22 December 2005

Seeing Tailorism Clearly in 1856

In 1911, Fredrick Winslow Taylor published The Principles of Scientific Management. One of his main concepts was that "to increase production, managers must take control of the process." Thus the method of strictly defined assembly-line work was firmly established.

As the above link explains, "This involved observing workers meticulously, analyzing each step in terms of time spent and energy expended, and using the results to determine the best method for each task. This standard method would be required of every worker, with scaled piecework rates providing incentives for higher output."

Interestingly, 55 years prior to Taylor's opus horribilus, Scientific American magazine had this to say:

"The division of labor, though it may bring to perfection the production of a
country up to a certain point, is most deleterious in its effects upon the
producers. To make pins to the best advantage, it may answer for a time to
divide the operation into 20 parts. Let each man concentrate the whole
of his attention on the one simple work, for instance, of learning to make
pin heads, and on this ever let his time be consumed. It is astonishing the
perfection and rapidity which we will acquire in performing the operation. But
what is the result on the man? His powers of mind will dwindle, and his head
becomes, for all practical purposes, after a number of generations, no larger
than that of one of the pins he makes. He ceases to be a man, and becomes a mere
tool." - From Scientific American, January 1856

And what's one of the big buzzwords in management circles these days? Process! To those who continue to insist that production improvements brought about by a focus on process justify the damage done to the individuals who actually do the work, I can only shake my head. Well, I can also respond with alternatives, but I also certainly shake my head.

20 December 2005

Google Earth Update

This recent article from the New York Times is almost boring 'cause the news is so old... but I'm going to mention it anyway.

It seems that some countries like India and Thailand have finally noticed that "Hey, Google Earth provides easy access to overhead imagery of sensitive parts of our country." Um, yeah... and it's been out there for a while now.

Interesting line: India's surveyor general, Maj. Gen. M. Gopal Rao, [commenting on Google Earth's offering of imagery of India] said, "They ought to have asked us."

Right. Google's response is basically (and appropriately): Times are changing, and the best thing to do is adapt to the advances in technology.

The genie is out of the bottle folks. Let's accept that fact and move on...

16 December 2005

Wikipedia Update!

CNN.com has a short piece about an article in the journal Nature, which concluded Wikipedia's accuracy is on par with Encyclopedia Britannica, at least for scientific articles.

This is good news (and not surprising)… but the part that made me laugh out loud was this line:
Encyclopedia Britannica officials declined to comment on the findings
because they haven't seen the data.

I think it's hilarious, and really illustrates the genuine strength of Wikipedia. Even on an issue that directly affects Britannica (i.e. the comparable quality of it's prime competitor), the "Britannica officials" haven't figured out how to review the data in a timely manner… while the Wikipedia founder (there are no "Wikipedia Officials," of course!) is all over it!

How much longer will Britannica be able to exist? What do they really bring to the table? Not much, if you ask me...

Just for chuckles, check out the "Why Try Britannica Online" page, where Britannica officials try to make the case for giving them $70/year. Reasons include:
  • More Comprehensive - over 120,000 articles! (but Wikipedia has 687,619!)
  • Trustworth Results (see afore mentioned Nature journal)
  • Less time searching (as if Wikipedia is hard to search?)
  • Help for students (um, this is unique?)

Looks to me like the Britannica Officials are making buggy whips...

15 December 2005

Internet Perils & Joys

Two interesting things came across my screen this morning... and interestingly, both are from Asia.

First, I learned about a Chinese poet named Tu Fu (or Du Fu). He was born in 712 AD, wrote a bunch of poems and was generally obscure during his lifetime. He is now considered one of the greatest Chinese poets ever, and is compared to Virgil, Shakespear, Horace, Ovid, etc... Thanks to the internet, some dude in central NY can now read this guy's poetry over 1200 years later... in English, no less. Wow!

Then, I got a link to a sad story about a recent trading snafu in Japan. An as-yet-unidentified trader intended to sell 1 share at 600,000 yen. You guessed it - he accidentally transposed the numbers and sold 600,000 shares for 1 yen each. Ouch! They are estimating the financial damage at 60 billion yen. Double ouch!

So, this amazing thing called the internet lets me read chinese poetry written over 1200 years ago by a guy who died in relative obscurity (makes me wonder what people will be reading 1,000 years from now!)... and it also lets people make monumental financial mistakes.

Such interesting times we live in!

Ten Enduring Ideas

Check out this article from strategy+business on ten enduring business ideas... It's kinda long, but worth the time...

