Wednesday, February 28, 2001

Work Alone
I am free of He-who-sits-behind-me-and-scowls for the day, he's gone to Hull to the other office so I get to work undisturbed. It feels good! I'm hoping that I'm going to get a phone call soon that will change me current employment funk, we'll see what happens!
Yesterday was Steve's birthday. We went out to dinner last night and I gave him his birthday gift, his very own engagment ring. I had the waiter bring it out in a covered tray with the coffee. He loves it and it fits and he was all girly.....he's so cute! I think that he's waiting for the guys at work to notice, he can't run in waving his hand around and still be taken seriously as a guy. Girls have it so much easier! Silly just looks cute on us. Anyway, I had him scan his hand. You guys have seen this already, but for posterity, here is the ring.
Sacred Cows Make the Best Burgers
While wandering around the Web yesterday (Google makes the best brainstorming tool!), I found a great site called Mind Games with fun creativity exercises. Yesterday's featured game had the wonderful title shown above and involved questioning our preconceived notions which often prevent us from seeing new and different solutions to a problem. So if you're feeling bored or at an impasse in a given situation, try it!

Tuesday, February 27, 2001

Wedding update
We didn't work on the wedding stuff last night. I played Grim Fandango instead and practised my stillness. I really like Grim Fandango, the reviews are absolutely correct, it's fantastic! The voice acting is superb and the solutions to the problems are creative. I had to cheat a bit last night and get a hint because I was very stuck. I try to stay away from the hints and cheats whenever I can, I was a bit disappointed that I hadn't figured out the solution last night.
I'm going to put up a wedding 'to do' list on the happycouple site soon. I'll cross off stuff as it's completed and maybe put up ideas and stuff that I'm working on. I really have to get to work on those invitations!

Monday, February 26, 2001

Elizabeth just found this, pretty neat! xrefer
Where is everyone today? Are we not in the mood to blog? Sick of February? Dreading taxes?
It's Steve's birthday tomorrow, that means that we go out for Indian food, sooooo yummy!

Friday, February 23, 2001

Salon's commentaries are way better than the original shows. Their movie reviews are great, too, and pretty reliable. I loved the review of Monkeybone. It really makes me want to see it, even though Brendan Frasier can be very annoying at times.I really like their book reviews, too. I find they have a good blend of fiction and non-fiction. I only wish they did more music reviews than their annual top-ten list. It's the only glaring weakness in an otherwise outstanding effort to cover the waterfront of popular culture. If anybody knows of good music sites, I'd love to hear about them.
Some useful posters for our cubicles.........
I love Salon's comments on those types of shows; their take on the horrific Big Brother was pretty entertaining too (though the show sounded like a real waste of time); don't need a TV to enjoy Survivor, in fact, probably prefer the reviews to it anyway...
Steak and kidney crisps? Somehow, doesn't sound quite as addictive as BBQ or Salt 'n Vinegar. I dunno...

Speaking of addictions, have to admit I share your fascination with Survivor. I'm so glad they kicked off whiny Kimmi. Now onto the world's most venemous snake, Jerri! Can you get over that girl? Reminds me of some nasty chicks I knew in high-school who sharpened their teeth at night, I am 100% convinced. It's still hard to hazard a guess as to who'll be there at the end, but I'm betting on Jerri, Michael, Jeff (long-shot, but you never know) and Keith. Anybody else have a final-stretch prediction?
I think that the capital of weird foods is England. Example? Steak and kidney crisps. Ewwwww!
Love that name! And the storyline sounds fantastic.

Have another strange taste sensation to share with you (seems to be the theme of my week!). Tried the new Cappucino-flavoured Trident gum. Being a reformed cappaholic, it had a better-than-average chance of working with me. Alas, it's just plain too weird for me. I don't even want to think about what it does to your breath after an hour of chewing that stuff. Guess it's bound for the What Were They Thinking? Hall of Product Infamy, along with clear cola and toe socks. Anybody else tried it?
Survivor
Ok, I admit it, I am mildly addicted to this show. Last night, Kimmi, the whiny vegetarian, was voted off the Outback. The preview for next week indicated that someone was hurt badly enough that they needed to be airlifted by helicopter. It also implied that a crocodile was involved, but that could just be for ratings. Salon has some very funny articles about the show.
Grim Fandango!
I was at Futureshop last night (I had the urge to buy something semi-useless) and found this game for $12.99! I'd never heard of it, but it looked really cool. The reviews say that the voice acting is fantastic and the visuals are really appealing. I will keep you posted about it, I haven't installed it yet. It appears to be a puzzle game like Myst and Riven. This should keep me occupied until Myst III: Exile comes out.

