Sunday, March 27, 2011

Getting Naked by Patrick Lencioni

Once again I picked up one of Lencioni's business books for a quick read between some heavier non-fiction topics.  Not that Lencioni is "light", at least in terms of value.  Definitely his "fables" (his term) are an easy, short read.  But he uses that format to deliver some interesting business lessons.

In Getting Naked, Lencioni makes the case for allowing yourself to be vulnerable in front of the client.  The alternative is to hold on to three types of fears, fears that the client can sense.  And if the client senses those fears you won't get the business.  Those fears are:
  1. Fear of losing the business.  If a client senses this, they know that you're more interested in maintaining them as near-term income rather than helping them succeed in the long term.
  2. Fear of being embarrassed.  When you fear this, you hold back ideas just in case you might be wrong.  But a client who senses this thinks you're not giving their work everything you've got and that you lack transparency.
  3. Fear of feeling inferior.  Are you more interested in maintaining a sense of status over the client or simply in doing whatever it takes to help them?
So how does Lencioni propose you get over those fears?

How to Get Over Fear of Losing the Business

Always consult instead of sell.
  1. Every sales opportunity is a chance to demonstrate the value of what you do.
  2. Start working for the client from the first moment.
  3. For every one client who takes advantage of you (by taking your advice but then not hiring you) the other nine will start seeing themselves as your client before they actually are.
Give away the business.
  1. Demonstrating generosity and trust helps you turn prospects into clients.
  2. Giving away the business shows that you're more interested in helping them than in the short term revenue.
Tell the kind truth.
  1. Deliver difficult messages if they are in the best interest of the client.
  2. Present the truth with kindness, empathy, and respect.
Enter the danger.
  1. Fearlessly deal with issues others are afraid to address.
  2. You will be seen as having courage and integrity.
Getting Over the Fear of Being Embarrassed

Ask dumb questions, make dumb suggestions.
  1. Humbly and quickly acknowledge the dumbest ones and move on – they'll be forgotten.
Don't hold back.
  1. Celebrate your mistakes.
  2. It's inevitable that you'll be wrong sometimes.  Take responsibility and move on.
  3. Clients don't expect perfection – they expect honesty and transparency.
Getting Over the Fear of Feeling Inferior

Take a bullet for the client.
  1. Take some of their burden in a difficult situation - but don't let them get away with it, and be sure to confront them later.
  2. This builds trust and loyalty.
Make everything about the client.
  1. Downplay your own accomplishments.
  2. Understand, honor, and support the client's business.
Honor the client's work.
  1. Take an active interest in the client's business and its importance to them.
  2. If you can't honor the client's work, don't take their business in the first place
Do the dirty work.
  1. Doing whatever needs to be done, regardless of the prestige, demonstrates your dedication to their business.
Getting Over All the Fears
  1. Admit your weaknesses and limitations.
  2. If you cover up your weaknesses you'll wear yourself out by being something you're not.
  3. Being something you're not also means you can't be something you're good at.

Agnes Martin and Susan Rothenberg

Agnes Martin: Richard Tuttle

Just a quick note on a couple of art books I picked up at The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth.  I was there for lunch and on the way out saw a table of books for sale on clearance.   In addition, one of the books was about Agnes Martin whose work has always interested me so my purchase decision was both impulsive and easy.

In Agnes Martin Richard Tuttle, Michael Auping of The Modern has paired two artists who are friends but otherwise share very little common ground, at least on the surface. I'll just focus on Martin.   You may recognize her as the lady who paints graph paper.  As an engineer, that's part of the appeal.  We live and work on graph paper so it's interesting to see exactly what she's trying to accomplish with her work.  Cutting right to the chase, she's creating "a perfectly non-attached space," a ground from which to contemplate who you are in a "plane of attention and awareness."  I will push the engineering analogy too far by saying that's what we use graph paper for - a regularized grid upon which we can contemplate and create our designs.

In Susan Rothenberg: Moving in Place, Auping presents the work of a painter who not only brings figuration back to abstraction but also seems to feature an incredible amount of motion in her works.  In fact, unlike Martin there's virtually no grounding at all which enhances the visual movement.  But one particular painting (Cabin Fever) adds a single vertical line (reminiscent of one of Martin's lines) through the image of a galloping horse that completely arrests the movement.

So for a couple of hours of Saturday afternoon reading, there's a nice contrast between two artists: one who provides a static, grounded plane and another whose painting are visually kinetic.  Whether at rest or in motion both are a pleasure to view.  If forced to express a preference, I'll go with Martin.
Agnes Martin, Praise, 1976

Susan Rothenberg, Cabin Fever, 1976

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Both optimists and pessimists contribute to society.

It never fails.  Create something cool and before you know it it's being used for sex.  TargetMap is a free online mapping tool that lets you map data to any geographic region by uploading an Excel file: Nobel laureates by country, nuclear power plants worldwide, it's all available.  So how do I find out about this tool?  A world map of penis size by country.  Which might be funny if the data wasn't obviously wrong.

Tarzan meets Spanky, my favorite picture of the week.  It made me smile.  How I loved them Little Rascals.

Must-watch aviation pr0n of the week: flying the U-2 spy plane.

All the vintage spy gear you'd ever want to see. 

Have you downloaded Firefox 4 yet?  I haven't.  But as this animated real-time worldwide map shows, over 30,000,000 people have.

