31 July 2007


I was discussing future plans with a friend the other day, and she asked if I was going to get an engineering job with a big company eventually and "make a lot of money."

I answered that I'm really not very interested in working for a large company, nor in making a lot of money...

See, I don't want to be rich. I just want to be happy, and I haven't seen much evidence that wealth beyond a certain point (which I passed years ago) has anything to do with happiness or contentment. Plus, I'm already happy (how many rich people can say that?). And if I was ever to become rich, I wonder what that would do to my kids. Not that I'm afraid they'd turn into Paris Hilton or anything, but it's not clear to me that big bucks would be good for them.

As someone wise once said, "I don't want everything I want."

Also, as far as I'm concerned, I'm already rich - I've got everything I need, most of what I want, and plenty to share with those who have less.

Here's a Wall Street Journal article which discusses the (non) link between wealth and happiness.

On movies...

The earlier post about Click got me thinking about movies some more, and I realized something: Generally speaking, I don't take movies seriously enough to dislike them.

I think this is a specific application of my dad's equation S=R/E (satisfaction equals reality over expectations). When you take something seriously, your expectations tend to rise, and if the reality of the experience isn't sufficently high, satisfaction drops. But if you don't take the film too seriously, you're more apt to enjoy it...

I think it's also a specific application of my preference for imperfectionism.

30 July 2007

Smartest Man in the World

Check out Saul Colt's blog - he's "the smartest man in the world," and has some very cool stuff to say about a lot of different things...

And I love one of the comments Andy Nulman made on one of Saul's posts about indie publishing being the new indie rock... Suddenly, I feel 100 times cooler!


Just a few thoughts and comments, in no particular order:

One of the cool things about Lulu is that it lets you track sales / downloads in realtime. So, I'm excited to report that The Simplicity Cycle book is moving! It's been downloaded over 100 times (whee!), and... people are also buying the print version (whoo-hoo!). That's particularly cool because the downloads are free, whereas I make a little moolah on the print version (emphasis on little). Big thanks to all my blogger friends (new and old) who have helped spread the word!

Watched "Who Wants To Be A Superhero" last week. It was just as corny and cringeworthy as last season. The show is embarrasingly lame. We watched every single episode last season, and even though (just like last year) we said we won't watch anymore, there's a good chance we'll watch the whole thing this time too. It's like a trainwreck - I can't turn away. I also can't believe my lovely wife watches it with me... and I can't believe how badly I want to be on the show...

We're on the road today, taking the kiddo's up to the grandparents for a week by the lake... while Kim and I get to do fun things like 1) close on our house, 2) clear out the basement to get ready for the packers 3) attend a bankrupcy hearing for a lady who owes us money 4) hopefully catch Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix at the theater.

I'm still not quite finished editing the Boomer Sisters #3 - hoping to do that this week too...

27 July 2007

Simplicity Cycle Review!

Chet Richards is one of the last surviving "Boyd Acolytes," and is the leading authority on the work of Col John Boyd. He is a regular contributor to "Defense and the National Interest,"and I had the amazing opportunity to hear him present an updated version of Col Boyd's famous "Patterns of Conflict" briefing a few years ago. He's amazing.

So, I was bowled-over to see that he wrote a glowing review of my Simplicity Cycle book for DNI. It's not just the kind of review I wouldn't dare dream of - it's a review I wouldn't have even imagined dreaming of. To be mentioned in the same breath as Sun Tzu, Jonathon Livingston Seagull and The Elements of Style - I can barely wrap my brain around it.

I really love how his review captures what I was trying to do with the book.

Dan Ward’s entertaining little primer on the subject won’t teach you anything about simplicity that you don’t already know, but it may remind you of some ideas you’ve forgotten. One of these, probably the most important, is that simplicity requires lots of hard work, conscious, ruthless, and creative work.

The last paragraph is my favorite:

Ward, in the manner of another system simplifier, Sun Tzu, doesn’t offer up a cookbook for creating systems. Instead, he proposes and, by using clever graphs, illustrates several themes that, if you ponder them, can set you on the path to designing emotionally rewarding systems. Like Sun Tzu or Jonathan Livingston Seagull, or The Elements of Style, this is a little tome that you can keep in the center drawer of your desk and take out from time to time just to glance through. The book is obviously the product of its own advice: simple, functional, elegant.

26 July 2007

Presidential Politics and the Web

I wasn't particularly impressed by the CNN/YouTube Democratic Debate the other night... It just didn't seem all that different from a town-hall style meeting (note to CNN: overhyping things is kinda dumb). I guess the idea of people submitting questions from far away doesn't strike me as all that innovative, even if the question is submitted online in the form of a video. Oooohhh - they submitted them online! Wow, I bet they were in full color too!