Thursday, February 22, 2001

As requested:
Subject: FW: Alberta Survivor
CBC Television is developing an Albertan version of "Survivor" the popular TV show. The rules are simple:
Each contestant must travel from Edmonton to Fort McMurray through High Level, Grand Prairie, Peace River, Hinton, Edson, Jasper, Banff, Red Deer, Calgary, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Brooks, Drumheller, Lloydminister and back to Edmonton again while driving a Volvo with a bumper sticker that reads:
"I voted for Chretien, I'm gay and I'm here to take your guns."
We had our XML thing in Calgary last week and it was great. We may get a few more workshops now on structured writing, information modules and mapping, etc. too now. You may want to look up Robin Etherington in the STC membership guide - she was the speaker and talked about implementing an XML environment at Nortel in Calgary - and ask her about it. They're using Arbortext's Epic Editor, which she calls the cadillac of xml editor tools. Apparently (Toronto's?) XMetal, by SoftQuad is also good, especially for smaller companies and contractors (I'm paraphrasing most of her comments here). I think some of these tools allow for demos. As is i4i's xml editor, but it works with MS Word, which lately I have despised more than ever. WebWorks's XML capability seems kind of wierd...we're looking into now here ... it's not really an xml editor tool though. If you're looking for the tech writer point of view on XML, there's a kajillion websites out there...try this link: http://techwriting.about.com/careers/techwriting/cs/xml/index.htm?rnk=r4&terms=Technical+Writer.
Basically, Robin's point about xml as far as tech writers are concerned, was that as tech writers, we'd need to know about how to tag content...but before you even do that, you'd need to make sure that your content is written and structured in such a way that you can create the right tags and style sheets (DTDs) (e.g., task based, modular writing, organization). (People who create these style sheets, by the way, are called information architects...didn't know that...).
XML's capability is that it's a language that describes and allows you to manage content, rather than regular dktp tools that identify the presentation (formatting) of content. Yes, programmers would be working right in the nuts and bolts of the language to create applications, etc., e.g., they use xml code to identify their code.
But there's just as much room to use that language to manage information. Says Robin, the reason tech writers would want to know about it, would be for writing and organizing information in such a way that it could be delivered using a variety of media, e.g., web, paper manual, palm pilot, etc. without having to write the same information a billion times. Her argument is that if used correctly, you're on your way to really single sourcing your information.
What this also means though is that you'd have to have your content stored in a way that makes sense and using servers that are powerful enough to handle the incoming/outcoming traffic of information. So fully understand the impact of xml on the working environment, tech writers would need to know about more than just xml editors. On the other hand, she also says this means that tech writers should get in earlier on the creation of information in a company, instead of just being handed a spec (HA! as if they exist anyway!) two weeks before delivery to write a manual. They should be right there in program design.
The reason it's so popular is the web and e-commerce and the ability of the general public to access all kinds of information. But, they don't want tons at once, they want bits and pieces, otherwise, it would be overwhelming, and usually they want task-based information: how do I install this, how do I do this, etc. Hence the need to write concise information that doesn't require you to scroll forever.
And, according to Robin, hence the need for writing task-based information and hence the "conceptual framework" of information that is no longer an 8.5x11 sheet of paper, but rather a "module" of information that fits in a screen. MUCH room for debate! (e.g., some tech writers here wondered about the loss of presenting overall, big picture information of things...) But, that's the deal in a convoluted nutshell before I've had my tea this a.m.... Anyway, I wrote about her presentation for our March newsletter. We usually PDF it and put it on our website . On the other hand, you're probably better off with those websites than my ramblings...
And then there's companies that manage information: e.g., http://www.fullcircle-solutions.com, or http://www.documentum.com that also manage information...it's never ending, really...
STC meeting last night: XML!
Well, we were all pretty curious about this topic, so a lot of people showed up to hear what Steve Blair had to say. While I'm still a bit confused as to the general purpose of XML for tech writers, I do know much more about XML now than I did before. Steve tried to keep the talk simple, despite the fact that he's also a programmer and could have really confused most of the room if he had gone into how he writes all of his own code. I would like to hear from someone who's using a tool like ArborText or Webworks to produce XML. All and all, a good presentation which proved that if you have the knowledge, you can produce XML with the tech writing equivalent of stone knives and bear skins.
Observations from the bus
Nothing says 'I don't normally parent' Dad than a three year old eating a package of peanut M&Ms at 8a.m.......

Wednesday, February 21, 2001

On Shakespeare, I think that it's a shame to remove it from the curriculum. Shakespeare is part of civilization, his mesages go beyond ethnicity as many themes are universal. I think we really need to be careful about being too politically correct. By the same token classics from other cultures deserve our time and attention as well because other cultures are as valid as the "white man's" culture just by the virtue of their existence.

