Category Archives: Uncategorized

Snake Oil

A few year’s back I wrote marketing copy for a snake oil company – just for the fun of it. I have lost track of most of them, but here are the few I have left.

Having trouble solving the last straw? Fail early! Ask early! As soon as you ask, the answer will magically appear in your own mind. Having trouble failing early? You need Snake Oil (TM) from Nobody’s Business!

Real words don’t sell. You need Sssreal Words. Sssreal Words (TM) – Another smooth product from the original inventors of Snake Oil, Nobody’s Business: Tantalizing the English speaking world Sssince 1066 (TM).

New product from Nobody’s Business: Snap Snake Oil – Abrasive and Explosive in a fun way! The friction from a snap is sufficient to ignite it, causing a series of explosions that sound approximately like a thousand rattle snakes.

Remove Default Widgets

Occasionally while adding custom widgets to WordPress, you also may what to remove some of the defaults widgets to make yours easier to find.

Here is a list of the default widgets as of 3.4

unregister_widget( 'WP_Widget_Pages' );

unregister_widget( 'WP_Widget_Calendar' );

unregister_widget( 'WP_Widget_Archives' );

unregister_widget( 'WP_Widget_Links' );

unregister_widget( 'WP_Widget_Meta' );

unregister_widget( 'WP_Widget_Search' );

unregister_widget( 'WP_Widget_Text' );

unregister_widget( 'WP_Widget_Categories' );

unregister_widget( 'WP_Widget_Recent_Posts' );

unregister_widget( 'WP_Widget_Recent_Comments' );

unregister_widget( 'WP_Widget_RSS' );

unregister_widget( 'WP_Widget_Tag_Cloud' );

And, if you need make your own list you can use:

global $wp_widget_factory;

var_dump( $wp_widget_factory );

A Tiger in Every High Chair and Two Piggy Toes in Every Garage

Check out this hilarious mad-lib our family produced recently. 🙂

Ladies and gentlemen, on this cute occasion, it is a privilege to address such a slobbery-looking group of diapers. I can tell from your smiling laughs that you will support my sticky program in the coming election. I promise that, if elected, there will be a/ tiger in every high chair and two piggy toes in every garage. I want to warn you against my sleepy opponent, Mr. Phillip. This man is nothing but a silly duct tape. He has a painful character and is working wooden spoon in glove with the criminal element. If elected, I promise to eliminate vice. I will keep the teeth off the city’s streets. I will keep crooks from dipping their cutie pies in the public till. I promise you babbling government, flat taxes, and fast schools.

For those not familiar with mad-libs, each of the bold words were entered into a form that asked for nouns, verbs, etc. After completing the form, the words were automatically placed into the paragraph at predetermined spots.

Hardship = Success!

Lost in the middle of hundreds of facebook comments on a fairly contentious topic, I found a really insightful comment on one of the reasons America is having a tough time competing with other countries.

A lot of good points made in the comments here. I’d like to share my thoughts on this.

1. One good point is that Americans get unemployed when foreign workers are being brought in for new jobs. Instead of just fuming, Americans should ask themselves why this is happening. I’d like to share my perception on why this is so:

A lot of Americans I’ve worked with perceive their job as something that occupies 9am to 6pm in their lives, it is NOT the main part of their life, the family is. They like to keep colleagues and friends separate for the most part, put on a “professional” mask when going to office, and don’t like to be asked questions about their personal lives. To them a job is something that they must go to, to keep bringing the money in – and which company doesn’t really matter.

Indians, on the other hand, find it new – this whole concept of jobs being actually available. In India, a person’s identity (especially in case of males) depends mostly on the job, which company he works for, how long he’s been with the company and what position he holds. They take a lot of pride in being very loyal to the company, working overtime, being so super-involved in work that often, the team / work / process starts depending on their accumulated knowledge and skills. IMHO Indians are NOT smarter than Americans, in fact a lot of the time they are a lot less smart. But this tendency for deep involvement / commitment / loyalty is what keeps companies coming to India & Indians – not just cost.

