« March 2005 | Main | May 2005 »

April 2005 Archives

April 4, 2005

Chinese Labor

Tim Bray points to an interesting Times article on China's looming labor shortage:

So it is here in Ningxiang, a 10-hour drive from the factories on the southern coast, that clues can be found to a problem once thought inconceivable: The world's most populous nation, which has powered its stunning economic rise with a cheap and supposedly bottomless pool of migrant labor, is experiencing shortages of about two million workers in Guangdong and Fujian, the two provinces at the heart of China's export-driven economy.
Keep your eye on China in the coming decades folks. Whether her economy succeeds, fails, falters or explodes, we'll definitely be feeling the repercussions here in the States (and the same is true if you're not reading this from "the States.")

Frito Feet

This has been true of every dog I've ever known. (Well, at least the ones that I've known well enough to sniff their feet.) When dogs get dirt and dust on the pads of their feet, which then 'bakes in' through perspiration, the resulting smell is not unlike that of a bag of Fritos. In fact, I would venture to say that it smells exactly like a bag of Fritos. (My wife, who's sense of smell is much more discerning than mine, says that sometimes Polly's feet smell more like cheesecorn. I'll take her word for it.) I don't know if this fact makes me like dogs more, or dislike Fritos more.

Update 20 seconds after posting: Obviously, I'm not the only one who's noticed this phenomenon.

The Modern-Day Slacker's Guide to Passive-Aggressive Bug Reporting

A couple weeks back, I made mention of a small-but-potentially fatal usability bug in Movable Type. (Okay, it's not 'I killed John Denver' fatal, but it is "I lost every instance of the word diarrhea in my blog archives" fatal.) I reported the bug in a rather weak way: posted a screenshot on Flickr, blogged it here, and then forgot about it. (Oh, I tagged it up all proper-like. My own little experiment in letting the folksonomy do the work of the folks.)

I kinda figured that Jamison would notice it eventually (he works at Six Apart, and is a friend from my AOL days.) Then that shit would be on like Hostess Ding-Dongs (or "King Dons" according to your geographical inclination.) 'Cause Jamison is a passionate guy, and nothing gets him as riled up as user-centered design. (Okay, maybe Black-rock City. He seems to really feel that place.)

But this is a guy who, when Mac OS 10.2 came out, spent almost 20 minutes explaining to me his distaste for the new, ever-so-slightly-glassier Quartz button appearance (it's a respect-for-guidelines thing. Don't ask.) So, I'm thinking, once Jamison gets wind of this, woe to the bug that's standing in front of that can of shaken Raid.

But who do you suppose finally spied the screen on Flickr and weighed in with his (terse, but wonderfully honest) two-pence? Anil Dash. And it only took 2 weeks and 5 days! And all I had to do was meekly raise my hand. No 'petitions to Apple', no haranguing emails. Hell, not even a bulletin-board posting.

So kudos to Anil. (Who, btw, posted about a much worse software bug recently.) Now transfer that bug over to Jamison, the design pitbull, and let's put this issue to bed for the next version. So I can get back to my poopy-pants posting.

April 5, 2005

The World of Tomorrow, Today

Rich Burridge has a great idea. He's been plumbing through his back-catalog of old Omni magazines (I too loved Omni as a kid.. well, as an early teen I suppose.) And then Googling around to discover what ever became of some of the hotly-anticipated discoveries, inventions and creations first trumpeted in its pages. Check 'em out.

Hacking Civil Liberties

Fantastic, deep-reaching essay by Paul Graham on Hackers, the last American heroes:

When you read what the founding fathers had to say for themselves, they sound more like hackers. "The spirit of resistance to government," Jefferson wrote, "is so valuable on certain occasions, that I wish it always to be kept alive."

Imagine an American president saying that today. Like the remarks of an outspoken old grandmother, the sayings of the founding fathers have embarrassed generations of their less confident successors.

Update 4/06: Maciej Ceglowski opines that Graham is on much-thinner ice when he steps beyond the boundaries of hacking. (I love that bit about Dave Winer "snorfling cashew nuts". Tee-hee!)