Anyway, Bill Richardson just sent me an email about his new Ask Bill feature. Here's a short excerpt from his note:

Today we've launched a new feature on our campaign site that we're calling "Ask Bill." I love answering questions, and I love talking directly to people, so that is exactly what "Ask Bill" will be -- direct questions, direct answers, directly to you.

You submit your questions through video, email or an online form -- whatever works for you. And I'll answer them on video -- clearly, honestly, and without any pundits cutting me off.

Now that is what this Web 2.0 / Cluetrain / "Join the discussion" internet thing is really about. Skip the middle man. Go directly to the Man Himself.

Even if I didn't already like Bill Richardson, I'd admire this move. In fact, I'd be glad to see all the other candidates follow suit. I bet they won't...


When I think of Adam Sandler, for some reason I think of screwy, low-brow humor (in the best possible sense of the term), even though he's done sweet romantic comedies like 50 First Dates, which I really enjoyed.

Anyway, I recently rented Click, looking for a light, make-you-laugh comedy. I'm not very critical of movies - I tend to enjoy just about every movie I see, and I really enjoyed Click. I think Sandler is not only funny, he's surprisingly thoughtful. Christopher Walkin was pretty fantastic as Morty, the guy who gives Sandler the "universal remote." David Hasselhoff had some of the funniest moments on screen, and I didn't even recognize Rob Schneider at first, in costume as "Prince Habeeboo." But despite the impression I got from the previews I'd seen, Click wasn't just a light comedy. It definitely made me laugh, but it did more than that. It also made me want to spend more time with my kids.

Not that I needed much prodding! Even though I really enjoy my job, I make it a point to skip out of work early on a fairly regular basis, to go play with the little fairy princess-artists-munchkins who live in my house. I hope I do it often enough. Not because the work doesn't matter - but because family matters so much more. I also make it a point to take vacation days on a regular, random basis - in addition to the normal Christmas & summer breaks. I'm always amazed to hear of people who have 60 or 90 vacation days stored up... and even more amazed by the excuses they give for not taking a break.

So - it was a cool movie. It surprised me by providing more than just laughs, and it reminded me of what's really important. Maybe viewers with more sophistication than I have would call it cliche'd or have other critical comments, but I'm glad I saw it...

25 July 2007

Spreading ideas

One of the most fun things about the internet in general (and the blogosphere in particular) is the way it helps spread ideas. I seem to be having some success in this area on two big ideas I'm pushing pretty hard: distributism and The Simplicity Cycle.

First, The Distributist Review mentioned my "Distributism and Web 2.0" essay (I probably should have come up with a better title than that, shouldn't I?). I'm a little bit surprised nobody else has made the connection between these two ideas before now, but go ahead, google Distributism and Web 2.0. Only 540 pages come back, and 5 of the top 6 links are to my stuff!

Then, my buddy Andy "Surprise!" Nulman mentioned the reverse-shoplifting / International Guerilla Marketing Campaign for my Simplicity Cycle book. It was his idea in the first place, and he's one of the Unindicted Co-conspirators, which I think is awesome. I know his blog gets way more traffic than mine does, so I'm excited to see what this might lead to...

It's an amazing age we live in...

24 July 2007

USAF Hunter/Killer UAV

The AF recently deployed a new UAV, the MQ-9 Reaper. Its predecessor, the MQ-1 Predator, was designed as a surveillance unit and later equipped with 2 Hellfire missiles. The Reaper, in comparison, was build to do the hunter/killer mission. It comes off the assembly line designed to carry 14 Hellfire II's.

Ordinarily, I'd be very excited about this. Somewhat to my surprise, it turns out I have mixed feelings about it.

On the one hand, I love the UAV concept. From a design perspective, UAV's are smaller, cheaper, simpler (no large, expensive, bulky life support gear) and in some ways are more capable than manned aircraft (they can pull more g's, since they don't have to worry about a pilot's physical limitations). They help keep our guys out of harm's way. These are all good things. I know fighter pilots tend to dislike UAV's, but as a general rule of thumb, I think UAV's rock.

However... I'm having second thoughts. I'm concerned they dehumanize war, by further removing the people pushing the button from the people who are on the receiving end of the munitions. As a wise man once said, "we kill too often because we make it too easy." (that was Batman, from the Dark Knight graphic novel).

