Year: 2009

Almost finished

Bye bye 2009, almost. It’s been…. well for the most part it’s been fun, it’s been good, I’ve learnt a lot, and will take some of that into the coming year.

Christmas was, as ever, a mixbag of anti-climax, lots of food, laughter, some alcohol and a nasty hacking cough.

I have resolutions ready, one only, and will tape them to my mirror as that seemed to help a bit with the ones I had last year (Exercise, Lose Weight).

And whilst I’d love to do a big round up of the past year I’m not going to.

Not done one before, and don’t see why I should start now.

Hope you’ve all had a good ‘festive period’ (that’s what we call it now, right?) and that 2010 brings you everything you want and deserve.

Santa is on his way

So, go on then, which list are you on? Naughty or Nice?

Naughty for me, without doubt, and frankly I wouldn’t have it any other way. Those “Nice” kids have no fun whatsoever, life is too short.

I can’t believe it’s Christmas Eve already, but then as my sleeping patterns are all fucked up as I’m hacking and coughing like a the seasoned 80-a-day smoker I’m not. Huge balls of phlegm that gargle and bubble in my… ohh too much information? Sorry. It’s not too bad to be honest, and if nothing lese means I have a real excuse for sitting watching movies all day (all 4 hours of The Ten Commandments the other day, currently singing along to The King and I).

And tomorrow the big day itself. A day of presents and food, and drink and.. ohh I’m tired thinking about it already.

Perhaps it’s time for another snooze.

To all who celebrate, have a very Merry Christmas!

Present and Future

As we roll into the holiday season, I’m going to be pausing this blog until the New Year. I’ve found it tricky at times to get into a regular posting schedule here, so that’s something I’m hoping to rectify in 2010.

Looking back it’s been a good year for me, and I’m hoping to take a lot of things forward in the coming year. All of that will be covered here, of course, and I’ve got some plans to revisit some of the topics that I’ve shared with you this year.

Rather than write up a review I thought I’d just see what Wordle thought of my website, which is interesting in and of itself:

wordle

Thanks to everyone who has commented or emailed me direct. It has really helped me and I hope it’s helped some of you.

All the very best for the coming holiday season, and here’s to a wonderful 2010!

MNTKOT*

I can remember the first time I heard it, in the Clyde Bar in Helensburgh. Raw, explosive, vitriolic and, to my 17yr old ears, a spitting hammer blow through my music collection.

I bought the CD that weekend and as soon as I got home, rushed up to my room, closed the door (I’m not THAT rebellious), put it in the stereo and turned it up loud.

Thumping bass notes, screeching guitar and THAT refrain.

FUCK YOU, I WON’T DO WHAT YOU TELL ME!!

As a track it still has enough raw energy and youthful (misguided) attitude to remain an anthem to many an angsty, angry, acne-ridden youth, and through the “power of the internet” it’s now the Christmas number 1 for 2009.

And yes, I bought it. And yes I’m glad I did.

Not because of any “sticking it to the man” sympathies, as many have pointed out, Sony own both record labels so they win either way.

Not to get at X-Factor per se, as it at least drives me to source other forms of music and find richer seams of pleasure away from the (mostly) manufactured crap that peppers the charts.

Not (just) because, musically, I much prefer a good bit of noisy rock to yet another ballad.

And definitely not to “get at Joe”, who seems wholly likable and sounds a bit like Neil Sedaka to me and that’s no bad thing (really, it’s not).

Nope, I mainly just to placate that tiny piece of me that remains rebellious, the bit that gets tattoos. To have a small amount of “fuck it” in my life, to get away from the tensions and strains of being an adult.

That’s really all there is to it.

So I’m not really raging against the machine, more *mildly not too keen on the thingmabob.

Technical Documentation Know-how

A few days ago I received an email about a new website. I’ve seen it mentioned on other blogs but think it’s worth repeating as there is some useful information there.

I am contacting you because I have just thought that maybe a post about my new web site on software documentation and user assistance could also be interesting for your readers. In addition to about 250 useful links for technical writers, the site for example provides checklists and up-to-date market surveys of more than 350 help authoring tools, screen capture tools, screencasting tools and other utilities for technical communicators. All information can also be downloaded as a PDF booklet (approx. 100 pages).

On the website you can find some basic know-how, checklists, tools and links, which will help you to create clear and concise user-friendly manuals, online help files, software demos, tutorials and other forms of user assistance. Go have a look.

Thanks to Marc Achtelig of indoition for getting in touch.

A new view

A few years ago, having bought my first digital camera, I realised there was much more to taking a photograph than just “point and shoot” and I started to consider the machinations of photography a bit more seriously,

I read up on things like exposure, aperture, f-stops and other things with odd names to make sure I had a good grasp of the basics. Then I bought a semi-SLR camera with the aim of practicing with that so when I “upgraded” to a full SLR I’d be getting the most of all the capabilities. Well that and the semi-SLR camera was much cheaper.