Free Icons - Mountain and Grappling Hook

goals-implications.jpg Another teensy icon-set that I created for a work-related document. My labor = your benefit, Internet! This is only two icons (although thematically consistent, at least!) A circular Mountain image, and a Grappling Hook. I developed them to illustrate the notion of 'Challenges' (the Mountain) and 'Implications' (or, I guess, solutions -- think of implications as "ways we're going to address the challenges".) You, obviously, may want to use them on your ski-ing or mountain-climbing page! Go crazy.

Link is to an Illustrator (.ai) file. Sorry, no PSD or PDF, cause I'm lazy.
Right-click to save file (.ai, 604k)

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

April 6, 2005

The Internet Amazes Me

How Pulp
Originally uploaded by texasaurus.
This is a great picture of troops in Afghanistan. How amazing that soldiers can self-publish in this way.

April 7, 2005

Eatin' Good in the Neighborhood

A neighbor gave us an Applebee's gift card awhile back, and we needed to run some errands last night, so we thought we'd use it. The meal seemed okay at the time, but given the 18 hours I've had since then, I am re-christening the chain 'Asshole-pees.'

April 8, 2005

Auto Insurers Make Me See Pink

If you spend.. oh, even half an afternoon driving around Columbus OH, you'll see this odd ad on the side of any given COTA bus, with some leering dude with creepy pink eyes. And he's saying "Auto Insurers Make Me See Pink."

Here's a bit of history behind Three-C auto, the upstart auto-body shop that faced down the insurance industry and won:

Bob Juniper, who had spent 20 years reconstructing smashed pieces of metal, turned out to be a marketing pro. He wrote the ads by hand in the evenings at home, recorded them at a radio-station studio, made decisions about where to place them.
It's really kind of an amazing story, and I had no idea that Three-C had branched out into such diversified pursuits:
The Three-C campaign was picked up by the trade press, and soon other shops were calling, wanting to use the same material in their markets. In 1994, Juniper and Hughes started a separate company, Jupiter Marketing & Advertising ("that's Jupiter, like the largest planet, not like my name"), to copyright the material and sell the best ads -- Three-C has tried 50 so far -- and to do ad placement. Vaughn Owens, who joined the operation last year, says wryly, "We're probably the only collision-shop-focused marketing agency in the world." Some 30 shop owners in 15 states have done business with the now-$2-million marketing company.


The wife and I caught some of the instantly-forgettable Behind the Scenes: Mork & Mindy on NBC monday night. She was surprised to know that Robin Williams had been In John Belushi's room the night Belushi died. (I'd remembered it from having read the Bob Woodward book many years ago.) I knew there was another celebrity there that night, but I couldn't quite remember who it was.. it was DeNiro. So now you know.

(Oh and, just because it caught my eye - looks like Alfalfa was a real prick. And a Freemason.)

April 9, 2005

Why I Miss North Beach

Why I Miss North Beach
Originally uploaded by soldierant.

April 10, 2005

Sheer Happiness

Sheer happiness is this: catching, from the corner of your eye, your small dog, who is slumbering under the coffee table as you surf blogs on the couch. In her sleep, her tail is at a full wag.

April 14, 2005

The Umbrella Man

Why did someone bring an umbrella to Dealey Plaza that day in 1963?

Imagine this. There's a man, on this bright sunny day, standing on the sidewalk right where the President is about to pass, who opens an umbrella. Not only that, but (as seen in the Zapruder film) he rotates the open umbrella while he's standing under it, as if somehow tracking the President with it as the limo approaches. Now the man pumps the umbrella up and down, as if signaling, right after JFK is first shot. Not only that, but there's a slim, dark-complected man standing on the sidewalk near the umbrella man who, after JFK has been hit, raises one hand high in the air. And after more shots have been fired, fatally wounding the President, and while everyone else is running about or fearfully lying low on the plaza grass, the man with the umbrella calmly lowers and closes it. Then he and the dark-complected man, with chaos all around them, casually sit down together on the curb. Based on blurry still photos of the pair, the dark-complected man may possibly speak into a radio, then conceal it in his back when he and the umbrella man, having taken their respite on the curb, stroll away in opposite directions.
The pictures are quite compelling.

Update 12/10/2007: Changed link to Internet Archive version, since the original page seems to have gone away. Also added some tags to entry.