Now, I'd love to see a day when our UAV's fight the bad guy's UAV's, and when the robots are done blowing each other up, the people on the other side surrender without any bloodshed. We're obviously not there yet, but wouldn't it be nice?

One other factor is that UAV's tend to be very, very precise. They help us minimize collateral damage, and that's a good thing too. So it's easier to take out the bad guys and leave the innocent civilians alone.

Like I said, mixed feelings...


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.

- The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran

In other reading news...

Alongside Harry Potter, I'm also reading an amazing book by E.F. Schumacher, titled "Small Is Beautiful." It's a wonderful exploration of "economics as if people mattered." As you might have guessed, Schumacher's ideas are very distributist (or decentralist, to use the term from the E.F. Schumacher Society's website).

Here's a short excerpt from his essay titled Buddhist Economics (demonstrating that just because he's a Christian doesn't mean he can't recognize the truth & beauty found in other faiths):

The Buddhist point of view takes the function of work to be at least threefold: to give man a chance to utilise and develop his faculties; to enable him to overcome his ego-centredness by joining with other people in a common task; and to bring forth the goods and services needed for a becoming existence. Again, the consequences that flow from this view are endless.

To organise work in such a manner that it becomes meaningless, boring, stultifying, or nerve-racking for the worker would be little short of criminal; it would indicate a greater concern with goods than with people, an evil lack of compassion and a soul-destroying degree of attachment to the most primitive side of this worldly existence.

Equally, to strive for leisure as an alternative to work would be considered a complete misunderstanding of one of the basic truths of human existence, namely that work and leisure are complementary parts of the same living process and cannot be separated without destroying the joy of work and the bliss of leisure.

Imagine what would happen if we had greater concern for people than for goods...


I finished Harry Potter #7 last night, and all I can say is wow.

I think it was the best of the series. I don't want to spoil anything, so I'll just say I loved it. Some of my favorite characters died - very sad - but they were brave deaths, good deaths...

Great story, great characters, great message. Yeah, I've always liked Star Wars, my earlier post not withstanding - but holy cow, Harry Potter #7 was fantastic.

23 July 2007


Took this photo with my cellphone the other day, while we were out at the school parking lot trying out her new bike (that's it in the background). She put on my baseball hat and sunglasses - too cute!

Wish I could take credit for the artful composition. The truth is, she moved (or I did), just as I clicked the button. I like how it came out.

Bottlecap Tripod

I recently heard about a "tripod" that uses bottlecap to connect a camera to a screw-top bottle - it comes from Japan, and costs about $10.

Then I found a DIY site that shows you how to make one for about $4.

There's so much about this concept that is just RIGHT. It's simple. It's inexpensive. It gets the job done. It's clever. It's portable. It's something you can make yourself (very distributist, I might add). It uses existing resources (or more accurately, re-uses them, as in Reduce-Reuse-Recycle).

I just might have to make one myself, just on principle... and I'm sure I'll use it a lot more than the large, heavy tripod I've got in my closet.

PM Boulevard

PM Boulevard, an online program management journal, just posted it's latest issue.

I mention that because they reprinted the risk management article Quaid and I wrote for Defense AT&L (The Pursuit of Courage, Judgment, and Luck: A Rogue Risk Management Rant). It's the "featured article" on the Program Management tab (you'll need to register to read it - registration is free).

The original article is here (no registration needed).

20 July 2007

Harry Potter -vs- Star Wars

The final Harry Potter book comes out tomorrow, and I can't wait to read it (after my lovely wife does - she's a much speedier reader than I am). And since young Mr. Potter is in the news, I thought I'd pass along a quick comment.

Some people (Christians in particular) object to Ms. Rowling's positive depiction of magic. That tells me they either 1) haven't actually read the books or 2) didn't understand what they read.

Now, I'm not one of those who thinks the books are covertly Christian or anything like that, but neither do I think they're advocating evil behavior. In fact, one of the things I love about the HP books is fact that evil is portrayed as destructive, unattractive, greedy, ugly, half-dead, etc... as it should be.

And I greatly appreciate the fact that the HP marketing machine hasn't pushed the bad guys on us. You can buy a Chocolate Frog or a bag of Bertie Boyt's Every Flavor Bean, but there aren't any kids running around in Voldemort costumes on Halloween. Nobody thinks Wormtail is cool, despite his shiny silver hand. Nobody aspires to be like Draco Malfoy. That's a very, very good thing.

