Archive for the ‘Direct Thoughts’ Category


Hoek, Doc, Sven

                                                               Hoek, Doc, Sven


‚ÄúWith heart and hand I pledge you while I load my gun again, you will never be forgotten or the enemy forgiven, my good comrade.‚Ä̬†~ A.S.L.

“If my comrade doubts I laugh confidently
If my comrade sleeps I keep the watch for him
If my comrade falls I fight on for the both of us
Because to every warrior the gods have given a comrade.” ~ Song Of The Comrade, Blood Axis

Very late one night I was looking into some music and ran across a song entitled: “Waves” by the Bahamas. ¬†For some reason I thought of my comrade as soon as I heard this:

“And I held the breath inside my lungs for days
And I saw myself as one of many waves
And when I knew I’d become the ocean’s slave
I just stayed.”

I know that Sven died doing what he loved. Free-diving. ¬†I remember when he told me he wanted a boat to sail around the world. ¬†I said, “Well let us see if we can accelerate things so you can get down to doing just that and get out of here.”

About three years ago I was talking to someone during an initial interview who in many ways reminded me of the Sven – even only¬†about a half hour on the phone. ¬†After about two hours talking (this guy wasn’t looking for a job and already had more than 20 job offers at scale.) ¬†I asked this person what he really wanted. ¬†Without hesitation he said “A boat to sail around the world”. ¬†In fact it turned out to be the same type the Sven wanted and earned. ¬†I grew deathly silent. ¬†He asked what was wrong and did he screw the “interview” up. ¬†I said no in fact quite the opposite and I asked if he had some time and I would tell him a story. ¬† ¬†Synchronistic events in action. ¬†There are no coincidences in life.

Due to all of our interests  back in 1998 I promised Sven if anything ever happened to him I would watch over his lovely wife and two amazing sons who are now young men practicing in the footsteps of their old man.  I can unequivocally say he would be very proud of both of them.

Last year I thought for some reason it was time to quit thinking about “all of this.” whatever¬†this¬†is. ¬†Remembering those who lived loud and indulged in the greatest indulgence – life. ¬†The I realized that is not something to quit remembering.

To switch gears for something that will forever be recorded in the annals of hatred for certain technologies  Рeven though he was one of the best programmers of all time.  As you watch: you know you have always wanted to do that and he did it with a brand new system:


After that give this a listen.  One breath.  Take a deep breath today and hopefully go underwater and remember Sven.  He would appreciate it.


Coding is a lot like Plowing

I was recently reminded of the importance of shipping code. ¬†In the same night I watched the latest episode in the series Silicon Valley I also watched an episode of Shark Tank. ¬†In the tank Chris Sacca (Uber, Twitter etc) ¬†said “Ideas Are Cheap Execution is Everything.” ¬†Looking at the field and thinking about the myriad of things to plant is akin to all of the ideas that people generate and think hey that is easy. ¬†Just hit the easy button. ¬†Well there is a stratification that occurs in the industry. ¬†There are three tiers: ¬†(1) thinking or what I call¬†though-ting – as in we have thought about that some time ago. ¬†(2)¬†Executing on the idea with shipping code (3) and the¬†ultimate example – shipping code that goes to production and does not fail that amazes the end user whether enterprise or consumer.

Most sit there and look at the field and think “golly jee I have an idea! ¬†I really have an idea!” Great. ¬†Good for you. ¬†So do millions of other people. ¬†However for those that can take an idea and execute it to shipping code from an idea that many if not most think is impossible and have it run day in and day out¬†this¬†is the stuff that¬†ideas2bank are built upon. ¬†For those that have seen the latest episode I will just leave this here and for the few that truly and viscerally have experienced this at a worldwide level – I personally thank you. (Oh yea and that is a mean loop by San Holo – word on the lazy web says he is gonna drop the full version soon.) 5,4,3,2,1 – Ship It!

Until then,

Go Big or Go Home!


‚ÄúWith heart and hand I pledge you while I load my gun again, you will never be forgotten or the enemy forgiven, my good comrade.‚ÄĚ

~ A.S.L.

“Be Good and You Will Be Lonesome.” ~¬†Caption for the author’s photograph on shipboard via Following The Equator.

I sit looking at the translucent contrails and the cumulonimbus clouds creating rainbows above the herd in mid September 2014. ¬†I do not see any flags on the masses of metal as they go about their so called living. ¬†Patriotism is also a commercial business nowadays. ¬†I too was in the ocean 9 years ago on this day – doing what I love – riding hurricane swells. ¬†There are those on this day who fell at the hands of people who believe in a “better god”. ¬†That being said Hail to John Hoekman who made it out of the north tower from the 87 floor after saving several.

True camaraderie is becoming a lost entity. ¬†I still have what I term “my garbage bag crew” – those few men of whom without question I could call to bring “garbage bags” to clean up a mess (which also usually involve towels and other methods of disinfecting) yet those are tales of for another time or space.

One day Sven and I¬†¬†were shooting some pool. ¬†Gentlemen’s bet if memory serves correct. ¬†We were discussing “Following The Equator.” by Mark Twain. ¬†He said my favorite part of the book is the first page – “Be good and you will be lonesome.” ¬†We ended up talking for a couple of hours about what it truly means to be a “good man”. ¬†Most often than not a “being a good man” is not necessarily being “good” as it pertains to the so called social norms of society. ¬†¬†Jimmy Buffet wrote a song entitled “That is what living is to Me.” ¬†Whilst we were discussing the book – out of suspicious coincidence said song came up on the playlist set to random play. ¬†He started screaming THIS – THIS IS WHAT IT IS ALL ABOUT! ¬†WHY CANT ANYONE SEE ¬†IT? ¬†I said some are not meant to and we are usually dragged down by this stratification. ¬†I said man some just arent, that is all it is – ¬†born not made.”