03 November 2005


November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and there's actually an organization designed to help would-be novelists (like myself) tackle the task. Check 'em out at http://www.nanowrimo.org/. I'm planning to have my first novel done by then, so it'll be ready in time for Christmas...

It's a crazy thing to do. Want to join me?

20 October 2005

"Create The Future" Design Contest

Some company called Emhart is running their 4th annual "Create The Future" design contest. The Grand Prize is a Toyota Prius... first place is a Segway transporter... not bad!

Oh, and it turns out NASA is involved as a sponsor too...

So all you designer-wannabe's out there, check it out and send in your design ideas. Deadline is 18 Nov.

18 October 2005


I swung through a bookstore the other day... and I must admit, I got a little bit overwhelmed.

Now that I've published a book of my own, I've got a sense of how much effort, brainpower, emotion, energy, love, passion, creativity, anguish and self goes into making a book... and the sheer quantity of books in that store really took my breath away.

How can these books actually sell? What makes a book stand out? Each individual book is the product of painstaking care and tremendous effort. Each represents hope and optimism... and each one is a small blip in a sea of thousands and thousands of other books.

So that got me thinking - why do I buy a book? What makes me actually pick one up and fork over some $$?

Usually, it's because someone recommended it... and I usually have to hear the recommendation more than once. For example, I'd been hearing about Hairball for a year (from multiple sources) before I ran across it in a used bookstore... and even then, I almost didn't buy it. And it's perhaps the most remarkable book I've ever read (certainly in the top 5).

So... how does one generate persistent, sustained recommendations for one's product or service...? And yes, this has something to do with program management, technology development and general PBL-ish topics.

More to follow...

13 October 2005

Apple's Multi-Media Blitz

Wow, Apple is on a roll lately - check out this story from Information Week... some excerpts below. Some seriously important lessons to learn from these guys!

Apple Computer today introduced hardware designed to help the company dominate a market that doesn't really exist yet: online video downloads.

Apple also announced the immediate availability of iTunes 6, only a few weeks after the arrival of iTunes 5.

The new iMac comes with a built-in iSight video camera for out-of-the-box video conferencing.

Jobs began his second act by praising his company’s iPod. "It’s been a huge success," he said. "And therefore it’s time to replace it."

06 October 2005

What Did You Do This Year?

I know, the year isn't over yet, but it's not too early to start thinking about what you accomplished in 2005.

Was it cool?

Was it worth while?

In what sense did it change the world for the better? Did it make a difference?

What did you learn... what did you experience... what connections and contacts did you make... what drove you forward and got you out of bed in the morning?

Check out Tom Peter's answer to those questions, if you dare...

30 September 2005

The $50K Satellite... Launch Included!

Whoa, check out what's going on inthe world of CubeSats. Small, fast, cheap, powerful, off-the-shelf. They're about 4lbs... and "can fly in formation, dock with each other, carry out science duties, inspect other satellites, scan our planet—and might be used to create an actual Earth-orbiting game of Space Pong."


There's a particularly cool project going on called KatySat. It stands for "kids aren't too young for satellites." And we're talking K-12 here. These things are being billed as the personal computer of space...

You can start designing your very own CubeSat right now... http://www.cubesatkit.com/

I dare you to try.

28 September 2005

Giant Squids On Wikipedia!

Until just recently, nobody had ever seen a live Giant Squid. Everything we knew about them came from dead squid that washed up on shore or were found in the stomach of their main predator, sperm whales.

Yesterday (27 Sept), scientists released photos of a Giant Squid, which were taken in Oct 2004. This morning, I found those photos on the Wikipedia entry on Giant Squid.

Not only is this a big step forward for marine biology and our understanding of these deep-water mysteries, it's one more example of how the Wikipedia approach is superior to traditional encyclopedias.

Any guesses on how long it will take for the Encyclopedia Britanica to print a new edition with this data in it? I figure it'll take at least a year...

26 September 2005

The Personal MBA

I just came across a very interesting manifesto on the Change This website.

It's basically an education plan for earning your PMBA (Personal MBA), and it won't cost you $50K per year, or two years of not working, or any sort of active duty service committment... 'cause you do it yourself, by reading some good books (he's got a list).

Whether you find any of the books on the list interesting & useful or not (and there are many I think are both interesting & useful), I think the whole concept of teaching yourself at the MBA level has real merit. And that's why I came up with the PBL reading list...

