31 May 2007

Radical Elements update

Every once in a while, I think it's time to put the Radical Elements project to bed. I think it might be dated, or not intellectually mature, etc, etc.

And then I get an opportunity to share it with an audience, and those thougths go away.

Just finished presenting it to a room of AFROTC cadets, here at Rome for the summer. I had a blast, and they seemed to enjoy it as well.

I guess I'll keep it around a little longer.

Problem Solving and Design

As I researched simplicity, complexity and design for my Simplicity Cycle book, I came across some wonderful books by Don Norman: The Design of Future Things and Emotional Design. You can find substantial excerpts of both at the links above.

That turned me on to his website, where he has links to additional articles & books, as well as a Q&A section, where I came across this principle:

"Never solve the problem as stated."

Yes, yes, yes!

Word is spreading

Found a few blogosphere references to my Simplicity Cycle book! Yay!

Collaborage: "Dan Ward just published a wonderful book on the simplicity cycle. He presents an idea that we will all kick ourselves for not coming up with it."

Trevor Gay's Simplicity Is The Key: "Dan is a talented writer who incorporates the lighter side of life and humour together with profound messages in the same book."

30 May 2007

Alphabets Generator

I found a cool collection of "generators" over at the Generator Blog (previously blogged), and put together this Alphabets bowl - I wonder how it would look on the cover of my Simplicity Cycle book...

Star Wars Mashups

Did you ever want to make your own version of Star Wars? Well, now you can. The nice people over at Star Wars Mashups have provided more than 250 video clips, along with a site that lets you edit, snip and arrange the clips, then post the fruits of your labors.

You can also add in your own video clips, so you can put yourself into the action.

Have fun, and may the Force be with you!

29 May 2007

Feeling artistic

Just a few cellphone camera shots from my recent visit to Cape Cod

Jeffu's Dueling Banjo

I had a very nice weekend at Cape Cod, where I attended a multi-day memorial service for one of Kim's great-uncles (who passed away in January). It was wonderful to spend time getting to know so many members of her extended family.

One of her particularly interesting cousins (second-cousin, I believe) is Jeff "Jeffu" Warmouth, an artist working and teaching in Massachusetts. He currently has an installation titled Spudnik at the DeCordova museum. It "details the history of potato space exploration through photographs, sculptures, and a 6-minute documentary video." It's pretty doggone funny.

I also love the dueling banjo he built (it's an actual, playable instrument). It's best for a left-hander and a right-hander to play together. Mark - any ideas?

Artist With A Day Job (part 2)

A follow-up thought to a previous posting...

As an "artist with a day job," I find that the responsibilities and limitations of work provide not only material but also tension and contrast, both of which help stimulate my creative endeavors. Sort of like NaNoWriMo's 30-day time limit. I think I would write less (and worse) if I had more than 30 days.

Yes, work can get in the way sometimes, and it does slow me down, but it's hard to complain about that when I'm writing and publishing as much as I do... and still paying the bills.

24 May 2007

Simplicity Cycle Book!

OK, the Simplicity Book is available at Rogue Press now. For those who aren't familiar, it is a graphical exploration of the relationship between complexity, goodness and time, particularly as it applies to design.

I initially came up with the idea in response to the countless academicians, scientists, engineers and senior managers who seemed to equate complexity with goodness, and who discounted any simple solution as simplistic. And "seemed to" isn't quite the right word - several did it quite deliberately and explicitly.

So, I set out to address issues of complexity and simplicity in design. I really like how it came out.

You can download the free PDF at RoguePress (or send me an email and I'll send it to you). Of course, the print version is available for sale too.


My 4 year old daughter Jenna is an early bird, like her dad. This morning at 5:45, I was up working on my books, and I heard a beautiful little froggy voice (she's got a cold at the moment) singing a poignant little song.

She was clearly making up the tune and lyrics as she went, but it went something like "Morning turns into night time, night time turns into morning" - repeated several times, with modulations in the notes, timing, etc each time. Then it became something of a little prayersong "Please make my cold go away, night turns into morning..."

I stood outside her door listening to her sing and pray. She must have heard me, because she opened the door. "Oh, hi Daddy. I have a question. Does God make us get sick and then make us get better?"

It's so amazing to see what's happening in her head. (and if you're wondering, I answered that God can make our colds go away, but He doesn't cause sickness in the first place).

23 May 2007

Illustration from The Desert

For some mysterious reason, I wasn't able to add this image to my previous post about the new, illustrated edition of The Desert.

