Tag: KNOW

Bayerische Motoren Werke

I’d love to say it isn’t.

It’s really really not a personal thing, and I do know a few of them so I KNOW they aren’t ALL bad. It’s just that 8 times out of 10, when I finally see the badge, it’s one of them.

I’m willing to concede that it might be one of those things, you know, when you are more attuned to something inevitably you see more of it than you had before.

Yet there does seem to a mindset and, let’s be honest, it’s not just me saying this, the type of people who buy them seem to be of similar personality.

Brash, aggressive, impatient and inconsiderate. I could go on, but their driving style speaks volumes. Every single time I have some twat driving 2 feet from my bumper, when they finally swoosh past (just as we approach a corner, or small hill usually) it’s the blue and white badge that glares back.

This driving style is all the more baffling given the current weather conditions, and it’s just scary having a big 5 Series bearing down on your bumper with ice and snow bordering the roads.

Not only that, but of all the cars I’ve seen that haven’t been de-iced, or de-snowed, in the past couple of weeks, it does seem to be either BMWs or Jags.

Now I’m pretty careful when I de-ice my car, mainly because I like to have clear windows. Visibility whilst driving is a big thing for me, yet apparently somepeople, quite literally, jump in their car, run it for 5 mins and drive off.

You can recognise this particular brand of idiot because bar a small section of the windscreen, all of their windows are frosted up or still covered with snow.

It baffles me how anyone can think this is ok, and that’s from a common sense point of view, let alone it being a legal requirement.

So, taking all this into account, imagine my glee at spotting a nice big BMW sitting on the hard shoulder last night, it’s rear window completely frozen, and the policeman standing pointing at it whilst the driver looked on, the twat.

It’s moments like this that convince me there is such a thing as karma.

Writing isn’t important

Like most professionals I’m a member of various mailing lists, all of which deal with very similar issues, usually with overlapping people and discussions as well. The field of Technical Communications is wide and varied but there is always one type of query which is guaranteed to get a response… or 50 responses… sometimes more.

They are typically asked innocently enough, and at face value you’d think that most of them can be answered fairly simply and without too much back and forth. But, of course you are discounting one major factor, that holds true in many industries but does seem to be more prevalent in mine. Pedantry.

The vagaries of the English language are well-documented and far-reaching, yet time and again whenever any such question crops up there is an inevitable torrent of replies, most of which offer differing advice. When dealing with such queries, the one consistent recommendation is to pick your own way (of punctuating bulleted lists, or introducing example screenshots) and stick to it, but that is usually lost among the myriad of suggestions and arguments that arise.

Now, the title of this post is misleading because, of course, writing is a huge part of my job and if I couldn’t write properly … well I’d probably be out of a job by now.

However there is a feeling that, whisper it now, most readers aren’t that bothered about HOW we write, just that we write information that is useful and understandable.

You see, whilst a lot of technical writers studied English, more and more people coming into the profession come from a technical background first and foremost. Naturally this doesn’t mean that they can’t write properly but it does mean that the finer nuances and obscure rules of the English language might be lost on them. Or at the very least they might not even KNOW what verb construct they used in a sentence, but they will know that it scans and reads well, and that the user of the documentation will understand it without further explanation.

And yes, I lump myself into this ‘new breed’ of technical writers.

The minute one of those grammar/usage questions is posted on the mailing lists I cringe.

Partly because I know that a lot of terms that I have no knowledge of (nor inclination towards) will be used, and partly because, honestly, I don’t care.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a middle ground to be found. The best information in the world is useless if you can’t understand it, but equally the best information in the world is useless if it’s buried knee-deep in long, warbling, (if beautifully crafted) prose.

Good technical knowledge does not replace good writing. Similarly good writing does not replace technical knowledge but, within the software industry at least, it does seem like the latter takes precedence.

So, ultimately, writing isn’t that important.

Almost there…

The last items have been bought – why do we always end up with stuff to buy on Christmas Eve? – bags are packed and ready to be loaded into the car, and in a few minutes we will begin our traditional Christmas Eve evening. Dinner, a bottle of wine or two and the Muppet’s Christmas Carol movie.

The last few days have been … well… emotional. My final day at McLaren was kinda sad, the Christmas night out was that funny mixture of almost delirious happiness with a huge undercurrent of melancholy. For a variety of reasons. Yesterday we visited my Gran, and it’s sad to think that, whilst she’ll be having Christmas dinner with her son and his family, she’ll spend Christmas night at the nursing home. I KNOW it’s the best place for her to be but.. well.. it’s just sad.

Still, the next couple of days will be the usual mixture of fun, family and frustrations. I’ll eat too much, drink too much and lose my temper (quietly of course) at least twice. I can’t wait! After all, isn’t that what Christmas is about? Being with your family, and everything that entails? Of course it is!