You can go direct to the Personal MBA site for more information, but I highly recommend reading the manifesto...

07 September 2005

Cube-Hacks, anyone?

I'm trying to see if there is any info out there about modifying, hacking or tweaking your cubicle. I'm not finding much (yet).

What I'm looking for is photos, ideas, templates, etc for cool and crazy things (preferably non-destructive) to personalize one's corporate home-away-from-home.

Yosh's shower curtain is a good start, but I want to think bigger.

Any ideas?

25 August 2005

Email gets old-fashioned

The Pew Internet & American Life Project recently reported that email is becoming old fashioned. Apparently 75% of online teenagers report a preference for instant messaging when communicating with friends. They tend to use e-mail to talk to institutions and "old people."


implications... are profound... particularly given that IM is "instant" and only works if both people are logged in. We think cellphones and email are intrusive and demanding... but the IM star is just beginning to rise... and just wait 'till someone develops the next-gen VIM (video instant message)... or whatever... 'cause the kids using IM today are going to become "old people" someday too, and they'll marvel at the new breed of youngsters and wonder how they manage to use those new-fangled communication methods...

I'm back...

Lots of travel, leave, etc lately sort of bumped this blog to the back burner. I'm sure it'll happen again, but I'll try to avoid that if I can.

Actually, one big reason I haven't added new posts to this blog lately is that most of my "writing juice" is getting used up on articles for Defense AT&L, my 'zine Rogue Project Leader and my book, The Radical Elements Of Radical Success. Other recipients of my creative energy include my new online RogueWear t-shirt shop and two new books I'm working on.

There's something very energizing about creating stuff. I hope you'll all try it too, whether it's books or magazines via Lulu, t-shirts and coffee mugs via Spreadshirt or CafePress, or hardware via eMachineShop. The only thing you need to bring to the table is a cool idea - everything else is getting easier every day...

28 July 2005

Ready To Launch!

Remember SpaceShipOne and Burt Rutan's crew from Scaled Composites? They're the team that won the $10M X-Prize. Well, they've officially teamed up with Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Group to create The Spaceship Company, and they're going to build a fleet of sub-orbital spaceships and launch aircraft. No kidding.

They plan to be operating commercially by the end of 2008 - a little over 3 years from now! At the moment, a flight on one of Virgin Galactic's new spaceships will cost ya $200,000... but the price is expected to drop.

As soon as the price gets low enough, I'm TOTALLY going up there (if my wife will let me). :)

It's an exciting new world out there!

18 July 2005

Work & Love

"Work is love made visible. And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy."
- from Kahlil Gibran's book The Prophet

12 July 2005

What I'm Reading

As usual, I've got a collection of books that I'm in the middle of... and I thought I'd give ya a peek behind the curtain:

The Prophet, by Kahlil Gibran. Gibran was a mystic, poet, philosopher and artist from Lebanon. He wrote this one in 1923 (I love old books)

The Book of Five Rings, by Miyamoto Musashi. A classic book on military strategy, written by a Japanese samurai who died in 1645 (did I mention I like old books?).

How Ronald Reagan Changed My Life, by Peter Robinson (former presidential speechwriter). A very affectionate biography of Reagan, full of autobiographical info about Robinson and and interesting look at some of the big events of the 80's (i.e. the end of the cold war...).

The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, by Edward Morris. Just got this one in the mail, so I haven't actually started it yet, but I'm a huge fan of Teddy R and can't wait to dive in.

30 June 2005

Swiss Army Knife, 21st Century Style

I was flipping through the latest issue of WIRED magazine and came across a little blurb about a new "Victorionox SwissMemory" tool. It's basically your standard mini swiss army knife - scissors, blade, nail file, etc... only this one also has a mini LED flashlight and a USB flash drive, complete with built-in data security software...

At $157 per, it's quite a bit more expensive than the classic, which will only set ya back $16. But hey, can your classic knife carry 512 MB?

Oh yeah, they've also got a bladeless version for airtravelers. Now THAT is 21st century for ya...

22 June 2005

In Search Of ISO Value

Interesting bit in a recent issue of Inc Magazine, about ISO 9000 and ISO 14000 certifications, particularly for management & creative-type work. The writer basically asks the question "Is it worth it?" and concludes "Well, sometimes... but not always..."

One of the arguements in favor of seeking an ISO certification is that you need to be certified in order to get certain contracts. One proponent of ISO even acknowledges it doesn't make you better, it's just an entry criteria for working with particular organizations.

