarely on the shoulders of engineers because apparently we can't see anything beyond our slide rules.
  • Starting Salaries Jump for 2011 Grads - For the first time since 2008, starting salaries for new graduates are going up.  Computer science graduates got a 1% increase to a little over $61,000.  That puts them slightly above average for engineering grades where there was only a slight overall increase (0.3%).
Business of Software 2011 has released their call for speakers.  Lightning Talk anyone?  "15 slides, 30 seconds each on auto switch. Sit down. Enough said."
  • The 6th OpenFOAM Workshop will be held 13-16 June at Penn State.
  • The CFD Lab offers CFD consultancy in Romania.
  • What's cooler than designing new propellers for the P-51 Mustang?
  • Sit back and enjoy a 26-part, 2.5 hour SolidWorks video tutorial on modeling an Audi TT.  (You know who I posted this for.)
  • Altair is opening an aerospace-oriented office in Huntsville.
  • You don't usually see "Carl Icahn" and "CFD" in the same news article, but apparently the investor has made a bid to buy Mentor Graphics, developers of the FloTHERM CFD software.
  • This year's Thermal & Fluids Analysis Workshop (TFAWS) 15-19 August 2011 at NASA Langley.
  • If you've heard about Scan & Solve (it's a meshing-free FEA tool), here's a 6 minute video with a little insight into FEA Without Meshing.  Note that it's not mesh free, it's meshing free.
  • Ceccarelli Yacht Design offers CFD consulting.
  • Zipp reduces the drag on bicycle rims using CFD.
  • ANSYS made a boatload of money in 2010.
  • Conteg in Czech Republic offers datacenter modeling via CFD.
  • How CFD was used to design the GLK Hybrid Pikes Peak rally car.
Sorry.  It made me laugh.
This week's CAD Smackdown, a discussion about direct versus parametric modeling, is available for your listening pleasure.

Beyond PLM wants us to start thinking more about using frameworks to exchange data within an organization rather than file formats for exchanging data with other parties.  What was more interesting to me was data showing the most popular CAD systems (CATIA V5 and SolidWorks are leading) and the factoid that STEP is the leading CAD format for data exchange (32%).

Five reasons why no one reads your blog.
  1. It looks like shit.  check
  2. Writing doesn't make sense.  double check
  3. Trying to sell crap.  missed one!
  4. Personality like cardboard.  check
  5. Neither informative nor entertaining.  check and check
Along those same lines, here are 21 writing mistakes you shouldn't make on your blog.  #5 Your paragraphs break the 4-line rule.

Steve Dublanica, author of Waiter Rant, is available to speak at your event.

My Cold War fetish reveals itself again.  The Power of Decision is an Air Force film from 1958 depicting a US-Soviet nuclear war scenario.

McSweeney's offers this insight into what your favorite classic rock band says about you.  A few highlights:
  • The Beatles - You can do exactly 1.5 pull-ups.
  • Black Sabbath - Your greatest joy is painting unventilated rooms.
  • Yes - Your ideal partner would be into both trantric sex and fat guys.
Early Macs had a button labeled "Do It" but users often thought it said "Dolt."  Hence, the OK button was born.  I use "OK" as a verbal crutch.  Here's a story of how OK came to be used worldwide. (Please note: It's OK.  Not ok or okay or O.K.)

Does your business have a marketing plan?  Is it kinda dull?  Here are 7 tips to spice-up your marketing plan.  #3 Create education-based marketing materials.  Rather than yet another article about how marketers are a bunch of lying dolts, here are the top 10 lies that customers tell.  I like #8, I will read your brochure.  The advice here is to stop depending on your brochures as anything other than proof that your company has marketing money to burn.

Proof #22,657 that innovation is not dead.  Benches that imprint ads onto the back of ladies' thighs.
Lockheed Martin has created a special site just for their presence at Avalon 2011, the Australian International Air Show.

Time magazine offers their list of the 100 greatest toys of all-time by decade.  The heart of my toy-playing days were the 1960s and I'm glad to see the SuperBall listed.  Made from zectron (cool!) they were making 170,000 of these things per day.  It was a marketer's dream cuz eventually kids would take the thing outside, throw it down as hard as they could on the sidewalk, and the last thing you saw was the ball's incredibly high arc before it was lost forever over some fence or house or major 4-lane road and you'd have to buy a new one.  For this reason my mother confiscated mine and kept it in a kitchen drawer.  I later liberated it which is why I'm holding mine while I type this.  (Mine is the Wonderball XF22.)

There are lots of interesting things on Arend deGruyter-Helfer's website including this wax sculpture, angle gradient.

My crossover/mashup fetish is revealed again: the Predator Opera.

