Saturday, October 29, 2011

Daemon by Daniel Suarez

Get it at
Daniel Suarez' Daemon had me going right up until the very end.  But the last 20 or so pages unraveled the entire novel in a completely unsatisfying way.

Suppose you're a computer genius who starts a computer gaming company that becomes incredibly successful and you become incredibly rich.  Things are pretty good.  Until you die from cancer.  But why should the afterlife stop you from exercising your will here on earth?

You can think of Daemon as the Matrix turned inside out.  Augmented reality is the key here and it makes for an interesting tale as a police detective, a hacker with a mysterious background, and the government's own geek genius chase the daemon that the gamer left behind. I've read enough that something new in terms of plot is refreshing every once in a while.

And it was, up until the end. I don't always need the loose ends tied up. But this ending came out of left field, left behind about as many dangling story lines as there were characters, and practically screamed sequel. It was like having the literary rug pulled out from under me. And it was a stupid ending too.

Daemon was a good read for an airplane ride and I appreciated the fresh story line.  Suarez's writing was enjoyable, too.  There were several instances of unique phrasings and well-written passages.  But the ending was enough to make me reluctant to try his next book, Freedom.

The errors of a man...

When you watch this video you'll never be able to look at a toddler the same way again - babies are just little drunks.

Forbes magazine (Forbes?) proposes three TV shows to revive the Star Trek franchise. I'll admit to watching TNG, Voyager, and DS9 but I don't think I ever watched a single episode of Enterprise.  The last scifi TV series I watched was Babylon 5 which itself got a little lost in the final episodes. Forbes' idea for Section 31 does sound interesting.

If you've ever wondered whether an email address was legit or a hoax, now you can test this with

Presentation tips: First, Dan Pink advocates three qualities of every presentation: brevity, levity, and repetition. From the Cooper Journal, your presentation needs to be new, true, useful, and beautiful. OK, now the question is how.

I just bought a 100 foot extension cord so this video about how to roll it up will come in handy.

An interesting application of isarithmic maps to visualize  county electoral data. This map shows distribution of family income including the effects of population density.
X-Wing is a HMTL-5/WebGL game where you pilot an X-Wing fighter around the surface of the Death Star.  Works best in Chrome.

What influences your grades most? Intelligence? Personality? Prior performance? Nope. Hope. From the Journal of Research in Personality: Hope uniquely predicts academic achievement above intelligence, personality, and previous academic achievement.

Infographics giveth and taketh away.  In this one we see the perks you get for working at Google, Facebook, Twitter and others. At Google you get 15 days of PTO, unlimited sick leave, and 12 paid holidays. Facebook provides photo processing and laundry service. Twitter has catered breakfasts and lunches.  But all this information is presented in a way that makes comparison very very difficult.

Aviation pr0n of the week: X-47B cruise flight test with gear up. It'll be something to see this thing land on a carrier, at night, in a storm.
At last week's Business of Software (#BoS2011) the rhetorical question was asked "Would anyone pay for your sales collateral?" The answer was a resounding "No." The answer should be "Yes" as evidenced by this HBR study that cites the sales experience as the overwhelming business differentiator even over price, product, and brand.  Stated another way, your sales team should be teaching customers in a way that leads them to your unique benefits, rather than just leading with your benefits.

This is a historical gem: a series of three autobiographical videos about artist and animator Eyvind Earle. You may not know his name but he was the background artist for Sleeping Beauty. I was not aware that a painting of his was acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art for its permanent collection long before his commercial success at Disney.

What time should you go to bed?  Did you know teh interwebs can help answer that question? At least the bedtime calculator can. For example, I get up at 5:00 a.m. and says I should go to bed at 8:00, 9:30, 11:00, or 12:30. OK, so 9:30 it is.

Add to your collection of webcams: the Statue of Liberty TorchCam.
I am human number 76,885,261,952.