I’ve noticed this stark difference in the way a project gets executed in the US and in India, in some cases different modules of the same project. The level of commitment and hard work that goes into the project is just different. Management does notice this. In a lot of cases, unless the project is a deep scientific R&D type of work, the commitment adds more value than actual smarts. Managements get the best of both worlds by hiring a Russian architect for the brain and send the rest of the bulk work to India.

Let me illustrate with a small example:

Q: What’s the status on the X component of the Y module in the Z project?

American developer’s reply: Yes, there was some email thread about some incompatibility, I need to check and get back. I’ll get back to you by end of week, I’m held up with other things right now, going on My Vacation tomorrow and I’m not answering phone calls or emails until I’m back.

Indian developer’s reply: Oh yes, I saw that email thread, BB team are trying to incorporate this feature in their CC project by passing the parameter as part of the constructor, however this component was developed in parallel without that parameter being considered, therefore it has to be modified to suit that – and the bone of contention is who is going to do that modification and fund it. Hold on, I’ll send you more details by tonight (may be late tonight). I’m going on vacation and wouldn’t be back till end of week, but you can still call me anytime.

Indians have no problem working extra hours / weekends / being called for meetings etc. There is a saying, “the deer runs for its life and the lion runs for its food, so the deer runs harder”. Indians are shit-scared of losing their jobs so they work frantically. For Americans, if not one company then another.

2. (A lot of) Americans study and then try to find a job. Indians try to study what will fetch them a job. Americans are serious about pursuing their dreams – whether it is scuba diving, cooking, learning Chinese, mountaineering… whatever. When going through the process of education, they are very optimistic and they first try to focus on equipping themselves education-wise and knowledge-wise to achieve their dream in terms of occupation. A lot of times, reality hits (and hits hard) only after they graduate. No one wants those skills. There just aren’t enough businesses along those lines, and there are no jobs where there are no businesses. They become cynical and go into some other line of work, and then they don’t make great employees for obvious reasons.

3. It is not about intelligence! This is in reference to the points made about IQ etc. I don’t know which country / race has the best IQ etc etc, but my point here is that it doesn’t matter! In most jobs, people don’t HAVE to use their brains so much. It is more about presence of mind, staying connected with reality, people skills, responding quickly, quick grasp of situations, accepting company policies, team work, attitude and a whole host of other things.

The Indian employment scenario faces different kinds of problems (much, much bigger and more complex than the American scenario) but this discussion is about America, so I will keep those out of this discussion.

Sorry no link. Not sure I want to link to facebook anyway, but the main reason is that I couldn’t find a link to that specific comment.

And here is my reply:

As one of the rare Americans that take the “Indian” approach to work, I totally agree with Natarajan Shanker. Americans blew the doors off of Europe last century because they were willing to do whatever it took to succeed. Now Americans are getting left behind because they do not have the same attitude about work that their grand-parents had.

And it is not just work/career. Americans, in general (not everyone, thankfully, but way too many) have a bad attitude about everything. Sure we have optimism, but misplaced optimism quick turns to rot.

If Americans will stop complaining long enough to really consider what it takes to be successful, they will do really well despite all of the forces lined up against them. As a matter of fact, extreme hardship seems to be a necessary ingredient of spectacular success.

What do you see as the most important ingredients of success? Comments?

There is no absolute truth – Your words are meaningless

“There is no absolute truth,” simply means and proves in it’s common use that the English language has been stretched and twisted beyond the point of usefulness.

Language flexibility is an essential tool of master wordsmiths and humorists alike. But, too much of a good thing can be a huge problem. Nearly every word in the English language of a century ago has either been discarded or redefined – many beyond recognition.

Languages changing over time is nothing new and generally is of little concern. Historians help us to sort out the original meaning of ancient texts and life moves on.

What seems to be a huge problem however is the fact that we now have four generations living in close working relationship with each other all speaking very different dialects of English without realizing it. Also within the two most recent generations we have some very wide regional and cultural variations.

Different dialects that sound deceptively similar with very different meanings for the same words is nothing new, either. Except that modern ideas of community have encouraged us mix people from all of these cultures together. The idea being that if we all work together we can figure out our differences, but we are not.