Harry Frankfurt in his essay On Bullshit tackles the salient issues of the day: "We have no clear understanding of what bullshit is, why there is so much of it, or what functions it serves."

Do you like laughter?  Do you like French laughter?  Then will keep you busy for hours.  (Be sure to use the keyboard shortcuts instead of the mouse.)

I was going to post a link to an article about the lost art of editing but it's on the Guardian's site and I'm loathe to link to that <redacted>.  On the other hand, the London Review of Books offers a long article on the fate of Kafka's unpublished works.  While on that subject I'll inject this comment about The Metamorphosis: Gregor's physical transformation into a cockroach is not the main point of the book.

Brian Stuckey's The Last Breakfast re-imagines The Last Supper with breakfast cereal mascots.
...and this is often disloyalty to the general idols and fetishes. ~Mark Twain

Monday, February 21, 2011

Vernon Fisher

Who says a painting can't include text?

Songs have lyrics.  Music has videos.  Books have illustrations.

Fort Worth artist Vernon Fisher's paintings have text and a lot more.  I had the opportunity to hear Fisher lecture at the Fort Worth Modern Art Museum on 26 October 2010.  As is my habit at these lectures, I purchased the subject book about his work and had him sign it prior to the lecture.  Only now have I had a chance to read it.

By education Fisher is both a writer and a painter.  And he has taught painting.  But his works, including painting, collage, sculpture, and installation, have been exhibited worldwide.  In general his works include elements from a variety of sources: text from other works, original text, pop culture imagery like Mickey Mouse, maps, graph paper.  The point, like most postmodernists, is for the viewer to become an integral part of the work as interpreter of an often ambiguous message delivered in fragments from dispersed sources.  Contrast this with modernist works where the viewer is passive and consumes the message delivered by the artist. 

Vernon Fisher, Private Africa, 1995

Fisher's work delivers on his promise. You do find yourself trying to figure out exactly what's going on in a piece, what it means, an how all the disparate elements can be strung together and rearranged into a linear tale.   By contrast, when I stand in front of a Rothko or an Innes it's more a matter of determining how the painting makes you feel.  Admittedly, I am biased toward Fisher's canvas-oriented works as opposed to his sculptures and installations.  But you can't discount them entirely because sometimes it's only after viewing the entirety of a group of works, walking through and around them, and seeing them from many angles does the message start to clarify.

I don't want to get too hung up on the messages and run the risk of mistaking the absurd for the profound and vice versa.  But it's not hard to see a painting of Mickey Mouse, pixelated around the edges with the scaffolding underneath visible and with a stylized photograph of an empty swimming pool superimposed on his head, and relate that to Fisher's opinion that Mickey is a likable but the least complex of the Disney characters.

If you have the opportunity to see Fisher's work at a gallery near you, I recommend it.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Waiter Rant by Steve Dublanica

I started reading the Waiter Rant blog years ago back before the book was published and back when The Waiter was still anonymous.  (Blah, blah, I knew him when, I was reading before it was cool, yadda yadda.)  With that out of the way...

The posts on Waiter Rant were some of the best blog reading I found on the internet.  They were funny, honest, and insightful.  Have you ever wondered what it's like to work in a restaurant?  Perhaps you work or used to work in a restaurant.  During high school I worked as a busboy in two restaurants, one German the other Italian.  (I dropped an entire tray of glassware my first night in the Italian joint and managed to keep my job.)  Regardless, you've at least eaten in a restaurant. Waiter Rant, the book, will make you appreciate the experience more.

Or maybe it'll make us all better diners.  Here's a quote from the preface.  "Foodie-porn TV programming has generated a new class of entitled customers with already overblown culinary expectations and a rapidly diminishing set of social graces.  Twenty percent of the American dining public are socially maladjusted psychopaths.  We should start putting Prozac in the Perrier."   I'm certain you and I are in the well-adjusted 80% but we know who he's writing about.  We've sat next to those rude, imperious, drunk, cheap, touchy people at the next table.  And let's not even get started on parents who let their loud, greasy, stinky brood use the dining room as their personal playpen.  The rant part of Waiter Rant lets you see the experience from the other side of the order pad.

But lest you think Waiter Rant is just that, a rant against the dining public, Dublanica equally skewers kitchen staff, wait staff, and owners centered around The Bistro, his upscale but anonymized employer.  There are tales of substance abuse in the alley, video surveillance in the foyer, sex in the bathroom, and spitting in the food (which Dublanica says he's never done).  There is the story, however, of the hamburger that upon its third return to the kitchen for recooking was used as a hockey puck.