Is It Old? lets you determine whether a link is fresh or some dusty old junk that everyone's bound to have seen before.

  • baby drunks: ridiculously old
  • Star Trek: kinda OK
  • verify email addresses: ridiculously old
  • Dan Pink: no opinion
  • Cooper Journal: old
  • extension cord: really old
  • isarithmic maps: kinda OK
  • X-wing: old
  • hope: kinda OK
  • perks: really old
  • X-47B: kinda OK
  • business differentiator: ridiculously old
  • Eyvind Earle: OK
  • dead
  • human number: old
  • Is It Old: mad fresh (of course)

...are what make him really lovable. ~Goethe

Thursday, October 27, 2011

I'll Take "Things You Hear at a Conference" for $500, Alex.

I spent three days this week with about 350 other people at the Business of Software Conference. Great event. If you're in the software business you should really attend at least once. But one hears many things at conferences.

  1. Speakers dropping f-bombs.  Yes, the speakers.  During their talks.  On their slides. Honestly, it doesn't bother me unless it's overdone. Which of course, one speaker did.  I get it - you're hip and edgy and compensating for your weak-ass content. Please get off the stage.
  2. Ringing cell phones.  Jeezuz kee-rist people, turn off your fucking ringer.  I swear, 4-5 times each day I'd get to hear someone's poorly chosen ring tone. And don't get me started on ring tones. Vi-ba-rate.
  3. People talking. In the audience. During the presentations. Is this junior high? Can you spell d-o-u-c-h-e b-a-g?
Today's post was sponsored by the hyphen.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Some cause happiness wherever they go...

Eating and Drinking

Let's begin with a good breakfast and by that I mean a look at the 50 best breakfasts of the world. If you throw out the tomatoes and beans, I guess I'm a fan of the English breakfast.  The American breakfast is pancakes and bacon which, while delicious, doesn't come close to bacon and eggs and hash browns (and let's not get started on what good hash browns are about).

For my beer drinking friends: Design a label for your homebrew using Labeley. How many of America's most alcoholic beers have you had? (Precisely 1: Stone's Double Bastard.)

Form and Content

The Eyes Have It. How well do you know your cartoon characters from their eyes alone?  Interactive site and poster.
Painters: Website for the project to create Richard Diebenkorn's catalogue raisonne.  Mark Bradford has had an apparent meteoric rise to fame including his current exhibition at the Dallas Museum of Art. The work of Tomory Dodge and John Zurier.

Dev Harlan, Parmenides I, 2011.  Sculpture and video installation.
Part 7 of the series of visualization resources lists essential visualization books which is continued in part 8.

Structure and Behavior

Back in 1883 an astronomer observed what he thought were hundreds of comets. His contemporaries disagreed, calling the observation birds or insects passing in front of the telescope.  Later, the UFO loonies latched onto this. Now we have a more sinister explanation: a billion or so tons of comet fragments passing within 600 to 8,000 kilometers of earth.  Can you say extinction event

Scale of Universe is a flash-based, poorly drawn ripoff of the classic film Powers of Ten.

On the role of technology in music Brian Eno wrote "Technology in music is a little bit like numbers in mathematics. You can't really imagine music without technology."

Proof #1124 that innovation was still alive in 2008: a zero-g coffee cup.

Lacking Common Sense

Proof #36D that science remains keenly focused on tackling the grand challenges of our time: why there are bumps on your nipples. (There are bumps on my nipples?)

You would think this would be ripe for jokes but I'm having trouble finding a single one.  Miss France models a bikini made from 300 pieces of chocolate. Your turn.

100. Pound. Scrotum. Why isn't science working on this?

Ooh LaLa indeed. source
Shoemania is an auction of autographed celebrity's shoes.  Who wouldn't want David Hasselhoff's hiking shoes?