Jimmy Buffet starts off the song by discussing he wrote the song based on the first page of the book.

“Book good and you will be lonesome.

Be Lonesome and you will be free,

Live a lie and you will to regret it.

Thats what living is to me.” ¬†~ J.B.

Your scars imprison and create you. Dead pirates tell no tales. One less garbage bag in the collection.

On this day we lost a husband, father, waterman and I lost one of my tribe and comrades Steven Swenson.

I will never forget.


Jimmy Buffet’s “Thats What Living Is To Me.”¬†

I wish this was my library

Several who have read my blog contact me concerning reference materials and textbooks that I would recommend.  I must admit that I am a biblio-maniac.  I am unable to go into a book store especially a used  bookstore and walk out empty handed.  Even in this day and age of iPads I still love the visceral aspects of the printed form.  Call me a luddite. That said I do have have somewhat of an interesting per-view on the world of books.

For the software world the people that are doing the creating are not writing books per se.¬† Thus if your reading books your not necessarily creating anything novel.¬† Let me be more specific.¬† Many use books to find an answer.¬† Many use books as a catalyst or reference.¬† I fall into the latter.¬† There are no “give me a shipping product” books – no “what is the answer?” ¬†– for some of the stuff that we create. ¬†Yes there are several ‘cookbooks’ and recipes for say learning a language or a new framework but there are no books that will provide answers to production level novel solutions. ¬†As a very succinct example I was having a discussion in NYC with a very respected Executive Engineering Director and we both decided that there were no books that dealt specifically with hiring great talent in the tech world.¬† Why?¬† Because most are not going to tell you exactly what it really takes to hire great people and to build great teams.¬† That said few are going to explain how they came up with great coding feats – they will explain it after¬†the fact for reference see Coders At Work.

So without further “waxin all philosphical‘” ¬†here is a laundry list of books that I have found useful over the years.¬† I will try and categorize them according to subject matter.¬† Its by no means comprehensive. ¬†I will also utilize this same list format in the future. ¬† I would love to hear feedback or your thoughts – please share your list, if you are so inclined – after the fact.

Machine Learning, Data Mining and Knowledge Discovery

Scaling Up Machine Learning (Cambridge University Press)

This book is phenomenal and is at the very for front of issues we are all trying to solve in the areas of large scale learning systems. The book contains everything from parallelization of Support Vector Machines to details of how one designs hardware architectures for the next round of highly scalable machine learning algorithms.  Note this is not an introductory text.  Also the book takes a very interesting view in that it is written mainly by the best in the field.

Machine Learning,McGraw Publishing

This is a seminal text in the areas of Machine Learning.  There is  enough verbiage if your not a mathematician and enough algorithmic pseudo code to follow the development of the explanations.  I find myself going back to this book over and over.  Covers most everything from Bayes to Boosting.  It also has updated chapters on his web page.  I also like this writing style.

Business Modeling and Data Mining  (The Morgan Kaufmann Series in Data Management Systems)

Some purest might not like this book but I think it is a great read because it discusses why we actually need to consider a paying customer.¬† The book goes deep enough in the explanations and marries them to great scenarios for business models.¬† It also discusses in a ‘mind map manner’ how to design systems and algorithms.¬† The text also has a great bibliography.

Collective Intelligence, (O’ Reilly Press)

This is a great book that gets your toes in the water for differing aspects of “DataScience”. ¬†Basically statistics and machine learning for data. ¬†The book has examples for simple crawlers, ¬†Bayes Theorem, Adaptive Neural Networks, Similarity Functions, Distance Metrics, and workhorse algorithms such as Support Vector Machines and Non-Negative Matrix Factorization. ¬†Written in a pragmatic fashion. ¬†Code in Python is included on the author’s website.

Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach 3rd Edition, (Prentice Hall Books)

Seminal book on the subject. ¬†Spanning is the word I think of when reading this tome. ¬†The book covers the usual suspects but goes on to a ‘meta-level’ to discuss varied fields of Logic, Qualitative Physics, Spatial Reasoning, Psychological foundations and¬†fundamental¬†mathematics. ¬†The appendix and bibliography are worth the price of entry (expensive) for this oracle.

Introduction to Evolutionary Computing (Natural Computing Series, Springer)

I am a¬†proponent¬†of the ‘get it and go’ format. ¬†This lives up to the title. ¬†It is a good introductory text. ¬†It starts off with a good introduction to Genetic Algorithms, not to be confused with Evolutionary Computing and proceeds to Learning systems and deeper issues as Non-Stationary classification systems, multi-variate parameter selection as well as a chapter on applications.

Machine Learning – An Algorithmic Perspective (CRC Press)

This book takes a novel approach that have an online presence and a hard text reference. ¬†Stephen Marsland updates the code and book online and provides access much like the O’Reilly series. ¬†Of particular interest is the format for review of such areas as probability, eigenvaules and fundamental algorithms. ¬† The book also provides code examples mainly in the areas of Python. ¬†This¬†book takes exactly that approach, with each topic being presented both¬†mathematically and in Python code using the Numpy and Scipy libraries. ¬†As most know SciPy and¬†Numpy resemble Matlab and is sufficiently high level that the book code
examples read like pseudocode.  SciKits would also be a good addition.

Semantics and Natural Language Processing

Programming the Semantic Web (O’ Reilly Press)

With the same eye towards ‘get in and get done’ Seagram wrote this because there was no middle ground for ¬† ¬†Semantics or if there were such a text it was voluminous. ¬†Great introductory text on Semantics with succinct code examples in Python. ¬†The text¬†emphasizes that you are not constrained to using data from only one database or server, but when the data is organized and stored in a standardized semantic format such as RDF, it may be made available for reading by anyone (if desired) without any risk of it being overwritten by using a query language like SPARQL instead of the better known SQL. ¬†Once again complete code available via the InterWebz.

