Sunday, August 30, 2015

Twelve Days by Alex Berenson

My frustration with Berenson's The Counterfeit Agent (see what I wrote here) has been lifted now that I've been able to read Twelve Days, the follow-on to the former.

For the record, the two books should've been a single long book. Tom Clancy can pull it off. Berenson's publisher needs to let him.

Anyway, Berenson's protagonist is John Wells, a CIA operative who's an interesting head case. Being deep inside al Qaeda for a decade will do that to you. Now that he's out of the agency he still gets dragged into stuff by his former boss who's now a senator. And by stuff I mean knowing that someone is trying to trick the U.S. into invading Iran but not having the proof to get anyone to listen.

Good story, good character. Will continue to read Berenson's stuff.

But I had an "oh shit" moment on the next to last CD of the Twelve Days audio book. Due to a production error, after the "This is the end of disc 10." they mistakenly inserted the "The end. This has been a blah blah production of Alex Berenson's..." I thought they were gonna string this thing out for a third book. Fortunately, disc 11 truly was the last.

You can find Alex Berenson online at

"Nothing can be said about writing except when it is bad. When it is good, one can only read and be grateful."

I received no compensation of any kind for this review.

Not Hiring Computer Scientists?

The CEO of Dittach wrote an opinion piece in yesterday's Wall Street Journal with the title Why I'm Not Looking to Hire Computer Science Majors. (Behind paywall.)

Let's look at a few of his statements.

"Finding [software developers] is the toughest task." Not really. Finding good ones is.

"Startups have to compete with hegemons like Google and Facebook that offer extraordinary salaries for the best talent." Yes, and it's not just the money; it's the name recognition. They could work for Google or they could work for... what's your company's name again?

"Computer science departments prepare their students for academic or research careers and spurn jobs that actually pay money." Then where are Google and Facebook finding all the people you complain they hire?

"There isn't a single course in iPhone or Android development in the computer science departments of Yale or Princeton." Repeat after me: college is not a trade school. You don't go to college to learn a skill, a language, a tool. Skills can be learned. Skills can be taught (by you, the employer). You go to college to learn to learn the science of programming. Also, I have nothing against our Ivy League friends, but are Yale and Princeton really the first place you're looking for CS grads?

"Today we insist on higher education for everything." Yes, college isn't for everyone. Let's get kids into the trades when appropriate. Have you read in the WSJ about how much welders are getting paid these days?

"A serious alternative to the $100,000 four-year college degree wouldn't even need to be accredited - it would merely need to teach students the skills that startups are desperate for." Didn't you just poo-poo the 12- and 19-week programs for cranking out people only interested in career transition and not the "love of coding for its own sake"? Maybe this is the business opportunity: a 2-year, for-profit institute of programming practice. Hell, make it for women only and you'll kill two birds with one stone (i.e. attracting women to the STEM fields.)

To view this from another perspective, think about the legitimacy of the following statements. I'm not looking to hire Ivy Leaguers. Mathematicians. People with graduate degrees. Men.

So I guess in the end I don't really grok Mr. Gelernter's bias. Some of the best programmers I know are CS majors. Others are engineers. And others are mathematicians. All have college degrees. All love what they do. None are Ivy league.

But, this is just my opinion. I could be wrong. All I've done is co-founded and boot-strapped a 20-year-old 30-person software company.

P.S. In the interest of full disclosure, I am on the advisory board of my alma mater's engineering department. My oldest son has a masters degree in CS and is gainfully employed. My youngest son is an undergraduate CS major. Furthermore, I recognize that the title of Mr. Gelernter's piece is click-bait for an article that's really a jab at higher education (misplaced IMO) and not a revelation of his hiring practices.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

The greatest weariness...

My architect friends should enjoy this poster illustrating the history of the Architecture of American Houses from Pop Chart Labs.

If you enjoy good music and if you have 5 euros to spare how about giving Markus Reuter's compilation album Kopfmensch a try?