Well, regardless of how you are spending tomorrow, it’s worth while remembering that, in the grand scheme of things, it’s just another day. So, no matter how you choose to spend it, I hope it is a merry one.

P.S. Even if you DO get another hideous jumper, remember, somewhere there is a very cold sheep who wants her wool back!

On not buying a Mac

This WAS going to be quite a lengthy post. I was going to list my requirements, the things I can do now and the things I know are better on a Mac. I was going to compare my Mac experiences in the past (from the Classic II to the Powerbook of a friend) to my Windows experiences of now.

I was even going to explore the whole “fan” side of things, and maybe discuss how, sometimes, zealots are NOT a good selling tool.

But, ultimately, the main reason I won’t be buying a Mac, at this point, is simple. It’s not a complicated reason, and you can argue against it all you want.

They are too expensive.

Now, let me just quantify that a little.

I’m not talking purely about the initial layout, although that is the major factor — for the same money I can get ‘more’ PC — but the cost of switching, of learning new things, new applications, new hardware. I know my way around a PC and around Windows which, on my home PC, is highly configured and rarely gives me any problems.

I KNOW Macs are quick to pick up, I KNOW OSX is an excellent operating system, and I know, long term, I’ll learn everything I need to learn.

But right now I just can’t be bothered, I don’t have the time, nor money and much less the inclination.

So unless someone wants to chip in a few hundred quid so I can get a top of the TOP of the line, maxxed out iMac, then I’m sticking with PC land. For now.

Ohh and if you are wondering, I WAS looking at the £999 iMac, for the same money I can get a PC with a bigger hard drive, double the RAM, double the video RAM, faster processor and it’s much easier to upgrade.

Blink

Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

I’ve had this book sitting on my shelf for several months now, however I hate hate hate myself for buying it when I did, when it was the ‘in’ thing to read (in some circles) and so I’ve been avoiding it.

The really annoying thing is, of course, that it’s an excellent and interesting read.

To summarise a book like this is a challenge. Firstly you are competing with the very essence of the book and trying to encapsulate a large and complex topic into… well a blink of an eye. Secondly, you risk ruining the book for others as there is a large amount of pleasure in reading this material. Not least because it is very well structured, taking you from point to point, offering insights and stories to accompany each new theory.

The basic premise is fairly straightforward, Gladwell is investigating that split second moment that you occasionally have when you KNOW you know something but you can’t yet explain WHY you know it. The opening example in the book discusses a greek statue which scientists had tested to ensure it was real (they confirmed that it was over 1,000 years old), lawyers had pored over paperwork to confirm it was authentic, yet the instant a greek statue expert clapped eyes on it they knew it was a fake. Despite all the evidence to the contrary.

There are some insights into ‘mind-reading’ (face-reading), and a fascinating section dealing with autism and high-stress incidents.

I’ve not read “Tipping Point” but think I will now. So, vice versa, if you enjoyed that book, I’d imagine you’d enjoy Blink. It’s utterly fascinating to the point where my wife is thoroughly bored of me starting sentences with: “You know that book I’m reading…”. Always a sure sign that something has gripped my attention.

Whoosh zoom

Ever get one of those days when you can’t settle your brain on one topic? It whooshes around, steadfastly refusing your requests to please PLEASE focus on the document you are trying to read, preferring to hone in on any of eight or nine different topics.

I used to fear this state of mind —the whole “can’t concentrate on anything” frame of mind is a bit of an alarm bell these days— but now I embrace it, and occasionally encourage it. The trick is to be able to flip from topic to topic, keeping an open mind at all times, capturing as much as you can.

HOW you do this is an entirely different thing of course. In the past I’ve tried multiple text files, roughly divided per topic, but it can be a little tricky to find the information at a later date… “I KNOW I wrote it down.. somewhere…”. This is similar to scribblling things down on a notepad and ends up with the same problem. Unless you review your notepad once a week (or more if the info is time critical) then you end up with a notepad full of useless, lost, information.

I’ve mentioned productivity tools and methodologies before and have tried variations on many of the more common ideas. I’ve captured tasks ensuring they were a next step rather than an end goal, I always ask for deadlines when someone asks me to do something, and if a job is quick and easy I’ll do it there and then.

However that’s all well and good for things which are easily quantifiable as “tasks”. At the moment I’m in the ‘theory’ stage of a few things and as my brain is leaping about, hopping from topic to topic, I need a reliable way to capture my thoughts.

And I’ve turned to Microsoft for the answer.

The product is called OneNote and is, essentially, a note taking application. You can create high level divisions (top-level tabs), and have sub-divisions (side-level tabs), and then start typing, drag in images, or even sketch free-hand. You can search, collate and distribute info as you need it. Admittedly I’ve only been using it for a couple of weeks but it’s already fast approaching “must-have” status in my own little software scoring system.

