30 November 2006

Boomers Illustrations

Thought you might like to see some of the illustrations Mandy did for the Boomers book. You can peruse the entire thing by clicking the Preview link at Rogue Press.

Major Book News!

Three exciting developments in the Dan Ward Publishing Empire:

1) I finished The Boomer Sisters Meet Champy. That's right, today is the final day of NaNoWriMo, and this morning at the breakfast table, I wrote those two magic words: The End. My second children's novel is now complete (at least the first draft). And since I did it by hand in a series of spiral notebooks, Dan's Novel Typing Month (DaNoTyMo) begins tomorrow. Not nearly as exciting, no doubt, but fun in its own way. My goal is to have it typed, edited and polished in time to upload it to Lulu and get some copies to put under the Christmas tree.

2) I finished the illustrated version of the first Boomer Sisters book, Meet The Boomer Sisters last night. It's got a new cover (shown here) and a series of amazing illustrations, compliments of the talented and generous Mandy Hoelmer.

3) The local toy shop called last night to say they were all sold out of Meet The Boomer Sisters, and could I please confirm my address so they can mail me a check, and could I please bring by some more copies soon. I told them I'd not only bring some by, but they would be the new, illustrated version. If all goes well, I might even be able to get some copies of Boomers #2 on their shelves before Christmas. We'll see...

So - exciting stuff. I wonder what's going to happen next.

29 November 2006

In Bubble Wrap

How could I leave In Bubble Wrap off my list of Must Visit sites? I get an email from them every day, with an opportunity to win a free book. I've won three or four by now, most notably The Apple Way and More Space. I think I got my copy of Ricardo Semler's The Seven Day Weekend from them too, but I don't recall. It's WAY easy to sign up, and like I said, you have a chance to win a new cool book every day.

It's actually a pretty interesting way to publicize a book. Authors / publishers provide IBW with 20 copies of the book to be given away, and the In Bubble Guy sends an email out to loads of people... generating buzz, awareness, interest, etc.

Also, I just found out that IBW's first offer ever was for Sally Hogshead's Radical Careering. IBW is related to 800 CEO Read, which is another pretty cool site.

Bad Design Kills

A very funny, somewhat informative site about the impact bad design can have - on presentations as well as systems. I mostly like the name: Bad Design Kills. Too true!

28 November 2006

The Middle East in the Post Oil Era

It's going to happen. Some day, sooner or later, we're going to shake free from our dependence on oil. We'll figure out how to run our cars on hydrogen, solar power, electricity, or some other sort of non-petrol fuel.

What happens to the Middle East then?

I wonder how much they're doing to prepare for that day. Maybe they're all over it, and I'm just not in the loop (it's possible). What I do see is Middle Eastern countries spending millions (billions) on gilded hotel lobbies, swimming pools in the desert, and other silly, trivial consumables. If you ask me, they should be building technical universities, learning to write software, design things, build things, etc... Otherwise, once we kick the oil habit, they're stuck (and it's going to happen, sooner than they think).

Why do I care? It's not entirely altruistic, I admit. I care because chaos in that part of the world tends to have an impact over here. And as Tom Peters said in a similar topic, I'd rather have a million well educated, employed people in India (doing "our jobs") than a million starving, angry people in India, looking at us.... Same goes for the Middle East.

27 November 2006

There Must Be 15 Ways To Leave Your Laptop

Joel On Software is a very cool resource for anyone who wants to read intelligent, insightful, memorable articles about software design. Joel is funny, engaging and mercifully brief. His stuff always references software, but I think the design principles he addresses apply across a wide field of work.

His most recent article looks at the 15 - count 'em, 15 - ways to shut down your laptop. His point? That's about 14 ways too many. Here's an excerpt
Inevitably, you are going to think of a long list of intelligent, defensible reasons why each of these options is absolutely, positively essential. Don't bother. I know. Each additional choice makes complete sense until you find yourself explaining to your uncle that he has to choose between 15 different ways to turn off a laptop.