But now I can, so you can see what sort of thing Mandy did. I love it.

Artist In The Office

Followed a link from French Toast Girl over to Summer Pierre's Accident of Hope blog, where I found a wonderful offer of a free copy of a 'zine about being an artist who works in an office.

You know who you are - the writer, painter, musician who has a day job doing something other than writing, painting or music-ing. There are a lot of us out there, and many have come before. In fact, the history books are full of painters, poets, etc who had "real jobs" which helped keep body and soul together while they produced their masterpieces.

Good stuff... very good stuff.

Desert - Illustrated Edition

This morning, I published the illustrated edition of The Desert. It now contains five beautiful paintings by the very talented Mandy Hoelmer, who also did the illustrations for the Boomer Sisters books.

I think we can consider this to be the definitive, final edition of The Desert. I'm not planning on making any further changes. If I come up with any more stories like the ones in The Desert, I'll put them into a sequel (Return To The Desert?).

You can find the book at Silly Hat Press.

22 May 2007

New Online Presence (under construction)

I'm putting together a new website, using Google's Page Creator (very cool, very easy, very quick, very free). It's called Dan Ward Online.

It's basically a research site, with links to digital versions of almost everything I've written. All my Defense AT&L articles, my RogueProjectLeader stuff, etc. I'll even add links to some unpublished projects (one of these days).

Even though Page Creator is fast and easy, it's going to take some time to put all the pieces together. The site is still very much a work in progress at the moment. I've only got a fraction of my stuff there at the moment, but it's a start.

Watch this space for progress updates.


I surfed on over to Andy Nulman's blog and was pleasantly surprised to see he was telling people about my Simplicity Cycle manifesto, and mentioning that the book version was on it's way...


Simplicity Cycle Update

Looks like I'm going to do it again - the Simplicity Cycle book is almost done, and in spite of myself, I'll probably have it finished before the previously announced DaNoWriMo starts on June 1st. It's definitely the most academic book I've written, and quite possibly the most commercially viable.

For a while there, I thought I'd have to set it aside in June and come back to it in July. But all I need to do now is design the cover, contact one or two people with a quick question, and then it's off to the presses!

Watch this space for more updates...

The Weather...

Wow, it's been amazing up here lately. Beautiful cloudless skies, chilly in the morning (35 today!) and comfortably warm by the afternoon, without being too hot.

Is this really central NY?

18 May 2007

Random-ish Update

I had a great time speaking at the NRO's Tech Forum this week. I was part of a 5-person panel, addressing the topic of Innovation. We each did a 15 minute presentation, then spent about an hour doing a Q&A. Although I was the junior guy on the panel, a surprising number of questions were directed to me. My bit was very well received - definitely a fun time!

I also finished the plot outline for Boomer Sisters #3 (still no title... it'll come). I love the way it all came together, and I can't wait to see the illustrations!

Finally, I've got my Simplicity Cycle book about 95% finished. Now I just need to design the cover, do a few final edits, add a few bits here and there, and then all that will be left is the other 99% of the work involved with doing a book - advertising, marketing, spreading the word, etc...

15 May 2007

Don't Worry, Be Happy

I'm continuing my research on simplicity, complexity and design. It's for my Simplicity Cycle book, and I might even use it as part of my Systems Engineering thesis when I'm at AFIT this fall.

In my research, I came across Don Norman's book Emotional Design, which I mentioned yesterday. Here are a few quotes from the book which make me happy:

"Psychologist Alice Isen and her colleagues have shown that being happy broadens the thought processes and facilitates creative thinking... When you feel good, Isen discovered, you are better at brainstorming, at examining multiple alternatives."

"Attractive things make people feel good, which in turn makes them think more creatively."

"[After completing a task,] tense and anxious people will complain about the difficulties whereas the relaxed, happy ones will probably not even remember them. In other words, happy people are more effective in finding alternative solutions and, as a result, are tolerant of minor difficulties."

Being happy broadens the thought processes? I guess that's why Buddah is always laughing.

And what's the connection between "attractive things" and simplicity? In a word: elegance.

14 May 2007

Marker Stand

I snapped this shot of a very cool white board marker stand at a little company in LA (you know who you are...). It's shaped like an artist's pallet, and reminds me what color is for.

I love it because it's a great example of art & beauty combined with utility and function.

I love it when people remember that it's OK to have fun and it's Ok to make, buy, & use things that are nice.