More proof that you should need a license to reproduce.  If you have kids you'd better check My Bad Parent, a photo blog of bad parenting in action.  In a similar vein there's White Whine, a blog about "first-world problems" aka things white people complain about.

Did you watch Ze Frank's year-long comedy video blog, The Show? ("Thinking, so you don't have to.")  Well, he's reviewing and commenting on episodes in The Show Replay.

Still trying to figure out exactly what Chartwell is.

Plato said "He was a wise man who invented beer."  So toss back these cyber-brews.
  • What to expect from brewery tours worldwide.  (Do not question why I'm reading Women's Day.)
  • Brewery Map is built on Google Maps - enter a location and see all the breweries nearby.   Within a 25 mile radius of Fort Worth I found 3: Rahr & Sons, The Covey (now closed), and Ass Kisser Ales.
The folks at i.materialise present their list of materials for 3D printing in the form of a periodic table of materials.

Check out this bar chart of the legal right to paid vacation and holidays worldwide.  Spain and Portugal lead the pack with a combined 35 days each.  Good ole USofA is in dead last with zero.  (Note: this is the legal right to paid time off.)

2013 will be a special year of emphasis on the Mathematics of Planet Earth.  Assuming, of course, that we survive 2012.

The story of Schmaltzed to Death illustrates the process of going from rough sketch to final art.

Has engineering lost some of its luster?  If you read the post and comments you'll see that I'm not certain engineers ever had any real prestige.  I think part of the problem might be illustrated by this cartoon.

The Web Standards Sherpa can help you on your journey toward best practices on the web for topics like CSS, usability, and performance.  Someone has even more free time than I do because they created this web site in CSS that emulates a Mac keyboard.

Duct Tape Marketing announced the winners of their worst business advice contest.  I should've entered my experience: "I gotta tell you, I think you're crazy."  Being crazy and successful aren't mutually exclusive.

My good friends at the NYT want to help with your spring cleaning by telling you which tech gadgets to toss.
  • They recommend tossing your desktop computer in favor of a laptop.  There are two flaws in this recommendation.  First, laptops are more expensive than desktops for the same level of performance.  Second, desktop boxes are much more easily upgraded - they can grow with you.
  • Keeping your high speed internet connection seems like a no brainer.
  • They want to debate whether you should keep your cable TV or just view online content from the interwebs.  While I know people who have done that, I'd miss local news and sports.
  • They're ready to give your point and shoot camera the heave ho in favor of the camera in your smart phone.  For those of us who only take snapshots (as opposed to photographs) this is probably a good idea.  But I'm pretty attached to my tiny Canon 2 MP camera and my dumb phone.
  • Lose the USB flash drive?  Are you kidding?  
  • The smartphone's also gonna push out your music player.  Since I have neither...  Actually that's not true.  I have an iPod Shuffle that's never been out of the box.
  • Alarm clock.  Keep it.  (Genius)
  • Smartphones must be taking over the world because they're going to replace your GPS too.
  • Thank god they say to keep your old-fashioned dead-tree books.
Now rethink the list above in light of this prediction: mobile internet usage will pass desktop usage by 2014.

More meshes as art: RELEASE pt.4.  Click thru and watch the video.  Makes me wonder about trying this in our software.

Are you tired of programming methodologies like XP and Scrum?  If so, this programming manifesto may be for you.

Looking for help with your code reviews?  Try Stack Exchange's Code Review site.  For that matter, check out all of Stack Exchange's sites.
    • What is CFD - science or black magic?  Like any profession, it's a skill that can be practiced with a great deal of craft.
    • The wings on Boeing's 747-8 were designed with the latest in CFD.  Maybe that's why Boeing's backlog of planes (all models) is supposedly 3,399.
    • VENTOS, a CFD solver for wind energy, is getting some upgrades.
    • The Conference on CFD in Medicine and Biology will be held 25-30 March 2012 in Israel.
    • ORECA will likely be doing CFD as part of their design of an aero kit for the 2012 Indy car.
    • ComputIT offers KFX, a CFD code for fire simulation.
    • CFD simulation of spouted beds.
    • Apparently, CFD isn't suitable for some simulations of liquid natural gas sloshing on tankers.
    • The BAC Mono can be your own personal race car and was designed in part using CFD.
    • The FloTHERM User Meeting is coming soon to a city near you.
    • Symscape launched the CFD Emporium, an online forum for CFD consultants and engineers needing CFD work to meet.
    • Here's a video of a presentation about simulating blood flow with CFD with a special emphasis on visualizing the results.
    • Stellar is software for improving tet meshes.
    • CGAL is an open platform for meshing.
    I like lists about as much as the next anal-retentive, short attention span reader.  I know a guy who is an admitted sucker for lists.  But long lists can be counter productive.   Take this list of 69 tips for your blog.  69?  Really?  That just seems like piling on.  I read it and think "when am I gonna have time to do all this?"

    Again.  109 ways to make your business blog irresistible to the media.  C'mon - gimme the top 5.  And as far as #7 (congratulate reporters on their birthdays) goes, no thanks.

    Awesome preproduction sketches by Chuck Jones from One Froggy Evening.

    This is an old story but back during WWII Lockheed's factory in California was covered with netting to make it look like suburbia from the air.  I bet it was hot under there.