Naturally, this made me think of my Simplicity Cycle. Specifically, it made me think of the Region of the Complicated, and of all the rationalizations we make on our journey to that space. Every additional piece of complication can be justified and defended... but in aggregate, these little decisions lead to confusion, frustration and unhappiness.

Read his article. It's short, easy to grasp, and definitely worth the time.

NaNoWriMo Update

I finished Chapter 15 this morning. The girls were in an experimental sub, looking for Champy (the Lake Champlain monster). Things went wrong, they ended up at the bottom of the lake, the lights went out... etc, etc... but at the end of Chapter 15, they were back on the surface, safe & sound. The story is almost over...

Casualty Count Update: For those who are keeping track, pen #3 bit the dust over the weekend. I sat down and literally wrote the first two letters of a 3-letter word (I believe it was "she"), when the ink just stopped coming out.

21 November 2006

NaNoWriMo Update!

I wrapped up Chapter 12 this morning - left the two main characters in a certain amount of peril (and it's just going to get more perilous before it's over). I estimate there are three more chapters left. I'm cruising along at better than the 1/2 a chapter a day pace I needed to finish all 15 chapters in 30 days. We'll see what sort of impact Thanksgiving has...

BTW, the illustrated version of the original Boomer Sisters book is coming out soon too, probably right around the same time as this second book is finished. So... if you've got elementary school kids on your Christmas list, I know of two books you could pick up, coming soon!

20 November 2006

My Online Life

What did we do before the internet? Who cares. Here's a little peak at some of my favorite internet goodies - the stuff I use every day.

Gmail! It's the first browser window I open each morning. Whoever invented webmail is a genius. Whoever designed Gmail is a double genius.

Bloglines! My second stop is an RSS feed to help me keep on top of a whole set of blogs. My list includes daily updates from The Creative Generalist, Dilbert, and a few of my friend's blogs (i.e. Trevor Gay's Simplicity blog).

Tom Peters! I like to read his stuff in full-screen (& leave comments), so I don't have his blog on my Bloglines list. I just go directly to the site. Same with Hugh McLeod's Gaping Void blog.

Pandora! It's an online streaming music feed, and I've created a handful of "stations," depending on the type of music I'm in the mood for. I have it on almost all day.

Rocketboom! The coolest video blog (vlog) out there. Mostly internet / tech trends, but plenty of other cool stuff. The host Joanne Colan has a delightful british accent...

At some point, I usually check some news sites, like CNN or Drudge (though I'm less impressed with both of these sources lately).

Blogger! That's where this blog is hosted.

What's on your list of daily must-reads, must-use, or must-access?

17 November 2006


I just discovered that if I save a draft post, then finish it a few days later, it is posted to this site under the date it was begun, not the date it was finished.

So if you scroll down a bit, you'll see a new post titled "Why I havent' been fired." I started it two days ago but didn't click "publish" until this morning, and rather than putting it on top of the stack, Blogger hid it below other bits I'd posted over the past few days.

I'm sure there's a way to adjust that (other than deleting it and re-doing it fresh)... but for now, I'll just point it out.

NaNoWriMo Casualty Count

As I wrote the first half of chapter 10 this morning, my pen ran out of ink. That's the second time I've killed a pen while writing The Boomer Sisters Meet Champy during this Novel Writing Month. I think it's some sort of personal record.

The last time this happened was on an airplane two weeks ago. I had to borrow a new pen from the flight attendant so I could write chapter 6. At least this morning I was able to grab another one right away, and didn't have to wait for the drink cart to make it all the way to the back of the plane.

I may not have an accurate word count, but my pen count is up to two now.

16 November 2006

Integrity & Loyalty

Pfc. John J. Jodka III was sentenced to 18 months for his role in the killing of an Iraqi civilian. He was the youngest and lowest-ranking member of a squad, other members of which are facing quite severe penalties.