Chapter 1 begins "So, you take it up the ass?"  Which is odd when you consider that Dublanica is a former seminary student.  And corporate marketer.  And rehab counselor.  And I think that's the other half of Waiter Rant - the reasons of how and, more importantly, why he ended up being a waiter.  Dublanica treats those questions literally as he explores why people get into and stay in the business.  But he also treats the question figuratively.  What is he waiting for?  The fact that I'm writing about his first book kinda gives away the answer.

If you read nothing else, go straight to Appendix A, 40 Tips on How to be a Good Customer.  And if all you read is this blog post remember this: tip at least 15 to 20 percent, if you have a favorite waiter your tip should be 20 to 25 percent, and to get and keep a favorite waiter you should ask for them by name and tell your friends to do the same.

Just remember what the great philosopher Dave Barry said: "A person who is nice to you but rude to the waiter is not a nice person."

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Solitude is painful when one is young...

Today's soundtrack brought to you courtesy of Pat Mastelotto who offers several consecutive tracks illustrating the evolution of Smudge from noodling to finished work.  Very insightful.  Open the link in another window, start the streaming playback, and come back here.

Not to be left behind, mathematicians have started a 3-year project to create a periodic table of shapes to categorize all the three, four, and five dimensional shapes.  You can follow their progress on their blog.

Design guru Don Norman has seen the future and is opposed.  It's not the technology that has Don down, it's the service providers.  Whether that's overloaded wireless networks at a hotel, cell phone roaming charges, or for-fee delivery silos for news, video, sports, Norman sees a future where service provider greed is going to rule the day.

 This nano-photo of two types of molecules layered on a gold surface is one of POPSCI's best images from the 2010 Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge.

Why would you ruin bacon by putting it in bourbon to make something called the Bacon Bourbon Sour?  I'd like to know if any of my booze friends are willing to make one of these.  Ho hum, bacon toothpaste.

The big news in the CFD world this week was the announcement of CAD software maker Autodesk's intent to acquire CFD software vendor Blue Ridge Numerics (CFdesign) for $39 million.
  • Autodesk's announcement: "Simulation represents a significant growth area for Autodesk, and we are focused on strengthening our portfolio in this area both organically and through acquisitions." 
  • DEVELOP3D: They don't seem to be surprised by the deal because they figured both Autodesk and PTC needed to beef up their CFD capabilities.   They also make some speculative statements regarding the cost of SolidWork's CFD capabilities (licensed from Mentor Graphics) and Simulia's intent to develop their own CFD in-house.
  • Schnitger: As a side note to her commentary, Rita quotes prior research on BRN in which they "generally came out at or near the top:  well-respected for both innovation and business practices."
  • Autodesk Manufacturing's blog: The blog post includes a video of the current integration of CFdesign and Inventor.
  • GraphicSpeak: This blog post points out Autodesk's recent string of analysis acquisitions (Algor, Moldflow) and BRN's large number of PTC customers.  They opine that perhaps the big shake-up of PTC's product line (Creo) will have customers lining up to take a look at Autodesk's offerings.
  • BIM Apps: There's discussion here about a CFdesign integration with Revit.
  • IMAGINiT blog: They claim that Autodesk's R&D budget is 4-5 times that of its closest competitor.
  • Revit OpEd blog: An expression of the need for simulation beyond just modeling.
  • CFdesign 2011: If you want to see what's at the root of all this, here are BRN's five reasons for using CFdesign 2011.

What the heck is going on in the engineering software market?  While collecting new data in advance of COFES 2011 one fact made clear is that "2010 was a lot better than 2009 for most manufacturers and the engineering software vendors that serve them."

Howe and Howe's Ripsaw EV-1.  Bad ass.  Simply bad ass.  Watch the videos.

Contrary to many productivity strategies including GTD, Nate Riggs advises that you forget about emptying your email inbox when you're overloaded.  Speaking of GTD, Nirvana is an online, browser-based task management system based on GTD's principles.

Who are the most influential colleges on Twitter?   Syracuse, my alma mater, is #2.  (Now if they'd only stop referring to themselves as "Cuse."  God I hate that.)  Here's a tiny infographic about when major versions of modern web browsers shipped.

Not for the faint of heart: an 11 page legal brief on whether software technical interfaces are copyrightable.  They are not.

Honestly, I wish success to the new Fairmount Bike Taxi for Fort Worth's Near Southside.  Equally honestly, I have no idea what to think of the whole thing.  Smells a little like hipster to me.

In case you missed it, a computer named Watson competed on Jeopardy! this past week.  You can commemorate the event with an "I Beat Watson" t-shirt.

Flogton is golf for those of us who are terrible.  I'm not sure the liberalized rules will help me.  I'd cheat and still struggle to shoot 120.  And I bet the purists (like my father) will be up in arms when they hear about this.  (Flogton, not my cheating.)