    All things earthquake and nuclear are in the news these days.  Here are a few.
    Interview questions.  The bane of job seekers and employers everywhere.  This article lists some that are funny, tips on how to reply, and examples of some that are just plain odd.
    • asks "If you were a superhero, who would you be and why?"  (Batman.  Because unlike the other super dudes can't help being super because of their innate abilities, Batman is just a guy with a lot of cool toys and an attitude.)
    • A job seeker was asked "If the department had a potluck what would you bring?"  (Apparently they already have too many people bringing deviled eggs.  I'd bring chili-lime chiccarones.  Or deviled eggs.)
    • The more bizarre: "Will you file my fingernails?"  (No, but I'll slash your throat with this emery board.)
    • The illegal: "Do you attend church?" (I once had to go to a boss's boss to get the boss to stop asking this during interviews.)
    How well are you using Twitter?  Here are some websites that will help you monitor your Twitter usage.
    • TweetStats reports that I tweet 2.7 times per day, mostly around 8am.
    • Klout only gives me a score of 34 and labels me "an explorer."
    • Twitter Grader rates me 72/100 and ranks me 2,505,230 out of 9,024,739 tweeters.
    • I'm not sure what to think about Twitaholic - it says I joined Twitter on 31 Dec 1969.
    Google Doodles (how they change the logo on their home page for holidays and other events) is now patented.  Google also has a new magazine, Think Quarterly.  (That's about how often I think, too.)

    I've always wondered how laxatives worked.

    Not for the sensitive: man makes shitty perfume.

    Bovine.  Rectal.  Simulator.

    The optimist invents the aeroplane; the pessimist, the parachute.  ~George Bernard Shaw

    Friday, March 25, 2011

    Dick Hill Brings Jack Reacher to Life in Bad Luck and Trouble

    Lee Child's Bad Luck and Trouble is the third novel in his Jack Reacher series that I've listened to on audiobook and each time Dick's Hill's voice acting has made all the difference.  I'm certain I'll be listening to more.

    Bad Luck and Trouble does not begin subtly - someone gets thrown from a helicopter hovering at 3,000 feet.  Before you know it, Jack Reacher, giant of a man, retired Army major, wizard with numbers, and stoic nomad is called to Los Angeles.  Not to begin an investigation.  Not to solve a crime.  But to take revenge.  The man from the helicopter was friend of his.

    Soon Reacher is reunited with his Army team and together they are on the trail of someone whose plans go far beyond just eliminating someone in way of their payday.  From L.A. to Vegas and back again, Reacher and his team try to make something out of nothing.

    I can't say enough about Dick Hill's acting.  His voice isn't for everyone.  It takes a little getting used to.  But I can imagine him doing old-style detective novels (which is odd cuz I'm not a fan of detective novels) and I can't imagine anyone else doing Reacher.  His deep, gravely rumble and uneven pacing make the novel that much more enjoyable.

    Note to audio book producers: some folks listen to audiobooks in the car during their commute.  Keep this in mind when recording because road noise can mask quieter portions of the book.  Just compress the dynamic range a little - this isn't Stravinsky.

    Saturday, March 19, 2011

    Any person who knows all the answers...

    Two words not often found together: Penile spines.  Why chimps have them and I don't.

    When it comes to breasts I fancy myself a bit of an expert, but I've never knitted one.

    This fellow has issues with Shakespeare, one of which is fear: "I suppose I simply fear a person who was able to view the human beast so truly."  But at least we've found Shakespeare's original portrait so we know what he looks like.

    Dead and Dying

    Is the business card dead?  I say no.  But I'm also the person with a museum-piece cell phone and a Franklin day planner instead of an iPad.

    Are phone calls dead too? Nope.

    Shocking news from the Eating Dead Animals Department.  Beef consumption peaked in the mid 1970s and now chicken consumption almost exceeds that of beef.  Pork consumption (3rd place) hasn't really gained or lost ground over the past century.  Sorry, Arnold Ziffel.

     I just thought this was a pretty picture.

    Why So Many Questions?

    Here are 8 questions to ask before you start blogging.  #2 "People read my blog because it helps them _______."  Feel better about themselves?  Exercise their proofreading skills?

    Here are the 3 greatest survey questions to ask people about your web site.  What is the purpose of your visit?  Were you able to complete that task?  If not, why?

    And here's a competing set of top questions for your customers.  #5b What else are you not getting from us?  (I like the "else.")

    Just the Facts

    More GPU resources than you can shake a stick at at

    A list of 58 user interface and style guides from Apple to Yahoo!

    Essential visualization resources.

    Lists Calm the OCD In All of Us (Or CDO as I call it with all the letters in alphabetical order)

    IBM give us this list of the the five innovations that have great potential in the next five years (Five in Five).  They are
    1. 3D interfaces (not feelin' this one)
    2. Devices with a 10x longer battery life.  (horray!)
    3. Real-time, distributed "social" sensing of the environment.
    4. Personalized routes from your GPS
    5. Harvesting energy from data centers.
    Aviation Pr0n
    • Cool time-lapse video of a Minuteman IA being installed at the Air Force Museum.
    • F-35 flight testing.
    • The story of the Super Hustler, a 1950s design of a Mach 4 bomber to be launched from beneath a B-58 Hustler.  A simply awesome story.
    Earthquake and Tsunami News
    • The NY Times offers satellite photos that are superimposed with a slider for you to interact with before and after.
    • A Google maps animation of the earthquake swarm.
    • Scientific American explains the quake for us.
    • A friend thought I'd understand the situation in Japan better if it were framed in terms of poo.
    Everyone's gone mad this month.  March Madness has spawned these:
    • Beard Madness
    • Beer Madness
    • Art Madness (America's favorite post-war artwork. My money's on Pollock's Lavender Mist.)
    Which engineering schools are ranked best by US News?
    • #13 Texas A&M
    • #70 Syracuse
    • #85 Univ. Texas at Arlington
    CFD Consultants and Applications
    CAE News
    • Symscape's March 2011 newsletter is now available.
    • PTC's Creo blog offers their views on best practices for a multi-CAD environment.
    • CD-adapco's STAR American Conference 2011 will be held in Chicago on 28-29 June.
    • Spatial's spring 2011 newsletter is now available.