The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity
  1. Always and inevitably everyone underestimates the number of stupid individuals in circulation.
  2. The probability that a certain person be stupid is independent of any other characteristic of that person.
  3. A stupid person is a person who causes losses to another person or to a group of persons while himself deriving no gain and even possibly incurring losses.
  4. Non-stupid people always underestimate the damaging power of stupid individuals. In particular non-stupid people constantly forget that at all times and places and under any circumstances to deal and/or associate with stupid people always turns out to be a costly mistake.
  5. A stupid person is the most dangerous type of person.

Especially mammals. source


If you ever think you're having a bad day or deserve a pat on the back, read the story of Medal of Honor recipient Roy Benavidez.

A soldier is inspired by the movie Predator, created a belt-fed ammo backpack for his machine gun, sends it to the Army lab in Natick, MA, and gets back the Ironman (which I'm certain has some convoluted acronym).

Sure.  Nazi soldiers last week, Hitler this week.  I'm a sucker for those Downfall overdubs where Hitler reacts to current news.  This time he finds out that Gaddafi has been killed.

Challenge Conventional Wisdom

Steve Jobs, "role model": A demanding perfectionist who ran Apple like a dictatorship.  Who cheated his “friend”, Steve Wozniak, out of thousands of dollars early in their friendship.  Who fathered an illegitimate daughter and refused to acknowledge her as his child until years after the fact.  Who typed angry emails to his critics.  Who regularly lost his temper when his employees screwed up so much as one line of code.  Who feels is beyond his own rules.  Who only donated to charity once.

Bill Gates, "aggressive businessman": One of the richest, yet humble, men on the planet who never took for granted what he accomplished.  Who took responsibility when it came to family matters.  Who wrote code for years along with his employees even despite the fact that he was of higher authority than they were.  Who was strict with his employees while still being respectful to them. Who constantly donated to charitable causes during and after his time as chairman at Microsoft.

Finally, it's time for a deep, cleansing breath.  But why breath by yourself when you can breath synchronously with people around the world courtesy of the Universal Breathing Room. In... out... in... out...

...others whenever they go. ~Oscar Wilde

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Attempt What Is Not Certain

Richard Dienbenkorn: The Ocean Park Series is perhaps the finest art exhibition catalog that I've ever read.  The book begins with three very insightful essays on Diebenkorn's life and work but the beautifully reproduced and encyclopedic plates of his paintings, prints, and works on paper steal the show.

Richard Diebenkorn, Ocean Park #79, 1975.  source
Diebenkorn claimed never to be consciously painting windows, architecture, landscapes, or the wonderful oceanic Californian light that suffused his Ocean Park studio.  He, almost like us, discovered these parallels after the fact or at least toward the end of his work on a painting.  Regardless of the source or inspiration, Diebenkorn has produced a group of paintings that are unique in their palette, their balance of color and form, and their depth and weight.

On 27 Sep 2011, Diebenkorn's daughter, Gretchen Diebenkorn Grant, lectured at The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. She, like her father, feared being trapped by the formality and permanence of words and didn't want to try to address Diebenkorn's work from a critical or historical perspective and instead spoke from the viewpoint of a daughter.

Gretchen said her father had a real "sense of place" in that his paintings truly reflected his environment. Consistent with the character of his paintings, he had a special way of seeing variations of color.  He appreciated "well-made useful objects."  Gretchen said that he liked "things with a history" which I think correlates with his paintings, not from the sense that they're historical, but rather they have a depth in which layers of work and visible work-overs reveal the process of creation.

In his studio, normally dominated by diffuse northern light, he was an "aggressive, active painter." At first I found this insight surprising because Diebenkorn's palette and forms are so breezy, for lack of a better term. But upon closely inspecting the plates in the book, instead of uniform washes of color the brushwork is quite clear.

Despite being a relatively quiet person (he hated talking on the phone), Diebenkorn was apparently opinionated with a strong sense of right and wrong and was not a fan of compromise.  This too was reflected in his painting.  Gretchen told the story of a painting that hung in the family house for years because Diebenkorn didn't like something about it.  Finally, on a Christmas eve, he pulled it off the wall, pasted a new section of canvas over a relatively small region, painted over it, and declared the piece complete.  All while everyone waited so the Christmas eve meal could begin. Exactly what he was trying to achieve, no one else knew.