We are not communicating!

In the past, the person calling something a dog and the person calling it a canine could resolve their differences by pointing. That is a little more difficult when most of the things we talk about today are things you cannot point at. Show me what “Truth” is. Point at it. Love? Hate? Evil? Wicked? (that means really fun right?) Show me “rights”, “fairness”, “separation of church and state”, “conservative”, “liberal”, “life”, “alien”, “billions of dollars”, “marriage”, “family”, or “privacy”.

These words have been stretched so far that they have very little meaning outside the context of the speaker community.

You think you know what I am talking about, but you don’t.


School is not Work

Work is all about production. If the work gets done, it doesn’t matter how or in what order. “Just get it done”.

School is the opposite. It is not just about getting information in your head or filling a page with words and numbers.  It is about learning how to learn, building a foundation for future learning and strengthening that brain muscle to make learning and eventually production faster and easier.

In school you learn how to learn. You learn the process of learning. I usually avoid processes and routine. They are boring, stifle creativity and often keep you from learning. They also get in the way of production in some lines of work. You cannot write a procedure for everything when every day brings a new and uniquely unique challenge. However, some processes, the right processes, actually help you learn.

School at its best will teach you the steps that are most helpful in learning new information and solving new problems – even ones that don’t look like anything you’ve ever seen before. The most valuable thing you learn in school is the process of recognizing what you don’t know, gathering facts, organizing the facts, putting them in context with what you already know and then applying your new-found knowledge to the problem at hand.

In school you are building a foundation that future knowledge can be built on. The facts that you do learn in school are basic facts that make learning job-specific or task-specific details easier. They give context to the details and help protect us from specialist that have no idea how to apply their research to the broader field and to useful life applications.

For example, knowing that it takes about three days to walk 100 miles helps you understand the importance of the pony express and telegraphs in the invention of the automobile, which may be used as an analogy discussing the importance of a new web-application. A general knowledge of history, science, technology, and math all work together to explain a new technology that might be difficult to understand otherwise.

School is intentionally broad in scope to help put all future learning in context. It may seem that you are learning a lot of useless details, but as you focus in on a specific area of knowledge in college or at work, you will discover that those details were actually quite basic facts that barely scratch the surface of what you really need to know to understand that field. I child may think they understand fire because they know that red means hot, but what about blue flames? Those should be safe right?

The more you learn the more you will discover things that you didn’t know that you didn’t know. And since every new thing learned uncovers five new things you don’t know, you will never catch-up with learning all of the things you are aware of that you don’t know! School, as complicated as it may seem, is a simplified set of facts that when learned will make learning the rest more doable.

School should also strengthen the brain, so that it gets used to learning and working through problems. Multiplication on a calculator is easier than multiplication in your head. If all you need is the exact answer, use a calculator, but if you need to make several quick estimates about how much space you need for 100 guests or whether you have enough time to complete 50 widgets by a deadline you can solve that in your head faster than typing it into a computer. Sure, you could look up any word in the dictionary, but you will be able to learn faster if you don’t have to.

School is similar to exercise in that many things you do would not make sense if you were actually trying to produce something. Lifting the same weight over and over again does not accomplish anything. Would it not make more sense to just pick it up once and put it away? Then at least you have accomplished cleaning.

School involves a lot of repetition. Sure that gets boring, but if we look back at the purpose for the repetition, it makes a lot of sense. The brain is a strange thing. It believes and remembers what it sees frequently. If you see a magician pull a rabbit out of an empty hat once, you are not likely to believe it is really possible. It must be an illusion. However, if your friends are all able to do the same thing on a regular basis, your brain starts to believe it even if you cannot do it yourself.

It has been proven many times that if you hear the same thing repeated often enough with enough certainty, your brain will believe it in spite of many facts to the contrary. This is why it is important to make sure that your are hearing good information frequently. You are smarter than your brain and you have to teach your brain what it needs to know. Repetition get the right information in and strengthens your brain so that it can learn more.

Learning and using good processes, acquiring a broad understanding of all areas of knowledge, and strengthening your brain is not, by itself, a very productive process. But productivity is not the goal. Preparation for production is the goal.



