30 March 2007
Now, I was born in Spain, I lived in Italy for several years, and have spent time in many, many countries. I'm all for understanding other cultures, respecting the customs of the others, etc, etc... but I'm not sure that being in military detention really counts as a experiencing the hospitality of a "host country." In fact, I'd say that once a foreign military takes you captive, social obligations to conform to their mores pretty much go out the window.
However, maybe she's just super polite, despite (or because of?) the circumstances. Maybe she agreed to wear the thing out of respect for her captors religious sensitivities. However, I suspect (based, admittedly, on no hard data) she is being forced to wear it - and if that's the case, I wonder what the Iranians think they are accomplishing?
I took a photo of the photo, so you can at least see that part (and I'm not sure they put the photos on their web version, for some reason...)
Anway, I'm very happy with how it all came out! The funny thing is it probably won't generate a lot of book sales, at least not directly. The main benefit is that I can bring the clipping to book stores and other places that are selling the books, and leave it there to help draw attention to the books.
And speaking of places, ECHO Aquarium has agreed to stock the Champy book at their giftshop! They don't carry many books, which should help this one really stand out! I'll keep you posted as things develop...
29 March 2007
The Ruined Soldier
With apologies to Thomas Hardy and all the good Generals in DC
"O' Gen'ral, my good friend, this sure does beat all!
Who knew we'd meet up in this Pentagon hall?
And such medals! Such brass! You're a sight to see!"
"O didn't you know I'd been ruined?" said he.
"You left us in camo, your boots caked with mud,
Tired of dealing with sand, heat and blood.
And now you are starched crisp, sharp and shin-y!"
"Yes: that's how we dress when we're ruined," said he.
"At home in the field you said no or yes
And hoo-ah and roger. Such plainness, I guess
Ain't proper or common in this compa-ny."
"Some polish is gained with one's ruin," said he.
"Your hands were like paws then, your face black and blue,
But now I can scarcely believe this is you!
No callous or scar mars your delica-cy!"
"We never do work when we're ruined," said he.
"You said long deployments were bringing you down
And you'd sigh, and you'd groan and wear a big frown.
Now you are chipper and oh-so smile-y!"
"True. One's pretty lively when ruined," said he.
"I wish I had ribbons and bright eagle wings,
A cushy big office in one of these rings."
"My friend - a raw warfighter, such as you be,
Cannot quite expect that. Y'ain't ruined," said he.
27 March 2007
However, this past week she got an 83 on the weekly spelling test. Why, you might ask? Well, for starters, she wasn't paying attention and ended up writing the same word twice (correctly, I should point out).
See, the spelling words are always given in the same order. So, she memorizes them in order, then gets ahead of the teacher... and was probably so far ahead she zoned out for a while, then reengaged but came back to earth slightly off keel. Thus, the repeated word. Oops!
Then there was the doodling, right there on the side of the paper. This was not just any doodling, but a doodle of a maze, complete with "Start" and "End," conveniently labeled.
At the risk of reading too much into it, creating a puzzle for yourself in the middle of a test strikes me as an indication of boredom. It seems to say the spelling words just aren't challenging enough, so she adds to the challenge by memorizing the words in order, racing the teacher, and creating a maze.
I know every parent thinks their kid is a creative genius (and they just might be right!). I also know it's important for Beth to learn to pay attention and follow directions. But as my wife and I were doing the responsible thing and talking to Beth about what she should & shouldn't do during spelling tests, part of me wanted to tell her to forget the spelling, the rote memorization & the tests. I wanted to applaud & encourage her creative attempt to challenge herself, even if it means more 83%'s and fewer 100's.
It's an interesting balancing act, this parenting, trying to teach our kids responsibility and discipline without smushing out the creativity and joy.
But, the story is slowly starting to take shape and I'm beginning to get a sense of what the book will be about. I've always known it would be a Christmas story, set in NYC. Thanks to my oh-so-clever ending of Book 2 (he said wryly), I've always known the mystery has to be non-urgent... that is, it has to be present in the summer, but last until Christmas. And recently I decided two of the main themes will be patience and the importance of pleasure, which both fit nicely with the Christmas theme and the lingering nature of the mystery. It's almost like I planned it, even though I didn't.