An introduction to quantum field theory - for 5 year olds.

Have you heard? The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth will host a retrospective of Frank Stella's paintings beginning in April 2016.
You can't fly to Mars but your name can aboard NASA's InSight spacecraft. Register today for your boarding pass.

Take a 3D virtual tour of a WWII Avro Lancaster bomber.

Cat people: crank up this cat purr noise generator.

Bloxers are underwear for men with built-in erection concealing technology. (It's just boxers with built in compression shorts. Which makes you wonder why you don't just wear boxes over compression shorts. Which makes you wonder why you need the boxers at all. And then there's the issue of why you'd ever want to conceal your erection.)

...comes from work not done. ~Eric Hoffer

Saturday, August 22, 2015

It is what we know already that...

Word on the street is that Markus Reuter and David Cross are spending time in the studio. What comes out of the studio from this pair could be very cool.

In other music news, Moonbound's album Uncomfortable News from the Moon is available for preorder on Bandcamp where you can stream one track, Cheetah Conquers the Moon, Pt 1. The band is Fabio Trentini, Pat Mastelotto, Markus Reuter and a cast of guests.

A very long but well-worth reading essay on the solicitousness of art and what it's asking of us.

ESA put a 3D model of comet 67P/C-G online for use to pan, zoom, and rotate.

The Red Bull Air Race is coming to Fort Worth next month, 26-27 September.

If you think this image is cool, you should read more about fractals. I like to think about fractals this way. A line is one-dimensional. A plane is two-dimensional. But think about a kid with a crayon scribbling all over a piece of paper. Even though the kid is only drawing lines (1D), eventually the entire paper (a 2D plane) starts to fill. How full the plane is of lines is a fractional dimension between 1D and 2D.
Game changing weapons, the top 19 of the 21st century. (Couldn't they come up with two more to make it 21 from the 21st century?) It's kinda lame but the photo of the X-47B is cool.

In movie news, another Predator sequel is coming. Please don't suck.

Every job has its own unique ways to suck. Here's some suckage from the animation biz.

Free software don't suck. Pixar's giving more of its animation software away.

Bad smells suck. Good thing this live webcam on a blooming corpse flower doesn't have smellovision.

This has been all over Facebook but just in case you missed it here's Newsweeks' Top 500 public high schools. Notable: #156 Colleyville Heritage (the other HS in the district my boys attended), #163 Madeira OH (where my nieces and nephews did or will attend), #281 Rocky River OH (where I attended).
Likelihood of an earthquake, high (red) to low (blue). Phew. One less thing to be paranoid about.
Alert reader Carolyn found that one of my seemingly crazy ideas is now real: crocheted men's shorts.

Haters gonna hate but here's why butter doesn't belong in the fridge.

According to this article from HBR, most of us don't understand what being happy is truly about and, therefore, we end up chasing the wrong things and becoming frustrated. Maybe life really is about the journey and not the achievement of some permanent state of mind. Read the meaning's behind Dr. Seligman's PERMA acronym. Hint: the "E" is engagement.

If one examines Sartreist absurdity, one is faced with a choice: either reject the cultural paradigm of expression or conclude that academe is capable of truth. Several materialisms concerning Sontagist camp may be found. Therefore, if the textual paradigm of consensus holds, the works of Joyce are postmodern. This gibberish is courtesy of the postmodern generator.

My brain gets all fuzzy whenever I watch Alabama Alpha Phi. And trust me - I've watched it a lot.

...prevents us from learning. ~Claude Bernard

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Tom Clancy Full Force and Effect by Mark Greaney

How many decades
will Tom Clancy's Ryan-verse
remain fun to read?

Tom Clancy deserves credit for many things and the most deserving may be his creation of the characters centered around Jack Ryan. To this day, well past Clancy's death, and well beyond when the books were being co-authored, and even past some bad editing (e.g. Rainbow Six), I still love reading about these characters. To use Clancy's own word (from an interview I saw him give here in Fort Worth years ago), verisimilitude is the key.

