Month: June 2010

West of Scotland ISTC meeting

The next ISTC technical communicators’ meeting in Glasgow will take place on Thursday 26th August 2010, from 7.30 pm onwards. Come along to talk about latest news and trends in communication, or just to meet other communication professionals.

The event is free and open to anyone interested in technical communication, such as technical authors, information architects, internal communication prodessionals, report writers, marketing writers, web content writers and graphic designers.

Venue: Waxy O’Connors pub, 44 West George Street, Glasgow, G2 1DH. Please make your way to McTurk’s Room on the middle level.

Please forward this message on to your colleagues or anyone else who may be interested. For more information, contact westscotland_areagroup[at]istc.org.uk.

Changing the balance

We are still waiting on someone buying our house and, until that happens, there ain’t much else I can do but ponder the future and what shape my life will take when we go our separate ways.

I think the biggest adjustment for me will be going home to an empty flat. I’m viewing that as an opportunity to refocus my priorities and change my habits, but one thing is sure, I’ll need to be a lot better at keeping in touch with my friends, as well as getting out there and making more.

I’ll be joining a gym, but I’ve never found those particularly friendly places, and I’ve looked at evening classes which might be fun, but one thing that really caught my eye whilst I was doing some research on “holidays for singles” (as in, going on holiday on your own, not going on holiday to get drunk with a lot of other people who are single and “desperate for love/a shag”) was an organisation called Spice Scotland.

Now, I know what you are thinking and no, it’s not a dating website. They describe themselves as an Adventure, Sports and Social Group which caters for single people who don’t want to sit at home. They organise everything from Skiiing holidays to tennis lessons, and seem to have a good active membership.

It’s not something I’ll be jumping into headfirst, for a start I need to shift some weight (again!) and will need a few months to get settled into my own routine and adjust to my new life but it’s good to know there are options out there and that being single isn’t JUST about sitting about in your undercrackers eating Jaffa Cakes.

There was a tree

It was a large tree, all leafy and green as a tree should be, standing tall and proud at the top of a small hill. On the ground beneath it spring flowers were bursting into life their vibrant colours proclaiming new beginnings, fresh growth,  a new season full of heady fragrances.

The tree was old and wise, with countless rings and scars testament to the experience it had gained, the life it had lived. Every now and then the tree would think back, reliving each moment when it had grown a little more. It knew it was governed by nature, that it wasn’t in control, and was more than content and willing to submit to the whims of the breeze.

Like all trees it understood that sacrifice was envitable, leaves had to be shed, rotten branches had to fall. The boughs would break.

Looking out over the fields and hills that lay beneath its roots, the tree was happy and content in the moment.

But an ill wind was blowing.

At some point during the summer, the tree realised something was changing, that something was different to how it had been before and at that point it knew that time, as far as the tree knew it, was coming to an end. Basking in the summer sun, the tree prepared itself, soaking up the energy for one last push towards autumn.

It was with a mighty crash that the tree fell to ground, but as no-one was around the tree decided not to make any noise.

As it lay there, the tree realised it had a few moments left and took those seconds to enjoy the change of view, the closeness of the grass, the blueness of the sky above, silhouettes of birds flying to pastures new. And, with that, the tree was finally at peace.

Months passed and slowly the tree started to wither and rot, feeding the ground beneath it.  Soon enough fresh saplings poked their heads through the soil and started their long slow climb up towards the blue. The tiny trees thickened and spread their wings, repeating the cycle once more as the world continued to turn.

I have a new phone

It is shiny and new.

It does a lot of things my old phone could do but does them a lot faster, and prettier.

I have a new phone.

It doesn’t do some things other phones do but I don’t need it to.

It does have some things other phones don’t.

I have a new phone.

I am very pleased.

Some people probably think the new phone is a waste of money.

They may well be right.

I have a new phone.

I’m sure there are other options out there.

I’m sure there are other phones with more features, better battery life and other things.

I have a new phone.

Stop being serious

Information is serious stuff and must be treated with the appropriate earnest respect it deserves. Stop laughing at the back, this is not a joking matter. How do you feel when you go looking for information and can’t find it? Or find what you think will be helpful information only to discover that it is useless.

At that point, information is very very serious indeed and causes many people to gnash their teeth, wail their woes and other expressions of frustration and angst.

The reason I mention this, something I’m sure most of you are both perfectly aware and the unwitting recipients of, is because I have a tendency to be silly sometimes. Which means, say, adding an entry to a product glossary titled “Rubber Chicken” with a definition of “See Custard Pie” (and yes, the “Custard Pie” entry had the definition of “See Rubber Chicken”). Yes, it’s silly, but sometimes, if done correctly, a spot of humour can have a positive effect.