Compare this to recent Star Wars movie, in which the demonic Darth Maul is clearly portrayed as one of the coolest guys on screen - he's got the best weapon (double-light sabre), and his face is plastered all over t-shirts, halloween masks, etc. Where was the moral outrage over this glamorization of evil? Why weren't there any hand-wringing magazine articles about the positive portrayal of evil in Star Wars, both on screen and (especially) in the merchandise. Not that I want to see more hand-wringing... my point is the people who object to Harry Potter are barking up the wrong tree.

I'll take Harry Potter over Star Wars any day.


Did an 8 mile run with a bunch of cadets early this morning... I held up better than I thought I did (and I didn't finish last!). I'm sure my knees will have something to say about it tomorrow, but the weather was wonderful, the scenery was great, and I'm glad I did it (and I'm glad it's done!)

19 July 2007

Dan Ward Online - Update

I added a few new things to my Dan Ward Online research page. Mostly just links to interviews and articles which have been mentioned here previously... but there are also a few new, never-before-seen bits, down at the bottom.

Check out Karl's Big Idea and Krog's New Weapon for a little light fiction (with a point). I wrote them with my buddies Gabe and Quaid a while ago, and finally got around to posting them somewhere.

If you're up for something a little meatier, you might enjoy my brand new essay "Distributism and Web 2.0." I just realized that's a terrible title - it's actually a pretty fun bit of writing...

Personal Flying Machines

In one of the concluding scenes of The Boomer Sisters In The City (aka B3) , I wrote that one of the characters flew. I didn't have a particular mechanism in mind - I just wanted him to arrive at Rockefeller Plaza by air.

So, after writing that line, I did a little search on "personal flying machines," and came up with some really cool stuff. The "flying pulpit" in the picture above is the Williams Aerial Survey Platform (WASP), later named the X-Jet. It could fly 60 mph and reach altitudes of 10,000 feet. Holy cow, I can't begin to tell you how badly I want one.

The WASP was developed for the Army in the 70's, and for some reason the Army lost interest. With proper training, I don't see why a civilian version would be much more dangerous than a motorcycle (yeah, I know that's like saying it has less fat than potato chips, but still...)

Another fascinating vehicle is the airgeep, pictured above. It first flew in 1962. So for everyone who's waiting to get that flying car Popular Science promises us every year - we could have had one back in the 60's...

Where have all the bloggers gone?

I've got a bunch of blogs on my RSS feed, which I check pretty much every day. Lately, there's been a noticable decrease in posts, across the board. Is it because it's summertime and people are on vacation? Or are people just running out of things to say? Or did I pick the wrong blogs to put on my Bloglines feed?

I hope they'll start blogging again...

18 July 2007

Crazy Horse

Time to mix things up a little and take a break from the Simplicity Cycle.

I just finished listening to a 9-CD book on tape, titled The Journey of Crazy Horse, by Joseph M. Marshall III. It was a fascinating look at not only a great warrior, leader and man, but also at a remarkable culture and a pivotal period of American history.

I learned a lot about Crazy Horse and the Lakota way of life, and really, really loved the book. I think it's cool that Custer hardly gets mentioned - killing a famous white dude clearly wasn't the most important thing Crazy Horse did.

I have to admit I was a little bit irritated by the way Mr. Marshall kept mentioning that the Lakota were perpetually low on gunpowder and bullets. Um, maybe because they didn't have any way of making them? Every single bullet they fired, and every grain of gunpowder, was produced by (and often stolen from) a "Euro-American." An uncomfortable fact, to be sure, but a fact none the less.

The story was tragic in so many ways... and still is today. Like all stories, there are many sides, and I think it's important to at least be aware of as many sides as possible.

And speaking of many sides, I'm also reading Hero Tales, by Theodore Roosevelt (the best president ever!). It's a collection of short historical snapshots of men like Washington and Daniel Boone, Revolutionary and Civil War battles, etc. Reading it alongside Marshall's Crazy Horse is intriguing - Roosevelt uses terms like "indian fighters" to describe Boone and Clark - not exactly politically correct, I know.

These backwoodsmen, who helped expand the American frontier and establish the US as we know it today, were genuine patriots and heroes, and they sacrificed themselves for the good of their people - just like Crazy Horse (although obviously on different sides). I find much to respect in both groups.

Want to join in?

If you've got a blog or website and you want to help spread the word about The Simplicity Cycle, here's a little web button / banner you could use. Just right-click it, save it to your computer, then add it to your blog's sidebar (resized as necessary), with a link to the book: http://www.lulu.com/content/877467 (or to RoguePress: www.lulu.com/RoguePress)


Free books!

Here's what the stickers looked like, for the first ever Rogue International Guerilla Marketing Campaign, trying to spread the Simplicity Cycle idea (and spread word about the book).