I'd suggest that if getting a certification doesn't actually help your organization do the work better, then maybe you don't really want to do business with anyone who insists you get the certification anyway (i.e. they want you to do it even if it doesn't actually improve your performance).

20 June 2005

Dancing With Myself?

I want to get a sense of whether anyone reads these postings.

If I'm just talking to myself, I can do that without typing, so if you're reading this, please leave a comment to say "I wuz here"... 'cause if nobody's reading it, I should probably try something else...

08 June 2005

Countering TiVo

So there was a commercial on the radio the other day, for some show (Out West, I think) that some network (ABC?) is going to run on Fri, Sat & Sun. Same show, all three days. The line was "more opportunities for you to watch."

They used to call 'em reruns. Then "encore performances." Now, it's a big favor for the viewer, giving them "more opportunities!" (and everyone loves opportunities, right?). But I think there's more going on here than just clever marketing. I think it's actually about TiVo...

What's the main source of revenue for broadcasters? Commercials. What happens when you TiVo a show? You skip the commercials. Do advertisers and networks know this? Absolutely! So, since they can't prevent you from recording a show & zapping the ads, I think they decided to try to make it unnecessary to TiVo this particular show.

Hey, if you want to watch it but you've got plans for Friday night, no need to record it - you can always catch it *live* on Saturday... or Sunday... commercials and all... Lucky you!

Will it work? Dunno. But I won't be surprised if we see more networks try the "More Opportunities For You ('cause we Care!)" approach in the near future...

07 June 2005

I Want To Google My House

So a weird thing happened the other day. I was looking for something in my house. Something small. My initial instinct was to do a Google search to see where it might be.

Now, that's a pretty stupid thought, right? Google provides access to lots of information, but it won't tell me where the kids have hidden the remote control. At least, Google in 2005 won't do that.

But once everything has an RFID chip embedded in it, then my Wired House Of The Future could theoretically be able to tell me where everything is. So maybe there won't be an RFID in every piece of every jigsaw puzzle, but things like car keys, eye glasses, cell-phones, wallets, remote controls and other small, easy-to-lose objects could certainly have RFID's in them.

And naturally I won't go to Google.com to search for my own stuff... but it's conceivable to have some kind of "MyHouseGoogle" database residing in the walls and keeping track of all the stuff I misplace.

"House Computer - where are my keys?"

06 June 2005

Cone Of Silence

So apparently someone finally developed a personal privacy device for cube-dwellers, akin to Maxwell Smart's "cone of silence." It basically scrambles your voice, so the person you're talking with on the phone can understand you, but the person standing a few feet away can not.

So, where do I get one?

25 May 2005


You know what's a cool site? Technovelgy, which explores the technology of science fiction - which modern breakthroughs were anticipated by writers 50 years ago, which haven't come to fruition yet, and which sound like they're right out of a book (that maybe hasn't been written).

Anyway, an interesting way to "lower your associative barriers" which is a fancy way of saying "stimulate creativity." Enjoy!

24 May 2005

Personalize Your Google

Google just rolled out a new feature that lets you personalize your Google page. I added local weather, national news and a link to my gmail account, and the screen still has the elegant, minimalist feel Google has always had.

I'm a big fan of Google for a lot of reasons, this is just the most recent. Check it out when you get a chance...

23 May 2005

Oddness of Everything

George Will had a great article in the 23 May issue of Newsweek, talking about the dangers (intellectual & moral & maybe even physical) of "an excess of certitude."

It reminded me of a book by David Bodanis, titled The Secret House, which takes you on a micro-level tour of an ordinary day. It blew my mind when I was in high school (and still blows me away today).

It also reminded me of something I read in Juan Enriquez's book As The Future Catches You. In 1996 (less than 10 years ago!), scientists discovered an organism calledMethanococcus jannaschii, and concluded they belonged to a third branch in the tree of life (the other two being prokarya [bacteria] and eukarya [fungi, algae, plants & animals]. They're called Archaea, and they don't breath oxygen - they breath iron. We didn't know they existed until the mid 90's, and now that we know about them, we are finding them everywhere. In fact, they may account for one fifth of the biomass on Planet Earth.

So tell me, what do you know for certain?

20 May 2005

Tech Connect

Did you know AFRL has a thing called Tech Connect? It's basically a gateway to info about AFRL's technology - and it's also an entry point to TriNET (a joint-service technology information network). So if you're looking for info about tech solutions and you think AFRL (or the Navy or Army) might have what you need, check out the website or call 1-800-203-6451.

