28 February 2007

Malcom Gladwell strikes again

I'm finally getting around to reading Blink, by Malcom Gladwell (his 2005 follow-up to his smash The Tipping Point.)

It's fantastic.

Part of me wishes I'd read it sooner, but I think the timing is actually excellent. There's a lot in there that relates to some current projects. Any sooner might have been too soon...

26 February 2007

Favorite Freud Quote

I'm not a big fan of Doctor Freud - not by a long shot. Frankly, I think he was a bit of a nut and I don't imagine I would have enjoyed having lunch with him. Still, he obviously made a pretty huge contribution to our understanding of psychology, and I don't mean to downplay that. He's just not on my personal list of heroes. Give me Teddy Roosevelt or G.K. Chesterton or Orville Wright any day.

However, I came across a quote (possibly apocryphal) that shows really powerful insight and uncharacteristic humility. In our psycho-babble drenched society, where ulterior motives and subconscious influences are read into every nuance, statement and error, I think it's important to remember what Herr Freud said:

"Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar."

I just don't have a lot of patience for amateur psychologists who can't recognize that sometimes, a thing is what it is. Yes, actions often have hidden motives, and objects are symbols of other things. But sometimes a cigar is really and truly just a cigar.

(and by the way, this is just an idea I had, based on something I read recently. There's no hidden agenda behind this blog post... or this defense of the post... or this defense of the defense... see what I mean?)

23 February 2007

Success Excerpt

Excerpt from The Radical Elements of Radical Success:

The problem with most "success books" is their focus on success. Ultimately, that translates to a focus on the self. Too many books are all about what you can achieve, what you can do and what you can be. They are all about you, an dthat is off by exactly 180 degrees. No wonder most of them are so little help.

How can you make a difference in the world if your eyes are glued inward? How can you do meaningful things if you are your own most meaningful thing? We need to put down the mirror and look out at the world around us.

When you are trying to be a success, the emphasis is on you. When you try to make a difference, the emphasis is on the difference made, and that makes all the difference.

Radical Elements

Most of you probably know that my first book was titled The Radical Elements of Radical Success. It took me 5 years (and lots of early mornings) to write it, and I'm proud of how it turned out, for the most part. At the same time, I have to admit having some mixed feelings about it.

See, I'm not a big fan of the "success-lit" genre, as a genre. I think most of the books in that genre are pretty stupid, vacuous, pointless, selfish, etc. So, sometimes I feel a little funny about having contributed to that genre... a bit of guilt by association.

Of course, it helps that Gilbert magazine's book reviewer wrote "it counteracts so much of the nonsense in the genre." That was indeed the point. But even though I took conventional success-lit and stood it on it's head (the opening line is "There's something I should tell you before we begin: I don't know the secret to success. Frankly, I'm not sure such a thing exists, but if it does, you definitely won't find it here."), it still feels a bit weird. I think that's why I've moved on to children's novels and Christian short stories.

Thoughts on War

There's an old saying about how armies are always preparing to fight the last war. I was thinking about that the other day, and two related ideas hit me:

We can win the kind of war we're not going to fight.

We're willing to fight the kind of war we can't easily win.

Metaphors for Life

Daniel Pink talks about the six senses that will be important for workers in the "Conceptual Age", the age that is dawning upon us as the information age wanes behind. One of those senses is Symphony or the ability to see the grand plan, the big picture, the overarching idea. One aspect of understanding Symphony is making Metaphors. Having read this, I've been more aware of the prevalence of Metaphors around me. Consider these gems from master philosopher Simon Cowell:

"You've got the personality of a Candle."

"That was like a Theme Park performance"

"That Song reminded me of Buttercups"

What? Is it just me or do any of these make sense?
Write Dan and let him know. Comment to Dan with your own Simon metaphors. Comment to me too. You should be able to link to my site via the sidebar. Simon's metaphors are metaphors for living! And don't you forget! (my website is Genuinely Dynamic Maverick)

20 February 2007

Snow, Snow, Snow

As most of you have probably heard, we've had a lot of snow here in Central NY lately. So, when I had to go to Albuquerque for a few days last week, I thought I'd have a chance to get away from the fluffy white stuff for a while.