The plot of Full Force and Effect is typical Clancy techno-thriller and really not relevant to my enjoyment of the book. It contains all the requisite elements: cool spy stuff, North Koreans, nukes, Mexican drug gangs. What important is seeing how the characters react to those scenarios in a way that makes you root for them, feel for them.

Pet peeve about the writing. It's not necessary to repeat a secondary character's title multiple times. Once is enough - I can remember who "Steve" is for a full novel. Same for spelling out acronyms; once is enough.

Nice performance, as always, by Scott Brick on the audiobook.

"Nothing can be said about writing except when it is bad. When it is good, one can only read and be grateful."

I received no compensation of any kind for this review.

From Worlds Unseen A Light Yet Streams A Sound Replete by Markus Reuter & Zero Ohms

Vast musical space
warms with illumination
we ourselves carry.

The new album of exquisite ambient music from the duo of Markus Reuter and Zero Ohms (aka Richard Roberts) may have the longest title (From Worlds Unseen A Light Yet Streams A Sound Replete) of any album in my collection and may also be the most beautiful new music I've heard thus far this year.

The album consists of five tracks, the shortest of which clocks in at slightly over 12 minutes: Unseen, Boundless, Pinnacle, Recondite, Indescribable.

Just yesterday I was able to participate in a live online streaming of the album and chat session with the two musicians and hosted by Relaxed Machinery. The album's origin story involves a quote from Stanley Kubrick ("However vast the darkness we must supply our own light.") that got the two thinking about the origins of music and how sound creates a new world that we, the listeners, must illuminate. You can read an interview that covers this topic here.

During the chat the two discussed briefly the making of the album - another remote collaboration made possible by technology. Markus' contributions were complete, finished works - the results of composed improvisation. Those were sent to Richard who added his contributions on top of Markus'.

The album's title, the reference to Kubrick (which makes me think of the movie 2001) and the music all give me a strong sense of Eno's Apollo. The music has that same ethereal spaciousness. But Worlds Unseen is a grander, more dynamic vista.

And now comes the time when I stop writing and just let you listen.

If you're a fan of ambient music, From Worlds Unseen A Light Yet Streams a Sound Replete, is a must-have.

Read more online here:
"I don't know much about music, but I sure like the sound it makes."

I received no compensation of any kind for this review.

Truth emerges more readily from error...

This recently posted video of a King Crimson (Fripp, Belew, Gunn, Mastelotto) live performance from 2000 includes a great improvisation that I've cued up for you here.

Something to keep an eye (ear?) on: The Mute Gods are a new band formed by Nick Beggs (bass) with Roger King (keyboards) and Marco Minneman (drums). Their debut album is said to be due in early 2016.

It was fun (and a bit awkward for me) to join a live streaming and chat session for the new album from Markus Reuter and Zero Ohms, From World's Unseen A Light Yet Streams A Sound Replete. It was fun because how often do you get to interact with artists whose work you greatly enjoy. It was awkward because I tried hard not to ask questions that came off as those of a raging fan boi. Here's a brief interview with the duo.

Mark Rothko, No. 14 (Horizontals, White Over Darks), 1961. source
Take four minutes for this video, The Case for Mark Rothko.

Alert reader Curtis brought this series of swearing maps to my attention. It maps the frequency of several swear words as they appear on Twitter. 
My oldest son mocks what he calls my fetish for small computers but this recently announced Dell Chromebook 13 (available in September) looks pretty nice and is reasonably priced from $400 (up to $900 with the bells and whistles including a touch screen). I write this on my laptop with my iPhone, Acer Chromebook, HP tablet, Kindle, and Android tablet all within arm's reach.

Of the top nine employee complaints about company leaders, my self-assessment says I'm only violating one. Unfortunately, it's #1: not recognizing employee achievements. Doh.

Hungry? You will be after checking out these 30 sandwiches.

