Daily Show's take on the Schiavo case

I've said once and I'll say it again: "it's sad when we have to make our comedians the voice of sanity."

Download this video [4MB WMV]. Watch it. Point people here. It explains why this is a story. Ok, no it does't, but it does point out just how insane this whole thing has become.

Ari Rang

I know I promised unpronounceable words next time I did a restaurant review, but I have to rave about a new place. We went to Ari Rang on Ann Arbor-Saline Rd near Godaiko and Outback. Wow. What a great lunch.

Since it was lunch (and we're not restaurant reviewers) we both ordered Bee Bim Bop in stone bowls. All the sides that came with it were awesome; spicy radish and cabbage, fish cakes, thinly sliced squid, zucchini in a light sauce. The Bee Bim Bop lunch portion was just right for both of us. The ingredients were fresh, the smell was making us hungry before the dish hit the table, and the sauce on the side was, for us, perfect: spicy enough for me and cool enough for J-- to use it twice, no small feat.

We didn't get any appetizers, but we're definitely going back. This is the first Korean place that we liked in a long time. They're still working out some newly-opened-restaurant issues (they got slammed and forgot our bill at the end), but the woman that rang us up said they opened two days ago, so I'll give them a pass. I know places in town that have been around for years that can't get that right.

Go check this place out; it's simple, really good Korean food at reasonable prices (lunch was about $8 for a bowl of Bee Bim Bop).

What a good book question

I saw this on Crescat Sententia this morning, and I thought "what an interesting question to pose".

You're stuck inside Fahrenheit 451, which book do you want to be? (N.B.: this refers to what book you would memorize, as do the characters at the end of Bradbury's novel)

Mine isn't exactly the greatest novel in the universe, but it would be great to preserve in my mind (mainly because I can't imagine not having read the book): Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy.

So, what's yours?

Confirmation (of a sort) of the end of RoboHelp

If this isn't telling, I don't know what is.

Link to forum

In case the link goes dead (or the comments are deleted), here are the three posts so far (I apologize for the length):

I’m the Director of Product Management responsible for RoboHelp, Captivate, and other Macromedia products. I haven’t posted to this list before, but given the comments that are circulating today at the WritersUA conference and in this forum, I wanted to make sure that you get some feedback directly from the product team regarding these outstanding questions.

First of all, Macromedia continues to sell and support RoboHelp. The twelve years of engineering work that have gone into this product make it an incredibly viable and relevant solution for today’s Help authors. Also, beginning March 1st, 2005 the following support options have been made available:

We have made some changes to the number of development resources dedicated to RoboHelp. Macromedia is constantly evaluating the optimal degree of dedicated resources in each of its businesses and the changes to the RoboHelp team are a part of this process. It’s really not appropriate for me to comment on specific personnel issues, however, as these are private matters involving real people. I can say that the former eHelp office in San Diego, now known as Macromedia San Diego, is a vibrant office with staffers supporting a wide range of Macromedia initiatives.

Regarding future releases, I recognize that eHelp used to provide a roadmap regarding future product release schedules, but as a public company we cannot do the same. This applies to all Macromedia products, not just RoboHelp. We do not announce future release dates, and we tend to have longer release cycles than what was the previous release schedule for RoboHelp.

It’s unfortunate that speculative comments from an individual (and Macromedia’s lack of attendance) at the WritersUA conference has caused concern. Macromedia was not able to attend the conference due to last minute booth staffing issues that could not be resolved in time to have a presence at the show. As I stated above, we are selling and supporting the RoboHelp Office family of products. In addition, another former eHelp product, Captivate (formerly known as RoboDemo) is thriving within Macromedia. In fact, we’re very proud that Captivate recently won the Software Simulation Shootout at the Training 2005 Conference (http://www.macromedia.com/software/captivate/).

We will continue to monitor the lists and respond as appropriate. Thanks for your support.

Miriam Geller
Director of Product Management


Sorry, Miriam, but your explanation is literally "incredible."

Of course Macromedia "continues to sell and support RoboHelp." Even if you have EOL'd the product, you still want to make as much money as possible from selling it. How else to justify the $65mm your company paid to acquire eHelp?

You say: "We have made some changes to the number of development resources dedicated to RoboHelp." I give you credit for a great sense of humor. You have laid off the entire development team, have you not? (I know you will say it is "not appropriate" to comment on personnel issues, but rest assured most of us can all read between the lines.)

Of course you will not comment on future product releases since you do not plan to have any.

