Saturday, February 22, 2014

Locked On by Tom Clancy

See Jacks run. Dad runs
for prez. Son runs toward danger.
Who will get there first?

Locked On by Tom Clancy (with Mark Greaney) is the third Jack Ryan Jr. book in the so-called Ryanverse of Clancy's Jack Ryan centric world.  In this one, Jack Sr. has been convinced to run for his second presidential term against the current incumbent and political nemesis Ed Kealty.

At the same time, Jack Jr's career has evolved from intelligence analyst at the "extra-judiciary" counter terrorism agency The Campus to operator.

Father and son cross paths when Kealty's dirty political dealings threaten to expose The Campus by going after CIA agency legend, Jack Sr friend, and Jack Jr co-worker John Clark. At the same time, The Campus is working two separate terrorist incidents in Russia and Pakistan.

A solid but undistinguished effort. The book's closing introduced something that sounded like serialization, something I hate in serious novels (reminds me too much of The Hardy Boys.)

Tom Clancy's website is

I received no compensation of any kind for this review.

No finite point has meaning...

AQUARD.IO makes me want to put a webcam on the fish tank in my office except it's not as nice as this one. Plus you can interact with the fish here and feed them.

The Clyfford Still Museum has recreated online the 1959 exhibition of Still's work at Buffalo's Albright-Knox Gallery, Paintings by Clyfford Still. One example of what you'll find is shown below but as you walk interactively through the five galleries see if you can find PH-225 which is currently in the collection of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. On a related note, enjoy this 3-minute video on abstract expressionism.

Clyfford Still, PH-91, 1948
An interesting commentary on the nature of beauty. Supposing that humans are primarily driven by two sides of their natures - the near term, sensual, empirical and the long term coherence, order, and understanding - true beauty "speaks powerfully to both sides of our nature at the same time." More poignantly, "When we recognise beauty in a piece of music, or the graciousness of someone’s conduct, we see things that we know we have neglected or betrayed, and we feel an astonishing combination of anguish and delight." I think this is remarkably insightful.

A long article on post-Brave Marillion.

How do sounds and music make you feel? Try it yourself at Emotions of Sound.

How closely can you reproduce the chest-burster scene from Alien using only Legos? Pretty damn close.

This is basically an indictment of secondary (high school) education in America. From a National Science Foundation survey (pg 406) see the percentage of adults who knew the correct answer to:
  • The center of the earth is very hot. 84% (Thank you The Core.)
  • The continents have been moving their locations for millions of years and will continue to move. 83%
  • Does the earth go around the sun or the sun go around the earth? 74% (Facepalm.)
  • All radioactivity is man-made. 74%
  • Electrons are smaller than atoms. 53% (O-M-G)
  • Lasers work by focusing sound waves. 47% (This must be why my mother kept yelling for me to keep my music turned down.)
  • The universe began with a huge explosion. 39% (I blame the church for this one. Shame.)
  • It is the father's gene that decides whether the baby is a boy or a girl. 63% 
  • Antibiotics kill viruses as well as bacteria. 51% (And here's the explanation for why we find ourselves in trouble.)
  • Human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals. 48% (Thank you again, religious dogma.)
Uh oh, don't get too comfortable thinking Platonic solids are the only game in town. Mathematicians have discovered a new class of solids - Goldberg polyhedra.
When universes (plural) collide they leave circular "bruises" as found in the cosmic background radiation.
What are the most popular coding languages of 2014? (I don't see how this can be accurate given that the year just started but...)  C++ comes in #3 at 13%. Tcl is "a bit" further down at 0.03%.

Only one of the 10 best new restaurants in Texas is in Fort Worth: Little Lilly, a sushi joint.

Wanna decorate like a man? Check out TRNK.

I get the feeling there's a lot of built-up pain in Cleveland. A Kickstarter project for a coloring book titled Disappointing Moments in Cleveland Sports has blown through its goal of $2,000 having received over $15,000 with 22 days to go.

Burned out on the Olympics yet?
  • Know the difference between a swizzle and a twizzle in figure skating. Neither do I nor do I after reading those explanations and watching the videos. 
  • Everything you need to know about curling.
Under Armour may be taking a beating over the U.S. speedskaters' suits but this MagZip zipper seems like a winner.

Gary Hill, Fat Man. Glass sculpture of the Fat Man atomic bomb. It was later filmed when dropped from a height of 30 feet.
Would Coke in any other glass taste the same? I used to drink a lot of Coke so this $20 leaded crystal Riedel glass has me curious. Or for my beer drinking friends, the Monti-Birra glass.

Feel like a Disney princess. In your undies.

Travel tips for Japanese by Japanese who visit the U.S. The bit about laughing made me laugh. I wonder if any of my Japanese friends can validate these perceptions.