April 15, 2005

Cats and Dogs

Sun's Greg Papadopoulos on cooperating with Microsoft:

Everyone always asks me what it is like to have 1:1's with Gates, and the answer is not what most people expect. He's got two sides of his personality: a smart, genuine and very approachable geek (I found that surprising) and a hard-edged business guy (not surprising). I truly enjoy our interactions when we are in geek-mode. There is broad common ground on where things are going, what are problems with getting there, and why we need a relentless focus upon innovation. And let's just say I feel differently when his biz-mode kicks in. 'Nuf said.

Kick the Habit

Ted's riffing on smoking chimps and it reminded me about something I've been wanting to share about our dog Polly. We brought her home in August of 2003 from Columbus' Franklin County Animal Shelter. The orginal plan was to foster Polly until we could find her a loving family. We did the latter, but failed miserably at the former and now she's a permanent fixture.

She was turned in to the pound as a stray, so we don't have much history on her, other than what we've been able to observe. She was obviously loved by someone and treated well (her sunny disposition and self-assuredness are evidence of this.) She's got a couple teeth missing (not unusual for a dog her age, estimated to be 4-ish.) I personally think her owner was single, a male, and quite possibly an older gentleman. And here's why...

When we first got Polly, she absolutely did not get along with my wife LeeAnn. Snarling, nipping, mistrust. She bit LeeAnn twice. It was actually very upsetting for a while. A good long while.

We laughed it off at first (my recurring joke was that we had two headstrong bitches in the house) but eventually it just became evident to me: Polly had never lived with a woman. I just don't think she knew what a human woman was. (If you're wondering, me she bonded with almost instantly. In fact, we were fast friends almost from the moment I first held her at the shelter.) And she also developed instant crushes on any male friends who came to visit the house. So, okay, Polly lived with a man.

She also exhibited the weirdest bit of behavior back in those days: she would sit on my lap, and hold her snout an inch from my nostrils. Just hold it there, as if she were waiting for something. If I craned my neck to the left, snout went left. To the right? Snout went right. LeeAnn claimed that Polly was 'stealing my breath.' I formed a theory right around the time we gave Polly her first bath.

Our dogs are indoor dogs, and generally smell pretty good -- Dozer, in fact, has a pleasant naturally-occuring nutty scent -- so we only rarely give them baths. The first time we dropped Polly in the tub, we'd probably had her for 3 weeks. (She was getting over kennel-cough contracted at the shelter.) Her coat was a mess -- her undercoat was worse. And worst of all, once wet, she absolutely reeked of smoke. Like she'd been dipped in nicotine and wrapped in tobbaco every night for a year. Okay, her owner was a smoker. And... waitamminit!

Stealing my breath? Dammit, I think she had been waiting on a toke! I think that Polly was a smoker. Her owner must have supported her habit by puffing into her waiting face! And her disposition was bearing this theory out. Her crankiness with LeeAnn probably reached its peak a couple of weeks after she entered our home, then abated over time. (Today they're fast friends -- cuddling all the time. It'd make you sick, I tellya.) I think she was going through withdrawal.

She also had bad asthmatic episodes when she first came to live with us (that have all but disappeared since she 'kicked.') Sucking and wheezing, trying to get air into her little doggy lungs.

But why do I think that Polly's owner was an older smoking, single gentleman? Well, this part is highly speculative, and kinda sad. But we've thought a lot about what circumstances must have brought her to the pound.

Her official records state 'turned in as stray' (with no location of capture listed --we asked, with every intent of trying to find her owners.) But we've found Polly to be a pretty responsible, and completely non-escapive dog. (If your dog is an escape-artist, you know what I'm talking about here.) Polly just doesn't have a wandering jones. In fact, nothing makes her happier than to lay on her bed all day long. So it's unlikely she wandered off on purpose.

But of course, dogs get lost for all kinds of reasons. It is curious to us, however, noone came looking for such a happy, sunny little dog. (Remember, it was obvious to us from the first that Polly had been treated well and loved by someone.) LeeAnn made it her life's mission for weeks to find this dog's family. Periodic checks with the shelter (no one had enquired), filing reports with Pet FBI (and monitoring the site for months afterward.) Who could love this dog, raise her to 4 years old, and then forget about her so completely?