    Remember vinyl LPs?  Remember picture discs?  Somewhere around here I have the picture disc version of Styx's Pieces of Eight.   It is nothing like this Rotary Signal Emitter, music and animation both on an LP.

    Know Your...

    Know your veils, from abaya to tudong.

    Know your pasta.

    Know your science.  The paper Happiness is assortative in online social networks actually means that happy tweeters congregate and happy tweets can lead to more business.

    Two Engineers Walk Into a Bar

    What exactly do engineers need to know about computer science?   All too often engineers see CS as a tax on their work.  One man's attempt to solve this problem is the Software Carpentry blog.

    The Cranky Product Manager lets a developer post on her blog this article on the Five Stages of Debugging.  Stage 1: Resistance, aka "works for me."  (Works For Me is an actual choice for resolving a bug in our bug management system.)

    Why do women quit the engineering field?  Over half leave because of working conditions (poor ones, presumably), too much travel, lack of advancement, or low salaries.  (This brief article might actually be useful if it also answered the question "compared to what?"  How do the reasons for women quitting engineering compare to those for men?  They say 30% of female engineering graduates later left the field but how many men do so?  This is why I hate statistics 87% of the time.)

    Social Diseases and Media

    This makes you feel unoriginal, like even our problems aren't new.  Information overload, the problem child of the information age, is actually a 2300 year old problem. Dang that printing press!

    Twitter doesn't want you to write anymore Twitter clients.  (Do they expect us to use their web site?) This is one man's reply.

    Thank you, Microsoft, for reducing worldwide sp@m by 39%.

    What can you learn about public relations (and social media) in the Army?  Quite a bit including how the concept of sphere of influence can be applied.

    What are the 7 essentials of a good blog post?  A "great headline" and "insanely great content" tie for #1.  (Not too surprising.)  The author's content tip is RITE: relevant, interesting, timely, and entertaining. 

    It's official: stop writing e-mail (and web site, for that matter).  It's "email" and "website."

    Nick makes cool prints, this one of London.

    Bits and Bytes

    Will you be attending Business of Software this October in Boston?  To help you decide, here's a video of Peldi Guilizzoni's (founder of Balsamiq) talk from BoS 2010.

    DocBook is a schema for XML (and other languages) for writing books and papers about computer software.  Its definitive guide is available online for free.

    Software that I'm afraid to install: F.lux automatically adjusts your computer's display to time of day - warm at night, sunny during the day.

    In See Analysis Data's True Colors, the authors provide tips on how you can tell whether the color plots of stress computed by your FEA analysis are any good.  They point out how your mesh (of course, it's always the mesh) can contribute to poor results.  I learned that Gaussian integration (a core mathematical technique in FEA) really likes elements with aspect ratios of 1 (i.e. a cube is better than an 8 foot 2x4).

    How great is HTML5?  It allowed this guy to write an Asteroids-like game in 4 hours.  (Asteroids was my first video game favorite followed by Centipede and Breakout.)  And for reference purposes, here's an HTML5 cheat sheet.

     WeatherSpark is one of the coolest weather sites I've run across.   Unlike most sites that only forecast, you can go back in time to see a history, averages, highs, lows, and other fun stuff.  The screen capture above shows 2 years of weather history.

    The Denouement

    Here's part 2 of what your favorite classic rock band says about you.  Some excerpts:

    • Genesis - You know what a steeplechase is.
    • UFO - You have burned yourself urinating on a campfire.
    • King Crimson - You have spent an entire afternoon watching a screen saver.

    I love a dystopian future as much as the next guy and I've seen 12 of the 18 films on this list of the most horrifying movie dystopias, but The Island?!?!  Really?  The movie itself was horrifying.

    Enjoy this two and a half minute video review of movie title sequences in Art of the Title.

    And now, a game - play Katamari on any website.

    The End

    ...likely misunderstood the questions.

    Sunday, March 13, 2011

    The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

    For the first time in about three months I'm commuting to work without Ken Follett's The Pillars of the Earth audiobook.  Listening to 32 compact discs takes a long time in the first place at about an hour a day 5 days a week but compound that with several events that meant no daily commute and I ended up listening to this book for a longer elapsed time than any I can remember.

    I liked it.  I know I liked it because the first several days afterwards I found myself missing the characters and their stories.  I wanted to know what happened to them next.  But I didn't like it enough to immediately borrow from the library the sequel, World Without End.

    Let me explain.

    I'll admit to several blindspots one of which is world history.  As ignorant as it sounds, when I think of the 12th century I visualize everyone running around like extras from Monty Python and the Holy Grail - covered head to toe with shit and dumb as a post.  Obviously one only need look at the great body of advancements in science and the arts, including the great cathedrals which bring together both science and art, during that period to realize the utter foolishness of my preconception.