Semantic Web Programming (Wiley)

This book is a larger text that spans the areas of Semantics: FOAF, Reasoners, SPARQL, Linked Data, Microformats without getting too far in the weeds with theoretic¬†gymnastics¬†(read axiomatic proofs etc). ¬†Written in mainly in JAVA. ¬†The discussion of Semantics from a ‘non ivory tower’ standpoint is worth the purchase. ¬†Then again it has been said in order to program semantics one has to believe semantics exist.

Natural Language Processing (O’ Reilly Press)

People often confuse Semantics with Natural Language Processing. ¬†While the two are close cousins you can do one without the other and visa versa. ¬†Historically NLTKas it is now known in the industry is becoming the “goto” Python Library for performing textual gymnastics. ¬†This book is a wonderful introduction to Python, Text Analytics and analysis of grammer. ¬†For example entity extraction which historically is extremely difficult is:

entities = nltk.chunk.ne_chunk(tagged)

I mean (pun intended) how nice is that?

Python Text Processing with NLTK 2.0 Cookbook (PAKT Publishing)

This is at a much lower level and assumes that you need to do perform basic NLP and is more text analytics based than extracting meaning, linguistic and grammatical behaviors.  One novel aspect to this book is the addition of creation of a corpora reader via MongoDb.  The book even addresses nuances like FileLocking during corpora edits.  It uses PyMongo as the front end interface with Python examples.  The examples go on the look at various aspects of NLTK and NoSQL architectures.

Network and Dynamic Systems

Network Crowds and Markets: Reasoning About A Highly Connected World (Cambridge University Press) 

At the moment this is one of the tomes that I am immersed within.  The book has a good introduction on Graph Theory but then quickly heads into territory such as calculations of Social Capital with emphasis on Closure within Networks.  The text also does a grand job of tying (pun intended) Graph Theory and Game Theoretic applications with emphasis on arbitrage environments.  The chapter on diffusion in networks is worth the price of purchase.  For anyone performing work in the area of Social Networks this text is a must.

Social and Economic Networks (Princeton University Press)

This book is a great mix of statistics, linear algebra and game theory as applied to social networks.  The economic emphasis is particularly cogent.  The detail and depth is world class.  The analysis of Stochastic and Random graph models is of particular interest for anyone dealing with adoption models in network environments.  Further the mathematical analysis of imitation in social networks is especially enjoyable. This is also one of the few text that I have seen that tie together Fat Tail, Long Tail and Poisson Distribution analysis.

Introduction to Dynamic Systems (Wiley)

This is an older text published in 1979. ¬†Funny how those “maths” do not change much – eh? ¬†I have owned this book since I have been involved with creating software systems. ¬†The book while not “out of print” is commanding extremely large sums of money. ¬†The objective as stated in the preface is: “to help one develop the ability to analyze real dynamic phenomena and dynamic systems.” ¬†Seems very appropriate in this day and age of online behavior. ¬†The book starts off with a review of differential equations, linear algebra and state space equations. ¬†Then text then goes on to address both mechanical and electrical constructs with applications with tools such as markov models and control systems with z-transform theory. ¬† You read this book and honestly you realize not much as changed with the InterWebz.


Numerical Analysis, Sixth Edition  (Brooks/Cole Publishing)

Years ago when I was working on my Phd in Applied Science we had several levels of Numerical Analysis.  I love the aspects of Lagrange Polynomials, L2 Norms, Splines and the like.  This book covers them all and has a really cool glossary and index of defined terms for that moment when you literally forgot what a term means because your cross eyed.

Probability Random Variables and Stochastic Processes (McGraw Hill)

This is/was a text for a class at c on –¬†Probability¬† Random Variables and Stochastic Processes. ¬†The book is written by Athanasios¬†Papoulis¬†who is a legend in signal processing.¬†I will tell you this is not for the faint of heart and neither was the class. ¬†Now more than ever it is an important part of anyone doing data science.

Matrix Algebra for Engineers (Von Nostrand Company)

This is a straight ahead approach to Linear Algebra.  Written in a straight ahead fashion addressing fundamentals of matrix theory like simultaneous equations, determinants and eigenvalue analysis.  I probably have a high affinity for this book because it is a first edition published in 1965.

Programming and Code Development

The Art of Computer Programming Vol 1-4 

Colloquially known as TAOCP, I am not going to say much about these tomes except you should at a minimum know what they are and have in them.  Not for the faint of heart if you just want to do some PHP or ruby on rails. Having had the experience to take a class from Professor Knuth with variations of these via class notes being the backdrop, I cannot say enough about the text.  For the true software engineer a must for the arsenal.

Code Complete (Microsoft Press)

IMHO this is a great book for the thought processes that lead to creating production products. ¬†It was a seminal work in the area before all of the Agile books hit the market. ¬†While I myself am not a big proponent of ‘software process’ this book gets you in the modus operandi of how to think not just code.

Signal Processing

Adaptive and Digital Signal Processing (International Series on Signal Processing)

I was having discussion the other day with some I respect in the audio, semantics and data science field and we noted that long before you could spin up a virtual machine in the proverbial cloud there was a field called real time signal processing ¬†– where you didnt have a database. ¬†All the processing of streams were in real time – in memory. ¬†Funny how the vissistudes of cyclialty come back to haunt you think Big Data. ¬†I highly recommend this text. ¬†Great examples of frequency and array based processing. ¬†When everyone was teaching time domain behavior Professor Lindquist was teaching the law of dual domains and easier math. ¬†It also covers various kernel transforms never covered in other text before the term “wavelet” came in to vogue.