When archeologists dig in the trash what do they expect to find other than stuff like this 19th century douche.

Poor dinosaurs. Every bodily function eventually gets fossilized.
  • Here is a fascinating discussion of how dinosaurs urinated including comparison with modern bird excretory functions - which taught me a thing or two - and revelation of fossilized dino pee-pee puddles (the size of a bathtub). 
  • And with just a few more moments things might have turned out differently, but a marine reptile was fossilized during the act of live birth.
...without an infinite reference point. ~Jean-Paul Sartre 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Observe your enemies, for they first...

Programmer? Artist? Put the two together and you could be included in the Barbican's Digital Revolution exhibition later this year in London. And guess who'd be paying your way - Google, through their DevArt project, art made with code. Entry deadline is 28 March.

Callum Innes, Exposed Painting Grey/Violet, 1997. I have always been fascinated by the sensuality of Innes' work. You can find out more on his website.
Despite reading the WSJ for years I never noticed a column on floral arranging that often takes cues from abstract art. For example, Lindsey Taylor's valentine's bouquet is an homage to Josef Albers' Homage to the Square (Guarded), 1952. Her other inspirations include Brice Marden, Bonnard, and Balthus.

All high art is destined to be weird. Weird, Old English for "destiny." Which makes it a circular definition, but WTH.

A sunset view of the Earth and Moon from Curiosity on Mars.
Science solves the main challenges of our times, like letting a fish drive a car. And if a fish can be "out of water" so to speak, why not submerge a turntable in water? When you think about it, there's no reason why this shouldn't work. And for fans of environmental ambient music there's an odd parallel.

Audiobooks. I love 'em. Can reading versus listening alter how we absorb the material? Yes. Is listening engaging? I think it is. Keeping in mind that I only listen to audiobooks in the car while driving I find that I can maintain full concentration on the book while still not being distracted in my driving. However, I know that listening to non-fiction in the car is a no-go for me. Fiction is much more engaging.

2013 was a hallmark year for beards and mustaches. So why not take a look an American history of facial hair.

Beard face font. And yes - many beards were harmed in the creation of this font.
For the nuke historian: annotated footage of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki. For the cold war historian: the CIA's declassified archive on the Glomar Explorer.

See this fan-art map of your favorite Disney story's locale.

High-tech. Start-up mania? Or much less dynamic than everyone thinks?

Who are the best tech companies to intern for? Google is #2.

How pleasant is it where you live? Fort Worth = 59 days/year. Cleveland = 68. Boston = 56.
A programmer's top 10 sentences. #7 It's not a bug, it's a feature.

Olympic Roundup
Low profile, low visibility handcuff key. For those times when, you know.

...find out your faults. ~Antisthenes

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Noble Approach by Tod Polson

You know his work but
not his name. Grinch, Roadrunner.
He's Maurice Noble.

If you've ever watched any classic animation - virtually any Chuck Jones film, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Roadrunner and Coyote - you've seen Maurice Noble's work. As a designer, he created the stage on which the characters acted. Playful, technical, beautiful - his work is simply wonderful.

The book, subtitled Maurice Noble and the Zen of Animation Design, was begun by Maurice and finished by one of his proteges after his death. It begins with a brief biography but then shares Maurice's wisdom on all aspects of design for animated films, from Getting Started to Story, Breaking Down the Elements, Research and Inspiration, Design, Color, Layout, and the Final Film.

An example of Maurice's design and layout from perhaps the greatest animated film ever made, What's Opera, Doc?
As Maurice wrote in the book's introduction, "The real art of animation is filled with ideas and beauty and is a never-ending joy."

The book even has its own blog.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

It is a profitable thing, if one is wise, to...

Music to blog by: Omnipresence by Eraldo Bernocchi - "intensely layered, polymorphously perverse ambient music."

Who can resist Miles Davis "at the height of his powers."

And two recommended by friends: Dysnomia by Dawn of Midi (sounds like minimalist electronica but is actually acoustic) and Shallow by Porya Hatami (exploring the ambient balance of electronics and environmental sounds).

Enough with the music - onward with the gibberish.

This was news to me: in about 18 months you won't have to sign credit card receipts anymore. Instead you'll enter your PIN.

If you ever need to generate a completely new identity you might start with this random identity generator. (I'm Harry B. Lawrence of Salina, Kansas.)

Science is late to the party on this one (see Sir Mix-A-Lot) but allow me to quote: "women with larger than average butts are not only increasingly intelligent but also very resistant to chronic illnesses."

Science redeems itself by revealing the perfect way to hold a cheeseburger.