Diebenkorn despised labels and categorization as it pertained to his work.  He strove to always develop a new vocabulary for his work.  Gretchen used phrases like "intimate spaces," "order" and "calming" to describe his work, a lot of which utilized the Golden Section in its layout. She specifically denied any "angst" in his content. I would agree wholeheartedly with those labels.

Diebenkorn never expected to be recognized and was overwhelmed by his critical success.  He especially didn't value any of his periods over any others (he had previously done abstraction and figuration).

Artists that Dienbenkorn loved include Cezanne, Munch, Matisse, and de Kooning.  He listened to Bach, Brahms, Beethoven and lots of classical quartets but not while working which he most often did alone or rarely in the company of his dog.

By way of self mockery, I will admit that I have not yet toured Diebenkorn's same-named exhibit at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth but I promise (to myself more than others) to do so by the end of November. If only to be able to find the time.

I'll close with a link to Diebenkorn's "Notes to myself on beginning a painting."

Robert Ryman, untitled, 1965. source
On a related note, I had the pleasure of enjoying another of The Modern's lectures on 11 Oct 2011, this one by TCU's Francis Colpitt on problems and optimism for abstract painting in the age of postmodernism.

Critics would have you believe that abstraction is dead.  They say abstraction is the emblem of modernism and therefore has no place in postmodernism.  Because abstraction is so closely related to painting and because painting is considered dead, abstraction must be dead too.

When one thinks of modernism one thinks of balance, harmony, gravity, unity, the elimination of the unnecessary, and a faith in progress.  On the other hand postmodernism brings forth the lack of balance and gravity, an informalism, irresolution, and a rejection of advancement.

Abstraction can be considered a pictorial language that is the purest form of painting. As for the death of painting, it has been declared multiple times including 1939 (photography), 1950 (Pollock, who was said to have taken painting as far as it could go), 1960 (Judd, whose installations were said to be the death of sculpture which was the death of painting), and 1975.  Obviously people are still painting so the art form isn't literally dead.

So what is meant by the death of painting?  It's the loss of painting's mythical status as the epitome of artistic expression.  And a lot of postmodernism since the 1980s has been about getting beyond myths. When one thinks of art today you're perhaps more likely to think of mixed media, computer graphics, installations, performance art, or sculpture.  Until about the 1960s-1970s painting was virtually synonymous with art.

Dr. Colpitt characterized postmodernists as having lost faith in transcendence, as rejecting the sublime, and as having lost belief in self-expression.  For example, the brush stroke, the gestural mark in painting is rejected.  The example she provided was crying in front of a Rothko.  Rothko himself is quoted as saying that people who are that moved by viewing his paintings are sharing the experience he had while making them.  On the other hand, postmodernists would be incredulous that such a reaction would even be possible.

Fortunately, Dr. Colpitt sees an optmistic future for abstract painting in the postmodern age.  She defined abstraction as the "atomization of the core of experience," "the language of the 21st century" and an "allusion to the non-demonstrable."

The Art Thief by Noah Charney

Noah Charney's The Art Thief was a good enough novel, one that I'd give a solid B.  I had been doing a lot of other art-related reading and decided it would be a nice audiobook tie-in.

The plot starts out interesting enough - how can the same painting be stolen twice? Not twice in its lifetime.  Twice at the same time.  The search for the answer to this paradox brings in a host of characters from Scotland Yard, the French police, art museums, art societies, and art fans of all sorts.

Somewhere in the middle of the novel I realized that virtually every character should've been a suspsect. And in a quirk I didn't really like, the revelations and settling of accounts comes in the epilogue, an overly dry recitation by one of the characters about how it all came about.  An unlikely group of characters comes out on top and an even more unlikely group ends up with nothing.