17 July 2007

International Guerilla Marketing Project

I'm about to send a number of autographed copies of my Simplicity Cycle book to some Rogue Operators in DC, New York City, Montreal, Las Vegas, LA and the UK. Their mission - deliver the books to a suitable location (bookstore, cafe, train station, etc) and leave them to be discovered by some lucky reader.

The books will have stickers on the front saying FREE. Inside will be a note that says something along these lines:

This book, The Simplicity Cycle, is free. Please don't try to pay for it - you'll only confuse the clerk. There is no barcode, no price, and it's not in the store's inventory. It really is free. All I ask is that you mention it on your blog. If you don' t have a blog, give it to someone who does (after you read it, of course). I hope you enjoy it. - Dan

I realize some humorless shopkeepers might object, although I can't think of a good reason why they should. If they do, I'll just feel bad for them, because they are probably not very happy people. However, shopkeepers of the more creative, lively kind will recognize this as a good thing for them.

Here's how I see it: If I owned a bookstore, wouldn't it be great if my shop had a reputation for being the kind of place where authors occasionally plant free, autographed copies of their books... where readers could expect to occasionally find a free surprise (which costs the shop nothing... and costs the customer nothing...)?

If I had a bookstore, I'd beg authors to sneak into my shop and stealthily leave behind free copies of their books. Partly because I think it's cool, and partly because I know it would bring people into my store, looking over the shelves, and quite possibly, finding things they would like to pay for (to go along with the occasional freebie). I just might do something like this with all my other books!

I can't wait to see what happens...
(Mucho Thanks to Andy Nulman for suggesting the idea!)

16 July 2007

B3 Finished! (kinda)

Big News: I sort of surprised myself this morning, when I finished writing"The Boomer Sisters In The City." I originally thought I might have another chapter to write, but I got to a particular point and realized, wow, the story is finished.

It feels great to be done (at least with the first draft), but there's also a little sadness mixed in there. I have this weird mix of feeling a sense of accomplishment and a sense of loss. I don't remember that happening with the previous two books. Maybe because this one got more personal? Maybe because it took 45 days instead of 30, so I'm more sleep deprived?

And, of course, done doesn't mean done. I still have some editing, polishing, rewriting, etc ahead of me. Some chapters don't have chapter titles yet. There's a little bonus I'm including at the end, which isn't done yet. And then once Mandy does the artwork, I'll need to paste them in.

But... the story itself, at least in the first draft, is complete. And I only busted my 30-day deadline by 15 days... :)

Whew. I'm sleeping in tomorrow.

15 July 2007

What's this Blog About?

I've been thinking about some of the common threads that run through the eclectic series of topics on this blog, and figured I'd post a few thoughts.

I write about my books a lot.
I write about my life a little.

I write about cool technologies, the joys and pains of being a writer, distributist economics, emerging Christianity, Bill Richardson's politics, rogue program management, post-modern philosophy, poetry, digital-age marketing and intellectual property issues.

Every once in a while, I post a funny picture of a cat or two.

And I think the common thread through almost all of it is "post-modernism" (except maybe the cats). I guess I'm just a post-mod kind of guy, and even the eclecticness of this collection is a post-mod kind of thing to do. A Modern blogger, in contrast, would have a single topic ( such as Intellectual Property Rights And How To Defend Them!) and very few deviations, for which he would offer either an apology, a well justified reason, or both.

But not me. I'm too busy looking for the next form of cat-based internet humor to stick to a single topic.

13 July 2007

International News

Just a few bits of economic happenings in the world.

First: A US health food company recently announced they are going to start labeling their stuff "China Free," largely in response to the recent events involving poisoned / tainted / awful stuff from China, from toothpaste to dogfood to toy trains. Imagine the impact if "China Free" catches on in label-conscious America... particularly if China doesn't respond quickly. Some other country (India?) has the potential to sweep in and eat China's lunch if they can offer assurances of quality, purity, etc.

Next: Iran sits on top of approximately 10% of the world's oil reserves - second only to Russia, according to the Washington Post. They are one of the world's largest producers of crude oil, but on the radio today I heard Iran has to import something like 40% of their gasoline, because they simply can't refine enough. I wonder what Iran will do when (not if, but when) the west decides we don't need quite so much crude oil anymore.

What do these have in common? Both are instances of an economic structure based on low-skill, low-wage, commodity-level production of material and goods for which the future demand is likely to decrease. Not today. Not tomorrow. But probably not too long from now. If China wants to remain viable as a manufacturing power, they need to seriously look at quality control and improvement. If Iran wants to remain viable as an oil power, they should probably get a copy of "Oil Refining For Dummies" and start making their own gasoline or, better yet, figure out how to do something other than suck crude out of the ground.