Donald Norman pointed out that beautiful things work better, in his book Emotional Design. I definitely agree...

Lest there was any doubt...

Ran across this sign at the NYC Natural History Museum. I imagine it would have made sense if the rest of the sign wasn't under construction.

11 May 2007

Bill Richardson for President

Don't miss these online ads for Bill Richardson.

I've always voted Republican, but I'll definitely vote for Richardson if he makes it onto the ticket (and shame on us all if he doesn't).

10 May 2007

So Many Books...

I've often bemoaned the unfortunate ratio between the number of books I want to read and the amount of time I have available for actually reading. At the moment, my list of "Want To Reads" includes (in no particular order):

The Illiad, by Homer
Wikinomics, by Don Tapscott
City of Gold & Lead and The Pool of Fire, both by John Christopher
The Box, by Marc Levinson
The Narnian, by Alan Jacob
Metaphors We Live By, by George Lakoff
Hero Tales, by Theodore Roosevelt

There are a few others I can't think of at the moment. They know who they are.

BUT - here's the twist. I am also currently bemoaning the unfortunate ratio between the books I want to WRITE and the amount of time I have available for writing. My list of "Books I'm Currently Writing / Working on" looks like this:
  • The Simplicity Cycle - it's about 1/2 done. No projected completion date, but hopefully in the next few months. I'm working this one pretty aggressively. Top priority between now and June 1st.
  • Boomer Sisters Book 3 (untitled at the moment... maybe The Boomer Sisters In The City) - Outline is 3/4 finished. I need to have the outline done by the end of this month, because my 30-day writing period begins on 1 June. That's right, June 2007 will be DaNoWriMo (Dan's Novel Writing Month). My objective is to write it in 30 days as usual, then get it illustrated and edited in time for Christmas.
  • Boomer Sisters Book 4: The Boomer Sisters and the Pirates. I'll probably do this one in November (NaNoWriMo), if my school schedule allows. I've got the plot basically sketched out already.
  • Joy - That's a working title for a series of (very) mini biographies of Christian thinkers, writers, etc, exploring what they had to say about Joy (& how they lived joyfully). Other possible titles are Standing Under Joy, and Joy-ographies (lame, I know). It's partially outlined, with a few chapters sort of started and a lot more research to be done. Timeline - who knows?
  • Rogue Swords - a sword & sorcery adventure novel. I've sketched out the main characters and the general plot. This one would be a lot of fun to do, but it's at the bottom of my list because it's likely to be the least-widely read.
Oh, and some day I plan to do a sequel to The Desert, an illustrated version of the first Desert book, and a cyberpunk novel, and maybe a steampunk novel titled The Coal War.

How am I going to get this all done? I probably won't, but I'm sure going to give it my best shot, one word and one page at a time... and 3 books at a time, most likely.

08 May 2007

Buying A House

It's been two crazy days running around Dayton. Twenty-two houses later, we've made an offer on a very cool house in a great neighborhood, close to a great school, etc, etc.

And even though it was pretty tiring, I think buying a house in 2 days is a lot easier than taking a week or two (or longer), and the outcome of spending more time wouldn't be noticably better. Come to think of it, writing a novel in 30 days just might be easier than spending a year or longer doing it, and with comparable results.

There's something really magic about a hard deadline, particularly if you're a happy imperfectionistic satisficer like me.

04 May 2007

I'm still here...

I'm still here, but only briefly. I'll be heading out to do some house hunting next week. Might be able to post a blog or two, but probably not.

In the meantime, enjoy this crazy video of an uncanny balancing can. I've gotta try that...

03 May 2007

The Fountainhead

Just finished reading Ayn Rand's book The Fountainhead. Really enjoyed it, and I had to chuckle when I saw the words "Over 5 Million Copies In Print" on the cover. One of the main themes of the book was the primacy of the individual, particularly over the "second-hand" taste of the mob.

It's pretty clear that Ms. Rand would say it's irrelevant if a lot of people liked or read something. That's no indication of the quality of the thing. "Taste" is just another word for "agreeing with the multitudes" (who are all trying to agree with you and each other). It's the opposite of the individualism Rand championed. I suspect the marketing guy who added that line hadn't actually read the book.

Interestingly, I couldn't find any online images of the cover with the "5 million" line. I wonder if someone realized the contradiction and removed that line from the cover?

Some favorite lines:

"I speculate occasionally on how far you'll go. You see, I've always had a weakness for astronomy."

"In this sense, everything to which you grant your love is yours." - Howard Roark