    Follett, writer of thriller novels, decided to turn his interest in cathedrals into a book and turn the construction of a great cathedral in the fictional 12th century English town of Kingsbridge into his next novel.  In doing so he created a vibrant world of richly-featured characters.  There's Tom, master builder and stone mason, a craftsman who sets his sights on creating something truly lasting.  There's Prior Philip, a pious yet ambitious monk, who leads the local monastery and desires something more for his flock.  And there's Lady Aliena, disgraced daughter of a dethroned Earl, who struggles to rebuild her life and her family's honor.  Of course, no story would be complete without villains and Follett gives us two: Bishop Waleran, Philip's boss and scheming politico, and Sir William Hamleigh, the cruel, and not-too-bright son of the man who ousted Aliena's father.

    If you think this sounds like a TV mini-series you're not alone.  I didn't know that the book had been turned into an 8-hour TV event when I started it and I don't know whether finding that out influenced my opinion.  But the plot screams "mini-series."  The delineations between good and bad are crystal clear; you know who the good guys and bad guys are within minutes of them being introduced and they don't change for the most part.

    Getting the mini-series vibe isn't necessarily a good thing.  Maybe it felt a little too slick, a little too neat, a little too packaged.  One thing that really bothered me was the unceasing litany of pain and suffering inflicted upon the good guys by the bad guys.  I recall at one point thinking "Oh, c'mon.  not again."  This aspect of the plot made some events predictable.

    Perhaps things were like that in the 12th century.  Perhaps the powerful simply ran roughshod over the weak, meak, pious, and poor.  How much of the portrayal is historically accurate?  I don't know although I suspect it's somewhat accurate from what I've read about Follett's interest in the subject.  Follett did set The Pillars of the Earth in a historical context between the rule of the two King Henrys and culminating with the murder of the Archbishop of Canterbury (which apparently was the beginning of the end of the concept of royal infallibility).

    The Pillars of the Earth has turned out to be Follett's most successful book and appears on some list of England's favorite books of all time.  The keys for me were the characters who are as vivid and likable as any in fiction.  When I finished the book it struck me that Prior Philip has been dead for over 800 years yet it seems like he spoke to me only yesterday.

    Saturday, March 12, 2011

    I don't suffer from insanity.

    A university study showed that 72% of shopping carts tested positive for poo.  Apparently I've been doing it wrong - I push them with my hands.

    I wonder what percentage of iPods have poo on them.

    "Green acres is the place to be, farm livin' is the life for me."  Are you and Eddie Albert's Mr. Douglas like two peas in a pod?  Yearn no more my country friend.  Now you can be reminded of the good life with a can of cow farts.

    Engineering Matters delves a bit deeper into Autodesk's vision for simulation.  There are some interesting things in here.
    • Autodesk's offerings are now on par with those from ANSYS, MSC, Siemens PLM, and Dassault.
    • The commentary segregates engineers into "simulation analysts" and the "common engineer."
      • The simulation analyst gets more capability.  This is good.
      • The common engineer may not be better off because, in their opinion, the common engineer cannot be an expert in any one software tool.  Therefore integration is the key and this may not have happened yet.
    • With respect to CFD in particular, the issue of having two similar tools (Algor's CFD and the new CFdesign) can be problematic.  Even though the former is for the common engineer and the latter for the analyst to "delve deeper" the saying holds true: "a man with two clocks never knows what time it really is."  Merging the two tools into one isn't easy.

    The news is still full of stuff about Autodesk's acquisition of Blue Ridge Numerics.

    The ten golden rules of Twitter include #6 Relationships take time.  What does your email address say about you?  Gmail users are thin young men ages 18-34.  AOL users are overweight women ages 35-64.  And so on.  Fast Company thinks LinkedIn is going to change my social media life.  Dunno, I've never really been comfortable with LinkedIn.

    Time waster of the week: Psykopaint.  Is it a game, a photo editor, or therapy?  Read what GraphicSpeak has to say.

    Lesson #37 in How to Speak Science.  The journal article from Biological Psychology titled "Odor perception between heterosexual partners: Its association with depression, anxiety, and genetic variation in odorant receptor OR7D4" is actually about the fact that your body odor depresses your wife.

    More examples of beautiful maps.  Not all online stores are like this one.

    In an article on People Skills in Engineering, the concept of emotional intelligence (EQ) is introduced and the question is raised whether universities need to introduce EQ skills into the curriculum.  I say no - if students don't have these skills by the time they reach college there's no sense trying to teach them.   Furthermore, these skills aren't just for engineers; they seem like something every person should have.
    • Awareness of personal feelings and the ability to control them.
    • Emotional resilience: the ability to perform consistently under pressure.
    • Motivation: the drive and energy to achieve results.
    • The ability to take other people’s needs into account.
    • Influence and persuasive skills.
    • Decisiveness: arrive at clear decisions and drive them through.
    • Conscientiousness: display commitment to an action plan and match words and deeds.

     Why did the chicken drive on the left side of the road? So he could use his sword right-handed to protect himself from oncoming traffic.