And both are examples of "least-effort" approaches to economic security (can I use the word "lazy"?). Go ahead, use the less-expensive lead paint, or the less-expensive poison ingredients for toothpaste. You'll get away with it (until "China Free" becomes popular). Go ahead, keep relying on crude oil. It'll never run out (until it does... or until solar/hydro/whatever takes over).

Of course, the only way the situation is going to change is if American appetites change... any chance that'll happen?

The Desert - Emerging Church Stories

The more I learn about this "emerging church" thing (see my earlier post), the more I realize that's the kind of Christian I am and want to be. I think it's a much more attractive and culturally relevant kind of faith in today's world.

Rather than focusing on the old "what would happen if you died tomorrow?" question - which made a lot of sense in a potentially apocalyptic Cold War era, with large quantities of nuclear weapons hanging over everyone's head - the Emerging Church tends to address "What if you don't die tomorrow? What if you wake up in the morning, and you're alive?" The focus is on loving and serving people today. I don't think you need to believe in Jesus to see the goodness in that approach.

So it hit me that my little book The Desert is really a collection of "emerging church" stories and reflections. I didn't do it on purpose - I didn't even know the term until a few weeks ago. I just wrote what I wrote, and it turned out to fit in with this emerging thing. The stories are about love and grace and joy. They are about service and community and hope. I really wrote them for my own amazement, but I do hope people will enjoy them (and the few reviews I've had so far have been very encouraging).

I think I'm going to change the subtitle to something along the lines of "Stories For An Emerging Church" or "Stories of Emerging Faith" - or somehow get the word "emerging" in there (even though, as I've said, I think it's sort of a dorky label).

PS: Here's a little excerpt from an article in Christianity Today, titled Five Streams of the Emerging Church:

Emerging churches are communities that practice the way of Jesus within postmodern cultures. This definition encompasses nine practices. Emerging churches (1) identify with the life of Jesus, (2) transform the secular realm, and (3) live highly communal lives. Because of these three activities, they (4) welcome the stranger, (5) serve with generosity, (6) participate as producers, (7) create as created beings, (8) lead as a body, and (9) take part in spiritual activities.

12 July 2007

G.K. Chesterton & Imperfectionism (Distributism, Part The Next)

A follow-up thought to Andrew Keen's recent critique of the distributist Web 2.0 phenomenon, from none other than the 20th century's greatest rotund British journalist, writer and thinker, G.K. Chesterton (and an echo of my own commitment to imperfectionism)

"It is a good sign in a nation when things are done badly. It shows that all the people are doing them. And it is bad sign in a nation when such things are done very well, for it shows that only a few experts and eccentrics are doing them, and that the nation is merely looking on." (from Patriotism and Sport, in All Things Considered)

And now for an interesting counterpoint, also from Chesterton. During Prohibition, GKC was so impressed by the quality of American homebrew (and it's superiority over the then-outlawed mass produced, big name factory beer) that he made a tongue-in-cheek proposal to outlaw commercial production of bread and clothing as a means of improving the quality of both (because people would then make their own).

Have you ever made your own bread or brewed your own beer? Have you ever put homemade bread next to a slice of Wonderbread(tm)? Or homebrew next to a Bud? Or one of French Toast Girl's artprints next to the mass-produced "art" available at your local Walmart?


As Chesterton explained, distributism doesn't mean we should all be chicken farmers... just that most of us should have a few chickens. We don't all need to be artists, brewers or bakers, but we should each occasionally do some painting, brewing and baking. And yes, that means for every wonderfully talented French Toast Girl, there will be dozens of moderately talented artists like myself trying to put color on paper. So be it.

With all this production, some of us will undoubtedly do it badly. But even when we do it badly, we will have done it - and there's something beautiful about that.

On writing...

A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people. - Thomas Mann

11 July 2007

Let's Get Small!

A while back, I wrote an article titled FIST, Part 5, which explored the fourth piece of the FIST acronym, Tiny (the others being Fast, Inexpensive and Simple). I really, really, really believe small is beautiful, particularly in economics. My favorite economic model is distributism, and I think this whole Web 2.0 thing just might help bring about a distributism revolution, if for no other reason than it has a better name. This is the first in a planned series of posts on this topic.

I love the fact that French Toast Girl is selling prints of her wonderful original artwork, with a little help from her kids. I received my order earlier this week and was really moved by how beautiful the paintings are. She's producing, printing and shipping them right from her house. Very distributist.

