Screaming Into The Abyss

I've Been Indexed
By Ben Zvan
On August 26, 2008 at 13:08
General News

I suppose there are a lot of people who think this applies directly to them, but I thought I'd throw my blog into the ring. (Just replace "Starbucks" with "Caribou.")


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Comments Anyone?
By Ben Zvan
On August 20, 2008 at 15:49
General News

Hey everyone! I've been thinking about adding a comment function to my blog. Leave me a message in the comments and let me know what you think. I'll make a decision based on your input.

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Friday Blogwatch
By Ben Zvan
On August 15, 2008 at 04:50
General News
"Mike Hummer had been a private detective so long he could remember Preparation A, his hair reminded everyone of a rat who'd bitten into an electrical cord, but he could still run faster than greased owl snot when he was on a bad guy's trail, and they said his friskings were a lot like getting a vasectomy at Sears." -- Robert B. Robeson

Stormy - Photo by YardSale on Flickr

Yes, it's time again for the annual results of the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest. An attempt to pay homage through satire of classically bad literature. -- Photo by YardSale

Greg Laden brings an update on the evolution v. creationism debate from a US district court. More at Fox news and the San Francisco Chronicle. As it turns out, all that stuff Christian Colleges are teaching about "intelligent design" doesn't really count as "learning."

Frotz, Zork ...If you've got a jones to type xyzzy and teleport to someone's house, the iPhone may be the tool for you. Frotz, available from the iTunes App Store is a z-machine interpreter that allows you to play classic text adventure games on the iPhone and iPod Touch. This is the ultimate marriage of the inconvenience of typing on a phone and the inconvenience of a maze of twisty passages, all alike. -- Touch Archade via Kotaku

In yet another installment of Things That Herald the Coming of Our Robot Overlords, scientists have joined rat brain cells to a robot with the aid of bluetooth. Not only can the disembodied cells control the robot, they can do it at a distance, much like the Reaper program is controled through Skynet. -- too many sources to credit.

And finally, on the topic of green electronics, Samsung is releasing a phone made with bio-plastic. Cellular mulch anyone? Oh, and it's also PVC and BFR free, but hey, bio-plastic. -- via Gizmodo

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Friday Blogwatch
By Ben Zvan
On August 08, 2008 at 10:51
General News

Looks like a video blogwatch today.

Gizmodo has a slow motion lightening video. Wow!

Garage419 has a track test comparing the Dinolicious iPhone app to a commercial accellerometer-based dynomometer.

Greg Laden's Blog has a humorous retort from Paris Hilton regarding John McCain's recent campaign ad.

And has a video from Chase Jarvis giving a 3-minute overview of a commercial photoshoot from contract to delivery.

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Men's Room Etiquette
By Ben Zvan
On August 07, 2008 at 10:59
General News

The common conception is that women go to the restroom in groups and that the lines are extremely long. Men don't know about that kind of thing so I assume that women don't know what goes on in the men's room. Here's a short public service announcement to help cross-gender understanding.

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Everybody Else Is Doing It
By Ben Zvan
On August 01, 2008 at 15:40
General News

Everybody else seems to be jumping this meme, so I guess I will too. I suppose it will tell my stalker what to get me for my birthday.

The following is a list of books that came from the internet. I can't find a source. Supposedly, the average american has read 6 of them. Titles in bold are books I've read, underscored titles are books I've partially read.

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34 Emma - Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli's Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meany - John Irving
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones's Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte's Web - EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

This isn't really a good list, but it's not a bad list either. Note that both The Complete Works of William Shakespeare and Hamlet are listed as well as The Chronicles of Narnia and Prince Caspian. Many of these books can be found in High School Curricula or at least could be when I was in High School back in the rotary dial days.

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What Makes a Good Manager
By Ben Zvan
On July 30, 2008 at 10:16
General News

In the past couple of years, I've had the opportunity to observe several managers within a single organization of around 550 people. This is the first time I've worked in a situation with multiple managers whose behavior and success I could compare. I'd like to share what I've learned about management through that observation.

The most important component of any organization is communication. A good manager is an expert at communication. Larger organizations are more likely to  have problems with communication either within the ranks or between the ranks. There will be groups and managers that don't want to talk to each other and there will be management that doesn't want to communicate up or down the chain of command. A good manager will work to bridge those gaps by bringing in people from outside of their group and will ask questions within their chain of command to facilitate missing communication.