Real time lightning map. Sit back and enjoy the show.
iRobot had to get FCC approval for their robot lawnmower because of its use of wireless for coordinating the mower with stakes that map out the lawn. But I'm still trying to pull the trigger on their floor mopping robot.

Now spend the rest of the day driving Curiosity around Mars.

...than from confusion. ~Francis Bacon

Saturday, August 8, 2015

KoMaRa by KoMaRa

A skinless creature
has nothing to hide behind,
sensitive to touch.

KoMaRa, the self-titled debut album from progressive fusion trio KoMaRa, is the second of three Pat Mastelotto projects currently getting some serious listening on my home stereo. KoMaRa is David Kollar (guitar), Pat Mastelotto (drums), and Paolo Raineri (trumpet).

There's a conceptual heaviness on KoMaRa that doesn't get bogged down in simple, lumbering weight. Instead, the album comes off as a well-balanced mystery that never quite gives up all its secrets. Mastelotto's drumming takes center stage on this highly percussive album, providing not just rhythm but structure, framework and tone. Each track seems centered on his intricate performances with Kollar and Raineri filling the open spaces with texture. That's not to diminish their performances or that of the group as a whole but I can't help but feel Mastelotto's strong influence throughout.

It's simplistic on my part, but Raineri's trumpet reminds me a lot of Naked Truth - another Mastelotto project with a new album due later this year. But where Naked Truth veers more to the jazz/ambient side of progressive fusion (a la Jon Hassell), KoMaRa is firmly camped in the rock side. With Raineri giving KoMaRa its mysterious voice, Kollar's guitar completes the growling narrative.

Why not just give this a listen (and you'll find more vids there on David Kollar's channel).

Rereading that, I make it sound like KoMaRa is a soundtrack. But it's not; it doesn't need to be. It's inventive, explorative, powerful, instrumental, musical. It's "What did I just hear?" and "Can I hear it again?"

The album's sleeve design deserves honorable mention. The graphics are certainly eye-catching but the printing and varnish treatment is top-notch and really gives the design some punch. Credit goes to Adam Jones (from Tool) for the "creature art."

Great cover art from Adam Jones for KoMaRa's debut.
You learn more on KoMaRa's website, The band members' individual sites are:

"I don't know much about music, but I sure like the sound it makes."

I received no compensation of any kind for this review.

There is no pain so great as...

Trey Gunn has released the mellifluous Live at Hugo House, a performance from last month. Only $5 - no brainer. Get it.

Wow. The umbratilous dark side seen as the moon passes between the Earth and the DISCOVR spacecraft. Go to NASA's site to see the animation as the moon transits across the earth.
As mentioned previously, recordings exist of XYZ, a band of "eX Yes and Zeppelin" musicians including Jimmy Page and Chris Squire. This "demo session" is pretty darn rough. So I wonder how Jimmy Page's desire to clean it up and release it will turn out.

I couldn't write this better myself: "In the post-LEGO Movie stampede to turn plastic waste into animated entertainment, Envision Media Arts has partnered with Pez Candy to create an animated feature based on its candy."

This reportedly secret NSA map shows Chinese cyberattacks during the past 5 years. source
With the 70th anniversary of the use of atomic weapons in Japan during WWII upon us, the Nuclear Secrecy blog delves into the false dichotomy of the use it or don't use it argument. My father, an Army PFC in the Pacific theater, believed that had they not been used he likely wouldn't have survived an invasion of the Japanese main islands.

The New Yorker has published on-line John Hersey's classic piece Hiroshima from their 31 Aug 1946 issue.

For aviation geeks, enjoy this labarynthine video of Airshow Budapest 2014.

Stephen Orlando's motion photography captures musical ripples. 
Think you've got rhythm? Drum along on your computer and test your score. I got 765 out of 1,000 on my first attempt.

Cornell University has the world's largest archive of wildlife sounds and they're all online.

Electricity generation by source. Color code can be found at the link but orange is natural gas, black is coal, and purple is nuclear.
This academic treatise on scatological references in 18th century English literature reveals that we are much more prudish than they were.