I guess the sad truth is that there are any number of heartless bastards out there in the world who could probably turn in a dog that they've cared for and walk away without a backwards glance. But for some reason, in my mind, Polly's owner never came looking for her because he can't. I kind of believe that he passed away. (From cancer? I wonder) And I think his family took Polly to the pound because noone wanted to take her on as their own. Like I said.. highly speculative on my part. And definitely sad.

In the end, I guess it doesn't really matter. She's ours now. For always and forever.

April 16, 2005

Dan Baird's Potty Humor

I have no idea how Soldier Ant has become all poop, all the time. But here goes nothing. I've promised to tell you more about the friends and events of my life, so let's start on a winner.

My friend Gary is one of my longest-term, bestest adult friends. ('Adult' meaning that ours was not a friendship formed in childhood: we met in college. I don't mean to imply for a second that Gary ever behaves like an adult.) Gary is probably one of the world's last remaining die-hard Georgia Satellites fans. (Yes, those Georgia Satellites. This does a decent job of putting the 'sats in their proper historical perspective.)

Anyway, Gary loves the Satellites, I love the Satellites. We went to see the Yayhoos, a great band that just happens to feature Dan Baird, formerly of the Georgia Satellites. At this cool little roadhouse (no lie, says Gary as we pull off of St Route 33: "there's the road.. and there's the house") in Wapakoneta (pronounced 'WAW-pawk' by the locals.) Route 33 Rhythm and Brews is this perfect, cozy little juke-joint. Sitting by the door, Gary overheard an exchange that has forever since made him smile.

Before their set, Dan B. approaches the club owner, Ron. Like any good travellin' band man, Dan knows to take care of bidness before taking the stage. He inquires about the nearest non-public restroom.* "I gotta take the Browns to the Superbowl!" says our man Baird. Gary's night is made.

It should tell you something about Gary that this is one of his favorite anecdotes.

* Strangely enough, Gary and I were also at the same venue for Slobberbone's farewell tour, where a recurring theme for the night was guitarist Jess Bar's pained expression, resulting from a desperate need to take a healthy dump. (This according to Brent Best -- I'm not makin' this stuff up!) Which leads one to wonder what's in the water in Waupauk.

April 19, 2005


Further evidence that each generation becomes exponentially less cool: it occurred to me tonight that many (if not most) of my Dad's stories from his youth include one important detail -- how fast he "musta been goin'" at the time.

My Dad's best stories always took place around 50mph.

My stories, however, typically involve 'Dr. Pepper' and 'Microwave Burritos.'

April 25, 2005

Weekend Recap

So, I'm in Denver. Actually, near Denver - Broomfield to be exact. (Which is everything it's cracked up to be.) Here's how my weekend went.

Friday, 10am. On a call with my manager (our weekly 1:1 meeting) I start to feel odd twinges of pain in my abdomen. By 10:30, the call is mercifully coming to an end as small malicious drunken dwarves with razor blades for finger nails start to twist my entrails with glee. ("Me Gold!" they gloat..)

It's like that scene in Hellboy, when Kroenen stabs agent Clay in the stomach like 12 times in 2 seconds... It's just like that. Every 2 minutes for the next 4 hours! At this point I am blaming food poisoning.

Then the fever sets in.

For the next 15 hours, I rock and turn on the couch, or in bed, or on the floor, riding a pitching rollercoaster of body temperature. (With, of course, the accompanying muscle aches and spasms.)

There's more, of course. Vomit, crap, tears and swearing. The wife is an angel, and deserves her Halo right now. (Pun intended.) My fever broke on Saturday morning, but I was a mess most of that day anyway.

I woke up this morning convinced that I could not possibly be on a plane bound for Denver tonight. 3 minutes wrangling with Sun's after-hours travel consultants corrected that error. Had I tried to postpone the flight by even a day, the airlines would've cancelled my whole itinerary, forcing me to rebook (at super-freaking-high 'last minute rates.') So, thank you airline industry, for ensuring that I've brought my life-threatening, eviscerating, disemboweling, emasculating-ly painful flu bug across 1,500 miles to share with a plane-ful of your passengers (and the lovely city of Broomfield.)