I still use Outlook for tasks, but I’ve hardly written anything down on my notepad in the past couple of weeks. Could this be the start of my own little paperless office??

You know…

(stolen from the ever lovely Gunnella)

… you are living in 2006 when:

1. You accidentally enter your password on the microwave.

2. You haven’t played solitaire with real cards in years.

3. You have a list of 15 phone numbers to reach your family of three.

4. You e-mail the person who works at the desk next to you.

5. Your reason for not staying in touch with friends and family is that they don’t have e-mail addresses.

6. You pull up in your own driveway and use your cell phone to see if anyone is home to help you carry in the groceries.

7. Every commercial on television has a web site at the bottom of the screen.

8. Leaving the house without your cell phone, which you didn’t have the first 20 or 30 (or 60) years of your life, is now a cause for panic and you turn around to go and get it.

10. You get up in the morning and go on line before getting your coffee.

11. You’re reading this and nodding and laughing.

12. Even worse, you know exactly to whom you are going to forward this message.

13. You are too busy to notice there was no #9 on this list.

14. You actually scrolled back up to check that there wasn’t a #9 on this list.

AND NOW U R LAUGHING at yourself.

I’m only posting this because I did (14) and I am laughing. For the record, I don’t do 6, but have a wife who does… and 3 should be expand to say that you don’t KNOW the numbers as they are stored under names on your mobile. These are the times.

Blogosphere*

Are there three blogospheres? asks John at Syntagma. He proposes the notion that blogging/bloggers can be categorised in three groups:

  • Primary – ” “Blogging” as a topic of discussion means nothing to them”
  • Secondary – contains the purely-for-business blogs
  • Tertiary – which comprises all those folk who talk endlessly about “the blogosphere”… serious bloggers, info-providers, probloggers, A, B, and C-listers

He proposes that the Tertiary group is the one that will push onwards, leading the way and which will produce “a few giants” over time, with motivation being the dividing factor.

I disagree, slightly, and think this model needs some clarification and additional rules. For a start it needs to explicitly state that the Tertiary group also consists of bloggers who are trying to make money from blogging, to that end it’s not always the case that they are “those folk who talk endlessly” about the state of blogging, more often than not they are the specialist blogs (Gizmodo for example) and rarely pitch in to discussions about the general state of blogging. However they’ll still be pushing ahead as they rely on audience numbers to pull in money.

Naturally, as with any model, there are exceptions to the rule and some bloggers will break out of their “group” and transcend everyone else, perhaps there needs to be a “Stratum” level group in which to place, for example, Dooce. Whether you like reading about her trials and tribulations as a mother, the mainstream media are very aware of her blog, she’s an A-list blogger with no monetary or advancement aspirations.

Anyway, to the crux of my disagreement, or perhaps discontent would be better. This model perpetuates the “them and us” situation we already have and I don’t see how it can, in the long term, benefit the blogging community. By declaring what is essentially a class system such as this, you immediately discount many blogs purely because their motivation isn’t to earn money, be recognised, or gain fame for themselves. There are many smart people who view blogging as a hobby – and would fall into the Primary group in this model – but offer insightful, thought provoking and useful posts. One example, and this is the first one that pops into my head (and I’m aware that I may be perpetuating my own little clique here), would be Adrian’s How to share iTunes over the Internet post which is a perfect example of a “Primary” group blog which, with one post, is now referenced in forums and sites.

Granted this will still be possible in this model but the I think there is has to be some awareness of the Tertiary group becoming very circular. Mind you, that would actually change anything that isn’t present with the A-list blogs at the moment, and is certainly not the fault of the model. However as it’s the “Tertiary” blogs that are discussing this at the moment, and by the model’s own definition they’ll be the only ones doing it, then perhaps John isn’t far off the mark when he states that “the Tertiary blogosphere … will eventually choke itself off”.

To summarise: I think the basic premise of this model isn’t far off the mark, but does seem a little “exclusive” at the moment. I think that can be clarified through wording though. There is also the small matter of the blogs who readily want to be part of the Tertiary group accepting some responsibility and is currently being discussed on other blogs – the small matter of those Top 100 lists. Are the A-listers really doing the what’s best for blogging or themselves?? More on that tomorrow.

* yes I KNOW what I said about that word, I still don’t like it, I’ve slapped myself already

He said

Whilst I was waiting for 24 to start last night, well whilst I was waiting to watch it in ‘chase’ mode, I did a little channel surfing stopping at some red carpet footage from the Oscars. Admittedly it was merely to see if I could catch some of the more beautiful ladies in their best bibs and tuckers (yes yes I KNOW the ladies wouldn’t be wearing the bibs and tuckers, I’m not a complete idiot, not yet anyway. Still practising though.).