The overall series is coming together too. After finishing the second book, I realized the first book was set in the fall, the second in the summer, the third in winter... so the fourth (and probably final) book will take place in the spring. That's very appropriate for me, because I've always thought of spring as a time of endings - the end of school, the time right before we move, etc. Despite the flowers (and my March birthday), spring has always been my least favorite season.
So - research for Boomers #3 has begun. I'm reading Aristotle's Ethics (book 5 talks about pleasure & pain), scouring G.K. Chesterton's writings for appropriate quotes, researching graffiti, and I've even tracked down a serial story the Boston Globe ran in the summer of 1999, titled The Boston Tangler. Great turn-of-the-century story about a long-term, city-wide mystery... might be some nuggets there.
NaNoWriMo 2007 - here I come! (and don't worry - I'm not actually writing anything yet!)
26 March 2007
Technovelgy explains: "the MiniC.A.T Air Car is just now on the verge of commercial production by the Tata group, India's largest automotive manufacturer." It'll only set ya back about $15,000.
(now, why didn't we think of that?)
23 March 2007
For example, when Harry Potter books sell like crazy, Jo Rowling isn't taking away sales of other Young Adult Magical Fantasy titles... Her success actually increases interest in "books that are like Harry Potter."
This is not a new phenomenon, and Amazon.com's recommendation engine is just an automated, wisdom-of-crowds version of the librarian or book shop owner who used to tell us "Oh, if you liked that book, you'll really like this one..."
Yeah, I know some authors are in anguish if they aren't #1 on this best selling list or that one. No doubt some even think mean thoughts about any author who dares to sell more books than they do, but I imagine they are in the minority. Smart authors recognize that when "competing" books in their genre sell well, it helps stimulate interest in the genre as a whole. Readers finish a book they enjoyed and look around for more of the same.
Unlike coffee. When I drink a really good cup of coffee (like Ethiopian Harrar from CoffeeFool.com), it makes me want other coffee brands less. But when I read Harry Potter, it makes me want to read other books more.
I just think that's cool.
22 March 2007
It reminded me of an "Ask Dr. Dan" column from the Sept 2005 issue of Rogue Project Leader. I'm reprinting it here for your reading pleasure:
Dear Dr. Dan,
My boss is always talking about the importance of loyalty, but my gut tells me there's something not quite right.
Bob in Denver
Trust your gut. In my opinion, loyalty is an overrated virtue. Go ahead and take a minute to let that statement sink in.
When I say loyalty is an overrated virtue, that's only because loyalty is worse than worthless when it is divorced from deeper virtues like integrity and discernment. Loyalty is all fine and good if it is freely given to the right person (for example, a spouse or a diety), but demands for unquestioning, unequivocal, mindless loyalty are inappropriate and can lead to serious ethical breakdowns. Actually, just about any demand for loyalty is rather problematic. That's because loyalty is only good if it is freely and deliberately given, in a manner that does not violate one’s integrity.
Here's the thing - loyalty says a lot more about the recipient than the giver, which is probably why bosses and people in authority like to talk about it so much. From the stand point of the person who exhibits loyalty, we've got to ask some rather pointed questions.
So let's take a Nazi as a "boundary condition" example. A Nazi soldier could certainly exhibit an admirable degree of physical strength, courage or ingenuity (and many did). That is, we can wistfully say "Wow, I wish I was as clever as him" or "He sure is tough." But the loyalty exhibited by Nazi soldiers was wholly despicable, because it was given to a murderous madman.
Yes, loyalty can be a very, very good thing… but only if you exercise considerable discernment about the person or entity to whom you give it. When loyalty and integrity conflict, as they sometimes do, integrity must prevail.
The late Col John Boyd used to advise junior officers "If your boss asks for loyalty, give him integrity. If he asks for integrity, give him loyalty." That's a darn good rule of thumb, because it indicates loyalty to truth, justice and the American way, rather than loyalty to some guy.
20 March 2007
In that posting, I quoted an article by Dr. Farooq, and may have given the impression that these were his beliefs on the subject. As he explained in a very polite and nicely worded note,
the way it is presented in reference to me, it might give the impression that those might be my thoughts. Instead, those are taken from a collection of excerpts from various writers about Shariah, about which I have a rather different view.