Pass it on... please!

17 May 2005

New News Service

Check out the newest service offered by the nice people at the Tom Peters Group - the TP Wire Service, which offers "breaking news, tracking trends and innovation."


What freaks you out? What scares you? (hint: you probably answered that question reflexively as soon as you read it, then subconsciously scrambled to cover up that answer...)

Don't worry about overcoming your fears just yet. Let's start by simply recognizing it... and not letting a subconscious, unrecognized fear of something drive our behavior without us even knowing it...

12 May 2005

Sportsmanship, Civility, Integrity

As a general rule, I hate sports metaphors, sports stories, and that sort of thing. But I just came across a story I couldn't pass up.

Andy Roddick recently lost a tennis match in Rome. Actually, he temporarily won the match when a line judge called a ball out and awarded him the game winning point. But he checked the mark in the clay, saw the ball was actually in and declined the point. He went on to lose, which cost him about $27K.

He described his act of integrity this way:"I didn't think it was anything extraordinary."

Extraordinary or not, I think it's worth mentioning. I'm glad to see there's a professional athlete out there whose integrity is worth more than $27K. Almost makes me want to watch tennis.

Disruptive Innovation

When you get a chance, you've got to check out Clayton Christensen's stuff online - he's the Disruptive Innovation dude & Harvard Business School prof who basically explains why Southwest airlines, Apple's ipod shuffle, Gen McArthur's "hit 'em where they ain't" battle of the pacific, all managed to make such a big impact.

The basic principle is that incumbents (i.e. successful organizations & companies) keep making "good" decisions and doing the "right" thing, taking care of their most profitable & loyal customers, which leads to their destruction when small, sneaky, innovative organizations come in and provide goods and services to two distinct customer groups: overshot customers and nonconsumers.

The overshot customer is me and my home computer. The past 3 computers I've purchased have all had WAY more capability, bells & whistles than I ever use (same with my cable service, for that matter). That is, the computer guys are overshooting my needs and providing me with more technology than I really want… which means if someone figures out a way to provide me LESS than the current cutting edge desktop capabilities (or fewer tv channels), and can charge less for it, they are going to get my business and eat the incumbent computer provider's lunch…

The other category is the nonconsumer. That's the spec-ops guy who's never had access to real time imagery until this new thing called BRITE came along. From the official imagery provicer's perspective, these dusty, muddy guys were not imagery consumers. But they wanted to be, and were delighted to have anything at all... and they loved that it did not require much in the way of training, money or ability. That's also me with my new iPod shuffle. I never would have shelled out $300 for a full-up iPod (sadly, I'm just not that hip)… but a low-end, minimal capability, low-cost gadget that's kinda fun and within reach of the amazon.com gift certificates I got at Christmas time… I went from nonconsumer to consumer...

Key line: "Disruptive products or services initially are inferior to existing offerings, at least along standard value metrics." (emphasis added). That's the thing - disruptive innovation does not involve going after the incumbents where they are strong, but rather hitting 'em where they ain't, like MacArthur in the Pacific. Pursuing new value metrics.

Ebay is another great example - they started out swapping beanie babies, and the used car salesman down the street ignored it because it was serving nonconsumers (who's going to buy a car on ebay?). By 2003, more than 300,000 cars were sold on Ebay. Dang.

Apparently, there are ways to see this sort of thing coming, if you're the incumbent. And there are ways to make this happen, if you're not. Read the article, and check out his books (The Innovator's Dilemma, The Innovator's Solution).

09 May 2005

Pushing The Envelope

"If what you're doing isn't almost getting you fired, it's probably not that interesting." - Hugh MacLeod

02 May 2005

The Illusion of Control

So many people seem to be fighting so desperately to assert control over their world - from dictators to bureaucrats (but I repeat myself). In a recent example, there's Dr. Hammer's "process enterprise" theory, which is based on the belief that control is 1) possible and 2) desirable.

My pastor recently pointed out that fear is always the result of a perceived lack of control. Not that a lack of control always causes fear (it can be quite exhilarating) - but every fear is caused by feeling out of control. Seeking to control is basically seeking to avoid fear.

The thing is, control is generally an illusion, so recognizing that we are not in control means we are facing reality. And that can be scary, but it's generally a good idea. Ignoring or denying reality is generally a bad idea.