On the radio this morning, Jodka was described as "feeling torn between loyalty to his squad and his own integrity." In Iraq, he chose loyalty over integrity, with disaterous results. Back in the states, however, he was quoted as saying:
"I decided to plead guilty because in the end it was the right thing to do," Jodka said. "I had to weigh in myself the need for truth as opposed to the loyalty to the squad I had bonded with in Iraq."

I have long contended that loyalty is overrated, and I'm glad to see Pfc Jodka was eventually able to recognize that there are higher virtues. Loyalty is good, but it doesn't trump things like honor, integrity, justice, etc. Loyalty in service of integrity is powerful and positive, but when divorced from integrity, loyalty can be downright evil.

I hope this case gets people thinking about the real meaning and proper role of loyalty. I hope the USMC (and others) will make it clear that moral actions require us to demonstrate loyalty to truth and loyalty to justice, ahead of loyalty to individual people.

Fit Is Go!

We picked up our new car yesterday, and I'm totally loving it. It's a Honda Fit, and I'd never even heard of such a thing until about a month ago. The color is "Nighthawk Black Pearl," which makes me laugh.

It's zippy, roomy and supposedly gets great gas mileage (hard to tell - it's only been two days - but I guess I'll take their word for it).

You can do all kinds of cool things with the seats, including laying the front seats completely flat and turning it into a bed-like interior ("refresh mode").

The 7 year warranty means I'll probably have this car until I'm ready to retire from the AF. That's a strange thought.

NaNoWriMo Update

I had a GREAT time writing this morning. Lots of pieces of the story came together, scenes I hadn't expected, character & story development jumped to the next level, and the whole thing continues to surprise me... I think it's my favorite chapter yet.

I usually wrap up by 0700 and head in to work - today I didn't leave the house until 0730 (gasp!). I'm still writing it by hand in a spiral notebook, so I don't have a word count, but Chapter 9 is now 90% finished (I expect to have somewhere around 16 chapters). I probably won't get around to typing it until this paper draft is finished.

NaNoWriMo rocks!

15 November 2006

Why I Haven't Been Fired...

While I was at Death Valley with the Association of Managers of Innovation, someone asked a wonderful question after my presentation: "Why haven't you been fired yet?" I've been thinking about that one a lot, and I'd like to share my answers - or at least, my best guess at an explanation for how I've managed to avoid getting the axe.

1) Luck. I'm genuinely lucky, and can't take much credit for many of the good things that have happened to me. I seem to have a knack for being in the right place at the right time, meeting the right people, etc. Tom Peters explains the dynamics of getting lucky much better than I can.

2) I've had some really great bosses (you know who you are). I refuse to be badly managed, and when I have a bad boss, I've managed to move on rather quickly. It's my life, so I try to make it a point to hire good bosses and fire bad ones. Which leads to number three...

3) Moving Target Theory. I don't stay in one place very long, partly because of the nature of my business, and partly by design. Moving Target Theory is my buddy Quaid's attempt to quantify and define the mechanism which has saved our butts on more than one occasion.

4) Great customers. When the chain of command is throwing daggers my way, it's helped to have customers who were willing to step in and say "This guy is helping save lives, rescue hostages, etc, etc."

5) The Rogue Program Manager's Art of War. More wisdom from my buddy Quaid, these 8-and-a-half axioms form the basis of our manual of arms for the Global War on Bureaucracy, and they help keep my biscuits out of the fire.

6) The truth is, I have been fired. Well, not really, but I once had an annual performance review significantly downgraded by a powerful dude (my boss's boss's boss's boss...). He was unhappy about the fact that a different division had recruited me away from his division. I am prouder of that review than almost any other. There's something profoundly cool about being punished for doing the right thing, and that review is a professional battle scar I carry gladly.