You may consider this untoward, but these 9 facts about breasts from IFL Science are neither surprising nor previously unknown to me.

Racer-S is an OpenGL demo that puts you in the cockpit of a Formula-1 car.

Vocabulary in today's post brought to you by 100 Beautiful Words That You Need to Use More.

...the memory of joy in present grief. ~Aeschylus

Sunday, August 2, 2015

KOI by Lorenzo Feliciati

Deep, colorful koi,
once they swim and swirl through you,
you're changed forever.

KOI is the latest solo album from bassist and guitarist Lorenzo Feliciati. He is joined by Alessandro Gwis (keyboards) and Steve Jansen (drums and percussion). Other contributors include Pat Mastelotto (drums), Angelo Olivieri (trumpet), Nicola Alesini (sax), Stan Adams (trombone), Pierluigi Bastioli (trombone), and Duilio Ingrosso (sax).

The twelve tracks on the album are Kohaku, New House, Kumonryu , Oxbow, Black Kumonryu, Noir Alley Verdigris, Ogon, Narada, Margata, Kuchibeni, Fish Bowl, and Koi. Several of the titles represent varieties of koi so there's an obvious theme here. According to legend, koi are fish admired for their beauty. Anyone who gazes at them achieves a special state of mind.

KOI is one of three albums I'm currently listening to (a lot) that feature a common thread: Pat Mastelotto contributed to all of them, to lesser and greater degrees. While I've stopped trying to classify the music I listen to, let's say that all three of these albums are "progressive fusion" meaning they're a forward-looking blend of rock, jazz, ambient and other styles (poly-genre?). It's the differing degrees of each sub-genre that make of these three albums special.

KOI's fusion leans toward the jazz side and that's not just because of the instrumentation. This is a precise, crisp, highly refined performance with beautiful melodies and discordant tones, smooth rhythms and oddly layered time signatures. The constant for me is Feliciati's bass, the subsurface koi swimming through this sonic pond.

You can get an idea of what's on KOI from the video teaser.

Feliciati's website is KOI is available on Rare Noise Records.

"I don't know much about music, but I sure like the sound it makes."

I received no compensation of any kind for this review.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Minds that are ill at ease are...

Over on Every Frame a Painting there's a very nice 8 minute video that captures the greatness of Chuck Jones, animator and film director.

Or maybe you'll enjoy these Disney pencil tests (test animations of scenes done only with pencil drawings).

Georgia O'Keeffe, Clouds 5/Yellow Horizon and Clouds, 1963-64. (Perhaps not the O'Keeffe you were expecting?) source
The Tate Modern has Agnes Martin now and then Georgia O'Keeffe coming in 2016 Q3. Wouldn't it be cool to see a big mash-up exhibition of the two?

If you're like me and missed its original broadcast, you can watch PBS' special The Bomb, about development of atomic and nuclear weapons, online.

I don't need this but I really really want it. The GaffGun, an ingenious tool for taping cables to the floor.
Fort Worth's Collective Brewing Project is a block away from my office. Who wants to visit now?

Why Time Flies is a simple visualization of why time seems to accelerate as you get older.

This video looks like all these balls are mimes doing the invisible box thing. source

Rolling Stone interviewed Genesis keyboardist Tony Banks on his solo career and upcoming box set. It's funny to read where Tony says that he hasn't been a listening of popular music since about 1968.

In a related note (because Squire is mentioned in the interview with Banks), Jimmy Page says he'd like to release the music he recorded with Chris Squire and Alan White under the name XYZ.

The first, atomic-scale image of colloidal nanoparticles.
It's an odd combination, but the list of regions that rebel against standardizing on time zones includes China and Indiana.

A map of the 11 regional cultures of North America. I was surprised to find Cleveland in Yankeedom and Fort Worth in Greater Appalachia.
David Lynch can make even the alphabet be creepy as can be seen in this 1968 film.

...agitated by both hope and fear. ~Ovid