Fear is not bad. What's important is to respond appropriately to fear. Don't let it be your primary motivator. Don't let it run your life or drive you to seek safety and control. That is, don't let fear blind you to reality.

29 April 2005

Eye-Robot (apologies to Dr. Asimov)

So a couple former military R&D officers from Israel came up with a remote-controlled video camera about the size of a baseball. It's called the Eye Ball, and it's primarily intended for law-enforcement types (and, they hope, military users). The ideas is to throw this little thing into an area (say, a hostage situation) and let it look around, beaming back the real time audio & video so you know what the heck is going on before you physically enter the room.

So it's cool tech, but that's not why I mentioned it. The world is full of cool tech. The key bit in the article, and the reason I'm writing about it, is this:

Instead of throwing it, we've seen some officers moving the Eye Ball around on one of those little wireless cars you can get at Radio Shack.

Bottom Line: Never underestimate the innovative capabilities of your users... and never fall for the LIE that tech developers really understand the real-life CONOPS, configuration, or (all too often) the requirement.

Have you talked with a user today? This week? Have you paid them a visit?

28 April 2005

Who's Changing?

Is your job & environment changing you, or is it the other way around? Are you an instrument of change, a leader of change, or a subject of change.

I'm not talking about your own maturity and growth. I'm talking about gut-level changes, and conforming to an externally imposed pattern.

I humbly suggest we are here to change our environment, not the other way around.

More David Whyte

"Poetry is a break for freedom. In a sense all poems are good; all poems are an emblem of courage and the attempt to say the unsayable; but only a few are able to speak to something universal yet personal and distinct at the same time; to create a door through which others can walk into what previously seemed unobtainable realms, in the passage of a few short lines."
--David Whyte

26 April 2005

Disruptive Innovation, part II

As Hugh MacLeod recently pointed out in his blog:

Dinosaurs don't like meteors...

(but mammels, of course, are another story.)

25 April 2005

Positive Attitude

"Without faith we're left with nothing but an overwhelming sense of hopelessness every single day, and it will beat you. I didn't fully see until the cancer, how we fight every day against the creeping negatives of the world, how we struggle daily against the slow lapping of cynicism. Dispiritedness and disappointment, these are the real perils of life, not some sudden illness."
- Lance Armstrong (emphasis mine)

Industrial Extinction Theory

The latest issue of WIRED magazine offers this insight from Harvard Business School guru Clayton M. Christensen.

"An entire industry can putter along for decades, steadily improving its products, services and bottom line - only to be suddenly eviscerated by people from nowhere using simple, inexpensive, profoundly powerful techniques. Disrupters start by serving people whom established players don't even recognize as customers. Eventually, the newcomers learn so much so quickly that they can't help but radically outperform the incumbents."

Sound familiar?

22 April 2005

Operation Verse

Got your "secret" mission? More secret for some of you than for others, depending on your willingness to be bold and share...

I'm curious - what was your reaction when you read the assignment? How did it make you feel?

21 April 2005

Artificial (non)Intelligence

Check out this story of a prank pulled by some guys at MIT who wrote a computer program that generated a jargon-filled academic paper, then submitted it for a conference.

Gee, that's not fair! Now all these people at conferences will have to actually read & understand the submissions before accepting them for publication.

The Work Poet

I'm reading an amazing book by David Whyte titled Crossing The Unknown Sea. He's a poet who writes about work - a philosophy of work, what work means, why we do it, etc. Building on quotes from William Blake, Whyte writes:

...to feel that what we do is right for ourselves and good for the world at the exactly same time - is one of the great triumphs of human existence.

He also talks about the unbeatable combination of knowledge, imagination and articulation. All three are things we can develop & improve in ourselves. What are you doing to increase your knowledge, imagination and articulation?

18 April 2005


Without question, the most abundant, least expensive, most under-utilized, and constantly abused resource in the world is human ingenuity. - Dee Hock

13 April 2005

My Dad's Equation: S=R/E

I don't remember the first time my dad shared this equation (S=R/E) with me, but it has been a topic of conversation many times over the years and it has helped shape my understanding of life ever since. I'd put this right up there with that other elegent, simple, illuminating equation E=MC^2.

Here's what it means: Satisfaction equals reality over expectations.

Go ahead and take a minute to run through the implications. When things work out better than you expect (i.e. when reality exceeds expectations), your satisfaction level increases, no? And when they don't turn out the way you'd expect, disappointment sets in, which is another way of saying satisfaction decreases. At the extreme, as your expectations approach zero, satisfaction approaches infinity (not that I'm recommending zero'ing out expectations - not sure that's possible or wise).