If you have never seen Most Extreme Elimination Challenge you've missed a hilarious take-off of a Japanese game show where the real joy is the overdubbed commentary.  The TV show Wipe Out is an attempt to Americanize MXC but in the end they miss the point completely and instead produce nothing more than a turd.  In fact, if a turd could take a dump it would defecate Wipe Out.  (This double entendre is completely unintentional.)

Whether called bibliovores or book geeks, the WSJ presents this review of books about books including the interesting quote "in childhood all books are books of divination, telling us about the future."

Extended Voronoi by Leonardo Solaas

Two nuggets from the TRIANGULATION blog this week.  First up is Extended Voronoi.  Second is an animation from Antlers Wifi.

If you're curious about how much to charge for your product or service, perhaps the Van Westendorp Price Sensitivity Meter can help.

eWEEK presents the top programming languages for 2011 beginning with Java, C, and C++.  To give you a head start on your C programming, here are the top 10 C language resources.  Here are nine traits of the veteran Unix system administrator.  #6 We generally assume the problem is with whomever is asking the question.

Coming from Disney in 2013 and going straight to DVD is PLANES, a flying version of Cars.  More interesting to me is the speculation that Cars was inspired in-part by Disney's 1942 film Saludos Amigos.

In the United States of Beer, each state is represented by a brew.  In California, it's Stone Brewing (the only reason I posted this link).  Well Stocked is a photo of a beer-packed refrigerator.  The question for my beer friends is whether the title is deserved.

There seems to be a correlation between the size of a primate's brain and the extent of its social group.  For humans, the Dunbar number is 147.8 indicating the average size of your circle of friends.  The interesting endnote of this article proposes that the evolutionary growth of the human brain was not due to the need to understand the world around us but the need to understand other humans.  Of course, eating meat and marrow fueled that growth.  (Don't know why I added that last bit.)

From the rumor mill, AMD is for sale and Dell is interested.

 Explore the proposed $3.7 trillion federal budget for 2012.

  • Toyota Motorsport brings together experimental and CFD data using Tecplot.
  • nPower released SubD-NURBS, software for converting subdivision surface models into NURBS models.
  • Symscape's February 2011 newsletter is out.
  • Supercomputer maker Cray reported a huge jump in Q4 income in 2010 relative to 2009: $52.1 million versus $3 million.
  • CD-adapco is hosting a webinar on CAD geometry for CFD.
  • Beta CAE systems released ANSA v13.1.2 for CFD.
  • OPEN CASCADE released Best Fit for working with point clouds.
  • The 4th International ANSA Conference will be held 01-03 June 2011 in Greece.
  • Tech Soft 3D's annual customer meeting will be held 14 April 2011 in Scottsdale, AZ.
  • OpenCMISS is an open source project to revive the CMISS modeling package including CFD.
  • How the Yale School of Medicine used CFD to cut energy usage in their buildings.
"The customer is always right" is a bit patronizing.  This article about how you can go wrong by listening to your customers is another variation on a theme.  You want your products to be inspired by your customers, not defined by them.

Begin with audio, end with video.  There's just something about this swordplay between an actor and a projection that is fun to watch.  I can't read Japanese so there's nothing more I can tell you.

...but delightful when one is more mature.  ~Albert Einstein

Friday, February 18, 2011

Quantum by Manjit Kumar

Subtitled Einstein, Bohr and the Great Debate About the Nature of Reality, Kumar's Quantum might equally well have been subtitled If a Tree Falls in the Forest and No One Hears It Did It Really Fall?

Such is the debate at the core of Kumar's history of the development of quantum theory and quantum mechanics.  Starting in 1859 with Kirchhoff's work on the radiation of a perfect blackbody and ending in 2007 with the publication of Aspelmeyer and Zeilinger's measurements on entangled photons, Quantum walks the reader through the major developments, both theoretical and experimental, and the personalities in the evolution of quantum mechanics.

The title's Great Debate is this: Bohr's subatomic world does not exist unless observed while Einstein favored an observation independent reality.  Bohr considered quantum mechanics to be a complete theory while Einstein thought it incomplete.  Note that the debate does not necessarily center around Einstein's adamant claim that God does not play dice.  According to Quantum, Einstein accepted the role of probability in the theory.

Einstein was quoted as asking rhetorically "Does the moon only exist when we look at it?"  Yet despite this obvious absurdity, Bohr's view is that there is no reason to believe that rules of classical (Newtonian) physics apply at the subatomic level.  At that level, where quantum mechanics has over decades proved successful at describing phenomenon after phenomenon, different rules apply in which not only can we not know certain things deterministically, it doesn't even make sense to try.