He also passed along a link to "a more nuanced, scholarly writing on this topic: "Shari'ah, Laws and Islam: Legalism vs. Value-orientation." I haven't had a chance to read it yet, but I will.
So, please accept my apologies if I gave anyone the wrong impression. Check out the article link to learn more.
Dr. Farooq sounds like a really cool guy, and I'd love to have lunch with him sometime.
19 March 2007
Just minutes? Really? Um, yes. In fact, I used it last night to put together a little page for my latest book, The Desert (available from Silly Hat Press, for $8.95).
Sure, I had the content pretty much put together already, and all I had to do was cut and paste it into the appropriate spots. And I still want to go back and polish & edit the site in a few places. But it's quite a nice, clean, elegant looking little website... in minutes.
The latest issue of Wired talks about the new world of "one-minute media." Turns out that description applies not only to consumption but, increasingly, also to production. It is getting easier and faster to produce good quality stuff, for a world-wide market (of course, the process of actually writing the book still takes a long time... trust me).
And appropriately enough, in this new world of micro-media, The Desert is a collection of short stories...
16 March 2007
15 March 2007
I mention it because I recently came across an article by Richard Farson that reminded me (again) of how cool MOPS is. I came across Farson because of some stuff he wrote about fault-tolerant leadership and the relationship between failure and innovation - but this article is about kids, parents, danger and what we really need. Here's an excerpt:
The Real Danger to Children
(Originally published in the San Diego Union-Tribune)
by Richard Farson
The coverage of child abduction coming from most media, pictures on milk cartons, etc., leads one to believe that missing children have been abducted by strangers. Actually, almost all of them are either runaways or have been taken by a parent in violation of custody provisions. Children do get lost and parents understandably become frightened, but only about one in nine thousand children who have been reported missing have been abducted by strangers.
The disturbing fact is that children are in far more danger from their parents than from strangers. In the U. S. more than two thousand children are murdered every year (more than five a day) and over half of these murders are committed by the children’s parents, with most of the rest by other family members or acquaintances. 66% of these children are less than a year old, and 58% of the one to four-year-olds are killed by kicking them or beating them with fists or a blunt instrument. The problem is vast, almost beyond belief. Hundreds of thousands of children are abused every year, estimates run up to four million, and the abuse is perpetrated almost entirely by their parents.
What every parent needs, not only at those times, but continually, is help from others. Unwarranted anxieties about kidnapping and molestation, however, have increased dramatically over the past few years, making parents worried about all strangers. The current media obsession with kidnapping has amplified these worries beyond all rationality, leading parents to be even more afraid of strangers. Rather than being grateful for the helping acts of people unfamiliar to us, we become frightened when we see them pushing our children in swings, buttoning their jackets, tying their shoes, wiping their noses—even just talking to them. As a result they are less and less likely to offer such help.
And that's something MOPS provides - help, community, encouragement, guidance, a listening ear.
They continue to add new functions & capabilities, and recently gave authors a little more control over prices. Specifically, they uncoupled the download price from the hardcopy price. It used to be that authors could only set the price to purchase a hardcopy of the book, and Lulu automatically calculated the (lower) price to download the eBook version, based on the royalties set by the author.
Now, I can set the eBook price directly... if I want my eBook royalties to be lower than my hardcopy royalties (and I do), that's not a problem anymore. I can also use round numbers for the eBook prices now ($2.00, instead of $2.36, for example).
And then there are the Dayton city schools.
In the Dayton City school district, only 69% of the elementary and secondary teachers have a BS or higher. That means 31% of the teachers haven't even graduated from college!
Only 60% of 10th graders passed the state graduation test last year. I thought that statistic was terrible, until I noticed that it's up from 33% who passed in the 03-04 school year (the state standard dictates that 75% should pass). In that context, the 60% stat looked impressive... but it's still not a school I'd want my kids to attend.
I'm fortunate enough to have better options. My kids will end up at a really good school, away from the city, where the teachers are educated & qualified and where the other students are high achievers.