P.S. I wish I could figure out why the Amazon Associates widget in Blogger stopped working.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The most difficult thing to achieve in painting is...

Meet the Mona Lisa.  Wait.  What?  Oh, Meat Mona Lisa. Then clean up with a visit to the online moist towelette museum.

Clyfford Still, Untitled, 1947
The Modern Art Notes blog presented a 3-part series on American abstract expressionist painter (and general pain in the ass) Clyfford Still.  It's my favorite post on that blog in years.  It's a nice preamble to the opening of Still's museum in Denver next month.  I love his paintings.

Gumbasia is Art Clokey's Fantasia-inspired film that spawned Gumby.

I don't usually play online games but WonderPutt is very cool, especially the graphics during the transitions from one hole to the next.

The thoughts of Nobel prize winning physicist Richard Feynman have been compiled into three short videos on the subjects of Beauty, Honours, and Curiosity. "I don't feel frightened by being lost in the universe without having any purpose."

I must get a bubble tank for my fish, Roy.
If it's true that city-states are replacing nations in our global economy, how do certain U.S. cities compare to countries around the world?  The DFW Metroplex's economy exceeds that of Argentina, $376.8 billion to $368.9 billion.

There's yoga and then there's antigravity yoga.

Would you rather eject from an F-8 Crusader over a combat zone or a thunderstorm?  Choose carefully, then read this account from someone who's done both.

We call can't eject from an F-8, but one of us can have an ejector seat office chair. (They're in the UK otherwise I'd give this some serious thought.)

I've been doing it wrong.  source
Here are 4 awesome examples of computer graphic animation. These videos are worth watching.

Certainly you know that 1048 is a quindecillion.  In case you've forgotten the other names of really large numbers, here's a list.  Or if you prefer your numbers less general and more specific, here are the 13 most important numbers in the universe.  #9 The Schwarzschild Radius, the radius of a sphere for a given amount of matter that creates a black hole.

From cream to rice to caramel, it's the kaleidoscope of candy bars.

Share the Star Warsphabet with your favorite geek.
Who might be interested in the source code for the NES game Metroid? Cube is an open-source system for visualizing time series data. Need sounds?  Want them for free?  Check out

...creating a space where absolutely nothing has been painted. ~Ike No Taiga (1723-1776)

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Some people are like slinkys...

Aviation pr0n of the web: video of the F-35B landing on the USS Wasp at sea.

If you want a keyboard that looks like an iPad the Cool Leaf Keyboard is for you.  But I just don't see it happening unless you're a 2-finger typist.  See affordance.

Mt. Everest webcam.  Because it's there.
Peter Gabriel's New Blood album is out.  In it he "re-imagines" his most famous songs by re-recording them with an orchestra.  All too often when aging rockers try this the result is sappy crap. Don't get me wrong - I like Peter Gabriel.

Even David Lynch (yes, Eraserhead, Twin Peaks and Blue Velvet David Lynch) has an album, Crazy Clown Time.

I also like lasagne.  I really like my wife's lasagne.  So can this recipe really be the perfect lasagne? I don't see any pepperoni in the ingredients.

When you combine movie titles with video game-inspired 8-bit graphics you get Title Scream.

The Supreme Court passed on hearing an appeal in Vernor v. Autodesk thereby implicitly upholding the ruling that software sales are licenses (i.e. rentals) and not purchases (i.e. owned).  Why is this a big deal?  It negates the principle of "first sale" and means you can't resell software you buy.

I saw Michael Moore in film footage from the Occupy Wall Street hipster fest.  Then I saw this.
When brown is green: a motorcycle that runs on poo. (A brief intro in English - the poo link is mostly Japanese.)

Speaking of laying cable, here's a Google maps app showing undersea cables.

From the Lost But Not Found department, here's a list of the top 10 books lost to history.  Homer a comedian?