The funniest part of your post is your comment that "Macromedia was not able to attend the conference due to last minute booth staffing issues that could not be resolved in time to have a presence at the show." Anyone with the first clue about how this industry works will immediately recognize this as the nonsense that it is. If Macromedia wanted a presence at this show, Macromedia would have had a presence at this show. To "no show" an important induistry conference makes a clear statement about how important RoboHelp is to your company. Obviously, it is not important at all -- except to the extent that you can rope people into buying expensive support agreements for a product you have already decided to EOL.

Please spare us the misrepresentations. We know where you are coming from. It's plain for all to see.

Btw, I will be curious to see whether you follow the old eHelp model and immediately delete this post from your forum, or whether you allow a public dialogue to ensue. It doesn't matter to me, but it might matter to your other customers.


David Knopf


Sorry, Miriam, but I agree with David.

Your post was nothing but blatant, empty, and in fact, insulting, blah-blah. You start off stating that you want to give us feedback "directly from the product team regarding these outstanding questions", but you give us nothing. You certainly don't answer our questions as to the continuation of RoboHelp development.

While I'm sure politicians, lawyers, and possibly board members would love your post, us online Help developers, well, we usually like to stick to reality---what's it all about, how does it work. And I, for one, don't like someone throwing "marketing-ese" at me and calling it an answer.

My feeling upon reading your post was irritation, bordering on anger (that you would actually think us so stupid). Really, it would have been better if you hadn't addressed the issue at all.

I also agree with David regarding the WritersUA conference. It's one of the most important conferences of the year. No one is going to believe the reason you gave for Macromedia's absence.

I hope the next time you (or any other Macromedia representative) address customers and members of this forum, you will remember that we are trained professionals in our field. We’re not idiots and we deserve the truth.


Leah Shalek

If Macromedia wasn't going to EOL this product, they could just try to kill it via PR. They've got a good start already.

Productivity Tools and Religious Wars

I used to be a Tech Writer not that long ago and still have many professional and personnel friends who travel in those circles. So, when news hit the web today of the impending demise of Macromedia RoboHelp, it in my inbox pretty quickly. To scale the news up a little bit for relational purposes, imagine the ripple that would emanate throughout web design sphere if Microsoft moonlighted FrontPage. (Oh, what sweet dreams I dream.) FrontPage isn't the de facto tool for web design, but it's pretty popular and has a loyal following.

That's RoboHelp; it's got its quirks (read: huge-ass bugs that will totally screw up your week), but it's got its good points, too. It has also ceased to be very innovative in the past few years. Just before eHelp was acquired by Macromedia, they introduced FlashHelp, which was basically a Flash UI on top of standard web-based Help. Most of the new product innovations and solutions were aimed squarely at...well, that was the problem. They had answers in search of a question, and were starting that "enterprise systems" mantra/death roll.

There are better products that RoboHelp, certainly, but the entry-level tech writer could be relatively effective with it within a week or two, and be pretty proficient after a month. Not a bad ramp-up time considering that some competitors required a base-level understanding of object-oriented single-sourcing to kick out a Help system. (Note to AuthorIT; you have a kick-ass product but you need to lower the entry threshold. Writers != database admins.)

RoboHelp's departure from the market, while surprising, is almost exciting. The void that will be left behind is sizable. I don't have real numbers, but if I had to guess, I wouldn't be surprised if RoboHelp had over 50% of the market share. Now, sunsetting doesn't immediately invalidate all those licenses out there, but it does make support tougher. Many writing companies will move away from RoboHelp. Where they move is the big question.

The major players left standing are FrameMaker with Web Works Publisher, AuthorIT, Doc-To-Help, and Web Works for Word. Honestly, they all have pros and cons, as most tools do. Web Works has the best position because of the number of companies using or going to FrameMaker for single-sourcing. AuthorIT, while great on paper, is a complete philosophical change in process for tech writing houses, and I bet that breaks a lot of deals for them. Web Works for Word is young and, well, works inside of Word. Word doesn't exactly endear itself to many writers.

What will happen? My prediction is that another,single tool will rise and fill the void, instead of the other products gaining marginal market shares. The tool that rises will be one that will support the new scheme of Help development inside of Longhorn Aero and be able to do some cool build tricks with XML (they'll call it single-sourcing, but it will be glorified source-control). Frankly, I think the old RoboHelp team, headed by Mike Hamilton, now at MadCap Software, will get to make the product they should have made before.