But I can't get the thought out of my head that so many other parents, for a variety of reasons, don't have much choice about where they'll live or what school they'll send their kids to. There's got to be a better way to run the schools and teach these kids. The district is clearly making impressive progress, and I understand these things take time, but it's hard for me to imagine what it would be like to teach there, lead there, learn there, or send my kids there...
14 March 2007
"Today we are probably living in the most peaceful time in our species' existence," Pinker tells the crowd.
It’s an unexpected theme for a talk that opens with a photo of Auschwitz. But despite Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Rwanda, Darfur, and the war in Iraq, we are currently benefiting from a long and steady decline in human-on-human violence, a phenomenon that has been ongoing for 10,000 years but that experienced a tipping point during the Age of Reason in the 16th century. "If the death rate of tribal warfare had prevailed in the 20th century, there would have been 2 billion deaths," Pinker says.
13 March 2007
The puzzle is:
 First name of the author of The X Elements of X Success, where X is the adjective in the title of a leap year film whose title character is played by the actor who, the next leap year, played the part of YBIL in a film whose title is a familiar β-word catchphrase first uttered by a man with the same name as the title character in a film whose cast includes the actress made popular by her role of Jill (with co-stars playing Kris and Sabrina) and one of the actors seen on a coin in [Fig 4a] (and also [Fig 4b]) on the birthday, the year his age became both a square and a cube, of the eponym of the structure in [Fig 5], from which RBCBVPIB Island can be seen, looking south on a clear day
 Surname of , spelled backward, which is still a word.
 I'll also just give the decrypted words as I go, so here it is CATALINA Island, which is south of Malibu and can be seen from the Fig 5 J Paul Getty Museum. Besides the trivial 1, the only human age both a square and a cube is 64. J Paul Getty was 64 on Dec 15, 1956. Jill, Kris, and Sabrina were the names of Charlie's Angels, with the part of Jill played by Farrah Fawcett. The two posters in Fig 4a and 4b are for the film Spartacus (Espartaco on the Spanish one, hee hee!) The only actor on the coins who appeared with Farrah Fawcett was Peter Ustinov, in the 1976 sci-fi film Logan's Run. The phrase first uttered by someone named Logan on Dec 15, 1956 was ''Elvis has left the building'', which became the title of a 2004 film in which the part of HANK was played by Billy Ray Cyrus. The previous leap year, 2000, he played the title role in a film called Radical Jack, so X is RADICAL. Thus the book title is The Radical Elements of Radical Success, whose author is DAN Ward.
 Ward spelled backward is DRAW.
I feel so famous.
The Desert is a little collection of short stories I've been working on for a while now.
I published the first edition last year, and this morning I published the expanded "Second Edition." It's about twice as long as the original version, and much more coherent. The stories hang together better, and have been polished, edited, etc.
It's available over at Silly Hat Press, where you can flip through a "preview" of the entire thing. Maybe I'll post a few excerpts here at some point.
This was titled Hammering Hammer: A Critical Analysis of Dr. Michael Hammer’s Process Enterprise. Here's a brief excerpt:
Dr. Hammer writes "process work is... predictable." It would be generous to describe the "process is predictable" statement as circular reasoning, and more accurate to call it misleading. The problem is, the assumption asserts something where there is nothing. Specifically, it proposes the existence of predictability in an inherently chaotic system.
Process work, by its nature, is of course predictable and repeatable. That is what process means, so to say a process is predictable is essentially redundant. What is not clear is the unexplained, unproven and unjustified assumption that work itself is always predictable or should always be so. We must ask how a framework based on predictability, populated entirely with careful plans which specify "exactly what work is to be done by whom, when and where" (pg 1), could possibly cope with the unexpected. It is a good thing process enterprises never encounter anything surprising!
12 March 2007
Got a copy of Wikinomics, and this morning saw that Tom Peters mentioned it on his blog too. I guess I'd better really read it, and soon.
I also got a hilarious cardgame called Apples to Apples. We played it for several hours (after the kids went to bed). I haven't laughed that hard, that often or that long in a while... and I tend to laugh a lot, so that's really saying something.
I'll post a photo of the birthday cake tomorrow - it's on my cellphone, which I managed to leave at home this morning. I don't want to ruin the surprise, so I'll just say it was decorated by my girls, and they love jelly beans (they really, really love jelly beans).