Aviation junkies can check out this vintage magazine ad showing a proposed cockpit layout for the eventually cancelled A-12 Avenger II. (This is kinda cool, having worked around - but not on - this program from inception to cancellation.)

Gotta love these vintage photos of the F-111.

Begin Mickey

Artist Damien Hirst's spot-painting homage to Mickey Mouse (see below) was commissioned by Disney for auction at Christie's Post-War and Contemporary Art Auction on 13 February. The painting is expected to sell in the $500,000 to $800,000 range.

Damien Hirst, Mickey, 2012
Other modern artists who've taken a shot at Mickey are shown below.

Roy Lichtenstein, Look Mickey, 1961

Andy Warhol, Mickey Mouse
Vernon Fisher, Mickey Mouse
Just for fun.
And to round out the Disney fun, here are some obscure Disney facts (even some that I didn't know).

End Mickey

If you've never watched the cult classic Mystery Science Theater before, check out this beginner's guide. And if it's TL;DR for you, just watch the videos.

Bill Nye may have been the best person to debate Ken Ham on evolution but the whole thing just leaves me dumbfounded. Creationism and intelligent design are utter bullshit

According to Life Battery, I'm down to my last 31%.
As a fan of truly ambient music I'm very interested in this search for the earth's quietest places, knowing full well that absolute silence can drive you batty.

I've posted a lot of odd typefaces before, but the human typeface is just plain creepy.

The typical American adult read 5 books last year. And that's just one bit of insight into reading habits.

Amazon's 100 books to read in a lifetime. 14. Sigh. I hope that 31% is wrong.

The great language game. Can you guess a language just by hearing it spoken? I surprised myself by scoring 600.

How much snow does it take to close school? From 2 feet (dark blue) to virtually nothing (green). (Before my friends from the north get all uppity about how wimpy we are in the south, keep in mind what happens up there when the mercury climbs above 90.)
You've all probably seen this by now - an interactive globe of ocean currents.

I like jelly beans. I liked a good beer when I drank. But I'm skeptical of draft beer jelly beans.

And I'm curious whether this electronic tongue can taste them.

I know where I'll be in early 2015: the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History. Why? They're one of the venues for the traveling exhibition, What's Up Doc: The Animation Art of Chuck Jones. Must see. Fort Worth friends should mark their calendars now.

Guess the artist. You'll be surprised.
"Every year, Americans produce about 30 billion gallons of urine, which is equivalent to about 8.6 billion pounds of synthetic fertilizer." We use 1.2 trillion gallons per year of drinkable water to flush it away. You know where this is going, right? Fertilizer from urine.

Let's make this all go away. I leave you with dripping paint.

...appear foolish. ~Aeschylus

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

General Michael Hayden on National Security

General Michael Hayden (ret.) was today's keynote speaker for the University of North Texas' Kuehne Speaker Series on National Security held at the Hyatt Regency Dallas at the foot of the iconic Reunion Tower. Nine coworkers and I went to hear his speech. I don't know what I was expecting but he proved to be an entertaining speaker with experience that gave credence to his insights. He was introduced by H. Ross Perot who doesn't look like he's aged a day since his presidential run.

Gen. Hayden used his 30 minutes to share with us what he felt were some of the fundamental, underlying (he used the term tectonic) phenomena that are influencing global security.

Gen. Michael Hayden (ret.)
First, the planet's bad actors are no longer nation states but much smaller organizations. Of course, the challenge is that the national security apparatus has been designed over the last century to deal with nation states and now must evolve to deal with this new asymmetrical threat. He further clarified that in this new age the bad actors are a byproduct of weak nation states as opposed to old-school aggressive nations.

Second, the world stage on which national security issues play out use to be land, sea, and air - and more recently space. Cyberspace now has become a fifth stage that has to be addressed with equal vigor. The challenge is that the cyber world was designed for convenience and speed and not defensibility. In his words, "cyberspace is a digital Somalia."

Third, we are seeing a broad shift in cultural conventions and one manifestation of that is the goal of transparency in all things government. He shared a question recently posed to one group of his external advisors: "How can the U.S. conduct espionage when transparency is a constant demand?"  The answer was "We don't know." This is not just a demand of the public but also politicians who are becoming increasingly uncomfortable with secrecy.

Fourth, old geopolitical structures are being swept away. We all saw what happened to the USSR, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia. He asked us to think about the Middle East not in terms of Arabs vs. Israelis but as Sunni vs. Shia. He implied that the Middle East borders defined in the wake of WWII are not as permanent as we sometimes believe.