And, a note to Mike and his team. You were really, really close with RoboHelp. Honestly. The code generation was a big sticking point; it wasn't critical, but just stop messing with the code. Give writers real tools to do real design: CSS, native XHTML, good layer controls.And clean up that UI; it sucks, and has for years. But, the conditional formatting, the multiple output formats, hell, I even liked the idea of Flash Help. Integrate with existing data management software (I still role my eyes a RoboSource Control) and let companies leverage investments they've already made.

Let writers fiddle and not get punished. Give them round-trip processes. In short, make the tool do what its supposed to do: let writers write, designers design, and everyone publish.

Do that, and you'll be bigger than RoboHelp ever was. If you don't, someone else will.

Damn Hippies


Fighting back: In London, 35 Greenpeace protesters rushed onto the floor of the International Petroleum Exchange in February, intending to paralyze oil trading on the day the Kyoto environmental initiative took effect, but, unexpectedly, the traders turned on them, punching and kicking the protesters until they ran for their lives.


Poll: Congress Should Sit Out Schiavo Case (AP)

Wow, that low, eh?

AP - About seven in 10 Americans say Congress inappropriately intervened in the case of a brain-damaged woman whose relatives disagree over whether she should be allowed to die, according to a new poll.

[via Yahoo News [Politics]]

Politics and Life

I'm going to go off, and I can't apologize for it.

God damn it, politicians, scratch that, Republicans--stop using Terry Schiavo as your political pawn. I don't really give a damn whether she lives or dies, cold as that sounds. She's obviously been kept alive and cared for for the past 15 years, and I'm sure she'd receive the same care if her tube was put back in. But this bull about the "sanctity of life" and "right to die" has got to stop.

Terri Schiavo is dead, and anyone who doesn't get that is either a) an idiot, b) too emotionally involved to know better, or c) trying to profit in one form or another from the situation. I'm conservative, but I'm not some mindless automaton that thinks no one should die, no matter what. Her husband is right; all these little tricks and maneuvers are nothing short of thuggery.

Take note, Michigan reps; I won't vote for anyone who decides to use this case as political stepping stone. You may think you energizing some perceived base of right-to-lifers, but you're pissing off the rest of us.

Garlicster - Blog about garlic

Aw, yeah...


Terri Schiavo

J-- and I had a discussion about her case last night, and I have to admit that I was wrong about how the case had come to the idiotic point at which it now resides.

I did a little reading (very little) and found Abstract Appeal, a blog that is covering the case in minute detail, while trying to remain impartial (as the Congress should be doing). The author, Matt Conigliaro, details all the events in the case and the path that led the public here. It's interesting reading and fairly devoid of him choosing "a side". The only side, as he alludes to many times, is what Terri would want.

Personally, I think that the law should win here. Terri's husband did what the law allowed him to do, and has been thwarted by his well-meaning but completely misguided parents. Many, many doctors, judges, and observers agree that Terri is not coming back, no matter what her parents want to believe. Scans and tests do not lie.

It's sad that this has become a name calling endeavor, with each side trying to demonize the other in an effort to garner support. I hope that whatever Terri wanted gets done, even thought we'll never know if that happened.

Happy Retirement Pat Sweeny!

In a previous life, I was an active member of the West Michigan Shores Chapter of the STC. I met a lot of really cool people there and learned a lot about what it meant to be not just a technical writer, but more about how technical writers can break out of the mold and accomplish things.

One of the people who did that was Pat Sweeny. Pat is (or was, by this point) the President and owner of The Bishop Company, a contract do-it-all house; they document, streamline and illustrate your process, and they do it damn well. Pat was one of the first people in that chapter to "get it", which is to say, he and his company understand that technical writing isn't going to be a department for very much longer, it's going to be a business.

He had the foresight to actually make it a business, but he also had something else. Pat was forever trying to better those around him. He would come to meetings (which was a big step beyond most people) and teach you things. Or he would come to meetings and pose questions that might put you just out of your comfort zone professionally.

Pat challenged me personally to get involved in the chapter very early in my membership, partly because the membership wasn't very active. But I took to it (oddly) and actually became fairly active, serving as the Secretary and almost serving as President. I can't give all the credit to Pat (I'm looking at you DrSandy), but Pat was a prominent member of a core group that sustained the chapter almost by their shear will.

Last night, he received the STC's Distinguished Service Award (PDF) during what I'm told was a roast (I found about it almost 6 hours before the meeting, so I wasn't able to attend). Pat Sweeny has earned this award so many times over, it makes you wish the plaque came with one of those huge checks, too. Congratulations, Pat, it was a pleasure to serve the chapter with you, and I hope we can have a drink sometime this summer.