09 March 2007
I love the lectures from The Teaching Company. They are fascinating, enlightening and tons of fun.
I love the music of Jack Johnson. I've mentioned him here before, but he's still cool and groovy, so I'm mentioning him again.
I love coffee from CoffeeFool.com. My latest shipment arrived yesterday, and when I opened the box, it smelled like happiness. I had a cup of Ethiopian Harrar this morning, and it was as rich, wild and nutty as they said it would be. Wonderful, wonderful stuff. I'd drink some of it right now, except 1) I'm at work, the coffee is at home and 2) I have way too much caffeine in my system already.
I love Lulu.com. The ability to quickly and easily publish a professional looking book is so empowering and encouraging. Sure, they publish a lot of really crummy stuff... but they also publish some really beautiful stuff too. Walt Whitman published Leaves of Grass himself, and lots of other authors went the self-publishing route. Imagine how many masterpieces have been lost to history because the authors didn't have a Lulu.com...
Of course, I really can't use the phrase "I love" without mentioning my wife and kids. They make me laugh every day and mean everything to me. I'm such a lucky guy.
08 March 2007
I won't bore you all with the details of the case - it has to do with trying to get a refund of the tuition we paid for our daughter's pre-school after we pulled her out (all the teachers had left because they weren't being paid... and the rent wasn't being paid on the building... you get the picture).
Anyway, I think our case was pretty straightforward, and I think we'll win... but we won't know for another 30 days. We'll see...
07 March 2007
In English, that's: entities should not be multiplied beyond necessity. It is often paraphrased as "All things being equal, the simplest solution tends to be the best one."
But to piggy-back on yesterday's post about drama, I recently came across something called Hanlon's Razor, which goes something like this:
Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.
I suspect that a fair amount of the over-drama in our lives is because we attribute peoples actions to malice instead of to stupidity... not because we're trying to be mean ourselves. Just because, well, we're stupid that way. Life is funny that way.
A related maxim combining Hanlon's Razor and Clarke's Third Law was coined in 2002 by Vernon Schryver in a discussion on the newsgroup news.admin.net-abuse.email: "[Any] sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice." (a take-off of Arthur Clarke's statement that "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic")
Gotta laugh about that...
06 March 2007
My kids, for example, have a tendency to think the world has ended if they can't find a particular stuffed animal. But they're little, so that's to be expected. They're still learning what the world is really about. They're still learning what's important. The thing is, I think we grown-ups have a similar tendency to suffer from a lack of perspective about what really matters.
Maybe it's just because I've personally never really encountered significant suffering, loss or pain... but I think we have a tendency to make more of our suffering than we should. We are (generally speaking) too attached to our stuff, so losing it is dramatic. We're too attached to our own comfort, so any discomfort, however minor, is dramatic (and we don't pay enough attention to the task of comforting others - the other side of this coin). I have an idea for a story I'd like to write some day, exploring this idea - but since it'll probably be a while before I get around to writing it, I figured I'd share the concept here.
The main character is a guy who thinks he has suffered a crushing loss, but in reality his puppy is just hiding behind the couch.
He thinks he has achieved ultimate intimacy with a woman, but he's really just holding her hand.
He thinks he's a famous and skilled artist, but his doodles are really just hanging on his mom's fridge.
He thinks he's rich because he has a box of pretend money, which was really given to him so he could learn to count.
He thinks he has helped humanity tremendously, but he really just emptied a few plastic dishes (not the breakable ones) from the dishwasher - and someone else put them away in the cabinet.
He thinks he's a grown-up, but he's really 5 years old.
It may not be funny to him, but it is sort of funny, with the right perspective. It's funny because he's still learning, it's funny because we know he'll grow up and look back at it and laugh. This sort of character could certainly be part of a dramatic story... but I'd put him in a comedy, where we aren't laughing at him - we're laughing at ourselves.
05 March 2007
So, I was very happy to find a whole series of Tom's posts at his blog today. More entries in his unfortunately named "100 Ways To Succeed" series (I particularly liked #83 ) and a great commentary on decentralization.
I highly recommend taking a moment to check it out.