So there is a first cut in a multi volume blog that I will continue.  I trust this was helpful.  If you find any of these text useful feel free to contact me with what you are working on or considering.  Also if there are recommendations that you find particularly informative as far as a certain text goes drop me a line.

Until Then,

Go Big or Go Home!


You talkin’ to Me?

‚ÄúWith heart and hand I pledge you while I load my gun again, you will never be forgotten or the enemy forgiven, my good comrade.‚ÄĚ

~ A.S.L.

As is usual this time of year most think of heading back to school, the coming of autumn and even some are contemplating the winter holidays. ¬†I am usually stuck betwixt the mental gymnastics of the proverbial Indian Summer and the Weather Channel fervently watching for the next storm barreling up the Carribean Corridor. ¬†True waterman know that one should never take your eye off the ocean or take your gaze off the skyline. ¬†The relationship a waterman has with the ocean is an extremely complicated Mars/Venus – Love/Hate – Yin/Yang existence especially for those that would love to see The Kracken, Leviathan or Neptune emerge from the deep. ¬†Secretly I believe we are ‘Oceanic misogynist’¬†as most watermen look at the ocean as a lady and actually dislike her yet at the same time are drawn to Her love and terror.

Yet as much as I truly love this time of the year when most start tweeting – “We will never forget!” ¬†– in honor of the 9/11 terrorist attacks my mind wanders to few days before 9/11 and the last time I talked to the waterman and my comrade: Steven Swenson (aka Sven).

Some of you know that I write this dedication every year.  It is neither cathartic nor is it pining in squalid sorrow for my lost commrade.  I cannot bring myself to such pitiful acts when I know the loss is much greater for his family.  In some ways it reminds of the book by C.S. Lewis  РA Grief Observed.

I do find it curious that such independent men could forge such a relationship as ours.

Even so, it is not, shall I say upstanding character in the truest sense in the manner that I sometimes react.  My melancholy compassion or even sometimes,  sheer anguish,  lies in the mere fact that, The Sven was an Elite Performer and was a better person than most and honestly there are others who would have been better off  going into the great sleep Рthan him. So maybe its anger yet I digress here is a succinct example of how Brutally Honest he was with people.

For example in discussion:

Person 1: Well here is my idea and blah blah blah blah… ¬†What do you think?

Sven:  You know what i think?  I think its fucking stupid. (laughs)

yet another:

Person2: Hey man how are you today?

Sven: Like shit Рhow are you?

Person 2: no response just keeps walking.

(to me: see exactly as you said they dont even pay attention)

Most people dont have the cajones or they are caught up in their own pathetic, self referenced heads to say anything out of the ordinary, for fear of reprisal or what others might “think” of them.

Some of you know that I wear a Skeleton Head Ring on my right hand. ¬†I believe in the ethos: ¬†Life The Great Indulgence! ¬†I do not go the for the Gothic ‘I want to die” crap nor is it some Rock N Roll Hootchie Coo affect. ¬†So why do I wear it? ¬†It came from a discussion the Sven and I had years ago. ¬†We were talking about Schrodinger’s Cat. ¬†The Sven once said the Cat is dead because he destroyed the box.

So one day we were talking about the cat, women, boats and music, mixed in with a little software engineering, and he drew a skeleton face on a napkin and threw it over to me. ¬†He said, “It all comes for us.” ¬†I folded the napkin up and kept it and had a ring made out of it. ¬†Solid Silver. ¬†Of course the Silver Smith took some artistic freedoms and added some realism and ferocity. ¬†It is beautiful to me. ¬† It is a constant reminder ¬†that the Great Reaper is after us. ¬†It is also a reminder ¬†concerning the discussion he and I had that day.

It is also a reminder the feeling of immortality should be crystallized and adored.

Said Ring.

A feeling of immortality was occurring the last day I talked to him.

Sven was sailing around the world and being a true waterman he was prepared. ¬†He owned ¬†a satellite phone for his sailing trip around the world. ¬†I never could stand that damn satellite phone he had and he loved that damn thing for whatever reason. ¬†Probably because it provided him total freedom. ¬†On numerous occasion I tried to call him and he tried calling me etc. ¬†I finally sent him a message via carrier pigeon to just wait and call me when he gets settled in the port of call we had decided to meet. ¬†As a note we had planned all of this years earlier to meet around the world whenever Sven bought his boat which in an of itself is a great story. ¬†So finally I suppose he was settled and one day…

(Phone Ringing)

Me: Hello?

Sven: Hey man!

Me: I hate that piece of shit phone of your’s where are you?

Sven: I have been hanging out at this cantina all day long and the guy is letting me use his phone to call you.  You guys have your tickets?

Me: Not yet.

Sven: Man go get them! ¬†It is crazy they have been playing Latin music all day and when I just called you they started playing “Gimme Back My Bullets” its a sign!

Me: Well then it must be so.  Yeah I will get them today.  So tell me something man how is it?

Sven: Well it took me about 3 months just to realize that I didnt have a fucking schedule.  It is so stupid running around like a squirrel.

Me: I hear ya man. ¬†So tell me somethin’ ya’ happy?

Sven:  Yea man if I would have known how this was going to be I would have done it a long time ago.  It really puts things in perspective.  The responsiblity is all on you but it places different responsibilities that are more real than the rest of the stuff, ya know?

Me: Yeah man I know its the crap that is what they lead you to believe Рthe stuff that is all important.  I just wanted to know that you are happy.

Sven:  Yea man really.  I am. Thanks.