Since I couldn’t be there, I sent a piece to be read in my place. I've put the text after the fold.

Find the music you like

I don't know how to accurately describe this, so I'll mangle it instead. Liveplasma lets you search for a band you like (say, Wilco) and then groups other bands you may like by proximity. The UI is a little wonky (horizontal scrolls bars are bad, UI people, bad, especially if you're using Flash), but the feedback is interesting. I already added one album to iTunes because of it. (Hint, hint)

Check it out, it's a very cool idea. I keep imagining what a tool like this could do if it were tied to, say, my Amazon account or past searches. (Welcome back, Ryan! Since you last searched for Goo Goo Dolls, we've associated x number of bands with them. Check it out!)

Oh, and it works for books and movies, too.


Viewsonic Announces 4-ms LCD Monitors

I think the title should say it all...

No pricing has been announced.


Ah yes, The Onion comes through again

The Irish-Heritage Timeline... I laughed out loud at the entry for 1923.

Newly independent Ireland named "Irish Free State" instead of alternate suggestion, "Irish Free State, Y'Feckin' Teabags"

Aaaah... I'm laughing again.


Bad music Monday

I'm a total sucker for songs that I can sing well. I'm sure J-- is completely sick of hearing me talk about "back in college", but... erm... back in college, I actually did sing open mic. And got requests. It's a very odd feeling to have someone come up to you and ask if you're going to sing a song that night. I got hooked and kept singing.

What this means in my current life is that I'm a total chicken and don't sing anymore (mostly because I loathe karaoke and don't know a guitarist), but I also tend to like music that I can belt out in the car on the way home from work.

So, in an effort to document the more mainstream side of my musical tastes, I present my iTunes "Fun to Sing" playlist.

  • Unwell - Matchbox Twenty

  • Holy - Fuse

  • Big Machine - Goo Goo Dolls

  • What a Scene - Goo Goo Dolls

  • A-Hole - Bowling for Soup

  • Folsom Prison Blues - Johnny Cash

  • Rest Stop - Matchbox Twenty

  • Innocent - Our Lady Peace

  • Cast No Shadow - Oasis

  • Halo - Oleander

  • Nutshell - Alice in Chains

Sweet little wattage calculator

Building your system? Good for you, little geek! Just be sure and put enough power in that case. Use this wattage calculator to make sure you don't have system-ending brown-outs.


Happy Birthday, Albert Einstein

Today is Albert Einstein's birthday. He would have been 125 today.

His scientific achievements aside, Einstein was a brilliant man, something that is often lost in his genius.

An interesting aside, technically, I should have to put a (TM) after any occurrence of Einstein's name, as his name is copyrighted. Yeah, brilliant, I know. You can't link to their statement about the copyright because the site has the most idiotic use of Flash I've seen in a long time.

Has anyone told BoingBoing about this?

Star Wars trailer

I couldn't bring myself to sit through an episode of the OC just to watch a movie trailer, but thanks to the power of the internet, the trailer is now available for your viewing pleasure. Well, at least until the evil minions of Lucasarts descend from their orbiting Death Star and sue fans to get the trailer off line. (George, you gettin' that last statement?)

Anyway, Jason Kottke has a couple links, or you just go to this page and download it directly.

Oh, and... yeah, dammit, the trailer rocks. Of course, the last two movies had trailers that rocked as well, so I'll withhold judgement until I cave in and go see the new "film".

5,000 words

Well, 5,031 to be exact. That's how many words I wrote tonight for the NaNoWriMo contest. Starting at 6-ish, and finishing at 10:45, with a break for supper, a break for a shower, and a half-hour debate about religion with J-- (don't ask, 'cause even I don't know where that one came from); well, that's a lot of words in a hurry.

Total words count as of tonight: 17,153. I'm only about 5,000 words behind schedule now, which isn't bad considering I didn't write a single word for almost half the available time. Write on!

Selling my old machine

(cross posted to UMich Marketplace)

Since I have me new machine up and running, I'm selling my old machine.


Sony Vaio - Model PCV-RX560
1.7 Ghz Pentium 4
512 MB RAM
80 Gig 5400 RPM Hard Drive
PNY Nvidia GeForce Ti4400 128MB Video Card (AGP)
16x CD-RW

Link to PDF of original specs. Note, I pulled and replaced the original video card and upped the RAM. I have also installed the latest Nvidia drivers and Windows patches. It comes with the standard PC-Cillian AV, but since you're no Markeplace, you can download the latest AV from ITCS

The machine has been fully restored with the original restoration discs (included). This has been a reliable machine; I built my own and don't need this one anymore.