Quantum includes some tantalizing tidbits in its closing pages.  For one is Everett's theory that it's possible to have each quantum outcome bifurcate into its own universe.  For those familiar with Schrodinger's cat, when the box is opened the world splits into to separate worlds, one in which the cat is alive and the other in which it is dead.  To me, this is just a tease.

I suppose that in the end I'll side with Einstein despite the lack of theory or experiment to support his claims of quantum mechanics' lack of completeness.  It just seems that a universe where truth is dependent on observation requires too much chutzpah.  On the other hand, as Bohr said, "Stop telling God what to do."

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Point Omega by Don DeLillo

I read Don DeLillo's Point Omega this afternoon and hours later I still have no idea what I just read.

Was it a novel?  Or a short story?

Was it a postmodern examination of violence?

Was it a paradoxical haiku about slowing time to singular moments while we plunge forward toward greater consciousness - or oblivion?

"The true life is not reducible to words, spoken or written, not by anyone, ever.  The true life takes place when we're alone, thinking, feeling, lost in memory, dreamingly self-aware, the submicroscopic moments."

Any mental activity is easy...

Get a whiff of this: the special scent of Valentine's Day is in the air.  Show your special someone how much you care with this Plotting for Your Heart t-shirt.  Don't be checkin' out your lady when she's computing - it's like kryptonite to her math skills.  Whether you call it swapping spit, tonsil hockey or tongue wrestling here's a taxonomy of the French kiss.  What gift would be more appreciated than a custom paint job on your pistol.  (Not a euphemism.  I'm especially partial to the bacon paint scheme.)

From the Lost and Found Department: Believe it or not, no one has a recording of Super Bowl I.  Until now.  After decades of searching, a nearly complete copy has been found in an attic in Pennsylvania.  The two reels of 2-inch quadraplex tape have been restored and now negotiations with the No Fun League are underway about who actually owns the rights.  (I don't own many DVDs but I'd buy one of this film.  What other DVDs do I own?  The box set of the three Godfather films, the box set of the 4 Alien films, the complete Monty Python's Flying Circus TV series, and Kung Pow: Enter the Fist.)

I'd buy a DVD of Super Bowl I.  Image by Roberto Westbrook for the Wall Street Journal.

A new study from the Aberdeen Group, Working with Multi-CAD?  Overcoming the Engineering Bottleneck, is like a bikini: what it reveals is interesting but what it conceals is vital.  Here are some revelations:
  • 82% of those surveyed report using 3 or more CAD formats in their design process.  That's like owning a CD player but buying music on mp3, LP and cassette.  It takes a lot of effort to convert all sources to CD and the result will probably not sound as good as the original.
  • The biggest problem (32% of respondents) with using imported CAD data is that the geometry is dumb - it's lost all history and other information that would make editing easier.  So often the only recourse is to recreate the geometry.
  • As an analyst, this is eye-opening: the list of top 7 downstream uses of CAD data doesn't include analysis.  The top downstream use is assembly instructions.
  • Relative to 2006 when 52% reported using neutral formats such as IGES and STEP, they are no longer cited as preferred formats for CAD data exchange. 
You, your car, and social media.   Audi owners are almost twice as likely to be social media users than Buick owners.  Given that my father drives a Buick, the 38.2% likelihood is way off the mark.  You haven't got mail.  Only folks 55 and older used more email in the past year versus the prior.  Teens' email usage over the same period is down 59%.  Damn you kids, you're spoiling everything!

Just one word describes this apophysis fractal animation: trippy.

 Generating Mondrian-like images using a Truchet pattern at the Algorithmic Worlds blog.

And here I was thinking that ditch digging was just my fallback career.  Who knew it was a sport?  FedEx maps the world by how we import TVs, refrigerators, and washing machines.  GrabCAD advocates 2 monitors per engineer for a 20-30% increase in productivity.  Parallel programming is like being a composer (e.g. Brahms), each processor is like a musician.

From the When Tree Huggers Have Gone Too Far department, six year old excluded from school contest because of one Ziploc baggie.

If your password is 123456 or qwerty read about the trouble with passwords. A nine character password with mixed case, numbers, and symbols is 2.3 billion times harder to crack than a 6 digit lower case letter password.   If you're wondering how you could possibly remember a29-B78!z34 versus abc123 I will repeat my recommendation of KeePass.

Pragmatic Marketing's annual Product Management Survey is chock full of insight into what PM's actually do and how they do it.  For example, the top three of 37 PM activities are product roadmap (80+%), requirements, and market problems while lead generation (18%) is at the bottom of the list.  One interesting question is "if you could say anything to your CEO without fear of reprisal it would be..." and the top answers included this nugget: "Allow more control from employees below upper management in doing their own jobs."