I love things like Lulu and ChangeThis, which are proving that you don't need to be a big publishing company to produce good quality books, particularly for small communities of readers. This is very distributist too.

The latest issue of Gilbert Magazine had a great quote from Chesterton on the beauty and excellence of small things:

"I have never been convinced that a giraffe is a better fireside playmate than a kitten. I cannot be got to see that a hippopotamus is certain to win a race against a grayhound. An invincible prejudice prevents me from admitting that whales served on toast are more appetizing than sardines.

"Nay, I cannot even persuade myself that the larger sort of sharks, are, as drawing-room ornaments, necessarily improvements upon goldfish. I cannot think that the gesture of pulling up a palm-tree is always easier or more graceful than that of picking a flower; or that it is always more enjoyable to die of thirst in the Sahara than to drink wine from a small vineyard or water from a village well.

In short, I am lamentably lacking in that reverence for largeness, or for things on a Big Scale, which is apparently the religion of the age of Big Business."

10 July 2007

Life goes on...

It's weird, I know, to sandwich posts about Scott with the more upbeat posts about writing... but that's what life is like, isn't it?

Sorrow and joy, loss and discovery. They happen together, one after the other, and sometimes all at once.

We celebrated the 4th of July and our country's independence. That same day, Scott once again flew a helicopter in a warzone. This time, it crashed...

For those of us who remain, life goes on.

Scott in Hawaii

I found an article from 2005 about homeless vets in Hawaii, with this great photo of Scott Oswell and his daughter Caitlyn serving food to homeless vets. Thought I'd pass it along...


This morning, I wrote the first part of the climactic scene of The Boomer Sisters in the City (aka B3). The girls have solved the mystery, met some very interesting characters, and just when things seem to be resolving happily...
The twist! The bad guy shows up! He's more powerful than ever! He's taking over! Oh no - what will they do? What happens next? The reader won't see it coming.

Oh, it was fun to write. I got excited and could barely type fast enough to keep up with myself. I lost track of the time and was almost late for work.

Have I mentioned how much I love being a writer?

(graffiti image compliments of Atom Smasher's Graffiti Generator)

09 July 2007

New Article

It's been a while, but I finally had another article published in Defense AT&L - this time, co-authored by my buddy Gabe Mounce.

This one is about something called The Process Cycle (what is it about me and cycles?). It started out as a sketch Gabe and I did on a whiteboard, many moons ago. Anyone who read our earlier article about Heroics will see some common themes. Here's a little excerpt:

...the value of process over time is not constant. Specifically, in an effective organization, the degree to which a person relies on any given process or method should decrease over time. When there’s no such change, the result is frustration and inefficiencies; and in a bureaucratic, ineffective organization, the reliance on process either stays constant or even increases. That’s bad!

And my film-noir-spoof story "Death By Bullets" will be in the Sept/Oct issue (yay!).

In Memorium

In 1986, my family moved to Colorado Springs. It was the summer before 8th grade, and one of the first friends I made was Scott Oswell.

We read the Dragonlance Chronicles and had whatever other adventures 13 year old kids have. In high school, we were on the wrestling team together. I wrestled at 150 lbs, and he was closer to 125, but we'd work out together anyway. He was tall and skinny, and even though I'd usually tie him up in knots, he often sought me out to be his partner because he said it made him tougher to wrestle bigger guys. I seem to recall him winning more matches than he lost.

In 1991, we graduated. I went off to college and ROTC. He enlisted - first in the Marines (as I recall) and then at some point shifted over to the Army. He flew OH-58 Kiowa Warrior observation helicopters, and the Army made him a Chief Warrant Officer.

On July 4th, he was killed when his helicopter crashed in Iraq. He was 33, and it was his second tour in Iraq. He had three kids and a wife.

Rest in peace, Scott.

07 July 2007

I Love Being A Writer

I love being a writer. Holy cow, I love being a writer.

I'm still not quite finished with the 3rd Boomer Sisters book, although it's coming along well (it's the "getting up early to write" part that's tricky). I just finished writing a scene that was never part of the original plan... but it fits perfectly with some other stuff that happens a chapter earlier (which was also not part of my original outline). I didn't realize how it fit until after I'd written it. It's completely unintentional foreshadowing, and it really works nicely. It looks like I planned it, but I didn't. It's just magic - a total surprise. I love being a writer.