Vocabulary Vs. Tone – And the winner is…

A while back I mentioned that it is very hard to communicate tone in writing. Tabetha and I have started using smileys and other demi-words to communicate some tones, but sometimes talking in person is the only way to go.

Then, today, Tabetha mentioned that when you call something “junk” you don’t need any tone markers. If you call it stuff, products, or items, then you may also need/want to communicate your attitude toward that stuff. If you call it “junk” though, you have said it all in one word.

Then it hit me. That is what is missing from contemporary* English!

We used to have a huge vocabulary with many words that had very similar meanings, but they each carried a different shade of meaning. As we “simplified” our vocabulary we became more and more reliant on tone to carry the meaning that had previously been carried by a careful choice of words.

Tone makes a decent substitute in spoken English, but lack of tone in written English can be disastrous. And, even though tone makes a decent substitute in speech, it still falls short for people who are tone deaf. ** Although, I am not sure that these same people would be able to distinguish between different shades of meaning anyway.

What do you think? Should we try to save the millions of English words that are skidding on the brink of extinction? Or maybe… should we create a whole new vocabulary where all the words are spelled correctly?

* For those unfamiliar with the post-modern dilemma: The early-to-mid 1900’s were so frequently referred to in print as the modern age, that when those things that were called modern became quite out-of-date, we had to invent a new term to describe fashion, philosophy, art, literature, architecture, and everything else that came after what we had named modern. These “new” things were frequently called post-modern, but now we are about to move even beyond post-modern.

So from the beginning of the post-modern age until now we have used the word contemporary to describe those things that are current at the time of writing, while being careful not to let it suffer the same fate as “modern”.

** Yes, this is a non-standard use of the phrase tone deaf, but hopefully this communicates the idea adequately if also a bit whimsically.

Coolest Image Resizer Ever

Preparing images for a shopping cart can be quite difficult. You want as close a view as possible, but you also need each image to be about the same size.

Cropping cuts out important parts. Scaling leaves background bars at the edge and everything is to small. This tool helps.

GitHub for WordPress Plug-ins

Last night at WordPress Providence, we discussed WP’s Achilles heal.

We have a huge repository of thousands of great plug-ins, but many of them could be much stronger if only collaboration was a bit easier.

The obvious solution is to switch from a SVN repository to Git (GitHub).


How in the world do you get a huge community like WordPress to switch?

As we continued the conversation this morning it occurred to me that maybe we don’t have to.

Could we copy over the most popular plug-ins to GitHub and start working as a community to make them better?
Could we do the same with core?
What about themes?
Seems like we could even merge in updates to SVN from the plug-in authors.

I will be testing this idea in the next few days, but first I wanted to get your feed-back.

Pros? Cons? Things to watch out for?

Quick Update: Jan 2011

During the 3 years that I was updating this site everyday (yes, over 1,000 daily posts), I posted a lot of information that I am thrilled to see is still being read.

For the last year, though, updates have been few and far between. I have been writing a lot of other places. I really need to bring at least the highlights back home – to this site. That is another post.

Today, I just want to give you a quick update on what has been going on over here.

We now have six children. We are homeschooling the oldest four. The youngest two, 3 years and 6 months, will be starting all too soon. There is never a dull moment at our house!

I am working from home, adding as much excitement to the mix as I can.

Right now my biggest project is a church website development and maintenance service. Our goal is to create websites that reflect the beauty and majesty of our Lord while being a good steward of the resources he has given each church. You can read more at…

I have also built several commercial sites lately. Still have not gotten around to building a portfolio though.

I am really enjoying teaching adult Sunday school and I am starting to recruit assistant teachers. One of my top priorities is to prepare my students for service. Part of that is teaching them how to teach.

We are still renting. House prices in Rhode Island have dropped 20-30%, but rent where we are right now is still lower than the mortgage on any house we would want to buy. We are still praying that God will give us a house of our own, but right now He seems content to keep us here. And if He thinks this is the best place for us, why would we want to be anywhere else?

I am sure I have left something important out of this update, but can’t remember what. Anyone curious about something I did not cover?