Oops - guess not!

I took this picture out of the conference room window on the 5th floor of the building we were meeting in. We got about 4 inches overnight, with some locations getting 8 inches. Of course, Albuquerque has like 2 snow plows, so practially every last flake was on the road, exactly where the Good Lord put it.

Given the ubiquitous snow, I'm amazed I got home as scheduled (only a few hours late. And when I got to the airport, I was fortunate enough to only have to spend 20 minutes in 9 degree weather (not counting windchill) digging my car out of the parking lot.

Not sure if you can tell from this photo, but the snow was piled up to the window and completely blocked the door. I just wished I'd remembered to bring my gloves...

09 February 2007

Rocketboom Wow!

OK, last post for a while now, for real!

If you don't check out RocketBoom on a regular basis already, you're really missing something special. JoAnne Colan has a wonderful way of presenting news stories that are interesting, relevant, stimulating and funny. I know I've plugged it before, but it's worth another mention.

And today's show (9 Feb 07) was particularly wonderful. It's a piece of art, really, as part of their "casual Friday" departure from the usual format. It was poignant and beautiful, funny and insightful. And there wasn't a single word spoken. Don't miss it.

Out of town...

By the way, I'm going to be on the road most of next week... and then on vacation for several days after that... so I'm not sure when I'll post again. No later than 22 Feb, and probably sooner.

We'll see.

Digital Text, Web 2.0 and You!

I followed a link from Seth Godin's blog (actually, I started at Andy Nulman's blog), and came across this beautiful little video by a professor in Kansas. It's all about text, hypertext, web 2.0 and what it all means.

It's very non-technical and viewer-friendly. Definitely worth spending a few minutes watching it, then a bit more time thinking about it...

Future Horizons

I found fascinating website called Future Horizons, which sells, among other things, plans for building your very own hoverboard, jetpack and flying saucer

Under their "psionics" tab, they offer something called ELF Goggles (for Extremely Low Frequency). Here's how they describe it:

The unit electronically entrains your brain waves to match the frequency pattern generated within the stereo headphones while photonic stimulation is utilized with flashing lights inside the goggles to effect your optic nerve by pulsing at the same frequency pattern. This powerful combination of flashing lights and phase shifted sound causes your brainwaves to forcibly adjust to the new frequencies inducing altered states of awareness.

This unit allows you to reach deep meditative states in minutes that take Yoga masters a lifetime to achieve. Experiences include improved memory and comprehension, out-of-body feelings, spontaneous regressions, enhanced ESP and other paranormal sensations!

You can get your very own ELF Goggles, fully assembled and ready to use, for a mere $425 (or get the construction plans for $30 and build your own).

But my favorite is the Wishing Machine. Here's the description:

Imagine if you had 3 wishes. Well with this device, you have as many as you want. The equivilant of an electronic genie, it amplifies users brain waves to make your wishes literally come true! Be careful what you wish for.

As many wishes as I want? And only $390, fully assembled! That's amazing... I've gotta have it. :)

08 February 2007

Stuff On My Cat

The internet is full of valuable, reliable information about virtually every topic imaginable. It's also full of useless, misleading and unreliable information.

But there's a whole other category of stuff you can find online - namely, photos of felines with cheese on their heads. Surf on over to Stuff On My Cat.com to see more of this groundbreaking approach to art.


I have a very clear memory of sitting in science class in 7th grade, listening to Mr. Manzoline (rhymes with gasoline, he used to say) talk about something called "rationalization." I think it was part of a unit on psychology or something - I don't really remember the context. I only remember the content and my reaction to it

Rationalization was described as a psychological defense mechanism, whereby someone comes up with logical (rational) explanations for behavior. The implication was that it wasn't a good thing to do.

I couldn't see why rationalization was bad. To my 12-year-old mind, rationalization seemed, well, rational. If you've got a good, logical reason for doing something, then you're all set. What I didn't understand at the time was that the rationalized reason for the behavior isn't the real reason. And I'm coming to see now how rationalization even plays a role in technical decision making.