Thankfully the terminology used in software development can provide some perfect moments, so when someone recently asked “How do I destroy a custom component?” on an internal mailing list, one response (which alas I can’t post here) tickled my funny bone so much that I posted it to our developer community website.

Suffice to say that the response discussed destroying a custom component on a physical level (including dropping the hardware from a height) and the emotional level (including underming the confidence of the custom component with heavy doses of sarcasm) and had everyone who read it in stitches.

Was it inappropriate? Perhaps, but a little humour can go a long way.

Sun is shining

Amazing the difference the weather makes. A couple of sunny days and suddenly the world is a lighter place and everyone is happy, friendly and a little bit pink.

At one point on Saturday, as I sat and perused the conveyor belt at Yo Sushi!, I realised I had a big loony grin on my face as I was perfectly content and happy. Thinking about it, that might explain why the staff were so quick to get me my bill and usher me from my seat.

Note to self: If you are feeling happy with life, and are a little bit blissed out, probably best to keep your hands above the table.

Sunday was Dad Day, and so I visited my Dad and forced him to cook several chickens, two and a half cows and some corn on the cob on the BBQ. After eating all of that it was all I could do to pootle home and collapse on the sofa.

One thing I will need to do more of, whenever the whole ‘staring a new life’ thing kicks in (seriously, 3 bed semi-detached in Hamilton, spanking new bathroom, sumptuous kitchen, quiet cul-de-sac, will someone please buy it), is go to parties as apparently that is what most of the people I follow on Twitter did this weekend.

I don’t get invited to parties much these days, so please feel free to invite me to your party if you are having one. I’m very well behaved, quite socialable, and will even make sure I’ve had my weekly shower that day.

And I promise I will keep my hands above the table.

Rose tinted

It’s funny, I always considered myself a pessimist, and whilst I certainly employ large doses of cynic it seems that I have a far more romantic view of the world than I realised.

Maybe romantic isn’t the right word, let me put it another way. I day dream. A lot.

I think that’s one part of being a human that I enjoy the most, aside from custard creams and other things I can’t mention here because my mother reads this and her head would spin, and to be honest so would yours. Well not YOU, obviously, but the rest of you would probably be quite shocked. Hmmm this is sounding worse than it should. Ok ok, so I also enjoy eating bourbons. There. I said it. Phew. Feels good to say it out loud to be honest, and at least I wasn’t admitting to anything too deviant like, purely for example, my shoe fetish…

Where the hell was I?

Oh yes, it’s good to be a human being because, as well as enjoy the styling and drama a 4″ stiletto brings to the party, I can spend time imagining how things may be in the future. Lazy Sundays with a good book in hand, holidays spent in exotic  lands, an entire weekend only watching Hitchcock movies, a day spent relearning how to canoe. That kind of thing.

And the REALLY good bit about being a human being is that it doesn’t need to be just a daydream. I can make it happen, hell I can make anything happen if I put my mind to it.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to imagine up an ice cream van….

Too hot, too cold, just right

I plonk myself down on the sofa.

“Nope, not squishy enough”

I plonk myself down on another sofa.

“Ugh, too firm”

I don’t plonk myself down on that sofa.

“What a horrid shade of puce, looks like a Ribena berry has puked all over it”

I plonk myself down on another sofa.

“Ohh this is nice but the padding on the arms is rubbish”

I don’t plonk myself down on another sofa.

“Who the hell would have that in their living room?!”

I don’t plonk myself down on another sofa.

“Or that, has it come from the set of the Sweeney or something?”

I don’t plonk myself down on another sofa.

“Seriously, who designed these? Blind giraffes?”

Several hours and many shops later.

I plonk myself down on another sofa.

“Ohh, this is just right!”

I sit for a while, luxuriating in the perfect harmony of style, comfort and texture. I run my hands over the smooth leather, let my head rest on the cushions and imagine myself at home, cold beer in one hand, a favourite movie on the TV. Oh yes, I think. This will do just fine.

I look at the price*.

I get up and plonk myself down on another sofa.

World Cup of *Yawn*

It must be a false memory.

Like that one where I’m still convinced that, when I was about 6, I used a toy phone to speak to my cousins in Dundee. I am still sure, to this day, that I did speak to them despite all evidence to the contrary. I’m nothing if not stubborn.

So it’s with an expression of perplexity that I sit night after night and watch the World Cup (of Football, in case you were confused). I hear the vulva horn thingies buzzing away and can see the pitch, the ball, the referee and the players. Every possible moment has a mention of England in one form or another, and there are liberal doses of casual xenophobia left, right and centre.

It’s definitely a World Cup.