7) Paradoxically, I can't be fired. Sure, I can be removed from a job, passed over for promotion, kicked out of the service, court-martialed, etc... but short of putting me in jail, I will always be able to continue with my career, regardless of the specifics of my job. To paraphrase Obi Wan, firing me would only make me stronger.

Freedom & Integrity

At a recent meeting (which will remain anonymous), someone said something along the lines of "Well, that would be the smart thing to do, but we'd get in trouble for doing it..."

For the sake of argument, let's grant the validity of that negative fantasy (i.e. we'll be punished for doing something smart). Even in that unlikely case, I think we should still do the smart thing, the right thing, consequences be damned.

The funny thing is, the consensus in the room was that since "we'd get in trouble," the smart option was off the table. The group quickly moved on to the dumb options. It wasn't a question of wanting to chose one's battles carefully. It was more like a desire to avoid all battles in the first place. Nobody questioned what type of trouble, how much trouble, or even whether the trouble was real.

Frankly, it disgusted me. I expected more fearlessness & courage, more creativity & energy from that group than I saw that day. I expected more integrity. Like I said, I was disgusted.

I believe we always have the freedom to do the right thing & the smart thing. We may suffer unfair consequences for doing the right thing. People might think we're fools. But nobody can force me to violate my own convictions. We can ignore corporate pressure if we choose to do so. We can trust our own judgement, if we're willing to pay the price. The alternative is, in my humble opinion, absolutely unacceptable.

The old advice to "pick your battles carefully" has been twisted and misapplied by timid, fearful, cynical bureaucrats. They're not picking battles at all. They are simply protecting their own interests and sacrificing the interests of their customers, subordinates, supervisors and organization. I'm not saying we should fight every battle that comes along... just that we should probably stand up for Truth, Justice and the American Way more often than we do.

The truth is, you probably won't get in trouble for doing the smart thing... and even if you do, at least you've done the smart thing. That's worth something.

If you're working in an organization that punishes people for following their convictions and using their own judgement, I've got one word of advice: Run!

As Sally Hogshead pointed out in her book Radical Careering, "Being in a crap job isn't your fault. Staying in a crap job is." (Radical Truth #19)

Be Kind...

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle."—Philo of Alexandria

(found this on Tom Peters' blog this morning & wanted to pass it along)

14 November 2006

Short Downward Flights

I recently acquired a copy of a book titled Progress in Flying Machines, by Octave Chanute.

As you might guess by the guy's first name, he lived a long time ago. He was born in 1832, and came to the US from Paris with his parents at the age of 6.

He published Progress in 1894. The Smithsonian Institute recommended Wilber Wright read it, as he and his brother began their pioneering work.

The US Air Force eventually named Chanute Air Force Base after good old Octave. (My dad was stationed at Chanute for a few years, when I was a kid, and I have many fond memories of that area. The base was closed in 1993).

I mention this because, aside from being a fascinating look at the history of failed attempts at manned flight, there's a very funny line, describing the aviation experiments of a French locksmith named Besnier. He designed the clever contraption pictured here, and Chanute said he "took short downward flights aided by gravity."

Short downward flights aided by gravity? I think there's another name for that: falling.

13 November 2006

The Rules of Jazz

I heard a thing on NPR this morning about jazzman Ornette Coleman. Apparently he's quite the avant-garde musician, and a controversial figure in the jazz community. He's got a new album out called Sound Grammar, and it sounds like it's quite good.

One line from the radio piece stuck out to me - enough that I wrote it down in my notebook while barreling along the interstate:

"He was accused of arbitrarily breaking the rules of jazz."

Wow. That accusation alone makes him my new hero. I aspire to be accused of arbitrarily breaking the rules of jazz. Someday, if I manage to live up to the Pirate-y, Rogue-ish, status-quo-defying standards I'm aiming for, I hope someone says the same thing of me. To "arbitrarily break the rules of jazz" is a remarkable feat.