We also live in an age where not only our culture but other cultures lack morality and in many respects integrity. We seem to be limited in knowing how to be and how to be (behave) in our relationships. We can only really deal with these issues by knowing what we were, where we have been and how we got here. In other words we need to learn about our humanity and why civilization occured. (Plato, Shakespeare, Chaucer, Voltaire and others all had so much to teach us not only within the context of their own times but as who we are as human beings.) If we only focus on the here and the now as is suggested by the proposed curriculum change in Britain, the next generation will have an even more limited view of our culture and civilization. We owe it to ourselves to pass along as much knowledge about our past to our children as possible. Because who are they without the past?
Goma! is what the Japanese call sesame seeds. You learn something new everyday!
Who's Shakespeare?
On one hand, the removal of Shakespeare from the curriculum allows teachers to introduce more modern and ethnically different texts. On the other, many of the themes encountered in the modern texts hinge on many themes and ideas found in Shakespeare. It's hard to appreciate a post-modern text that challenges an old, English white idea when you do not know the original text. Of course, it's impossible to read everything a writer has ever read to prepare yourself for reading his work, but a general knowledge of texts, including Shakespeare, should be part of any good education.
Definitely Not Chicken

Morning everybody! Opened up a package last night from a Japanese friend and found the usual assortment of green tea, rice crackers and miso soup she sends. Also found a bottle of ... Goma butter? Had it on my toast this morning and found it kinda nutty, a little smokey, with a gritty texture.What I'd like to know is, is this some sort of yeast or mould spread like Vegemite or something really meant for human consumption? Any ideas or guesses as to what this is would be much appreciated! Seems to me my mom tried to teach me early on you shouldn't eat things if you don't know what they are. Bon appetit, Mom!

Tuesday, February 20, 2001

Re: http://www.nationalpost.com/search/story.html?f=/stories/20010208/468224.html. Literature meets the information bite/byte age...is dropping Shakespeare from the curriculum good for children's education or not? Is the world coming to an end? The Post has been running a few stories that question ol' Shakey lately...is this where XML takes on an ominous hegemony? Is that the right word?
Ahhh, Sea Monkey Central. A great trip down memory lane, with all those hysterical ads with schlock-horror overtones (Instant Life! An Amazing Miracle!) and creepy half-amphibian, half-human illustrations. But move over sea monkeys. The Aqua Babies are here!
And are Bloggers grown-up Tribbles? I think that's why I like the name. That, or cousins from the back-universe...
Believe it or not, you can find everything on the Web!!!!
And what about those sea monkeys? I've always wanted to know their true identity. Can you still get them from the inside back cover of comic books? I always liked the way they portrayed them as a mini sea monkey Triton with his sea queen and royal children.
I think those are the suicidal fish.
What about the fish that are housed in platform heels? Are they subjected to the same rigorous background checks? Are their insurance premiums higher?

Maggie.
Spent part of last night reviewing the wedding. Steve and I have decided to devote Monday nights to talking about wedding stuff. We went over the guest list and the catering estimate. We'll be fine as long as we win a lottery between now and September 1!
Seriously, wedding planning is hard! I'm sure you all know that. Called my folks last night and ended up adding 10 more people to the guest list. They won't show up, but they're family and if I don't invite them someone will be hurt. Maybe they'll send a nice gift!
Speaking as an owner of one of these tanks, I can attest to the fact that these creatures seem endlessly amused with their surroundings. My Aquababies however seem to be the genuine article and they did interview well and got through our rigorous background check with the Bank of Canada who had to be particularly creative when they did the fingerprinting on these guys to make sure they didn't have criminal records.

Monday, February 19, 2001

Welcome to Coffee Ring!
This is a brand new blog, it doesn't look like much now, but hopefully we'll turn it into something that looks good and is maybe even interesting!
Coffee Ring is a few good women sharing their ideas, jokes, reflections, rants and advice.

I'll get the ball rolling:
Fish Buyers Beware!
Those cute little fish in the glass cubes have become all the rage recently, but did you know that you may have bought a phony? Aquababies, the original company to make these little cuties, claims that other companies have stolen their idea and are out there manufacturing ersatz Aquababies!! Imagine!
The Aquababies Web site warns consumers about these faux fisheries and says that the fish sold by these thieves may not get along with each other. Perhaps Aquababies manufacturers interview each fish and put them through grueling paychological testing to ensure that they get along with their tank mates? Perhaps the snails all have degrees in family counselling? These are creatures with brains smaller than your average 'Friends' star, does it matter if they get along? One lap around the tank and they've already forgotten where the fern is ("oh look! A fern! This place is great!").