Me:  You dont have to thank me.  Ok man we will see you soon!  Go Big!

Sven: Ok man I’ll see you soon.

Never again did I get to tell him how stupid his phone was or that I believed he did destroy the cat in the box.

Yea it looks like what you are thinking. We were laughing.

In the last months Steven experienced life that most dream about and yet are to scared to go after for fear of so called personal failure. ¬†Most cling to the fallacy of societies trappings and the “thou shalts” of our existence which most deem rules created by so called social norms. ¬†Living outside of those social norms brings great freedom and at the same instance great¬†responsibilities¬†that most are afraid to experience.

He died doing what he loved – free diving in the ocean he so loved.

“You Only Suffer As Long As You Want To
Men Like Us Do Not Let Each Other Drown
We Share The Sweetest Black Bread
That Delicate Grain Of Scorn
No God, No Master, No Master Slave.”

~ Rome- “We who fell in love with the sea (J√©r√īme Reuter)

“Our life passes like idle chatter.” ~ Karl Maria Willgut

Here is the infamous PC Destruction video:

This was one of the songs he liked off the Fight Club soundtrack.  We used to listen to it everyday at Apple.

And if he was here I believe he would like this song or then again he would tell me it was fucking stupid and laugh.

Rome РWe Who Fell In Love With The Sea

I miss him.


The Main Attribute Take 2

Posted: January 31, 2012 in Direct Thoughts

Which Do You Prefer?

So I recieved a ton of positive feedback from the last post on The One Attribute.  I was forwarded a video from the original founding members of Next showing a great inside view of the interaction of a startup.  Hard lines in the psychological, financial and physical aspects of creating a sucessful company.  At 13:00 Steve discusses all the problems and shows the reality.  Everyone also is skirting the issue of taking the requirements and locking them down.  While passion does have a ton to do with it all shutting the hell up and getting something done is what seperates pros from posers.

Until Then,

Go Big Or Go Home!


Passion comes in many colors

Recently I¬†received¬†an award for best presentation at a BarCamp entitled “Quick and Dirty Startups.” ¬†I had a blast both creating the slideware and presenting it – although during the presentation the projector was intermittently shorting out which I feared would cause the audience to enter into epileptic¬†fits. ¬†Maybe the gnashing of teeth and wringing of hands during my presentation was that or maybe the audience members realized how damn difficult it is to create company from the spark of an idea. ¬† In the presentation I said do not create a company if the number one reason is to make a ton of money (that confused many…).

Hail to the Champ

At the same time I have been in varying degrees of discussions in and around the T’s of a Startup: Talent. ¬†Most who have followed my blog realize the importance I place on talent. ¬†I have also been speaking with various software engineers of varying skills sets from those who love CSS, to those who love HDFS, to those who love creating ensemble machine learning algorithms. ¬†These two events had me reflect on something that I used to consider seperate entitites. ¬†It was though I had an epiphany. ¬†What if what you do to create and who you are – ¬†in fact are one in the same?

I wrote another blog on the great human endeavor of software. ¬†I would also consider music to be in that league as well. ¬†The two closely align. ¬†There are rules yet there are no rules. ¬†There are fundamental symbolics and syntactics that allow singular and crowd sourced orchestration to create great works of art. ¬†Those that truly create great music and software have one thing in common: Passion. ¬†Which is the number one attribute I look for when either wanting to work with someone or adding someone to a team. ¬†I also reflected on the views people have of software engineering writ large and realized that most like the music world look at as us as though there is no work involved. ¬†Why? ¬†If you look at anyone who loves what they do and who they are within the same instance performing a task for the pure desire of doing it – is not work. ¬†It is what you do and who you are that create that perception. ¬†I have had the extreme pleasure of working in many aspects of the music industry as well as the software industry and in fact some cases one in the same. ¬†No one sees ¬†the 25/8 ¬†(25 hrs a day – 8 days a week) schedule. ¬†All anyone sees are the end results: Concert: On stage women and men throwing themselves at the stage, Software Company: Pulling up to your yacht in your Modena with a personal assistant. They do not see the massive amount of preparation, practice and planning involved. ¬†However while it is grueling for those that love the process it is not work. ¬†On the contrary for us it is pure adulterated freedom. ¬†Why do i say adulterated? ¬†Many would consider that to do what we do with as much fun as it is – IT MUST BE ¬†A CRIME! ¬†Sure there are incredibly difficult situations, many that are life changing, but what of it? ¬†For those that are truly passionate about creating we really dont know what else to do. ¬†I will leave you with a great clip by a legendary guitar player Steve Vai as he discusses the secret to his success. ¬†Know what you want. ¬†See it happen and the “Is To Be” will ring true.

Get into a line that you will find to be a deep personal interest, something you really enjoy spending twelve to fifteen hours a day working at, and the rest of the time thinking about.”~ Earl Nightingale ~

Until then,

Go Big Or Go Home!


The USS Sand Lance Nuclear Submarine

I have been doing some work lets say ‘out of the ordinary’ as of late. ¬†I have also been extremely honored to be working around some former people who were directly involved “when peace broke out” during the Cold War. ¬† I have also had the opportunity to work with people who have backgrounds in literature who now work in the technical industry. ¬†Also, dear readers, as most of you know I am fond of the¬†entrepreneurial¬†spirit. ¬† ¬†This ¬†led me to thinking about how they all¬†interrelate¬†and then like magic! ¬†Submarines, Shakespeare and Startups.


So lets pick the first one: Submarines.  Some of submariners that I know were directly involved with designing, building and operating submarines.  Specifically Nuclear Powered submarines.   In listening to the stories I noticed how much in common Submarines have with Startups.   Let me be specific herewith:  I am referring to fast attack nuclear submarines.  Here is a wikipedia page for reference: Fast Attack Nuclear Submarines РLos Angeles Class.  I am also referring to problems areas posed as to why Russian Submarines were quieter than USA submarines (if your interested do the google grunt work).

