'It's Not Easy' saying WTF to an 'Ant in Alaska'

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2008/11/08 18:11 -05:00, original URI: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/michkap/archive/2008/11/08/9053209.aspx


This blog title is not a reference to Kermit's It's Not Easy Being Green, as any diehard Liz Phair fan would recognize...

I'm going to dig a little into one of the random questions that came out of this last April's I'm aware of that: an Andreaesque segue and intervention, of sorts.

Andrea: I don't think people understand your relationship with your old team. Especially since you are still writing about a lot of the same things you were before. Do they read it? Do they agree with you or disagree? Do they still talk to you?
{deep breath from Andrea}
Andrea: And I don't just mean other people for this one. I don't get this one either. What's your connection to them, now?
Michael: Oh wow, that one is a bit harder.
Andrea:
I'm aware of that. But I sincerely doubt that I am the only one who is curious.
Michael: Okay, I'll think about that one, too. Maybe that'd worth a post or two, at least for the "me" half of it. I wouldn't try to speak for the other half....
Andrea: It might help the confused among us

My old team.

NLS.

National Language suppport.

Not Localization, Stupid!

Globalization Services.

They have a lot of names.

The song I'm playing now might tell you something about it.

This is the one singing it:

Liz Phair, lying there 

It is Liz Phair, from the way back in the time of the girlysound days (the song, not the picture), the title is I Know It's Not Easy and it was re-recorded for the Exile in Guyville re-release under the name Ant In Alaska. They took out a line or two, I think, but you'll barely miss 'em if you don't have the original version.

It has a lot of the same raw feeling, and I know some have argued whether it was re-recorded at all but I think most people agree that it was.

The re-recording is most notable for the prefixed 58.5 seconds of silence, which for me symbolizes something too. Maybe I'll talk about that some other time, or maybe not.

For now that is something between Me and Liz.

And Liz, actually.

The lyrics for the song go something like this:

Call me when you think the coast is clear
I've been hiding out almost a year
Is there something wrong? What's taking you so long?
And yeah, I know it's not easy
You said if I waited it'd pay off
But my eyes are growing wild and my body's gone soft
Is there something wrong? What's taking you so long?
And yeah, I know it's not easy

You said I should let go of your hand
But I don't even know if I can
You're the only one, you are the very sun to me
And you know it's not easy

You'd tell me, wouldn't you, if we needed to talk?
And you'd tell me, wouldn't you, if I'd pissed you off?
Is there something wrong? What's taking you so long?
And yeah, I know it's not easy

Well, I look at the stars and I know you're under them
I look at the cars and I know you insure them
I look at the books and things people are reading
I know that you've written them, too
You've got so many little things to do
But then I look at my life and I know you've forgotten
The promise you made to me, I think that's rotten
I'm hopelessly lost and there's hardly a sound anymore
Coming through that can show me around
'Cause I'm endlessly endlessly searching the crowd
Looking for something from you
Just one fucking measly clue
Any shitty little tipoff would do
But I'm just an ant in Alaska to you

Then I look at the stars and I know you're under them
I look at the cars and I know you insure them
I look at the books and the things people are reading
I know that you've written them, too
You've got so many little things to do
But then I look at my life and I know you've forgotten
The promise you made to me, I think that's rotten
I'm hopelessly lost and there's hardly a sound anymore
Coming through that could show me around
'Cause I'm endlessly endlessly searching the crowd
Looking for something from you
Just one fucking measly clue
Any shitty little tip-off would do
But I'm just and ant in Alaska to you
I'm just an ant in Alaska
An ant in Alaska
An ant in Alaska to you 

Now most of the themes of this song are not what I am saying my relationship with my old group is like.

Seriously.

Our "break-up" (such as it was) was nothing like this, at all.

But that last line....

This world in which I now live, in almost the southwest most place in the building on the opposite side of the group's East side abode in the building, when I haven't been enlisted in their branch for way over a year since Track change (a.k.a. A new job that has a few things in common with the old one) happened, I think that buried in the line is what I think of as the connection I have with my old group.

At least symbolically, I'm an Ant In Alaska.

Sometimes I meet with them and they ask me questions about stuff as they work on new features.

Sometimes they tell me about their plans (since in theory a lot of the other groups I help out might find it helpful if I know about future plans, though in practice not so many are directly impacted).

But not much (or at times any) of my feedback actually ends up in the new features, and the final plans are often wildly different than I was originally told.

I probably have more influence and impact on their clients and on customers in other parts of Microsoft (in part due to this unofficial blog, in part due to past relationships) and even on external customers (again via this very Blog!) than I do on them -- to them, I think I really am an Ant In Alaska, even if they do read here (several don't, and it isn't like they have to, but some still do).

To be honest, I don't know that I'm particularly bitter about that though. I suspect I'd be a lot less happy about the work I do if I knew more about what was going on there, due to the natural desire to be unhappy with things that change, especially if it is not changing the way I would have done it, given the chance. Not knowing gives me a better sense of distance.

Other people in the building do read the Blog, I know -- they ask me stuff all the time and some of them even feed me ideas that end up becoming blogs here (and others are on the list to be done like the one of the double L, you know who you are!).

But on the whole, I do feel closer to customers now, which was really the whole point of the Track change thing anyway. Which means I'm happier, a lot more often than I'm not.