I used to have a saying when I made service calls for a living: "If I ask a yes/no question and the person I'm asking doesn't understand what I mean, their answer will be yes." I tried this out on many occasions by asking questions I knew I'd have to clarify later. Every time, the answer was "yes". A good manager can recognize this type of situation and make sure that the answer given by them or to them is an informed, correct answer.

A good manager delegates work that can be delegated and keeps track of what their employees are working on at any given time. Occasional group/team meetings to keep everyone up to date are good, and it never hurts to go for a short walk and talk to people and see what they're doing and how they feel.

When work that has been delegated is not completed satisfactorily, a good manager will take a step back from the situation and ask a few important questions. "Why didn't this work get done?", "Did I clearly state the requirements and, if not, was the work completed as I requested?", "What can be done to avoid this situation in the future?". If the requirements were complete and the work was not, a good manager will help understand where the shortcomings were.

I want to keep this a positive message of what a good manager does rather than what they don't do, but this one is important. A good manager refers to their employees as people, not resources. Resources are mined and drilled and pumped; people are nurtured, trained and worked. Even the best possible use of the term, "renewable resource", suggests that, once the resource in question has been burned out, you can wait a season and another one will grow back.

So, when hiring a manager, or when managing, keep these things in mind and you'll find that things go well for you and your organization.

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Friday Blogwatch
By Ben Zvan
On June 06, 2008 at 09:47
General News

I wouldn't feel like a geek if this didn't make me happy. The way that memory manufacturers have been able to make CF and SD cards have such high capacity is by stacking silicon layers on top of each other. The increase in thickness is minute, there's no increase in board real estate and every time you do it, you double capacity. The problem with moving this technology to other areas, like CPUs is heat. IBM has just solved that problem. IBM via Gizmodo.

Everybody knows that email is a huge time-sink in the workplace. It interrupts work and forces a response or a change of priority. In my experience, people walking into my office to ask a question can be just as bad because I have to respond now, rather than on my own time. The obvious corollary is that instant messaging would be worse than email, but not as bad as a personal visit. A recent study shows that may not be the case. - Science Daily via Lifehacker.

More and more this seems to be the case.

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Actions Will Be Judged According To Intentions
By Ben Zvan
On April 18, 2008 at 09:10
General News

Honestly, I wasn't sure what category to use for this one. Maybe this should have gone in a new "opinion" section but really, this whole blog is full of my opinions...

I saw a bumper sticker on the way to work today that said "Actions Will Be Judged According To Intentions". My first thought was that it made a lot of sense. My second thought was that it made no sense and the owner of the car probably didn't get it.

Here's one of my famous hypothetical situations:

"My intention was to get my buddy to the hospital as quickly as possible so that they could tend his wounds from being hit by a car while crossing the street. Therefore, all the red lights I ran and people I hit with my car are of no consequence."

Here's another, this time ripped from actual headlines:

"My intention was to make a small hole in the wood beam to run a cable through, so it is irrelevant that I shot and killed my wife in the process."

The moral of the story? Think before you stick something on your car.

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Blogs to Live By
By Ben Zvan
On April 11, 2008 at 15:42
General News

I've run across a couple good ones I had to share:

Photoshop Disasters: Pointing out how things can go horribly wrong if you don't pay your graphic designers enough. My guess is that these designers were hired because the responsible parties weren't willing to pay enough to get good ones.

Indexed: A web comic about life and the comedy inherent in graphs and venn diagrams. Her political views are pretty clear, but the comedy is still rich.

Ben Zvan Photography: There's some really good stuff here. I'm hoping to get some pointers this weekend.

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New Pictures 8: Sarah Jones
Minneapolis Institue of Arts
04/18/2013—02/02/2014 - Free

31 Years: Gifts from Martin Weinstein
Minneapolis Institue of Arts
11/02/2013—08/31/2014 - Free

New Pictures 9: Rinko Kawauchi
Minneapolis Institue of Arts
02/20/2014—08/10/2014 - Free

Finland: Designed Environments
Minneapolis Institue of Arts
05/10/2014—08/17/2014 - Free


Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
at State Theatre
06/21/2014 \ Doors 8:00pm


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