This equation also shows why perfectionists are so dissatisfied (and why perfectionism is so pointless) - there will always be a mismatch between expectation and reality if you expect perfection.

So the question is, which parts of the equation can you adjust? Can you change your reality? Can you change your expectation? In my experience, the answer to those two questions is sometimes.

08 April 2005

And the Raven...

So the Army just took delivery of it's 100th Raven micro-UAV. Four hundred soldiers have been trained. The Cool Thing: "the hand-launched Raven puts UAV capabilities into the hands of platoon leaders and company commanders."

The Other Cool Thing: "we delivered the first Raven in-theater 20 weeks after contract award." NICE!

Getting Wiki Wid It...

I believe in the power of the masses, and that's based on several data points - Linux being the most famous. My opinion is also based on The Cathedral And The Bazaar by Eric Raymond. And now the online encyclopedia Wikipedia is adding even more credibility to the idea that a free-style, independent enterprise can produce high quality products apart from any central control. I'm crazy about Wikipedia - both it's philosophy and it's quality (in terms of both content & ease of use).

Weird Tech Update

Just some stimulating ideas for your reading pleasure:

Part I: I just came across an article about a Micro Air Vehicle called the Wasp. It's 13 inches long, 6 oz. One application is to use it to search ships before boarding. Interestingly "According to the C4ISR Journal article, however, it's not yet clear how or whether the Wasp will be deployed." Is it good or badthat we don't quite know how it'll be used?

Part II: Another article talks about how scientist are able to control the behavior of fruitflies by remote control. As the article describes it: "Like a hypnotist who gets a man to act like a chicken when he hears a code word, scientists have genetically modified fruit flies to jump or beat their wings when flashed with lasers."

Part III: How's this for innovative locomotion? The TETWalker's applications range from planetary exploration to nanotech movement.

06 April 2005

What's Your Plan?

From the first day you put on a blue uniform, you know this isn't a permanent gig. They won't let us do this forever, even if we wanted to. So it's not too soon to start thinking about what you want to do next.

Now is the time to dream, to make plans, to take action. Now is the time to get degrees, certifications, qualifications, etc. Now is the time to build networks. Cause a 20-year career is over a lot sooner than you might think.

And then what?

05 April 2005

How To Write Good

Just a handful of thoughts & principles for writing well:
  • Put words on paper (or on the screen). I personally compose on a spiral notebook, but the point is to get the words out.
  • Relax! Don't write at attention. Go ahead and use "I" (and never use "this author" - ugh!)
  • "Good writing is bad writing rewritten." That means the first step in writing well is to write badly
  • Delete, delete, delete (scratch out, scratch out, scratch out) - see above.
  • Specifically, delete that "that"
  • Compare: "The choice of your words has been such that..." - vs - "Your word choice is..."
  • Be funny, be honest, be plain, be yourself
  • I tend to use lots of pop-references, humor, history, etc
  • Read. Expose yourself to good writers, let their voice/example/style soak in and shape your own.
  • Some people say to write what you know. I say to write what you enjoy. If it's boring to you, it'll be boring to everyone else, so don't waste your time or mine (and if it's interesting to you...)
  • Have fun with it!

04 April 2005

Helping Others Succeed, part III

The conductor of an orchestra does not make a sound. His power depends on his ability to make other people powerful. – Ben Zander, Conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra.

Helping Others Succeed, part II

The best thing you can do for your fellow, next to rousing his conscience, is – not to give him things to think about, but to wake things up that are in him; or say, to make him think things for himself. – George MacDonald, The Fantastic Imagination

25 March 2005

100 Questions

Grab a notebook and write down 100 questions. That'll take a while, I know ('cause I've done it and it took me weeks). But after 50 or 60, I started to come up with some really interesting questions... and for my money, interesting questions are some of the best things in life. ;)

Let us know if you've got any questions you'd like to share...

Question Of The Day

Why do you work?
No doubt, there are many reasons you come to the office every day. Hopefully your work is more than just a means to put food on the table. Hopefully words like service and fun fit into your answer somewhere.
My answer? I'll post it in the Comments section below. I hope you'll post yours there too...

23 March 2005

Credit Cards...

Dave Barry's blog has a link to this rather hilarious prank/experiment - it's the story of one man's attempt to get someone to check his signature when he uses a credit card. Interesting story, interesting perspective on human nature... Check it out when you've got a little time...