So first let me explain why I believe in this day and age of Lean Startup mentality why we can learn a great deal from those that travel below the ocean surface.

Submariners are consumate planners.

Submariners are by definition – independent operations. ¬†From the perspective of information and physical support the design, building and operation places a premium on planning. ¬† The Commanding Officer (CO) must “go with what they know and have got”. ¬†Efficiency¬†is key. ¬†Space is a premium. ¬†Intelligence at the highest level are mandatory across all aspects of the design, operation and mission.

Submarines are the epitome of stealth

Submarines have been recognized as the¬†preeminence¬†of¬†contributions¬†to stealth and survival. ¬†For instance the greater degree of enemy’s knowledge of the submarine – in both space and time – the greater the diminsihment of the submarines effectiveness. ¬†Stealth relates to safety and the mission of the ship relates to¬†efficiency. ¬†Signature Management is the term given to the ability to lower the footprint of detection. ¬†It ia also known as Stealth Technology. ¬†Stealth technology¬†also termed¬†LO technology¬†(low observable technology) is a sub-discipline of military tactics and passive¬†electronic countermeasures,which cover a range of¬†techniques¬†used with personnel,¬†aircraft,¬†ships,¬†submarines, and¬†missiles, to make them less visible (ideally¬†invisible) to¬†radar,¬†infrared,¬†sonar¬†and other detection methods. ¬†Stealth Startup anyone?

Submariners are Concise and Focused

Submariners need to be extremely consice in all matters of communication.  In most cases receiving communications may always be accomplished but it may need to be managed around mission critical requirements.  These mission critical requirements are in most cases time sensitive  In many cases communication transmission may not always be available without mission impact.  Thus one needs to be concise and make decision in-situ at the moment and go with what they know.  Communications are minimized while maximizing the ability to war-fight.


Nowadays, literature folks abound in the technical sector. ¬†I also include english majors and people who dig 17th century poems like Milton’s Paradise Lost in the group. ¬†Why? ¬†They know how to communicate and weave disparate information. ¬†They also know how to tell a story. ¬†They also know how to use commas accordingly. ¬† Shakespeare being the¬†preeminent¬†example of author and playwright wrote stories that naturally mirrored life’s twists and turns. ¬†What does this have to do with startups? ¬†Let us take an example from Hamlet (NOTE: this a cliff notes exceprt from SparkNotes)

”¬†On a dark winter night,¬†a ghost walks the ramparts of Elsinore Castle in Denmark. Discovered first by a pair of watchmen, then by the scholar Horatio, the ghost resembles the recently deceased King Hamlet, whose brother Claudius has inherited the throne and married the king‚Äôs widow, Queen Gertrude. When Horatio and the watchmen bring Prince Hamlet, the son of Gertrude and the dead king, to see the ghost, it speaks to him, declaring ominously that it is indeed his father‚Äôs spirit, and that he was murdered by none other than Claudius. Ordering Hamlet to seek revenge on the man who usurped his throne and married his wife, the ghost disappears with the dawn.” ~ SparkNotes on Hamlet

Ok so how does this relate to startups?  Or submarines for that matter?  Inquiring minds want to know!  We have Stealth, Revenge and Strategy all rolled into one simple paragraph! Notwithstanding the whole sword fighting thingy (technical term) between Hamlet and Laertes! This!  This is the stuff of true competition!   Moreover Shakespeare mirrors life, life is about humans, humans are bat-house crazy, ergo startups are crazy!

So lets look at three aspects of many of the characters in Shakespeare’s plays and stories:

Shakespeare characters are consumate planners

Revenge usually takes planning.  Lets take the character Fortinbras, who has led an army to Denmark and attacked Poland earlier in the play, enters with ambassadors from England, who report that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead (ok think all that took some planning by Fortinbras or he just waltzed in?) . Fortinbras is stunned by the gruesome sight of the entire royal family lying sprawled on the floor dead (Ok Fortinbras time to make a quick decision). He moves to take power of the kingdom. Horatio, fulfilling Hamlet’s last request, tells him Hamlet’s tragic story (how nice of him).

Shakespeare characters are the epitome of stealth

Ghost and Witches. ¬†Need I say more? ¬†Don’t we create¬†apparitions¬†when we sell our pitch deck? ¬†How about the reality distortion field? ¬†Yes?

Shakespeare characters are consise and focused

Well they are  when it comes to salient aspects such as revenge, de-throning and well murder!   Things that carry high price tags if you really that can go off the rails Рpeople get really motivated.  Kind of like startups.

So let me be specific here on startups. ¬†I really like the terminology¬†Lean Startups. ¬†The book is great if you havent read it. ¬†That said its really nothing new. ¬†Incremental feedback based on whether a customer could really use something is a basic business premise. ¬†We all have gotten caught up in making something “kewl” because we could but so what? ¬†A little known fact is that process doesnt make great companies or great software. ¬†Getting stuff done is about making a great startup. ¬† ¬†Also having the ability to NOT PANIC is a good attribute for your founders and initial team. ¬† Think a submariner stuck under the ice can afford to panic? ¬†What good will panicking do?

Which in turn leads me to another issue on a recent development in the startup arena and that is the issue of Aegism and Founder Prejudice. Yep I said it.  It also cuts both ways.  Older founders and employers are seen as dinasours or cannot go the distance and younger persons do not have the pedigree to get through the tough times.  You need both.  Its a syncopated system.  I do prefer to work with those that have been stuck under the ice and do not panic.  If your in a startup you will get stuck under the ice.  Then what?  I dont care how many lines of ruby,perl,python etc you can write.  So can the next person.  Be calm.  Always remember to breathe and use the restroom, head or latrine.  Take your pick.

