28 October 2011

Death Star Acquisitions Follow-up

I just came across a pair of articles responding to my Death Star article. The first one, by a gentleman named Gulliver, called it "easily the best article I've seen in a defense acqusition trade publication in my entire time following the subject" (acknowledging of course that the bar isn't terribly high in the defense acquisition literature genre).

The other piece, posted by "Bucherm," took issue with my "article" (yes, he put quotes around the word article), and speculated that I must have watched some other movie. This post included the following remarkable sentence: "By any stretch, the second DS program was well run with the end product being a good one."

Clearly, the first writer is  well-groomed, intelligent and thoughtful. The second's parents are obviously unmarried first cousins. I bet he even likes Jar Jar Binks.

I kid! The truth is, I'm tremendously glad to see that people are writing about my piece, whether they agreed with it or not. I can't say I followed Bucherm's logic - in what universe were the Death Star programs (I or II) well run? - but I'm glad he cared enough to write a rebuttal. Now, I thought my article was pretty clear about Vader's psychopathic "leadership" style. But hey, the man is entitled to his opinion, right? If he likes that stuff, I'm sure we can find all sorts of Vaderific bosses to work for. Good luck with that.

As for Gulliver's piece over at Ink Spots, all I can say is wow, thank you for the kind words... and may the Force be with you!

26 September 2011

Odd Policy

At the local Best Buy, I came across a sign that explains their We Check ID policy.

I whipped out my handy-dandy, oh-so-fuzzy little camera phone and took this shot. Per usual, it's pretty out of focus and hard to read, but maybe you can figure out why I took this picture. If not, I'll explain.

Basically, the policy says they support the software rating system and require a photo ID for anyone who wants to purchase any software rated NC-17, Mature or R. Also, compressed air.


Yup, the policy in checking ID's for software based on the ESRB's ratings includes a reference to "compressed air."

Now, I'm sure there's a dozen good reasons to not sell compressed air to minors. Who knows what sort of mischief a 16 year old could get into with such contraband. But mentioning compressed air in a software ratings policy was so jarringly incongruous that I had to read the policy several times. I've got to wonder why they chose this software rating policy, of all policies, to mention the compressed air thing.

And I've got to wonder whether, when selling compressed air, a clerk will remember to check the software ratings policy and thus learn they're supposed to check ID.

If we want policy to be useful, shouldn't it be internally consistent?

23 September 2011


In a public restroom of some restaurant or other, I came across this sign.

I waited and waited, but no staff showed up to wash my hands for me. Eventually I got tired of waiting and washed my own dang hands.

I don't care what the policy is or what the sign says, it's just one of those things I can do all by my self.

21 September 2011

For Me? Thanks!

As I was waiting for the Blue Line train in DC's Metro, I noticed a sign that sort of called my name.

Apparently, the DC Metro's website is MetroForWard.com. I thought that was awfully nice of them to do that just for me.

19 September 2011

Thoughts On the Death Star Article

All the attention my Death Star article has received got me thinking. Figured I'd share a few observations:

1) If you want something to go viral, mention Star Wars. I've published 55+ articles and even won an award for one of them. None has ever generated as much buzz & attention as Don't Come To The Dark Side. Now, I wrote this one with the same motivation & method as any other piece. I always hope my articles will be popular and well received, but I don't pick a topic or theme just because I want it to go viral - as if that's within my control. Anyway, I never imagined it'd take off like this.

2) If you every mention Star Wars, do your homework 'cause if you get even a tiny detail wrong, the fanboys will Call. You. Out.

3) Commentators who said the article was "brilliant, hilarious and important" have exquisite taste. Those who said "Ward just doesn't get it" just don't get it.

4) I really wish I'd stuck with my first draft of the metal bikini line ("they look awesome") instead of the blander version I ended up with ("they look cool").

5) Some people think we can't learn real life lessons from fiction. I feel bad for them. Some other people think Star Wars is real. I feel bad for them too.

5.b) Actually, nobody thinks Star Wars is real. But some people take the films seriously enough that other people think they think it's real. It's the "other people" who got it wrong... so I guess I'll feel bad for them too.

6) Nerds are awesome... and they're everywhere.

7) Most commentaries on my article focused on the technology issues in the article. Relatively few cued in on the leadership lessons. But really, the article was about identifying Vader's psychopathic leadership style as much as it was a technical commentary on Death Star Systems Engineering.

8) The article was about Death Stars and droids. People who think it was about aircraft carriers, nuclear weapons or the Joint Strike Fighter are revealing their own opinions of those systems. I'm staying mum on whether any contemporary DoD systems fit the Death Star model. I will acknowledge, however, that the Millennium Falcon is a B-52.

9) Despite #8 above, the article wasn't JUST about Death Stars and droids. It was also about good design approaches and the importance of substance over style when assessing the value of a particular system or technology.

The temptation to write a sequel is strong - and several people have already sent suggestions about what the follow-on article should address. Not sure if I'll do that or not. I actually have two other articles in the pipeline already, and there's a 3-month lag between submitting a piece and seeing it published, so it'll be a little while before anything emerges. But I promise, if I do a sequel, I won't wait 20 years...

18 September 2011

Free book!

The Simplicity Cycle

Since I've got a few new readers on this blog now (hello!), I figured I should mention that I've got a few books you might be interested in. One of 'em is even free.

The free one is called The Simplicity Cycle. It's a design book and I primarily wrote it with engineers in mind. But it's also got more pictures than words, it's a quick read, and I've heard from writers, artists, scientists and business consultants who say it's been useful in their work. And hey, you can't beat the price, right?

The Radical Elements of Radical SuccessThe other book that seems to be taking off lately is The Radical Elements of Radical Success. It's a crazy little book that was my attempt to stand the success-lit genre on its head. You can also get it for the Kindle

Anyway, happy reading!

16 September 2011

Internet Famous

My Death Star article has generated a lot of discussion around the interwebs lately, which is awesomely cool and exciting. It's also pushed some new traffic to my blog, which is also cool and exciting, except for the fact that I sort of haven't been writing here lately. Oops!

Ever since I got word about being deployed, I've been blogging less and doing other stuff more. So it's kind of rotten timing that this article would come out now, when I'm not exactly in a position to continue the discussion the way I'd like to.

Nevertheless, I'm going to try to post stuff here more often. We'll see how that goes. I've got a few posts & topics in mind. Just a matter of finding making the time. Wish me luck!