Someone Keeps Stealing My Letters!

RocketBoom recently mentioned this hilarious website. It's basically a virtual refridgerator door, covered with colored letters which anyone can move around.

The thing is, everyone else on the site can move around the same letters you're moving around. So you might try to spell something, only to have a critical letter swiped by someone trying to leave a message of their own.

Of course, some people write bad words :( but their letters tend to get swiped pretty quickly.

The fun isn't limited to writing your name. I saw an impromptu contest where some people were trying to move all the letters to the right side of the screen, while some other people were trying to move them all to the left side. I assume someone started with one side, and someone else (or more than one someone) started doing the opposite. That made me laugh, 'cause I knew there was no communication between them other than the movement of the letters.

I tried sorting the letters by color, and was immediately countered by people trying to keep it mixed up. You could also try finishing someone else's word, preferably turning it into something other than what they were obviously writing (i.e. if they've got "LOV" and are moving an E into place at the end, add a G to the front and turn their LOVE into GLOVE). Trust me, it's hilarious, but maybe you had to be there.

No doubt there are lots of other games & contests you can play. I just think it's interesting to watch what happens when people come to a shared space like this, with their own agendas and ideas. What would you do?

Giant Monkey Wrench Hits Fan - Outcome Uncertain!

You wouldn't think a weekend would get in the way of writing, but it managed to. We went to New York City to visit my Mother-In-Law. Had a great time - saw the Bronx Zoo, which was fantastic.

But I didn't get much writing done. Like, maybe a page. I did manage to do a little research, but research isn't writing.

And this morning, I overslept a bit. As I've probably mentioned, most of my writing occurs at 5am. So I didn't get any writing done this morning.

I'm sure I'll catch up, but yikes - I've got some real catching up to do!

12 November 2006


Last August, I wrote an article about Imperfectionism for Rogue Project Leader. Imperfectionism is a positive, enthusiastic and productive philosophy, and I wanted to pass it along to any of you who didn't catch the original article the first time. Here's a short excerpt to get you started:
It's amazing how much you can get done in a short amount of time if you don't care whether it's perfect or not. No doubt that sentiment will amuse some readers and disturb others, but I've found it to be true.

As several of you have surely noticed, I am quite content to create things with flaws, mostly because I know I'm going to do so whether I want to or not. That is, I am content to create what I can create, and I try not to insist on that which cannot be done. My satisfaction is based on the presence of something good, not the absence of all flaws.

I just feel bad for perfectionists. They deprive themselves of so much happiness by focusing on the bad rather than rejoicing in the good.

I hope you all enjoy the Imperfectionism article, particularly my NaNoWriMo friends out there, who are elbow-deep in highly imperfect novels. Keep writing!

It's a beautiful thing, this imperfectionism.

10 November 2006


It's been said that possession is nine tenths of the law. It hit me the other day that proximity is nine-tenths of leadership.

That is, if you're in a situation that calls for leadership, don't worry about whether or not it's "your job." You're there, so do something.

The other implication is that leadership is nine-tenths proximity. If you're a leader, it's important to be around...

09 November 2006

Boomer Sisters Book Review

I recently got a copy of "Book Banter," a publication of the New York State Reading Association (thanks, Mom!). In the Summer 2006 issue, they've got a very nice review of Meet The Boomer Sisters!

I'll skip their plot summary and just get right to the good stuff:
The moral of the tale is quite clear and will be perceived even by younger readers, but the "lesson" doesn’t overwhelm the entertaining narrative. This is an interesting and well written book, by a promising new author. Meet The Boomer Sisters will be enjoyed particularly by Middle Schoolers and should make a great read-aloud for Second and Third Graders as well.

Not bad for a 30-day project, eh? Sure, I did a few minor edits and tweaks after the month was over, but they were mostly fixing a few typo's. Nothing substantial.