The modern scientific management mindset is all about rationality, and it falls prey to rationalization quite easily. In Ricardo Semler's book The Seven Day Weekend, he tells the story of a highly-paid oil company exec who regularly came up with completely wrong predictions about future oil prices. How did he keep his job? Rationalization! Semler quotes him as saying "I have the right to be wrong, but only so long as I am precisely wrong.

In other words, it doesn't matter if he came up with a wildly wrong answer, as long as he's got a good rationale (rationalization) for how he got there. More generally, if we've got a good process, the results don't matter. We can rationalize away the lousy outcome by praising the method.
Old Manzo was right about rationalization. It's a pretty bad idea, and leads down some unfortunate roads. I think his next topic was "fantasizing," which he illustrated with a story of daydreaming about the rabbits he was raising, but we were all to busy laughing at the word "fantasize" to pay much attention.

07 February 2007


I took this shot last month (not bad for a camera phone, eh?)

Self Portrait In Parka

Just some fun with my camera phone.

06 February 2007

100 Questions

I once did an exercise where I sat down with a notebook and wrote 100 questions (this is before I had kids). The first 20 or so were fairly obvious, but by the time I hit 80 or so, they were definitely in the "outside the box" category. The obligation to come up with 100 led to a more creative & insightful result than if the exercise had been "come up with as many questions as you can."

There's something very stimulating & productive about having a goal, even though 100 is a completely arbitrary number. It could just as well have been 113 or 97.

Same thing with blogging (or any type of writing). If the exercise is "Blog/write every day," at some point, you run out of obvious things to say. Some bloggers go the easy "here's what I had for breakfast" route, or "wow, it's cold here," or some such. I'm sure some of my previous 240 posts are in that category, despite myself.

But a committment to post something to the blog each day at least offers the potential to push us beyond the ordinary, into the realm of the surprise.

05 February 2007

Interesting Show Format

I noticed something strange about several new tv shows I've been watching lately - despite being a diverse set of genres, they've got a remarkably similar format.

Specifically, these shows have large ensemble casts that are hardly ever in the same scene together, with multiple overlapping storylines (sometimes barely overlapping). Examples are The Class (a 30-min comedy), Heroes (a 60-min sci-fi drama), Boston Legal (a 60-min legal drama), and that housewives show I'm hesitant to admit watching. :)
Other shows like Scrubs & My Name Is Earl have large casts, but they tend to hang out together, or at the very least share the same action & sets. In Heroes, some of the characters come in and out of each other's lives, but The Class and Boston Legal are basically 3 or 4 shows rolled into one.
Of course, this isn't a new phenomenon, but I think it's interesting to see the approach being used across so many different genres and story types.

02 February 2007

New Artwork for Boomer Sisters Book

Whoo-hoo! I just got the illustrations for the second Boomer Sisters book (The Boomer Sisters Meet Champy). I'm really excited to have them, and am getting ready now to launch a new marketing push - as soon as I add the drawings to the manuscript. I'll be contacting librarians, a publisher and the director of the ECHO Lake Aquarium & Science Center. Wish me luck!

01 February 2007

The Amazing Lawrence Hargrave

I've got a new hero - early aviation pioneer Laurence Hargrave, of Sydney, New South Wales. What's so great about Mr. Hargrave, other than his impressive beard?

Well, for starters, he was a genius inventor who determined, among other things, “for a wing to lift and move through air efficiently, the center of pressure ought to be located at about 25% of the chord length of the wing section.” Yeah, I think it would take me a pretty long time to figure that out on my own.

But coolest of all, he refused to patent any of his inventions. He published them instead, "in order that a mutual interchange of ideas may take place with other inventors working in the same field, so as to expedite joint progress." He would have LOVED Wikipedia.

That makes him one of the original gurus of Open Source development and collaboration... and a genuinely cool guy. He was quite the Rogue too, and one of the original practioners of the "bias for action" and a FIST approach to engineering. He wrote "there is no use in the mind's conceiving an idea, if the hands are not ready to carry out the work skillfully... my constant endeavors are directed to making the machines simple and cheap." I love this guy!
Check out this drawing of one of his flying machines. It was "actuated by compressed air and propelled by beating wings." Weighing in at 4.63 lbs, it flew 343 feet in1890 (wouldn't you love to have seen that!):