I mean, I won that cool award:

Bulldog

and the only people who really knew about were the folks who came by my office (not many of the folks from the old group) and the ones who read about it here. No mail was ever sent (amusing in and of itself since as I suspected it was never mentioned in any mail to the group), so people have just found it kind of randomly if they happened to be coming by for something else.

We don't get a lot of visitors from the rest of the building, though.

I was talking to a teammate from the NLS days the other day about an issue that had come up and it had the same cordial feel of a conversation I had with a former manager from nine years prior. No bad feelings, a lot of mutual respect and interest, and very little real idea of what the other person was up to, which kind of made the small talk much more purposeful as we both tried to "catch up" on things. Not self-consciously since there was no expectation that the other one would know things, but a collegial kind of "good to chat from time to time" sort of thing.

Know what I mean? Just like the manager from nine years prior.

So we are in the same building, but not the same team....

And then a different other day, a colleague in another group entirely who managed to embarrass me with his praise a bit asked me:

Out of curiosity… you have been with int’l for a while, yes? Do you ever feel pressured by yourself or others to “move on and do something else”?

And I guess the answers are yes and yes some times and yes some other times.

I've even had a tempting offer or two.

But there are still things I can contribute here, so I have not been giving into the occasional temptation yet.

And I'm really not saying that It's Not Easy (the old song title) being an Ant in Alaska (the new song title). Because for the most part, it is -- and I find that I actually enjoy being an ant in Alaska. Kind of collegial isolation technique!

You know, I debated not writing this blog. And then after I wrote it I debated not posting it. But sometimes you've just got to say WTF....


This blog brought to you by(U+2f8d, KANGXI RADICAL INSECT)

Teklimakan on 9 Nov 2008 10:45 AM:

Hello Mr Michael !

Now I am having a suggestion about some linguistic problem and related to many computer based issues. (If I am using wrong words or unpolite vocabularies, please forgive me because I can write only a few words in this language which I am writing now.)

  The problem is about the Place names of Uyghur Region which printed on Microsoft's online services and maps (Windows Live Maps, Google Maps, Yahoo Maps, Google Earth) ect.

 There are more than 40 ethnic groups in this Region, of course Uyghurs are the main Ethnic group and this place called "Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region"

 #Problem: the Name of the Region: in some matierials and internet based sources , this word spelled as 'Sinkiang' and many others have used and is using 'Xinjiang'

  This problem is just like the Peking and Beijing.

Kashgar is the oldest and second largest city of this region. some people say Kashgar has longer history than London. and also in london there is a road named after this city 'Kashgar Road'

 in many internet based resources this City spelled as Kashgar, but also Kashi is appearing.

 what is the defference between Kashgar and Kashi?

The defference is the lingustic difference between Han's and Uyghurs.  In chinese (Han's Language) This city spelled as 喀什 - Kashi. and It was an ancient Uyghur City, and it's name came from Uyghur word. Uyghurs Say it (قەشقەر). the Word قەشقەر is written in english as Kashgar .

 Kashgar is more near to قەشقەر than Kashi.

Names Like this: the First Spelling is orignal Uyghur word, and the second is Chinise Translation of them below:

Urumchi (Urumqi) - Wulumuqi

Tashkorgan - Tashi

Gulja - Yining

Qomul (Khomul) - Hami

Qaghiliq  - Yecheng

 .... and so on.

Let's came to one example. Qaghiliq (kagilik) is the Orignial word and the name of a county center of the place. it is translated as Yecheng to chinese. and many books and maps (include internet based) used it as Yecheng.

 Yecheng and Qaghliq is having no relation in writing nor reading. and many large programs like Google Earth used the miswritten word yecheng.

 now my question is : why should the large program devolopers letting these mistakes to happen? is there any rule or principles about none english place names to write them in english? and to use them in large popular programs like maps.live.com , and distribute to the world via the wrong name? and every user will accept the name with wrong words. and one day the name will change to it, the original right spelling disappear !  

  what did they (devolopers) based to print these names? on chinese translation or local spelling?

 ...... thank you !

  If you do not understand my words (faled by my English level), You can Ask any question in this topic, I will chek it soon. or write it on my blog baliq.blogspot.com.

 wish you happy day , long life!

Michael S. Kaplan on 9 Nov 2008 11:05 AM:

Hmmm. More than a little bit OFF-TOPIC for this particular blog, but I have talked about the issue at length in other blogs in this Blog, most recently here with references to other blogs at the beginning.

Summary: other languages do not really control English, any more than English is able to control the pronunciation of itself in other languages. It is not anyone ganging up on anyone else, it is just an unrealistic desire one may have to control how someone else looks at them.

Occasionally if one is a huge country then one can have influence, but even huge powerful countries can see their desires frustrated in this area.

It is nothing personal....

Gwok on 9 Nov 2008 8:53 PM:

@Teklimakan

Many of them are historical names, came from Turkic language.

For example, Yecheng(Ye city) is short for Yarkant City, which is the Turkic name for the area, named after Yarkant river. Also the location had changed, moved from today's Shache to Qaghiliq after a series change.


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2009/07/29 Every character has a story #33: U+1e9e (CAPITAL SHARP S, Microsoft edition - Part 2)

2008/11/24 UCS-2 to UTF-16, Part 6: An exercise left for whoever needs some exercise

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