Nonfiction Books

A list of books I loaned out years ago, and apparently never got back, reminded me of some beloved non-fiction books that I am considering re-purchasing:

Trevor Corson’s Secret Life of Lobsters: How Fishermen and Scientists Are Unraveling the Mysteries of Our Favorite Crustacean

Hayden Carruth’s Sitting in: Selected Writings on Jazz, Blues, and Related Topics

And one book listed as simply as Stonework, and while I remember the small paperback well, I do not remember more. Perhaps it is Charles McRaven’s Stonework: Techniques and Projects.

Graph Visualization Libraries

Network visualization is something I thoroughly enjoy, and I am fooled by the ease with which one can manipulate graphs in an application like Gephi. I would like to learn how to take more control of the process for myself — and, with luck, learn more about network theory in the process. For that, I need some graph visualization libraries, and over on Medium Elise Devaux has that covered: List of Graph Visualization Libraries.

Duck, Duck, Goose

This past summer my daughter came with me on one of my stays on post. We did not get to spend as much time together as I might have liked, but we still managed to cook up a crazy ideas, one of which involved the geese on post not being all that they appeared to be. The result was the following:

Duck, Duck, Goose


Lily Wu-Laudun and John Laudun


EXT. NIGHT. The screen is filled with white light that dims and focuses into a pair of headlights as a car makes its way past the camera. A hundred yards past the camera, its brake lights brighten as it stops. A figure only just silhouetted by the headlights pops out of the passenger side door, opens the read passenger door, and lifts something out.

CUT to a pair of hands gently loosing a Canadian goose into the water. The goose swims away. The camera follows and fades into black as the goose disappears into the distance. A car door is heard closing and the car itself is heard, but not seen, speeding off.

EXT. DAY (MORNING). A group of legs and shoes walk past sleeping geese who are only six to ten feet closer to the camera. Voices are heard discussing various matters. Several groups go by and the geese hardly flutter. Some of those groups of legs are camouflaged and are tucked into khaki boots. We are on a military installation.

The camera has been slowly zooming out during this time, taking in more and more of the scene in which groups of civilians and soldiers walk along a handful of sidewalks that wend their way along a grove of trees next to a lake. The geese are scattered in small clumps among the trees and as the shot widens, a few begin to move about.

Most of the geese make their way to the water, but one goose waddles its way toward one of the nearby buildings. People continue to flow by but it’s clear that the flow is slowing as people settle inside the buildings to work.
We see some go into a nearby building, again talking animatedly. We follow a small group of two men and a woman (two civilians and one soldier — mix doesn’t matter) through the open doorway and down a hall into an office. As they move into and through the building, we follow their conversation as well:

CAROL: It’s the damndest thing, Bob. We can’t figure out how they got that information.

BOB: And you’re sure you tracked all our possible emission points?

CAROL: Yes, Bob. We ran down all possible emitters. We even tracked ground lines. Everything. We got nothing.

BOB: Hmmm.

JERRY: I’m going to ask the dumb question: you’re sure it was hardware and not personnel?

CAROL: The fidelity of their capture was too high. It’s word for word. A person would have made a mistake or changed a word. It’s just how the brain works.

JERRY: Unless you had someone with an eidetic audio memory…

CAROL: Unless we had a number of someones with eidetic audio memories…

JERRY: It could happen.

CAROL: It could happen. (This second echo reveals she does not find this a useful conversational thread.)

BOB: So known hardware configurations. (It’s clear he’s trying to move the conversation back to something productive.)

The conversation fades somewhat as the camera cuts from the series of medium shots that have captured the speakers to a group shot with a window behind the three overlooking the trees and the lake. We see most of the geese in the distance, either still sitting in the grass but one goose is rather close and is preternaturally still.

CUT to a CLOSE-UP of the goose. Its head moves very slowly, and as it does so, we catch a glimpse of a laser coming out of one of its “eyes.” A shot from behind its turned head reveals it is pointed at the room, and as we cut to a tight shot of the laser point hitting the glass (and the glass vibrating) we hear the voices within as their conversation carries on.

VOICES outside and nearby snap us back to our goose, which shakes its head, to the sound of servos, and then proceeds to dip down and pull at the grass, as geese do, while another group of legs walks past.

As the camera fades to black, we hear the voices of that group talking and the rustling of the goose’s feet in the grass with the slightest hint of a servo working.


Bloom’s Taxonomy

Depending upon the institution you are trying to navigate / negotiate, finding the preferred vocabulary is sometimes the most important task. In some cases, it comes down to knowing which nouns and verbs go with certain assumptions about the way we process and learn. For those times, there’s the great Bloom’s Taxonomy Wheel.

Pie Chart of Words Associated with Bloom's Taxonomy

Where I Want to Live

Ostensibly an essay on urban planning, and how Houston doesn’t plan for walking, Not Just Bike‘s “How I Got Into Urban Planning (and Why I Hate Houston)” is really an exploration of how traveling to, and spending time in, different places can open your eyes to what you think of as given and how it can lead to you choosing something different. It could be argued that every society gets things right and gets things wrong, and if you are lucky, you will, or get yourself to, be mobile enough to view a selection of societies and then choose the one that fits you best. But what if you are not lucky? What if you aren’t mobile? What if you are stuck? I think too often, and this is one of the subtexts of the essay (I think), we do not recognize that poverty isn’t a choice, but a lack of choices. How societies strive, or whether they strive at all, to give everyone within its bounds the ability to make fundamental choices is probably a better measure of its health than many other metrics we use.

Trust the People Who Do the Work

I do occasionally read in the business press, like the Inc. article linked below but also Forbes, Fast Company, and _Bloomberg. As an academic who spent some time in the business world, I think the chance to think about things from different perspectives is important, and I am especially curious about the evolving culture of business(es) as the world around us changes. I was especially struck by Inc.‘s coverage of Siemens’ new remote work policy, which comes down to two things:

  1. Focus on outcomes rather than time spent in the office.
  2. Trust and empower your employees.

This is based on Siemens assertion, to itself if no one else, that if you don’t trust your employees, then you are hiring the wrong people.

Article Link.