I recently read an article titled How To Write Like Tom Robbins (the author of Half Asleep In Frog Pajamas, among other books). Apparently, he writes his books one sentence at a time. Yes, we all do that, but he really does it. As in, he doesn't have an outline, he doesn't have a plot in mind... he just writes an interesting sentence, then follows it with another interesting sentence, and so on, until the book is done. My experience with unintentional foreshadowing makes me believe that Tom Robbins' approach is possible (not that I'm likely to try it any time soon).

Also, as I already mentioned to several of you, I was recently interviewed on North Country Public Radio. The interview runs about 6 minutes (wow!), and the topic is my Boomer Sisters books. I mostly discussed the second one (The Boomer Sisters Meet Champy), but also mentioned B1 and B3. You can hear the interview here.

Did I mention I love being a writer?

03 July 2007

On vacation...

I'll be on the road for the rest of the week - probably blogless until the 9th. Hope you have a happy 4th of July!

Step In Time!

Had a great trip to NYC over the weekend - once all the excitement with the train was over. By the time I arrived, it was fairly smooth sailing.

We took the kiddos to see Mary Poppins on Broadway. What a cool show! I loved the chimney sweeps' dance in the movie, and the stage version did not disappoint ("Step in time! Step in time! Never need a reason, never need a rhyme...")

Mary Poppins floated around the stage, and even flew out over the audience at the end. Burt had a great scene where he walked up the wall, then across the ceiling, then back down the other wall... Sure, you could see the wires attached to his waist, but that was alright. It was still quite magical.

(I am SO not a city person. It was fun to stand in Time's Square and see all the people, but I can't imagine doing that on a regular basis.)

* Unrelated side note - for two mornings in a row now, it's been 48 degrees when I got up! It's July, right? Not that I'm complaining... I love cold weather. I'm just sort of amazed.

02 July 2007

"A Man With A Gun"

Here's another little excerpt from B3 (aka The Boomer Sisters In The City) - it's the "man with a gun" that Michelle suggested...

The familiar figure of Mr. Ott now appeared. He was standing at a podium, surrounded by reporters and microphones. In the background was a brick wall, covered with a strikingly beautiful painting of a rural landscape.

"Graffiti is a crime, and it has gone on long enough. I am here today to announce the deployment of the Urban Graffiti Law Enforcement bureau's newest tool in the war on vandalism. This breakthrough technology is 100% guaranteed to wipe out every last piece of graffiti in the entire city. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Wiper 2000."

Mr. Ott held up a disk-shaped object a little larger than a dinner plate, but several inches thicker. It reminded BJ of the automatic vacuum cleaner she saw in a store once. The device was gray, of course, and had strange-looking wheels on the bottom.

"The Wiper 2000 is a self-propelled, autonomous robot, with advanced optics and sensor technology." He set it down on the ground, and it began to move around. "It carries a full gallon of paint, which it applies using several nozzles located on the underside. This device will roam through the city, and when it detects graffiti, like the disgusting image on the wall behind me, it will wipe it out."

The Wiper headed straight towards the painting of the landscape. Without pausing, it rotated onto its side and began to climb the wall. Jekka gasped. As the device moved along the vertical surface, it left behind a trail of white paint.

"Oh, no! It's going to destroy that whole…" BJ couldn't complete the sentence.

Quickly and efficiently, the Wiper 2000 moved from one end of the landscape to the other, covering it with paint one strip at a time. In less than a minute, all that remained was a blank white wall.

"As you can see," Mr. Ott continued, "The Wiper 2000 is an efficient tool for erasing offensive markings and replacing them with clean, respectable white space. The future of graffiti eradication is here, today."

With that, Mr. Ott stepped aside. A door in the building behind him opened up, and a stream of little circular robots came pouring out. The assembled reporters scrambled to get out of the way.

"No!" Jekka shouted at the TV. "They can't! We've got to stop them. They'll… they'll… I don't know, but we've got to do something…" She pounded her fists on the couch.

Out of time...

Well, I didn't get it done. The 30 days of DaNoWriMo (Dan's Novel Writing Month) came and went, and the third Boomer Sisters novel is still not finished. :(

I'm close, though. It's over 19,000 words already, and I'm writing chapter 14 this morning (I usually do about 25 - 30 thousand words, and 15 or 16 chapters). I'm not sure how much writing I'll get done over the 4th of July holiday, but for sure by July 15th, the whole thing should be wrapped up (the first draft, that is).

Oh - and big thanks to Michelle's suggestion about introducing a "man with a gun." That's what I did, in a manner of speaking, and it really got things moving forward, plot-wise (if not word-count-wise...).

But what am I blogging for? I've got a novel to write!