Remember: ¬†To do a dangerous thing with style is the mark of a professional. ¬†–¬†#TCTRules.

For those that are interested here are some references:

1) Submarine Plans  from Alexander the Great to 1994

2) Submarine Technology for the 21st Century by Zimmerman

until then go big or go home!


Visualize Your Visualizations

Visualization has come into vogue in the past years. ¬†Historically this was the world of straight reporting and key performance indicators.¬† This is not the case now.¬† FlowingData has brought interactive data analysis to the forefront.¬† ¬†This is due to the ability for us to process massive amounts of data and the uptake in what I like to call fluid¬† data systems.¬† If you have seen the books Beautiful Visualization, Data Analysis or Visualize This then you know there are several choices of frameworks and libraries to choose from in this area.¬† As of late I have been asked a ton of questions about what/why/when of these libraries so I decided to put them all in one place.¬† While no means comprehensive (e.g. I didn‚Äôt include Haskell, MATLAB,‚ÄôR‚ÄĚ et al) Here is the list.¬† Hit me up if you find something else as I will keep a running list.


Although Axiis claims open source Flex is not open source. Axiis is an open source data visualization framework designed for beginner and expert developers alike.  Whether you are building elegant charts for executive briefings or exploring the boundaries of advanced data visualization research, Axiis has something for you. Axiis provides both pre-built visualization components as well as abstract layout patterns and rendering classes that allow you to create your own unique visualizations.

Axiis is built upon the Degrafa graphics framework and Adobe Flex 3.


We have used prefuse in the past and it is very flexible.  JAVA based and can be modified to run extremely efficient.  That said one must have a programming background.

Prefuse is a set of software tools for creating rich interactive data visualizations. The original prefuse toolkit provides a visualization framework for the Java programming language. The prefuse flare toolkit provides visualization and animation tools for ActionScript and the Adobe Flash Player.

Prefuse supports a rich set of features for data modeling, visualization, and interaction. It provides optimized data structures for tables, graphs, and trees, a host of layout and visual encoding techniques, and support for animation, dynamic queries, integrated search, and database connectivity. Prefuse is written in Java, using the Java 2D graphics library, and is easily integrated into Java Swing applications or web applets. Prefuse is licensed under the terms of a BSD license, and can be freely used for both commercial and non-commercial purposes.

The visualization gallery and demonstration video provide numerous examples of the types of applications that can be built with the prefuse toolkit.


Protovis composes custom views of data with simple marks such as bars and dots. Unlike low-level graphics libraries that quickly become tedious for visualization, Protovis defines marks through dynamic properties that encode data, allowing inheritance, scales and layouts to simplify construction.

Protovis is free and open-source, provided under the BSD License. It uses JavaScript and SVG for web-native visualizations; no plugin required (though you will need a modern web browser)! Although programming experience is helpful, Protovis is mostly declarative and designed to be learned by example.

JavaScript InfoVis Toolkit:

The JavaScript InfoVis Toolkit provides tools for creating Interactive Data Visualizations for the Web.

The toolkit implements advanced features of information visualization like TreeMaps, an adapted visualization of trees based on theSpaceTree, a focus+context technique to plot Hyperbolic Trees, a radial layout of trees with advanced animations -called RGraph and other visualizations.

In November 2010 the toolkit was acquired by the Sencha Labs Foundation.


Processing.js is the sister project of the popular¬†Processing¬†visual programming language, designed for the web. Processing.js makes your data visualizations, digital art, interactive animations, educational graphs, video games, etc. work using web standards and without any plug-ins. You write code using the Processing language, include it in your web page, and Processing.js does the rest. It’s not magic, but almost.


While more of a diagraming solution than a visualization mxGraph/JGraph is used in conjunction with the Swing library.  JGraph has been providing leading diagramming software components since 2001, first with ever popular JGraph Swing library, then in 2006 with the leading edge development of mxGraph.  The libraries are designed to drop in and offer you the complete range of functionality required to add complex diagramming to your application or web site.


We have had good experiences with Flot. It is fast and flexible with low overhead.  Flot is a pure Javascript plotting library for jQuery. It produces graphical plots of arbitrary datasets on-the-fly client-side.  The focus is on simple usage (all settings are optional), attractive looks and interactive features like zooming and mouse tracking.  The plugin works with Internet Explorer 6+, Firefox 2.x+, Safari 3.0+, Opera 9.5+ and Konqueror 4.x+ with the HTML canvas tag (the excanvasJavascript emulation helper is used for IE < 9).


If your into snake charming and use Python then MatPlotLib is for you.  While the installation is not straightforward the flexibility is there from a user perspective.  I see a huge uptake in this library and personally use it.


This library works extremely well for development on the iPhone.  If you need a complete graphing functionality that is cost effective download this lib.

Core Plot is a plotting framework for Mac OS X and iOS. It provides 2D visualization of data, and is tightly integrated with Apple technologies like Core Animation, Core Data, and Cocoa Bindings.


This is a derivative of the InfoViz libs from sencha .  I do not know much about them but it looks very useful.


Written in C++ the framework enables the development of algorithms, visual encodings, interaction techniques, data models, and domain-specific visualizations. One of the goal of Tulip is to facilitates the reuse of components and allows the developers to focus on programming their application. This development pipeline makes the framework efficient for research prototyping as well as the development of end-user applications.  They have libraries for several implementations (Python,Open GL etc).