The point? People can produce stuff that's worth reading during NaNoWriMo. (And you can publish them in time for Christmas at Lulu.com). So, to all my fellow NaNoWriMo'ers out there - keep it up! You can TOTALLY do it! And if you're writing a kid's novel, I look forward to reading NYSRA's review of it next summer!

And to those who haven't yet joined in the NaNoWriMo insanity, there's always next year!

Good Writing

A thought for my fellow NaNoWriMo'ers...

"It has often been said, by numerous experts in the fields of writing and communication, that good writers should always endeavor to, when ever possible, omit any and all instances of words which are unnecessary, for the sake of the clarity and quality of their writing projects."

- or -

Omit unnecessary words.
-William Strunk

Simplicity Cycle Update

I recently came across something called The State Explosion Problem. Basically, it says the state space grows exponentially with the number of components.

In other words, adding pieces increases the range of possible "states" very, very quickly...

In the framework of the Simplicity Cycle, this describes life in the Region of the Complicated. Once you hit the critical mass of complexity (found in the Region of the Complex at the center of the chart), any further increases in complexity result in a decrease in goodness - movement up and to the left. I think the State Explosion Problem helps to mathematically explain why that's the case.

07 November 2006

On the road

I'll be on the road for a few days, so I might be blog-less for a day or two. I'm actually working on the illustrated version of the first Boomer Sisters book at the moment, but I'll leve you with this thought for today:

Before answering the question "What would you do for a million dollars?" maybe you should ask yourself "What would you do with a million dollars?" (otherwise, you might end up hitting a target and not knowing why).

My favorite answer to that "with" question comes from G. K. Chesterton (of course). He said something along the lines of eating, drinking, and throwing the rest of the money around. "I don't mean give it to charity. I mean literally throwing it around." (he might have said "tossing" - anyone want to find the actual quote?)

06 November 2006

Pow! Right Between The Eyes!

One of my favorite blogs is The Creative Generalist. Today, he posted a link to Andy Nulman's blog about surprise, titled Pow! Right Between The Eyes!

What's that, you ask? A whole blog dedicated to the experience of surprise? Wow, that's sort of, well, surprising...

Yes! It's wonderful, chock-full of observations like Surprise Shocks Euphorically.

Everyone's a kid at Disneyland. Duh, I know, but he builds it into an insightful perspective on the importance, effect, and value of surprise.

Check him out...

03 November 2006


I'm chugging along on my NaNoWriMo project, and still making good progress... but this morning, I began to realize how much larger this novel is going to be than what I'd originally imagined... and how inadequate & incomplete my plot outline is. There's a lot of stuff happening in the story which didn't make it into my thin little outline... and I imagine I'll have to redo the outline entirely before too long.

Or maybe I won't. Maybe I'll just write.

In any case, overwhelming & intimidating tho it might be, it's still a lot of fun. A lot of work, yes, but a lot of fun.

02 November 2006

NaNoWriMo Update

Finished the first draft of Chapter 2 this morning. No word count yet - it's all still in a notebook.

I'm really enjoying it, and the story is surprising me already. I'm working off an outline I put together a few weeks ago, and am already diverging a bit from it. Specifically, some action I planned to include in Chapter 2 has been pushed back to Ch 3... and some new stuff has been introduced that I'll have to work in somehow.

Very exciting! Very fun! More to follow!

Clap Hands!

I'm really digging Beck's new song Clap Hands, after seeing him perform on SNL last week. Sadly, the YouTube clip of the SNL performance was removed (doggone copyright law!), but this clip is pretty good too. The SNL one was better, 'cause it occasionally replaced the performers with marionettes of the performers, ala Team America. Enjoy!

01 November 2006

NaNoWriMo starts!

It's November, and National Novel Writing Month has begun!

At some point in November, I'm sure I'll blog about a different topic, but today I just want to say: Chapter 1, draft 1, is complete!

Chapter two, draft 1, begins at lunchtime...