No personnel checks. I'll meet you/deliver in the Ann Arbor area. Payment can be cash, money order, or PayPal (where you can use credit cards). Contact indiskret@comcast.net for more information.

The Universe Self-Corrects

I'm going to attempt to not sound crass or cold about this, but I swear there's an affirming quote to come.

Nearly 30 elementary school children in the Philippines have died after eating fried cassava balls obtained from a vendor, a local official told CNN. [Ed. I added the link.]


Cassava is a starchy, tuberous root that is a low-cost source of carbohydrates in humid, tropical areas; it is also the source of tapioca.

Cassava contains amino acid-derived cyanogenic glucosides -- some more than others -- and must be thoroughly cooked to remove toxic levels.

Eaten raw, the human digestive system will convert part of it into cyanide. Two cassava roots contain enough to be fatal.

Ok, that's the (very) bad news. But, if there's anything to take away from this story, it's this:

The vendor who sold the cassava balls insisted nothing was wrong with them and ate a few to prove the point. Now she, too, is in critical condition.

Thank you, universe. My heart goes out to those families; I'm sure they have a few wishes for that vendor.



I crossed 10,000 words tonight on my quest to 50,000. And that's with almost 4 days blown on a trip (I didn't get to write much on the plane).

I'm also such a nerd that I started a spreadsheet (complete with formulas) to track my progress. I am not, however, the biggest nerd in the household as I stole the idea from J--.

I need to sleep; my eyeballs are burning.


I'm not a huge Bruce Willis fanboy or anything, but is it weird that I think Bruce Willis having a semi-public website is a cool idea? The cynic in me still has doubts that Bruce has anything substantive to do with this site, but the concept is interesting: stars communicating directly with their fans.

If he only had an RSS feed.


Torrent Links, Get Your Torrent Links

I really don't do a lot with BitTorrent. I know it's the new, big way to get downloads (musics, movies, etc.) but I just don't have that big of an appetite for that kind of thing. Well, music maybe, but finding a)trustworthy links that are b) free can be a challenge, and who has that kind of time, right?

Enter legal torrent tracker sites. Thanks to Slashot, I now have a bigger list of sites to get legal downloads (well, legal in the eyes of arcane business models).

And, the already mentioned LegalTorrents

Go forth and download! Oh, but not yet; since all these sites are on the front page of Slashdot, they're pretty much screwed for the day.

Quick plug

Not like they care, but Bloglines is a great web-based news reader.

(Sidenote: Bloglines was recently acquired by AskJeeves; yeah, I didn't know AJ was still around either.)

I'm not getting anything for recommending Bloglines, either (is it weird I feel compelled to say that?), but I'm recommending it to a few of you who are reading this little offense to publishing. (I'm looking at you John, drsandy, and J--.)

Oh, and when is WMS-STC going to start a blog? That whole fostering communication initiative? Blogs are a great conversation starter... just an idea. I'd even help you set it up.

Finally, an instant lunch that doesn't suck

Yes, eating instant lunches is Teh Bad, but every once in a while, something warm and delicious is needed at work. If that dish can be had in under 5 minutes, all the better. It's not like I get to eat lunch with regularity most of the time.

Enter Thai Kitchen Spring Onion Rice Noodle Bowl [ed. scroll to the bottom] (hat tip to Trader Joe's, which I think is where I bought this). This $2 bowl of pep-me-up is gluten free, egg free, and actually made in Thailand (which, obviously, doesn't add a wit to the authenticity, but...).

And the nutriotion info ain't half bad, for an instant meal. Aside from 627mg of sodium, the rest is pretty non-contributory to the ole dietary chart (well, 25g of carbs for those still punishing themselves with one of those diets).

Between these little dishes and my penchant for spicey Thai, sushi, and udon, I swear I must have lived a previous life closer to Asia.

God, I have just brought myself down so many pegs in the food-snob scale. My next Food post will have to be about some dish with an unpronounceable ingredient.


If anyone wants a Gmail account, I have a ton of invites. Just email me at ryan@youknowwhatpart.com

I'm back

I am back in Michigan, but I'm zonked. Posting may be light this weekend as I'm way behind on the writing thing.

It's good to be home, though.

Twitter has pushed me too far

Inspired by Matt Haughey's stand against Twitter , I re-logged into Mastodon on all my devices and shelved my Twitter access. I haven&#...