Carter's Big Decision

I hope when Noah Wylie leaves 'ER' soon, he takes that breathy jackass that does the NBC promo voice-overs with him.

April 27, 2005

Hold that Tiger!

Here's a list of stuff that will work in Tiger. For what it's worth, I will not be working in Tiger for quite a while. Cause I'm just not interested. All my shits working, for the most part, and OS upgrades bore me.

Okay, there's one thing that's piqued my curiosity -- Apple is adding PDF Annotations to Preview. No biggie -- Acrobat has had that for years. But I'm hoping that Preview's Link Annotations are a little more Applescriptable than Adobe's horrible Link Annotation object.

So there. That's my one teensy little bit of Tiger hype. Wee.

Update 05/02: I was in Palo Alto on Friday night (on my way to Border's to snoop around the graphic novel section, cause Lee's Comics was closed for the night.) I popped into the Apple Store, and dropped the new Tiger Preview.app onto Script Editor, to check it's scripting library. Turn's out it's not scriptable at all. Lame! Strangely, there are a bunch of pre-configured Preview actions for Automator, which I thought was just some slicker and friendlier repackaging of underlying Applescriptability. I still believe this, btw, and I suspect that whatever Preview actions are available are derived from scripting the System Events application. Which, for the simple damn thing I want to do, is overkill. I'll wait for my contact at Adobe to get me in touch with someone who can figure out how to get Acrobat to do what I want.

April 29, 2005

A Week

Whew, what a week! Where to begin? So you know that the week started on a sour note. Things looked up considerably after that: stomach settled, fever dissipated. I spent a couple sluggish days in Broomfield, but fortunately my coworker Jeff was coming off of a cold too, so we forgave each others long vacant pauses, and wandering asides. (And still managed to get some work done, too!) A highlight of the stay in Colorado was stealing away for a couple of hours with an old AOL colleague, Dan Pacheco.

Ain't it funny the way the world works? Once upon a time, Dan and I found ourselves on opposite sides of your classic corporate turf-war -- his team were the business owners for products that my team was building. They had the requirements, and we had the constantly-extended 'blockage palm' (internationalization will take a year! no new features until Q4, bl-blah-bee-blah blah!)

Our Product Managers invented an amusing little phrase -- "Danage Control" to describe their (twice and thrice-daily) attempts to accomodate requests, ideas and directives from Dan. He's just a guy with a lot of passion, and a lot of ideas, and I could tell even then that being one or two steps removed from his implementation team was a hard pill for him to swallow.

So Dan and I went to Boulder, had a long sit-down at The Walnut Brewery, laughed about those times, and exchanged notes on how our circumstances have changed. Dan's got a great gig going with an ambitious local paper looking to transform their business (and leveraging Dan's long history in technology and community.)

Most importantly, his passion and drive are now completely unfettered. (If you've never worked for a large organization like AOL, you may not realize just how difficult it is to get any damn thing done.) He's driving the strategy, he's hiring the developers, and he's seeing his master-plan take shape. Good on you, Dan! Keep it up.

Dan failed miserably, however, in his attempt to fulfill my one request while in Boulder: The Mork and Mindy House remains a mystery to me.

After Broomfield, it was on to the Bay Area, my old haunt. I'm staying in Mountain View on this trip (much better than Redwood City, where I stayed last time. This puts me closer to friends.)

So far:

  • One delightful dinner with my friend Shannon. We went looking for Ti Couz, but ended up settling for tapas instead.
  • Two fantastic breakfasts with Bradley, wherein we got to talk about life, work, loss and everything in between. And he gifted me with a free Flickr Pro account afterward!
  • One fierce throwdown with said Braddles, Matt and Rich. Halo 2 thursdays, with new map downloads and my wife playing from home!
  • A visit to La Costena for the burrito that haunts my memories.

So that's my week. I'm writing this down for my future benefit, so please forgive the easy, breezy 'Dear Diary' feel of it all.

About April 2005

This page contains all entries posted to Soldier Ant in April 2005. They are listed from oldest to newest.

March 2005 is the previous archive.

May 2005 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.


Subscribe to feed Subscribe to my feed
Powered by FeedBurner
Creative Commons License
This weblog is licensed under a Creative Commons License.
Powered by
Movable Type 3.33