Outstanding - Standing Out

Quick - what do you do that nobody else does? What cool, innovative, one-of-a-kind, world class attribute do you bring to the table? How does your contribution to this world stand out from the crowd?

You're unique, of course. You've got your own set of fingerprints, DNA, etc. Does that uniqueness show in the work you do?

Painting As A Pastime

I just received a fascinating little book by Winston Churchill, titled Painting as a Pastime. To be accurate, it's really an essay in book form (a mere 32 pages of text, followed by 15 pages of reproductions of Sir Winston's artwork). Churchill was an amazing writer - quite possibly the best writer I've ever read (no kidding), and this little volume does not disappoint.

His basic thesis is that activities like painting (and reading) engage and exercise different parts of the brain than we typically use when we work, allowing the work-related part of the brain to rest (which helps prevent burnout, etc). Key quote: "To be really happy and really safe, one ought to have at least two or three hobbies, and they all must be real." So I think I'm going to take up pencil sketching again.

The book is long out of print (I got mine used via Amazon), but there are copies to be had (for like $4 - amazing!). I can't say enough good things about it (and it's probably the shortest book you'll ever love!).

22 March 2005


The Office of Naval Research has their own little skunkworks shop - appropriately (and cleverly) named Swampworks. Check it out for a quick tour & a few examples of what they've pulled off. FYI, their objective is to produce results in 1-3 years, rather than the 15-20 year timeframe of typical S&T...

They've also got a link on their website that says "Challenge the Naval Research Enterprise to give you a solution." Nice. Strike that - it's not just nice. It's brilliant.

21 March 2005

Sitcom Wisdom

"It's like I've always told you boys. Crazy beats big every time."
- Hal, the dad on Malcolm In The Middle

Body Broadband

Couldn't resist passing this report along. It's from an article in London's The Guardian about establishing a very personal broadband network, using your body to link your MP3 player, cell-phone, etc

it claims [it] can send data over the surface of the skin at speeds of up
to 2Mbps -- equivalent to a fast broadband data connection

By sending data over the surface of the skin, it may soon be possible to
trade music files by dancing cheek to cheek, or to swap phone numbers by

Future Forces

Two interesting headlines on Air Force Link this morning. Immediately below an article about an F-16 crash (the pilot ejected safely, btw) was a headline about the AF's plans to expand the Predator fleet to as many as 15 squadrons (the AF currently has 3 operational active duty Predator squadrons).

It seems to me the days of manned fighter aircraft are numbered (and have been for some time now). These two coincident articles offer a brief highlight of some of the reasons - and facts - driving that future change. Many fighter pilots naturally hate this development (and many engineers naturally love it), but the truth is we are going to need fewer and fewer people in cockpits, particularly of the F-16 variety... (F-22 and F-35 notwithstanding...)

18 March 2005

Originality & Discipline

I haven't recommended Hugh MacLeod's blog (www.gapingvoid.com) in the past 'cause he has a tendency to use language that I frankly disapprove of (sorry - guess I'm a bit of a prude in that department). Having said that, I must admit I check his blog just about everyday... 'cause in addition to being frequently profane he's also often profound.

His main topic is marketing, but he has a lot to say about creativity, innovation and communication. And his cartoons crack me up (and make me think). Here's an excerpt worth checking out:

the biggest problem in the Western world is oversupply.
For every company needing to hire an ad agency or design firm, there's dozens out there, willing and able. For every person wanting to buy a new car, there's tons of car makers and dealers out there. I could on and on.

I could also go on about how many good people I know are caught in oversupplied markets, and how every day they wake up, feeling chilled to the bone with dread and unease. Advertising and media folk are classic examples.

So maybe the thing is to is get into "The Tao of Undersupply".
If only 100 people want to buy your widgets, then just make 90 widgets. If only 1000, make 900. If only 10 million, make 9 million. It isn't rocket science, but it takes discipline. It also requires you to stop making the same stuff as other people. Doing that requires originality and invention.

Like it said in "How To Be Creative", don't try to stand out from the crowd, avoid crowds altogether.

How are we doing here in the lab? Are we doing stuff that nobody else is doing? Or are we just part of the crowd? Do we have the discipline to be different?

If we're one more shiny piece of technology in a vast sea of similar gadgets, no wonder technology transition is rare. Maybe we're just offering too much of the same, and not enough that is genuinely unique (and if your offering is unique, you've probably got people knocking on you door all the time...)