Phew.  Good thing it's a crime to be skinny.  According to this I'm 8 times as handsome.

This video on briefly discusses the algorithms used by robotic vacuum cleaners.  That reminds me - it's time to start Bob, my Roomba.  And yes, Mark, you can program your own Roomba with Hacking Roomba.  Lest you think robots are a recent phenomenon, check out this tale of the CIA's robot dragonfly from the 1970s.

A master entrepreneur thinks differently than your run-of-the-mill corporate executive.  The entrepreneur develops goals on the fly while reacting to contingencies while executives diligently work toward an established goal.  I looked at this list of 50 blogs about sales and marketing and it just makes me tired.  How can you possibly read all these, let alone implement any good ideas?

How do you develop commitment with customers, employees, and partners?
  1. Simplify.  One of the most attractive features of organizations that enjoy high levels of commitment is a lack of features.
  2. Hear.  Go beyond just listening so feedback can be applied to your strategic vision.
  3. Surprise.  Few things enamor like exceeding someone's expectations.  Call this the "wow factor."
  4. Resonate.  Have a single-minded purpose that delivers meaning to customers.
  5. Play.  Be fun to do business with and fun to work at.
  6. Inspire. Offer a way for employees and customers to be their best.
  7. Easy.  Develop a mentality of yes.
In What do we build now? a software developer describes their approach to finding out what users want.  They implement buttons with nothing behind them except a message that says something like "thanks for letting us know you want this" and then having the app report these hits back to the company.  Two problems. First, there's something not quite right about teasing the user with a button that does nothing.  Second, some users don't like having an app that phones home.

From the Headlines That Write Themselves department, Armed Bird at Cockfight Kills Man in Calif.

Hodgkin's A Storm (top) and Rothko's No. 27 White Band (bottom)

When I saw (online) Howard Hodgkin's A Storm 1977 (in the Tate's collection) I was immediately reminded of Mark Rothko's No. 27 White Band 1954 (once on display at the Fort Worth Modern Art Museum).  Yes, I'm a simple sonofabitch so the colors and composition are pretty easy similarities to find.  Hodgkin's painting was supposedly inspired by a visit to Oklahoma and between that fact and the title it's easy to see the tornado motif.  However, Rothko denied ever painting a landscape (every horizontal line is not a horizon and every vertical line is not a figure).   This all made me get out my copy of David Anfam's Mark Rothko: The Works on Canvas.  So imagine a long pause between this sentence and the next.

Along with his bible, this guy says David Allen's Getting Things Done is one of the three most influential books in his life.  So he's sharing a 7-part series on GTD.   Other free GTD resources can be found at GDT Times.
Van Eaton Galleries is planning an auction of animation art on 14 May 2011.  Read all about this year's Annie Awards for animation.  The Navy's E-2D Advanced Hawkeye has begun carrier testing.

A Facebook co-founder (i.e. someone with more money than God - for example, each engineer gets $10,000 to pimp their own workspace.) has revealed his new startup, Asana.   Its mission: "To fix how people work together and make the global work place a better, more efficient, less frustrating place."  Going further: "It’s about helping people work together more efficiently– cutting out reliance on email, cutting down on the need for those endless meetings, easily assigning and tracking tasks in one instance that is always up to date, because unlike those lame corporate wikis, people are living in the app."
    Would you drink a beer from a 1800s shipwreck?  I bet Joel would.  This article from Fox News about the five worst ideas for alcohol is notable for only two reasons.  First, Bacon Vodka is included.  Second, Four Loko is excluded.

    ...if it need not take reality into account.  ~Marcel Proust

    Sunday, February 6, 2011

    The Kennedy Detail by Gerald Blaine

    I don't recall when I first became interested in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.  My parents had a hardcover book called 4 Days in Dallas that I remember reading when I was probably in junior high.  But I do know what has sustained my interest - the conspiracy theories.  In college, the wife (before she was the wife) and I attended a lecture by the author of a book claiming hanky panky involving the president's body and autopsy.  Since then I've watched most of the TV shows (including the audio clues of a 4th shot found on a recording released in Hustler magazine) and read many of the books (magic bullet, 3rd shot was accidental discharge of a Secret Service weapon, organized crime involvement with 3 gunmen leaving Oswald as the patsy, Cuba, LBJ, KBG, etc.).  Then there's the internet, a forum for every crackpot theory imaginable.

    That's not to say that I believe the conspiracy theories.  (OK, perhaps I wanted to believe them, especially in the beginning.)  In fact, the simple existence of so many of them means they all can't be true.  But they are enticing, especially to the young or those new to this historical event.