    At first I was just disappointed by this article's lack of supporting evidence for the claim that employees from wealthy backgrounds advance at 3 times the rate of their middle class peers.  It became clear that this is just an opinion piece based on the idea that rich kids don't fear the boss.  However, I LSTM (laughed silently to myself, not LOL) when I got to the end of the article that I'll quote for its sheer hilarity.  "I believe my generation will overthrow the arbitrary and brutal authority of corporate capitalism and bigoted conservatism in favor of rationalistic, libertarian socialism driven by a scientific approach and a concern for universal social justice."  Someone didn't get enough hugs - or allowance - as a kid.

    James Browne (the other one) at the University of Texas has developed PerfExpert, a tool for analyzing the performance of and finding bottlenecks in software for high performance computing.  Is still relevant now that Oracle is its only backer?  (Recall that LibreOffice was recently forked from OpenOffice.)  For you iPad people, Verto Studio 3D is new modeling software.  Looking for a free, open-source CAD system based on Open CASCADE?  Check out heekscad.

    American passport holders by state.  New Jersey leads with 68% and Mississippi trails with 19%.

    Edible 3D printing takes us one step closer to Star Trek's food replicators.  To my beer friends I say, eat this: beer marshmallows.  PLEASE REMAIN CALM.  Contrary to some reports, Cap'n Crunch isn't going anywhere.  (Love those crunch berries.)

    Copyblogger presents 10 blogging lessons learned from launching a $1,000,000 project.  (I've earned precisely 55 cents from this blog.  Thanks to whomever clicked on one of the amazon links.)  The first is "look customer objections in the eye."   Prospects don't have time for you, don't have money for you, and don't have faith in you.  Tell them why they're wrong.

    Like scifi?  This lovingly detailed drawing of science fiction's evolution will keep you busy for hours.  I stopped looking when I found author Philip K. Dick.

    Visualizations of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami:

     Is Picasso's Painter and Model really a missing link and how did it end up in Tehran?

    What of the odds of your death?  1:1, of course.  More interesting, the odds of dying in a car wreck are 1:84.  The doomsday rule is used to calculate day of the week from a date.

    I work with a person from China and when asked what her initial impression of the U.S. was she replied that everything here is scented and smells nice.  A pair of bloggers sought out the first impressions of folks from India when they first arrived in New York.   "Organized, yet lacking identity" was one thought.

    I wonder what their first impression was when Indians found a mile-long cave on the moon.

    Here's a transcript of Secret Service radio communications from the day Reagan was shot.  Honestly, it's quite unremarkable.

    Fun yet infuriating: URL Hunter is an online interactive game played in your browser's URL bar.

    I'm enjoying every minute of it.

    Sunday, March 6, 2011

    More Advice for Engineers from Mechanical Engineering Magazine

    Mechanical Engineering magazine continues its recent string of excellent articles with two in the March 2011 issue on engineering management.  In Heads Up, Ears Perked Ron Sledje advises that the laser-like focus that served us well as undergrads might not be the best approach in the workplace.  Ronald Rorrer offers another perspective to Hiring the Newly Minted where GPA is trumped by design coursework.

    Focus on Engineering, But See the Bigger Picture

    Sledje, author of the Engineering Survival Guide and operator of a networking web site for engineers, advocates that engineers must understand how their work impacts their employer's business.  One particular bit of advice involves identifying problems in your area of responsibility and making sure your boss is aware of them before they potentially and proverbially hit the fan.  But more than that, bring your boss solutions, not just problems. His advice also includes

    • Don't stick your head in the sand.  Be aware of your employer's overall business.
    • Think on the next level.  Try to view your work from your boss' perspective.
    • Work hard and work smart.  Deliver value, because "a company is a money-making entity..."  Hooray!  Here's someone who doesn't shy away from that fact.
    • Develop your business skills.  Understand the bigger picture.
    • Keep your resume current.  Don't miss an unexpected opportunity.
    • Always look for jobs.  Be aware of the opportunities that are out there and the skills they require.
    • Never stop developing yourself.   Continuous learning increases your value and opens new opportunities.
    • Always develop your network.  This is one of the most important things you can do yet one thing engineers neglect the most.
    • Don't be naive.  Do these things to protect yourself and your family.
    To me, Sledje's overall advice can be summed up in the old adage "Your education begins after graduation."  Engineers can bring a lot to an organization so do your job and never stop learning.  You can learn more about Sledje at his website

    Why Success in College Doesn't Forecast Success in Industry

    I love how Prof. Rorrer (Univ. Colorado Denver) begins his article: "Hiring anyone [...] is akin to marrying your significant other who just happens to have the world's best divorce attorney."   The point is that if things don't work out for either party a breakup is guaranteed.  According to Rorrer the biggest disconnect between college and industry is the reliance on GPA over the results of senior design projects.  Rorrer recommends that potential employers seek references from the candidate's senior design instructors because the design experience reveals more about a student's character and work ethic.  Furthermore, the design instructor is likely to have the best insight into the student's potential as a practical engineer.  (Be sure to read the full article to find out what was deemed a firing offense and what happened to the young engineer who would not acknowledge when the manager was speaking to him.)