So, armed with my Canon Powershot S3 I started taking photos “properly”. I was mindful of the lessons I had learned, and spent a lot of time experimenting to better understand all the capabilities my camera had. I took a lot of photos, I mean A LOT of photos, and I reckon I was happy with about 5% of them which was fine as that was all part of learning how to take better photographs.

Composition is, it seems, my strength. I have a good eye for what should be in a shot to get the best image. The rest of the techniques and technological faffing is where I start to lose my way a little and that’s largely due to a lack of understanding of the basics, no matter how many ways I tried to learn them (how DO you make the water tumbling over rocks in a waterfall look all blurry?). And the more I had to try and learn, the less fun it got and the less interested I became.

I tried a few ways to counter this, buying new lens for the camera to give me something to experiment with, but ultimately it seems to be doomed.

Yup, in fitting with every profiling technique I’ve ever tried, I stay true to one aspect of my personality.

I’m quickly bored and easily distracted.

[insert “ohhh shiny” joke here]

For a while I really enjoyed wandering around with my camera, finding hidden alleyways and forgotten spaces, taking photos of odd things and capturing tiny fragments of beauty as I came upon them. Unfortunately I started to realise that I enjoyed the wandering but not the “which feckin’ setting would be best for this” bit when it came to actually taking the photos and so, slowly, I stopped doing such things.

It’s also not easy to carry around a ‘big’ camera all the time and, invariably whenever I needed it (that is, I spotted something that I thought would make a good/interesting photo) I didn’t have it with me.

So I bought a second camera, a Ricoh Caplio R7, just so I had something smaller for ‘snapshots’ and random photo opportunities. I don’t carry it with me all the time though, but I do use it far more than I did my ‘big’ camera.

Add in the constant march of technology and it’s time for me to revisit WHY I take photos and match the equipment to my approach. It’s telling that, since finding a couple of iPhone apps that do a good job of processing photos on the handset directly, I’m far more likely to use it as my ‘snapshot’ camera these days and given it’s only a 2MB camera, that in itself suggests I’m more interested in the content of the photo than any of the things the purists would worry about.

The upshot of all this is that I’m selling my Canon Powershot S3 and the accompanying lens. The Ricoh (which was used for the photo in the post below) is good enough for my needs at the moment, and I’m happy to rely on my iPhone for the occasional snapshot.

This should free me to get back to enjoying photography, back to letting my eye wander and capturing those instants and scenes that stick in my mind.

Some of which I post here.

How to Write

What a wonderful group of people you are, my dear readers and fellow Twitterers. I asked for some suggestions as I’m pulling together a short, internal, workshop covering some simple techniques and tips for the “non-writers” in our organisation.

I received some great suggestions and a couple of excellent links and, as promised, here is a generic version of the presentation.

The one I’ll run internally has some examples that are specific to the audience and our organisation, so I’d suggest if you are going to use the presentation I’ve provided, that you add in your own examples. Much easier for people to understand if they see real examples in action.

Mystery

Two things happen to me on a semi-regular basis. Well, a lot of things happen to me on a semi-regular basis but I’m only going to mention two of them in this blog post. Frankly if I was to list all the things that happen to me on a semi-regular basis I’d be here all day and you’d be somewhere else because that would probably be THE MOST BORING BLOG POST IN THE WORLD, EVAH!

So I’ll limit it to two things that happen to me, mainly because there is no pattern as to when they happen and I’ve never been able to figure out what causes them.

Now let me just stress that these things are, in the grand scheme of things, not a big deal at all and they certainly aren’t things that I lie awake at night worrying over (that pleasure is reserved for trying to figure out WHAT THE HELL THE CAT HAS DRAGGED IN THIS TIME).

Well, that’s not quite true as one of the things is precisely that, waking up at 2am wide awake and no matter what I try I just know there is no point fighting it. So I get up, either watch TV for a few hours or aimlessly surf the internet and finally start feeling sleepy by about 5am. I go back to bed and get up at 6.30, bright and breezy and ready for another day at work. Or, you know, not.

Thankfully I’m usually pretty grumpy of a morning so no-one really notices.

I’ve tried cutting back on my caffeine intake but these ‘episodes’ happen on an irregular basis and it’s only a handful of times a year so it’s almost impossible to figure out why.

I won’t dwell on the second issue too much, but I do get nosebleeds now and then, again seemingly at random. I figure they are down to what is probably termed “local environmental artefacts”.

Or maybe I should just stop picking my nose…

The thing is that, in years gone past, I’d have worried and pondered and thought about these two things in great detail, scrutinising every scrap of evidence I could think of to try and understand the cause.

These days I just accept that they happen and it’s just another few things to add to the randomness that is life.

Some would say “older and wiser”, but I just think it’s acceptance that you just can’t understand everything.

Always Learning

In using up the last of my holiday allocation for the year, I find myself finishing up on the 17th December and not returning to work until the 5th of January.

Previously I’d have viewed that as a good chance to get some things done (and there are two things I MUST get done before the end of the year) but being yet another year old and wiser I’ve decided not to bother making any plans.

Sure if I end up with a free day I have a few things in mind, but by and large I’ll be taking things as they come. It’s gonna be a chilled out Christmas.