Spring photos central Ontario

my photos this week in Tay Township about 100 miles north of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and one mile south of Georgian Bay…..

a little technical writing thinking

I was browsing some old tech writing files on my laptop, just messing around.,  Found a memo to myself about a project.  This is almost twenty years old.  It is self critical of wasting time and thoughts about how to improve review of draft documentation by content experts. So those are timeless questions.

documentation matters

  • I could be wrong but it seems we have been tinkering with templates, more than we need to, perhaps not, but we should soon synch and freeze our template for MS Word-based manuals.
  • Seems like we are fighting the wordprocessing packages and not having them serve the writing and the reader. should be spending more time on the actual content.
  • nudging the information sources and reviewers to treat the documentation more seriously, more formally. Perhaps design a change form page for them to use to write up their changes, and have them staple the change sheet to the document page.
  • I found some markups written out in a nearly illegible way.
  • one negative notion amongst the other good ideas from Xxxx Xxxxxxxxx: on the last markup of TCC from him, he suggested a whole new section called “Troubleshooting” Q: why raise this idea so late in the game.  Partial Answer: rushed review.  Not enough time up front in analyzing and setting the table of contents and the levels of detail to be filled in on the “skeleton” of the document.
  • Documentation’s importance. Product is incomplete if the customer doesnt have the doc to help him happily use the software and the hardware to get the work done that he wants to do, must do.


  • Product = h/w + s/w + documentation


  • standard diagram specs: margins and minimum point size.  Arial 7 pt minimum, 8 pt is better.  Use 9 point for emphasis. Keep bolding down to a minimum.


reading and writing


part of my overflowing library

There was a report this week on CBC Spark about reading methods, paper books and electronic book reading, skimming and deep reading, which made me pause and think about my reading habits these days.

I read paper books, I read on my iPad2, I read newspapers on the iPad2 (principally The New York Times, the only paper i pay for), and i read the free copy of the Toronto Star at the McCafe in Midland, Ontario, when it is available and when it has not been stolen. Nice to have literate, news hungry thieves in my community.

I have subscribed to Scribd which offers “unlimited book downloads” for $8.95 per month.  This appears to be a genuine bargain with quality books available.  I bought a Sony E-Reader and bought about 50 books from the Sony Reader Store.  This was attractive because Sony adopted a wider open policy to support a wide format of ebook formats. The books i bought from them I could read on the reader and also my Windows PCs.  iBooks do not run anywhere other than an iPad, certain iPods or I suppose an iPhone.  i also bought books from the iBook Store and read them exclusively on the iPad2. i don’t have much choice in that matter.  The Sony Store is ended, Sony gave up and arranged for their book clients to move over to Kobo. At the same time Sony announced it was getting out of the laptop business.  A black day indeed.

As a reader, a little about me.  i still remember with excitement suitable to burst a balloon walking into my local public library early in Grade 8 with a form autographed by my teacher so I might obtain an adult library reader’s card for the George H. Locke Library at Yonge St. and Lawrence Ave. in Toronto.  I read voraciously through high school. At St. Michael’s College at University of Toronto, i studied English Literature and Film Studies.  For 25 years I worked as a technical writer which involved as well a great deal of reading. Eclectic reader you bet.  I used to regularly read Air International, its neutral, calm, technical style I found strangely relaxing. History, fiction, poetry.  And many more reading areas.

i have noticed a “wall” in my reading duration these days.  What I mean is I pick up a book read five pages or less and want to stop.  I feel compelled to pick up my tablet and look at something else.  Fragmented concentration.

Some books on the tablet let me in and keep me rolling for many, many pages.  These seem to be well written thrillers, aka “page turners.” I have slowly been working my way through The Selling of the President about the 1960 US Presidential Campaign but have only made it through fify odd pages.  On the other hand, the latest volume of Robert Caro’s LBJ biography I finished in a handful of days.

So I am straddled in the transition from paper books to electronic books.  I am experimenting with trying to extend my reading time comfort zone by heading out with just one book.  Perhaps it will let me disappear for hours into that lone book. It is an interesting time to be a reader.  A transition of immense proportion which will lead us we know not where.  It is a shame McLuhan is not around to see the transition in reading, and the shift in importance from television to the Web and all things digital.  What would he “probe’ and what would he speculate?  His central notion was that changes in technology had enormous and unsuspected changes on us, their consumers.  He wrote about the change from print media to television.

about books – a couple of thoughts

“There is no friend as a loyal as a book.” Ernest Hemingway

Almost fifteen years ago a woman who I saw for about four years in a voice drenched in sarcasm and exasperation asked me, “Do you really need to read another book?”

For her books were a waste of time.  Her university degree was in mathematics.  She was a systems analyst.  That year she had completed a part-time program to gain a Bachelor of Business Administration. She judged life as black or white.  And thinking was less than action.  She believed she was perfect. She very nearly was.  But she believed scorn was a way to motivate change.  It is not a very effective one.

I should have answered her question by saying, “I was reading books long before I met you, and I will be reading books long after you are a memory in my rear view mirror.  Books will never let me down.  I reread favourite books.  It is like going on vacation with an old friend.”