    With an overt focus on the design course, Rorrer provides this guide to interpreting the grades.
    • A - Expectations were exceeded.
    • B - Expectations were met.
    • C - There was a lack of effort to overcome difficulties.  Professors expect technical problems to arise but they also expect the students to work toward overcoming them.
    • D - No effort was applied and the student probably should've failed but no one wants him or her back for another semester.  Really, that's what he wrote.
    • F - While almost virtually impossible to get this grade, this student who receives this grade should never be employed as an engineer.
    I will admit to being one of those people who emphasizes GPA.  To me, a high GPA indicates two things: a relative mastery of the subject matter and/or the ability to overcome a lack of mastery (presumably by hard work and study).  Rorrer provides a good counterargument and echoes the popular student's complaint "When will I ever solve a differential equation in industry?"  In industry, success as an engineer involves many intangibles associated with teamwork and collaborative problem solving - the same skills that would help a student excel on a design team.

    Saturday, March 5, 2011

    Give me chastity and continency...

    I am outraged by this fundamentally flawed study that concludes men over the age of 40 can increase their life expectancy by 5 years by staring at large breasts for 10 minutes a day.  The obvious flaw in their findings is that staring at ANY sized breasts for is good for you.  "No ma'am, I'm doing this for my health."  At this rate I'm gonna live to be 150.

    Are you one of those people who are always wondering "How would Tabasco taste on ice cream?", "How would the Beach Boys sound with Mick Jagger on vocals?", "How would I look in chaps and dreadlocks?"  If so, these two examples of transmutation are for you.  How would a film look as a barcode?  How would chess sound as a piano?

    Etching a fly into the bowl of a urinal decreases spillage by 80%.  Hey, it doesn't aim itself.  As I tell my wife, it's easy to get a bullseye every time when you're shooting from point blank range.

    American Standard used CFD in the design of a toilet than can flush 18 golf balls.  While I applaud the use of CFD in this service, I have other advice.  If you need to flush something similar to 18 golf balls you should add bran to your diet rather than buy a new commode.
    • 3Dconnexion has shipped 1,000,000 3D mice.  That's 3,000,000D!
    • Time dependent CFD of wind turbines.
    • Proctor & Gamble and the Ohio Supercomputer Center are teaming up on modeling and simulation.
    • CFD for combustion air systems design.
    • MCADcafe weighs in on Autodesk's acquisition of CFD software maker Blue Ridge Numerics. 
    • CT CoreTechnologie released 3D_Evolution 2011 for CAD data conversion.
    • Tech Soft 3D launched HOOPS 3D Exchange v4.0 for CAD data exchange.
    • Siemens PLM Connection Annual User Conference will be held 2-5 May in Las Vegas.
    • PTC's new product Creo is generating questions about why and how people should upgrade.  Here are serveral 1-minute video answers.
    Do you collect sales leads for your business through your web site?  If so, listen to this: responding within an hour is 60 times more likely to result in a meaningful conversation with a decision maker than responding in 24 hours.  (The average response time is 42 hours.)

    Other than use of the term "hipmunk" (to bring sexiness and simplicity into an existing industry), nine ways to disrupt an industry is a list worth reviewing.
    1. Find a process that consistently sucks.  Check.
    2. Simple and clean interface.  Almost complete.  Check.
    3. Make it sexy.  Easier said that done.
    4. Call out your competitor.  Scary.
    5. Deliver great support.  Check.
    6. Find an industry that rarely changes.  We are talking about engineers.  Check.
    7. Build fanatics.  We are talking about engineers.
    8. Be respectfully disruptive.  Never was one for revolution.
    9. Focus on power users.  Check.

     The four artists and their paintings from Disney's Four Artists Paint One Tree.  From left to right, Josh Meador, Marc Davis, Eyvind Earle, and Walt Peregoy.

    Four Artists Paint One Tree is definitely one of my favorite Disney short films.  I've seen it precisely once, very late at night on the Disney Channel.   It's pretty much what it sounds like; four Disney artists setup easels around a tree out in a field and they all paint.  What I wouldn't pay to own only one of these four paintings.  Once of the artists, Marc Davis, is also featured in this blog post.  And as wonderful an artist as he is, Walt Peregoy is one salty old bastard, as this two-part audio interview proves.

    The WSJ offered this nice review of the Rothko Chapel.  I recommend that you visit it (and the other museums in the neighborhood) the next time you're in Houston.  Quoting from the review: "When you sit still and focus, both the mind and what Wordsworth called "the inward eye" take charge. ... This is what concentration means. The art makes its own demands on the viewer." 

    Air Force researchers have generated power using ocean waves with an efficiency of 99%.  One question: why isn't the Navy doing this?

    "Nobody likes a grammar prig."  But this essay on vagueness shreds American English as currently spoken including this assessment from a college professor: "by the time today's students arrive on campus, they've been juvenilized."

    Community Chest: Sell Monopoly game from 1933.  Collect $146,000.  Roger Ibars has a neato collection of joysticks and other controllers.  As you know, I have this thing for online clocks so you can find what the

    An essay from an awkward Lothario:  When Making Love to Me: What Every Woman Must Keep in Mind.

     Never challenge a fighter pilot to do anything you don't really want them to do.

    I own a Honda lawnmower.  I used to drive a Honda Accord.  Someday I might get to fly on a HondaJet which just got its FAA certification.   Aaron Koblin makes art out of aircraft flight patterns.

    Enjoy fluid dynamics on your Android-based phone with Fleya.  Everyone's going digital, even Michelangelo.