We tried out ggobi a long time ago.  While it does appear noteworthy we opted not to utilize it on the respective project.  GGobi is an open source visualization program for exploring high-dimensional data. It provides highly dynamic and interactive graphics such as tours, as well as familiar graphics such as the scatterplot, barchart and parallel coordinates plots. Plots are interactive and linked with brushing and identification.


Mondrian is a general purpose statistical data-visualization system. It features outstanding interactive visualization techniques for data of almost any kind, and has particular strengths, compared to other tools, for working with Categorical Data, Geographical Data and LARGE Data.

All plots in Mondrian are fully linked, and offer many interactions and queries. Any case selected in a plot in Mondrian is highlighted in all other plots.

Currently implemented plots comprise Histograms, Boxplots y by x, Scatterplots, Barcharts, Mosaicplots, Missing Value Plots, Parallel Coordinates/Boxplots, SPLOMs and Maps.

Mondrian works with data in standard tab-delimited or comma-separated ASCII files and can load data from R workspaces. There is basic support for working directly on data in Databases (please email for further info).

Mondrian is written in JAVA and is distributed as a native application (wrapper) for MacOS X and Windows. Linux users need to start the jar-file.¬† It is heavily used and leveraged against ‚ÄėR‚Äô.

Once again while this is not a comprehensive list it is more than adequate to get your feet wet in the world of visualization and datascience.  One of the most salient things you can do for your self is a little scripting or programming.  Also a little math doesnt hurt either.  So do not be scared of a summation sign.  Dust off those old stat books and get to it then you can start delving into more advanced topics in BigData.

Until Then,

Go Big or Go Home,


Sven To You

Most will consider 9/11 ¬†as remembrance of an atrocity that occurred within our nation. ¬†Some cried. ¬†Some died. Some cheered.¬† I think 9/11 as it is commonly known within the vernacular and as ‚ÄúThe Event‚ÄĚ, was a pathetic display of religion and government gone awry.¬† I personally know people who made it out of the towers ‚Äď they are near and dear to me.¬† Their stories are gut wrenching.¬† Running till they puked with bodies flying like rain, splattering on pavement, with an additional hailstorm of aviation gas, fumes and concrete.¬†¬† Yet in elite fashion the people that I know rebuilt their lives both in terms of monetary success, physical and mental performance.

That said I know September 11 as another day. Over the years since September 11, 2005 ¬†I continually think about my comrade at arms: Steven Swenson (aka Sven).¬†¬† For those that do not know he died in a free diving accident in Costa Rica on this day in 2005.¬† Many will say that one should “move on” and forget.¬† Yet I say Time can be crystallized much like a wound that is cauterized with high heat.¬†¬† Time is a construct –¬† we can stop time at a moment of our affinity – surrounding yourself with what you enjoy.¬† Many of you who ‚Äúfollow‚ÄĚ my blog, tweets or facebook pages will have a succinct understanding of my views on life.¬† The elite perform.¬† There are no free lunches and the aspects of Lex Talionis are alive and well at certain echelons of life for those that love the game within the game.

I am continually asked about proverbial secrets of success and tales of certain times in my life  Рespecially when a group of us banded together during the hay day of silicon valley (then not now).

Loose lips sink ships and dead pirates tell no tales.¬† There are many tales that will never be told as half of them went to the watery abyss with Sven.¬†¬† Given his favorite hobby was free diving his ‘relaxation’ was focused around pushing limits and boundaries.¬† Most of our copious free hobby time was usually spent in some discussion of philosophy, math,music or making money.¬† He was the most intense nihilist that loved life and living ‚Äúthe great indulgence‚ÄĚ more than anyone I knew.¬† He continually said Schrodinger cat is eviscerated not just dead.¬† His computer science skills are now tales of valley folklore.¬† He read hexadecimal like a Dr. Suess book.¬† He was also a very well trained martial artist and an obvious waterman.

Yet I will tell a tale that I remember as it were last week.

Late one night we were involved in a marathon session of billiards¬† on the ‚Äúpurple monster‚ÄĚ as we affectionately called my 9 foot purple tiger maple table.

We had a song list in rotation using some software that we created or were testing and laughing how stupid it was to be making money –¬† making something so stupid.¬† Yet I digress.¬† On the playlist came Jimmy Buffet‚Äôs ‚ÄúThat’s What Living Is To Me‚ÄĚ which is based on Following The Equator by Mark Twain,¬† of which both Sven and I would incessantly¬† discuss¬† how Mr. Samuel Clemmons was so beautifully scathing with pen and word.¬† We turned the song up extremely loud and he was screaming the following stanza:

“Be good and you will be lonesome

Be lonesome and you will be free

Live a lie and you will live to regret it

That’s what living is to me”

So while this isn’t some prurient, lurid or debauched tale, it reflects many salient aspects of why I miss my comrade.  He despised liars and loved life, as well as being extremely responsible.

One should never tell enemies anything, tell your friends everything and assume enemy until proven otherwise.  Sven proved himself a true friend of like mind and for me there are few  Рas I prefer quality over quantity.

I recently had supper with his beautiful wife and two handsome sons.  Amazing the older one looked just like him and the younger one was asking me technical programming questions (still a youngster) in the same cadence as SVEN.  They were arguing with each other in the same point-counter point as their dad.  I answered patiently and as best I could intently looking and listening to both of them.

I was attempting to catch that cauterized timeline, that time crystallization and for a brief instance – a flash: my comrade was there.

With that I will leave with you a quote, a Sven assertion and a song dedicated to my comrade:

“With heart and hand I pledge you while I load my gun again, you will never be forgotten or the enemy forgiven, my good comrade.‚ÄĚ

~ Dr. A. Lavey

¬†“Mediocrity is NOT an option!” ~ Steven Swenson

Comrade, by Blood Axis.