Great Expectations was voted as the favorite of Dickens' novels.  I'm partial to A Tale of Two Cities.

I am imagining the hate mail already.
This list of 667 sins from the bible reads like a "to do" list: #2 Not abstaining from all appearance of evil. #224 Being a Glutton. #305 Greediness.  And because I always criticize lists for being too long, don't you think their point would have been better made if the list had ended at 666?

Standby for learning in 3... 2... 1... Mathematical Methods for Physics Students, Basic Probability Theory, Dijkstra's Introduction to Programming from 1971 (a classic), and Electrostatics.

Math continues to amaze: a formula for pi involving only the number 2.

It seems every number has its fans including 47, "the quintessential random number."

Just plain odd: Guy on a Buffalo.

...not good for much but bring a smile to your face when you push them down stairs.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Quotes are nothing but...

What are fascination triggers and why do I have 7 of them?
  1. Power - we focus on the people who control us.
  2. Lust - we crave pleasure.  Duh.
  3. Mystique - we're intrigued by unanswered questions.
  4. Alarm - negative consequences threaten us
  5. Prestige - we fixate on respect
  6. Vice - the forbidden fruit lures us.
  7. Trust - we're loyal to predictability
You might like this video.  It's a promo for the band Exo 4 which includes a high school friend.  The video was produced by another high school friend.  The high school bit is irrelevant.  The video is just really well done and the band sounds great.

Ten percent of the bombs dropped during WWII failed to detonate.  Until now, that is, when people go digging.  So here are some handy maps of unexploded bomb risk for the UK.

I did not know that the Fightin' Texas Aggie Band performed at halftime of the Houston Texan's game on 9/11.  I've also never seen them do a show this elaborate.

Pasta by Design serves up delicious treats with mathematical descriptions.  Here we see Galletti which is served well with either tomato or mushroom sauce.
Remember back in the day when an email signature of over 2 lines was uncouth?  These days you're more likely to get an entire resume at the bottom of every email.  Modern etiquette suggests 3 lines as the optimum signature length.  You can read about this and more in The Art and Science of The Email Signature.

PottyMouth is a maped-based visualization of swearing.

I've developed a preference for the number 8 but this guy loves him some 0.999.

Science replicates sloth by teaching computers how to watch football.  Lemme know when they can do that while consuming two bags of chili-lime chiccarones.

Tune news: Bassist Tony Levin talks about his career and his latest album, Levin Torn White, and reveals insights into his creative process which often involves laying down a variety of bass tracks to the melody and having the producer put the final piece together.  Steven Wilson is working on a new album, Grace for Drowning.

Sounds of a different kind.  First, there's UVB-76, a mysterious Russian radio transmitter.   And even NASA has made freely available iconic space sounds like those from the Space Shuttle or Apollo.

From the Movies I've Watched More Than Once department, I sure hope the prequel to John Carpenter's The Thing doesn't make a mess of things.

Apparently, I have 26 slaves working for me.  I wish one of them would've done this survey cuz it went on for-ev-er.

I don't think Smell of Books, sprays with the scent of literature, would help the e-reader experience.  Makes me wonder what the Dead Sea Scrolls smell like and whether the experience of reading them online would be diminished without a scent.

Like watching airports?  Here's LAX's runway 25 right on webcam.
Vim should be the last text editor you learn.  And you can learn about it at Open Vim.

If even the Cliff's Notes are too long, you need Book a Minute.  For example, Italo Calvino's If on a Winter's Night a Traveler is summarized: "You think you're reading a condensation of If On a Winter's Night a Traveler, but you're not."

Supposedly, a million virtual monkeys are rewriting all of Shakespeare's works.  But there's a caveat: each monkey only contributes portions of a sentence.

...inspiration for the uninspired. ~Richard Kemph

P.S. My weekends through early November are looking pretty full so you may be seeing a lot of uninspired stuff here.  Consider this an advance apology.