    So when I learned a couple months ago that a new book had been published by the Secret Service agents who had served on Kennedy's protection detail, I immediately purchased it.  Now, with the assistance of a couple of snow days off from work, I've finished reading The Kennedy Detail by Gerald Blaine.  Blaine is a retired agent who protected three presidents during his career before going to work for IBM.  Blaine may be the author, but the book is the result of the collective memories of many agents and their personal notes that have survived to this day.

    Let's cut right to the chase.  Oswald was the lone shooter, was not involved with any third parties on the plot, and fired three shots all of which found their marks (Kennedy, Connally, Kennedy).

    But this really isn't the point of the book which is truly about the personal guilt carried by the agents over this professional failure and their frustration over all the mostly unchallenged conspiracy theories, many of which make the agents directly and explicitly responsible.  For decades, the agents' professional code of silence meant they simply had to take it.

    This guilt is personified by Mrs. Kennedy's lead agent Clint Hill, the agent most closely associated with the assassination because of his sprint from the follow-up car to the president's limo as the shots, including the fatal shot, were fired.

    And now we're getting closer to the core of Blaine's book.  Agent Hill suffered for decades, blaming himself for not getting to the limo a half second or second faster.  If he had, he might've been able to absorb the third and fatal shot himself.  (Kennedy's throat wound was deemed survivable.)

    So why wasn't Agent Hill able to get to JFK and Mrs. Kennedy faster?  He was riding on the front left running board of the follow-up car and that seems pretty close.  However, if you watch the films of him climbing onto the limo he steps up on a rear running board and pulls himself up with a raised handle.  These devices allow agents to ride on the rear of the limo.  And that's where Agent Hill wanted to be riding.  Most agents immediately recognized the first shot for what it was.  Hill himself saw the president in distress after the first shot which motivated him to leap off the follow-up car and race for the limo.  (The agent on the front right side running board had the same thought but due to the orientation of the cars would likely have been run over or greatly delayed had he jumped off.)  If Clint Hill had been on the limo's rear running board there's a good likelihood he could've covered the president and first lady before the fatal shot was fired.

    So why wasn't Clint Hill riding on the rear of the limo?  Four days earlier during a motorcade in Tampa, the president had asked the agents to stay off the rear running boards of the limo.  JFK was campaigning and didn't want agents coming between him and the people.  This didn't prevent Agent Hill from riding on the rear of the limo during at least part of the Dallas motorcade on Main Street where the crowds were very heavy.  But by the time the motorcade turned right onto Houston Street followed by the sharp left onto Elm the crowds had thinned and Hill had fallen back to the follow-up car.  To be very clear, the agents are not blaming JFK but are illustrating the ongoing compromises between protecting the president and allowing the people open access.  Of course, you don't see the president riding in open-top cars anymore either.

    The Kennedy Detail is not a shocker, doesn't point fingers, doesn't make outrageous claims.  It is a sober, factual recollection of dedicated professionals who suffered a great loss and have carried the guilt of that loss for decades.  I consider it to be one of the definitive works on the subject.

    One thing bothered me about the book, however.  Blaine refers to himself in the third person throughout the book.  Instead of "I" he writes "Jerry" or "Agent Blaine."  Maybe this is an attempt to make the story appear to be more of a collective effort of all the agents.  But I don't think writing "I did this" and "I recall that" would've detracted from the tale.

    Saturday, February 5, 2011

    Even a monkey...

    Here is this week's way to spend even more time at your computer.  Google's Art Project does for art museums what street view did for maps.  You can explore museums around the world and zoom in so close to great works of art that you can count the brushstrokes.  I'm looking forward to expanded coverage of museums and paintings especially modern works.

     Up close and personal with Van Gogh's The Starry Night via Google's Art Project.

    Timewasting Crap to Download
    • If you're into robotics or just like collecting CAD models, check out the FIRST CAD Library with its 3D geometry for the FIRST robotic competitions.  Similar content can be found here.
    • You can use Twilk to put your followers' avatars on the background of your Twitter page.
    • The latest version of Chrome supports WebGL, 3D hardware-accelerated graphics in the browser.
    Places to Go
    • The Business of Software 2011 conference will be held 24-26 October in Boston.
    • The 11th FLOW-3D European Users Conference will be held 26-27 May 2011 in Monza, Italy.
    • Check out this who's who of participants at this year's COFES, Conference on the Future of Engineering Software.
    • Parallel CFD 2011 will be held in Barcelona on 16-20 May.
    • So close in time and space but yet we still missed it.  Isogeometric Analysis 2011 was held last month in Austin.  This event is not just an excuse to use the word differomorphism.  Here's a rather long snippet from the conference overview: "The CAGD—FEA interface gives rise to many problems. Perhaps the most significant of all is the problem of translating CAGD files into analysis-suitable FEA geometry and meshing, reputed to take 80% of overall analysis time for complex engineering designs."
    Meanwhile, in China