He gave us a few one-liners:

  • The upcoming winter games in Russia are "Vlad's personal Olympics" and we'll get to see what a city looks like that's run entirely by the KGB.
  • On that crazy Kim family in North Korea - don't attend the family reunion even if invited.
  • China is applying autocratic rule to one of the most widely connected populations on the planet. 
  • There have been idiot privates in every army since the Romans but none had access to more information than Bradley Manning.
And his parting shot was to point out that the biggest change in international policy in the last decade is due to the Marcellus shale and what it (and the energy independence it and related projects) can bring to the United States. When the Middle East can't yank us around by the gas pump anymore the balance of power in that relationship changes radically.

Well worth the drive to big D.

[Update 05 Feb 2014] An article on the event from the Star-Telegram: In Dallas, ex-CIA chief details growing cybersecurity threat.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

The will to win is meaningless...


Today's soundtrack, suggested by friend Ray, is Dysnomia by Dawn of Midi.

Colin Edwin reports that recording the next Metallic Taste of Blood album is coming along nicely.

You can pre-order Eraldo Bernocchi's Omnipresence which is due out this month. (Or just stream it from the website.)

And all the videos from Harold Budd's Jane 1-11 are now on YouTube (in playlist form).


How about a heat map of the world showing where the most photographs are taken? (Sorry, South Dakota.)


On the eve of the Super Bowl (screw you NFL, I refuse to write "the big game") it's nice to read about the intellectual side of football.

I'm probably the last person to have seen this: more NFL from bad lip reading.

And there's these Super Bowl Haiku. So I too must give it a shot.
Final score unknown.
But I'll bet you real money
that halftime will suck.
Where football players come from.

Enjoy Markus Reuter's solo ambient performance from 2010. 


What do we know to be true? I don't enjoy going to the dentist. And I'm not a huge fan of photography.

Despite that, an unscheduled dentist visit with its precursor waiting room time (thank you, National Geographic magazine) resulted in me finding a photographer whose work revealed something to me about abstract painting.

Kacper Kowalski's aerial photographs (see below) reveal the abstract in everyday life. We often think about the abstract as unreal or even contrived. Yet abstraction surrounds us. It is all a matter of perspective, literally so in Kowalski's work.

We all use abstractions everyday. An architect's drawings and renderings are abstractions of a real structure. An engineer's models of a system are abstractions of the physical reality. And these professional abstractions come in various levels from the hyper-realistic to the crude approximation. But these abstractions allow us to frame and express complex physical ideas in the same way that a painter's abstraction (pick one - impressionism, cubism surrealism, expressionism) allows them to express complex human ideas.

Too often I explain my lack of interest in photography by pointing at its realism as though it's diametrically opposite from abstraction. But Kowalski's work shows that the real can be made abstract simply by allowing us to see through another perspective.

From Polish aerial photographer Kacper Kowalski's Tracklog series.
And coincidentally, this week I came across the work of Carlos Sequin, a comp sci prof with expertise in computer aided design (CAD) who is also a sculptor. He observes "Often [science and art] are about intense observation and abstraction to obtain a deeper understanding of complex ideas and systems."


On the other hand, this amateur takes a stab at making modern art himself.

As does a Syracuse student, who makes rather nice Rothko-esque paintings on his iPhone.

Here's an interesting idea: don't buy, rent your fine art from Art Remba.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but Claude Monet painted The Cliff, Etretat, Sunset on 05 Feb 1883 at 4:53 p.m.


Aviation nerds should enjoy reading this article about the competition between Convair's Kingfish and Lockheed's A-12.

Here you will find 26 previously unreleased photos of the Challenger disaster, found in someone's grandparent's house.

You've heard about first flights but have you heard about a zeroth flight? Watch this brief video of the unintended first flight of the F-16 which turned 40 years old today.


You're looking at possibly tens of millions of dollars: a nearly 30 carat blue diamond, found recently in South Africa.
I have mentioned here before the 8th incarnation of King Crimson. This article reveals that KC8 will be a touring band, playing "reconfigured" versions KC material rather than new stuff. So we must pin our hopes on a live album.


How is funny made? Watch Louis CK, Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, and Ricky Gervais talk about funny.

Explore something darker: The Awareness, a short film about the eve of launching a self-aware computer.

Speaking of film with a dark edge, here's an interview with David Lynch.

And the ultimate in difficulty - understanding women. Because it's not about the nail. [Update: 01 Feb 2014] Someone else feels the same way.

Hopefully you have never seen any of these films that made less than $400 at the box office. 

The news that a new adaptation of How the Grinch Stole Christmas is due in 2017 fills me with dread.

There's still time to order this for your favorite Star Wars geek and have it delivered in time for Valentine's Day. Someone's been a naughty princess.
Yes indeed, this really says Spend the Night in a Giant Anus. (Note, this is not the same as spending it with a giant anus which my wife does all the time.)

...without the will to prepare. ~Knute Rockne (or many others to whom this quote is attributed)