But by GOD it’s boring. It wasn’t always this boring, I know it wasn’t. I got to watch ALL (every single game) of Mexico ’86 as I was off school with chickenpox. I kept my own notebook of scores, laboriously coloured in each flag and the mascot was painstakingly recreated on the cover. The football was fun, goals were score, crowds cheered, commentators fumbled over foreign names and got over excited every time one of those new fangled Mexican Wave things started.

It was exciting, entertaining, and engrossing.

Fast forward to South Africa 2010 and… what has happened? Dull, boring and I’ve even turned off a couple of the games through sheer disinterest.

It wasn’t always like this, was it?

Chapter 6

He stands back and looks at the scene, a young man surveying the carnage of the broken man seated before him. Something doesn’t fit here, something isn’t quite right, misplaced or forgotten, he’s not sure which and knows that it is too late for such worries.

A dull moan from the chair, scarlet red lines fall from vivid wounds, slashed through flesh. Blood seeps from him in a slow gentle ooze, a dozen or more thin lines adding to the macabre vision. He looks down at the man, tortured and throbbing with dark pain, spent and pleading for his executioner to end it, pleading for release, pleading for his life. He watches as the man makes another exhaused attempt to free himself and once more is met with the same resistance as before, the bloodied ropes cuttnig ever deeper.

He turns to the table behind him, takes a sip of cold water then turns and throws it over the seated man. Another shock of cold, a gasping breath.

He is puzzled now and closes his eyes for a moment, gathering himself. He revisits the plan, the training and a spark of guilt flares within. This isn’t what was meant to happen. This is wrong.

Concentrating hard, he casts his mind back, how did he end up here?

He remembers some details perfectly, breaking into this apartment, waiting quietly, patiently until they came home. It should’ve been the simplest of executions as they sat down to watch TV. Two shots and then he’d turn and leave. Yet, he was still here.

Squeezing his eyes tight he can see arcs of red as she slumps forward, can hear the cries, instant shock and anger, as the man succumbs to fear and rage. He can see his own arm outstretched, can feel the weight of the gun and yet, nothing. That is all he has, until now.

He reaches out to hold the mans face, fingers on slick cheeks, cupping his chin. He looks him straight in the eye.

“Who are you?” he asks. A simple enough question.

The man in the chair looks up, confused, startled at the softness of the voice.

“Who are you?” he asks again, already growing weary of all of this.

The man in the chair starts to speak, his mouth opens but no sound is made.

He is growing tired now, and can feel the light in the room changing. He was told this would happen, but still something isn’t right, this isn’t what was meant to happen.

Slowly he walks behind the man, reaches down and starts to untie him. In a soft quiet voice he starts to mumble.

“I don’t know why I’m here, I’m sorry for what I’ve done, this isn’t right, I’m sorry for what I’ve done. I don’t know why I’m here. You should go now. I’m sorry for what I’ve done. I should go now, I should be somewhere else now. You shouldn’t be here. Are you sorry for what you’ve done? I will go. Do you know why I’m here? I’m sorry for what I’ve done. You should go now”.

He stands back and lets the ropes fall, and watches the man rise unsteadily and without looking back, stumble out through the door. He hears him start to scream, a low beastly noise that makes him smile. He can feel the light and warmth in the air on his skin, and turns to the window to bask for a moment in the sunlight.

He steps closer to the window and watches as onlookers turn and stare, their eyes searching for the source of that awful noise.

He smiles. He knows this isn’t the way it should be, knows that something has gone wrong but each passing moment tells him something has changed. He hears the man screaming as he leaves the building, dashing out into the busy street below. And finally he realises what is wrong.

His mind skips back to that building, the long corridor, the cramped office and the young man sitting behind the desk, telling him the stories of the building, telling him that nothing is ever truly right in this world. He can remember the dulling darkness that descended after that day, that he walked in for so long with the sunlight unable to penetrate. He can remember it all.

He looks down again at the street, watching the man stumble onwards, the onlookers starting to point as the man stumbles out into the road. A man still alive.

He smiles.

He closes his eyes and lifts his face to the sun, feeling the warmth spread across his cheeks, he too feels alive, so very alive. His senses reverberate anew, and he wonders what will happen next.

Down in the street the man falters and falls forward. A bus driver slams on his brakes, more screams fill the air.

Stood at the window he looks down, all of this happening in an instant. The bus skids, the brakes fail to hold. The man lies prone, no-one can save him.

And then he remembers the inscription above the door of the office, throws his head back and screams.

In a small cluttered office a young man sits behind a desk. He rarely speaks, for he has no-one to speak to most days, so he just sits there doing his job. His gaze remains flat as he monitors the goings on of the building, the to-ing and fro-ing of his working day, the machinations that play out at his behest.

Suddenly he looks up at the doorframe, and with a contented sigh reads the faded inscription once more.

“Trust in Fate”.