    In Business Relationships are Personal, marketing blogger Jeff Korhan reminds us that our customers are customers second but people first.  This is the level of engagement that social media marketing is intended to reach: "be more personal, more relaxed, and maybe even a bit weird."  I'd add "be genuine."  The Gaping Void jumps into the social media fray with a membrane analogy - the role of social media is to create a highly porous membrane that aligns your internal conversations with those in the marketplace.  In other words, it doesn't matter if you're talking about how great your products are if the conversations in the marketplace are saying the opposite. 

    The Profanity List is a socially-generate list of profane words, presumably to be used for sp@m filtering and such.  In reality, it's a game to see how profanely literate (literately profane?) you are.  It's getting harder to find a unique word now that they're up to 2,994 3,005.

    All hail the 5 new inductees into the Meat Hall of Fame.  God, would that look good on a resume.

    What every job-seeking college student should dream about: your resume goes viral.  I know one skeptic in particular who'll ask "But did he get any offers?"

    Here's an interesting idea that you can contrast with currently popular ideas about having engineers work with marketing or business students.  To make a better engineer maybe we should bring together form and function - have engineers study with designers.

    The danger of forming opinions about engineering (or anything) from TV.  These stereotypes lead students to develop behaviors that are counterproductive in the workplace like trying to do everything themselves rather than working with a team as directed.

    I had never heard of the Order of the Engineer, an organization that fosters a spirit of pride and responsibility in the engineering profession.  But as soon as I read the regulation about wearing a pinky ring I suddenly lost all interest.

    Scott McNealy says his single biggest mistake at Sun was not hiring a COO.  Hmmm.

    Harvard professor and author Clayton Christensen will open this year's Business of Software conference.  If you're curious about BoS, here's one person's summary of BoS 2010, "truly an amazing experience."

    Ground-based photo of the ISS.

    Astronomy pr0n: time lapse photo of the Milky Way over Lake Tahoe.  Do you remember the scene in The Godfather Part II where Michael confronts Fredo about his collaboration with Roth?  The scene is in the boat house of their Lake Tahoe home.  It's snowing outside and the sky and water are this deep, gorgeous shade of blue.  It's perhaps my favorite scene from the movie.  Maybe that's because the rest of the movie has this overall sepia, earth-toned hue and by contrast this blue is so startling.  I wonder if you could see that if you converted the movie into a barcode.

    Believe it or not, this guy took a photo of the International Space Station from the ground using manual aim and only an 8.5 inch telescope.  Instead of a photo something far away, this tropical island infinite photo is a photo mosaic that you can drill down into layers and layers of detail about the life on the island of Mo'orea.  I clicked down 26 levels and still there was no end in sight.

    Why have American workers generally become more satisfied with their jobs over the last decade?  (48% were "completely satisfied" in 2010.)   Top factors influencing happiness are physical safety, coworker relations, schedule flexibility, vacation time, boss relations, and workload.  Stress and pay are in last place.  On a related note, a survey shows that employees spend 50% of their time doing nothing.

    Altair opened an office in Huntsville in order to expand their aerospace business but also to have access to good barbecue.  Also quoted in the article, their business is growing 35% annually.   Mark Burhop, social media maven and former product manager at Siemens PLM, is now director of the 3rd party ecosystem for Siemens PLM's Velocity Series.

    Remarkably, this flow chart What baseball team should I root for? is accurate.  I should root for the Texas Rangers.

    How would you like to do 3D modeling in your web browser?  With an HTML5 WebGL enabled browser with OpenCASCADE behind it Benjamin Nortier has done just that.  And it does 3D printing too.  Speaking of WebGL, the folks at GraphicSpeak think it's the dawn of a new age.  SolidSmack also presents this triumvirate of 3D technologies that may soon be on a CAD screen near you.

    If Autodesk is granted a trademark for DWG what's going to happen?  The author of this article thinks nothing bad.  However, it is an interesting case of trying to trademark a term that's become generic.  The reverse is usually true: a trademark is lost when it's not enforced and becomes generic.

    I admit I'm not a designer or CAD guy.  But I am surprised by the results of this CADalyst poll about the use of 2D versus 3D CAD.  Only 18% of respondents claim to use 3D either totally or mainly.  The gray area where 2D and 3D are used equally is 22%.  That leaves 60% of the folks using 2D most of the time or more.  I come from the analysis side of the fence and our software has been 3D since 1984.

    Start with a computer running MS-DOS 5, upgrade to every version of Microsoft Windows one after the other, video the results, and you have Chain of Fools.  The name is a little harsh considering that you can still play Doom II on every version of the OS through the upgrade process (except Windows 2000).

    Where SysAdmins go to chat: ServerFault's new chat feature.
      Hooray!  I've read precisely none of the top 10 business books of 2010 as chosen by Small Business Trends.  Maybe I should read The Mesh: Why the Future of Business is Sharing at least for the title.

      My only quibble with these 13 tips for delivering the speech of your life is that they should be tips for delivering any speech.  Or perhaps every speech should be the speech of your life.    #2 Memorize your speech.  OMG, please don't read the slides.

      Like burgers but aren't too hungry?  Check out the world's smallest authentic burger meal.

      With In-N-Out Burger coming to Fort Worth it's important to start learning how to order.  I'm already drive-thru impaired but having a secret menu is going to drive me nuts.   I mean c'mon - a Flying Dutchman Animal Style with two minute fries?  Really?

      At last there is a legal precedent.  In the case of Pennsylvania v Fennie the judge ruled that pizza is a solid.

      ...but not yet.  ~St. Augustine 354-430