Now whilst I think she has a certain attractiveness Maggie Gyllenhaal isn’t high up my list. Neither is thin Oprah (neither is fat Oprah but she wasn’t there), nor Samuel L. Jackson’s wife. In fact bar a fleeting shot of Penelope Cruz, not really my type either, it was a complete waste of ten minutes.

Apart from one thing.

I’m not sure if they are new, or whether the American TV shows I watch just don’t use them, but there are a few phrases I’ve heard over the last few days, and last night in particular that have me perplexed.

1. “My bad”
Whilst I understand the meaning behind this, where does it stem from? Is it a shortened form of a longer sentence, and if so what? Surely “I’m bad” is sufficient? Or is this just a backlash against Michael Jackson (by the way have you seen that ‘item of evidence’ email that’s been going round, yeuch).

2. “… as all get up”
Used generally in a positive sense and tacked onto the end of a statement, this phrase is the one that really perturbs.
What does it mean? As… what gets up? The dog that’s been lying on the floor? Can it only be used when describing an outfit, hence making me presume it’s taken from the phrase “Check that get up” which has completely the opposite, derogatory, meaning.

I’m sure there are others but I’ll need another coffee before I can think of them.

I may not understand why Americans prefer z to s (ize to ise), nor why they find the letter u so offensive as to drop it altogether from words, but that’s just* spelling. This is like some weird lazy language and I demand an explanation.

* pedants please. I know it’s not JUST spelling, I know that there are deeper matters of great importance inherent in the way you choose to spell. (Update, I KNEW the pedants would find fault somewhere!)

Fat

I’m fat. There is no denying it. I’m easily four stone over weight (56lbs or ~25.5kgs). It’s something I’m both constantly thinking about and constantly not caring about, all at once.

Society deems me to be imperfect. I do not conform. I am a freak. An outcast. Someone to be looked at with a mixture of derision and sympathy.

“Ohh look a fat person, how can they let that happen to themselves? Must be hard for him to get clothes to fit, I mean look at that beer belly… ugh”

For the record I weigh 17st, 10lb. That seems to be a constant weight for me, and being 6′ tall I can get away with carrying a little extra. I’ve lost weight in the past, I was down to 16st 2lb at one point then fell off the wagon and shot straight back up.

Sometimes I hear people excusing their weight, saying things like “If we were meant to be thin, God would’ve made sweet things slimming” or “It’s not a problem for Dawn French” (sorry Dawn, I’m sure you are royally fedup being the spokesperson for us fatties, and I know there is infinitely more to you than your weight). It sickens me that does. There is no REAL excuse for being fat, is there. Just need to control my diet better, exercise more (at all) and have the willpower to say no.

Now, I have the willpower to refuse a drink when I’m out in the pub, I can be as stubborn as the next donkey when I want to be, but that’s just me fighting against peer pressure (a pet peeve), unfortunately when I’m at home, bored and watching TV, there isn’t a group of my peers standing next to the kitchen cupboards saying:

“Go on, have a packet of crisps.. better still have three! Go on, you know you want to, come on, just one to start… at least one, one won’t hurt, will it?”

No, those annoying bastards are no where in sight whilst I devour a big bag of Revels, or have an entire tub of Ben & Jerry’s to myself.

Thing is, and I think I can generalise a bit here, us fatties KNOW what’s bad for us, we KNOW that eating an entire multi-pack of Wotsits isn’t good. We KNOW that we should have a lean stir fry instead of pizza. We KNOW that a bag of chips makes up our entire calorie quota for the day. We are not thick. We are not stupid. We must be self-destructive for a reason. Right?

Or we might, just might, be happy within ourselves. Sure we know we run an increased risk of heart disease and all that jazz, but mostly we are willing to take the risk. Same as you smokers. You all know that’s bad for you, right? So why do you keep doing it? Ohh and don’t give me that “it’s an addiction” speil, food is as addictive as nicotine. At least MY addiction doesn’t waft over.. no no.. I’m talking about being fat. Stick to the topic.

But that’s the thing, isn’t it. The stigma of being fat, the public perception and social impact of being overweight, is a much larger issue and one which the individual finds much harder to deal with. Just think about what you hear when people in the media are talking about fat people. It’s almost accepted that fat people are there to be mistreated, degraded and ridiculed, and that we all need to hear, again, how to slim down and conform.

Has it ever occurred to people that us fatties are actually kinda pissed off that we don’t conform? No, the discussion is always about changing us, rather than having society change to adopt us.

But that’s not unique either, fat, black, gay, muslim and all the other shades of grey, the rule is for US to conform. What kind of society is that to live in?