     No, they are not.  These are sea cucumbers.
    • Maverick and Goose have apparently switched teams.  (No, not that way.)  But the Chinese apparently did try to pass off Top Gun footage as one of their air force exercises. 
    • What tastes like phlegm, breathes through its anus, and may be coming to a table near you? (I'm hoping my wife will exercise some restraint with this rhetorical question.)  Sea cucumbers! Yes indeed, some folks are going to place commercial sea cucumber farms beneath fish farms so the cukes will eat the poops and then be harvested and braised with mushrooms.  Guess where these are considered a delicacy?
    Into the Pie Hole
    Look Ma, No Hands

     If Northrop Grumman has their way this is what you may be flying home in for Xmas 2025.
    • Landing soon on an aircraft carrier near you, the Navy's X-47B unmanned combat aircraft flew for the first time on 04 Feb 2011.
    • It's been done again: paper airplanes dropped from space.  Doesn't that make them reentry vehicles? 
    • Submitted for your geeky reading pleasure - the transcripts of radio communications between Apollo 13 and mission control in Houston. 
    • NASA contracted design studies for the commercial passenger aircraft of 2025 and here are some of the early designs.
    Wurd Up
    • Stanley Fish, author of How to Write a Sentence and How to Read One, offers five of his favorite sentences including Ford Madox Ford's "And I shall go on talking in a low voice while the sea sounds in the distance and overhead the great black flood of wind polishes the bright stars." 
    • What's the difference between England, Britain, and the United Kingdom?  (Not a joke.)
    • I again watched Al Pacino's Looking for Richard (excellent) on TV and so you get to suffer with this link to the entire play, Richard III.
    The Naughty Bits

    Here's science everyone can relate to: Belly Button Biodiversity.
    • Given a choice between a colonoscopy and having a dog sniff my poo, I'll choose the dog.   Apparently he's as accurate as the procedure for detecting colon cancer.
    • The 3 second rule for hugging.  Any longer would be creepy.  (Explains a lot.)
    • Rise in some cancers linked to oral sex.  (Oh those silly headline writers.)
    Fun with Fluids
    • A video explanation of the Kaye effect aka leaping shampoo.
    • Bottle filing and sand drying with FLOW-3D.
    • When Velocite Bikes revealed their new Helios Aero they were quoted as saying "We chose not to do CFD since it doesn't show very well what happens when the bike is ridden."  Maybe they haven't seen the cool work done jointly by ACUSIM and Intelligent Light on aerodynamics of bike wheels.
    • Can a luxury yacht be good for the environment?   Yes, and in fact it can win awards too.  Mochi Craft's hybrid propulsion yacht was awarded UIM's Environmental Award 2011.  Of course, CFD was used to streamline the hull.
      Putting Pencil to Paper
      I find myself linking more and more frequently to posts on the Triangulation Blog.  In this case, the pen work of Thomas Briggs.
      • A quick demonstration of drawing Bugs Bunny by Chuck Jones.  
      • Preston Blair's Advanced Animation is the best how to book on animation ever published.
      • Chuck Jones' keys to success.
        • Perceive each character individually.  Not all coyotes are Wile E. Coyote.
        • Leverage your freedom.  Take advantage of opportunities to be subversive.
        • Identify with your creations.  Others see your creations, not you creating them.
        • Fuss.  Fog and smog are two different things.
        • Don't patronize your audience.  Build them up, don't talk down.
      Don't Label Me
      • Every time we'd drive by Buddy's house we'd try to catch a glimpse of him.  But no more.  Buddy the Zebra is dead at age 27.
      • The periodic table of Google's APIs.
      • Are you interested in multi-touch computer screens?  Remember back in 2008 when CNN followed the elections on their big touch-screen?  Then you need to check out Perceptive Pixel.
      • Convergence?  Juxtaposition?  Whatever, guitarist Jeff Beck's performance of the aria Nessun Dorma from Puccini's opera Turnadot is fantastic.  While we're on the topic, be sure to enjoy Pavarotti's performance too.
      • Call me conservative, but I don't think this proposal to modify Fedora Linux to use hot dog themed artwork is gonna fly.
      • If the acronyms UX and HCI mean something to you, then the Encyclopedia of Usability is right up your alley.
      • Maybe sp@m has its uses: text message blows up suicide bomber by causing vest to detonate early.
      • If you're one of those people who think a Rubik's cube is way too easy, check out this 17x17x17 cube.

      Naked Hucksterism

      ...sometimes falls from the tree.  (Saru mo ki-kara ochiru)